As a special guest blog to start the New Year on a happy and healthy note, we are excited to share with you the “Cheating without Cheating” dining experience by THE US GRANT’s Work It Lifestyle Personal Trainer, Derrick Sobotka…
As a creature of habit and professional in the fitness, health and wellness industry I have my favorite healthy food spots. I also have my favorite “cheat day” eateries. I was in the mood a couple of weeks ago to have a cheat day. I always tell my clients that they SHOULD have a cheat day. I think it is great for your own personal sanity to have a meal where you go off course a little. And I mean a little…everything is okay in moderation. I was having a day just like this. So since I was in this “cheat day” mood I wandered into The Grant Grill at the US Grant Hotel. I’ve heard great things about this place and thought I would give it a try.
While carefully making our cheat day choices we decided it was cocktail time. I would say probably the best way to begin a cheat day right? So while looking over the craft cocktail menu we were quickly realizing that this cheat day may not be firming up to be what we anticipated. This cocktail was completely catching me off guard. I’ve had Appletinis before. I’m sure we all have at one point or another. THIS was no standard Appletini though. Made with fresh apples and a hint of cilantro this one was a good start….I was sold. We then went on to realize that it was also made with some of my favorites. Tequila! The concept that a tequila martini could be about 200 calories…I was double sold. I know…appletinis are made with vodka not tequila. Well…not this one and they nailed it. The cilantro gave it this unexpected freshness and the tequila was such a new concept to me for any kind of martini but it absolutely worked. If this was any indication of the rest of the meal we were in for a lot of little surprises and blind sides.
I was with a fellow foodie so we were primed for some serious eating. When we opened the menu we were both so thrilled to find some great options. Many times it is very difficult to keep a good balance between creativity and just plain overboard on a menu. We found ourselves mentioning how creative the menu was, however, never finding ourselves confused at what we were about to order. We went on to order our appetizer. After careful consideration (it was a tough choice) we decided to start with the Roasted Autumn Apples and Quail. I thought I was starting off my cheat day the right way! I was convinced that we had just ordered the richest dish on the starter menu. I was quickly proven very wrong when the plate was delivered to our table. The quail was cooked perfectly and not gamey at all. The apples were roasted but not soggy which is not an easy achievement. Plated in such an artistic way, yet, still keeping the dish simple and allowing the ingredients speak for themselves. Nothing overpowered anything else on the plate and every bite seemed to give you a little more to look forward to. The most shocking part of this was when my dinner companion and I were figuring out how much of a cheat this really was. I was so amazed at how the chef could create something so contemporary, rustique, and with so many simplistic background flavors. How he could create something that never got in its own way, yet, added to this incredible blending of flavors. The shocking part….this indulgent starter was only about 120 calories per serving. I was loving my realization that our original plan of having a cheat day meal was quickly becoming a health nut’s dream!
Now if this isn’t already sensory overload we choose our entrees. I am a bit ashamed to admit that we may have been a pain to our, amazing by the way, waitress by asking a ton of questions about our choices. We just couldn’t decide! I must have changed my mind about 4 times because once I made a choice I realized that something else seemed a little bit more exciting. Alright so we finally landed on our entrees. I ordered the Scallops with Butternut Squash, Swiss Chard, a beautiful and light red wine glaze, and Guanciale. Now if you knew me you would know that rendering me speechless is next to impossible. Well the impossible was made possible. The scallops were seared so lightly and exactly right. The subtle sweetness from the butternut squash was offset by the faint saltiness of the scallops. All of this was taken to a new level of flavor with the peppery bite of the swiss chard. I know…swiss chard…boooooring! Not at all! This was perfect. It was cooked perfectly. My greatest pet peeve in this foodie world I find myself in is that I can’t stand overcooked vegetables or greens. I want texture. I want crunch! The swiss chard was hitting every single expectation. I know what you’re saying. Stop making a big deal about swiss chard. Just go and have it…you’ll see what I’m talking about. There was this incredible and careful balance. The portions were just right too. It was enough for one but not so much that we walked away uncomfortable. We can attribute this walking away comfortable with the revelation that this entire entrée was hovering around 310 calories per serving. Yeah…just take that in for a little bit. My cheat day has now completely taken a nose dive. This entire meal has only set me back 570. I know…a cheat day can’t be less than 600 calories. Well it just happened thanks to The Grant Grill and the brilliant Chef Chris.
My dinner companion had the Salmon. We were collaborating on how these dishes are comprised from ingredients that we are familiar with. The Grant Grill figured out how to make what we know and are familiar with into something so much more exciting and fresh, new and innovative. honest, I’m not a fan of salmon. Never have been and as much as I’ve tried to acquire the taste for it (because I know the nutritional. Well I have a little taste of this salmon. I have to be benefits of it) I just haven’t been able to. This was incredible! My mind has officially been changed. Paired with the coconut curry broth, artichokes and roasted marble potatoes and onions I was having a taste explosion in my mouth. This was so fresh and light! The coconut curry broth was so flavorful but not taking control over anything else on the plate. The salmon made sense with the artichokes and onions and the blending of these, seemingly conflicting tastes, was on a completely new level. I definitely got a lesson on what good salmon is after this dish. Now get this, we did the math…just at 300 calories per serving. Gorgeous, fresh and flavorful cocktail, amazingly robust starter and an entrée that changed everything I thought I knew about salmon and all for 560 calories.
My dinner companion and I walked away from this beautiful Grant Grill feeling completely shocked. We arrived for our reservation having convinced ourselves that we were going to completely throw all inhibition and guilt out of the window and just enjoy a guilty pleasure. Well we, without a doubt, enjoyed ourselves, however, realizing that we completely felt indulged by some of the freshest and healthiest meals we have had in quite some time. We felt spoiled on this meal with such a small cost of less than 600 calories per serving. There is a continuing wave of more healthy and smarter choices when it comes to food in Southern California. I walked away from this experience with a changed mind. I walked away with a changed opinion. The Grant Grill is at the forefront of a smart food movement and if you are looking for guilt free indulgence….from one health nut foodie to another trust me, I highly recommend.
Written By: Derrick Sobotka
Master Trainer / Health and Wellness Coach