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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gardein: If you serve it I will come

Recently I had a double Gardein day! I dined at two restaurants that both offer Gardein on their menus. One for lunch and the other for dinner. Both were delicious but one offers food significantly healthier than the other. Still, I think even the less healthy restaurant will be fine to enjoy on occasion.

Earlier this year I was introduced to Gardein, a faux (meatless) meat made of wheat gluten and soy protein that looks, feels, cooks, marinades and tastes just like real meat when I attended a LYFE Kitchen cooking demo by Chefs Tal Ronnen and Art Smith. Since then I've been able to find it at my local Safeway stores to prepare at home. Some stores only have the frozen products, while others have both the frozen and fresh (refrigerated) product lines.

The Gardein Orange Peel Chicken was delicious!

So the other night hubby and our friend Harpreet wanted to have dinner at the Yard House restaurant that opened in San Jose, CA earlier this year. The Yard House is best known for their huge selection of draft beers. They also have a diverse menu of American and fusion dishes.

When I arrived on Tuesday night the wait was 30 minutes long which was fine because the restaurant is at a really nice mall so I got there early to put my name on the list and then window shopped around a bit until the buzzer went off letting us know our table was ready.

A packed  bar Tuesday night at the Yard House

When I walked in my first thoughts were dark, loud, sports bar. After sitting down I realized the interior was much nicer than your average sports bar, the music was really great with tunes that spanned several decades and the place was so packed it was hard to believe there is any kind of recession going on. For me, the only drawback was that the loudness made it difficult to hear the person sitting beside you so conversations can be challenging unless you want to raise your voice and kind of shout to talk.

When the food arrived it was delicious! I ordered the Gardein Orange Peel Chicken with brown rice. They offer the same dish with real chicken meat too. The chunks of "chicken" were battered, fried then tossed in the orange peel marinade with baby bok choy, baby corn and thinly shredded, lightly fried, (I think) sweet potato. It was really fantastic.

Gardein Orange Peel Chicken: crispy chicken, baby corn & bok
choy in spicy sweet orange glaze with jasmine or brown rice

But here's the rub. From a nutritional standpoint the dish is high in calories, sodium and fat.

This means a single serving of the Yard House Orange Peel Chicken comes close to meeting or does exceed a total days worth of recommended daily allowances of calories, sodium and fat. Add breakfast, lunch and snacks on top of this dinner and you'll probably double a days worth of recommended allowances.

By comparison the lunch I had earlier that day at LYFE Kitchen contained 2/3 less sodium and less than half as many calories.

I LOVE the Crispy Gardein Chicken Sandwich: Gardein chicken cutlet, chayote slaw, fresh tomatoes, agave pickles, and garlic aioli on multigrain bread

A tangy dressing side salad comes with your sandwich.

*My Favorite* Brussels Sprouts & Squash

The Pineapple-Coconut-Lime Cooler was just ok. I think more lime would add some missing flavor and punch.

In the future I plan to dine at the Yard House no more than once a month because eating there will be a treat as they offer 25 of their most popular menu items with Gardein products instead of real meat.

LYFE Kitchen I wish I lived next door to so I could eat there every day. To learn more about the food at LYFE Kitchen CLICK HERE to read about their Grand Opening where I sampled 11 different dishes.

So when you eat out be aware of what you're eating. Most larger chain restaurants list the nutrition facts to their menus on their websites or other sites have analyzed their menus and have put together web pages listing things like calories, fat, sodium, cholesterol, etc for their dishes. The info is usually out there, you just have to look for it.

If you want the nitty gritty breakdown about calories and sodium for the dishes featured above here you go: 

The USDA Daily Recommended Allowances are:
Calories: 2000
Sodium: 2300 (mg)
Fat 65 (g).

Yard House: Orange Peel Chicken at the Yard House with meat ($16.85)
(Gardein stats not available)
Calories: 1820
Sodium: 2440 (mg)
Fat: 85 (g)

LYFE Kitchen: All 3 items combined - Gardein Chicken Sandwich, Brussels Sprouts & Squash and Pineapple-Coconut-Lime Cooler ($13.47)
Total Calories: 897
Total Sodium: 793 (mg)
Fat: not available

You can see how LYFE kitchen will keep you far closer to the recommended daily allowances and on top of that it even costs less!

Here are the individual breakdowns for each dish:

Crispy Gardein Chicken Sandwich ($7.99)
Calories 586
Sodium 549 (mg)

Brussels Sprouts & Squash ($2.49)
Calories 187
Sodium 207 (mg)

Pineapple-Coconut-Lime Cooler ($2.99)
Calories 124
Sodium 37 (mg)

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