Vermont Favorites

With its history, cobbled streets, manicured parks, and countless restaurants, cafes, and shops, Boston has everything I could ever need. And yet each season, I find myself longing to spend a quiet weekend escape in Vermont. Today I’m spotlighting 3 of my favorite cities in Vermont: Brattleboro, Woodstock, and Burlington (ranked from closest to Boston to farthest from Boston), and my best tips on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay.

Brattleboro, VT

Hours from Boston: 2h 15min (daytrip-able, in my opinion)

Things to do in brattleboro:

Hiking Wantastiquet Mountain // Though technically in New Hampshire, this approachable 3.9-mile trail is less than one mile from Brattleboro, just on the other side of the Connecticut River. The views at the summit are impressive, especially when the fall foliage is popping. If you’re looking for a more intense hike, Mount Monadnock is about an hour East of Brattleboro.

Apple picking at Green Mountain Orchards // There are plenty of places to go apple picking much closer to Boston, but this one is worth the drive, as it never seems overly crowded. They also have pick-your-own pumpkins and warm apple cider donuts, in addition to a farmstore with other local specialties. The orchard is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Brattleboro.

Hidden Springs Maple // This cute little maple syrup store is less than one mile from the apple orchard. Since you drive past it on the way to the orchard anyway, it’s a no-brainer to take a quick pit stop inside and stock up on real Vermont maple syrup.

Downtown Brattleboro // Brattleboro is like a smaller version of Burlington, VT. There are lots of cute shops, restaurants, cafes, and bookstores. While you wouldn’t need to spend a whole day there, it’s a cute place to walk around while you’re waiting for a table (see below).

Where to Eat in Brattleboro:

Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery // It is so difficult to visit Brattleboro and not eat at this restaurant (red building in the photo above). The beer selection is fabulous, and in addition to your typical bar food (burgers, etc.) I have always been pleased to find veggie-centric dishes as well, such as a quinoa bowl with local vegetables. There is always a wait for a table, especially on pleasant days when the roof deck is open (the restaurant overlooks the Connecticut River), so it’s best to put your name on the wait list before you get hungry, then stroll around downtown Brattleboro until your table’s ready.

Duo // On my most recent trip to Brattleboro, the wait at Whetsone Station Restaurant was too long to bear, and we needed to get back on the road at a reasonable time. So we wandered along Main St. until we stumbled on Duo, a super charming, Insta-worthy, farm-to-table restaurant that serves dinner and weekend brunch. Though they don’t offer a lunch menu, we managed to snag a seat while brunch was still being served. The food was delicious (I got a grilled cheese sandwich on multigrain bread with gazpacho) and the atmosphere was lovely!

Mocha Joe’s // For fans of unsweetened chai lattes, the chai at Mocha Joe’s is hard to beat!

sample itinerary for brattleboro:

Woodstock, Vt

Hours from Boston: 2h 30min

Things to do in Woodstock, vt:

Skiing at Killington, Pico, or Okemo // Nearly every visit to Woodstock has revolved around a ski trip. Killington & Pico are about 30 minutes West, while Okemo is about 35 minutes South.

Pottery Workshop at Farmhouse Pottery // I’ve long admired the beautiful dishes and accessories from Farmhouse Pottery, and when I found out that they also offer workshops, I checked out their website immediately.  At $350 per couple (for a tour, personal pottery lesson, & wine/cheese), I haven’t quite been able to convince my date to split the hefty cost with me. But this this is definitely on my Woodstock wishlist!

Downtown Woodstock // Downtown Woodstock is pretty small, with just a few shops and cafes. But the town also home to charming New England houses and a picturesque covered bridge.

Where to Eat in Woodstock, VT

Simon Pearce // This luxury glassware and pottery mill is home to a beautiful restaurant and bar in Quechee, VT (less than 20 minutes from Woodstock) that overlooks a waterfall and covered bridge. Travel & Leisure magazine named it as one of the most romantic restaurants in America, and the designation is well-deserved. In addition to a stunning interior, the restaurant also serves up delicious, upscale farm-to-table fare.

Long Trail Brewery // If you want to enjoy a flight of local beers with your lunch, Long Trail is a fun place to hang out. Plus, it’s only a 10-minute drive from Woodstock.

Woodstock Farmers Market // This specialty food store and deli has an impressive selection of sandwiches, bakery items, and more. It’s a great place to pick up a quick lunch for a picnic.

Where to Stay in Woodstock, VT

506 on the River Inn // This hotel is honestly the reason I go to Woodstock so often. Ranked one of the best new hotels when it opened a few years ago by Conde Nast Traveler, this beautiful boutique hotel looks like a Restoration Hardware catalog come to life. An impressive breakfast is included, which helps you swallow the hefty price tag (about $300+/night during weekends in the peak season). There’s also a well-kept indoor pool and hot-tub, and a gameroom with boardgames and a pool table. (Families will appreciate the kids play rooms as well). We were cooped up here during a polar vortex once, and were SO thankful that we sprung for a comfortable hotel (think heated towel bars in the marble-clad bathroom) with things to do and a cozy fireplace to read by. If we don’t want to drive much further after a long day of skiing, we book a reservation in the hotel restaurant, or snag some seats at the bar. The menu  is surprisingly nice and I’ll take any excuse to spend some extra time in front of the crackling fire.

Woodstock Inn // This classic hotel is a landmark of the area. During peak seasons there’s often a 2-3 night minimum, which is why I’ve yet to have an opportunity to check it out for myself. The gorgeous inn is also home to a spa, a golf course, and restaurants. A must on any Vermont bucket list!

Burlington, Vermont

Hours from Boston: 3h 30m

What to do in Burlington, VT

Hiking at Stowe Pinnacle Trail // About a 45 minute drive from Burlington, this trail is 3 miles out-and-back, and is rated as “moderate.”

Skiing // Burlington is about an hour from Smuggler’s Notch, and about 1h 30 min from Jay Peak.

Biking the Island Line Trail //  If you’re a fan of biking the Cape Cod Rail trail, then the Island Line Trail is a must if you visit up north.  The trail is 13.4 miles each way, and follows part of what used to be the old Rutland Railroad track. Along the way you’ll be treated to beautiful views of Lake Champlain interspersed with lush greenery.

Kayaking, Paddle boarding, or Sailing in Lake Champlain // Just a 10 minute walk from Church St, the main drag of Burlington, and you’ll reach the waters of Lake Champlain. A stroll along the water is lovely, but if you’re able to snag a boat rental and explore the lake yourself, all the better. At the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, it’s $15/hr for kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards, $30/hr for a dinghy, and $60/hr for a keelboat. This is a popular activity, so on hot summer days be prepared to wait for a boat or plan get there before peak hours.

Church Street Marketplace // Nestled in downtown Burlington is an open-air mall lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, with Church St. being the main drag. In addition to your basic staples (LL Bean, Gap, Athleta, Lululemon, etc) I love stopping into little independent stores like Vermont Flannel Company, Crow Book Shop, and Frog Hollow on the Marketplace. However, one my favorite shops, Common Deer (which features artisan made-in-America goods), is tucked away on College Street, slightly off the beaten path of the main shopping area. In the warmer months there’s also a Saturday farmers market.

Where to Eat in Burlington, VT

Farmhouse Tap & Grill // This farm-to-table Gastropub has one of the best beer menus I’ve ever come across. Whether you visit for brunch, lunch, or dinner, the menu has a little something for everyone.

American Flatbreads // This casual pizzeria is the kind of place that I wish my Boston neighborhood had. On beautiful days, try to snag a seat in the string-light clad outdoor beer garden. The large wood burning oven and red checked tablecloths lend a cozy atmosphere to the inside as well.  My favorite pie is the “Revolution,” which has tomato sauce, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cheese, and fresh herbs. (My date raves about  the Buffalo Chicken pie.)  On a 6-hour road trip from Boston to Mont-Tremblant, Canada, we once pulled off the highway in Burlington and put our names on the list for a table just so we could eat dinner here.

Pizzeria Verita // One can never have enough great pizza places. This Italian restaurant is decidedly more upscale than American Flatbreads, and the romantic atmosphere is perfect for date night. The pizza is deliciously true  to the thin-crust Neopolitan style, and the other dishes and specials are delicious too.

Uncommon Grounds // Located in right in the hustle and bustle of downtown Burlington’s Church St., this is my favorite place to get a caffeine fix.

Honey Road // Just when I thought the food scene in Burlington couldn’t get any better, Honey Road opened. This Mediterranean restaurant comes from Oleana alum Cara Chigazola Tobin, and features lots of small mezze meant to be shared (like tapas), rather than large entrees.

Hen of the Wood // If you’re looking for an upscale dinner to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or the like, this is the spot for you. The farm-to-table menu changes daily, but features beautiful seasonal vegetable dishes, as well as elegant animal dishes that you don’t see everyday (duck, lamb, rabbit, etc.)

Waterworks Food + Drink // Although technically in Winooski, VT, this restaurant is less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Burlington. On par with most Vermont restaurants, the food and beers were superb and locally sourced. But what really drew me to this restaurant was the atmosphere, as it’s housed in an old, textile mill (exposed brick! sky-high windows! Edison light bulbs!) overlooking Winooski Falls.

Where to Stay in Burlington, VT

Hilton Burlington // I have a love-hate relationship with this hotel. This is where I’ve stayed nearly every trip to Burlington. The location is excellent but it’s terribly overpriced (~$275 in peak season) given its lack of charm. However, on the plus side, Hilton Honors members get free parking in the attached garage, and the hotel also has bicycle storage and an indoor pool.

Hotel Vermont // At 4-stars, this hotel is slightly more upscale than the Hilton, and is located right next door. There’s often at least a $30 price difference between the two, which is partly why I haven’t sprung for this hotel yet, but it’s also smaller and tends to book up more quickly. Since it’s relatively new (opened in 2013) I love how nice and clean looking it is. Maybe next time!

Made Inn Vermont // Let me start by saying that I am not a B&B person. I have an aversion to granny textiles and I love the security of being able to call down to a front desk at any hour with room questions or concerns. So I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on this small luxury hotel that happens to be a B&B. The vibe appears to be artsy-chic, and in true Burlington fashion you get a can of Heady Topper upon check-in as a welcome drink. Note that there’s a 2-night minimum during weekends May-October, and prices start at $250/night.

What are your favorite places in Vermont? Anything I should add to my list?

– Kelly

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Paris Favorites

Paris Collage

Piggy-backing on a work trip to Milan, I took the opportunity to spend a few days in Paris – my first time ever to this enchanting city. Over the span of three days, I was able to visit so many memorable museums, monuments, and parks: The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Musee d’Orsay, Napoleon’s Tomb, Sainte-Chapelle, Monmarte, the Latin Quarter, Ile Saint-Louis, Sacre Coeur, Place des Voges, Tuileries Garden, Jardin du Luxembourg, Notre Dame, Champs-Elysees, and more…

However, the food experiences in particular were especially memorable. Here are a few highlights from the trip:

La Cuisine Paris French Market Cooking Class

French Market Cooking Class at La Cuisine Paris // To satisfy all of my French gastronome fantasies and channel my inner Julia Child, I could not leave Paris without taking a cooking class. I settled on La Cuisine Paris after David Lebovitz suggested it in the New York Times. The class began with a walking tour of historic French markets, where a Parisian chef worked with our intimate class of eight to come up with a dinner menu based on the seasonal ingredients.

We then made our way to the cooking school, where we worked together to prepare the meal, absorbing tidbits of French culinary wisdom along the way. On the menu was Magret de Canard, Sauce a la Figue (duck with fig sauce), Oeuf Cocotte (creamy egg casserole), and Crème Caramel (a custard-like dish with caramel), which of course, were accompanied by a cheese platter (Comte, Camembert, and a creamy goat cheese), sliced baguettes from a local boulangerie, and a generous serving of white wine. The magic of the evening carried all the way over to the dinner table, where we enjoyed the fruits of our labor in a charming dining room overlooking the dreamy Siene river.

Merci in Paris

Lunch at Merci // After spotting the dreamy red Fiat and handsome wall of bookshelves on Instagram several months ago, a visit to Merci got upgraded to the top of my Paris wishlist. Merci is a large store selling trendy home goods, decor, and clothing, and is great for picking out souvenirs. But the deceptively large building also houses three charming cafes. We ate in the Merci Canteen, a bright and airy dining room that features a healthy, vegetable-forward menu (see top two photos). There is also a used book cafe (bottom left photo) and a cinema cafe.

pirouette

Dinner at Piroutte // The grainy photos don’t do this place justice. This dinner was arguably one of the very best meals of my entire life. We made a reservation online about 2 or 3 weeks in advance, after seeing the positive reviews on Paris by Mouth (so grateful for online reservations when dining internationally!)  Every dish we ordered was superb (the 3 course tasting menu ran for 42 euro), and the elegant yet rustic dining room was absolutely charming.

Other can’t-miss food experiences in Paris were the warm crepes (the ham-cheese-egg combo became a breakfast ritual, as little croissants can’t tide me over in the morning) and the ice cream from Une Glace a Paris.

Other Paris Tips

  • Youtube is Your Friend: I never took art history in college, but I certainly didn’t want to wonder through one of the greatest art collections in the world without appreciating what I was looking at. A few days before visiting the Louvre, we watched a BBC documentary special called “Treasures of the Louvre” on YouTube (a little over an hour long). It was such a great look at the museum, that we took a similar approach for the Musee d’Orsay. And yes, there was a mandatory Midnight in Paris viewing before we left the states.
  • Get a Museum Pass: If you’re planning on visiting multiple museums or attractions (and why wouldn’t you?) be sure to pick up a museum pass. It allows you to cut the line at the Louvre and a few other museums, which is worth the price alone.
  • Google Maps: At the risk of sounding technology dependent, I am so grateful that I was able to use Google Maps on my phone. Directions aren’t my strong suit, and throwing a foreign language into the mix certainly doesn’t help. If you’re able to swallow the upfront cost of getting a temporary international data plan (I used AT&T Passport Silver: $60 for 300MB), it will make your trip so much less stressful. (Note: for a data-free map option: I recommend City Maps 2Go Pro, which runs for $4.99 in the App store). Google Maps was also great for trip planning, as I was able to create a custom map with different colored pins for different categories (restaurants, attractions, etc) and create layers within the map (one for each day, with the capability to map out a route between attractions). To learn more about custom Google Maps, see this tutorial.

What are your Paris favorites?

– Kelly

10 Healthy Apple Recipes

Apple Picking at Green Mountain Orchard in Putney, VT

This weekend I ventured out to Vermont for an afternoon of leaf peeping and apple picking. The first stop was Green Mountain Orchards in Putney. They aren’t organic, but at least they practice IPM (integrated pest management). Next up was a late lunch in Brattleboro. We ate at Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery, a fun biergarten (the red building in the photo below) that overlooks the Connecticut River. Vermont never disappoints, but the fall foliage this weekend was especially stunning.

Brattleboro, VT

After coming home with approximately 30 apples (and that was just my half of the haul!) I am excited to get in the kitchen and start experimenting. Have you stocked up on this ubiquitous fall fruit? Here are ten healthy apple recipes (obligatory apple pie not included)…

Slow Cooker Apple Sauce

1. Slow Cooker Apple Sauce // The Kitchn

I’m always looking for ways to get more use out of my slow cooker, so this recipe was a no-brainer. Apple sauce isn’t usually a pantry staple for me, but these fragrant, stewed apples have been great to stir into my oatmeal in the mornings. For a snack, I like to stir a spoonful of natural peanut butter into my applesauce. You can also layer it with yogurt and granola, or use it to sweeten baked goods.

Overnight Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal

2. Overnight Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal // Monica Matheny, The Yummy Life

This is a great recipe that I’ve turned back to over the years. These days I don’t use nearly as much sugar as the original recipe calls for, and I tend to up the flax seed as well.

Teff Porridge with Apples, Dates and Pecans

3. Teff Porridge with Apples, Dates and Pecans // Aube Giroux, PBS Food

For those that haven’t tried teff (a porridge-y , African whole grain with undertones of cocoa), this recipe is a great way to familiarize yourself with a new healthy ingredient.

Apple, Almond and buckwheat muffins

4. Apple, Almond, and Buckwheat Muffins // Green Kitchen Stories

These muffins are filled with a sweet surprise: a gooey, applesauce center. I don’t usually bake gluten free, but I love that this recipe is heavy on healthy, wholesome ingredients.

Israeli Couscous and Apple Salad

5. Israeli Couscous and Apple Salad // Delish

Crunchy apples and tangy feta are a winning combo. For a more flavorful, nutritious twist, swap out the Israeli couscous for whole wheat couscous, bulgur or quinoa.

Whole Wheat Bread, Apple and Cranberry Dressing

6. Whole Wheat Bread, Apple and Cranberry Dressing // Martha Rose Schulman, New York Times

Thanksgiving in a bowl. Need I say more?

French Lentil Soup with Parsnip & Apple

7. French Lentil Soup with Parsnip and Apple // Dana

Hearty lentil soup is one of my absolute favorite foods, so I’m dying to try this apple and parsnip studded stew.

Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf

8. Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf // Oh She Glows

While some of my friends and family will undoubtedly be turned off the idea of a veggie loaf, this nutty lentil loaf looks deliciously hearty to me. They’ll come around to meatless mains soon enough!

Roasted Acorn Squash and Apples with Quinoa, Kale, and Tahini Maple Dressing

9. Roasted Acorn Squash and Apples with Quinoa, Kale, and Tahini Maple Dressing // Edible Perspective 

I am on a huge tahini kick lately, so this autumn squash bowl is calling my name. For those that haven’t experimented with tahini (outside of its supporting role in hummus) prepare to be amazed.

Butternut Squash Apple Pear Crisp

10. Butternut Squash Apple Pear Crisp // Edible Perspective

I love that this recipe incorporates rich winter squash into the classic apple crisp, for a welcome boost in both flavor and nutrition.

– Kelly

Blueberry Picking + 10 Healthy Blueberry Recipes from the Web

Blueberry Picking at Parlee Farms

Gloomy (and thankfully, exaggerated) forecast aside, I started my Sunday with a blueberry picking double date to Parlee Farms, about an hour north of Boston near the New Hampshire Border. The pick-your-own prices were reasonable ($3.99 per pound), which means I now have three pounds of fresh picked, local blueberries to work through (kid stuff compared to Ashley and Josh’s ten-pound haul).

Whether you also have a plethora of fresh blueberries at your disposal, or you just want to take advantage of current sales and seasonal abundance, I’ve gathered up plenty of meal ideas to kickstart your culinary creativity. See below for ten healthy blueberry recipe ideas from around the web…

Ambitious Kitchen Muffins

^^ Healthy Blueberry Zucchini Muffins from Ambitious Kitchen // I love that this recipe works in whole wheat flour, zucchini (another abundant summer ingredient), and applesauce.

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^^ Turmeric Breakfast Muffins from Green Kitchen Stories // I’ve been dying to try this recipe for months now. These muffins are gluten-free (not what I usually lean towards), but luckily I have whole grain buckwheat flour (and plenty of blueberries!) on hand.

peach blueberry oatmeal (4)

^^ Peach Blueberry Oatmeal from The Oatmeal Artist // So simple, yet so delicious. I had a similar dish (“slow cooked oats with chefs topping”) at The Willow Rest in Gloucester, MA a few weeks ago, and have been craving this combo ever since.

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^^ Baked Blueberry Oatmeal from Nutmeg Nanny // This oatmeal bake is a tried-and-true recipe in my kitchen. (I’ve featured it here and here).

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^^ Blueberry + Avocado Detox Smoothie from Jillianastasia // When in doubt, throw your berries in a smoothie!

berryzinger

^^ Berry Zinger Smoothie from The Crunchy Radish // Lemon and ginger can elevate a common berry smoothie into something special.

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^^ Brain Power Salad (Spinach Salad with Salmon, Avocado, and Blueberries) from Gimme Some Oven // Salmon and avocado pair wonderfully with nearly any fruit, but antioxidant filled blueberries keep this “brain food” recipe on theme.

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^^ Grilled Chicken Salad with Feta, Fresh Corn, and Blueberries from The Pioneer Woman // It’s not often that I link to a Pioneer Woman recipe on this site, but the grilled chicken and fresh summer produce are a refreshingly nutritious foundation.

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^^ Blueberry Pizza with Honeyed Goat Cheese and Proscuitto from In Sock Monkey Slippers // I will definitely be using blueberries on a flatbread pizza this week. If things go well, you might even have a recipe post coming your way!

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt

^^ Lightly Sweetened Greek Yogurt Cheesecake from Kelly Toups // I couldn’t end this list without sharing a recipe from my own collection!

What’s your go-to blueberry recipe?

– Kelly

Croissant Class at Tatte

Tatte obsession

Those that know me (or follow along on Instagram) know that I am a huge fan of Tatte Bakery (evidence above). Aside from my monthly breakfast dates with Ashley at the Third Street location in Kendall Square, I also make frequent jaunts to the original Brookline location, which is all too conveniently located around the corner from my apartment.

Croissant Class at Tatte

My birthday was back in December, but this past weekend I had the opportunity to cash in on the ultimate birthday gift from my family: a croissant making class at Tatte bakery for Ashley and me. While I don’t have an overwhelming need to make croissants in my own home, this was the ultimate combination of my three loves: cooking, learning, and Tatte bakery. And to get to experience it with the friend that got me into baking in the first place (remember this recipe?) and who also loves Tatte made the deal even sweeter. No one would appreciate it more.

Tatte Bakery Class

Croissants are, of course, butter filled calorie bombs. This certainly wasn’t a healthy cooking class. In fact, there wasn’t a whole grain in sight. But nonetheless, I learned a lot about the technique behind this (very complex!) French pastry. Additionally, when my classmates and I got a visual of just how much butter goes into these flaky, pillowy delectables, we were abruptly reminded why croissants are considered a special treat, and not part of a daily routine.

Croissants from Tatte

The class itself, held at the Main Street location in Kendall Square, was about 3 hours long, with a short break in the middle. (Stumptown coffee was on the house!) Our instructor mixed up a dough and demonstrated the three stages of folds, but had various doughs ready in the fridge so that we didn’t have to wait around.

There was a lot of hands-on activity, as we each rolled out our own dough and got to shape our own dozen croissants with various fillings (almond, chocolate, and cream cheese) to bake and take home. Additionally, because a few people canceled last minute (the max number of participants is 12, although ours was an intimate class of 8), the instructor divvied up the leftover dough so that we could each bring some croissant dough home as well. Score!

Tatte Bakery Croissant Class

In addition to the popular croissant class, Tatte also offers classes on Brioche, Bread, Cookies, Tarts, and a few other holiday inspired treats. See here for the full class lineup, and to learn more about pricing and schedules.

– Kelly

P.S. Headed to Tatte? Get the muesli! It’s the most delicious way to start your day on a healthy note!

My Favorite Healthier Menu Items Around Boston

Wondering how a registered dietitian navigates the Boston casual dining scene? When eating out, it helps to have a few go-to healthy menu items in mind–dishes that are loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. See below for 5 of my current favorite nutritious menu options around town!

Healthy Menu Items in Boston: Museli from Tatte

Muesli from Tatte Bakery ($9 bowl pictured, or $6 cup): Unsweetened whipped Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, black sesame seeds, sliced almonds, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, oats, and a drizzle of honey

Healthy Menu Items in Boston: Grilled Veggie Whole Wheat Burrito from Annas Taqueria

Grilled Veggie Burrito from Anna’s Taqueria ($6.85): I choose the whole wheat tortilla (whole wheat is the first ingredient!) and fill it with black beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, lettuce, and grilled veggies (an impressive mix of bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini, corn, and green beans). That’s it. No meat, no cheese, no problem!

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Sweet Potato Sandwich from Crema Cafe ($6.95): Toasted whole grain bread filled with sweet potato, granny smith apple, hummus, sprouts, avocado, and sherry vinaigrette. Great for sharing!

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Salad from Sweetgreen (approx. $8.50-$10.50) I almost always go for the seasonal salads, but I also LOVE the Hummus Tahina and the Wild Child (with chickpeas)… and basically the whole menu!

Whole Wheat French Toast from The Paramount

Whole Wheat French Toast with Fruit from The Paramount Beacon Hill ($11): This is one of the few places that I have been able to find whole wheat French toast. Unfortunately, it was recently taken off the menu (to make room for new lunch specials), but the staff informed me that I will always be able to order it because they keep the whole wheat bread stocked for turkey sandwiches. So go ahead and ask for it, even if it’s not listed!

Do you know of any delicious, Boston area restaurant meals that are loaded with nourishing ingredients? Do tell! Also, for more of my food adventures, don’t forget to follow along on Instagram (@kellytoupsrd)!

– Kelly

Root: Vegan Food for Carnivorous Palates

It’s refreshing to come across a menu that doesn’t use cheese as a crutch for vegetarian meals. At Root, a vegan restaurant, that’s not even an option.

Tortas

Tostada: Crispy corn tortillas topped with chili-spiced sweet potatoes, black bean and corn salsa, avocado, and (tofu based) crema, served with greens

If you have visions of rubbery “veggie meats” and endless tofu dishes, think again. In fact, you won’t even find tofu on the lunch or dinner menu (except cleverly blended into the house made aiolis). Clean eaters can still find superfood darlings, such as kale, quinoa, and beet juice. However, by creating whole-food versions of carnivorous favorites (hush puppies, burgers, tostadas, and more), the menu is approachable to people of all dietary patterns. The word vegan doesn’t even appear anywhere on the menu, so as not to isolate customers.

Tucked away in grungy Allston, Root is a clean oasis, with an atmosphere that reflects the food they serve. The small space is industrial, yet inviting, contrasting square, copper tables with an abundance of natural wood accents. Bicycle wheels decorate the walls. Water is served in mason jars. Root is counter service at lunch and dinner, but switches to table service for the weekend brunch.

At some vegetarian restaurants, such as Life Alive, all of the food tastes overwhelmingly of umami, with little differentiation between menu items. What distinguishes Root from its meat-free peers is that each dish has a unique flavor profile. Like the popular Boston vegetarian chain, Clover Food Lab, many dishes are Root are deep fried, and aren’t as healthy as the clean atmosphere and vegetable emphasis would have you believe. However, for the health conscious consumer like myself, there are many nutritious options.

Warm Kale Salad

Warm Kale Salad

One such item is the warm kale salad ($8). A hearty way to enjoy leafy greens during the winter months, this dish is a delightful bowl of lightly steamed kale, caramelized onions and bite-sized nuggets of roasted butternut squash. Dried cranberries, pepitas, and citrus miso dressing complete the bowl. Somehow, this generous salad leaves your body feeling nourished and content, even if you have just indulged in the artery clogging, yet oh so addictive, herbed fries and house made ketchup.

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Sweet Potato Quesadilla

Kale takes on an entirely different persona in the sweet potato quesadilla ($8). This appetizer-sized dish consists of a flour tortilla filled with sweet potato, kale, and sautéed onion. Rather than relying on a processed, vegan soy cheese to bind the quesadilla together, the dish is served with a creamy thyme sauce made from cashews. This rich, hearty sauce is also the secret to the delicious eggplant caprese sandwich.

If you’re looking for southwestern flavors, your best bet is the torta ($10 with choice of fries or side salad). Chili-lime black beans, tomatoes, avocado, pickled onion, and fried jalapeno, are pressed together in a locally made Iggy’s bun. The toasted bread is the perfect vehicle for the warm black beans and pickled veggies, while the avocado tones down the heat from the perfectly crisp jalapenos.

Other noteworthy dishes include the made-from-scratch black bean and quinoa based “root burger” and the famously fluffy vanilla pancakes (the secret is the coconut oil). With a menu this inviting, plant based diets have never seemed more mainstream. And at this inspired eatery, that is precisely the intent.

Root is located at 487 Cambridge Street, Allston, MA. info@rootboston.com, 617-208-6091. Hours: Monday-Friday: 11am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday: 9:30am-10pm.

– Kelly

Seasons 52: Diet-Friendly Fine Dining

Seasons 52

Grilled Alaska Wild Copper River Salmon with summer corn risotto, sugar snap peas, and toybox tomatoes

Imagine enjoying an Oak-grilled rack of lamb with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and a summer vegetable ratatouille, all for the same amount of calories as a medium Strawberry Surf Rider Smoothie from Jamba Juice. At Seasons 52, that’s precisely what you’ll get.

Nestled into a corner at Houston’s vibrant City Centre, this new restaurant redefines healthy dining. The seasonally influenced menu inspires the restaurant’s name. Entrees change about four times a year, and vegetable sides change weekly. However, the most impressive part of the menu is that every item is 475 calories or less.

Seasons 52

Honey & Herb Roasted Chicken, spring vegetables, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, roasted chicken jus

If you’re picturing cardboard diet food and rubbery tofu, think again. Instead, the healthy balance at Seasons 52 is achieved by shunning the embarrassingly large portions that have come to be standard and letting fresh, seasonal vegetables do the talking. These meals are hearty, satisfying, and downright delicious.

The whole roasted Branzino, a European seabass, is standout summer special. This beautifully presented dish has a delicate texture and a sinfully savory flavor. Another memorable dish was the honey & herb roasted chicken. Chefs could have taken the easy way out by serving a dry slab of boneless, skinless chicken breast atop an uninspired salad. Instead, this chicken is moist, rich, and downright flavorful, and served with a tantalizing array of seasonal vegetables. Additionally, while the trend of desserts in shot glasses feels exhausted at other establishments, at Seasons 52, it somehow feels special, and fits right in to the perfectly-portioned atmosphere.

Seasons 52

 

Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon, cremini mushrooms, steamed leaf spinach, mashed potatoes, red wine sauce

Seasons 52 has over 30 locations across the country including Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Atlanta, Georgia, and Phoenix, Arizona. It first arrived in Houston at Westheimer, and it’s popularity spurred this second location at the City Centre shortly after.

While the classy, dimly lit interior lacks in personality (there is not a chalkboard, Edison lightbulb, or tattooed waiter to be found), the understated elegance is the perfect setting for a fine dining establishment. Unlike Ruggle’s on the Green, another popular City Centre eatery that emphasizes seasonality, the atmosphere at Seasons 52 is much more upscale and carries a noticeably higher price point.

That being said, you get what you pay for. And at Seasons 52, that means delicious, quality meals that leave you feeling nourished, rather than nauseous.

– Kelly

True Food Kitchen: This RD approves!

This summer I spent a week in Phoenix, Arizona with my family. Not only was I able to read, swim, and spend some much-needed quality time with my family, but I was also able to finally eat at True Food Kitchen!

True Food Kitchen

^^The airy, trendy atmosphere was definitely a seller. Image via Fox Restaurant Concepts.

True Food Kitchen serves up “globally inspired cuisine” at its 6 different locations (all in the Southwestern United States). The basis of the menu is Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet, but don’t let that scare you off. From Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Fresh Mozzerella, Organic Tomatoes, and Zucchini to Grass Fed Steak Street Tacos with Avocado, Cojita Cheese, Tomotillo Salsa, Sour Cream and Anasazi Beans, these menu items are nothing short of spectacular.

True Food Kitchen

^^ Watermelon & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil, Cashews, and Olive Oil. Quite possibly my very favorite item on the menu!

Restaurants are usually a minefield of hidden fat and calories, devoid of nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. While True Food Kitchen does not post nutrition information (and some dishes do seem to be calorically dense), there is no doubt that the menu items available are extremely nutrient rich. I also love that vegetables are considered to be the main event, rather than an afterthought.

True Food Kitchen

^^ Tuscan Kale Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, Breadcrumbs, and Grilled Steelhead Salmon

Over the course of my trip, I went to True Food Kitchen 3 different times, and let me just say that 3 times was not nearly enough! Between my family and I, I got to sample:

  • Quinoa Johnny Cakes with Blueberries, Greek Yogurt, and Maple Syrup
  • Street Tacos with Grass Fed Steak
  • Tuscan Kale Salad with Grilled Steelhead Salmon
  • Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Fresh Mozzerella, Organic Tomatoes, and Zucchini
  • Red Chili Shrimp with Sesame Noodles
  • Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon Salad
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Nectarine and Blueberry Tart with Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

YUM!

cookbook

Don’t live in the Southwestern United States? No problem! Lately I have been getting my True Food fix at home, courtesy of the True Food Cookbook (pictured above). This cookbook is filled with seasonal recipes from the restaurant, as well as the most gorgeous photography I have ever seen.

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^^ My rendition of the Chicken and Farro salad, via Instagram

Have you ever been to True Food Kitchen? Do you know of similar restaurants on the east coast? Do tell!

– Kelly

Food Adventures in Seattle

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This past weekend, I visited one of my college roommates in Seattle. I had only been to the west coast once before (San Fransisco), so I was eager to spend time with my roomie and explore the Seattle food scene (see her weekend recap here).

Sarah was thoughtful enough to take me to sustainable restaurants including Local 360 (get the PB&J bon bons- just do it!), Homegrown, and my personal favorite, the Volunteer Park Cafe. We also hit up Tom Douglas’s Brave Horse Tavern and Bluebird Ice Cream.  Below are some of my favorite food adventures from the weekend…

Pike Place Market

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^^While Sarah ran into the office for a few hours, I leisurely explored Pike Place Market. It was even better than I expected, and believe me, I had high expectations!

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^^ Fresh flowers as far as the eye can see!

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^^Fruits and vegetables galore!

Queen Anne Community Garden

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^^Quite the hidden gem, and one of my favorite spots from the trip

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^^Check out the beautiful bloom on the artichoke!

blackberries

^^Wild blackberries were EVERYWHERE! Not just in the community garden, but growing all over city.

Theo Chocolate Tour

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^^ I LOVE field trips and food related tours! The Theo tour very much reminded me of the Taza Chocolate tour.

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^^ Fair trade, organic chocolate. My 4 favorite words 😉

Other highlights from the weekend included a jog around the waterfront, an outdoor movie at the Seattle Center (Le Mis) and of course, a given if you know Sarah, a themed party. Have you ever been to Seattle?

– Kelly