I’m back in the Bean, after an absolute whirlwind of a Spring Break. I ate my way through Mexican, Mediterranean, spicy Thai, and dozens of other cuisines. Along with friends Jordan, Emily, James, and Jordan’s wonderful and generous family, I devoured parmesan fries and blue cheese fries, bread pudding and rice pudding, and concluded the trip with a Melting Pot adventure that allowed me to dip all of my favorite things in melted chocolate and melted cheese.
While allowing myself one or two extra indulgences, I always tried to balance my less healthy meals with lighter ones. If I had a Coconut Mocha Cappuccino from Coffee Rush in Chandler (sugar free and non-fat, of course) I stuck with water at dinner and resisted the sugary cocktails.
Some of my favorite California however, were those that featured spring’s best vegetables – inherently healthy and unbelievably fresh.
On our first night, we celebrated Jordan’s 21st birthday with a healthy Thai meal at Gindi Thai in Burbank. “All pleasure, no guilt” is the motto of this Thai restaurant and sushi bar. A wide variety of vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan options made it a perfect start for the long night of bar snacks and cocktails.
Jordan enjoyed Pad Thai for the first time, while Emily and I turned up the heat with our wok dishes, the Prig King and Gra Pow.
The Not-So-Good Bite: While Gindi Thai warns patrons that certain dishes are prepared medium-spicy, their interpretation of heat is extremely liberal. My face was on fire while I worked my way through the green beans featured in my Prig King. This spring vegetable was prepared with bell peppers and a house chili paste, but I was unprepared for the intense spice. Emily’s thai basil entree was also far more spicy than anticipated.
The Good Bite: Artichokes also come into season in March, and I enjoyed these at the Melting Pot on our final night – boiled tabletop-style in a tangy Caribbean broth with hand-squeezed lime and orange. Sweet asparagus spears were also featured in the Good Earth Vegetarian dish, along with edamame pods and spinach and artichoke ravioli. Spinach and artichoke dip was a great liquid appetizer for the multi-course meal, but be wary of the distorted serving sizes at the Melting Pot. Share with as many friends as possible, and always choose a slice of apple or cauliflower rather than bread to keep things from going calorie-crazy at the Melting Pot.
The Best Bite: When Asparagus is at its peak, it is a hearty, abundant vegetable satisfying enough to serve as the focal point of any entree. Best-harvested when the weather is still cool, asparagus is a wonderful early-spring vegetable. Low in calories, high in dietary fiber, and containing more than the daily recommended level of Vitamin K, this delicately flavored vegetable was a star in many of the trips most memorable dishes.
At Aroma Coffee & Tea Company in Studio City, California, brunch is way more than eggs and toast with deep fried hash browns. The fresh California produce is at the forefront of many dishes, including the Eggs, Veggies, and Melted Brie breakfast special I enjoyed on our first morning in the city. You can grab food at Aroma any time of day, but their breakfast menu shouldn’t be missed.
Order at the register and grab a seat on their heated patio or in a velvet fireside armchair for a cool morning meal. While I was tempted by their Roasted Beet Salad and Wild Veggie Burrito with steamed rice, egg whites, spinach, bell peppers, guacamole, and pico de gallo, I was too tempted by the spinach, broccoli, carrots, and seasonal asparagus. I swapped the swiss cheese for mushrooms and split the thick slice of potato dill toast with my friends to keep things lighter. Every breakfast dish came with two or three eggs; I asked for mine poached, rather than fried, and split these, too.
Jordan ordered the Arugula Salad with Poached Eggs for breakfast. Arugula, or “rocket,” is loaded with potassium and Vitamin C, and is at its best in spring. With a huge portion of asparagus, this hearty salad was softened with parmesan cheese and carmelized onions. Protein from the eggs and pine nuts made it the perfect late-morning start. Without the bacon, it was a vegetarian delight.
Now that I’m home, and spring break is over, I’m ready to get back on track. My fridge is full of raw fruits and vegetables – including seasonal sweet baby and purple carrots, string beans, asparagus and Tuscan kale. Because no matter how much fun you have on vacation – no matter how many twists and turns and 360’s your trip might take – when you get home, nothing feels better than sleeping on a light stomach in your comfy gray sweats.
Until next time,