Clean, Home Cooked December Life + the ‘Dar Salad’

This is what life has been looking like recently, and it’s working for me so far.
fuel sweat grow: goals and paleo

I’ve been cooking a lot more recently than I had for a while.  Travel, moves, construction, and chaos had all contributed to a major shift out of the kitchen, and what felt like a prolonged restaurant lifestyle.  While meal prep and eating clean is significantly more challenging when I’m working in Charlotte, I have to say, if you want to eat clean (out) in Charlottesville, it’s not that challenging.  It’s counter intuitive that such a small city would have such a huge selection of locally sourced / farm to table options, but we’re terribly lucky with the restaurant scene in Charlottesville and all that it offers.

For the last two+ years Citizen Burger Bar has been the local go-to for the MAD crew, and Dar and my absolute survival during all 28toLife and Whole 30 challenges (not to mention just life in general).

fuel sweat grow: Citizens Burger Bar

While I love the concept in general, and the staff are all pretty awesome, the real big hook in the beginning (and what keeps us coming back) has been their amazing flexibility in creating custom orders for both burgers and salads. Oh, and their locally sourced foods, because that’s pretty sweet.  At some point Dar created her own standard, clean/paleo salad that she literally never waivers from (unless she’s making the essentially same thing but just as a burger).  The order goes as follows: House Salad; hold the bacon, croutons and cheese; light onion; add avocado, blueberries, chicken or local beef; oil and vinegar on the side.  Every. Damn. Time.  While my order began as similar, I’ve varied over time, adding different things, switching salad bases, and occasionally throwing in sweet potato fries into the delicious mix.

Tonight, upon entering the restaurant (fondly referred to as CBB), we were immediately greeted with the news that the new staff for the soon-to-open Clarendon, VA location was fully trained today in Charlottesville on how to enter the ‘Dar Salad’ into the system.  Oh, and did I mention, it’s being added to the menu? We’re working on a co-branded name, obviously, and I’m not certain on the exact delivery date for the item on the official menus, but if you’re up for a paleo friendly, MAD women approved meal, just tell them that’s what you want – ‘the Dar Salad.’ It will likely also be an announcement in MAD for the rest of time, because it’s Dar’s little playhouse, and when in Rome….you know.

As for what’s happening in the home kitchen? A bunch, so here are just a few snap shots of some of the late fall salads, and comfort dinners that have finally made their way back into my life.

fuel sweat grow: late fall salad

fuel sweat grow: fall salad

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

I haven’t had time to fully go through my new Paleo Parents book, Real Life Paleo, but it’s on my joy list for the weekend.  I’m so excited to spend some quality time planning some fun new meals for December, and totally geeking out over new ingredient combinations.

This is the first month in a year and a half that I’m probably not going to be traveling, and I already know that January, February and March are going to be insane, so I’m committed to appreciating these sweet moments of home bliss.  Winter, this is your chance to get on my good side; it’s a really fortunate thing that you come equipped with blankets and warm beverages because those are two of my biggest weak spots.

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Eating Local: Charleston Tour

I’m definitely a creature of habit, with all the potential for an addictive personality – energy that thankfully (usually) gets focused around food and fitness.  This past week was exactly that, all set in the ever-loving and beautiful city of Charleston.  From beginning to end the trip was an exploration, and a somehow stressful break from the normal routine (such is opening a new business), but the food scene and amazing weather made it worth it.   Here’s a quick glimpse into the food tour that became my life, and the sweet local spots we experienced.

Verde:

Salads and wraps — with all the fillings — either tossed or chopped.  This concept is so simple, clean, and done exactly right with quick and convenient and the ‘create your own’ combination(s) had every option i could have wanted.  And if you live in Charleston (or vacation there), it’s all within your reach because they have two spots: mount pleasant and charleston.

fuel sweat grow: verde chopped salads

fuel sweat grow: verde chopped saladI think I ate there 5 times in a week (not kidding) and never repeated the same combination. This summer combination blended their mixed greens with kale as the base, and then added cucumbers strawberries, almonds, grapes, hard boiled egg, and avocado.

I always got the salads chopped, and then played between their chipotle lime vinaigrette and just balsamic and olive oil.  On Wednesday as I was heading out of town I stopped for my last and final visit (for the week) and switched things up with a wrap: base of arugula,  with added cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, hard boiled egg.  Cilantro lime vinaigrette, chopped, and wrapped — it was AMAZING.

Between my trips to Verde, and our time at MAD with the trainers, I also squeezed in some amazing meals out in Charelston:

SALT at Station 22:

fuel sweat grow: SALT at station 22

This spot on Sullvan’s Island is awesome – the perfect higher end and foodie friendly beach restaurant with a great seafood selection, and an incredibly diverse (and delicious) menu — because it actually changes daily.

fuel sweat grow: SALT at station 22

The first night we went there for our MAD management dinner (yes, first night, because I had to go back) I had an awesome arugula salad with beets, goat cheese, and homemade croutons.  For dinner I had their tenderloin special with a pretty awesome sweet potato mash.

The second stop at SALT was actually on the last night and I had the absolute best roasted half chicken of my life — the Roasted Tanglewood Chicken.  The chicken itself was unbelievable, and it sitting atop of a mix of crispy sautéd onion and vegetable and jus.  It was unbelievable.  This will, without question, be a favorite for me every time I’m here.

Graze:

This spot is so close to our space in Mt. Pleasant (in the Whole Foods shopping center right by Pure Barre and Charleston Power Yoga) but to be honest, probably wouldn’t have been on my radar if it hadn’t popped up on Open Table.  As I say that, I want to immediately (and vehemently) say that I will absolutely go back – this place is awesome.

fuel sweat grow: Graze Charleston

This tenderloin entree was honestly one of my favorite meals from recent memory and the roasted cauliflower puree it was sitting on is something that I’m going to have to try and recreate, but I’m certain I will not fully be able to match.

fuel sweat grow: Graze Tenderloin

Low Country Bistro:

Another favorite spot in downtown [Charleston], and the perfect Sunday night dinner.

fuel sweat grow: Low Country Bistro

fuel sweat grow: Low Country Bistro

Dinner was with two of our coaches from MAD, and in addition to the great food and great company, we had GREAT wine – and lets be honest, that’s really all I’m looking for on a Sunday night.

fuel sweat grow: low country bistro

From what I’m told, the Chicken & Waffles are exceptional – it’s a sweet potato bacon corn bread waffle people –  and there ain’t nothing wrong with that….except that it’s not something that would register on my clean eating plan.   For that reason I didn’t even give it the courtesy of a menu skim when we were there but if you’re wondering how I’m feeling about it now — the answer is: slightly regretful.

Crave Kitchen & Cocktails:

Our second to last night in Chuck Town ended at Crave in the Shoppes at Seaside Farms for dinner, and I got the slight indulgence I had been waiting for.  Chicken Marsala over an amazing risotto, with broccoli and sautéd spinach on the side.  I actually took most of this back to the hotel with me and never managed to finish it, but what I did have was awesome.

fuel sweat grow: crave charleston

This place was a really unexpected treat, and from what we learned, the chef, Landen, happens to have an affinity for paleo-esque clean eating, so they’re definitely on our short list to cater the Grand Opening Party for MAD (save the date: July 19th).

All in all, from a food standpoint, this trip was an absolute success.  From a getting the doors open standpoint — well that hasn’t exactly happened on an even remotely reasonable timeline, so I’m just going to focus on the food — the delicious and saliva inspiring food.  Our last team trip in February was full of equally as impressive spots that I definitely want to go back to (Stars and The Grocery, for instance), so Charleston is quickly climbing the ranks as one of my favorite restaurant cities of all time — and I’m okay with that.

I’ve been back in Charlotte for a few days now and head back down to Charleston this Wednesday to hopefully get the doors open at MAD with our team there, and then will finally make my way back to Charlottesville.

Now, for the most important part of this post — any suggestions for awesome places to eat in Charleston?  I’m assembling my to-do list for the next year, and that food tour is definitely on on it.