Friday, July 24, 2009

Eating your way through NYC without blowing your waistline

Some weekends just end up being culinary extravaganzas when you live in such a food-focused city like NYC (hmm...maybe that's why my wallet's always in such a sad state). One of my best friends was in town for the weekend and having moved away from the city a year ago, she was in desperate need of some NYC food-lovin'. Always happy to host and plan an eating-centric weekend, I geared us up for brunches, lunches, dinners and coffee stops throughout the city. So how does a health-conscious food lover like myself work such a gastronomic few days into the picture without blowing the calorie bank...and the scale? One word. Balance. You've got to pick and choose your battles people. Well, in this case, pick and choose where to allot indulgences while maintaining a simple consciousness around portions and making the most of your plate while ordering what you really want. This theory can apply to virtually any big blowout weekend, long holiday, a wedding weekend, vacation getaway, etc. You name it and balance applies so you don't find yourself in a food coma and 5 lbs heavier at the end of the weekend. So here's how the theory pans out. My weekend of eating detailed out for your reading pleasure. Sadly, my camera did not make it out with me during our dining excursions, you'll just have to use your imagination.

Saturday -
12:30pm Grey Dog's Coffee (University & 12th St.): one of my all-time favorite brunch/lunch and coffee spots in the city (and my good friend Katie's as well). It was a no-brainer to start Katie's weekend off with a proper lunch at Grey Dog in Union Square. Recognizing that I'd be in for a long weekend of eating, I went with a lite pick off the expansive chalkboard menu. The Country Salad with a scoop of tuna salad and a slice of rye toast. Tuna salad? Mayo!? Heaven forbid. Yes, Grey's Dog tuna is to die for and sometime's a girl just needs to get her fix. Grey Dog's portions tend to be pretty generous, so I moderated and finished off about half the salad and half the tuna. Perfectly satisfied, no ounce of deprivation, calories still intact for the remainder of the day. As for the rye toast, I generally go with 9 grain, but nothing goes better with tuna than rye and it's actually a pretty decent choice on the nutritional bread scale. Unsweetened iced-tea for my beverage. Done deal.
5pm Ran home after far too many errands and grabbed a peach and a handful of stone-ground wheat crackers and a small piece of cheese for a quick, lite snack so I wouldn't be starving by dinner and ready to scarf the entire menu down.
9pm DBGB (Houston & Bowery) - best new burger place in town. Thanks Daniel Buloud. I'd been to DBGB twice before for a drink or two, they've got a great bar and beer selection fyi, but I was pretty excited to taste-test their signature burgers. I opted for the "Frenchie" burger - adorned with arugula, tomato-onion compote and moriber cheese. In nutritionista fashion, I started with the Chop-Chop salad (watermelon, avocado, carrots and ginger dressing...amazing combo!) and split it with a friend. You know I'm a big fan of getting veggies in somehow at most meals to balance your plate out and fill up on fewer overall calories. The burger came next and was pretty darn phenomenal. So good, I could only eat half -- which actually left me a bit of room for a few fries which are most definitely on my top 5 food list. I love French fries and I accept it. Everything in moderation, there were a lot, so I had a handful or two and was good to go. Great meal, albeit a little heavier, but I'm always able to even things out in the long run.

Sunday -
1:30pm Clinton Street Baking Co. (Clinton St. btwn Houston & Stanton) You know you've hit up a killer brunch in a brunch-obsessed city when you voluntarily (with sheer excitement) wait on line for 90 minutes, yup, 9-0, for brunch. In my opinion, Clinton St. serves up one of the best brunches in the city - possibly THE best, and that's a bold statement. They're known for their pancakes (blueberry or banana walnut). Not exactly a defining symbol of healthfulness, more like a mountain of easily-digested carbs with some fruit thrown in (a plus). But, sometimes things are well worth the extra few minutes spent sweating at the gym. You can minimize the damage however, by taking on a keen strategy and sharing with your brunch partners. One order of pancakes will more than satisfy the tastebuds of 4 people. Luckily, Katie and I bumped into two of our other friends waiting in line and we joined tables. So shared blueberry pancakes it was along with a shared omelet of the day - filled with seasonal roasted vegetables and goat cheese (which is a naturally lighter, lower-fat cheese I might add). The portions ended up being perfect. No bulging stomach post-brunch.
5pm After walking a good 5 miles throughout the city, Katie and I ran into Grey Dog again for a quick beverage break. Mint iced-tea and iced coffee. Very refreshing.
7:30pm L'Artusi (West 10th & Hudson) - Gearing up for our last stop of the weekend's culinary tour, we knew it could be a long, alcohol-soaked dinner with friends. Katie and I have eaten enough meals together that we know how to work certain situations. Scope the menu, find a few items that look tasty and on the lighter side and share. Plain and simple. L'Artusi's dishes have incredible flavor and fairly delicate portions, so we were to share 3 light, summery dishes and still leave room for a glass of wine and a shared dessert. A salad to start with escarole, ricotta salata and tomato; roasted mushrooms with egg; and grilled octopus with chilies, potatoes and pancetta. Dessert was incredible and perfectly tiny -- a great way to end the meal without needing to be carted home.

All in all, a solid weekend of quality eating. Balanced out every bite of the way.

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