Healthy Restaurant Eating

By The Restaurant Dieter

Cremalosa Review: Wonderful gelato in Decatur

There’s only one thing not to like about Cremalosa, a gelato shop in Decatur. It didn’t open near my condo in Midtown Atlanta.

For years, The Restaurant Dieter’s husband bemoaned the lack of an ice cream shop nearby. We are close enough to Georgia Tech and nearby high rises to support an Insomnia Cookies. We can’t believe no has opened an ice cream shop.

My husband is resourceful, however. He has solved for this problem by buying pints at Cremalosa and bringing them home.

Cremalosa opened in February, a challenging time, given that business began to slow because of the spreading Covid-19 virus. The proprietor is Meredith Ford, a colleague from my days as the features editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Meredith joined the newspaper as restaurant critic and food writer in the early 2000s after a career teaching pastry at Johnson & Wales University Culinary School in Rhode Island. After the AJC, she worked on pastry at well-known intown restaurants such as Sotto Sotto, Escorpion and Novo Cucina.

Cremalosa is owned by Atlanta chef and food critic and writer, Meredith Ford.

In an interview with the AJC, Ford described Cremalosa’s approach as the classic gelato paired with some favorite American flavors.

On the day we visited, there was a wonderfully creamy peach cobbler, studded with real chunks of Georgia peach and flaky pastry. I had it solo, but my companion ordered a double with that and a peach sorbet. On a hot day, he waited for some of it to melt and drank it to evident delight.

The menu at Cremalosa

Even in this difficult business environment, the shop had at least a dozen flavors to pick from, including two flavors we’ve enjoyed at home previously: a distinctive banana-mango sorbet and an ultra-creamy banana pudding.

Gelato is often preferred by those trying to eat healthier. Compared with ice cream, it’s lower in fat, but potentially higher in sugar. This is a good discussion of the relative nutritional values of both. In any case, moderation is the key.

Cremalosa has a lovely courtyard with plenty of chairs, tables, flowers and plants. It’s a lovely place to enjoy great gelato on a nice day. It’s on the plaza level at the Avondale MARTA station, just east of downtown Decatur.

A great new gelato shop named Cremalosa opened east of downtown Decatur.
Cremalosa has a lovely courtyard where you can enjoy your gelato outside with friends — the real Italian way. The courtyard is on the MARTA plaza level.

Too bad it’s not near our condo, but at least there are pints to take home.

Cremalosa, 2657 E. College Avenue, suite B, MARTA plaza level, Decatur, GA, 30030, 404-600-6085.

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Covid-19: Living in a no-restaurant world and loving it

Given the times in which we live, what use is a blog devoted to the passions of eating out healthily? Can such a thing even exist during a pandemic?

Hobby bloggers run hot and cold when it comes to posting regularly; this blog has been in the deep freeze since Spring 2019. Of all the times to unwrap and thaw, why choose now? For starters, we all have time on our hands as we stay home to dodge the Covid-19 virus. Another reason is that I have learned a valuable lesson about eating out.

Home is still better.

Like others, we have turned to the comforts of cooking in this great Covid-19 pandemic. Boy have we. Our home is full of food that we would never have had around a year ago. We are inside constantly and potentially tempted to consume out of stress or boredom.

And yet, my husband and I have not gained a pound.

One reason is that we are getting exercise — walking or biking with new E-bikes we purchased. The other reason, I have to believe, is that the food made at home is just plain better for us.

The focus on real food — free of the additives, flavor-enhancers, salt, sugar, and unpronounceable ingredients — first really hit home with my reading the New York Times food writer Mark Bittman. He says we need to make food from scratch, using fresh and raw ingredients.

Now that we aren’t in cars commuting between the office and home, we have more time than ever to cook. It’s given us a reason to support a great local butcher, Chop Shop in Atlanta.

During downtime between Zoom calls, my husband watches bread and pastry videos on YouTube. He’s mastered a perfect sourdough, canelles, no-churn mint chip ice cream, peach galette and some pretty mean cakes. Every single night, we have some kind of dessert with a glass of wine (him) or a cup of decaffeinated Darjeeling (me). We find we are satisfied and not binging on snacks until it’s time to turn off tonight’s movie and go to bed.

We plan and post a weekly menu. We’ve made everything from company-fare pork loin with a cherry wine sauce to tater tot casserole that was sinfully good. We’ve had Italian nights — tagliatelle with prosciutto and butter (3 tablespoons per serving) — and German feasts laden with bacon, bacon, bacon. We are making our own vegetable stock from the produce scraps.

One week’s posted menu
Sausage from Chop Shop, a nearby butcher shop, with German potato salad and red cabbage, both made in the Instant Pot.
Crab cakes with fries; yes, the fries were frozen from a bag. So sue us.

There is one recipe that, more than any, reveals how our lives have changed during this pandemic: Black bean chorizo casserole with pickled onions from The New York Times Cooking website. The recipe made eight servings and took 2 1/2 hours — something I missed when I put it on the menu. It had 11 steps in the recipe and involved things like:

  • Grating a lime for zest and mixing it with sour cream to make a lime crema
  • Chopping and pickling red onion slices
  • Toasting dried chiles and broiling garlic cloves for the sauce, then soaking the dried chiles until soft.
  • Processing the soaked chiles and garlic into a paste, adding oil and cooking it all into a sauce.
  • Poaching the chorizo because I brought fresh instead of pre-cooked; my mistake.
  • Chopping cilantro stems and onions for saute.
  • Sauteing the stems, onions chroizo, black beans.
  • Layering all of the above into a casserole dish for baking

This recipe was cooked on a weeknight. Are we insane?

Maybe. But we are also gratified by how wonderful food such as this actually is; how it tastes good without that ton of salt that is in restaurant food, regardless of whether it’s an Applebee’s or fine dining.

We’ve managed to eat a couple of meals out — and by that I mean truly outside “out” — and mostly it’s been disappointing.

Yet we are absolutely cheering for the restaurant industry to survive. Going to a restaurant is about so much more than the food. It is theater. It’s an experience. It’s a communal byproduct of the great and advanced society we live in. We get to be out and among people, something we all miss.

As soon as there’s a vaccine and we feel safe enough to venture back, we’ll be there. But I don’t think we’ll forget what we’ve learned about the value and goodness of a home-cooked meal.

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Iced tea: the best diet beverage out there

You can go wrong with iced tea

Some time ago, I stopped drinking soda. Because I don’t drink alcohol, my beverage choices sometimes are limited.

At a typical party with an open bar, there are fruit juices, natural but loaded with sugar; soft drinks, artificial and loaded with sugar; diet soft drinks, waaay artificial and loaded with sweeteners that can pack on the weight instead of take it off; some form of blah fizzy water.

What I’d rather have is unsweetened ice tea. I don’t sweeten it, but one could and still wind up with a better choice than soda.

On an airplane, they don’t “serve” iced tea, but they obviously have both ice and tea.

Because I’ve actually been told that “we don’t have iced tea,” I’ve taken to asking for “a double bag hot tea and a big glass of ice.”

Checkmate for the less motivated flight attendants; the good ones just say: “Would you like me to bring it to you already done?”

Why, how kind. Yes thank you.

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It’s real food

Pasta made by my niece, Sarah

When you eat, make it “real food.” This is a good example. The pasta was made by my niece, Sarah. It’s just flour, egg and water. The sauce is a simple meat sauce using my mother’s recipe. Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and hamburger meat. No jars, no preservatives, no fake food.

We each got about a cup of pasta, a reasonable portion, and a half cup of the sauce. Perfect.

It’s all about eating good food in moderation.

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Lent and the temptation of fried fish

NOTE; Sorry some of the photos are sideways. My technical adviser is looking into why this keeps happening when I file posts from my phone.

Lent began yesterday. For the faithful, it’s 40 days of sacrifice and denial leading to the renewal of Easter.

As a kid, it meant a half-hearted and little-enforced effort to give up some little pleasure — a favorite candy maybe. It also meant fish on Friday, which everyone hated. In the Midwest, the fish was rarely fresh, and then there was my sister’s terror of death by undiscovered fish bone. (It remains with me even today; thanks sis.)

But the Lord provided. In 1965, McDonald’s went national with its first non-hamburger sandwich: the deep-fried Fillet-o-Fish.

Now there was religion I could get behind. As my husband says, “I’d eat a sweat sock if you deep fried it.”

Not being religious these days, I typically realize it’s Lent when the fish sandwich promotional billboards go up at fast food menu counters. That’s what happened Thursday at Wendy’s.

And right away, I could feel my tastebuds hankering for this:

Wendy’s fish sandwich

But something intervened and I ordered this:

Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

God or willpower? You decide.

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Salads aside, fast food is getting worse, not better for you

Forget all that stuff about the fruit cup or the salad that landed on the menu. It masks a 30-year trend of fast food meals overall getting worse, not better. They’ve gotten more bigger, more fattening and saltier.

That’s the conclusion of research published recently by Boston and Tufts universities in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The study looked at 30 years of fast food menus at restaurants such as McDonald’s, Dairy Queen and KFC.

Between 1986 and 2016, deserts grew by 62 calories per decade; entrees gained 30 calories per decade; and sodium grew as well each decade — 4.6 percent for entrees, 3.9 percent for sides and 1.2 percent for deserts.

With about 37 percent of U.S. adults consuming some fast food every single day, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, it’s not what you’d call good news. Fast food has been implicated in rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

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Restaurants for eating healthy in Atlanta during the Super Bowl

Cold and fresh oysters from W.H. Stiles Fish Camp at Ponce City Market.

The Super Bowl supposed to be all about the 7-layer dip and the wings in front of the TV, right? Well, tell that to The New York Times, which earlier this week weighed in with a visitors’ game plan for “eating well in Atlanta.”

Writer Kim Severson, who lives in Atlanta, highlighted some of the better known — and some little known — restaurants visitors should consider. So here’s some insight on her favorites and how they stack up for dieters.

The article gives a prominent shout-out to Ponce City Market. One of the food stalls highlighted is W.H. Stiles Fish Camp from chef Anne Quatrano, whose Bacchanalia has been a leader in Atlanta fine dining for more than two decades. It’s one of my go-tos at Ponce. (One reason: a decent amount of inside seating. Don’t get me started on the special hell that is wandering inside the food hall, asking, “Is this seat taken?” It is.)

A weight-conscious diner at W.H. Stiles can feel pretty safe with a Poke bowl, oysters, Georgia Coast clams and poached shrimp. I’ve purchased a few of the shrimp — they’re local, sizeable, sweet and firm — at $1.75 each and thrown them on the $9 wedge salad with fresh, housemade dressing.

Tiny Lou’s is another hot newcomer that attracted Severson’s attention. It’s in the basement of Hotel Clermont, a former dive hotel that now has spiffy condos. (The divey strip bar is still open for business; a dancing girl on the menu advertises that Lou’s is “above where the ladies dance.” ) Sadly, they’ve cut the crudites with Green Goddess dressing. More than once, that bouquet of beautiful cold vegetables saved me.

But there are still plentiful vegetables among the sides, and daily, a vegetarian gnocchi. They’ve also been willing to toss a grilled chicken breast on that when I’ve wanted to add some protein to the mix.

Revival in Decatur from chef Kevin Gillespie made the cut. It is great Southern cooking, but as my review awhile back noted, not exactly a place for a lot of low-calorie options. So eat light that day.

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Taco Bell to test vegetarian menu

Taco Bell is planning to offer a more extensive vegetarian menu in 2019, the company recently announced. Count me as more than casually interested.

My fondness for Taco Bell goes deep. There are times when the hunger for ersatz Tex-Mex will not be silenced. This craving dates back to college days in the late 1970s, when the closest restaurant to the student newspaper was a Taco Bell. The staff had a love-hate relationship with the chain.

“I’m going to Taco Death to pick up dinner. Does anyone want anything?” someone would shout as the evening deadlines approached.

Still a couple of bean burritos — vegetarian before its time, I guess — were filling and less than a dollar. For students, it was convenient and cheap — and in its own guilty pleasure way, kind of good.

The food was a bargain for poor students.

Taco Bell hasn’t said much about the details for the new vegetarian menu. The chain’s website has a placeholder for vegetarian offerings consisting of what’s available now. And it’s relatively easy to assemble a vegetarian meal from what is already on the menu.

Some years back, Taco Bell promoted a series of “fresco” menu items that were intended to be healthier than the normal fare. Even though the fresco promotion is over, there are still calorie-conscious options that are under 350 calories and under 10 grams of fat each. Calorie-conscious is the key word there, because I wouldn’t call them exactly healthy.

The 150-calorie chicken soft taco “fresco style” gets 1/3 of its calories from fat and has 430 mg of sodium, which is a lot. The Centers for Disease Control urges American adults to consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. That is supposed to improve, too; the company also announced that it would reduce sodium by 25 percent by 2025.

So here’s hoping the chain is successful with adding more vegetables and reducing sodium, because sometimes the bell just rings. When that happens, I’ve gotta go get lunch. And don’t get me started on the guiltiest pleasure of all, the bacon breakfast crunchwrap.

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Review: The relative safety of kale salad at Cinebistro Brookhaven in Atlanta

My husband has a great rule of thumb: When surveying the menu at an unfamiliar restaurant, ask yourself: “Do I believe this restaurant can really pull off this dish competently?”

Here’s the scenario. We are at a restaurant that, say, has TV screens playing sports, the kind men like to watch. The tables are bare. The napkins are rolled around the silverware and of an easy-care synthetic cloth. Somewhere on the menu is a “bacon ranch,” a “honey chipotle” or “chili-lime” something-or-other. America’s favorite flavor cliches reign supreme.

Which begs the question: Can the kitchen staff can actually pull off a perfectly cooked fillet of beef with a green peppercorn sauce?

At times like these, hubby’s philosophy is to get the hamburger. It’s safe.

The menu at Cinebistro Brookhaven, for example, comes to mind. It has a Korean cauliflower with a pineapple kimchi. It has a chicken with a spicy quince paste and guava sauce.

Kimchi? Guava sauce? Korean? Seriously?

On a recent visit, it seemed time for another burger. But both hubby and I would be rounder than we are now if we always went with the burger route. This time we had salads.

Hubby took the biggest risk by ordering the sesame seared tuna salad. This is not a restaurant at which the server asks how you’d like the tuna cooked. It came “perfectly adequate,” hubby says. High praise indeed.

I played it safer and ordered a kale salad with chicken breast. The salad came with almond slivers, dried cherries, sliced radish, pickled red onion and a kind of sweet pecorino vinaigrette. The chicken was obviously precooked and a bit dry. And pecorino vinaigrette? Huh? Wha? Where?

Maybe I should have ordered that hamburger.

The kale salad with grilled chicken at Cinebistro.
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