8.22.2013

Dining Out Paleo: Cracker Barrel

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
    
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, sometimes dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

It was after 8:00 pm.  I landed at the airport in San Antonio, gathered my luggage, picked up my rental car, and set Waze to navigate me to my hotel.  I was just starting to get hungry but still holding out from all the healthy snackies I had brought with me on the plane.  My stomach was on California time, my brain was on Texas time.  By the time I reached my hotel and got settled into my room it was well past 9:00 pm and my stomach and brain were finally on the same page.  Not much was close to where I was staying and it was far too late to seek out some of my ol' Texas dining favorites.  After a few desperate searches on Yelp, it was either the warm crunch of a Schlotzky's sandwich or the creamy comfort of Cracker Barrel.

With the thought of having to squeeze into my interview suit in just over 12 hours, I figured my best options for meat and veggies would be found at Cracker Barrel.  I figured correctly.  I scurried my way through the general store and was quickly seated among the other two families dining so close to closing time. 


I was thrilled to see a Low Carb Offerings section of the menu.  Options that wouldn't require much thought from my overtired travel-frazzled brain.  Chicken, roast beef, fish, and steaks!  Actually, now that I write this and look back over this menu, I can't imagine why I passed on all those tasty options.  I must have been seeking out one thing and one thing only...


...a bacon cheeseburger.  I have been incorporating small amounts of cheese into my diet lately, mostly in the form of feta and salads.  When I start to notice stomach disgruntlement, I immediately know it's time to cut the cheese right back out of my diet.  While I waited for my food, I played a requisite round of the peg game.


On this particular evening, I devoured the meat patty and bacon and cheese with no issue.  I also opted for a side order of green beans.  Not farm fresh, but also not a hash brown casserole. 


For a late night, last minute meal I was pretty satisfied with my option and was happy to discover that any future visits to The Barrel won't require a glutton-fest of pancakes, gravies, and hash brown casseroles, but instead I have a few better grain-free, sugar-free options awaiting me.  And maybe there will be a bite or two of hash brown casserole without any photographic evidence.

The next morning, I gladly slipped right into my suit which was surprisingly more loose than the last time I sported it for an hour of professional Q&A about my life and times as an engineer.  And now for another gratuitous suit-selfie:


The rest of my time in Texas was spent eating great food with great company and those posts will be up in the next few weeks.  And for those of you who may be asking...all two or three of my friends... this suit has proven to be pretty lucky.  Or maybe I'm just good at interviewing.  And I'll leave it at that.

Maybe some time in the not too distant future there will be a whole lotsa more Dining Out Paleo posts from deep in the heart of Texas.





8.15.2013

Dining Out Paleo: Red House BBQ

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
    
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

This Texas girl has officially found her surrogate BBQ heaven in the little mountain town of Tehachapi, California.  Red House BBQ could easily be situated on one of the dusty back roads between my alma mater and the big city and would be just as packed, if not more, than in its current location in Kern County, California.   


Red House BBQ is located in a big red barn-like structure at the east end of downtown Tehachapi.  The menu is simple and comprised of some of the best dang BBQ that's ever melted across my tongue.  Ribs, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, and even catfish if that's your thing.  Meat plates, meat in a salad, meat in a giant Indian Fry Bread taco.  No matter how it's served, the meat at Red House is smoky and melts in my mouth just as I would expect good BBQ to do.  Side dishes are the standard BBQ house fare: side salads, spicy chili, mac & cheese, potato salad, and a very tasty crispy red coleslaw to name a few.

My most recent Red House BBQ lunch was a brisket topped salad.  A hearty portion of Red House's perfectly tender brisket, with its smoky deliciousness layered on a giant bowl of fresh salad ingredients.  Lettuce, carrots, onions, peperoncini, cucumber, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, and bacon... there was hardly any room left for the meat!  It couldn't get any more perfectly Paleo than this gargantuan bowl of meat and veggies...


The taste verdict?  Crazy amazing!  I couldn't even finish all of it, there was so much flavor and food packed into that bowl.  Each salad comes with a choice of salad dressing and regular or spicy BBQ sauce.  My sentiment is that there is enough moisture and flavor in the brisket and vegetables that the dressing is hardly necessary.  Red House has delicious BBQ sauce, but if you're completely avoiding sugars merely take a taste and then move on.

Red House BBQ is absolutely worth the drive from our house and I'd even make the trek if I was still in LA.  Good BBQ is hard to find and for now, my search is over.  Even Volt likes it here.  He's especially fond of the warning sign out by the smoker!  I can see why.






8.08.2013

Dining Out Paleo: Tender Greens (again!)

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
    
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

Oh Westside food options, how I miss having daily access to you!  Tender Greens.  One of my favorite places to grab a quick lunch when I'm in the area and know that whatever I order is made fresh and is locally sourced. 


The Tender Greens Farm to Fork philosophy is one that makes me more than happy to support their endeavours by patronizing their business.

Photo source: Tender Greens Farm to Fork DNA
Last time I mentioned that I always order the Backyard Steak Salad.  Well, THIS time for the first time EVER, I decided to change it up and try something a little different.  I ordered the Backyard Marinated Steak as a hot plate.  I opted for the Baby Arugula Simple Salad with a peppery pile of baby arugula, fresh tomatoes, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  The roasted vegetables are always so enticing and I was lured in by a plate of roasted cauliflower.  My taste buds were not disappointed.

  

The highlight of my meal, however, was the Soup of the Day.  A silky smooth zucchini soup.   Hot and rich with a bright clean flavor, my only complaint is that the bowl wasn't bottomless.  I always enjoy Tender Greens' Soups of the Day.  They are a delicious highlight of fresh in-season vegetables and are often a vegetarian or vegan friendly option.  Add in a prairie raised piece of protein and it's the perfect Dining Out Paleo meal!





8.01.2013

Dining Out Paleo: Burger Barn

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
   
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

I always love tagging alongside my hubby while he busts his hind-side working so that I can eat at new restaurants, take pictures of my food, and write about it to my loyal online readers and friends.  Last week we were in Bakersfield, California.  This week, I found myself in the bustling little town of Bishop at the north end of the Owens Valley, just outside of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Most Angelenos have made Bishop a mandatory pit stop on their way to Mammoth Mountain or Reno, Nevada.  My hubby has made it a destination for drilling holes in the ground and giving surrounding area residents access to their groundwater.

We made this particular visit a family mini-vacation and tossed the pups in the truck and headed north.  Volt was a little reluctant to give up his seat.


While Matt was out diligently getting his jeans and boots sufficiently layered in mud, Miss Ellie and Volt were partaking in the vast play area at the Bishop Dog Park.  Actually, they overheated just walking over and spent most of the time lounging in the shade.  And the pool.



When play time was over, for both the dogs and my big kid husband, it was time for lunch!  I resorted to my usual Yelp search incorporating some variation of the terms "Grass fed", "Locavore", and "Organic".  These search terms have a knack for turning out Dining Out Paleo gold.

Bishop Burger Barn was a clear winner for finding a meal made with local flavors.  Bishop Burger Barn is a few miles off of the main stretch of 395 in a quiet and secluded residential area.  It is set in what looks like another home in the neighborhood with quaint outdoor picnic tables and few covered patio sections with open seating.



Bishop Burger Barn serves dishes that are homemade from local, organically grown produce and meats.  The bacon is from nearby Bishop business Mahogany Smoked Meats.  The ice cream is also homemade and is used in their shakes and malts, without any added fake and not-good-for-you ingredients.  The owners and staff are passionate about supporting their community and running a sustainable and environmentally conscious business.  What a beautiful example of "locavore" dining!



I ordered a Double Cheeseburger and a side salad with the homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  When our food was ready, I had no idea how beautiful and well arranged it was going to be based on the rustic outdoor setting of the restaurant.   


Obviously the Paleo picture does not include bun - it is easily plucked off.  I have two dogs that love to hover by the table waiting for the bits and pieces I don't like to eat.


The salad was amazing.  Being called "side salad" hardly gives this little accompanying masterpiece any justice.  The greens mix was fresh and crisp and full of flavor.  Bright fresh strips of carrots and peppers.  The homemade vinaigrette was also incredibly flavorful and I was tempted to lick the cup once my salad was complete.  I didn't.  Neither did my furry dining companions.  I couldn't resist trying the fresh-squeezed lemonade and it was well worth the sugar shot... in fact, it wasn't too sweet at all and was a delicious mouthful of fresh lemony drink, pulp and all!  It was fantastically refreshing and I loved it.


Matt, the pups, and I enjoyed our leisurely local lunch taking in the peace, quiet, and fresh air of the valley.  I was so thrilled to discover the Bishop Burger Barn and know that what I am putting in my body is made with a lot of care and healthy local ingredients.  Next time I am passing through Bishop, I will skip right past that tourist trap bakery on the main stretch and steer my car off the beaten path and head straight for a burger and salad!





7.25.2013

Dining Out Paleo: Moo Creamery

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
    
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

Kern County, California.  A metropolis of oil production and agriculture.  Home to a tax rate more desirable than that of LA County and one of the top ten largest cities in the state - BakersfieldMatt's company does quite a bit of work in the area and he's always traveling up there to pick up industry related parts, drop off parts, make sales calls, and even get my wedding ring cleaned at our favorite jewelery store.

Matt had a sales call a few weeks ago, meeting with a gentleman at his home surrounded by farm land and orchards.  He needed a water well.  And I needed an excuse to get out of the house, so I towed along for the ride.  When Matt was done selling the gentleman on the benefits of direct rotary drilling and assessing the area for workability, it was time to hunt down lunch.

The decision was made immediately with no discussion required.  Moo Creamery.  This unique little spot is tucked deep inside of a commercial/industrial complex and requires a bit of navigating through back streets.  All the more time for my rumbly tummy to appreciate the meal that was forthcoming.  The simple facade outside of Moo is no indication of what to expect once inside... a bustling diner/soda shop atmosphere with the tantalizing smells of burgers and ice cream permeating the air.  What I love about Moo Creamery is the menu diversity and the possibility of enjoying an upscale (Paleo, if I want) meal while my dining partner may choose to chow down on a deli sandwich and an ice cream sundae.


Moo Creamery has partnered with local farmers to source their ingredients and whenever possible, uses ingredients that are local and in-season.  Sauces, seasonings, toppings, brioche buns, ice cream, and desserts are all made from scratch.  And if you're up for a heck of a cheat meal, this is the place to do it.  Just a few of the ice cream flavors that appear on the menu board:  Guinness Stout, Bacon Love, Lemon-Ginger, and Malted Butterscotch Brownie. 

But since this particular lunch date was a day for clean-eats, I scoured the menu up and down, across all the amazing lunch options before coming to a final decision.  The menu has an assortment of salads and burgers and the cool part is that any of Moo Creamery's burgers can forgo the brioche and come out lettuce wrapped or prepared "salad style."  When they say "salad style", they don't mean a few shreds of bagged iceberg and cabbage.  The burgers are served on a legit bowl heaping with leaves of fresh romaine and greens.



I have been on an ever growing quest to increase my protein intake and I happened across the most perfect burger selection:  The 24-Hour Burger.  Sharp cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions, arugula, moo sauce and a sunny-side up egg.  Lop all of the above into a massive bowl of salad greens and I was in pure protein heaven!


The hamburger was tender and moist.  The egg was a perfect creamy consistency which was a beautiful balance against the salty crunch of the bacon.  Light fresh greens and bold burger flavors made this a perfect Paleo lunch while supporting a small local business and in turn local growers. 

Tasty salty pig parts??  Yes, please!  My kind of place!


When lunch was over, I drooled over the ice cream and sorbet options and the multitude of soda fountain ways I could have consumed each and every flavor... except maybe JalapeƱo.  Matt and I decided that we'll come back on a day when we feel like throwing all caution to the wind.  I will sport my biggest pair of Lululemons and we will order Richard's Ultimate Gravy Fries followed up with a big Bacon Sundae.  No shame in this girl's game!


I love Moo Creamery.  In fact, it's one of my favorite places to eat in all of Southern California and not just Kern County.  There is a lot of heart in the food and it clearly shows.  And the best part is I can land anywhere on the Paleo spectrum... from very very good... to total Faileo and not many restaurants offer that option.  Now I have to keep my fingers crossed that some of those local farmers need more water wells so Matt has even more reason to toss me in the truck for a mini-roadie out of the Antelope Valley.  I'm coming, Moo!  Save me some 'scream!