This is a picture from my ladies night out last night with (from left to right) my sister, my aunt Melissa, my mom and me! Ladies night = alcohol, appetizers and dancing. Dancing is good. The rest? Not so much.
This post came about for a few reasons. 1. I love chicken wings. I almost always try them when I go out to eat. 2. I love salt and I love vinegar. Put them together and I’m pretty much in heaven. 3. Salt and vinegar wings from Buffalo Wild Wings are so damn good, but they are in no way paleo (especially when you get the boneless ones like I tend to, which are breaded). 4. I have been asked about staying paleo when going out to eat and drink, and since that’s exactly what I did last night, the timing seemed appropriate.
Let me start with the last one first: you cannot stay paleo when drinking alcohol. Sorry. There is no way around it. You just can’t do it. The simple fact is: sugar is required for alcohol production. Sugar is most definitely not paleo. You can Google all day and tell me why I’m wrong, but don’t waste your time. I studied this in college. It is what I do for a living. I might not be a nutritionist or a paleo chef, but I do sell (and have an educational background in) alcohol.
All of that being said, I still drink. Shit, it’s what I do for a living (not the “drinking” per se, but the “selling of the alcohol”). If I turned my back on alcohol to be completely paleo, I would pretty much be an idiot. Do I drink every day? Hell no. But that really isn’t so much that I try to stay paleo most of the time as it is I try not to be a functioning alcoholic most of the time. Generally speaking, I only drink on the weekends. Usually just on Saturday nights. Do I have work events during the week that I will have a glass of wine at sometimes? Sure. Am I drinking black tea with honey whiskey and lemon in it right now because I have a seriously sore throat? Mhm. Hot Toddy’s are good, and hopefully it will help my throat. Sorry I’m not sorry.
My point of saying all of this is, alcohol isn’t paleo. It just isn’t. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t indulge if you want to (and are legally allowed to). My whole perspective on paleo is that it has to work for you and your lifestyle. If you love your wine, have a damn glass of wine. If you’re super into craft beers, try a new beer. If you can’t turn down a really nice snifter of scotch, drink the scotch! What is more important to take from that is to leave the guilt behind (unless your glass of wine/beer/scotch leads to bad decision making, but I’m not taking any responsibility for that).
This is my “bad decision” after drinking last night. Yup, that’s a bagel. And you know what? I ate the whole thing, and I don’t feel even remotely bad about doing it. You want to know why? Because it was f*cking delicious. And I don’t eat that every day.
The same mentality can be applied to eating out. It is entirely possible to stay on the health track (albeit strict paleo is more difficult) when eating out, if for no other reason that the health craze is upon us. You can’t go anywhere anymore without seeing a “fit” menu. Granted, you are still in a restaurant. You are totally and completely choosing to trust someone else to prepare your meal as they say it is being prepared. You have no idea what is going on in that kitchen. And you don’t really have any right to know what’s going on in that kitchen. Should you order the grilled shrimp appetizer over the creamy crab dip with bread bowl? Probably. Can you ask for your side of broccoli or mixed vegetables to not have butter on it? Sure. Can you ask them to hold the cream sauce on your fish? Of course. You still have no idea what spices are being used to flavor your steak (or chicken, or fish). You have to kind of live and let live in these situations. Otherwise, just don’t go out to eat.
This is coming from a girl who started working at age 14 in a restaurant and finished college at 22 as a bartender and cocktail waitress. I worked in the hospitality industry in one way or another for 8 years. Don’t be those annoying people who change everything on the menu for your “diet.” And don’t lie. Most of the time the server doesn’t believe you anyways. Plus, you probably won’t like what actually happens to your food when you ask for 15 modifications and then sends it back because it wasn’t cooked exactly how you asked it to be. And just one last plea: please do not go out to eat if you can’t afford to tip. Please.
For both alcohol and restaurants, there are obviously more paleo-friendly things that you can get. For alcohol, try a dry cider like Strongbow and for food, ask for the salmon rather than the mac and cheese. If you decide to indulge, own it. Enjoy every last bite or sip. Life is too short.
For anyone wondering what I ate/drank last night: The four of us split appetizers at The Four Seasons Grille in Annapolis. We had a tuna stack, a Mediterranean platter, their shrimp dish and a buffalo chicken flatbread. I drank white wine (Sauvignon Blanc) while at happy hour, and vodka sodas for the later part of the evening. I was smart enough to turn down all of the shots that were being bought, but usually I do not escape so unscathed.
Ok, now let me hop off of my soap box and get down to the easiest recipe in the history of recipes.
1 – 1 1/2 LBS chicken (breasts, cutlets, tenders, whatever)
1 cup of apple cider or white vinegar
1 TSP salt
1/2 TSP pepper
I like to marinate the chicken overnight in the vinegar, salt and pepper. If you can’t, no big deal. If you can, just throw it all into a freezer-sized Ziploc bag and toss it in the fridge until the next day.
When you are ready to cook them, place them into an oven-safe dish and cook (in the vinegar) at 350 for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken. This is the best way to get the most “vinegary” chicken possible. You can just as easy cook them on the stovetop or a grill, but the flavors will change a bit.
**Confession: Buffalo Wild Wings totally sells all of their seasonings and sauces at their take out counter, and I always have a bottle of the salt and vinegar seasoning. Sometimes I sprinkle some on top of my cooked chicken tenders. It is 100% not paleo since the third ingredient is sugar, and I’m sure there have to be some kind of chemicals in it to make it so delicious; but I don’t care. I enjoy every last bite.**
****As a side note, I should add that in Annapolis, Maryland where I live, there are not a lot of paleo-friendly restaurants. People in Denver and Southern California, I envy you. I simply make due with the cards that I am dealt here in my hometown, and that is where this post derives. ***