What We Ate Last Week: Sweet Cheeses, Do you even KUNG PAO???- February 13th-20th

Well, it was Valentine’s Day week, and let me be brutally honest- I fell in love this week.  I have a new restaurant crush and I can’t wait to see it again.  I’ll explain

Saturday- Feb 13th– I met my crush.  I had read about a new restaurant during the week in Broadsheet and it sounded too good to be true.  A mythical place that played good music, served champagne with fried chicken, and sold limited edition sneakers…. What the?  You mean I can leave my house in comfy shoes and drink champagne?  Sign me up- do not pass go, do not phone a friend, I’m already on my way.  I mean, not that I ever would buy limited edition sneakers, but I love my Chuck Taylors and my Superstars.  But seriously, who cares about sneakers- Champagne and fried chicken. Continue reading

Dairy Free Day 10

Whoa……… We’re 1/3 of the way there!  Woh- oh, living dairy free!  (It makes more sense if you hum Bon Jovi’s Living on A Prayer in your head when you read it)

I did have a cheat day at a fabulous wedding but other than that I’ve been totally on the wagon.  And it hasn’t been that hard.   Also, I’m not working right now so it’s quite easy to avoid the temptation of birthday cakes and morning teas.  Granted I haven’t really been eating out very much (except for Japanese)  because butter, cheese, cream, and milk as it turns out are quite popular food ingredients for MANY MANY cuisines.

I haven’t been completely anal about it but I have tried to use common sense- risotto- and many Italian dishes often have cheese sprinkled on top or through it so that’s out unless I make it at home, dessert is out– because well, chocolate has milk in it, even some Mexican is out because- well cheese and sour cream.  But — don’t despair!  All is not lost.

As I mentioned earlier, Japanese food is MADE for this challenge!  Actually, unlike the gluten free challenge (most soy sauce has gluten in it) Asian food is absolutely perfect for dairy free living.   I asked Uncle Google ‘why there is no cheese in Chinese cuisine ?’ and as it turns out, I’m not the first person to notice the trend.  Believe it or not, there are entire forums and over 10 pages of Google Search results on exactly ‘why there is no cheese in Chinese cuisine?’ If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to one of them!

Apparently the answer is that in some Asian countries- especially China and Southeast Asia, the climate wasn’t suitable to cattle herding or farming thus they didn’t do it.  Over time, because they didn’t have dairy and cow based products in their diet, they developed lactose intolerance.  Since they didn’t enjoy eating milk based products, they didn’t cook with dairy based products (seems pretty obvious to me!) and so, naturally traditional Asian foods don’t include a lot of milk, cheese, or yoghurt based products.    Even today, cheese apparently isn’t widely eaten or popular in China- this article from Slate tells the story of a Westerner doing a cheese tasting in China.

There’s only one flaw that I have in this whole theory of traditional Asian Cuisine not including dairy or herding cattle–  why is their Beef in most Asian Cuisines????

 

7 days to go!

So, I’m nearly done with my 30 day Gluten free challenge and to be honest I haven’t done THAT badly!  I’ve had one full on cheat day (for Charity) and other than discovering that the muesli I ate had gluten in it, I really haven’t had to change my diet too much.  Yes, there have been the occasional cravings for sourdough toast, and yes, there have been a few restaurant meals where I’ve had food envy– but overall it hasn’t been that bad!

My tips for gluten free eating– not that I’m an expert after 23 days but- here’s what I’ve learned:

1)  Mexican Mexican Mexican- Ok, yes, it’s my favourite food but as long as you stick to corn tortillas it’s pretty much all gluten free!  Last night I made a fajita extravaganza- grilled skirt steak, pico de gallo, refried black beans, black and white rice, corn chips, corn tortillas, and grilled veggies- all without gluten!

2)  When in doubt, ask-– I’m amazed by how many restaurants will make alterations if you tell them you’re gluten free- I went to The Grounds in Alexandria (LOVE that place!) and really wanted a burger- because they look amazing– and they were able to do them on gluten free bread.  Ok, the gluten free bread wasn’t as amazing as the brioche looked, but it was pretty good!  Nearly everywhere in Sydney can accommodate – I’ve even had a cafe serve me polenta instead of toast with my breakfast.

3)  Read labels.  Wheat and gluten pop up in the most bizarre places- soy sauce, muesli, some but not all chocolates.  Read the label before ruling it out or shoving it in your face!

4)  Don’t be a pain in the a$$ but don’t feel bad about it either.  Everyone these days is on some sort of diet, special eating plan or just doesn’t like things– so many people are paleo, dairy free, gluten free, vegan, sugar free, organic, pregnant, detoxing, etc that it’s totally normal (at least in my group of friends) to have a “special” diet.  Actually there’s a great essay doing the rounds at the moment on how “special diets” diets are a First World Problem.  Click here to read it.
Everyone is on a diet of some sort but to be honest, no one wants to hear about it.  It’s not that interesting.  No one wants to go out to dinner or to eat with someone who either lectures them about the virtues of their diet or who turns up their nose and can’t eat anything and makes a big song and dance of it.  Ok, so you can’t have carbs, that’s fine, but if I’m shoveling rice and pasta and potatoes in my mouth and enjoying it, I don’t want to hear about how evil carbs are.   And, if you’re vegetarian and we’re in a steakhouse don’t be surprised when there’s only one option for you to eat– you’re the one who agreed to go, don’t make everyone else miserable trying to make you happy.  Which leads me to tip 5….

5) Research– it kind of follows on from point 4 but if I’m going out to eat, I have to do some legwork before I go.  What’s on the menu? Is there an option for me there?  Is it a pasta and pizza deal with nothing else on the menu?  If so, it could be a challenge and it’s best to know that ahead of time!

So, with only 1 week to go, I’m giving this challenge a 2/10 on the difficulty scale.  I’ve only used one of my official cheat days so far– and the second one I’m using on Saturday for a hens day (it’s high tea during the day and pizza at night).   So it’s not too bad…. next month’s challenge– 30 days No dairy…. I’m anticipating this could be a bit more difficult!

Detox Week 1: Will someone please get me some chocolate ice cream?????

So I’m done with my first week of detoxing, and to be honest I haven’t done that badly.  Only three glasses of wine (I’m allowed four) and pretty much no wheat or cow’s milk consumed by yours truly which is pretty good.

I’ve been exercising and feeling really good, I’ve taken up yoga– well the Runner and I both have really as part of a 4 week Yoga Challenge with his Triathlon club.  We’ve been to two sessions this weekend and we’re both loving it– especially nap time at the end.

The food side has been pretty easy, it’s one of those things where the thought of going wheat and dairy free is really worse than the reality of it.  It takes a bit of willpower and a bit of planning, but really it’s not so bad. I’ve eaten out– and that hasn’t been too bad, Japanese, Mexican and Vietnamese.  Ten, the Japanese place we go to in Randwick, actually has gluten free options including soy and teriyaki sauce which was a bonus! I will admit to having Mad Mex’s Naked Burrito twice this week!  It’s pretty good, and totally on my detox plan especially if you skip the cheese and the rice!    Mexican’s my favourite cuisine anyway, so even if it wasn’t on my plan, I’d find a way to put it there.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right??

Most definitely!  The one thing I have been struggling with is my other favourite cuisine- Ice Cream…. and shut up, Ice Cream does count as a cuisine.  It’s almost impossible to find dairy free, gluten free, no extra sugar ice cream.  Wait, I said ALMOST.  Last weekend, in Jervis Bay, I found the Holy Grail. Ice Cream that’s on my detox! It’s a brand called So Delicious from the States (http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/) and they make Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Sugar Free Ice Cream.  What the what????  I know!  It was actually pretty good, because of course I had to get a tub when I saw it in Jervis Bay.  Even at $11 a pint, I couldn’t resist.  Cookies and Cream Almond Milk Ice Cream.  Ok, so they won’t put Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s out of business any time soon, but it was pretty tasty and given my present detoxified state, it was just what the doctor ordered.   Any port in a storm right???   Except for one thing, I want more.  I’ve been craving Ice Cream all week, literally salivating at the thought of it.  Ideally, it would be a big bowl of Ben and Jerry’s mint cookie (my absolute favourite) or even a big bowl of chocolate ice cream, and I can’t have it…. and I don’t know where to find more So Delicious.  It’s nowhere in Coogee.  And the store finder on their website, only works in the States. If I were in DC, I’d go to Whole Foods in Silver Spring, or Yes Organic on Georgia Ave, but it’s a bit tougher to nail it down in Sydney.  Even Uncle Google is letting me down in terms of finding a place to buy it in Sydney.

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“Why don’t I just go back and get it where I did last weekend?”  I hear you ask….well, there’s a pretty good reason.  It’s nearly a three hour drive away.  Fail. Big Fat Fail.  

I’ve been looking for somewhere to order it from online but it’s ice cream….not exactly practical to home deliver ice cream when it’s the middle of summer in Sydney.  So I’m stuck with a conundrum, do I cheat on my detox and give into temptation or do I stay strong and stay the course????

Who was it that said, “I can resist anything, except temptation”?  Oh yes, Oscar Wilde, you were a VERY wise man!

 

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The last supper

So it’s my last night in DC which brings a flood of emotions but it also brings a last dinner out.

Tonight’s last supper was at Lauriol Plaza, Sister restaurant to Cactus Cantina. I love mexican food and cactus/lauriol is the best mexican food. In fact, if I ever wind up on death row I would like to have my last meal from here. Ill be more specific- I’d like the combination fajitas with extra butter sauce.

They are literally the best ever. And beyond that, cactus cantina which has the exact same menu, is like a little taste of my teenage years. If you grew up in DC and went to private school in northwest like I did, cactus was and is an institution.

It’s walking distance to almost every private school in DC and was the place where many friends had summer jobs. In high school it was the place to go and after college we discovered how amazing the margaritas were. It’s one of three restaurants that is uniquely DC- the others are Clyde’s and the rib pit. And it has food that I love, namely the fajitas and margaritas. I suppose then it’s a fitting last meal for me on this trip. It’s always good to be home, but this trip hasn’t been easy and I’m leaving with more questions and emotions than answers. I’ll be glad to see The Runner but am wishing I could have everyone I love that’s still living in the same place– or at Least the same continent. Being at home I feel like I’ve come back to my roots, and they’re pretty good roots- especially when you throw butter sauce on them and wrap them in a tortilla.