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This blog started as a way for me to share my recipes + culinary adventures, tips for vibrant health + happiness, thoughts on the latest developments in nutritional medicine + the low down on the Sydney wholefoods scene and beyond...

Filtering by Tag: dinner

Clean Eats: My favourite places to eat out in Sydney for brekky, lunch and dinner

Becca Crawford

I am often asked for recommendations on where to eat out for breakfast lunch and dinner. I’m not really into fancy foams and overpriced menus that pay for Sydney views. I’m into clean wholesome fare that’s ethically sourced and minimally processed. The big considerations for me are (a) pastured meats, poultry and eggs; (b) wild (as opposed to farmed) seafood; and (c) no manufactured/ processed /industrialised seed oils (eg vegetable, canola, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, peanut etc). Chemical-free produce is a bonus but I’m not going to die in a ditch over that as I think its toxic load is less than what grain-fed meat, farmed fish and industrialised seed oils carry. It’s mighty rare to find places that tick ALL of these boxes. More often than not it comes down to negotiating the menu and the art of picking and choosing the cleanest dishes.

Even though I don’t often eat bread (I try to avoid gluten as much as possible but occasionally I have a piece of sourdough bread slathered in butter if i feel like it when eating out) I have noticed over the years that there’s a direct correlation between the quality of a restaurant and the quality of its bread. So, somewhat paradoxically, I seem to select restaurants based on the quality of their breads. It comes down to this: a restaurant that goes to the effort of understanding and sourcing sourdough bread or making their own bread appreciates quality.

So without further a-do, here’s THE LIST of my  favourite clean eats for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner (I have blogged about some of these place before). I have tried to limit each category to my top 3 or 4 places:

Breakfast:

Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen (Alexandria)-  I love their biodymanic eggs with greens, tomato, sourdough bread with loads of butter and sides of kim chi and grilled halumi. Wide selection of teas, coffees and probiotic drinks all in a super colourful delightful setting decorated with all manner of fruits, vegetables and yummy treats. Communal tables. Housed in a big warehouse shared with Campos coffee and a sourdough bakery.  Walking into this place always makes me feel perky and smiley.

Egg of the Universe (Rozelle)- great selection of traditional wholefoods properly prepared including kombucha, sauerkraut, and activated buckwheat pancakes. Felt like I was in my own kitchen with someone else serving me.Meals are only cooked in coconut oil as their fat of choice, and filtered water is used and served. Large kid-friendly outdoor area. Yoga studio attached.

Bitton Cafe  (Alexandria) -Opened 14 years ago by the charismatic Frenchman David Bitton, his French flair comes through in his menu. David uses only Pepe Saya ghee, butter, olive oil and coconut oils as his cooking fats. No processed oils at all. The chickens and eggs are organic. It’s also open for lunch and dinner.

 Three Blue Ducks (Bronte) – I just love their black pudding (blood sausage) with eggs breakfast meal (great to see some organ meats on a breakfast menu!).

Lunch:

Kitchen by Mike (Rosebury)- Great guy, great food, great open large warehouse shared with über stylish Koskela interior designs.

Orchard Street (North Bondi) – renowned for its juices in its original Macpherson Street Bronte appothecary, Orchard Street has opened up a new large eat-in or take away store in North Bondi. Owner and natropath Kirsten Shanks has created this new store that reflects her beautiful style and energy. Clean food, gorgeous atmosphere and kombucha on tap!

Henleys Wholefoods (Bondi Junction) – tucked away down the stairs from Oxford St, this little gem provides lovely meals and smoothies.

Thrive (CBD) –  Grab a takeaway meal, sit in the Domain in the sun and enjoy a respite from office confinement.

Side Door (Vaucluse) – situated next to the butcher shop GRUB (with the food coming from there), the Side Door reopens again on Wednesday December 10 2014 from Wednesday – Friday 12.30-8.30pm. Everything on the menu has Paleo and Gluten free options.

If you want a fancier /more exy lunch then refer to any of the places listed under Dinner below.

If I’m at a pinch at Westfield or some other shopping centre the best bet is to grab 1/2 dz oysters at the seafood counter in DJs Food Hall with a small selection of local or imported cheese from the cheese counter – look at what cheeses are on sale to make it more affordable. No need to ever step foot into a food hall. Many people think that sushi is really healthy. The issue here is the cheap farmed fish often used in sushi and the fact that it isn’t very high in saturated fats which leaves me unsatiated and hungry within 30 minutes.

Dinner:

Bei Amici (Darling Point): the high water mark in clean foods dining. Home-made Northern Italian fare using the best ingredients. Pastured meats from Feather & Bone, organic produce, home-made bread and organ meats adorn the menu including pate and tongue. Not that they wouldn’t be welcome, but I personally wouldn’t take kids here because its small, intimate and high-end.  Take the rare opportunity to masquerade as adults.

4 in Hand Dining Room (Paddington): I love the organ meats that feature on the menu and the slow cooked lamb or pork for 2. There is also a suckling pig to share if you can gather a group of 10 friends together. Grass fed meats, gorgeous cosy ambience, and excellent friendly service.  Chef Colin Fassnidge never disappoints. Organic veggies from Martin Boetz’ farm. Butter or olive oil are the fats used for cooking except for deep-fried food. The gratuitous appetiser of smoked white fish with citrus and basil is a nice touch. Any restaurant that has butter and unrefined salt in a marrow bone on the table has already won me over. And I love the enormous triptych of the squid that hangs on the wall. This is my kind of place.

Seans Panaroma (Bondi): similar ambiance to Bei Amici- small, cosy and intimate. Book a babysitter and don’t even think about taking the kids. Enjoy the gorgeous food in peace.

Porteno (Surry Hills) – traditional Argentinian (but need to carefully navigate the oils used in the menu). Big, fun, noisy and kid-friendly.

Felix French bistro (CBD) –  they often have organ meats on the menu. Despite its massive size, it still feels cosy and manages to keep great service. Extensive wine list. Very popular with the CBD bankers and finance crowd. Wear a suit and frock up.

Alfie & Hettie (Glebe): elegant dining-room in a heritage-listed terrace which changed owners 3 months ago. Despite a bad experience with service (which I will put down to an aberration rather than typical) the food was exceptional. Slow cooked meats for 2 including 18 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder and 2 day slow cooked short ribs. Amazing. Who cooks dishes for that long nowadays?

LP’S Quality Meats (Chippendale): opened several months ago, ex-Tetsuya head chef Luke Powell has created a no-fuss American style diner featuring pastured meats, Thirlmere pastured chickens and pork from Vic Meats. No vegetable oils are used other than canola oil for the chicken. So watch that. The smoker is one of a kind in Australia imported from Tennessee. The staff are super friendly. We had the 10 hour beef short ribs (a bit too charred for me), pate and sardines and lambs belly.

Tea, coffee and a snack:

Ovvio Organics (Paddington)- the best quality tea in Australia bar none. No one is fussier thanAnthia Koullouros in the source and processing of her teas and spices. It’s one of the few places in Australia I can walk into and not have to ask about the provenance of the products nor examine the ingredients list on the products that line the shelves.

Bondi Wholefoods (North Bondi) – kid-friendly courtyard.

About Life Marketplace (Bondi Junction) – I like their drinks menu esp raw cacao spicy chai

Formaggi Occello (Surry Hills) – cheese heaven.


But whatever restaurant I land at (and let’s face it we don’t always get to choose!) these are the strategies I employ:

  • ask for my meal to be cooked in butter or olive oil instead of any industrialised seed oils (most restaurants can accommodate this other than Mexican restaurants or cheaper Asian restaurants. Anyone feeling entrepreneurial?? And while you’re at it open a clean fish and chips shop…..there’s nothing wrong with dreaming BIG!!)
  • or opt for a dish that isn’t cooked in any fats or oils at all eg grilled fish or roast meat or casseroles tend to be cooked in their own fat
  • avoid salmon and ocean trout on menus in Australia as these fish are ALL farmed (and fed some really nasty stuff including antibiotics, soy pellets, colour dyes etc) and are not wild
  • avoid sauces or ask that they are put on the side if I think that they will contain vegetable oils eg hollandaise sauce and béarnaise sauce are typically are made with canola oil as the base
  • avoid any deep-fried food (as they are almost always cooked in cottonseed oil even at the cleanest of restaurants), legumes or grains (other than sourdough bread if i feel like it) but a small amount of legumes or grains even if not properly prepared won’t kill you (unless your celiac, have leaky gut, auto-immunity or other major digestive issues then it’s just not worth it)
  • I rarely have dessert (I’m content/full with an entree plus main though I’m always happy to share a cheese platter sans the crackers).

And more importantly if you’ve made a decision to eat somewhere (whether it’s your choice or not) just enjoy the social experience and don’t stress too much about it! And if you see something on the menu that really takes youre fancy then as I’ve blogged about before if you crave a food then for God’s sake just eat it. As my guru Chris Kresser is fond of saying “It’s better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude, than the right food with the wrong attitude!” Short of having food sensitivities or digestive issues (eg celiac, leaky gut, or some auto-immunity etc),  the emotional nourishment you get from sharing a meal and a glass (or more!) of wine with loved ones will normally outweigh any physiological damage that the food/drink might do to your system. So better to just relax and enjoy the experience than wring your hands in distress. Obviously if you have food sensitivities, leaky gut, auto-immunity or the like,  or if you are like me and are deeply concerned about the provenance and processing of what you eat, then take initiative and choose the restaurant if you can (pick up the phone and make enquiries of the kitchen staff ahead of time) or pick and choose from the menu wisely as I’ve set out above and then…. ENJOY!

Have you been to any of the above places? What did you think? What are some places that you rate that I have not mentioned? I’d love to hear from you. 

I can't cut the apron strings....just yet...how to deal with kids' food on camp

soullachamberlain

IMG_2466My  7 year old son experienced his first school camp this week. Just 1 night 2 days. In the lead up to it, he was super excited about it. As was I. Ah, the sweet thought of not having to play referee to his fighting with his younger sister for an entire afternoon, or not having nag him about piano practice or getting dressed for school a little faster than snail's pace. He's fiercely independent and social so I knew homesickness would not be an issue. When these guilty pleasures stopped, mild panic hit. What are they going to feed the kids on this camp? If you read my blogs I think it's safe for me to assume that I don't need to explain why I would be even concerned about this in the first place.  From what I have observed to date, mainstream schools do not put nutrition centre stage (or even left of centre) of a child's development. It's the aspiring but lack-lustre actor that plays no role.

I asked one of the teachers about the food on camp who unapologetically said "The food offered is pretty bad.You know the usual stuff of boxed cereal, white refined bread, margarine, deep fried processed meat. I take my own food!" Bloody hell. I called the camp caterers who confirmed  that all of the food is processed, shipped into the camp site in packages and nothing is fresh other than a little fruit due to "budgetary constraints." And this is from one of Australia's top private boys school that summons a whopping $20,000+ per child per year. I was outraged but not surprised. My concern was that if Will was to eat this "non-food" for 2 days he would feel utterly sick and not enjoy the camp experience as his system is not used to processed foods. This is different to the one off small piece of junk-food consumed at a school birthday party. This is 2 days worth of refined grains, industrialised seed oils and refined sugar. Fortunately one option was to make and bring all of his food with the caveat that nothing could be heated as there were no stoves other than microwave ovens but the food could be refrigerated.

Wil (far left) and his friends excited to leave for their first camp

So here was my challenge: preparing 2 days worth of yummy food that Will would be proud to take and eat that could be consumed stone cold straight from a fridge. Microwaving is not a healthy option.

Here was my tactic: get Will's buy in and get him involved in the menu designing process. As a parent and having been a child myself I am very conscious about my children not feeling different from other kids or being ostracised about the food they eat. Life is already tough enough. Remember the film Wog Boy? When Nick Gionopoullos unpacks his table-sized spread of assorted Greek mezethes for lunch and was made fun of by the "Anglos" holding their white bread vegemite sandwhiches. Well, that was me growing up in Qld in the 70s- little mono-browed Soulla, the only wog at her school, eating moussaka and tazatziki for lunch.... feeling more than a little different amongst the blonde-haired blue-eyed surfie crowd. I don't want that for my children- I want them to participate FULLY in all social activities that they want to, and to feel part of the crowd. To the extent that an aspect of that activity (eg 'food' offered) negatively affects their health, my answer to date has not been to withhold them from the activity in its entirety (which my parents would have done) but to offer them a more healthy food option. This has been the strategy to date with birthday parties (of course you can go to Luke's party but is it ok if you eat these yummy snacks instead, and feel free to offer them to the other boys too...).

As it turned out, buy in from Will was no problem. He's so used to taking his own yummy snacks to birthday parties and appreciates my concerns about the effect of processed/toxic food on growing bodies. So he was totally fine about taking his own food to camp and was delighted at my idea to design the menu together. I explained that there would be a few other boys taking their own food due to allergies and some of the teachers are also taking in their food, so he wouldn't be the odd man out. Had I not got buy in from him, it would have been a totally different story. I also tried to not make too big a deal of the fact that he was taking his own food and spent the weeks/days leading up talking about all other aspects of camp life such as the water slide, canoeing, bush walks, mangroves, connecting with friends and with nature etc.

Here's the menu we put together: hopefully some or all of these meals could inspire you with your own school / work / picnic lunch or snack ideas where heating food is not an option. I've also listed where I bought the food from to help you with sourcing. I packed each meal in a  disposable recyclable plastic container individually labeled to make it super easy for him. Everything then went into a soft pack eski with icepacks to last the 1-2 hour bus trip before being refrigerated. I wanted to ensure that all of the foods that we consume on a daily /regular basis at home were incorporated into his meals. Apart from bone broth (which is difficult to consume cold unless in jelly form), all other nutrient-dense staples were included in the menu:

Day 1 Morning tea: small tub of wild berry Alpine goats yogurt  (from Bondi Health Emporium)

Day 1 Lunch: smoked wild salmon tossed through a garden salad that included sauerkraut and salmon roe (salmon and roe from The Canadian Way)

Day 1 Afternoon tea: piece of fruit (BU Organics) with chunk of goats brie (About Life) plus bottle of whole milk (Lettuce Deliver)

Day 1 Dinner: slices of veal schnitzel (Feather & Bone; home made crumb from activated herbed buckwheat) with roasted veggies cooked in butter and coconut oil (BU Organics)

Day 1 Dessert: 3 home made coconut date balls (made with raw cocoa butter, coconut oil, dessicated coconut and dates). I had initially made a chocolate hazelnut slice with a dollop of cream but when he tried it the night before he found that the raw cacao powder was too strong so opted to take nut-free coconut  balls instead.

Day 2 Breakfast: a piece of left over tomato and herb omelette (eggs from Egganic which I buy direct from farmer), small tub of strawberry Alpine goats yogurt  (from Bondi Health Emporium) plus bottle of whole milk (Lettuce Deliver).

Day 2 Morning tea: piece of fruit (BU Organics) with chunk of gruyere raw cheese (I buy cheese wholesale direct from importer)

Day 2 Lunch: sliced ham (Feather & Bone) with assorted veggie sticks and cherry tomatoes  (from Just Organics on Oxford street- directly opposite About life).

Result: success. Will thought the food was great. Everything was eaten. And no one made a big deal about it. He came home happy, relaxed and had an awesome time. We focused on how he connected with people and nature and all of the exciting things he did (rather than ate).

Ongoing concerns: for how much longer I can adopt this strategy is entirely another question. The older children become the more pressure there is to not be, or seen to be, different. And presumably the longer the camps will be. In year 9 under his school curriculum he will be doing all of his schooling for an entire semester at Glengarry  in rural NSW. There are certainly challenges ahead as my children become more entrenched in mainstream society and my only hope is that I can face each challenge in a spirit of creativity, courage and /or acceptance as the situation requires.

One of my favourite quotes immediately springs to mind: "to have the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

I often contemplate shaking up the system with small steps by getting directly involved in my childrens' schools and educating the power brokers about the flaws of the standard food pyramid and the importance of nutrient-dense food to growing bodies. But my small attempts to date have not been well-received. Unless meaningful changes come from the government level, schools will continue to adopt the standard food pyramid promoted by the government as opposed to a nutrient-rich traditional diet. As one close friend recently reminded me "your job is to change the health of your family, not to change the world." And that has been my approach to date. I do hope, however, that by this blog, ongoing community education and cooking classes/workshops that I offer, I can inspire other parents to make positive changes to the health of their family and to feel more empowered to take a stand where food supplied by external sources is less than optimal for their child. The more and more parents do this, perhaps institutions will one day sit up and listen, although the larger and more powerful the institution, the slower it will turn.

Now I would like to hear from fellow parents- what do you think about the approach I took? Would you consider making and packing all of your child's food for a 2 day camp? How have you dealt with similar situations?

I inadvertently forgot to take pics of the food Will took to camp but below is a photo gallery of food I pack for my kids lunches/snacks which is not too dissimilar:

small tubs of Alpine goats yogurt

eggs are a daily staple

Raw and smoked wild salmon from The Canadian Way

raw wild salmon, strips of nori, activated sesame seeds with a drizzle of tamari

IMG_2438

Brie