A Vacation called Quest

Practicing Niksen… the Dutch way of living by doing nothing but relaxing and enjoying life!

Practicing Niksen… the Dutch way of living by doing nothing but relaxing and enjoying life!

Hiya Nutrition Atlanta fans...


I’m still trying to process my trek out west and wrap my brain around the fact that it was two weeks ago because my intention was to write and update this daily. I’m blaming my distraction on Cali, I mean, what was I thinking working while in SoCal? Give me sand, salt water, and sunsets to make my soul happy on a cellular, very primal level.

Since I lived in North Hollywood when I was a wee tot, I have always had a strong affinity for the West Coast. Still do. PS: A Tribe Called Quest was my first hip-hop cd, remember those?!? So this blog title is a proper nod to them… v fond memories of Low End Theory and v fond memories of this incredible experience.

My travel day to San Diego (aka: SAN, SD) jump-started with a day-long GI lecture: The Gut -Brain Connection, which is always so fascinating to me since I’ve struggled with GI issues for most of my life. From the lecture I bolted to the airport, a bit stressful with Thursday 4pm traffic from Marietta. Ya’ll #ATL peeps know what I’m talking about on 75S, cortisol cocktail coming right up. I received a text from Delta that the flight was delayed by 30 minutes. So grateful for technology! 

In the past we broke our necks racing to catch a flight in obnoxious traffic but now, thankfully, we get real-time info from the airlines so that we can maintain a level of peace before traveling. Once you get to the Atlanta airport, that in and of itself is stressful enough. And if you live in the city and travel, I can’t recommend getting either TSA or a Global entry (pls don’t google global entry and click on the first link, make sure it’s the legit government site).

Anyone who travels internationally would wonder how they ever existed before global entry. You literally fly through customs in a matter of 3 seconds. No lie, we’ve had our pass for 5 years now and have never waited for longer than 5 minutes. I waited in that nasty, long line six years ago and swore never again. Just be aware that it’s a bit of a headache to get it done but you’ll high-five yourself later and send me a thank you email for recommending it. PLUS you get TSA pre-check with all your flights = shorter security lines.

Okay we’re back…..   With the extra time I had now, I found myself at Cat Cora’s Kitchen grabbing a local apple cider beer (gluten-free for said GI issues) by Mercier Farms and was sandwiched between two other ladies with delayed flights too. Next thing you know, we’re fast friends, laughing away, and ordering sweet potato fries, almost causing me to miss my flight. When I think I have more time than I actually do, I lose sense of time. Hello Matt & Kathleen the first time we went to T&C sitting in the Delta lounge….

Regardless, the flight to SAN was around 3:30 flight time and a relatively quick trip for the west coast. My cousin picked me up from the airport like a proper family member would and we hit Juniper & Ivy for a late dinner in Little Italy. I love LOVE any restaurant that has a rotating chef-driven menu based on seasonal, hand-selected ingredients (like our ATL Staplehouse), with accolades and awards to boot. I try to be diligent and snap food pics to jog my memory of what I did dined on, but it can be annoying for some people… I get it.  

Really much too in the moment to commit to photo journaling our meal but trust me when I say it was AMAZING. If you’re in San Diego put this restaurant on your list!

Really much too in the moment to commit to photo journaling our meal but trust me when I say it was AMAZING. If you’re in San Diego put this restaurant on your list!

Because it was my first night on vaca and I wanted to relish in the moment mindfully; I took a food photo pause. However, my astute cousin pointed out my lack causing me to grab a few mid-meal. The amazing menu caused analysis paralysis so I played it safe with a rose brut (I love champagne), a couple of veggie-based app’s like shishito peppers and the most ridiculous watermelon dish with perhaps a whipped ricotta but that doesn’t ring a bell as I type. I could have made a meal out of that alone and been totally happy.

My typical entree default is a fish + veggies since I don’t really like to cook fish at home. I considered ordering the garden + grain dish because I like to know how creative the chef can get with veggies, but I was in the mood for protein, feeling like that was what I needed. The portions were quite generous and delish. I don’t think you can make a bad choice here. Or so I thought.

My cousin wanted dessert, specifically the Yodel, and I didn’t object. Don’t know what a Yodel is? It’s a frosted, cream-filled cake that’s like a Little Debbie Swiss Roll. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure Swiss Rolls could perhaps be my first food that I developed a very specific and disciplined eating ritual while mindfully devouring them. It was my legit kiddy crack.

In fact, we discussed this at great length during dessert, laughing as we confessed our religious-like yodel/swiss roll eating habits. I really should do a video of my ritualistic methodology eating this sinful treat that wasn’t allowed in my lunchbox. Initially. Until that is until I subsequently ran away from home in protest. True story. Power of food. 

I have so many, oh so many food story memories…. 

Left: Odd Yodel; Right/Center: OMG I wish I knew but it didn’t last long.

Left: Odd Yodel; Right/Center: OMG I wish I knew but it didn’t last long.

Back to the Yodel at Juniper & Ivy:  that evening it was a pistachio and white chocolate crust with watermelon pudding, pistachio cake, watermelon candy and raspberry ganache over the top (drenched btw). It sounded way too odd of a combination, almost a burning to my ears as our server was trying to sell us on the flavor profile. I couldn’t quite pair the pistachio with raspberry AND watermelon. I’m very open-minded when it comes to desserts but this one unfortunately turned out to be a bit off. 

That being said, it somehow didn’t stop us from eating it all, oddly enough, OR the back-up dessert that my clever cousin ordered, sensing a potential yodel disappointment. I can’t remember what dessert #2 was but it was AMAZING and totally made up for the yodel failure. In all fairness, J & I is well-known for their yodel creations and this just happened to be an adventurous “summer” flavor. I checked their current offering of coconut cake, macadamia nut brittle, freeze dried pineapple with frozen lime cream and I would have torn that UP without sharing. Just kidding, kinda.

Juniper & Ivy Bottom line: no doubt in my mind a YES restaurant. Try the yodel and then get back to me on your flavor and dining experience!


FRIDAY = YOGA

The serenity of Saffron & Sage… blessed to have a sound bath while doing yoga!

The serenity of Saffron & Sage… blessed to have a sound bath while doing yoga!

I woke up East Coast early (insert double ugh emoji) and thanks to Class Pass snagged hatha yoga at this adorable holistic health club called Saffron and Sage - just a quick 8-minute walk from where I was in Little Italy.  The space was peaceful and I’m a sucker for nature art (see pic) + the incredible piece of selenite. It’s that white square rock on the floor and one of the few minerals that quickly absorbs + unblocks any stagnant energy making it a must have healing stone.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I would wind up bookending my trip with the same gifted teacher, Brian Glasspool, taking a class on day one as well as the very last day of my SAN stay before training up to Irvine.

My San Diego yogi, Brian at Saffron & Sage… the best way to slide into vacation all blissed up!

My San Diego yogi, Brian at Saffron & Sage… the best way to slide into vacation all blissed up!

Friday’s 9am Hatha yoga class was a series of active and powerful poses and postures that refreshed me on a cellular level and really set the pace for an incredibly healing west coast tour. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to connect with him, but his class helped me connect the dots of the importance of doing yoga on day one, whenever I travel, and making that a priority in my vaca schedule.

I attempted to chat with him after class, clearly doped up on my free internal pharmacy that got activated during the #om hour. He encouraged me to sign up for a special acupuncture + soundbath + reiki  class he was teaching on Wednesday, my last day in SAN, at 12p. I didn’t think it would fit into my schedule but as it turned out, I was super grateful that I did (more deets later in this post, promise). If you’re in SAN definitely go check out Saffron and Sage. I’ll be back during my next visit for certain!

Mexican drink made with rice + milk (this is coconut or almond) + vanilla + cinnamon

Mexican drink made with rice + milk (this is coconut or almond) + vanilla + cinnamon

My cousin and I rendezvous’d at his fave coffee jaunt, James Coffee where I had my first legit Horchata (pronounced or-CHA-tah). They even had a fun etched glass with glass straw to enjoy this refreshing beverage (checking off the eco-friendly box). I attempted to whip one up years ago (lol) and it’s been on my radar for what seems like 3-4 years now. Sooo needless to say I was really excited to finally try this hand-crafted Mexican drink made out of rice, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and served chilled.

The milk alternative options in SoCal are great, I’m pretty sure I went with almond but it would be fun to make a Thai version with creamy coconut milk! I meant to purchase some James Coffee as a gift, but I did an epic packing job in a carry on {which never happens} for a 10-day trip. Sadly, there was no room for James Coffee but I should’ve shipped some home. Next time…

From there I was properly whisked around SAN on a R1200 Adventure and I got to {pretend to} be part of that ultra cool two-wheeled subculture, if only for a brief snapshot in time. I truly loved the ritual of strapping on the helmet, hoping on the bike, and being mindful of executing polite & proper passenger protocol by avoiding the annoying knocks from your helmets clinking together!

#yogaeverydamnday

#yogaeverydamnday

We cruised around the city and made our way to Balboa Park, the 1,200 acre urban cultural park and walked through the Botanical Building and lily pond. My cousin was not yet burned out on snapping several of my necessary natarajasana yoga poses (Lord of the Dance/dancer’s pose). It’s always been my favorite posture. My cousin suggested creating a book out of all the places I’ve been in holding that beautifully poised pose including the top of the Petit Piton on St Lucia, every beach we’ve been on in, as well as the top of every mountain we’ve snowboarded including the Matterhorn in Switzerland and even the top of the Highland Bowl in Aspen AFTER a 45 minute hike, in the snow, with snowboard gear! 

Total rookie vaca move and so unlike me but I neglected to pack a snack to nibble on and I could feel, no smell my blood sugar levels creeping downward, skating a thin danger zone line…. My hunger levels were below a 2 and if you’re one of my clients, you already know that’s below hangry-zone and can definitely set you up for overeating. Which I wound up doing at one of my FAVE green/plant-based SoCal restaurants, Cafe Gratitude. Before mindful eating I would have felt so guilty for doing so and now, I just move on and learn from the experience.

The San Diego Mecca of plant-centric dining…

The San Diego Mecca of plant-centric dining…

I first visited CG many years ago, I think it would be at least 8-9, when we traveled out to San Fran for another cousin’s wedding. I was blown away that such a dining establishment existed in the sense that I would eat everything and anything on the menu with wild abandonment and utter joy. I begged them to come to Atlanta.

Cafe Gratitude used to be the Le Cirque of the health-conscious vegan crowd. Well that is until they received a major uproar from the community with a big scandal. I get it. When you are staunchly vegan and plant-based, there is not a lot of wiggle room. You are either vegan, or not. You can be very political where you spend your money, not at bad thing at all. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned about big agriculture and other businesses that practice cruelty to animals. Watch one video and tell me it doesn’t impact you on some level. I realized that I vote with my dollars and so I wanted to be intentional with where I spend my hard-earned dollars. Still do.

Wow- a robust menu! Come. To. Atlanta. Now. Oh PS wouldn’t these flip flops be perf for a beach wedding in the Carib?

Wow- a robust menu! Come. To. Atlanta. Now. Oh PS wouldn’t these flip flops be perf for a beach wedding in the Carib?

So while I love to support restaurants with plant-based options, my mindful eating journey has shifted me from falling into any specific diet camps anymore. I used to label myself as plant-based and vegan, but my habits have evolved. I eat what I want based on several things: what I’m in the mood for, what agrees with my belly (most of the time), what looks good on the menu, as well as how do I want to feel energetically after my meal.

And since I like to have a happy belly and high energy, I prefer a plant-centric meals that vibe with my body, GI, and biochemistry. I do factor in my impact on animals + the environment because I’m very much an animal/earth-lover. So I was super excited to hit up CG on day one. Bonus points to my cousin for taking me there within 24-hours of landing in SAN. Yay cuz.

I am…. so v Hungry I can’t make up my mind!

I am…. so v Hungry I can’t make up my mind!

We started off with smoothies: because even though I am not diabetic, I could tell that I had SUPER low blood sugar (again, we’re taking a 1.75 on the hunger/fullness scale- feeling kinda shaky and unable to execute a solid decision) and so appropriately, I ordered the SUPER/Skinny Green Smoothie with spinach, banana, almond butter, pea/hemp protein, moringa, spirulina and alfalfa. I tend to modify most menu items every so slightly and had them delete alfalfa and double up on spirulina supergreen superfood to help with post-flight radiation exposure (research on cancer radiation + spirulina here).

It was heavier than I make my smoothies at home but my LBS (low blood sugar) demanded quick burning carbs (banana) + greens + protein to steady things and be a good dining companion. And can I just be the nit-picky mindfully-based dietitian and point out that I wasn’t a huge fan of the word “skinny” to describe a smoothie? Insinuating that this smoothie is going to make you skinny or perhaps it’s the one with the smallest amount of calories, it just kinda bothers me now, how pervasive diet culture IS. I ordered it because the ingredients sounded good to me and I needed quick nutrition, not for the false weight promise.

Smoothies arrived. Blood sugar stabilized, albeit slightly. Time to order food you chew… 

Dear GAWD… can I have this daily? Or at least once a week? K thanx!

Dear GAWD… can I have this daily? Or at least once a week? K thanx!

My eyes landed on ECLECTIC/buffalo cauliflower with breaded cauli, adobo buffalo sauce, celery and ranch. My GAWD this was amazing. I’m pretty sure I ate the majority of it and would have been content ordering another one. Or two. Plus one to go.

The KARMIC/chickpea hummus plate gets bonus points for a beautiful presentation (see below). Made with my fave, red pepper walnut muhammara, cilantro zhoug, dukkah, sumac, olives, veggies for dipping and ciabatta.  I fell in LOVE with muhammara in NY back in March (I’m sooo super guilty of not writing my NYC blog post yet but as you can tell from this one thus far, I’m a bit detail oriented because I want to take you on vaca with me but I promise I will write it as soon as I write my script for my Fox 5 episode on Friday). Here’s a recent post on my beloved muhammara that is slated to go viral.

KARMIC chickpea hummus plate could be a meal: red pepper walnut muhummara, cilantro zhoug, dukkah, sumac, olives, veggies for dipping and ciabatta

KARMIC chickpea hummus plate could be a meal: red pepper walnut muhummara, cilantro zhoug, dukkah, sumac, olives, veggies for dipping and ciabatta

I really could have stopped with the smoothie and appies but I was HUNGRY and when I get overly hungry, I overly eat. Hence ordering the bowl below and eating most of it. Then needing a nap STAT.

Next on the list — WHOLE/macrobiotic bowl with braised garnet yams, stewed adzuki beans, kim chee, sea veggies, sauteed kale, garlic tahini, toasted tamari almonds, and quinoa (below).  I really love a great salad that I don’t have to craft, and I might have chosen something else, but my blood sugar was so unstable that I went for the carb-heavy dish for quick energy! Plus my default order at Upbeet is the Macro bowl so I have good luck with all things named macro.

Put a good dent in this one… really wanted to take the leftovers to go because it’s what I do and I HATE food waste like it’s a disease but alas, cousin said NO. I forgave him.

Put a good dent in this one… really wanted to take the leftovers to go because it’s what I do and I HATE food waste like it’s a disease but alas, cousin said NO. I forgave him.

 Cafe Gratitude Bottom line: if you love “healthy” food then I’d give Cafe Gratitude a try. The original SF location used to be 100% “raw” food where nothing was cooked or processed but they’ve transitioned to a user-friendly menu. Honestly, I think you could shoot a dart at this menu and not go wrong with anything you choose. So when in SoCal, hit up CG and save room for dessert. Sadly we didn't fall into that camp after the feast we crushed but I did go back for another nourishing smoothie on my last day!

Friday afternoon we lingered on my cousins terrace with zero agenda, something I don’t do enough of. I was content just being still. Listening to his neighbor talk about cooking food for a client. Basking in the SoCal sun with no sign of humidity (=great hair). Watching the sun sparkle like freshly-cut diamonds on the San Diego harbor. It was magical and deeply-etched in my amygdala, or hippocampus and/or cerebellum + pre-frontal cortex. Lemme just say it’s a fond MEMORY I’ll take to the grave!

I had dinner plans with my surfer-friend, Matthew, whom I met while living in Hawaii and thanks to social media, have reconnected with. He and his wife rode their bikes down from Carlsbad to join us for a champagne toast and a photo-worthy charcuterie board I neglected to snap a pic of. They are both part of said hip two-wheeled sub-culture I pretend to know about but didn’t have much to add to the conversation so I was relishing in the moment of reconnecting with a friend from my 20’s and catching up on life. It’s crazy to reconnect with people from your past and see all of our personal growth.

Contemplating what I’m going to mentally release in the desert OR what I’m going to eat? Yes I intentionally posted this picture twice- I just love it so much.. Big props to my cousin for perhaps my favorite pic of me ever captured with the British Airways direct flight from London arriving to San Diego.

Contemplating what I’m going to mentally release in the desert OR what I’m going to eat? Yes I intentionally posted this picture twice- I just love it so much.. Big props to my cousin for perhaps my favorite pic of me ever captured with the British Airways direct flight from London arriving to San Diego.

Friday night we enjoyed a memorable evening of Japanese tapas at Cloak & Petal. The decor is intentionally Asian hip and STUNNING with two enormous flowering cherry blossom trees, sure to make an immediate + lasting impression. Which you are quickly distracted from once you taste the food. I wiped out a large plate of toro. Solo. Thank you.

The Hamachi Jalapeno is something I’ll always order if I see it on a menu, a tradition started from Taka Sushi in Aspen during the holidays {unfortunately no longer open}. I’m sure we ordered a variety of other rolls + sake and it turned into a late night at the speakeasy tiki bar, False Idol.  So fun. But the hangover from fruity rum drinks is not. Hnat! No incriminating photos, whew.

Cloak & Petal + False Idol Bottom line: Indubitably a double YES!

SATURDAY morning was filled with shopping at the LIttle Italy Mercato’s farmers market, a generously vast display of everything imaginable including sheep milk yogurt that tasted like heavy whipping cream. Good GAWD - this with a big of granola it turned breakfast into dessert. Alas, no pictures and I’m truly sorry for that because I’d love to see how thick it was for instant pot yogurt inspo.

And I’m only starting Day two now….