We‚Äôve all celebrated more liberally during the holidays and if you followed any of my tips and suggestions in my last column to help maintain your weight then you‚Äôre more than likely starting the new year with less regrets. But even if you overindulged you don‚Äôt have to miss out on your chance to sample, savor and save this January when California Restaurant Month comes to Santa Monica for its inaugural Eat Well Week.
You can still stick to your new year‚Äôs resolution to eat healthier because 13 of Santa Monica‚Äôs top eateries will offer discounted prix-fixe menus and new healthy menu options that satisfy both the wallet and waistline.
From Sunday, Jan. 6 through Saturday, Jan. 13, you can treat yourself to try that new hip urban restaurant everyone has been talking about or the beach brasserie serving contemporary California coastal cuisine.
For the list of all Santa Monica restaurants participating you can visit www.santamonica.com/eatwell, but I have chosen three specific eateries to highlight because their philosophies and menus more closely speak to my own personal beliefs and nutrition counseling style. They are Locanda del Lago located on Third Street Promenade, Ocean and Vine at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, and Josie at 25th Street and Pico Boulevard.
It has been awhile since I‚Äôve dined at Lago for Northern Italian and great people watching on the promenade, but with the review of their website I was reminded about the wide-ranging dedication from the chefs. Not only do they offer fresh, organic, local produce, but they also strive to decrease our carbon footprint. In 2011 Lago‚Äôs Chef Gianfranco Minuz introduced “Meatless Mondays” with menu options containing no meat or meat-related products, including dairy. This environmentally-friendly menu is a tasty way to include the healthful vegan diet once per week ‚Äî something I recommend to my clients.
Unlike Lago‚Äôs open-air feel, sitting in the dining room at Josie is more like being swaddled in warmth while being served fresh, wholesome comfort food. It might be the fact that we shop at the same Farmers‚Äô Market and purchase produce from the same sustainable farms that calls me to Josie‚Äôs menu, but it‚Äôs probably more likely that it‚Äôs the type of food I like to cook and eat. I‚Äôve been counseling my clients to buy local and seasonal foods for years to nourish the body with the freshest fare and Josie uses her craft to do just that.
If you seek an understated but creative meal of locally-caught seafood or naturally-farmed beef (which I even allow once per week to my patients with hypercholesterolemia), then try Ocean and Vine at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. With over 30 years of experience Chef Keith Roberts is described as a true seafood master. Combining the best seafood and personally picked produce from the Wednesday Farmers‚Äô Market, Chef Roberts creates signature dishes like his seafood-centric Santa Monica Chili with fava beans.
In keeping with this farm to table theme, the Santa Monica Farmers‚Äô Markets, along with three of the 13 participating Eat Well Week restaurants, will be distributing healthy recipe cards attached to bags of locally sourced spinach.
To kick off the week, Popeye The Sailor Man, Olive Oyl and Swee‚ÄôPea will make an appearance at the Downtown Farmers‚Äô Market on Jan. 2 to get people excited about the leafy green. Popeye, the creation of Santa Monica cartoonist E.C. Segar, was a big believer in spinach, chowing down on the stuff to gain energy and strength, usually to bash Bluto, a rival for Olive Oyl‚Äôs affection.
With Eat Well Week, chefs hope more people become exposed to the healthier side of eating out.
“It‚Äôs great that health conscious food is getting recognized and acknowledged,” said Chef Collin Crannell of The Lobster. Look for his spanakopita recipe made with fresh spinach and homemade phyllo dough.
Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D., C.P.T., is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. Contact her at www.eatwelldailynutrition.com.