Nom Nom Paleo

Final Day In The Rockies & Dinner at The Kitchen (Boulder, CO)

Pin It

With our Paleo seminar duties out of the way, we drove to the nearest watering hole in Estes Park to guzzle gallons of NorCal Margaritas. Okay — not exactly. But I wouldn’t be shocked if the Paleo Police spied a half-dozen of us decompressing over plates of greasy Mexican food and sugary piña coladas. Even after Mel, Holly, and I had talked our heads off all day, we happily babbled away until we shut down the cantina.

After catching some Zs, we were ready to tackle our last full day in Colorado. We had grand plans for Henry's birthday: Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, blending in with the camera-wielding tourists at Elk Fest, eating our way through Boulder, and exploring the haunted hallways of the Stanley Hotel — the inspiration for the spooky Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining.”

But we lost track of time at breakfast with Mel, Dave, and Holly (it was totally their fault for being so damned funny and interesting), and with only a few hours left to cram everything in, it was up to the birthday boy to pick the day’s activity.

What won out?

Ghost tour at the Stanley Hotel with the gang!

Although Henry’s been a fan of “The Shining” since he read it as a kid, the real reason he wanted to visit the Stanley Hotel is so he could impress our seven-year-old with “real-life” stories of hauntings. 

As you may recall, Big-O is obsessed with two things at the moment: Weird Al Yankovic and the macabre. (Remember the ghost tour he took in Seattle?) It’s truly heartwarming that he’s evolving into a weird little pop-culture-spouting nerd, just like his mom and pop.

Henry and I are the two of the biggest skeptics around — we know how Photoshop works — but we made like tape recorders ‘cause we knew our pint-sized ghostbuster would demand a complete debriefing. 

Besides, the hotel is genuinely creepy and unsettling, and I didn’t want to spoil the mood with open mockery. See? I’m not even smirking very much in this photo. I kept on my poker face Polka Face.

To make sure that no ghoul floated past our untrained mortal eyes, we took a zillion photos. From multiple angles. With flash. You know — just in case an orb could be captured in a shot. (In case you didn’t know, “orbs” are evidence of ghostly activity. They’re more commonly referred to as “lens flare” or “dust particles on the camera lens.”)

I think I see one, don’t you? I guess we gotta get our camera cleaned…

(By the way, the photo above shows the door to Room 217, where Stephen King stayed when he dreamt up “The Shining” — and the same room where the characters in the book encounter…something.)

After our spooky tour, we fiercely bear-hugged Holly goodbye as she dashed off to the airport. Ghost stories make me hungry, so Mel, Dave, and Henry, and I hoofed it over to the nearby Mountain Home Cafe for a hearty brunch. Yes, we had breakfast here just the other morning, but Mel and I intently studied the menu again as we waited to be seated. Food nerd habits are hard to break.

My lunch? A bunless grass fed cheeseburger topped with avocado and crisp bacon, accompanied by a side of crunchy sweet potato fries.

The four of us gabbed until the friendly staff gently nudged us out of their restaurant — which was already closed for the day. I love Mel and Dave. For some reason, I just can’t shut up when I’m with them.

So it was with great sadness that we parted ways after brunch. Henry and I had early dinner reservations at The Kitchen in Boulder — an hour’s drive away! — but we wanted to explore the Pearl Street Mall beforehand.

One of the coolest shops we wandered into was Peppercorn. How do I describe this place? It’s kind of like a Bed Bath and Beyond curated by your tasteful-but-crazy foodie hoarder aunt. As we browsed through the immense cookbook section (crammed with tons of Paleo books!), we unexpectedly bumped into Holly, who had taken an impromptu pitstop on the way to the airport. It was like finding another piece of chocolate at the bottom of your purse after thinking you’d eaten ‘em all — the best kind of kismet.

Of course, this meant we had to part ways again — more hugging ensued — before Henry and I headed to his birthday dinner at The Kitchen.

When I’d put out an APB on this blog for a great dining establishment in Boulder, the overwhelming vote was for The Kitchen. It’s a casual farm-to-table neighborhood restaurant with a world-class pedigree.

We were the first ones seated for dinner service, but as the sun sank in the sky, the place quickly filled up.

Look at my handsome birthday buddy!

The Kitchen’s all about feeding the community with fresh ingredients from local farms. 

For our meal, we decided to split a bunch of nibbles and starters and one entrée. We started with Devils on Horseback (balsamic-drizzled seared dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in crispy speck)…

..prosciutto with cornichons and a tangy mustard…

…duck rillettes topped with a plum and cognac gelée…

…melon salad with lime, Fresno chili, basil, olive oil & black sea salt…

…grilled shrimp with tomatillo sauce and corn relish…

…roasted vegetables with spicy greens and harissa…

…and a grilled pork chop with wood-roasted plums and sprouts.

Throughout dinner, we did our best to hew close to the Paleo straight-and-narrow — until dessert.

We capped off Henry’s birthday dinner with a celebratory affogato and a flourless chocolate cake …

…that we filled with heavy whipping cream.

As we drove the winding mountain road back to Estes Park, a full moon peeked through the clouds, signaling an end to a fun and memorable weekend.

No lie: I’m already planning a return trip to Colorado next year.

Do It Better! (Our Paleo Seminar)

Pin It

I spent a fitful Saturday night tossing and turning — and it wasn’t because of the thin air at 8,000 feet above sea level. Our full-day "Do It Better!" Paleo seminar at the YMCA of the Rockies was slated to start in a few hours, and my eagerness to speak to a roomful of Paleo-curious and converts had suddenly turned to white-knuckle fear.

As I lay in bed, it occurred to me that — as a graveyard shift pharmacist — I barely speak to anyone. My oratory skills are coated with a thick layer of rust; no one’s going to mistake me for a Toastmaster. (In fact, the last time I gave a toast was at my sister’s wedding. My booze-enhanced speech ended with this gem: “SO LEZZALL RAISE OUR GLASSES TO FIONA ‘N CHRIS, ‘CAUSE THERE’S NOTHIN’ LIKE MORE ALCOHOL! WOOO!”)

But the show must go on, right?

I was a little shocked that our seminar sold out. The YMCA ended up capping registration at 115 people, and had to turn some folks away. I sensed that expectations were high, which frazzled my nerves even more.

It’s not that I wasn’t ready. I’d gone over my slides a bazillion times. And knowing that the final portion of my 90-minute talk consisted of a short cooking demo (and tasting) of three of my signature dishes, I’d busied myself with food prep, too.

The night before the seminar, I started slow-cooking two pork shoulder roasts to make Slow Cooker Kalua Pig. The pork needed 16 hours to cook, so before breakfast with the gang, Henry and I brought the slow cookers to the seminar venue to finish cooking.

As a result, the conference center was suffused with the rich fragrance of slow-cooked swine all day. Thankfully, no one seemed to mind being perfumed with pork. 

I spent a few minutes chatting with Mel and Holly before the start of the event. Don’t my co-presenters look mah-velous? And despite the butterflies in our digestive systems, none of us looked particularly nervous to the untrained eye. The Dry Idea anti-perspirant commercials got it right: Never let ‘em see you sweat.

As the attendees trickled in, Dave and Henry tested and re-tested the AV equipment (it’s good to have compulsively perfectionist husbands) while we eyed the prizes that would be given away to audience members throughout the day. Per Cami’s suggestion, the seminar would be punctuated with Get Up, Stand Up breaks (expertly led by Mel) and giveaways every 30 minutes.

Among the prizes were Mel's fantabulous cookbook, Well Fed, and matching Well Fed socks(!), a $100 U.S. Wellness Meats gift certificate, jars of coconut butter, a pair of Nom Nom Paleo socks and a copy of my iPad app, and a couple of bottles of Red Boat Fish Sauce that had been generously donated by Cuong Pham, Red Boat’s owner.

Honestly, part of me wanted to just throw everything into a big duffle bag and hightail it outta there.

Mel was going to be the first up, and started readying herself for the podium. Have I mentioned lately how head-over-heels we are for Mel and Dave? Seriously: We can’t get enough of them, and spent most of our time in Estes Park furiously conspiring with them and Holly (who’s just as awesome) over food. Mel and Dave are one of our favoritest couples ever, and it gave me the warm and fuzzies to see them support each other all weekend.

By the way, here’s a secret that we all share: Whatever our successes, they’re due in large part to having our own respective live-in personal paparazzo.

The room gradually filled up with folks who made the looooong drive into Estes Park (some even came from out-of-state!), and upon arrival, they generously personalized T-shirts for us with incredibly kind words of encouragement and thanks. Many of the attendees wrote about how excited they were to come hear us speak.

No pressure or anything, right…?

Thankfully, I spotted one (insanely cute) attendee who I could count on to reserve judgment even if I melted into a pool of flop sweat.

Cami led off by introducing Mel as the first speaker of the day…

…and naturally, Mel hit it out of the park.

She offered a concise but comprehensive introduction to the Paleo framework, punctuated with personal stories and hilarious asides. With her warm, witty, and engaging stage presence, Mel managed to cram an entire book’s worth of Paleo education into a two-hour presentation that flew by. She patiently answered every question — including a request for her to don her cute fur hat. 

The whole room was rapt with attention as Mel set forth the foundations of a Paleo lifestyle, and relayed practical advice on how to take steps to make healthy changes in their lives.

As always, she was disarmingly funny, and as she interrupted herself to give out prizes and lead the audience in squats and shrugs and stretches, I could see the wide smiles on everyone’s faces.

At noon, all 100+ of us hiked over to the Walnut Dining Room for lunch. The YMCA’s staff had whipped up a Paleo buffet with recipes from Mel’s cookbook, Well Fed. I bow down to the chef and his team — they replicated her dishes perfectly, and on a massive scale, no less. 

What was on the menu, you ask?

Chocolate Chili and cauliflower mashed potatoes…

…Shepherd’s Pie…

Rogan Josh

The Best Chicken You’ll Ever Eat

…veggies, Moroccan Dipping Sauce, and fresh fruit for dessert.

I couldn’t stop shoveling the food in my mouth.

After filling our bellies and reconvening for the afternoon portion of the seminar, we remained perky and alert. No sugar spikes and crashes for us!

Holly was up next, and she blew us all away. Tears were flowing freely — not only from hearing about Holly’s deeply personal story about her struggles with weight loss, but also from laughing at her rapid-fire one-liners.

I love Holly. She’s comedy GOLD, and also one of the warmest, kindest people I’ve met in a long while. After just a few minutes with her, I felt like I’d known her for years, and I could see that the audience felt that way, too.

She spoke about her experiences with diets throughout her life, and her introduction to Paleo. Holly’s an inspiration: She lost 100 pounds by changing her approach to nutrition, and recently completed her first Whole30, too.

Of course, it’s not just that Holly has a compelling story (or ten) to tell; her presentation’s also packed with valuable practical advice — ranging from how to approach Paleo as a beginner to how to pick a fitness regimen that works for you. And she delivers everything with breezy charm like nobody’s business.

I absolutely loved Mel’s and Holly’s presentations — but they’re a one-two punch that’s impossible to follow. I just hoped I wouldn’t trigger a stampede for the exits when it was my turn to take the podium.

Once Holly’s talk was over, she bonded with a newfound pal…

…while I set up for my presentation. Juli Bauer was in the front row, so I conscripted her into co-chef duty and told her to be ready to hop up on stage when she got the high sign.

In case you’re wondering: Yes, PaleOMG Megafans, I can confirm that Juli is super-cute and spunky, and is exactly like the persona you read about on her awesome blog. She’s the real deal, folks.

And then it was time for me to take the mike. For an hour-and-a-half, I discussed my personal journey to Paleo…

…the shortcuts I take in the kitchen…

…how we’ve gotten the family on board…

…and how to use umami-packed ingredients to maximize flavor while minimizing time in the kitchen.

Naturally, I got a standing ovation. 

(Except not really. The audience was actually standing for another Get Up, Stand Up! interlude. Remember to get up and move around, people!)

At the tail end of my presentation, I dragged Juli up on stage to help me demonstrate how to make Magic Mushroom Powder, Spicy Pineapple Salsa, and Slow Cooker Kalua Pig.

Juli’s such a good sport — she even shook her booty as she mixed up the Magic Mushroom Powder. Aren’t you sorry you weren’t there to witness it?

As the seminar ended, we divvied up the pork and invited the audience to come up and eat. And finally — FINALLY! — I could exhale with relief and share some laughs with the many wonderful people who had traveled up to the mountains to spend their Saturday with us. 

Sometimes, blogging can seem like a chore, but it’s all worth it because it’s given me the opportunity to meet all of you incredible people who came to our seminar. I am truly honored and grateful to have been invited to join Mel and Holly in Estes Park for this event. I hope that those of you who came to the event loved it as much as we did!

On a final note, I wanted to take a sec to thank all of our wonderful sponsors who donated goods or services to the event:

Holy moly, this was a special weekend, and ridiculously fun, too. (More on our extracurricular activities later.)

What do you think — should we take this show on the road?

Notes from the Rockies (Part 2)

Pin It

Cathy Lewis hosted a welcome potluck for us last night, and it was ridiculously great.

First, the jaw-dropping view from her back porch:

And, of course, there was the fabulous company…

…including some unexpected guests.

The Paleo potluck food contributed by Cathy and her friends was incredible — and not just because most of it was inspired by Mel and me! 

We had toasted coconut chips

kale and stone fruit salad

…sweet potato slaw…

…buffalo burgers seasoned with Magic Mushroom Powder

…chimichurri sauce…

…grilled pesto chicken…

…bacon-wrapped pineapple chicken…

…elk chocolate chili

Moroccan meatballs

…and coconut maple pumpkin custard.

Hands-down, best Paleo potluck ever.

I am so damn grateful. That is all.

Notes from the Rockies (Part 1)

Pin It

Before even retrieving our luggage from baggage claim, I was texting friends for dining recommendations in Denver.

Kevin suggested that we check out Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s longest-running steakhouse. The restaurant — which boasts a game-heavy menu — has been serving up meaty fare since 1893(!).

The old-timey atmosphere may seem overly kitschy to some, but we got a kick out of the nineteenth-century paraphernalia strewn all over the joint, from a covered wagon and taxidermied animals to a Wild West saloon and framed, yellowed photographs of cowboys.

Buckhorn Exchange is clearly a tourist spot, so our expectations weren’t high. But the meat dishes surprised us.  We dove into plates of grilled buffalo and elk steaks…

…and juicy, well-seasoned lamb chops. (We may have enjoyed a couple of baked potatoes slathered in butter, too.) 

Sadly, there was no ostrich or rattlesnake on the menu this time around (boo!), and we were too full to partake of the alligator tail and Rocky Mountain Oysters.

After a quick pitstop at Whole Foods, we drove to the mountains in the darkness, arriving at the sprawling campus of YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park after 9 p.m. It wasn’t ‘til this morning that we drew back the curtains and saw the view.

This place is kind of incredible.

After fueling up with a handful of macadamia nuts, Henry and I hopped into a car with Holly, Mel, and Dave, and headed off to CrossFit Estes Park to get our sweat on.

It was great seeing Mel and Dave again. They’re two of our favoritest people, and although we just met Holly this morning, our entire group’s already mixing like peas and carrots (or bacon and eggs, or liver and onions, or chocolate and chocolate).

At the gym, Mel revealed that she was wearing both Nom Nom Paleo and Well Fed socks. How awesome is this mash-up?

(By the way, you can read a recap of Mel’s first two days in Colorado right here).

Exercising at an altitude of 1.5 miles above sea level has its challenges, but I thoroughly enjoyed the workout that Eric (the owner of the gym) programmed for us: lots of mobility work, cleans and jerks, push-ups, and kettlebell swings.

If I’m going to exercise, I prefer doing it with friends.

Pictured below are some of our little Paleo posse: Cami (who’s organizing our all-day event tomorrow at the YMCA), Holly, Mel, me, Cathy (a CrossFit Estes Park trainer and co-host of our event), Dave, Henry, and Eric.

Post-WOD, and still smiling…

…except when posing as angry deadlift girls.

After a hearty post-workout breakfast at Mountain Home Cafe

…we headed back to work on tomorrow’s presentation. We have about 115 people coming to Estes Park (some from out-of-state!) to see us, so I really, really, REALLY don’t want to suck.

Wish me luck!