Restaurant Review: Vero Bistro Moderne

>> Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vero Bistro Moderne - Scrumptiously Fit Food

I include restaurant reviews on my blog because I enjoy eating out and trying new foods as much as eating healthy and talking about nutrition, sometimes you've got to indulge and I've found myself wandering back to Vero more than a couple times to do so. It's definitely the taste that brings me back everytime.

Atmosphere: Contemporary colors with a dimly lit main dining area creating a cozy yet retro feel due to the color contrasts of red and black.

Price Range: Lunch mid $10s-20s, Dinner mid $20s-30s

Food & Wine: I've been to this restaurant a couple of times now and have been pleasantly surprised both times by the uniqueness of the flavors. Vero is an Italian fusion restaurant that goes beyond the normal conventions of just Italian food. Executive chef Jenny Chan also draws from her Asian heritage to provide unique flavor combinations in each of the dishes. For example: hand rolled organic sweet potato gnocchi served with gorgonzola, walnuts, sage maple brown butter and 10 year aged balsamic or Garden herb crusted lamb chops with saffron lemon risotto, balsamic barolo sauce (which are both my favorites, by the way!)

Recently Vero has also introduced special nights, on Wednesday when you order any full bottle of wine you get a platter of oysters and on Thursday you get a chef's selection of cheeses. On Sunday's chef Jenny also does a three course meal for $39/person. Just imagine enjoying organic carrot cake with passion fruit cream, aged balsamic reduction, cinnamon gelato and a chocolate wafer to end a great meal and the weekend!

Seafood Platter for Two
My Picks: As mentioned in the food & wine section of the review...gnocchi and lamb, delicious!

Overall: Very impressed with the service, the decor, overall food presentation and most importantly the taste. I can't wait to head back again and again, maybe next time I'll try the Sunday night special!

Vero Bistro Moderne
209 10 Street NE
Calgary, AB

Vero Bistro Moderne on Urbanspoon


Decoding the Nutrition Label

>> Monday, February 22, 2010

Nutrition Label - Scrumptiously Fit Food

Nutrition labels became mandatory in December 2005 for all prepackaged food in Canada. The label allows consumers to understand what nutrients are provided to them from the foods they purchased. All labels contain the same categories of information and in the same order: serving size, calories, % daily breakdown, etc... Let's look at these categories in further detail.

Serving Size
A small container of food can contain several servings, which can be deceiving because the container or bag looks so small that people just assume that it only has one serving. It's important to look at the serving size and compare it to the total package size. The nutrition label can also include the total number of servings per container / package. Similar food items will normally display their nutrients in the same serving sizes for easier comparison as well.

Amount per Serving
This is where we get all the detailed breakdown of data for each serving from calories per serving to protein etc. The % Daily Value is calculated based on a daily 2000 calorie diet. Any specific %DV higher than 20% is considered high an should be eaten in moderation. %DVs that are displayed are based on 100% daily intake and do not sum up to 100% since the package doesn't contain all nutrients required on a daily basis. It has been dictated by government regulations that all serving information is broken down in the following format:

Calories: The number people focus on when dieting or eating better. It's important because it tells us the total amount of energy we receive through consuming the food, however it should be the only number that's important for eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight. For overall weight loss, the formula remains, less calories in to more calories used = weight loss. The body will need to burn 3500 calories a week in order to lose 1lb of body fat.
The main rule to remember is Protein and Carbohydrates = 4 Calories / Gram, whereas Fat = 9 Calories / Gram.

Calories from fat: Gives you an idea of how many calories are derived from fat. This is not always included on every package, but you can calculate that through the total fat displayed on the label.

Total Fat: All fat that is in eat serving including all good and bad fats.
Saturated and Trans fats will be displayed here, some companies like to show that they incorporate healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. If the healthy fats aren't listed you can determine their amount by taking the total fat subtracting the saturated and trans fats, the remaining number will give you your total healthy fats included in the product. It is recommended that the total daily intake of fat for an adult not exceed 25-30%, of which less than 10% is saturated. Trans fats should be limited as much as possible and best if there are none in the diet at all.

Cholesterol: Usually displayed in mg (milligrams). For individuals concerned about their cholesterol levels, they should look at keeping their daily cholesterol intake below 200mg.

Sodium: Most prepackaged foods these days often contain a high amount of sodium. It is recommended that sodium levels not exceed 1500-2400mg per day for healthy adults. Try buying foods that are around 140mg per serving to keep sodium levels low or better yet, cook food at home so you can control the amount of sodium used.

Total Carbohydrates: This category includes all different forms of carbs (sugar, fibre, starch, etc). Carbohydrates are the main energy source for our bodies. Aim to get 50-60% of your daily calories intake from carbs, but good complex carbs like whole grain and beans and not sugar.

Protein: The main building block for our muscles, aim to get 15-20% daily. There are many different types of proteins including meats, soy products and beans.

Nutrient Information:
Many adults don't get enough vitamins and minerals in their diets, look closely at what each item is providng and the daily percentage (calculated based on 100% of daily requirements for each vitamin or mineral and not a percentage of the serving). It is only required to display Vitamin A and C, Calcium and Iron, it is up to the company whether they would like to provide additional data on other nutrients.

Hopefully this information has helped clarify all the information on those mysterious nutrition labels and has made eating healthy an easier option!


Sugar or Fat? How About Neither!

>> Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sugar and Sugar Substitutes - Scrumptiously Fit Food

We tend to think that if we're buying a lower fat or sugar free version of a product when we're at the supermarket, we're setting ourselves up for success. Little do we know that the food manufacturer's are not telling us the whole truth through their advertisements. If we look closely at the nutition labels, there are certain things that might surprise us. Take sugar free cookies for example, they often contain more fat to make up for the lack of sugar used, or fat-free yogurt which ups the amount of sugar to compensate for the taste.

Some people over eat to satisfy their sweet tooth or cravings and after the initial fulfillment, guilt normally starts setting in and they go on a diet where they try to limit fat or carb intake to justify what they've previously eaten. This is where it has allowed companies to find their niche in marketing products through omittance of certain ingredients, but secretly increasing the amount of others, like sugar, fat or sodium to make their "healthier" alternatives more appetizing!

A recent trend for food manufacturer's has been to use sugar subsitutes or low calorie sweeteners in their products (splenda, aspartame, etc.), which allows them to use the words "sugar-free". Recent studies have shown that sugar substitutes (used in diet sodas) can actually cause you to gain weight as opposed to lose weight. These sugar substitutes does nothing to alter the sugar habits that we have. People tend to up their intake of these sweets because it has zero calories, so they won't gain weight since no energy is being consumed, but the problem has been found that these sweets actually causes you to crave sweeter things because they're much more concentrated than plain regular sugar. Over time people start to reject healthier less sugary foods like fruit and vegetables because the body is use to these substitutes which have a much higher level of sweetness.

An easy way to prevent being led astray by these products is to read the nutrition labels carefully. It is by law that these companies have to divulge all the ingredients and nutrients included in their foods. Compare the so-called healthier alternatives with the original product and look at the differences in nutrition value. Just rememer, no matter how healthy or better a product is, the best way to avoid overeating and to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to stick to portion control. It's ok to indulge but don't overindulge!

Source(s): Fitness Magazine, The Doctors


Brighten Up Those Gloomy Days

>> Tuesday, February 9, 2010

With winter being in full swing, especially the frosty Calgary weather we've been getting, our Vitamin D levels are often at an all time low. As the days remain dark before and after work, we're hard pressed not to feel a little down. Although summer is still a good couple of months away, there are still many things we can do to brighten up our days!

1) Exercise
Of course everybody is aware that exercising is a good way to feel energized and stay awake. This response is due to the endorphins that are released by our brains after exercising. What are endorphins and why does it make us feel more alert? Endorphins are produced in the pituitary gland of the hypothalamus. During exercise, our bodies trigger the hypothalamus to release endorphins which work as natural pain killers and allows us to push pass the pain and enjoy a rush of energy and euphoria.

2) Vitamin D
As mentioned earlier, due to the lack of sun during the winter, people often exhibit SAD, what specialists call "Seasonal Affective Disorder". This disorder causes people to experience depression like symptoms during winter months. Doctor's often tell patients to up their level of Vitamin D during these months because they're not getting the same amount of sunlight as summer months. Always be careful when taking pills, always talk to your doctor first.

3) Eat!
Of course I couldn't leave out food in my blog! Believe it or not, but eating certain foods have shown to decrease a person's moodiness and depressive symptoms.

For example, fish, especially salmon and other types of fatty fish have been shown to prevent depression because of the amount of omega-3 fatty acids it contains.
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate has been shown to trigger the brain to release serotonin, putting the body in a happy equilibrium. A little chocolate does go a long way!

Source(s): Men's Health (of course this works for women too!)


Restaurant Review: Vin Room vs. Wine Bar

>> Friday, February 5, 2010

The new trend for breakout restaurants in Calgary lately have been to create a chic, laid back atmosphere through the introduction of tapas style menus. I have to admit it's a great place for restuarant goers who are looking for more of a relaxed, cafe like place to catch up with friends or even to enjoy a romantic night out with their favorite person.

Atmosphere: Petite and cozy dining area which creates an intimate setting perfect for those looking for a bit of quiet in busy Mission. They also have an amazing rooftop patio which is not to be missed during the summer.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+, different pricing structure for wines (2oz, 5oz, half bottles and full bottles available)

Food & Wine: When you order the Eggplant Chips, don’t expect conventional chips to arrive at your table. Instead, what you get is much more satisfying. Thinly sliced sections of eggplant are coated in crunchy panko breadcrumbs and then covered with pomegranate molasses and served with a mint yogurt dip. Preparing the eggplants this way gives the dish a textural contrast between the crunchy panko exterior with the soft interior.

One of my favorite dishes at Vin Room is the Pan Seared Scallops and the reason for this is the scallops themselves executed to perfection. Cooking a scallop isn’t tough, but cooking it to the exact point of completeness while maintaining a ratio of opaque to crispy outer layer is definitely a challenge. Not to mention the perfect seasoning and accompaniments that comes with the dish. My only complaint is that it doesn’t come with more!

The Lobster Nachos has been on the menu since the very beginning and continues to be a favourite amongst diners because of its ingenuous use of lobster. The nachos are good for sharing, however if you have a big appetite definitely go with the larger order or even get a couple to share. How the lobster elevated poutine, here it does the same to the nachos. The briny flavours meld well with the gooey cheesiness of the dish and I’m a sucker for chips in general.

With all the great food at Vin Room, one often forgets that the food is there to compliment the wine, which often poses great difficultly for me to pick and choose from since there are so many great selections. Luckily for us, there is a 2oz taster offered for most wines allowing those to sample various vintages. For those that know exactly what they are looking for, there is the standard glass (5oz), half bottle (13oz) or full bottle variations as well.

I usually like to start with a couple 2oz tasters and then later order a half or full bottle for the remainder of the evening. My favorite that night was the 2004 Paolo Scavino Barolo from Piedmont Italy. An elegant medium bodied wine with notes of cherry and spice. Its great either as a drinking wine or to accompany food.

My Picks: Pan Seared Scallops, Eggplant Chips

Overall: A great spot for those looking for something a bit different in the city. There’s nothing like trying out multiple combinations of wine and food until you find your favourite(s), ideal for oenophiles trying to find their next go to bottle.

Vin Room Mission
2310 4 Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 457-5522

Vin Room Mission on Urbanspoon

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