Dining Out: Takashi (New York City, New York)

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Takashi's been on my restaurant wish list ever since I read a glowing review in the New Yorker a while back. Raw offal? Check! Liver, heart, and sweetbreads? Yum! Grilled first, second, and fourth stomach? I’m there!

How could I possibly pass up a meat mecca with a menu offering “beef, all beef, and nothing but beef”?

This teeny yakiniku — or Japanese barbecue — seats only 34, but some of my favorite carnivores have flash-grilled their own beef here, including Anthony Bourdain, Melissa McEwen, and Chris Cosentino. In fact, Mr. Bourdain has declared that if he could eat just one dinner in NYC, it would be at Takashi. 

I love the meat mural at Fette Sau, but the cutesy cartoons of Takashi’s beefy cuts and innards make ‘em my favorite restaurant wall art of all time.

Plus, every cut is carefully sourced from small farms that sustainably raise their cows. 

I wanted to sample so many items on the menu that my head started spinning like Linda Blair’s. 

How can you not want to order some piping hot Testicargots? Seriously.

While we were studying the menu, we sampled the complimentary cabbage salad with miso dressing…

…and kimchee.

(I know soy, sugar, and white rice aren’t technically Paleo, but I ate ‘em with gusto tonight. Avert your eyes if you don’t want to read about it.)

For our beef-centric feast, we started with Yooke (thinly sliced beef eye tartare with a raw quail egg)…

…Akiles-Yubiki (flash-boiled shredded achilles tendon with spicy sauce)…

…Gyutoro-Temaki Sushi (chuck flap hand-rolled sushi)…

…a plate of Testicargot (“cow balls escargot-style with garlic shiso butter”)…

…and stewed beef tendon casserole.

Then, our waitress pulled down the vent and fired up the grill so we could start charring our own meat at the table.

She also suggested the proper cooking times for each cut before letting us loose.

We quickly grilled short ribs…

…rib eye…

…belly…

…and “between-the-rib” meat.

Also, to sample the odd bits, we ordered the chef’s offal tasting platter…

…which included heart, liver…

…sweetbreads…

…and first and fourth stomach.

It wasn’t all meat, though. We did have some veggies in the form of a scallion salad.

And since I’d ingested so many vitamins and nutrients from the organ meats, I thought a cup of house-made vanilla soft serve was in order.

Totally worth it.

Dining Out Paleo: Fette Sau (Brooklyn, NY)

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Before I had kids, I was an unabashed gastrotourist. In Italy, I was more interested in visiting Cibreo or Enoteca Pinchiorri than in ogling Michelangelo’s David. In Japan, I didn’t want to do any shopping; I was there to hunt down some good shojin-ryori. Forget seeing the sights — I preferred getting lost in the Tsukiji Fish Market (and eating my way out). Even after having kids, I planned our vacations around the restaurants I wanted to visit.

So it probably comes as no surprise that we came back to New York to eat.

This is the first time we’ve brought the kids to the Big Apple, but we’re not here to climb the Statue of Liberty or gawk at the sidewalk performers in Times Square. Instead, we arrived with a list of restaurant recommendations from my readers, and we’re going to do our best to hit as many Paleo-friendly eateries as we can.

First up: Fette Sau.

As soon as we arrived, we dropped off our luggage at the hotel, met up with my cousin Jennifer and her husband JC, and boarded a subway train for Brooklyn. Emerging from the Bedford stop, we hoofed it to the restaurant in the muggy late afternoon heat.

Located in the heart of Williamsburg — the hipster capital of the East Coast — Fette Sau is a casual barbecue spot that specializes in smoked meats. (It’s famous for its enormous smoker, which can accommodate a quarter-ton of meat at a time.)

When I learned that “Fette Sau” means “fat pig” in German, my face lit up for two reasons: (1) Yum! and (2) when I was little, my mom’s affectionate nickname for me was “fat little piggy.” I know that sounds terrible to those of you who watched after-school specials about mean moms who pressured their daughters into developing eating disorders, but I swear it sounds super-cute in Cantonese. (And yes, Cantonese is truly the most mellifluous-sounding language in the known galaxy — next to Klingon.)

The place wasn’t easy to find, but then we spied the neon sign above what looked like an auto repair shop and a long line snaking out the open roll-up doors. It was only a little after 6 p.m. — super-early for New York diners — but Fette Sau was already packed.

A few of Jennifer’s friends were already in line, so we put ourselves in charge of hovering over the crowded picnic tables until one opened up — and then pounced like a feral cat.

It took forever for our party to get to the front of the line, so we had plenty of time to wait for a table to become available. We nabbed a couple of picnic tables outside, though I wish we could’ve eaten inside the slightly-cooler cement structure. I wanted to spend more time gazing at the meat murals.

The boys kept each other entertained…

…while the rest of us waited, and waited, and waited for our food.

An hour after we arrived, two humungous platters arrived. We’d ordered close to eight pounds of meat, meat, and more meat.

We had hand-pulled pork shoulder…

…beef ribs, spicy Berkshire sausages…

…brisket…

…pork chops…

…beef cheeks…

…and Cora’s broccoli salad, pickles, and sauerkraut.

Don’t worry — there was a dozen of us digging in.

Still, I managed to eat more than my fair share.

And so did the boys.

It was nice to stretch our legs after the meal and I spied many more places to put of my restaurant bucket list.

The Boys Eat Seattle

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We’re back in our house (finally!) — but we’re still up to our eyeballs in moving boxes, and I’m bleary-eyed from having to get up every three hours in the middle of the night to feed Big-O his pain meds. (His surgery went smoothly, and he’s doing his best to put on a brave face, but my little guy’s silent, stoic tears are breaking my heart.)

Since I’ve been too crazed to document my eats today, let’s flash back a couple of weeks and revisit our stay in Seattle.

As you’ll recall, I was in Seattle to attend BlogHer Food ‘12, and my husband and the boys decided to tag along for the ride. (Here’s my quick recap of the conference for those of you who want a refresher.) While I immersed myself in all things food-blog-related, the boys made a mad dash around Seattle, stuffing their faces with (mostly) Paleo grub. They picked restaurants exclusively from the list of suggestions that y’all provided (thank you!), and took photos to make me jealous.

Here’s a peek at all the fun I missed back in Seattle:

After a wonderful dinner at Lola the night we arrived in town, the Double-Os insisted on returning for breakfast the following morning. On the way to the restaurant, the boys stopped at Westlake Park to expressed their appreciation for public art…

…and then dug into plates of eggs, sausages, and bacon.

It appears that their dad guzzled a good amount of hot caffeine to power him through a day of schlepping small children around the city.

With full bellies, the boys hopped aboard the monorail…

…and soon arrived at Seattle Center. I’d encouraged them to check out the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, but according to my husband, the place was swarming with mummy-obsessed kids on end-of-year field trips. So rather than braving the lines, Fitbomb decided to escort the kids over to the EMP Museum to learn about rock ‘n roll and science fiction. (Of course.)

There, my children marveled at Kurt Cobain’s canned meat collection:

And spent a couple of hours generating an unholy cacophony in the Sound Lab studios.

The Double-Os may not have any musical chops (yet), but they’ve clearly mastered the art of the rock star pose.

There’s a lot more after the jump…

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Dining Out Paleo: Incanto (San Francisco, CA)

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If you’re looking to gnaw on all parts of an animal in San Francisco, Incanto is the place to go. 

How can you not love a place where butcher’s tools and cans of lard hang on the walls as art?

These days, nose-to-tail eating is old hat, but chef Chris Cosentino was seen as a culinary pioneer a decade ago when he began serving all parts of the animal — including all the nasty bits — to adventurous San Francisco diners. I’m ashamed to admit that when I dined here many moons ago, I was that squeamish patron who timidly ordered platters upon platters of pasta instead.

I’m so delighted that I was able to return and make up for my past sins.

This time around, we dined with a group of adventurous gourmands with the intent of chowing down on a whole cow leg.  

The Whole Leg of Beast dinner is a pre-arranged family-style feast where parties of six to eight meat-lovers descend on platters of antipasto, braised beef shank, salads, marrow, and dessert. Not everything on the pre-set menu is Paleo, but I’m sure you can ask for substitutions if you want to avoid all beans, cheese, and gluten.

In addition to the dishes on the prix fixe menu, we ordered items from the daily specials listed on the Odd and Ends menu, too. You gotta problem with that?

Our meat rumpus began with homemade salumi, roasted garlic, and pickled veggies…

…and a radicchio and arugula salad.

Next, we got our offal on: pork kidney, bacon, sungold tomatoes, capers, and lemon balm.

Then, the main event: A slow-roasted whole beef shank that had been cooked over 48 hours — accompanied by roasted marrow (a.k.a. God’s butter).

However, the waiter wouldn’t shred the meat…

…until the roasted beet salad (and a platter of braised beans, which the Paleo eaters among us ignored) arrived at the table.

I think he detected that there were savages in our party who needed to be reminded of proper dining etiquette.

Everyone was able to mod their meat with freshly grated horse radish, fleur de sel, house-made mustard, and extra jus. 

As if that wasn’t enough food, we demanded three extra platters of vitello tonnato. After all, more bone marrow is always a good thing, right?

For dessert, we had the choice of apricot chocolate cake or vanilla panna cotta with poached pears.

I’m a sucker for panna cotta so that’s what I indulged in.

Good stuff.

Paleo Eats: 6/15/12 & Dinner At Tava (Palo Alto, CA)

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In this episode of Paleo Eats, you’ll find very little cooking, but all the chow’s still Paleo-compliant. (If you’re looking for recipes, check out my newly spiffed up Recipe Index here.)

While I was performing my zombie drug dealer routine at the hospital, I munched on leftover roasted veggies and Applegate Farms organic roast beef.

For those of you with inquiring minds, I packed my lunch in a stainless steel LunchBots Trio.

When I returned to the hotel at daybreak, I fried up a Thai omelet and gobbled it down with half an avocado.

Then, I stuck in my earplugs, closed the blackout curtains, and promptly passed out.

It was already 6 p.m. when I rolled out of bed. After splashing some water on my face, I picked up Fitbomb and the kids from our now-completely-empty house and headed to Tava for dinner. Tava is a casual Indian take-out spot in Palo Alto’s Town and Country Village. Its concept is similar to that of Chipotle and Asian Box –- you can tailor your own box with high quality ingredients.

In other words, you don’t have to feel like you’re being a pain in the butt when you’re ordering. Yippee for small favors!

My hubby and I cobbled together two Paleo-friendly bowls for dinner: slow roasted grass fed lamb with cilantro chutney and veggies over romaine leaves ($7.99)…

…and another salad topped with tandoori chicken ($6.99).

The bowls were overflowing with tasty seasoned meat so there’s no need to double the protein here!

Also, as far as I could tell, you can even put together meals here that are entirely Whole30-compliant — the marinades for the meat don’t even contain yogurt! I enjoyed my meal so much that I purchased another one to bring to work.

Is it possible that Palo Alto is no longer a culinary wasteland?

Paleo Eats: 6/14/12 & Dinner at Birch Street (Palo Alto, CA)

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My first night back at work was easy-breezy ‘cause the work hubby is back from vacay and there was no full moon. (I swear — it seems like the hospital fills up every time the werewolves come out.)

I even had five whole minutes to chow leisurely on the leftover chicken and vegetable stir-fry I’d packed.

When the sun came up, I rushed back to our dusty house to pick up piles of clean laundry and let the contractors in to continue work on our floors. Then, I sleepily drove back to the hotel — while slapping my face to stay awake — before collapsing in bed to snooze the day away.

In the evening, my hubby and I were child-free because the Double-Os were off to spend the night at my parents. How’d we spend our fleeting hours of adults-only time? Survey SAYS…we returned home to frantically pack up all of our worldly possessions!! As my Chinese mother would say: How LOW-MANTIC!

In all seriousness, we were crazily flinging things into garbage bags and luggage because EVERYTHING in our home is being moved into a gigantic storage pod tomorrow morning so our floors can be stained and sanded. We were tired and frustrated from schlepping our stuff — but then our doorbell rang and we received a surprise meaty parcel from Lava Lake Lamb. (BTW, go sign up for their cool summer grilling package giveaway right here!)

We spent a couple of hours hauling our stuff into our cars and garage, but we eventually just threw our hands up in frustration and escaped to dinner at Birch Street.

Birch Street is the new incarnation of Palo Alto’s popular Bistro Elan, the Cal-French bistro that recently moved after 16 years on California Avenue. Birch Street’s in a smaller space, but it still serves up farmers’ market-driven fare that’s elegant and fresh.

We opted to dine al fresco. After we placed our order, we were served an amuse bouche of smoked salmon topped with a dab of mustard on a crispy potato chip. (Cuff me, Paleo Cops: I ate the chip!)

For our starters, we split two seafood apps: albacore tuna salad with beets, avocado, green beans, and paprika…

…and fresh Dungeness crab salad with avocado, grapefruit, mint, toasted pistachio.

For the main event, we shared sautéed local wild king salmon with broccolini, carrots, and brown butter shallot sauce (along with an unexpected smush of whipped potatoes that wasn’t listed on the menu, and remained untouched)…

…and aged grass fed New York steak with asparagus and béarnaise (which, for those of you who can’t be bothered to Google it, is clarified butter emulsified in egg yolks and flavored with herbs).

We saw a bunch of families with kiddos in tow, so we’ll definitely bring the boys the next time we return.

After dinner, we took a stroll around the neighborhood and my jaw dropped when I spied that Spice Kit is coming to California Avenue. 

Before going Paleo, I’d frequented the original location in San Francisco many times. The chef-owners have impressive pedigrees, having worked at some of our all-time favorite restaurants (French Laundry! Per Se! The Ritz Carlton Dining Room!). At Spice Kit, they’ll be serving up casual Asian street food made with super-high-quality ingredients.

You know I’m a huge fan of Asian Box, but I’m looking forward to having another option for Paleo-friendly Asian salads (hold the peanuts!) when Spice Kit opens up in July!

Dining Out Paleo: Local 360 Cafe & Bar (Seattle, WA)

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Thanks to all of you who recently responded to my call for Seattle restaurant recommendations, we learned about a number of great spots, including Local 360 Cafe & Bar, a hoppin’ joint in Belltown.

With a special focus on sustainability, Local 360 searches out organic produce and humanely-raised meats — virtually all of which is sourced from within a 360-mile radius. The menu features an assortment of hearty dishes that hit the spot for anyone with comfort food cravings: deviled eggs, pork belly, steak frites. Even better: Local 360 clearly identifies the gluten-free dishes on its menu, making it (somewhat) easier for me to narrow down my selections for dinner.

So what did we get for our Friday night grub?

Silky, savory deviled eggs…

A fresh and tangy beet salad with feta, walnuts, orange, and sherry vinaigrette…

A crisp and unctuous serving of pork belly with butternut squash and chèvre purée…

A hearty dish of rich rabbit gratin with potato, caramelized onion, and kale, and…

A juicy, seared steak with mushroom demi-glace, along with a side of mushrooms.

The verdict? Fantastic! There’s nothing like the satisfaction of chowing on fresh, local, lip-smackingly good food. Thanks again for the recommendation!

Dining Out Paleo: Lola (Seattle, WA)

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Over the course of a small handful of trips to Seattle in recent years, Lola has become one of my favorite spots to grab a casual family meal in the city. It’s one of esteemed restauranteur Tom Douglas’s joints — this one, with a Greek/Mediterranean bent that’s evident in its selection of grilled meats, kebabs, meze, and spreads.

Oh, and doughnuts. We can’t forget about the doughnuts.

The last time I was here (almost exactly two years ago!), I was just about to dip my pinky toe into the Paleo pool for the very first time — but before doing so, I indulged in a plateful of these babies — made-to-order doughnuts with seasonal jam and vanilla mascarpone:

[Insert wistful sigh here.]

But no doughnuts tonight for this Paleo gal — nor for these two recovering sugarholics.

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy a beautifully prepared feast of comfort foods from the Pacific Northwest. We ordered a bunch of plates to share family-style, including:

Copper River sockeye salmon with roasted radishes, greens, and olive tapenade!

Flatiron steak with lemon potatoes, pepperoncini, and kopanisti!

Horta (quick-braised seasonal greens)!

And grilled asparagus with cumin and white anchovy relish!

For the next few days, I’ll be immersed in BlogHer Food ‘12, but I have a feeling I’ll be sneaking out to visit Lola again before we leave.

I wonder what time they open for breakfast…

Dining Out Paleo: Café Borrone (Menlo Park, CA)

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I’ve been a regular grazer at Café Borrone for over twenty years(!). It’s a large airy cafe, with tons of indoor and outdoor seating, located next door to Kepler’s Bookstore. Back in high school, I used to come here on weekend nights — dressed in all black and donning Dr. Martens boots— to gossip with my gal pals while we downed frosted mochas and pastries. Egads.

These days, I come here with the family to enjoy hearty, Paleo-friendly breakfasts al fresco.

In the morning, they always offer six or seven different scrambles filled with seasonal veggies, cheese, or meat. My favorite one is the #6 scramble which has Swiss Chard, green onions, and bacon.

Normally, I also add a hot Italian sausage to my order…

…and a steaming mug of java.

The kids split an order of scrambled eggs…

…and a cup of fruit salad.

The counter service is always friendly and efficient and we’re in and out of there in a flash. It’s totally an oldie, but goodie — just like moi.

Dining Out Paleo: Patagonia (Cabo San Lucas)

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Patagonia is a Paleo diner’s dream come true. What’s more appealing to a modern day cave guy or gal than a pile of grilled grass fed beef and veggies? 

Patagonia is an Argentinian steak house located a few blocks up from the heart of downtown Cabo San Lucas. The ambience is that of a cheery jail dotted with Christmas lights: it’s a non-descript, bare bones place with brick-colored paint, a corrugated tin roof, and bars in the pane-less windows.

However, the stellar grilled meats make up for what the restaurant lacks in décor. The menu features a bunch of appetizers and salads, but the main attraction is the grilled grass fed beef sourced from Sonora and Chihuahua.

We started with a bowl of rich beef broth, which was — SURPRISE! — chock full of beef.

We garnished the soup with diced onion, chopped cilantro, jalapenos, and lime juice. But enough about the broth — let’s get to the main event, shall we?

Since we weren’t sure which cuts of beef to pick, we ordered the large grilled combo platter for four people (short ribs, filet, New York steak, vacio, Argentinian sausage, and chistorra) and a large platter of grilled vegetables.

There’s an open wood-burning grill at the front of the restaurant, so we were able to watch the chef prepare our meal over red-hot coals.

After the food was properly charred, the chef seasoned everything with a fine shower of salt and brushed chimichurri sauce on the grilled vegetables.

Everything was placed on portable grills filled with hot coals, and our chow was brought to the table. All the beef was grilled to a perfect medium rare, and the simple seasonings ensured that the beefy flavor was front-and-center.

We were given a gravy boat filled with fresh chimichurri sauce to pour on our meat and veggies, but I actually ate most of my meal unadorned because it was so flavorful.

I’m not sure how this mountain of meat is supposed to feed four people – we definitely had enough protein to feed eight hungry carnivores.

Our party waddled out of Patagonia with full bellies and a take-out container stuffed with leftover meaty goodness. We’re gonna be eating well for the next few meals…