by Mary Cokenour
When it comes to the restaurant business, true success is based upon the love and passion owners, cooks, chefs, and employees have for what they do.
No one knows this better than Karen Whipple, owner of the Peace Tree Juice Café, located in Moab and Monticello. Loyalty from customers and employees speaks volumes on this subject.
Twenty-one years ago, Karen began her venture with the first Peace Tree in Moab based solely on the concept of fresh and healthy.
Before opening the Peace Tree Menu, make sure to read the story behind the name, but it’s the Vision and Mission Statement that seals the deal:
“The Peace Tree Juice Café celebrates this promotion of goodwill and harmony. It is our goal to provide healthy, flavorful sustenance using natural, organic, and farm-to-table foods when possible.
“Additionally, we believe in the strength of our community, and we strive to offer top-quality food and products that are locally grown and made.”
Wow, local businesses and residents promoting and supporting each other – what a great vision and mission in itself!
Karen worked hard at doing and learning, not just the business aspects, but how to make juices and smoothies – a hands-on experience overall.
That’s right. She didn’t just purchase equipment and books, hand them over to the employees, and tell them to figure it out. She needed to perfect it within herself first.
Little by little, food items were added to create breakfast and lunch menus. A second location in Monticello opened and several years ago, a dinner menu emerged with additions of Mexican and Italian cuisines to the American fare.
Whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the menus at the Peace Tree are designed for everyone, no matter the dietary need or lifestyle choice. It was not always easy, but the rewards are being reaped with great reviews, repeat business, and folks wanting to experience the food love.
Again, Karen is a hands-on type of owner. She told me a story of being at the Moab restaurant and how she would go in after hours and clean. One day, while employees were still there, a new employee asked another, “Is that the cleaning lady?”
“No,” she was told, “that’s your boss!” And let me tell you, I can relate to that assumption.
But that’s Karen for you. Even though she has staff, getting down and dirty for her restaurants is just the way she is, and Karen is appreciated and loved for who and what she is!
Then again, Karen appreciates and loves her staff; she knows they’re as much the backbone of the Peace Tree dynasty as she is. From the servers to the prep cooks, everyone has an important part to play.
Take, for example, Chef Allea Garcia. Allea was a military wife living in Italy for four years – the perfect environment for a woman with a love and passion for cooking.
Not being one to simply sit on her duff and wait for something to do, she became assistant to the chef at the officers’ chow hall. She learned by watching and doing.
She learned intently the ins and outs of running a kitchen, using the tools, tasting the flavors, smelling the scents. Like any true Italian cook, she learned quickly that the best measuring tools were the hands and eyes.
Having my personal specialty style in Italian cuisine, trying out Allea’s dishes was definitely a true test to her ability. She passed with flying colors!
Her meatballs are made with pure, high quality ground beef, and there is no bread in the mixture for those who are gluten intolerant.
Her flavor intense, freshly made sauce is served over the meatballs and perfectly cooked spaghetti and then garnished with herbs and parmesan cheese.
The garlic bread, sprinkled with roasted red pepper flakes for a little heat, is definitely necessary to sop up every drop of that delicious sauce.
As with the spaghetti, the fettuccine is perfectly cooked and draped with the creamiest, decadent Alfredo sauce, also freshly made. Alas, the pasta is not handmade as it takes so much time to create those handmade, fresh sauces. Believe me, I can relate to that as well!
Oh, but Italian is not all that Allea can do; her Mexican dishes are amazing as well. Her Chile Rellanos are, well, they are so wonderful that I no longer have to make them for my husband, Roy.
He said, “Honey, as good as your Chile Rellanos are, I’m sorry, but I am coming to Peace Tree whenever I want some.”
Does that bother me? Oh heck no. Allea, thank you so much for getting this chore off my meal to-do list.
I had Allea’s version of Fish Tacos using Tilapia. The fish was so tender and flaky, the coating so perfectly seasoned, I didn’t even have to add any of the accompanying sauces.
Next time I must try the tacos with shrimp. Oh yes, I do expect many a next time, and we’ll bring others with us as well to enjoy the feasting.
Appetizers like Roasted Red Pepper Hummus or Jalapeno Artichoke Dip are so creamy, rich, and full of taste bud thrilling flavor, and served with grilled Naan bread.
Needing a small meal? Try a side or Caesar salad with one of these appetizers; it will do a body good!
We also made sure to leave just enough room for a dessert, Brownie Ala Mode. It was oh so warm, chewy, gooey, and good! Hey, not everyone’s definition of healthy is the same. Don’t judge!
But wait, there’s more. Breakfast is an incredible feast to start the day with. Start off with two types of freshly roasted coffees before diving into Jo’s Omelet full of veggies and meat of your own choosing. Or stick to vegetarian style.
The Panini Sandwich is a mouthful of eggs, cheese and meat; omelet and sandwich both served with seasoned, roasted red potatoes.
There is French Toast sprinkled with coconut or cinnamon or Sweet Cream Pancakes for those seeking a sweeter good morning.
Another item is the Lox Bagel loaded with cream cheese, smoked salmon, roasted red peppers, red onion, capers, and tomatoes…it was just too pretty to eat!
Suddenly on this Sunday morning, snow began to fall. While others around us were in distress, we simply said, “Give it five minutes, the sun will be out,” and we happily continued to eat.
How could we not laugh, though, when the sun came out shining, and the visitors to our area were amazed at the correctness of our prediction.
Here it is, late spring and the warmer weather is slowly creeping in. With our beautiful Abajo Mountains and eye-popping blue sky, what more perfect way to enjoy meals at Peace Tree than on their patio?
When using the Peace Tree’s patio seating, don’t be afraid to have your well behaved, friendly pet dining with you.
Oh dear, I almost forgot about lunch! It’s a yum-fest of salads, wraps, Angus Beef burgers, and sandwiches like the Southwestern Chicken.
Don’t forget about the Peace Tree’s ever popular variety of smoothies, juice drinks, and coffees to go along with that veggie-packed wrap or panini stuffed with turkey, avocado, and bacon.
That brings me to Allea’s newest additions to her condiment/sauce collection: Bacon Jam (close in texture to a chutney) and a Bacon Glaze containing smoky bacon, strawberries, and sriarcha. It’s so good on chicken with the heat and sweet mixture.
She is hoping to bottle and sell this latter one, and it would go great on that other white meat – pork.
Oh my, the lunch menu just happens to have a Cuban Melt listed too – roasted pork...mouth-watering.
The front entryway also has a gift shop area featuring jewelry; paintings; metal décor; and sculptures, pottery, and more from local artisans.
Don’t hesitate to browse as you more than likely will find that perfect gift for yourself or someone else.
What else can I say except, “Go to the Peace Tree Juice Café and have a food love adventure!”