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Entries in West Roxbury (3)

Sunday
Apr152012

LeanWorks: Fast Food Reinvented

I've been waiting for this West Roxbury eatery to open since December but I'm such a skeptic of "healthy" restaurant food that I wasn't expecting much. Wow, it was definitely worth the wait. LeanWorks is healthy fast food that emphasizes proper portion sizes (dietitians say yahoo to that!), lean cuts of meat, high quality salads and slaws, and intense flavors. Its idea of "fast food reinvented" was created by co-owners Shea Coakley and Peter Roy, two foodies who used to drive around looking for a quick bite, usually at places like McDonald's or Wendy's, but wishing for something a little less greasy.

Very kid friendly. Jake, who likes McD's chicken nuggets best, gave a thumbs up for LeanWorks' baked chicken nuggets.Shea describes LeanWorks' 1-2-3 menu concept as "no brainer healthy choices." 1. Choose your base of a potato or whole grain bun, honey wheat wrap, or bowl with Romaine lettuce as the base. 2. Choose your protein from 6 choices including slow roasted pulled pork or chicken, shaved steak, ground turkey, angus sirloin, or a black bean burger. The meats range from 90%-97% lean. 3. Choose your flavor from 8 delicious options such as a citrus pesto spread, Memphis BBQ sauce, or California roasted red pepper spread. No matter what choices you make in each category, the end result will be 490 calories or less, says Shea. 

Pulled chicken Memphis style with sweet BBQ sauce and tangy slaw with a side of crispy baked fries = 565 calories $7.58.You can then supplement with seasoned baked fries or sweet potato fries, fresh side salads, slaws, or soups. There's also a kids menu with a choice of turkey hot dog, baked chicken fingers, or burger. The calories are listed next to each item and Shea notes the meticulous care that was taken when first designing the menu to ensure proper portion sizes of everything from the meats to the sauces. The burgers are preportioned and the sauces are packaged in Portion Pals dispensers that measure exact, consistent amounts. Above: Cup of thick carrot ginger soup (very creamy with a little kick) = 140 calories $2.99. Be sure to try the crunchy delicious mayo-free apple fennel slaw = 50 calories $1.39. Below: Portion Pals dispense an exact amount of sauce each time. 

 

 

Can you gain weight eating here? Sure thing. If you ordered a sandwich, fries and small soup, you could easily top 700 calories, which might be too much at one meal for someone trying to lose weight. However, the point of this menu that I applaud is being able to make informed choices. My gripe with restaurants is that menu descriptions tempt health seekers with meals that wear a health halo. "Grass-fed beef, organically grown greens, and sweet potato mash" could mean 1000 calories or more because we don't know how the food was prepared or because of generous portions. At LeanWorks you're presented with clear-cut information and it's your decision to meet the calorie level you want. Another plus is that this is simply great-tasting food! Honestly, for lunch my stomach would be singing with just one of their sandwiches and maybe a piece of fresh fruit. Shea says that he hopes to expand LeanWorks to more chains in suburban locations, so my only fear is that quality could suffer in the future as I'm betting this chain will be very successful. But that's aways away and for now I and my stomach are smiling. For more info check out LeanWorks' facebook page. If you stop in, it's likely Peter or Shea will be there to greet you with a big friendly hello!

Disclosure: The food tasting for this review was compensated by LeanWorks.

Here's a bathroom treat: Check out these handmade mirror frames made by Peter's mom!

Tuesday
Mar012011

Review: Al Wadi Lebanese Restaurant 

I haven't reviewed a restaurant in a long while, partly because I'm trying to save some cash but also because I've been trying to save some calories (lots of birthday cake celebrations lately!). I've been eyeing Al Wadi since it opened though because my husband and I used to be regulars at the previous restaurant that occupied the space: Spring Blossom. Spring Blossom was a Chinese dive that had great attentive service because we were usually among the few customers there. But its $5.95 lunch specials couldn't be beat. I also thought it ironic that a young couple who always came with us to Spring Blossom later moved to the Middle East, and Al Wadi has been touted to serve some of the best Middle Eastern food in Boston (4 out of 5 stars by 50 reviewers on Yelp).Falafel with tahini sauce

I'm no expert on Lebanese food so was glad to be accompanied by my husband who always enjoys a good lamb kebab and my friend Jenn who knows how Lebanese food should taste from hanging out with several Lebanese friends and cooking many authentic recipes. The interior of Al Wadi is elegant and mod, completely unrecognizable from Spring Blossom days. We went for a late lunch and about half the tables were full. We were seated right away and given fresh plain pita bread with a condiment dish of strained yogurt (tasted like cream cheese), olives, and za'atar in oil (a Middle Eastern spice blend). We ordered lentil soup, falafel, lamb kebabs over rice, mdardara (simmered rice with brown lentils and carmelized onions), and French fries for my son Jake who's an authority.

Lentil Soup

It's hard for me to give a normal restaurant review because I'm not eating solely for flavor and authenticity. From a health perspective, I'm observing how greasy a dish looks, if it's too salty, if the food feels like lead in my stomach. My big bowl of thick lentil soup was made with green lentils and pureed so it more resembled a pea soup. With a hint of lemon, it was nourishing and easy to eat. The falafel were the biggest we'd ever seen and surprisingly, though they were deep fried, they tasted delicately crispy and light—inside and out. My mdardara was a big platter of lentils with beautifully crisped sweet onions on top. I tasted a buttery richness that hinted the dish was sauteed in quite a bit of oil though it didn't look greasy. I ate about a third and took the rest home, with the plan of dispersing the richness by serving it over plain rice. My husband liked his kebabs but admitted they were only good, not special. Jenn also approved of all the flavors but wasn't oohing and aahing like I've seen her do at other restaurants. Jake's skin-on fries looked fresh and thinly hand-cut. There were oily but he enjoyed them, and I was unable to control my hand from digging into them a few too many times.

Mdardara dish of simmered rice and lentils topped with caramelized onions

We paid $80 (tip included) for three adults and a toddler, a little pricey for lunch and not superior service. Although the waitstaff were pleasant enough, our dishes were served in an odd sequence. My husband got his salad and lamb kebabs first; followed by my soup five minutes later; then Jenn's salad (same as my husband's salad), our mdardara, and Jake's fries almost 20 minutes later...just plain odd! Overall, if you love Lebanese food and aren't in a rush, Al Wadi will likely satisfy a craving with generous portions. The pleasant atmosphere works for a fun dinner out with friends and we noted our lunch crowd included many families with young children. It's in a great location on VFW Parkway outside the city with plenty of parking. I recommend checking it out at least once. Do you have a favorite Middle Eastern restaurant and/or dish in the Boston area? If so, let me know!

Tuesday
Dec292009

It’s Greek to Me!

Soon after tasting a most delicious Greek red pepper and feta spread at Sugar, a new Greek food market opened near me aptly named Greek International Food Market, on the corner of Grove and Washington Streets in West Roxbury. The owners also run the longstanding restaurant Farm Grill & Rotisseria in Newton, serving traditional Greek fare. When you first enter the market, you may be struck by the scent of food that seemingly has been simmering all day. There is actually a kitchen below the store where they cook fresh food items daily to be sold in the deli. Then you may notice the bright and cheerful interior with neatly stocked shelves: long rows of olive oil in various tints of green, bags of bulgur, jars of mysterious spreads and pickled vegetables, frozen phyllo dough, and endless goat and feta cheeses. There were so many products I'd never seen, and it didn't help that at least half of the food labels were written in Greek. I’ve been to Greece so I guess I’ve eaten authentic Greek food. Unfortunately I don’t recall much about it, except that everything was served at room temperature including drinks (even if it was 98 degrees out!). Surprising since the red pepper spread and other items I tasted from this market are rich with memorable flavor. I tried a freshly made cream-colored Two delicious eggplant spreadseggplant spread from the deli and then a sweet and sour jarred eggplant salad with a tomato base called caponata. Both were low in calories and fat and very delicious on fresh pita or mini-toasts. They can also be used as a topping in sandwiches or wraps or served over chicken or fish. Greek food typically brings to mind meat gyros and kabobs marinated with a mélange of spices. But there are many vegetarian options at Greek International Food Market as seen with the bags of couscous and bulgar, imported pastas, dried legumes, a beautiful olive bar, and seasoned vegetables not found at traditional markets. Even the sweets of Turkish delight, baklava, and light biscuits are out of the ordinary. The staff is friendly; don't be shy in asking for advice on how to use their food products. Greek International Food Market is open Mon-Sat 8am-8pm with plenty of parking.