Browsing Category: restaurant reviews

Breakfast on vacation: 7 tips for starting the day out right.

breakfast on vacation; eggs benedict

Also about: places to eat in Seattle.

We just got back from a five-day visit to Seattle. Our motto and mission on vacation always has been: “Go places and eat things!”

We succeeded.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I believe in eating healthy most of the time, but making allowances for the occasional bending of the rules. For me, vacation definitely falls under the rule-bending side of things, but I don’t want to completely throw all rules out the window, every meal. One of my main strategies is to start the day off with a decent breakfast. In other words, some protein and healthy fats, some fruit and/or vegetables, with a minimum of carbs and sweets.

It would be easy to rationalize cinnamon rolls and french toast for breakfast every morning — after all, it’s vacation, right? But I know that starting the day out that way will make me hungry (and probably cranky) by mid-morning, and set me up for bad decisions all day long. So here’s my advice for starting the day out right on vacation.

7 tips for eating a healthy breakfast on vacation

1. Eat well before you leave home. On our day of departure, I allowed myself enough time to get up and have my normal, healthy breakfast. For me, this is two eggs with sweet potato hash. Because I always have onions and already-cooked-sweet potato diced and ready to go in the fridge, this is quick and easy to throw together. (I didn’t actually bother with sausage and avocado the day we left. This is an old pic. #latergram)

breakfast on vacation - eggs + hash

 

2. Be prepared with healthy snacks. Before we left, I stocked up on my favorite version of trail mix: mixed nuts and diced prunes. Laugh if you want, but prunes are some of the lowest glycemic dried fruits — and that extra fiber can’t hurt when you’re traveling!

Oh, and by the way: most of these shots are not going to be beautiful. Part of keeping vacation relaxing for me means I don’t work too hard to get a perfect shot; one or two shots as-is. Case in point…

breakfast on vacation - snacks for the plane

This turned out to be my lunch on our flight there and my dinner on our flight home, so I’m glad I came prepared!

3. If possible, stay in a place with a kitchen. And 4. Eat what’s fresh and local. We found a great apartment on airbnb that was 9 minutes from the main attractions, at less than half what a cheap hotel room would have cost! On top of the great price, we had a fridge, microwave, stove and dishwasher. Enough equipment to have some eggs and fresh local fruit some mornings…

breakfast on vacation; eggs + fruit

 

Other mornings it was eggs and this amazing local yogurt…

breakfast on vacation; eggs + yogurt

If you’re ever in Seattle, track down some Ellenos Greek yogurt! It’s the mildest, creamiest yogurt I’ve ever had! My favorite flavor was marionberry, but the plain sweetened with honey was great, too. (This is not a sponsored post. I just truly love this stuff!)

ellenos yogurt

 

5. If you can’t get a kitchen, try for a mini fridge and microwave. Then pick up some pho the night before. Our first night in Seattle, we went to Ba Bar, where they have phenomenal Vietnamese pho (pronounced “fuh”), a bone broth featuring various ingredients; mine had ramen noodles, duck confit, mushrooms, and lemongrass. The broth and ramen noodles were so delicious, I ordered extra to take “home,” and had this for breakfast the next couple days. (This photo is terrible, but the breakfast was not!) On the side, I had peaches and strawberries with a drizzle of cream. So, slight bending of Paleo rules – noodles, cream – but still a whole-foods, low-carb, no-sugar breakfast. And quite delightful! I did not feel one bit deprived.

seattle-brkfst-pho-fruit

If you can’t find pho, egg-drop soup would probably work well, too.

6. When you’re in a pinch, just make the best choices you can. One day, we were stuck with nothing in the fridge and no ride for a couple hours, so we walked to the nearest place — which happened to be a Starbucks. (No surprise, in Seattle!) This is the best I could do there: a low-glycemic KIND bar, and water. Not a great breakfast, either from a health or satisfaction standpoint, but it was enough to get me by till we could get something more substantial.

breakfast on vacation; KIND bar

7. Bend rules: sometimes a little, sometimes a little more! One of the days, we ended up having “second breakfast” at a place called Oddfellows. While there were lots of bready things on the menu — even gluten-free biscuits — avocado toast sounded delicious to me. It came on whole-wheat bread, sprinkled with pepitas and sprouts, and shaved radish. I removed the latter (not a radish fan), then cut up the bacon I ordered on the side, and added that on top. Yum!

breakfast on vacation; avocado toast

Our last day, we ate at Glo’s Cafe; a very small mom-and-pop diner type place. One of my MOST favorite things to order for breakfast is eggs benedict, not just because I love it, but also it’s something I never make myself. The white bread English muffins that come standard with bennies are definitely not Paleo. I’ve tried benedict without any bread at all, but then so much of that yummalicious yolk-and-hollandaise sauce goes to waste on the plate! So my compromise is to order it on whole wheat toast — which works out quite nicely. I also order a side of avocado to healthy it up a bit. Glo’s has really good eggs benny, and it comes with a heap o’ hash browns…

places to eat in Seattle; Glo's Cafe

 

I’m not the huge hash brown fiend my husband is, but I do enjoy them if they’re crispy. So bending the rules a little more, I enjoy the crispy bits, and leave the rest behind.

places to eat in Seattle; Glo's Cafe

This was a fully satisfying, delicious, treat of a breakfast, but still with no guilt.

Some other places to eat in Seattle

Just to be real, I DO bend the rules more during the rest of the day on vacation! On this trip, I enjoyed street tacos at Tacos Chukis, creme brullee at Ray’s Boathouse, Molly Moon’s ice cream, and more!

My husband really enjoyed the coffee and quiet at Storyville Coffee. I may have had a sip or two. Cream and sugar included.

places to eat in Seattle: storyville coffee

Although it wasn’t a meal, my favorite food discovery was the Quintessential Gourmet tasting room, where you could taste wines, hard ciders, olive oils, and — the thing that made me giddy — almost 20 different flavors of balsamic vinegar! Strawberry, blueberry, espresso, chocolate, cranberry-pear. Mix them with orange-infused or lavender-infused olive oil, or any of the several other flavors. Oh, we had fun, and walked out with a ridiculous amount of small bottles!

places to eat in Seattle: vinegar tasting room

My favorite meal of the week, though, was a picnic we enjoyed at Gas Works Park, feasting on smoked salmon that tasted like bacon (from Pure Food Fish Market), nothin’-paleo-about-it pastries from Peroshky Peroshky, and drippy-ripe slices of nectarine dipped in my aforementioned new love, Ellenos! (All of which we discovered on the Seattle Bites Food Tour — also highly recommended!)

seattle picnic

I do confess to pigging out on the yogurt. It was our last night, and we couldn’t take it on the plane!

So I did not live a regimented life while we were there. But I just find that making the effort to start the day with some good protein and minimal sugar keeps my energy and mood up all day long. And who wants to spend vacay tired and cranky?!

How do you bend the rules on vacation?

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Restaurant review: 715, Lawrence KS

restaurant review; 715 - pan seared salmon

We ate at 715 Restaurant the other night for my daughter’s birthday. All our plates were good: the others got pan-roasted chicken, shrimp with gingered fettucine, and a lovely pork chop. (Unfortunately, my photos of those didn’t come out well. I try not to be too intrusive about taking pics in restaurants, so I just take one shot of anyone else’s dish, maybe just a couple of mine.)

Mine was one of the specials for the night: pan-seared salmon, served over a thin smear of housemade sour cream, with a salad of frisee and blueberries in a champagne vinaigrette on crostini. The salmon was the perfect contrast of salty/crusty on the outside, and perfectly tender and moist on the inside; the sour cream added a subtle creamy texture without overpowering the taste of the fish.

restaurant review; 715 Lawrence - pan seared salmon

I loved the tart-sweet balance between the blueberries and the vinaigrette, too. The crouton-like slices of baguette under the salad absorbed the excess dressing, which kept the salad light, and added a crunchy extra which was delicious all in its own right. Since I’m living mostly wheat-free, I had intended to just taste the crostini, but it was so good I ate it all! I do believe in the occasional splurge, after all!

restaurant review; 715 - empty plate

In short: it was a perfect dish!

The young ‘uns also got dessert: she ordered a raspberry ricotta cake that she said was a cross between cheesecake and cake, and he had a sorbet duo; one scoop each of sweet cream and coffee. Both were thoroughly enjoyed!

The ambiance is both casual and elegant, though a little noisy in spots. Service is friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful without being intrusive. The menu is definitely on the pricey side for a town the size of Lawrence, but totally worth it for a special occasion!

Eating Paleo/Whole30 at The Monarch (Wichita KS)

eating paleo/whole30 at The Monarch in Wichita KS
eating paleo/whole30 at The Monarch in Wichita KS
Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out can be a challenge; here’s help when eating at The Monarch in Wichita KS.
The Monarch is a favorite local Wichita KS restaurant and bar. It features cool decor, with lighting fixtures made from salvaged wood and upcycled bicycle parts, and the walls boast a mix of flea-market finds and unique art from local artists. It’s a convenient location if you’re downtown, in the Delano area, or trying to bring east-siders and west-siders together in a central location. I’ve ordered salads a couple times and been underwhelmed, but other than that, everything I’ve ordered there has tasted great. I believe they smoke their own meats, or buy from local suppliers, so these menu items may be less processed than something you’d get at a chain like Chili’s, for example.Based on just looking over the menu and making some guesses (with the exception of salad dressing, explained below), here are some dishes you could order at The Monarch and be mostly Whole30 compliant. I haven’t verified what oils things are cooked in, and as I’ve noted below, there may be hidden sugars.
Mushroom caps without the cheese.*
Potato skins with smoked chicken, without the cheese.
Any of their meat soups,* probably, except for ones with noodles, pasta, corn chips, cream or cheese.
These sandwiches without the cheese and the roll, eaten knife-and-fork: Cuban, Chicken Caprese, Brisket Royale,* Monarch,* Reuben, Italian Sausage*, and Grilled Hot Link*. (Is it still worth eating? That’s your call!)
Sadly, there are no sides that are okay. Cole slaw would certainly have sugar. A side salad would only work without dressing. Read on…
I called to make sure, and all of the salad dressings have either sugar or dairy in them. (Ranch and blue cheese being the sugar-free ones.) If you’re bold enough to bring and discreetly use your own salad dressing, you could order the Smoked Chef without croutons, or the Greek salad — both without dressing.
*There’s probably some sugar in all of the red meats: Brisket, corned beef, ham, hot links, and sausage — in the brine, the seasonings, or both. It’s less likely in the chicken, but still very possible. You’ll need to make the choice whether you think the amount is neglible, as far as eating out goes.
Update: I visited The Monarch a couple days ago and had their sandwich called “The Monarch” without bread and cheese. It was quite tasty! I had the sweet potato tater tots for the side, and while they were very yummy and a perfect complement to the main dish, I’m pretty sure they had sugar in them. Also, I asked about what oil they were fried in: soybean.  🙁  This could be a totally Whole30 dish if they’d just make sweet potato fries or hash browns, fried in coconut oil. So close! And probably okay for a general Paleo mini-splurge.
.

The Monarch on Urbanspoon

Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out

jason-s-deli-salmon-salad
Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out can be a challenge. My husband is getting ready to try the Whole30 thang, and needing some Paleo-friendly lunch options, so this post is especially for him. And as such, it focuses mostly on his tastes. So there may be a lot of other options out there, but this list caters to someone who’s not crazy about chicken or salads. And its scope is also limited to restaurants on the west side of Wichita, KS. But there are a few national chains here, as well as guidelines for any Mexican restaurant, or any burger, so there should be help here, no matter your locale.

(Please note: this list may not be 100% Whole30 compliant; I was not able to track down which oil most things are fried in, for example. But it seeks to avoid grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes.)

Applebee’s

Beef: The Ribeye and NY Strip are the only two steaks that aren’t cooked in soybean oil.

Seafood: Garlic Herb Salmon

Sides: steamed vegetables; or sweet potato fries??

Burger places, or any place that serves ’em

Bunless burger topped with grilled onions and mushrooms. Or grilled onions and jalapenos. Served on spinach? Or get a side of broccoli, cauliflower, or sweet potato, if available.

Chili’s

Beef: Cajun Ribeye, Guiltless Carne Asada Steak, Flame Grilled Ribeye, or the Classic Sirloin – ask for no savory steak butter as this contains gluten. If you want a burger, the Bacon Burger or the Old time Burger (ask for no bun or onion strings) are good choices. I also like the burger that comes with guacamole and peppers; it’s quite tasty even without the bun!

Seafood: Guiltless Grilled Salmon or the Salmon with Garlic & Herbs

Fajitas; skip the tortilla, sour cream and cheese.

Chipotle

Order two sides of steak or carnitas with guacamole, and any salsa you want, except for the one with corn and beans. Depending on how much food you want, you can order extra sides at $2.25 a pop.

Note: Occasionally you’ll get a new employee who might put the sides in a sides container. If they do this, ask them if they can put it in a bowl. If they do that, they’ll often realize it’s not actually that much meat and give you more for free.

Jason’s Deli

Pollo Mexicano, without cheese and sour cream, – add guacamole; try to eat less of the white part of the potato

Mighty Wild Salmon Salad, without beans, with Italian dressing (NOT Leo’s fat-free Italian)

McAlister’s Deli

Your best bet: the grilled chicken salad, hold the croutons (and the cheese, if you’re avoiding dairy). Here’s the nutrition info for the entree-sized grilled chicken salad, as well as the only salad dressings with less than 20 grams of carbs and less than 1000 mg of sodium.

nutrition info for mcalister's deli: salad

 

Mexican places (go local, not chain)

Ask for no chips when you’re seated. (If you order carryout, specify no chips.)

Fajitas; skip the tortilla, sour cream and cheese.

Order a tostada topped with meat of your choice, guacamole, salsa, lettuce, tomato, and/or onions. Eat everything but the tortilla.

Panera

The Greek dressing is the only sugar-free dressing, but you can request it on any salad.

(I need to do more research into the broth bowls. They’ve changed the menu since my original post.)

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General guidelines

Always ask for NO SEASONING SALT in restaurants. MSG is often added to this, as is sugar.

When you see the following adjectives on the menu, ask lots of questions and be prepared to take a pass on foods that don’t meet your standards:

  • Deep fried
  • Crispy
  • Battered
  • Coated
  • Breaded
  • Sauced
  • Meatballs/Meatloaf/Croquettes (probably include breadcrumbs)
  • Sausage
  • Fritter
  • Dumpling

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Sources:
http://thepaleomama.com/2013/01/the-paleo-mamas-guide-to-dining-out-paleo-style/
http://fentresscrossfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/FAST-FOOD-OPTIONS.pdf
http://theclothesmakethegirl.com/2015/02/26/paleo-tips-eating-restaurants/
https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/menu-categories/salads.html

Braised pork tostadas – A. MAZ. ING!

carnitas-tostadas-at-Iris
Just had to break my self-imposed blogging sabbatical to post about this amazing dish we had recently on vacation in the San Diego area. We just needed a 3 pm snack to tide us over to dinner, and stopped at Iris Food & Spirits in Del Mar. On the recommendation of a local, we ordered the braised pork tostadas. It may not be the most photogenic thing…

…but MORE than made up for it in deliciousness! 
Those mini-tostadas are no chips out of a plastic bag: these babies were clearly just-fried, perfectly crisp with just-enough oil. The toppings are simple but perfect: tender, slightly smokey kalua pork, topped with sweet, sweet carmelized onion (with just a hint of wine, maybe), fresh cilantro, and — according to the menu — “buttermilk sauce.” Which I’m guessing had some adobo sauce. 
Lovely contrast in textures and flavors: crisp/shattering of the tostada; candy-sweet onions playing a perfect counternote to the smoky, meatiness of the pork; just a hint of heat in the flavorfull sauce.
This was one of those meals where discussion came to a sudden halt after the first bite. “Wow,” was about all we could manage to mutter. And after the food was gone, we immediately began plotting how to replicate this delicious dish at home.

How to eat healthi(er) at Jose Pepper’s

jose-peppers-fish-taco

(Oh, and a restaurant review.)

Yes, it is possible to go to a Mexican restaurant and not blow your healthy eating, balanced-carbs plan. Here’s my strategy:

1. Count how many chips you eat. Notice I’m not telling you how many to eat. In the past, I’ve always either decided ahead of time to eat no chips whatsoever (my rare approach), or decided ahead of time to not eat “too many,” but then go ahead and do it anyway (my more common approach). Today, I decided I would just count chips as I ate them. I hadn’t made up my mind what number I was going to stop at, but the mere mindfulness of counting slowed me down considerably. You might try this and see if it helps. YMMV.

2. Skip the white flour and white rice. I love their fish taco, but it’s so packed with flavor, you really don’t need the tortilla. (And picking it up to eat it is REALLY messy!) So I just remove the little taco prop that it comes served in, lay the tortilla out flat, and eat the content off it as if the tortilla were the dish. Neater, cleaner, saved some white carbs and some fat, with no sacrifice in flavor or enjoyment!

3. Get veggies instead of rice and beans. I love this about Jose Pepper’s: that you can even get vegetables as a side is great, but these actually taste good! A mix of broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash and (tiny shreds of) carrots, they’re generously seasoned and cooked just to crisp-tender.

4. And — do I really need to say this? Skip the little ball of cornmeal and honey! That’s nothing but a sugar bomb, and if you never taste it to begin with, you can do a head-fake on yourself and just imagine that it tastes really awful!

As to a review of the restaurant itself… The one we frequent is on 13th Street near the Warren Theater in east Wichita. We go there almost every Sunday for lunch, and although they’re always busy, we rarely have to wait long for a table. The staff is always friendly and on top of things. They also have a gluten-free information sheet available on request.

Jose Pepper’s website.

Jose Peppers on Urbanspoon

Where to eat in Wichita: Fizz Burgers

minilink1
Fizz Burgers sweet potato fries!

I have to confess, when Fizz opened in my neighborhood and I saw the signs, I was so appalled at the logo that I had no interest in trying the place out! I mean, tell me that this doesn’t look like it actually says “Pizz”!

Fizz Burgers (and the infamous logo)
Plus, that pistachio green color — one of my favorites, but not one I want to associate with burgers!
Luckily, though, my hairdresser Annie (who works a few doors down) told me that they had really good burgers. So my husband and I tried it out, and it was instantly our new favorite casual spot. (The hubs still insists on calling it Pizz, though. Ha. Ha.)
They do have great burgers, but they also have a great chicken sandwich (try it with avocado, bacon, and garlic aioli) and good salads. I love the chicken tortilla salad; in fact, it’s the inspiration for my own make-ahead Tex-Mex salad. (Sorry, no pic yet. Another one of those days when I was so hungry, I was halfway through the salad before I realized it!) In addition to the greens and chicken (alternately, you can order it with pulled pork), there’s avocado, cheddar cheese, black beans, tortilla strips, red onion, and a very tasty dressing.
But what Fizz is probably best loved for is their fries. They have some great traditional skin-on fries (my favorite kind!), shown here in a pic from their website with what looks like a mushroom and Swizz burger.
But what really puts them on the map is their sweet potato fries! (Did you know that sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes? Crazy, huh?! Plus, they have a ton of Vitamin A.) I’ve tried s.p. fries at number of restaurants, and I definitely like these the best. They don’t have that weird tang that you often get, plus they’re not crusted with unnecessary sugar and/or cinnamon. You can also ask to have your order half-and-half: half regular fries and half sweet potato fries.
They have six different dipping sauces you can order with either kind of fries: Garlic Aioli · Roasted Garlic · Smoked Pepper Mayo · Ranch · Pecan · Ketchup · Spicy Ketchup. And they’ll gladly bring you a bit of however many you want. But with the sweet potato fries, you gotta try the pecan sauce! It’s a little sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.
Oh, and they also offer dozens of different unique soda pops in bottles. Wine and beer, too. Dessert is available: cute little cake pops. I’ve never tried one, but I gave my sister one and she said it was “the best!”
Locally owned. Open for lunch and dinner Mon. – Sat. Closed Sunday. 🙁

Fizz Burgers and Bottles on Urbanspoon

Places to eat in Kansas City: Mestizo restaurant review

mestizo-fish-tacos
Mestizo restaurant review

We’ve made two visits to Mestizo in the last month. That alone should say something. The first visit was actually mixed, but there was enough good to bring us back. And I’m glad, because the second visit was more positive.

This relatively new addition to the KC restaurant scene is located in Leawood at Park Place (a collection of shops, restaurants and condos at 117th and Nall, just north of the AMC Town Center). You’d have to go looking for it. Unless you just happen to be strolling around this chi-chi mecca of high-end consumerism, you wouldn’t happen across it. And if you go in for appetizers, drinks, and a large meal, it’s going to be pretty pricey. But we just went for a light late lunch both times, and so we got out for under $15 per person.

Let’s start with the salsa. Our first visit there, we were quite underwhelmed by it. It was okay, but didn’t taste garden-fresh, which is what you’d expect from the expectations set by the menu. It tasted like the bulk of the sauce came from canned tomatoes. But that was April, and maybe they were short on good local tomatoes so they resorted to canned. This time, however — midway through May — the salsa lived up to our original expectations. It had both a sweetness and a pleasant kick (mind you, this comment from me, the spice-wimp), and the sweetness tasted like it came from homegrown t’maters, not from Heinz, or added sugar. A salsa-dipped chip did benefit from a little extra salt added at the table, as the chips are served pretty much saltless. (But I’d much rather have a dish lack salt than be overly salty.)

Other than lacking salt, the chips are great. They somehow manage to be both thick and light — perfectly crispy.

On our first visit, we ordered guacamole, but none of us (and there were four that time) were impressed. We didn’t even finish it, even though it was fairly small. It had a strange note in it; almost tasted mustardy to me. ($9. Sheesh!)

On my first visit, I ordered the “chipotle chicken” — a simple salad topped with glazed, grilled chicken breast and a tamarind vinaigrette. The chicken was a little over cooked but still enjoyable, and the salad dressing was unique, with a bright, citrusy flavor. ($10.)

On our first visit, the two guys ordered two different kinds of tacos: one ordered grilled mahi-mahi, and the other, crispy pork belly. On our second visit, my husband, having tasted both the first time, ordered a mixed serving of both. (Two tacos, $9.)

The fish tacos, served with avocado slices and mango salsa on top:

Pork belly may sound weird, but these were bite-sized chunks of tender pork with a pleasantly crispy exterior. They weren’t strongly smoked, but there was a hint of bacon-y flavor to them.

My husband’s assessment of the two: He likes them both, but prefers the pork belly. (“I like El Patron’s fish tacos better by a long shot,” he says.)

Both kinds of tacos were served with a side of “drunken beans.” No one liked the beans. My sister’s fiance thought there was an “off” taste to them; I thought they just tasted bland.

The star dish, in my opinion, was the pepita-crusted scallops. My sister ordered it on our first visit, and I ordered on our second. (Her serving had three scallops, mine, only two. Perhaps measured by weight?) The scallops were perfectly done, sweet and tender, and served atop a creamy corn picadillo. Dictionary.com says that picadillo is “a traditional Latin American and Spanish dish of ground meat, onions, tomatoes, raisins, olives, and spices,” but this one had grilled corn, small pear tomatoes and bits of jalapeno in a creamy, sauce that tasted of ancho chile to me. The slightly spicy, slightly smoky sauce was a great counterpoint to the sweet scallops, was contrasted nicely with the salty, crispy crust of finely chopped pepitas on top. Nothing to criticize! ($12.)

Our one main complaint about Mestizo: the atmosphere is just a little too slick, a little too chic. (It should be noted that both of our visits were mid-afternoon. Perhaps the decor feels more right after dark.) My husband also was a bit put off by the sterile, styled-ness of the plating.

In a “Welcome” note at the top of the menu, owner Aaron Sanchez says that the menu was inspired, in part, by family meals “freshly prepared by my mother, Zarela.” And that kind of love for the flavors and the food came through in the dishes we tried, but I wish it would have also come through in the decor. The restaurant shouts STYLE, and feels like a corporate concept, not a homespun gathering place.

Mestizo website.

Mestizo on Urbanspoon