Things are so far so good on our trip…well, for the most part. In some cases we are having even better luck than I expected finding real food in The Big Apple, but we did have one little incident before we even got all the way to NYC. On our first night up north we stayed with my parents and they were in charge of dinner. You would think that after months of discussion with them about our little food project and even getting them to read Michael Pollan’s book themselves they would get the hang of it by now…but apparently not.
My dad was preparing spaghetti with whole-wheat pasta, red sauce, and locally raised ground beef for the kids. I was thrilled to get a much-needed break from cooking and also a break from having to ask a hundred questions about what was being served (since it was my own parents after all). As soon as the spaghetti was served I took a bite to try it and served one bite to my 3-year-old. Then I looked a little more closely and said, “Dad, are you sure this is whole-wheat pasta because the noodles don’t look as brown as usual???” He said it was what my mother gave him and they looked brown to him.
So in order to further research my suspicion I had to resort to digging through the trash to find and inspect the empty box of pasta. Sure enough, my mom fell prey to the food claim on the front of the box that read “whole wheat blend”. The last word (which was overlooked) is pretty darn important. I would like to use this opportunity to remind everyone to never make a decision based on health claims or pictures of nature advertised on the front of a package. ONLY trust the list of ingredients. Fortunately my youngest daughter and I only had one bite and as soon as my 5-year-old heard me say it was against the rules she didn’t want to eat any of it (that’s my girl). So needless to say I had to have an unpleasant discussion with my parents about the rule-breaking food and then go fix my kids something else to eat. Not exactly an ideal start to our trip.
On the other hand, we are now in NYC enjoying lots of fabulous “real food” food. What a relief. We have been eating at some places spontaneously (breakfast and lunch) and others that I had researched in advance (for dinner) and having lots of luck with both. We arrived in New York just before lunchtime yesterday and easily found a casual little place that was still serving breakfast. Scrambled eggs is always the perfect go-to dish for both of my daughters…they like it every time and it is obviously not against the rules. So I ordered that with some fruit (for my 5-year-old) and potato skins without bacon and shrimp cocktail without the cocktail sauce for me. It hit the spot.
Last night we went to a fabulous seafood place called Esca for dinner and enjoyed every last bite of our meal. It was well worth my hours of research. Before we left home I wasn’t sure where I should even start my search for “real food” restaurants, and I ended up working off a list of chefs/restaurants that buy products from the local farmers market (the NYC Greenmarket). I ran through the list of restaurants with the hotel concierge and at end of our 45-minute phone conversation I finally narrowed it down to a short list of those that were close-by, tasty, and had something for all of us to order.
The biggest challenge on this trip has been finding places where both a “real food” child will eat something and that a very picky “non-real food” child will also eat something (our friend’s child that is with us). After enjoying a delicious meal of side items for my daughter and salads (both pictured), sole, and kale for the adults to share at dinner last night I felt it was well worth the effort!
Today we had breakfast at the hotel. I’d brought along some homemade granola cereal and had the hotel’s milk and fruit along with it. My 5-year-old had a hard-boiled egg, fruit, and some bread that they claimed was whole-grain (toasted with butter).
Then we really lucked out at lunchtime and came across a place called Le Pain. They bake their own breads and had a whole-wheat sourdough loaf on the menu with only 4 ingredients (yea!). This food at this place was so natural and good that I had my first sandwich at a restaurant (an open faced sandwich with black bean spread and avocado on whole-wheat bread – pictured) and my first cup of lemonade (sweetened with agave nectar) in months. It was such a treat!! I ordered steel cut oatmeal for my daughter and unfortunately she wasn’t as big of a fan as I was of the restaurant…but what can I say, I thought it was fabulous!