For those of you who follow this blog, you know that I have been “guinea-pigging” myself on a vegan and gluten-free diet this past month. However, every rule needs to have exception and what I failed to mention in past blogs relating to this subject is that I will and have made exceptions to the diet.  I always maintain that I am a foodie first and foremost; so if I am out to dinner and a menu item seems worth trying, I’ll try it.   If I am hosted for a meal,  I will eat whatever is served (well, to some degree as kidneys and frog’s legs fall into the “icky-I don’t eat” food category for me; luckily enough I don’t think that I have friends who cook such things).

This past Friday, we celebrated a birthday dinner with dear friends at an upscale, corporate Hawaiian fusion restaurant. My intention was to have a salad as a main course; but frankly none of them sounded appealing so I ordered a sea scallop dish with a few vegan modifications to the accompaniments .  The reason that this restaurant is so successful is that the ambiance is great and the service is almost exceptional (I give it an “almost” because our server managed to suggest the most expensive item in each category-a pet peeve of mine). In place of the ubiquitous bread basket, the restaurant serves unlimited bowls of spiced edamame (delicious although the food snob in me was wondering if the edamame a.k.a. soy pods were non-GMO…..LOL).  For starters, we grazed on some sushi and sashimi followed by main courses.  Some of us had variations  “Surf ” only while others had “Surf and Turf”.  The food wasn’t really that inspired and had a few flaws; but the service was terrific and knowledgeable.  It is the kind of upscale chain restaurant that I refer to as “safe”.  I guess I prefer the independent restaurants but to each his own.

The next night, Nate and Sherri Kredich invited over to their house for dinner.  I met them through teaching cooking classes and triathlon.  Food and sport-the perfect combination.  I felt pretty good in the “life is balanced” department, having got in a decent run and bike ride within the last 24 hours.  Sherri and Nate have recently added 16 cases of wine to their growning collection and decided to have people over to sample some of Oregon Pinot Noir (okay guys…Oregon Pinot????……twist my arm?).  Six of us kicked off the evening with some artisan salami from Creminelli Fine Meats infused with wine (both Pinot Grigio and Barolo); a goat cheese dip; cheeses and some veggies and hummus which we enjoyed with a Vista Hills Pinot Gris from Oregon.  They pulled out a show stopper for the main course–a fantastic slab of Alaskan halibut purchased at Point Loma Seafood (note, they drove across San Diego County in order to buy the fish specifically from there).  Nate cooked it perfectly on his Green Egg and slathered it with a chimichurri sauce.  This was some of the best halibut and flavor combinations I have eaten for sometime.   Throughout dinner, Nate and Sherri slyly had us blind taste three 2007 Pinot Noirs-Semper Ellenbach from Sonoma County,  and Anderson Family and Utopia from Oregon.  At the end of the meal, we made educated guesses as to which wine was from which producer. It seemed like the crowd favorite was the Semper Ellenbach from Sonoma County but they were all very good.

Geoff and I both agreed that while each event was fun, it is usually a more unique, creative and tastier experience for food and wine lovers to dine with friends at someone’s house and uncork a few bottles from the cellar (or closet or room or refrigerator).  I couldn’t stop thinking about how delicious and simple chimichurri sauce is to make:  I suggest whipping up a cup or two (this recipe will yield about a cup) as it will last at least a week in the refrigerator.  You can try marinating whatever you are cooking with a little of it and then serve the rest slathered over the top or on the side. It is an extremely versatile sauce–good on steak, fish, chicken, grilled vegetables or tofu. I need to give a shout out to the Kredichs for inspiring this blog.

There are some occasions when it is worth it to break your diet. Remember, it is much healthier to enjoy things in moderation.  If you “modify” your diet for a couple of days, just get back on track.    Be mindful but not militant and enjoy food and the company of those who share it with you.

-LM