Zenbelly Paleo Popup

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Back when we lived in San Francisco — and before we had kids — the vast majority of our meals were eaten in restaurants around town. Henry and I voraciously ate our way through the city, slimming our wallets and fattening our bellies.

These days, restaurant meals are the exception and not the rule, so when we manage to escape for a night out on the town, I try to pick places with insanely great eats — even if the food isn’t always Paleo-compliant. 

But on Saturday night, a group of us nabbed spots at Simone Shifnadel’s Zenbelly Paleo Popup at Coffee Bar in San Francisco, where we dined on super-fresh, gluten/legume/dairy-free farm-to-table fare. Score!

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I first heard of Simone and her catering company, Zenbelly, when she launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a community gluten-free kitchen. Since then, we’ve tweeted back and forth and we finally met IRL at the Weston A. Price conference last November. We instantly bonded over our mutual love of food (and sarcasm).

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So when I learned about Simone’s popup dinner, I bought tickets right away. I was amazed at her ability to pull together a Paleo Popup in just a few short weeks, transforming a Potrero Hill coffee shop into a chic, glowing hotspot for Paleo eaters to congregate over a hearty yet refined five-course feast.

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The ambience was perfect and the service was friendly and professional; if it weren’t for the big red “Coffee Bar” sign out front, no one would’ve guessed that the place is ordinarily a coffee-and-sammitch joint.

Ready for a peek at the food?

Shortly after being ushered to our table, we were served our first course: A creamy cauliflower soup with fragrant lime zest and toasted pine nuts.

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Next up was a gorgeous roasted beet, fennel, and blood orange salad with a balsamic glaze.

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Our third course was a refreshing wild shrimp ceviche, avocado mousse, and crunchy plantain chips. This dish was a particular favorite at our table.

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Then, we all got our cameras out to shoot the fourth course: Fallon Hills five-spice crispy pork belly with braised winter greens.

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And yes, it was as delicious as it looks.

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For our penultimate dish, we were served Fallon Hills lamb loin with a rosemary-garlic pesto and sweet potato and turnip purée.

Henry sat next to Simone’s boyfriend, Simon, who gave us the lowdown on the lamb: He and Simone had been up until 2 a.m. on Valentine’s Day butchering the lamb for our meal. Now that’s love.

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Last but not least: My favorite dish of the night! Each of us were presented with a plate of Simone’s No Joke Dark Chocolate Cake (recipe here!) with candied bacon, strawberries, and whipped coconut cream.

Two words: Ridiculously good.

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I loved it so much that I shamelessly begged Simone for an extra piece (or three) to take home…you know, for my boys. She generously gifted me with a takeout box of cake, which I promptly dispatched BY MYSELF before heading to bed.

I am such a terrible mommy. I guess I’ll just have to bake another cake this afternoon. (For the kids. For the kids. For the kids.)

We had a blast. The food was just as wonderful as the company. We had carpooled up to the city with our friends Jackie and Ben (the dynamic duo behind LunchBots) and Henry’s cousin Daphne, and we spent the night laughing and eating with Simon, Charissa and Patrick from Zest Bakery (a wonderful gluten-free bakery in San Carlos), and their hilariously unfiltered friend Justine. I also had fun chatting with all the nice folks who came by to say hi at the end of the night; it still surprises me that people read my ramblings here on my little corner of the interwebs.

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I can’t wait to attend Simone’s next popup dinner — and my fingers are crossed that the next one’ll be down here in the South Bay!


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