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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The spring menu at LYFE Kitchen arrives May 15th!

I didn't think it was possible for me to become a bigger fan of LYFE Kitchen but guess what? It was! With their commitment to producing food that is delicious, affordable and healthy what's not to love? Every dish on their menu is 600 calories or less and often far lower in sodium than many of their industry counterparts. They are one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area dedicated to producing food that benefits it's diners nutritionally instead of adding to the burgeoning health problems many Americans face when it comes to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Dietary concerns? While LYFE Kitchen's main menu contains both meat and vegetarian (Gardein, a soy and gluten-based meat substitute) options, there are also additional vegan and gluten-free menus as well.

That's my LYFE (Love Your Food Everyday) reusable water bottle.

Last week my foodie friend Carl (read his post here) and I were invited to attend their first spring/summer menu tasting. We marked our calendars and began the countdown. The menu doesn't officially launch until May 15, 2012 so this event was a preview of the deliciousness to come.

When we arrived the first things we saw were displays of Sparrow Lane vinegars, California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil and bushels of fresh produce grown by local farmers. LYFE began and remains committed to, whenever possible, using farm fresh produce and ingredients grown locally, organically and sustainably.

The crowd was large!

The morning kicked off with introductions and updates by several key members of the LYFE Kitchen management team including CEO Mike Roberts, Founder Steve Sidwell, CCO Mike Donahue and Vice President of Regional Operations at LYFE Kitchen Chuck Imerson.

The fresh produce was gorgeous!

They shared with us how as word of the restaurant has spread, local growers have come to them showing them their produce.So instead of always having to go out to source their fresh and locally grown and created ingredients, they've been able to discover some of them on their own doorstep. I thought that was really cool.

The local growers pose for a group pic with the LYFE management team.

I felt healthier just looking at the vegetables displayed that day.

But of course it takes actually eating them to benefit from their nutrients.

And then the tasting began. We started with one of the original menu items, Edamame Hummus. With flatbread crackers and fresh veggies like tomatoes, radish and cucumber there were plenty of tasty options to dip into the hummus. I've loved this dish since the first time I tried it and prefer both it's flavor and lighter texture to traditional chick pea hummus.

Chef Tal Ronnen, author of The Conscious Cook and very well known for his work with Oprah's Harpo Studio-wide 21 day vegan cleanse, was there to prepare the new dishes for us. I think LYFE KItchen was brilliant to bring Chef Tal on board to help them create and promote healthy and delicious fast food.

LOL that's my head, watching the cooking demo, in the lower left corner of this picture LYFE Kitchen posted to Twitter.

He began with the new selection of roasted vegetables. I'll admit I was dismayed to hear the Brussels Sprouts, Squash and Cranberries would be going away for a few months. But, once I tried a plate of the Roasted Asparagus with Root Vegetables and Capers – featuring asparagus from Zuckerman Farms in Stockton, parsnips and fingerling potatoes, I was sold. I loved it just as much as the Brussels Sprouts, which will return to the menu in the fall.

Chef Tal then introduced us to Chef Jeremy Bringardner who will now oversee the kitchen day to day in Palo Alto. Together they prepared the next dish we sampled, the Roasted Gold Beets and Black Rice Salad – featuring beets sourced from Coke Farm in San Juan Bautista and Faurot in Watsonville. The salad also contains mixed greens, grapes, walnuts, celery, red onion and dried cranberries.

I have to say that of all of the salads I'd tried so far this is now, by far, my favorite. It was savory and sweet and just really delicious. I hope more new salads will be joining it by summertime.

Next was the new spring flatbread. My former favorite was the BBQ Chicken flatbread but I LOVE freshly shelled garden peas and this flatbread was loaded with them! Thin strips of Portabella mushroom, broccoli, and lemon zest blend together on the fresh and light, pizza styled slices.

I had to take this picture fast! A few seconds later the board was empty.

This was my slice right before I ate it :)

And my new favorite smoothie is a Kale Banana Smoothie! It was as fresh tasting as it looked. I've never been one to chug shots of wheat grass or drink spirulina infused power smoothies in the past but this was equally refreshing and delicious.

Yes, LYFE Kitchen was four for four. I loved everything I tried that day!

As soon as the cooking demos were finished waitstaff came out with not-so-small plates of all of the new dishes for us to sample. And there were a lot of us ready to eat!

Mike Donahue also introduced us to Cheryl Sternman Rule, an expert foodie who recently released her new cook book "Ripe." Mike thought we'd want to know about it as the book's focus is all about produce and most LYFE diners are into fruits and vegetables.

And then we all ate, and ate and ate. 

And here's something really cool. If you don't live in the Bay Area but want to try these dishes the recipes for two of them are online!

CLICK HERE for the Roasted Gold Beets and Black Rice Salad

CLICK HERE for the Kale Banana Smoothie

I also wanted to feature two other categories I've neglected in the past. LYFE offers their EVOO, Lemon Coriander Seasoning Spice and Agave BBQ Sauce to go!

And there are local draft beers. They only serve on tap because it's more green cutting down on packaging waste that would come from serving individual bottles. Beers currently offered are sourced from Speakeasy Ales and Lagers in San Francisco, Trumer Pils in Berekley, Anchor Brewing's Liberty Ale also from San Francisco, and Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma.

You can try their beers and wines (along with plenty of non-alcoholic libations) during the Social LYFE, their Monday - Friday Happy Hour from 3:30 to 5:30. The deals are $1 off all beverages and 50% off selected appetizers with the purchase of a beverage.

I think I'll have to go to a Social LYFE Happy Hour and kick back on the patio with a Kale Banana Smoothie, the new spring flatbread, and a plate of roasted vegetables for dinner as soon as the new menu launches. If you know me, and want to go, let me know. We can go together :)

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