Yesterday I had a great morning with celebrity Chef Tal Ronnen (NYT best selling author of the cookbook "The Conscious Chef" and the man behind Oprah's now famous 21 day cleanse) and Amelia who, like me, arrived early to get a good seat for the cooking demo giving us lots of time to chat. That's Amelia and Tal together at the end of the presentation.
My foodie friend Carl was out of town so I attended the cooking demo solo.
It was hosted at the Menlo Park location of Draeger's Market and we were there to support LYFE Kitchen, a new restaurant opening in Palo Alto this September whose focus is to create a menu that is equally delicious, healthy and affordable.
The restaurant will cater to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. Menu item will be available in both real-meat and faux-meat versions. There will literally be something for everyone!
Each dish will be less than 600 calories so if you're counting calories or just trying to eat healthier food the restaurant will be a great introduction to show how healthy food can taste good too.
Draeger's has a culinary department that teaches cooking classes so their classroom was perfect for the demo.
LYFE Stands for Love Your Food Everyday
Attendees received a copy of one of the recipes Chef Tal made for us that day and a super cute LYFE KItchen fork pin.
This is the actual restaurant location at 167 Hamilton Avenue just one block east of University Avenue and one block north of Alma. The interior shot was taken at he Fork Lifting Ceremony I attended in June.
Tal's Sous Chef preparing for the Fresh Corn Chowder
I wish I had a sous chef to chop, mince, measure and blanch all of my ingredients for me when I cook at home. LOL
My friend Aaron Lee was there to film the event.
MIke Donahue, LYFE KItchen's CCO, performed the welcome and introductions. I met Mike back in June for mere moments so was surprised he remembered me! As soon as I started saying we'd met at the Fork Lifting event he said "Flirty!"
And then Tal took the stage. Or maybe I should say counter.
Arriving early meant I was able to grab a front row view!
Raw cashews and water create the "creamy" texture of the Corn Chowder.
Ah, another kitchen gadget I'm going to need. I'd never even heard of a Vitamix blender before. Wow, they're pricey ($449 - $649) but Chef Tal said the Vitamix works better than a standard blender when combining nuts and water into what looked like an emulsion to use as a creamy soup base.
Hm if I wish for one today I wonder if I'll find one on the curb tomorrow like I did the espresso machine. LOL
Pretty amazing! That's blended cashews and water Tal is pouring into the bowl.
Next he demonstrated making the Ancient Grains Bowl then created mini servings so we could all sample the dish.
The dish consists of farro, quinoa, Gardein Beef Tips, broccolini, red onion, sugar snap peas, red bell pepper, carrot, cilantro and a lime wedge. It was very tasty and will be available on the menu at LYFE Kitchen when it opens in September.
BTW Gardein is a faux-fake-alternative meat product available in grocery stores that you can use as a meat substitute. And great news! I asked if it could be marinated like real meat. He said yes, only you would cut down on the time because the Gardein doesn't take as long to soak in the marinade flavors as real meat.
Back in 1994 I had gone vegan for a year when I decided to try macrobiotics which removed meat, processed foods and dairy from my diet. I tried some fake meat products but they were all so awful I never tried any again save for Boca Burgers which weren't really great but they weren't bad so they were acceptable.
At the end of the year I gave up on being macrobiotic following a pretty horrific car accident from which I walked away unscathed save for having suffered hypothermia and being really sick for a month after the car I was riding in fell off a cliff. CLICK HERE to read all about my Colorado Vacation Horror Story
While lying there in the snow I thought to myself, "Why am I depriving myself of foods I love and enjoy to protect my health if I can die falling off a cliff?" So when I returned to San Jose I began eating moderate amounts of poultry, seafood, dairy and other processed foods.
Though I adopted a healthier-than-average eating style by retaining elements of the macrobiotics, it would take me 15 years to decide to stop eating meat again. Once I did it didn't even feel like a sacrifice. Especially now with great products like Gardein at my local grocery store and showing up on restaurant menus!
The cooking demo was really eye opening. The Vitamix showed me there are ways to hack a standard recipe and turn it into something equally tasty but healthier. The Corn Chowder looked really pretty and had a creamier texture than you would think could be achieved with no dairy in the ingredients.
I did ask if the chowder could be frozen and Tal said it would freeze really well. I love to make batches of soup and reheat during the week so I don't have to cook every day so I'll try making this for sure.
I Love Gardein Products!
After attending the LYFE KItchen Fork Lifting I was curious to try Gardein and picked up a package of their BBQ Pulled Shreds at Safeway. It was really good. I'll post about how I've been making this sandwich tomorrow. It's so easy and even felt a little wierd to chew on something that felt so much like meat again.
Assistant Wide Receiving Coach at Stanford University Aaron Moorehead got a book!
At the end of his presentation Tal said he had three copies of his cookbook The Conscious Chef to give away. He said he'd ask three questions to determine who to give them to. Question #1 was "Who is a diehard carnivore?" Aaron Moorehead, former wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts declared he was, so he received the first book. LOL.
I'd brought two books with me, one for Carl and one for me.
The remaining book recipients were "someone who communicates about food" (suggested by a woman who said she would tell all of her friends about Tal's cooking) and "someone who enjoys cooking."
Rowdy Gaines and Chef Tal Ronnen
Rowdy Gaines was there. Does his name sound familiar? If it does you must watch the Olympics because Rowdy is a U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member and Olympic three-time gold medalist. He brought his entire family to the demo. One of his daughters who normally doesn't like vegetables pretty much licked her plate clean. A great testimonial of how tasty the Ancient Grains Bowl was.
Draeger's even has a bridal gift registry!
If you've never been to Draeger's before you should really make a trip there. Not only is it an amazing grocery store with lots of local, gourmet, imported and healthful food options, upstairs is a home store and culinary shop with lots of serving ware and kitchen appliances. There's even a small book department.
As I left I decided this is the cutest house in Menlo Park. It's as it was made for me. I love cottage style houses in general, the robin's egg blue trim is my favorite color and the gentle arc in the shaped fence was so quaint. It's also the luckiest house in Menlo Park. Why? Because when they walk out their front gate this is what they see. . .
I would LOVE to live across the street from the Menlo Park Draeger's. It would be a dream come true. I would be over the moon and would cook all the time! And would be closer to Palo Alto and LYFE Kitchen when it opens. Hubby had little empathy for my heart's desire and said to just drive there whenever I want to shop there. He just doesn't get it. LOL
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And here's a great video recapping Tal's message from the Palo Alto Patch. You'll even see a shot of me in the front row way off to the right hand side of the screen :)