Friday, May 17, 2013

Paleo Eats Out in Richmond, VA: Review of Rappahannock

We don't eat out that often anymore. I'd rather cook my own food so I can control the ingredients, even if it means that I feel like I spend my life doing the dishes. Ian helps a lot these days, and has cooked me full meals that are as delicious as anything I would order in a restaurant. He has truly learned how to cook without following a recipe, and it has been fun to watch and of course delicious as well. I always cooked before going to culinary school, but after I graduated it seems like it is always my responsibility. Don't get me wrong -- I love to cook for people and be in charge in the kitchen, but it is always nice when someone cooks a home-cooked meal for me. He has really been getting into smoking meats lately, so look forward to some of those recipes.

Not only has Ian learned how to cook since we have been together, but he has also become a real foodie. He will eat pretty much ANYTHING, other than coleslaw. He's not afraid to try offal, and he will eat any vegetable I throw at him. When we go out to restaurants, he pours over the beer menu, while I look at the food. Often he looks up and says, "What are we having?" We "team order," meaning that we order a few things and share them. I love it! And yes, he still drinks beer. He abstains from all other grains, but like some other men out there, he still enjoys them in the fermented state. He maintains a healthy weight, and like I've said before, we aren't obsessive about "paleo perfection." We also occasionally indulge in dairy, but mostly when we eat out, or the rare occasion that I buy raw milk cheese.

Recently Ian had a meeting in Richmond, VA, and I tagged along for the day. While he was in a meeting, I went shopping and stumbled upon a Whole Foods, of course. I just seem to gravitate towards them. I couldn't help snagging a couple of bottles of GT's Strawberry Kombucha, a Theo chocolate bar, and some Hail Merry Chocolate Macaroons. I've been waiting to try some Hail Merry products ever since I saw fellow "paleo-ers" enjoying them at the PaleoFX via instagram. They are really delicious and fudgy. I actually like them more than other paleo-friendly macaroons that I have tried before, and they were less expensive. I'll have to be careful with them!

After his meeting, we set off to lunch at a restaurant in the Art District in downtown Richmond. We were going to go to a restaurant called "Pasture." When I googled "Richmond, VA Paleo" the restaurant came up in an article talking about how the chef partners with a Crossfit box and sells pulled pork and veggies for the athletes to take home, which sounded promising. Their website however was not working, and so I couldn't view the menu. I figured a restaurant called "Pasture" would be right up our alley. After we paid for parking in a public lot behind the restaurant, we walked in and were less than pleased with their lunch menu. As Ian so eloquently put it, "If I were here eating with a bunch of friends I could find something to eat, but if you had showed me this menu online, I wouldn't really want to go with just us." I felt the same. Nothing was labeled "local," "grassfed," or "pastured" and the lunch menu consisted of mostly sandwiches, and a few uninspiring salads. Pass. So we left. If you are ever in that situation, I encourage you to do the same. It's your money -- spend it where you want to! Since we had already paid for parking, I got onto my Urban Spoon App and found a restaurant on the very next block, called Rappahannock. Jackpot. They had me at "Local Asparagus Salad."

It wasn't a large restaurant, nor was it a large menu, but I wanted half the menu! Take a peek:

Rappahannock's Facebook Page describes themselves as "Upscale, yet casual seafood joint nestled in the historic Grace St. corridor in downtown Richmond, serving up seasonal dishes, craft beers, incredible wine selection, signature cocktails and an enormous raw bar focusing on our very own oyster farms, Rappahannock Oyster Co. has assembled incredible talent to revolutionize the concept of farm to table."

In typical fashion, we team ordered four things, and ate them in two courses. Of course we ordered the "Local Asparagus Salad," and it was sexy...

The asparagus was lightly grilled along with roasted spring onions, pickled oyster mushrooms, and tossed with arugula. The asparagus was still hot, and so it nicely wilted the arugula. Alongside the salad was a slice of burrata, which is a type of cheese made from mozzarella and heavy cream.  "Burrata" means "buttery" in Italian, and it was the perfect name for this luscious cheese. Next to the burrata was a dollop of Pistachio Pistou. Pistou is traditionally a blend of herbs, garlic and olive oil that is served on top of soup, but this one was almost like a pistachio pesto without cheese. I mean, pistou and pesto are in the same family, but I liked the pairing and the way the chef phrased it. If you want me to eat at your restaurant, good menu descriptions and interesting flavors are key. This dish was absolutely delicious. The whole salad was drizzled with black olive oil, and tiny pieces of the cured black olives dotted the plate. It was unctuous.

The second salad we had consisted of Sweet Gem Lettuce, cucumber, French breakfast radish, avocado, and green goddess dressing. I loved how peppery and creamy the salad was at the same time. Of course I am a sucker for avocados.

We enjoyed the two salads as a first course, and then ordered the Tuna Crudo and the Lamb Burger, sans the bun for our second course. When our waitress asked Ian if he'd like another beer, I felt like saying, "Yes, he'll have another beer and I'll have another Asparagus Salad." But seriously, we should have ordered another one.

The Tuna Crudo was artwork. The description on the menu enticed me: Tuna Crudo, preserved lemon, castelvetrano olives, radish, Calabrian chilies.  What I appreciated about the dish was that  each piece of thinly sliced tuna was topped with each of the aforementioned condiments, and it looked as if they had placed each one with tweezers. Attention. To. Detail. I totally got it. The chef plated it in such a way that you would be forced to enjoy each perfect bite the way he intended.

We also ordered the Border Springs Farm Lamb Burger with Mountaineer cheese, candied red onions, and harissa aioli. We also ordered the fingerling potato salad as the side. Don't judge me -- plenty of paleo peeps eat white potatoes on occasion. When we inquired about it, the waitress told us that it was a German style potato salad, meaning that it was vinegar based, rather than mayo based, so I felt just fine about splitting a small portion with my man. Isn't he handsome?

I was thoroughly happy with our service and experience at Rappahannock, and if you are in Richmond I encourage you to try it. Executive Chef Dylan Fultineer has crafted a beautiful menu, full of real foods, interesting touches, and local ingredients.

By the way, maybe "Pasture" is a good restaurant with good ingredients. Maybe their dinner menu is more interesting, but their lunch seemed lacking. I understand that often nice restaurants have a hard time turning a profit, so they make up for it with inexpensive lunch offerings. I'm not a total snob, and I will eat at restaurants that don't have local, grassfed, or pastured ingredients, but they have to TEMPT me in some way with something interesting and out of the ordinary. Just saying. In a few weeks I'm going to Orlando to visit my to-be in-laws, so I am sure that we will go to some fun restaurants and farmer's markets in town. Until then, it's back to cooking and washing dishes. :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Cookies

So life calls for cookies sometimes. No, cavemen did not eat cookies. I'm tired of that retort. Everyone and their mom wants to tell me why the paleo diet is unrealistic. Well, I'm not interested. You know what I am interested in? Eating better stuff than I used to. And yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition. Don't care. I eat a "paleo diet" because I've found that processed foods are making us sick. My whole family is sick in some way, and they all eat processed foods. I hope they can change with me so that we all live longer.

I used to be fat. Yeah, that's awkward to talk about. I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm skinny now, but I weigh less than when I went to college, so that's a start. I've had problems with binge eating, but I'm not looking for a pity party because I think most Americans have a problem with binge eating. Commercials encourage it, restaurants encourage it, friends encourage it.... binging is everywhere. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't binged in the last few months. On NON paleo stuff. Processed food. Ew. You know what? It doesn't taste that good. I want it to, but it really just has the aftertaste of chemicals and shame. You eat it mindlessly, but then it lingers on your mind afterwards. Bingers try to hide their habits. But the pounds bingers pack on are a public announcement "I'm not eating what I should be." It's just a harsh truth. And it was for me. I'm trying to heal, but it takes time.

This was me and my fiance on a trip to Las Vegas in 2011, we were both at our highest weights.
The picture below is of us in Portland in July 2012, the week we got engaged. Ian lost 80 pounds, and I lost 65. We didn't lose all the weight eating Paleo, but we have maintained our weight loss by switching to this lifestyle and way of eating. 

If you've read my last few posts, you might know that I love instagram (follow me at paleokatybird). I love people who post often because it shows a glimpse into their everyday life. I follow people that inspire me, and similarly I try to post things that are encouraging. I love to follow cookpigs because I love pastured pork, and she takes pictures of her pigs and piglets, and it makes me want to throw caution into the wind and start a pig farm. I love to follow paleoparents because they are real people. They eat paleo most of the time, but aren't afraid to say they don't follow the diet 100%. I love their "Fattest People in Paleo" manifesto. Recently someone sent a hateful email to the couple because they posted a picture of their family at Five Guys. Really? People need to get a life. By the way, if I were going to eat a fast food burger, it would be at Five Guys. It's delicious. I wouldn't eat the bun, and I'd probably leave off the processed cheese. I'd skip the ketchup (which is just red corn syrup), and I'd ask for extra lettuce and pile it with all the veggies I could. I'd eat the fries, because they do them the right way. But I digress....

The point is, that if you are going to venture down the paleo road, don't force yourself to be a perfectionist. I know that when I restrict myself too much, I just set myself up for a binge attack. So sometimes life calls for cookies. This recipe makes a small batch, and the mashed banana gives it most of its sweetness. I used an inexpensive almond meal from Trader Joe's, as well as their almond butter, but I'm sure more expensive brands would work as well. When you stop baking with wheat products and switch to nut based products, you will find that you have a little more wiggle room. You also realize that it is more expensive to bake without white flour and white sugar, but I believe that you get what you pay for, especially with food. I used liquid coconut nectar in this recipe, but if you don't have it, you could substitute another natural liquid sweetener, like honey or maple syrup. I do like how the coconut nectar tastes a little like butterscotch. :) These cookies will be soft and chewy.


1/2 a banana, mashed
4 tablespoons unsweetened almond butter (I used Trader Joe's)
4 tablespoons almond meal (again, I used Trader Joe's)
2 Tablespoons Coconut Nectar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (dairy and soy free)

  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Mix all ingredients together - pretty simple, right?
  • It will be sticky, but scoop out the batter in rounded tablespoons onto a lined cookie sheet. You can line it with parchment paper, or a Silpat, like I did. (Thanks mom for the silpat!)
  • Bake for 17 minutes, then cool for as long as you can stand it before enjoying. Makes 12 cookies. 
By the way, I don't make any money from the links I put in, nor am I associated with them. I just put them in in case you are wondering what those things are. I'm not a very sophisticated blogger yet, but I might get there, and if I do ever partner with companies or anything, I'll let you know. :) 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dark Chocolate and Salted Almond Freezer Fudge

Ok, I'll make this quick and dirty. I can't take full credit for this one, because I have seen versions of this recipe all over the internet. It's quick, easy, and over the top rich. It's an indulgence, but life is stressful, and sometimes you need some damn chocolate. And quick. I live in a small town, and I have searched all the stores, and all the chocolate bars but ONE have soy lecithin in them. Why do I not eat soy? It's bad for you! Read 170 reasons why here. And soy lecithin? It's especially disgusting. It's made from the sludge that is the byproduct of soybean oil production. Ew. If you don't believe me, read THIS eye opening article that I just read yesterday.

 Anyway, that one bar of chocolate in this town that DOESN'T contain bleached sludge is $4.50. And I know I can get it cheaper than that -- like half the price. And it's not my favorite, so I only spend $4.50 on it when it is a true chocolate emergency. I can get good dark chocolate for cheaper on my weekly trips to the big city, but it is Thursday, and I probably won't get to go until next week sometime, so I needed a substitute. I can't remember where I saw the original recipe for homemade chocolate, but it goes something like this:

1 part Cocoa Powder + 1 part Honey + 1 part melted butter + freezer = CHOCOLATE FIX!!!

So last night I couldn't sleep, and I was catching up on my Bloglovin App and I was reading the a recent post by the Paleo Parents about their upcoming book, Beyond Bacon. I want that book like a fat kid wants cake. And I used to be a fat kid, and I always want cake. I can't wait til they release it! They also have a freezer fudge recipe in their book, and it contains lard from pastured pork. I flipped when I saw it. I'm obsessed with lard and all things pork. I started the hastag #porkobsessed and I want people to catch my fever. Before you judge me, good lard is good for you. Go stalk those Paleo Parents if you haven't already. They know their stuff, and are a huge inspiration for me. They have a great podcast, and even mentioned me in their "Follow Up" episode. I was kinda stoked...

So today, I wanted chocolate, and I kinda mixed up my own freezer fudge based on these inspirations.

Melt Together:

4 Tablespoons of Kerrygold Grassfed Butter
1 Tablespoon of pastured pork lard 
3 heaping spoonfulls of Trader Joe's Cocoa Powder
4 Tablespoons of Raw Honey, local if possible
pinch of Sea Salt

Pour mixture into single serving ramekins and freeze for 15 minutes until mostly set. Remove from the freezer and top with toasted almonds and an extra sprinkle of salt. Return to the freezer until you are ready to serve them. YUM.

Do I feel bad about my chocolate fix? No, and here's why: Cocoa is a good source of magnesium, and I've been reading a lot about why we need more magnesium. Lard from pastured pork and grass-fed butter are excellent sources of Vitamin D and CLA, also good things most Americans are lacking. Raw local honey is good for allergies and inflammation, and sea salt contains great minerals essential to the body. Win, win, win, win, win. Go make this now-- your body and taste buds will agree on this one! And go pre-order that Beyond Bacon book... it looks amazing.

See? I told you I'd try to blog more...

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