Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the tag “restaurant chains”

Restaurant Week Chronicles: (the very belated) Part 2

I realize it’s been more than a week since my first Restaurant Week post. And, no, it is no longer Jersey Shore Restaurant Week–I’m belated. But, I capped off my week by going off-the-menu for Restaurant Week at Monticello’s in Red Bank.

Technically, Monticello’s did not participate in Restaurant Week.  However, it was a new restaurant during the course of that week, so I’m going to count it. Also, I needed something to make Part 1 feel complete. (This was supposed to be a three-party series, but we really wanted to go to Tre Amici in Long Branch, but it never worked out–problem after problem! Someone really didn’t want us to go there! Alas, there will be no “Mockingjay” to my “Hunger Games,” and you will have to settle for a duology.)

Anyway, I apologize now because there are no pictures from Monticello’s. Kevin and I went with a big group of friends we did theater with, so between all the catching up there was no time to stop and take photos (well, not of the food anyway.)

Monticello’s is BYOB, which is great and easy on the wallet, considering the menu’s a bit on the pricey side. The best part, though, is that if you bring in a bottle Cabernet, Rioja, Merlot, Zinfandel or Shiraz, they will make it into sangria using their special house recipe. And it is YUMMY! (We brought Shiraz for ours.)

Unfortunately, from a culinary perspective, that was the best part of the meal (aside from the bread, maybe–piping hot and soft!) Otherwise, I’d say the food was okay at best. I’ll be honest, though, I was quite jealous, because while I didn’t enjoy my food much, everyone around me seemed to love theirs. I even sampled a bit of Kevin’s Duck Breast over Papardelle with a rosemary Merlot sauce, and it was superior to mine.

To start, my friend and I split fried calamari. Now, I will preface this with the fact that I am very, very picky about fried calamari. I only recently even started eating it, and I only like it when it is cooked perfectly. Any rubberiness and I’m out. That being said, I found Monticello’s calamari to be tough to chew and a bit rubbery, though the breading and sauce were tasty. (I finished chewing off the breading before I finished the calamari itself though, which was sort of a weird sensation.) My friend, on the other hand, loved it. So, maybe I’m just picky. (Not maybe, I am picky.)

I still had faith in my entrée, though. I was in a simple mood and went for a very basic dish: gnocchi with pesto. I love both of these things, especially a good, bright, herbal pesto.  This pesto wasn’t that. It was creamy (what?) and very garlicky, but had almost none of the fresh bright crispness that I love from pesto. It felt heavy and hot, not cool and light like a pesto should, especially over something as dense as gnocchi. The gnocchi themselves weren’t great, either, and started to feel to mushy as I ate. I couldn’t finish the dish despite the fact that I was still hungry. Not at all what I was expecting.

However, the evening for me (thankfully) was not about the food, but the company. Good friends, good wine and good conversation can make up for even the worst of meals. (Still, a good meal certainly ups the ante!)

I would give Monticello’s another chance, as long as I stay far away from their pesto sauce and fried calamari. Everyone around me raved about their dishes, and they all had larger, heartier entrées. Maybe that’s the secret to Monticello’s–the Chicken Saltimboca over the pasta with sauce. I’d give it another shot, but I’d go in skeptical.

No time for pictures of food, but always time for pictures of friends--our group at Monticello's

 

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Eat This, Not That: An Ode to Dave Zinczenko

Cover of "Eat This, Not That! Thousands o...

Cover via Amazon

While I’m somewhat of a foodie, in my day-to-day life I do try to keep a heavy emphasis on nutrition, but I’m not a dieter. I simply try to lead a healthy lifestyle, eating the healthiest foods I can and making healthy swaps, like the ones frequently highlighted in Eat This, Not That.

Eat This, Not That is the brainchild of the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health and Women’s Health, Dave Zinczenko. In addition to the Web site, Zinczenko has written several books, as well as multiple variations including Cook This, Not That and Drink This, Not That.

Zinczenko takes an unconventional, but simple approach to weight loss and healthy eating:

” Smart weight loss isn’t about starving yourself, or eating only grapefruit and tofu, or running everything you eat through a juicer (which really ruins the pizza experience, by the way). The smart path to weight loss is about smart choices—choices you make every day. With Eat This, Not That!, those choices just got easier…

A diet only works if you have control over what, how, and when you’re eating. And as you well know, most of the time, you don’t have control. Sure, you can cook your own dinner. You can brown-bag your own lunch. You can spoon yourself some yogurt in the morning and eat a healthy snack before bedtime. (And yes, there ARE healthy and delicious snacks to eat before bedtime.) But you can’t control what’s on offer at the office cafeteria (unless you own the company), or what’s being served at Mom’s house for Thanksgiving (unless you’re Mom). And you can’t stand in the kitchen at Olive Garden or Mickey D’s and tell the chef to go easier on the vegetable oil, either.”

Eat This, Not That offers food and beverage swaps for restaurant chains all over the country to help provide healthier eating options without complete deprivation. It is the self-proclaimed “No-diet diet,” and that sounds good to me.

I’m somewhat in love with Eat This, Not That and its variations, and I read Zinczenko’s tips by the Twitter feed-full. Besides the basic swaps, he offers health and nutrition advice, like the more broad, lifestyle-driven “20 Habits Skinny People Live By” and its counterpart, “20 Habits That Make You Fat.” While I don’t agree with everything he says, (for instance, skinny habit number three is to “eat a boring diet,” but I wholeheartedly believe healthy does not have to equal boring. After all, variety is the spice of life.) his overall advice is great and focuses more on small, manageable lifestyle changes rather than strict, impossible-to-stick-to diets. He takes the healthier, more long-lasting approach of eating an overall (relatively) healthy diet rather than get-thin-quick fad diets.

Besides, any “diet” than encourages eating dessert is a-O.K. in my book.

Zinczenko acknowledges that one habit that promotes weight loss is regularly reading nutrition and fitness tips. So follow him on Twitter and follow Eat This, Not That. Consider that step one. That was easy.

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