Cicale Roots – The positive food movement

When you’re onto a good thing, most people say you should stick to it. But what if, in addition to your good thing, you could also do another really amazing thing? This was the thought Michela Primavera had when she met inspirational VeganSatvic chef Erika Tangari – why couldn’t there be two Cicales? By day, a cutting-edge, sustainable macrobiotic café and by night, the fine Italian restaurant already known and loved by many in Ibiza.

In summer 2016, the thought has become reality, with the launch of Cicale Roots. From breakfast at 11.30am through until lunch in the late afternoon, the gorgeous garden space is all about finding balance in your mind and body through carefully constructed vegan creations that would challenge even the staunchest carnivore to change their dietary habits. This is not a fad café, opening because veganism and mindfulness are ‘trending’ – this is the start of a positive food movement.

Born in Milan, Erika originally trained as an architect and interior designer, working around the world, with the one constant thing in her life being her love of cooking. Friends would often ask if she’d consider a career as a professional chef, due to her natural affinity with food and ability to prepare fabulous feasts, and one day it clicked. Life and work didn’t have to be separate. They could – and should – be one. After all, as the saying goes, if you love what you do then you’ll never work a day in your life.

Erika then went back to school to study as a professional chef, spending five years working in restaurants in Italy before she felt a strong calling to expand and enrich her knowledge, after adopting a vegan diet. Taking a sabbatical year to travel to India, Bali and Nepal to study Ayurvedic cooking, Erika began to truly understand the nutritional and medicinal benefits of food with her hands-on training, learning as much by ingesting and analysing the way certain foods made her feel and act, as she did through techniques and instructions.

“Once you start to know these things, you cannot go back,” she says of her nutritional awakening. Considering herself a guardian of nature, Erika strives for 100-percent sustainability in her kitchen. Almost every ingredient on the Cicale Roots menu is cultivated within a one kilometre radius of the restaurant, the exceptions are things such as Ayurvedic spices, Japanese ingredients such as seaweeds and authentic Himalayan salt, which she personally trekked to the mountains to obtain. “We have to be like this if we want to preserve our Eden, our paradise.”

Knowing exactly when to harvest produce from her onsite organic garden to capture as much prana (life force) as possible is essential to Erika’s cooking, as are the techniques she uses to prepare each different vegetable. There is no stock standard dicing, slicing or chopping in the Cicale Roots kitchen – each ingredient has its own unique preparation method in order to preserve the prana and activate and deliver energy to the person eating it. “What you are eating is alive,” Erika explains emphatically.

This connection between cultivation, gathering, creating and consuming is fascinating to her and Erika believes consciousness is evolving – not just in Ibiza, but all around the world. “We are in the middle of changing the way we understand life,” she says. “To evolve as human beings, to take care of the earth, we have to find the right medicines to take care of ourselves. We cannot forget about nature – we cannot survive without it. We are the guardians of nature – this is the base of what I do.”

Cooking is a passion and a science for Erika, who considers her kitchen a laboratory. It’s like food alchemy, as dehydrators are packed with all types of ingredients in vacuum packed bags, produce is fermenting or marinating and endless jars of spices and oils line the shelves, brimming with the promise of health and wellness. It’s important to note absolutely no product is stored in the refrigerator in order to maintain its purity. Everything is sourced daily, and whatever is leftover at the end of the day is sent to the lab for natural methods of preservation. Planning and organisation is the key to the kitchen’s sustainability success.

Beyond the ethos, beyond the passionate preparation, beyond the inspiration, from a diner’s perspective, the food delivered on every plate is absolutely incredible, packed with taste sensations unlike anywhere else on the island. “With vegan cuisine, we can fly so high on taste,” says Erika, who loves to play with the flavours and ingredients that are abundant in Ibiza. “I have had groups who say they just can’t understand how it can taste so amazing and be vegan! I spend my entire day thinking about food, finding the connection between memories, what I can smell and what the right things are to eat. I am constantly inspired.”

As an example, a breakfast dish – the ‘tostada isla blanca’ – is based on the island’s traditional breakfast classic of tomato on bread with orange juice, but given the Cicale Roots twist. “The island gives us the gift of what we need at this time of year,” says Erika. “We need the acidity of tomatoes and oranges to balance our body’s PH levels, and here we prepare them in a way that is easy for the body to receive. We get healthy fats from avocado. We bake the wholemeal bread ourselves and add protein packed ingredients like quinoa and almonds.”

Another star dish is the raw parmigiana. Cicale is famous for its traditional Italian parmigiana by night, so Erika decided to create her own vegan version to satisfy those looking to light their digestive fires by day. “We create a raw cracker that is so small, but so powerful, by taking all of the water out of tomatoes and make it easy for the body to digest. And there is so much taste in just one centimetre of cracker, it’s like a whole bag of tomatoes! We combine it with fresh and marinated zucchini – this helps fight bacteria in the stomach and open our chakras – and use vegan cheese (which is not really cheese at all, with no dairy) to add healthy fats.”

And for those who still feel a little hesitant to give in to the vegan cuisine offerings, there’s no going past the impressive veggie burger, made with atzuki beans and many different spices specifically added to prevent the build-up of gas normally associated with beans. Served on homemade milk bread with mango mayo, beetroot ketchup and vegan cheese, it is a next-level experience!

Understanding there are different levels of consciousness within those who visit the restaurant is all part of the job for Erika, who loves nothing more than to sit in the centre of the table with her guests and discuss the values of each of the ingredients, like a doctor prescribing medicine to her patients. “Usually there will be one thing that stands out to a person,” she explains. “It grabs them, they don’t know why, and this will be their first step to healing.”

Ultimately, Erika’s aim is to be able to prescribe personalised meals to her diners, based on their needs and tastes. But that’s all in the future. For now, the Cicale Roots menu is designed with an overall view to improving digestive capacity, cleaning the systems, adding more vitamins and minerals in order to improve both the body and the mind. “When we are free of toxins we are able to receive much more,” she explains, citing her own epiphanies as the perfect example of how it works. “This is how we start the real revolution.”