Everyone’s doing it- following up December’s butter and meat-filled holiday posts with healthy recipes in January. My new year’s resolution is to go on more food marathons. While running real marathons is healthy, driving food marathons isn’t. The notion, however, that food marathons have to be mobile grease fiestas is not true. Case in point, The Health Food Marathon:
Inspired by 13.1 LA, the inaugural half marathon in Santa Monica, I laced up for a marathon of my own. Unlike the runners, I would not chafe, blister or be sore from my marathon because I would be in a car- chauffeured actually because I didn’t even have to drive this time.
The food marathon kind of started Saturday night at Border Grill.
Though it wouldn’t go all night, this was the pre-marathon carb-load for the real runners (Caroline on Crack, Food GPS, Diana Takes a Bite). Those athletic freaks and their running- we agree to disagree that it’s an enjoyable hobby.
Border Grill owners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger were part of the first wave of Food Network celebrity chefs. This was before the high ratings, fancy studios and contrived drama. In 1981 their tiny restaurant City Cafe was doing for the LA dining scene what someone like Ludo is doing now- combining cuisines from different regions, executing to rave reviews and mugging to the camera every now and then. They’ve come a long way since the 1980’s, and Border Grill remains crowded to this day. The portion sizes (enormous), combined with their reputation and solid cooking, keep Border Grill above average.
Border Grill’s appetizers included Green Corn Tamales
sweet corn • sour cream • salsa fresco
roasted plantain • black beans • poblano chile • cotija cheese
delicious • avocado • mmmmmmm
My entree was the Grilled Chicken Chilaquiles
grilled achiote chicken • skillet tomatillo chilaquiles • manchego, panela, cotija cheeses
For dessert we had an assortment of Banana Cream Pie, Aztec Chocolate Cake, Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie and Flan.
We all retreated back home to rest for the night as Sunday morning was gonna involve some serious healthiness.
Sunday, 7:10am: The runners took their marks. I slept.
Sunday, 8:10am: The runners passed the six mile mark. I still slept.
Sunday, 9:10am: The runners finished their half marathon.
Sunday, 9:30am: I lazily drove up and shot some pictures (including the Border Grill Truck which fed the runners after the race).
We then got our exercise in, walking the half block to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
We scoured the beautiful produce, before choosing some tiny, juicy tangerines.
On our way back to the car we stopped for coffee at Groundwork.
I had a yerba mate lemongrass ice tea. The flavors were subtle but distinguishable and refreshing. (That is not me holding said tea.)
Next we drove to Better Life Cuisine. (See those healthy people in the picture? They’re everywhere.)
This raw/vegan cafe is an easy, healthy Santa Monica option for take out or dining in after yoga. You can see Bay Cities from the window, so keep that in mind if you’re a carnivore- the temptation is strong.
We kept it simple with their broccoli salad and kale salad. The portion sizes were good, the flavors were clean, pronounced and the satisfaction level was surprisingly high.
Next we passed Planet Raw (because you can’t go twelve feet in Santa Monica without hitting someone/something healthy). Instead we opted for Golden Mean Vegan Cafe.
Keeping with the theme, they had a kale salad, but we went with the kelp salad as our side to the Garden Vegetable Wrap. It didn’t break any barriers in creativity but it was as good as I’ve had anywhere else. Hummus of the day, avocado, tomato, all fresh tasting and balanced. Good portion size again. It seems when you’re paying for vegetables the restaurants know they better give you a lot.
(I didn’t drink that kombucha. Those are gross.)
We continued heading east towards the new M Cafe de Chaya in Beverly Hills.
(I think we got progressively less healthy the further we moved away from the ocean.) We ordered shiitake-avocado rolls, tuna tataki inari and baked tofu. I always like what I get at M Cafe and this was no exception.
To end the marathon I thought it was appropriate to try the foolish new diet craze- Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Diet. Although the definition of “dieting” usually relates to achieving lower weight, in Taco Bell’s case it’s for those people who diet to get fatter. It’s all semantics to me. I love Taco Bell.
I tried their 150 calorie Fresco Crunchy Taco. They swapped the cheese for pico de gallo and called it “fresh.” Tastes the same as a regular taco to me- delicious. I had a second one just to confirm that I was “drive-thru dieting” properly.
And so Taco Bell served as a fitting ending for The Health Food Marathon. Overall it was kind of expensive for vegetables, fruits and whatever animal Taco Bell pretends is beef these days- $47 total for two people over 4 hours. We did, however, explore a number of healthy restaurants, some of which I may even return to. I won’t be returning on the next food marathon though. The next one’s gonna be the Pigskin Food Marathon, in honor of football and all the unhealthy pastimes it embodies. Take that, healthiness.