Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “review

Luxury for Less at Scottsdale’s Gainey Suites Hotel

Back in June, I traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend a conference. Instead of staying at the big-ticket host hotel, I looked for a less expensive option that was still within walking distance to the event I was attending, and after a brief internet search, I found The Gainey Suites Hotel.

After a giant airline delay in my trip, and missing the first afternoon session of the conference, I finally got settled in my hotel room. Suite 320:

Inside the room was modern, well-furnished, impeccably clean, and well-lit. It reminded me of a small apartment. I remember being very impressed, because the room looked as good or better than it did online, and I was already pretty glad I skipped paying extra just to stay at the conference hotel.


The beds at Gainey Suites Hotel are covered in 300 thread-count linens on a plush, allergy-free featherbed with down pillows, and a duo of cute Gainey Bears for guests to take home. It’s one of the most comfortable beds on which I have ever slept, even more comfy the one I sleep on at home. OK, definitely might move into this place. 🙂

My one bedroom suite was also equipped with a full kitchen (minus an oven). For dinner during my first evening’s stay, I walked over to the Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store next door and picked up groceries to stock the full-sized refrigerator in my room, and made dinner for myself on the stove top and microwave. The room had everything I needed to eat in my room, too, such as bowls, plates, cups, and silverware.

The hotel is walking distance to The Shops-Gainey Village (also where Sprouts Farmers Market is located) a collection of unique shops and restaurants. The shops feature everything from apparel to lifestyle items, and the restaurants offer several different cuisines to suite whatever you might be craving. There is also a nail salon, a day spa, and a salon located in the village in case you need a little polishing up!

Every morning at Gainey Suites Hotel, there is a complimentary hot breakfast buffet, featuring eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, oatmeal, bagels, pastries, and cereals, along with orange juice, milk, tea and coffee. If you’re on a budget, your first meal of the day is completely covered in your room stay.


Every evening, the hotel has a reception with hot and cold appetizers, beer, wine, and soft drinks. It is unbelievably included in the price of your room. This is to say you could technically get by on breakfast in the morning and appetizers in the evening and not spend any more on food or dining except for a few snacks to store in your full-sized refrigerator!

I really appreciated the HDTV with Chromecast feature in each room, because I was able to watch Parts Unknown on demand during my dinner.


In between sessions at the conference I had some down time, so I decided I would head out to the pool and get some sun. The pool is clean, spacious, and surrounded with plenty of chairs with umbrellas in which to lounge.


Other hotel amenities include: No resort fees • Free Wi-Fi • 24/7 fitness center • Desktop power/charging stations • In-suite coffee makers with complimentary coffee & tea • In-suite hair dryers • Iron & ironing board • In-room safe (lap top size) • Cordless phone/voicemail service • Valet laundry service • Guest laundry facilities • Courtesy shuttle service (within a 5-mile radius, 7am-6pm daily) • Evening room service from The Village Tavern (restaurant next to the hotel, 5-10pm) • Complete business center services with free-to-guest PC and internet services • Daily and weekly passes available for the exclusive Health Club at Gainey Village

You can find Gainey Suites Hotel on Facebook here, on Instagram here, on Twitter here, and read reviews of the hotel on Trip Advisor here. If you’re ever in Scottsdale, definitely make a stay at Gainey Suites Hotel part of your travel plans!

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Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar Fires Up the Scottsdale Dining Scene

A few months ago, I visited Scottsdale, Arizona during the National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Annual Conference. Typically when I travel, my trips become more about the food and wine available at my destination than the main reason for the trip, so I do more research on places to eat/drink than I do on anything else! Since my hotel room at the Gainey Suites Hotel was equipped with a full kitchen, I planned to get groceries and make my own dinner for the first evening. Then on the second evening of my stay, I would dine out. Since I had never been to Scottsdale before, this would require some web surfing on some of my trusted travel sites.

I stumbled upon Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar after only searching for a few moments. Since opening last year, Starlite BBQ has been named one of the Seven Metro Phoenix Restaurants you Need to Try Right Now by the Phoenix New Times, as well as one of the 11 Best New Restaurants in Phoenix, Arizona (area) by Eater.comStarlite BBQ was also selected as an 2018 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Winner. This would be the place for Friday night’s dinner for sure!

So on Friday evening, after a short Uber ride, I ended up in a shopping center where Starlite BBQ resides. It sits prominently on the edge of the center, complete a facade decked out with hip white font lettering that can’t be missed. There is an outdoor seating area, but during my visit it was over 100 degrees, so I opted to sit inside and people watch as the filled up the place for dinner.

I sat at a small table against the wall, facing an already lively bar scene and two televisions broadcasting different sporting events–one of them a Diamondbacks game. Across from me on the table was a selection of house-made sauces. I was eager to try them all, but stopped short of squirting the bottles directly into my mouth. First, I selected a beverage to nurse while I contemplated what to eat.

Prosecco was the perfect drink for an opening act. Starlite also has a specialty cocktail menu featuring many whiskey-based drinks, as well as four rotating handles of beer on draft, an ample selection of bottled and canned beer, and a nice list of wines available by the glass or bottle.

While I was selecting my entree, this skillet of cornbread topped with an enormous dollop of melty honey butter appeared on my table. Now this is something I don’t normally eat, but it was really calling my name. The cornbread was still warm, both sweet and savory, and I still remember its delightful texture (just enough crumb without being too dry) even three months later! I’m not exaggerating when I said it was one of the best cornbreads I have ever had.


The Grilled Cauliflower (with Green Goddess, Crispy Black Eyed Peas, Arugula, Pickled Onions) dish really caught my eye (I saw it served to another table as I was about to order), so I snagged one for myself. The dish’s flavor was expertly balanced by the sweet and sour of the dressing (and just enough of it without making the dish soggy), the char on the cauliflower, the crunchy texture of the black eye peas and the peppery arugula.


For the main course, I selected the 1/2 plate of Chopped Pork. It comes with pickled onions and mustard on the side. I ordered a glass of rosé to pair with the pork. I could have gone a little heavier on the wine, especially because of the sauce on the meat, but in the heat of summer, I am hardwired to order bubbles or rose, no matter what the protein or the “traditional” pairing.


I guess you could say I ordered these potatoes for “dessert” and an excuse to try one more dish. Crispy little potato nuggets. This is where the aforementioned BBQ sauces come in. I tried them all on the potatoes and it turns out the middle “Starlite BBQ” is my favorite. I wish my husband had been with me so I could have sampled a little bit more of the menu items. Instead, I was already taking half of the meal back to the hotel in boxes, which was great because it made for the next night’s dinner. In other words, the portions are large and perfect for sharing.

Also good to know: Starlite BBQ supports local organizations and uses local vendors, such as Arizona Beef, organic produce from McClendon’s Farm, fresh breads daily from MJ Bread, and local pecan and mesquite woods to smoke their meats.

Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar is located at 7620 E Indian School Road Suite 101, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. You can contact them at 480-553-9330.

They are closed on Monday and Tuesday, and open Wednesday and Thursday from 4pm-11pm, on Friday from 4pm-midnight. They are also open on Saturday for Brunch and Regular Menu 10am-midnight and on Sunday for Brunch and Regular Menu 10am-10pm. The bar is open until 12 Midnight on Wednesday and Thursday, until 2 AM Friday and Saturday and 12 Midnight on Sunday.

You can find Starlite BBQ on Facebook here and follow them on Instagram here.

Disclosure: My meal was complimentary in exchange for social media exposure and this blog post, however my opinions are all my own.


Fit Eats Café and Food Delivery Service Can Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals

Disclosure: I have partnered with Fit Eats to let you know about their awesome cafe and food delivery service that has helped me lose 15 pounds over the course of about a year. Results may vary from person to person. All opinions are my own. Use the promo code kristy65192 at check out to get a $10 credit towards your order!

Truth: I have battled my weight all my life. Correction. I have battled my weight since I was bullied about it in middle school, so let’s say pretty much most of my life. Although I have never been obese, I have been 30 pounds overweight in my lifetime and have yo-yo dieted (up ten pounds, down ten pounds) in the past.

In March of 2011, I adopted at Paleo/Primal diet of no sugar, no grains, and though it helped me overcome binging and helped curb my sugar cravings, I still could not lose the last 10 pounds. The reason why? Even though I rarely miss a day of exercise, quite simply I was eating too many calories than my body was burning off. I was rewarding myself like a dog with food for all the tough workouts I put myself through. Even though I got down to 117 on the Paleo diet, I never stayed there because I didn’t have any portion control. I think I peaked out last July at about 130 before I took major action. I could have actually weighed more than that, but I was too afraid to get on the scale until I lost some weight first!

I know, 130 pounds doesn’t sound overweight to most, but I am only 5’1″ and really do look my best between 110-115 . Plus, I was drinking ENTIRELY TOO MUCH every night and chasing that down with too many snacks (because I just LOVE to eat when I drink)! It was a vicious cycle of punishing workouts/eating and drinking to reward myself for the workouts/guilt/shame/repeat.

On July 5th of last year, I woke up with a major hangover. This is not usual for me, so I really must have tied one during our 4th of July block party. That’s when the shame set in so much I decided to do something about my weight because I truly felt like a marlin. Of course, I have lost weight a lot of times in the past, so I know what is involved and the science is quite easy. You don’t have to go on the Paleo diet to lose weight. You don’t have to go vegan. You don’t have to join Weight Watchers. You don’t have to do a cleanse or do Adkins or start a Keto program or cut everything out that you enjoy. You don’t even need to exercise. I say this carefully because exercise IS important, but if you have a lot of weight to lose, it can be more harmful than good. I truly believe it is more important to clean up your diet before you even consider exercising.

Creating a calorie deficit.
All of the above diets/food plans have been successful with one person or another because they in fact, created a calorie deficit in their bodies–their bodies used the stored calories/energy because they took in less than they needed for the day/week/month. But for most people, Paleo/Primal, Keto, Adkins, are not sustainable for the rest of your life (especially if you are a food blogger like me or have ANY sort of social life whatsoever). There are special occasions where you are going to have the birthday cake or the bread basket with dinner or the side of fries (God, do I love fries). What is most important, is that you don’t have ALL the cake or fries, etc. Trust me, there were plenty of fries that led to the weight gain!

Instead of cutting out everything, I decided I would log my calories (journal them, if you will) with an online food app. I happen to use My Fitness Pal. My calories right now per day are set at 1431. That means I have to eat less than that total in order to lose weight. Since it is challenging to stay under that amount (especially because I like to drink wine with dinner), I exercise 80-90 minutes a day to raise the calorie limit. I like to leave about 1500 calories for dinner.

It has long been argued that weight loss is not possible if most of the calories are eaten at night or if you drink alcohol, but I am here to tell you that is not the case. As long as you have a calorie deficit, your body will lose weight. The key is finding out how many calories YOU personally burn daily just to keep your body alive and running (or your BASAL METABOLIC RATE), and accurately logging everything you eat and drink to create a deficit. It will not matter if it is 100 calories less a day or even just 25 calories, eventually the deficit will add up to 3500 calories and that is roughly one pound. To find your basal metabolic rate (or BMR, and also called resting metabolic rate, click here.

Of course, logging everything you eat does take time, and meal prep takes a lot of time, so it can be a little daunting and seem overwhelming/like a part time job at first.

That’s where Fit Eats comes in!

Fit Eats is a café and food delivery service now serving Sacramento and anywhere within a 300 mile radius of Sacramento. They offer meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and all of them are labeled with nutrition information. They also offer meals that are gluten free, dairy free, Paleo, freezable, and vegetarian. You can buy 1 meal at a time or buy meals for the whole week, as there is no membership or minimum order.

You can buy the meals in the Fit Eats café (they have a downtown location as well as a location in Roseville), but I recommend ordering online to make sure you get exactly the meals you want because they don’t always have everything in stock in the grab and go refrigerators. If you don’t feel like getting in a car, you have have your meals delivered to your home or office for a $2.99 delivery fee on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, and the delivery fee is waived if your order is over $50.

Since I work fairly close to the downtown location, I like to pick up my meals. They come in an insulated Fit Eats totebag that you can choose to purchase or return to the store. My typical order is 4-5 meals, and I end up freezing one of them just to have an emergency meal on hand if my husband goes out of town or out with friends on a particular evening.

The menu rotates weekly, some menu items leave, some meals are added, some meals remain for a while. Like any good restaurant, this depends on the availability and seasonality of the ingredients being used. The meals come in small and large size and cost anywhere from $7.99 to $12.75. Again the nutritional info is printed on the package, and so are all of the ingredients. The same information is on the Fit Eats website so you can know exactly what you are getting before you order. In addition to macronutrient count, they also list Weight Watchers point values.

But I am all about the macros and calorie counting. When the Fit Eats menu comes out every Thursday, I try to choose meals that are the highest in protein, and labeled as Paleo or at the very least gluten free. Also a plus if it is freezable, but not a deal breaker. I mainly enjoy Fit Eats meals (large size) for dinner, as I usually eat a Quest bar for breakfast and steamed broccoli and egg whites for lunch. Sometimes, I’ll have a light cheese stick or turkey jerky for a snack.

Lastly, Fit Eats meals taste great! I have enjoyed every meal I have purchased so far. Some meals more than others, but everything has been above average and far better than any pre-portioned meal I have ever tried. It’s very hard to go back to anything in the freezer aisle at the grocery store after ordering from Fit Eats. Below are some of my favorite meals and examples of what you will find on the menu. Many of them are already on MyFitnessPal, so all you have to do is search for them! It’s that easy.

 

Steak Tacos with Corn Tortillas

 

Paleo Alla Carbonara with Spaghetti Squash
(one of my all-time favorites)

 

 


Chili Cheese Sweet Potato Fries

 


Rosemary Pork Loin with Red Potatoes and Butternut Squash

(another one of my favorites)

 


Steak and Eggs

 

Shepard’s Pie


Ready to count your macros and enjoy delicious food while doing it? To get a $10 credit to your Fit Eats account, use the promo code kristy65192 at check out.

You can find Fit Eats on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, and follow them on Instagram here.

You can follow my fitness journey and my other shenanigans in food, wine and travel on Instagram here.


Congratulations to Sacramento’s Frank Fat’s, Winner of James Beard America’s Classics Award

I was honored to be invited to yesterday’s media tasting of the America’a Classics Menu at Frank Fat’s. Of course, the menu at Frank Fat’s is not a perfect editorial fit for my Paleo/Primal website, but a James Beard award is not something you win everyday. I was happy and excited to attend and celebrate with members of the Fat family (who had just barely returned from the awards ceremony that took place Monday night in New York). It was like being a part of Sacramento history and a great excuse to take a little vacay day from being strict Paleo. Andy and I sat down with one of the most interesting amalgamations of Sacramento food writers and media personalities including Hank Shaw (also a winner of a James Beard award this year), Kitty O’Neal, Tina Macuha, Sarah Singleton, Chris Macias, and Chef Michael Tuohy (bonus)!

We were served family style at a large round table. As servers placed each course in the center, the plates spun around on a lazy susan, and smart phones hastily snapped pictures of each dish before they were devoured sampled. Even Kitty O’Neal was live tweeting her lunch! It was great. 😉 Now, Andy is such a well behaved sidekick. He has been trained in the ways of food bloggery. He is well aware of the “wait, I have to take a picture of the food first before you dive in” rule.

So, without further delay, here’s a rundown on what we enjoyed.*
*Disclaimer: I did try almost everything we were served except for two dishes, a chow mein and the banana cream pie dessert, but only because I don’t react well to wheat or sugar.

The first course was a Char Siu Slider: Honey glazed pork with pickled vegetables served in a steamed “laughing” bun. These sliders could be a meal by themselves, and it would be fun to see variations of this dish with different fillings for the little pockets of dough.

charsiu_sliders

Next was the ever popular Fat’s dish and an award-winning recipe: Honey Walnut Prawns–Crispy shrimp with glazed walnuts and a special sauce. Props to the chef for being light handed with the “mayernaise” (sic), as it is delightful to enjoy the crispiness of the fried shrimp, along with the creaminess of the sauce which includes mayonnaise (too much = soggy), and the sweetness and crunch of the walnuts. The trifecta of delectable was achieved.

prawns

Alert alert!! Bacon alarm sounding!! OK, so bacon in everything has come (and actually gone) as a “thing” (and as a food writer I feel like it’s rather silly), but not when it comes to the classic pairings. Bacon Wrapped Scallops were up next. And this dish puts bacon back where it belongs. Wrapped around seafood! The scallops were served with green beans and an oyster cream sauce. I handily gobbled 2 of these, as they were the closest thing to Paleo on the menu, and a combination of two of my favorite foods. What a classic dish, and Fat’s version has such a pretty presentation. The scallops reminded me of little snails on green grass.

baconscallops

The Gai Lan served as a tasty side to our meal. It’s a Chinese broccoli dish, drizzled with oyster sauce. Just love the emerald color on those greens!

GaiLan_chinesebroccoli

The San Gai Shee Chow Mein is comprised of egg noodles with chicken, black mushrooms and snow peas. I passed on it only because I was filling up fast, and I heard there was steak coming. And, yes, I’m a wimp. Well, actually, I was trying to avoid gluten as much as possible. It looked and smelled delicious! 🙂

Chowmein

Then it was time for Frank’s Style New York Steak. It’s described on my menu as “smothered” in onions and oyster sauce, and from the picture you can see it’s true. That meat is getting no air at all! It’s practically choking in caramelized onion-y goodness! I was happy to see another gluten-free offering. Kevin Fat, (one of the family members, Director of Business Administration for Fat’s Restaurants, and the main host for the luncheon) remarked that it was one of the original dishes on the Frank Fat’s menu. It’s fascinating to think that “fusion” cuisine began ages before the term was actually coined.

steak

For dessert, we were each presented with a slice of Fat’s Famous Banana Cream Pie which was apparently so good that Andy had 2 slices (one was mine) and even brought a third one home! Fat’s makes 15-25 pies twice per day. Now, that’s a lot of time on the treadmill. 😉 If you want to impress your friends, you can bring one of their pies to the next party you attend, as the pies can be ordered as a whole (with a 12 hour notice) if you simply call the restaurant. It’s up to you if you want to slip it in some tupperware and pass it off as your own. Not that you would ever do that! 😛

pie

The James Beard America’s Classics Award has been given every year since 1998 to recognize the most beloved regional restaurants. Characteristics of the nominees and winners include timeless appeal and quality food that reflects the character of their communities. Along with Frank Fat’s, this year’s other nominees included: Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, TN, C.F. Folks in Washington D.C., Keen’s Steakhouse in New York City, Kramarczuk’s in Minneapolis, MN. The Fat Family was honored and quite taken aback by the nomination and the award win (they did not nominate themselves).

“This award recognizes everything my father believed in – outstanding food, generous portions, caring service and a simple, but deep-rooted desire to make people happy, ” says Frank Fat’s President and CEO, Jerry Fat. “He loved his customers, they all loved him, and I believe that his spirit is what has kept us so successful all these years.”

To celebrate the James Beard award, Frank Fat’s will be hosting America’s Classics Month May 13-31, featuring same menu served at the media lunch and showcased in today’s post. It is priced at $29.95 per person (2 person minimum) and is a dine-in only offer.

To read more about Frank Fat’s history and the Sacramento Bee review by Blair Anthony Robertson, click here. You can find Frank Fat’s on Facebook here and on twitter here.

At the media luncheon, we watched a video about the restaurant that was played at the awards ceremony. I am posting it below because it pretty much sums up the spirit and greatness of the Fat’s empire.


Everyday Paleo: Recipes for Real Life!!

I made the meal (pictured above) last night and the main course (stuffed portobello mushroom) was inspired by a recipe in the new book Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso.

I began a Paleo diet at the end of March after about 2 years of reading about eating Paleo and resisting, insisting the way I was eating and living was ok with my body and just peachy with the environment around me. (I will expound on both of these topics in later posts.)

Then after I gained 33 pounds that I had lost last year, and my clothes no longer fit me, I decided enough was enough. I had to DO SOMETHING. I remembered all the reading I had done on Primal/Paleo and still had a blog subscription to one of my heroes: Mark’s Daily Apple author Mark Sisson. Even though I repeatedly turned away going completely Paleo, a lot of information he wrote about on his website really struck a chord with me. It made so much sense. So, I joined a website to start logging my calories daily (note: many Paleo people do not log calories or measure portions), and decided this time I would follow Paleo.

I googled “Paleo recipes” and also looked for podcasts about Paleo. It was then I found a podcast called “Everyday Paleo”! Everyday Paleo is hosted by Sarah Fragoso, and Chrissy Gower (blog author of Growing Up Paleo). and I also discovered that it was recorded practically in my own backyard!! I am located in Sacramento, and the Everyday Paleo hosts hail from Chico! I was encouraged to have likeminded people, not to mention Paleo experts so nearby. At the time I became a listener, Everyday Paleo only had 10 episodes under their belt, so I was able to listen to all the archived shows. In the shows, Sarah talked about her upcoming book, which is the very book I am now recommending!

So, I have to tell you at first glance Paleo eating seems very restrictive. But, if you look closer, you will see that it’s more about what you CAN eat. Everyday Paleo gives you a shopping list if you have no idea where to start, and if you are already a Paleo pro, it gives you fresh recipe ideas. If you are not Paleo, but you are someone who is gluten intolerant, BOOM! a whole book you can eat from!

The great thing about Everyday Paleo is that it is so accessible for anyone at any fitness level. One reason is because Sarah herself was not the most fit person. There are before and after photos of Sarah and the results are spectacular! You would never know she has three children and that one of them is in high school!

Speaking of kids, Sarah has made the recipes kid-friendly. There are dishes in the book for all ages, and ones that can be prepped ahead of time and reheated. None of them are difficult to make, and the average prep time for the recipes are 30 mins.

I also love that Sarah put exercise “recipes” in the back of the book. It’s not all about cardio anymore. I am excited because I am a beginner with resistance training (after always having been a chronic cardio fanatic) , and this book serves as a good starting point for me.

Oh yes, I almost forgot… About that meal I have pictured above: It was inspired by a recipe out of Sarah’s book! It is a spin off of her recipe for “Giant Stuffed Portobellos” I made mine with a 1/2 pound grass-fed ground beef, 1/4 pound nitrate-free ground sausage, a sautéed mixture of shredded carrots, onions and green and red bell peppers, and the insides of the tops of the mushrooms and their stems.

To prepare the stuffed mushrooms, I browned the meat, then sautéed the vegetables in some of the fat to cook them.  I should note that when I prepare stuffed mushrooms, a vital step for me is to roast the mushrooms in the oven before stuffing them. This really brings out the richness of the mushrooms. I brush the caps with a little olive oil and brown them while I am preparing the stuffing. I place the side where the stem was down to roast.

I seasoned the cooked meat and vegetables with salt, garlic, fresh sage, and black pepper. I then added one egg to the mixture to bind it. In the recipe from the book, Sarah also uses coconut flour as a binder. I suspect that this takes the place of breadcrumbs in a regular stuffed mushrooms recipe. I did not use either. I piled the meat and veggies in the roasted mushrooms and pressed them to compact. Then I placed them in the oven again (I used a lower temperature of 350°). The finish product should be browned and bubbly when you take it out of the oven.

I topped mine with a tomato sauce I made from Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted tomato products. I pulsed a can of the fire roasted tomatoes and a little tomato paste in the food processor, along with salt and minced garlic. Then I cooked it down to reduce some of the liquid. To obtain a “ketchup-like” meatloaf effect on the mushrooms, I put the sauce on as they were roasting in the oven. Yum!

The side dishes I made were: Mashed Cauliflower & Acorn Squash, and Kale with Nitrate-Free Bacon and Toasted Walnuts. I will post the recipes separately to come, because I want to this post to focus on Sarah’s book.

I am still reading through it, but I can tell you the price ($17) is completely worth it for the amount of information you get. Not only that, but there are HUGE illustrations for every recipe, along with easy-to-read type. This is a bonus if you are in your kitchen actually making a dish. You can still read it at a bit of a distance, and your kids will be able to read it, too. For anyone who is already acquainted with Paleo, there is a foreword by Robb Wolf.

The book officially releases Monday, but you can pre-order, even though it says “temporarily out of stock”. Just ignore that and click on the “add to cart” button anyway. 🙂