Entries in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (4)

Sunday
Aug142011

Napa Valley Grille

Napa Valley Grille (NVG) invited me to do a critique of their restaurant for my clean eating blog.  In Westwood Napa Valley Grille is a favorite of many of my clients so I was curious as to what they were up to.

Previously, I had not thought of NVG as a “clean-eating” restaurant but two months ago they started their summer menu featuring locally grown ingredients from Southern California Farmer’s Markets including their produce, cheeses, and protein sources.

I reviewed their menu before going and selected items to sample with the thought of creating healthy options for the most discerning of diners. 

Here’s what I chose:

Chilled Tomato Gazpacho with Avocado Yogurt         
Artisan Cheeses
Kale chopped salad with quinoa, toasted almonds, Parmesan cheese and golden raisins
Asparagus salad with soft poached eggs and butter lettuce
Wild Alaskan Halibut with sweet corn “succotash” salad
NVG Burger with smoked cheese
Pomegranate Green Tea to drink

I would have to say their hospitality and attention to detail gets an A plus.  From the moment of walking into their beautiful space attention is applied to every detail.   If you looked around patrons seemed happy and engaged in conversation and enjoying their food.  The restaurant certainly lends itself to intimate conversation and privacy, something hard to get on the Westside.  Everything is clean and in order.

Chef Joseph Gillard has started a non-profit Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to help support families getting organic produce from local farmers for $5 per week – something unheard of and certainly supports helping families find a way to lower their intake of processed foods and increase fruits and vegetables.

He was recently on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution as one of the chefs committed to helping create programs for healthy school lunches.

Okay – on to tasting.  I was trying to think a bit outside the box of what I like and stick to my guidelines. 

I asked ahead of time and learned that produce is organic – check.  Meat is grass-fed (versus corn-fed) – check.  Only the Halibut is wild so that is the one I needed to try.  Chicken is not Jidori or pastured so chicken dishes were out.

One thing I did learn while there is NVG will customize any food item or menu selection to accommodate food preferences, sensitivities or allergies.  If you need a gluten-free alternative they will happily provide that change.

The chilled gazpacho – I don’t like gazpacho, feel it tastes too oniony, and have never ordered it in a restaurant.  A little something or someone (Jeffrey) was telling me to try this one so I did. 

This was the surprise of the day – I LOVED it and found myself wanting to eat it throughout the meal.  It was refreshing, filling (a great way to take the edge off your appetite and avoid the bread), and paired with the avocado yogurt was a 10.  There was no onion taste – only the flavor of wonderfully spiced tomatoes.

The cheese plate was all artisan or grass-fed cheeses, which are those I recommend.  Eating cheese from these sources is high in omega 3’s (anti-inflammatory) versus cheese from corn-fed cows that is high in omega 6’s (pro-inflammatory) so this was a no-brainer.  If you want a selection of great cheeses this is an entrée, appetizer or dessert to share.

If you are watching your carbs you will need to avoid the plate of raisin bread or homemade digestive biscuits they bring to go along with it.  I sampled one of the biscuits, which were a little bigger than the size of a quarter, and it is worth the bite since they make them in house but be aware they are addicting.

                                                                                                           Asparagus Salad w Egg

Of the salads my favorite was the asparagus with a poached egg – the egg was perfectly poached (they use a special thermometer which creates a soft yolk easy to cut without the mess) and the asparagus was the right consistency – al dente and no mush and very satisfying.  It was good enough to eat without the dressing it came with which was tasty but I really preferred it alone. 

                                                                                                                                                            Kale Salad

The kale salad had a nice crunch and if you don’t like Kale you would like this salad since it comes as a mixed chopped salad with interesting ingredients.

My second favorite of the day was the wild halibut with the succotash salad.  The Halibut was light, grilled to perfection and rested on a bed of vegetables that included raw organic corn, peppers and fava beans.  This is great low carb dish since the mix of corn and beans was light and the right balance.

The NVG burger was a bit salty for my taste but this contender ranks high in presentation and you can order it with a salad instead of the fries.

They do carry my all time favorite bottled teas from Republic of Tea.  If you are ever out to eat this tea is a special treat – the flavor, bottle shape

                                                                                                       Halibut

and taste are amazing and it contains no sweeteners or additives.

My assessment – NVG has plenty of clean eating choices and as usual you just need to pick and choose what works for your appetite, taste and individual diet needs.  I personally would order the gazpacho and Halibut any day.

My rating system is below and these are the numbers.

  1. Clean Food (sampled) – 4.5
  2. Clean Space – 4.75
  3. Friendly Staff – 5
  4. Balanced proportions of protein/carb/fat – 4.25
  5. No Food Hangover – 4

 NVG got a 4.5/5

Thursday
Apr282011

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution versus LAUSD

If you watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution last week it was beyond disturbing.

A chef comes from England to help America eat healthier and is treated like a criminal. We live in Los Angeles, one of the most progressive cities in the world with medicinal pot dispensaries, but cannot “afford” healthy food our children.

Where is the freedom and democracy that our country was built on?

The Los Angeles school board has given Jamie looks that could kill when he shows up at meetings, forbid him to enter any school kitchen or cafeteria and almost sent police officers if he showed up on school premises.

It is now a known fact that this generation of children will not live as long as their parents.  With diabetes, heart disease and cancer on the rise it is hard to think they have a chance at health at all.  And one of the main causes?

The American diet. Somehow we’ve forgotten that kids need to eat healthy also. 

With sugared cereals, colored sugary drinks and milk, an abundance of processed and fast foods it’s a wonder they are as healthy and resilient as they are now. This way of eating is not the way America used to eat.

We as a society must stop the desire of instant gratification for our youth by allowing them to have destructive food choices.

I’ve never had so many insulin resistant children in my practice who are sluggish throughout the day, with little to no energy to even be at school never mind run in P.E.  One 13 year old I see would try to pace himself so he could actually have enough energy to get through his day.  Unusual?   It’s more common than you think.

The results after 2 weeks of having a child or teen consume clean non-processed foods with more protein?  Energy way up, weight down and sleep much improved.  Food is powerful in so many ways.

When are we going to wake up and realize our children can’t continue to subsist on processed foods full of ingredients you can’t even say or recognize?

Hopefully Jamie Oliver’s Revolution can make a dent in achieving small changes in the school system which will provide a bridge and open up the conversation for health in our youth.  Until then, consider purging your home and diet of processed packaged foods with more than 5 ingredients. 

And if you have children in your life, consider making a healthy meal with them, or shopping at the Farmer’s market for fruits, and vegetables – you may be saving a life.

Saturday
Nov062010

LAUSD turns down Jamie Oliver

You probably caught an episode or two of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution last season in which he successfully changed the school lunch program in West Virginia.  We watched him slowly and methodically change the heart and soul of a small town where obesity and health issues saddened even the most stoic.

This morning’s Los Angeles Times reports the show approached the Los Angeles Unified School District for this season and they were turned down.  They basically said “thanks but it could be too time-consuming.”

Half of my clients are children and adolescents who are struggling with their weight and health issues.  Statistics show this is the first generation of children who will live shorter lives than their parents.

When discussing how my young clients can change their eating, the most challenging meal is lunch at school.  Finding a healthy option is practically impossible when the choices are chicken nuggets, French fries, hamburgers, pasta and pizza.  A fruit or vegetable or even a salad is a rare find.

I analyzed a school lunch menu for a private school in Los Angeles a few years back.  The average lunch contained 1500 calories coming predominantly from fat and starchy carbohydrates.  I was flabbergasted and upon showing the analysis to the school they were as well…and their program was healthier than most.

Children will eat what you feed them.  Even if they rebel initially over time they will eat what is given to them.  How amazing an opportunity Los Angeles has been given to have Jamie Oliver overseeing and training employees how to make healthful delicious food. 

Hopefully the district will reconsider and allow this program, despite the industry glamour, to help create a change.  Our children and their health should be the priority – even if it is too “time-consuming.”  Our children’s time may run short and then who is to blame?

Tuesday
Apr062010

Eating with Utensils...A Lost Art to Good Health?

After watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution one gets a clear picture of the sober situation of food and weight issues in America.  The show starts out by Jamie trying to make changes in a town called Huntington, West Virginia – coined the unhealthiest city in America.

The series opens with Jamie trying to modify elementary lunches from processed fake foods to real whole foods.  The high resistance to change radiates from the kitchen staff to the superintendant of schools to a DJ who is quite influential in the community.

Jamie meets the most heat when he requests that the children eat with forks and knives versus just a spoon and their hands.  No utensils are used since the children are eating pizza, chicken fingers and French fries.  When they are shown different vegetables the children are not able to identify them.  In fact, one appalling statistic is that a pile of French fries is counted as 2 vegetable servings per child.

When the forks and knives are taken out the children need to be taught how to use them.  Is the skill of using utensils becoming a lost art?

You need utensils to eat real healthy food.  Without these basic skills we are creating a lifestyle where older children eat their food with one hand and use the other hand to text or play games.  This creates a perfect storm for mindless eating.

Mindful healthy eating requires utensils.  Continuing to feed our children processed fake foods is creating a generation of children with increased risk of diabetes and heart disease who will have shorter lives than their parents.  Eating fruits, vegetables and food made from scratch rather than out of a box with multiple ingredients is the mission of  Food Revolution which will hopefully change food in school lunch programs.

It is our responsibility at home and in the schools to educate, equip and model how to eat and appreciate the benefits of healthy real food.  It is an investment this country cannot afford to pass up.

If we can teach our children at an early age to eat with utensils and enjoy whole real food we might start to get a hold on obesity in America….resulting in mindful eating and good health.  Remember, it's prevention not prescription.