Cleveland Still Rocks!

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The second half of my trip to Cleveland rivaled the first in friendly hosts and fun times.  I had met John and Michelle several years back at a friend’s wedding and decided immediately that they were my new best friends. When I let them know I was coming to town they invited me to stay with them and I am so glad that I did!

The first evening we had dinner at their restaurant; John Palmers Bistro 44 is located in Northeast Ohio. I had heard about the restaurant and was excited to try the cuisine. I dined on a perfectly cooked filet mignon with a side of brussels sprouts and gorgonzola redskins which are a heavenly cheesy potato side. I was also encouraged to try the tater tots which were unlike anything I had ever had and amazing. If you are thinking this doesn’t sound like the cuisine to lose weight…you may be right sometimes you have to bite the bullet or the steak rather.

The next day they played tour guide and we went downtown for some good old fashion casino gaming. I skipped the slot machines, hovering around the black jack tables before settling down at a table for an hour or so and making about $500! Fresh off a good run I was tempted to map out all the casinos on my upcoming path to help bankroll this trip but decided that was probably not my best idea.

The next morning John and Michelle hooked me up with their personal trainer for a session. I met with Troy, Owner of Body Physicans at his studio in Concord Ohio. Upon walking in to his studio you can see that it is not your typical gym. Troy has developed and created all of his own equipment. The pieces look like an average piece of equipment you might find in your gym but at a closer look you can tell there is something different. After a good stretch Troy had me hop on one and the range of movement was different than any I had ever tried before. He has been working for years on developing his machines and has sold them to other trainers and football teams in the past. When my workout was complete Troy asked if he could pray for me. It caught me completely off guard. I don’t want to get into religion here, just as I won’t be speaking to you about politics but regardless of what you believe it is nice for someone to take a moment, put his hand on your shoulder and pray for your safe journey.

Troy’s studio is located at 9853 Johnnycake Ridge Road in Concord Ohio, his number is 440-853-8472 if you want to contact him.

Cleveland was amazing for me, mostly because of the people but also because of the cool city. It was common to hear “why would you go there” from people when I listed Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland but all provided me great experiences and I truly enjoyed what they had to offer.

Sadly I didn’t take any pictures. I need to stop having so much fun and start photo journaling my journey!

Cleveland Rocks!

SJM Weather

Chief Meteorologist here, weathering the storms of this trip, there has been plenty of sunshine, a rainbow or two and an occasional shower. Cleveland was a definite ray of light, I was hosted by two different groups of friends. To keep the post somewhat short I will be writing two posts.

My first two nights were spent with my friend Meagan and her family. One of the highlights of this trip is experiencing how other’s live. On my first morning Meagan and I got up early to drop her two daughters off at school, not being a parent this was my first school drop, let me tell you it is very much like you see in the movies. The kids were eager to hop out of the car having spotted their friends and they were off, it was like a whirlwind. We squealed (ok, not really) out of the school driveway eager to start our tour of downtown Cleveland.

On our agenda for the day was the West Side Market, Cleveland’s Public Market which recently celebrated their 100th anniversary. It is natural to compare things to your home, in this case Pike Place Market, however I couldn’t choose a market I preferred. I liked West Side for the set up of its food vendors, they were organized in square pods with a different vendor occupying one quarter of the space. I liked the ability to look around from one vantage point and see the various offerings of meats, poultry, seafood and cheeses. Pike Place seems a bit more disjointed in its placement of vendors. However, that said, I preferred the fruit and vegetable set up at Pike Place over The West Side Market. There seems to be more vendors, more variety and less heckling. As we walked through I felt like I was unable to shop in peace as the vendors were all yelling trying to get my attention.

We next headed to the Cleveland Museum of Art for a quick bite before perusing the exhibitions. The Provenence Cafe, was another museum surprise, offering locally sourced authentic cuisine. I ordered a tandoor-baked chicken claybread sandwich and a side salad. The man in charge, Chef Douglas Katz, hopes to align the food to the quality experience that art lovers encounter throughout the rest of the museum. If my meal was a representative of the rest of the menu I would say he is right on target! Our only complaint…the sandwich wasn’t served with a bib.

Our final stop of our tourist day was at the Lakeview Cemetery. It might seem like an odd stop, a cemetery where I knew no one residing there but it was a very interesting and informative visit. You can get a sense of the people who built a city by the engravings in the headstone. The Cemetery houses graves of some pretty prominent individuals to include President James A. Garfield, John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness.

There is a free tour of the monument of President Garfield, a quick hike up the stairs to the top of the building provides a birds eye view of the cemetery. Additionally, the Wade Memorial Chapel is not to be missed. This chapel was was designed by glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. The intricate details are breathtaking.

Our day was complete when I got to sit in on a filming of a pre-game show called Tailgate 19. It was my first time in a news studio and I was able to sneak in some time at the weather desk before heading off to dinner.

I had so much fun that there was danger to me extending my visit, however, I know that its best to leave when the ratings are high so I took my departure.

West Side Market

West Side Market

Cleveland Market 2

Westside Market

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Cleveland Museum of Art

Feeling Cocky

Feeling Cocky

President Garfield Monument

President Garfield Monument

President Garfield's Monument

President Garfield’s Monument

The Chef’s Garden

Chefs Garden Sign

I am not sure if I have told you yet, but I am a horrible cook. Actually, that isn’t entirely fair, when I have tried my hand at a recipe it turns out well, I just don’t enjoy cooking so rarely find myself tinkering in the kitchen. When I head to the grocery store I push my cart around the perimeter of the store, knowing that is where all the good stuff lives. I fill my cart with loads of produce, having actually no idea what I will make with the ingredients but know that it is healthy. On occasion I have been known to detour on my way to checking out and have found myself in the freezer aisle throwing in a package of pizza rolls. Pizza rolls, you know the ones, the overly processed little bites of molten lava heaven. These things are my kryptonite, or at least a part of my kryptonite family. I head home and over the next few days I have been known to “dine” on the rolls while my produce turns brown with anger in my refrigerator.

My lack of skills in cooking is a huge part of my weight issue. I turn to convenience items such as frozen meals and……happy hours. Cooking is not easy for me, in fact it is incredibly challenging. This personal struggle with being able to throw ingredients together and create an edible meal has haunted me for years. It is because of this I have great adoration for those who are able to creatively cook food that is both nutritious and flavorful. I have had the pleasure of meeting a handful of chefs throughout my life and while I don’t fully understand their crazy choice in pants I do marvel at their artistic ability as well as their love to provide quality food to those around them.

It is with this adoration for Chefs that I eagerly pulled my car in front of the Farmhouse that is the administrative offices for The Chef’s Garden, located in Huron, Ohio.

What originally started as the Jones Family Farm has turned into a niche micronutrient garden focused on supplying Chefs  from all over the world, some as far away as Hong Kong, with items that are difficult to procure elsewhere. In the 1980’s after a devastating loss of crops the family met a chef at a local farmer’s market who was interested not in the squash, but in the squash blossoms. It was a unique request at the time, but they were able to fulfill it and before long word got around and more and more culinary professionals were reaching out to them for unique and specific items.

A new business was born and is coming up on its 30th Anniversary of sustainable, eco-friendly, socially responsible and economically viable farming.

It is not an easy feat being economically viable, there is a lot of man power needed to run the Chef’s Garden. Their 300 acres are farmed by one team member per acre where a typical farm would employ under five people total for the same 300 acres. They also legally employ migrant workers from Mexico, flying them to the farm every season and paying them a fair wage, 401K and a bonus. In addition to the farm hands every Chef is assigned a Product Specialist who become their eyes, ears and taste buds at the farm, providing them with inside information on what produce is looking the best at that time.

The Chef’s Garden has over 500 Chefs visit their farm yearly to see first hand the over 600 different species which are grown in chemical free soil and harvested by hand.  Many spend spend time at the Culinary Vegetable Institute and given access to a professional kitchen where they are able to work with their team and play around with various foods.

You don’t have to be a professional Chef to enjoy the bounty of The Chef’s Garden. They have expanded their business to provide quality produce to the at-home Chef through Farmer Jones Farms. They have several memberships to choose from but all result in fresh, in-season produce that you often times cannot find at your local grocery being delivered to your door.

I can honestly say at this point in my journey that I would rather receive a box from Farmer Jones than I would from Totinos Pizza Rolls, and that is saying a lot.

The main office at The Chef's Garden

The main office at The Chef’s Garden

Me, the non-Chef, wannabe Chef in front of the farm.

Me, the non-Chef, wannabe Chef in front of the farm.

Road snack, fresh from the garden!

Road snack, fresh from the garden!

Henry Ford Museum

Henry ford logo

I was heading to the Henry Ford Museum strictly as a tourist until I chatted with Kate Lawson, Food Writer for The Detroit News. She suggested that I reach out to Jesse Eisenhuth, the Director of food and catering for the museum. When I got to the museum Jesse sat down and shared the vision he and Head Chef Mike Trombley have for the culinary program.

The museum is committed to its “Local Roots” program which has them working with neighboring Michigan farms and communities to procure their food products. Their commitment goes beyond just trying to find the best ingredients, they are dedicated to working locally to help support and stimulate the local economy. When I asked Jesse what “Local” meant to him he said they focus on purchasing products that are grown in their natural state, take chickens as an example, they only purchase free range chickens raised in the way that they were intended. You can look around the food venues and see local everywhere, they even moved to local coffee and bottled water.

This commitment to food has taken pre-packed and pre-made foods or “freezer pleasers” off of their menu and replaced them with food made from scratch as often as possible. The food has gone from canned and boxed foods to soups made from homemade stock and mac n’ cheese made with real Michigan milk and cheese. There are always healthier options offered but even the more caloric meals are still made with the best ingredients possible, while not making it necessarily healthy it definitely is a benefit to consume real cheese vs. a powdered cheese substitute.

Both Jesse and Chef Mike have their work cut out for them. They are providing food not only for the guests of the museum but they are also responsible for feeding high schoolers at the onsite college prep charter school the Henry Ford Academy as well as employees of the museum. They both believe that it is important to provide all on their grounds access to quality healthy food.

We hopped on a four wheeler to tour Greenfield Village, the 80 acres that are set behind the main museum. What started as Henry Ford’s personal collection has turned into a small town where you can step into the past and tour unique buildings like Thomas Edison’s Shop. The commitment to Local Roots and quality food continues on the streets of this village. Just outside of one of the high school buildings there is a herb garden that is harvested by volunteers for use in the food program at the museum, additionally there is a working farm in the village that produces even more food.

Jesse and I stepped into the Eagle Tavern, the actual original tavern from back in the 1800’s which was purchased by Ford, taken apart and rebuilt within the village.  The year was 1850, we were greeted by staff wearing period clothing and were presented with a menu filled with meals created with ingredients found in Michigan during that time. I am not one for LARP (Live Action Role Play) but this was done quite well, and let’s be honest I am a child of the 80’s, I have forever dreamed of taking a stroll through the small town of Walnut Grove, the location of the books and television show “Little House on the Prairie” as Laura Ingalls Wilder or “Half-Pint” as some of you know her. We sat down to a table lit with a candle and were handed an extensive menu. We dined on chicken corn chowder and pan seared trout, and finished our meal with a strawberry shortcake, it was all absolutely amazing! Perhaps this is why “Losing Weight Off the Interstate” has proven to be so difficult.

Jesse told me that The Eagle Tavern has consistently been chosen as one of the top restaurants in the area which is an even bigger feat when you realize that you must pay the entrance fee to the museum to dine there.

One of the most interesting things to me was that while the costs to prepare high quality food were higher than the other canned variety the museum was serving previously the costs weren’t necessarily passed on to the consumer. The price point for a warm lunch at the Michigan Cafe hovered right around $7.00, to me this was an incredible deal. Jesse indicated that they weren’t looking to make money off the food program, they wanted to keep the price points low enough that the visiting families could afford to eat onsite. Remembering a $25 meal the last time I ate a cold burger and fries at Disney World I was shocked, and pleased.

It is really refreshing to meet people who are really passionate about providing quality food and economic opportunity to their customers and community.

My wonderful tour guides Jesse & Chef Mike

My wonderful tour guides Jesse & Chef Mike

Henry Ford Local Roots

Henry Ford Michigan Cafe



Original building: Eagle Tavern

Original building: Eagle Tavern

Henry Ford Eagle Tavern

Onsite garden

Onsite garden

Kate Lawson: Food Writer, Detroit News

katelawsonThere are plenty of places that I visit that I have no connection to, and no leads to food and fitness experts. When I was in Detroit I realized that I had nothing, just warnings from everyone who had heard I was going there bouncing around in my head. I spent my first evening in my hotel room, too scared to go out after dark, and researching people in the area who might be of interest to speak with. During my research I came across the Food writer for the Detroit News, Kate Lawson. Kate writes several food columns covering everything from cooking trends to local professional chefs. It was last minute, I felt guilty as I hit send on my email requesting to chat with her about the local food scene.

The next morning as I was preparing for my day my phone rang, a very strange sound since most of my communication is via email and text.  Upon answering I was met with the friendly voice of Kate Lawson. Luckily for me it wasn’t just her voice that was friendly Kate was so excited and supportive of my journey and eager to meet with me to chat. When I told her I was headed out to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn she encouraged me to reach out to Jesse Eisenhuth the Director of their food service and catering. This turned out to be a wonderful suggestion and I ended up spending several hours over the following two days with Jesse, learning about their approach to food. I can’t go into too much detail as I am busy writing a blog post about that experience, so sorry, you will have to wait.

Kate and I made a plan to have lunch and a tour of the Detroit area, she picked me up at my hotel and within moments of being in her car I knew I had connected with the right lady. If she had provided me with nothing it would have been just fine with me because every moment with Kate was a good time. I felt as if I had known her for years, conversation was easy and the afternoon enjoyable.

We went to a small restaurant in Mexicantown for an authentic taco lunch followed by a visit to a popular deli called Mudgie’s, located in a hip brick building in the historic Corktown neighborhood for dessert. Yes, we had dessert, though we had a small lunch in anticipation of this move. We shared the decadent “Sweet Ruth” which is a homemade bread pudding apple waffle cooked to order and topped with amazing horchata ice cream and butterscotch caramel.  I can justify this because this divine desert was made with local ice cream and caramel sauce, ok a bit of a stretch but at least it was a high quality freshly made choice.

We finished our tour with a stop by the Detroit Mercantile, a well merchandised store filled with so many amazing things including an owner who used to live in Spokane (my hometown) and had only good things to say! Win win!

Kate had to get back to work so she dropped me off at my hotel. We said our goodbyes had a nice hug and Kate told me she thought I was “Berries”, which I have never heard before but am going to assume is a good thing.

In regards to all the scary things I heard about Detroit, I am confused, I found Detroit to be a cool city. I don’t know all the politics around its economy but I do know that the downtown core has plenty of charm and friendly people. Given the chance I would return again!

The Fit Girl’s Kitchen – Kat Pummill

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I had such a great experience meeting other food and fitness bloggers I decided to continue to try and find them along the way.  Enter Kat Pummill of The Fit Girl’s Kitchen, a blog that combines her passion for health, fitness and healthy cooking. Kat lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in addition to a full time marketing job is a blogger as well as in the final steps of completing her certification as a Nutritional Health Coach.

I sat down with Kat at the charming Collectivo Coffee which is located across from the beach at Lake Michigan (seriously, who knew a lake could have such an amazing beach?) We sipped our coffee and chatted about her entry into blogging. Originally she was Instagraming images of the healthy food she was cooking for herself and her husband and people started requesting the recipes, she started the blog to share her meals with others. A quick perusal on her site and you will understand why her food was so appealing; Apple Almond Quinoa Salad, Watermelon Goat Cheese Towers and Greek Marinated Grilled Lamb Chops are among some of her shared recipes.

We chatted about my personal journey and the struggles that go along with it, such as finding healthy food to eat on the road.  When I asked her what she would do if she were in my position she said that she would source out stopping points for healthy food items prior to getting in the car.  When I asked what would be in her cooler she offered up un-salted nuts, apples slices w/ lemon juice (to keep the brown away), cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and her favorite energy bar, Larabars.

She also sent me on the road with some of her personal healthy living tips:

Eat more leafy greens   –   Don’t skip breakfast and ensure it contains both fiber and protein   –   Pick foods that have 5 ingredients or less on the label   –   Buy local as often as possible   –   Pay attention to hormones in your meat   –   Pay attention to your cravings   –   Don’t deprive yourself, everything in moderation.

I am so thankful that I had the time with Kat to learn from her healthy habits as well as to add another great person to my growing list of friends. Check out her site and perfect those recipes as I may find myself in your kitchen at some point along this journey.

Follow The Fit Girl’s Kitchen on Facebook!



Go-Macro 1

It’s funny that the Huffington Post blog about Whole Foods,  “Surviving Whole Foods” has gone viral because that is where this story starts. I was wandering the aisles of Whole Foods looking for some quick food options that would be easy to consume in the car and filling enough that I wouldn’t be tempted at each exit I passed by the golden arches.

I reached for several standbys; Zing Bars and Larabars and then searched the shelves for something new to try. I grabbed a GoMacro Macrobar, did a quick perusal of the ingredients and satisfied, put it in my basket.  Once back on the road it didn’t take me long to break into my stash. I unwrapped the GoMacro Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip and within two bites was kicking myself that I hadn’t purchased more. Later when safely parked I looked at the wrapper to see where the company was located and saw that it was in Wisconsin, only about a half hour off the freeway I was taking between Minneapolis and Madison. I hopped on their website and sent an email requesting a meeting and tour of the facilities. In less than 24 hours I received a reply and an invitation to come by their offices to meet the founder, Amelia Kirchoff and her staff. I ecstatically agreed and eagerly anticipated my visit.

As I left the freeway to take the backroads towards Viola, Wisconsin I was amazed at the beauty. I drove by large lush trees, passed fields and valleys of brilliant shades of green and had to slow for several Amish horse and buggies. I am often times biased at the terrain in the Pacific Northwest but this trip has shown me that every region has its own beauty.

I pulled up to the headquarters of the family owned GoMacro and was greeted by their Operations Manager, Tony Saarem who took me through the history of the company. The company was the inspiration that came of a healthy macrobiotic diet that Amelia began shortly after finding out she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found great success in eliminating eggs, dairy, refined sugar, highly processed “foods” and animal products. She decided to start playing around with natural sweeteners and grains and fruit grown on her own farm, the end result was the GoMacro bar.

We were soon joined by Amelia who came from her home, the farm where they originally ran production out of their barn before moving to the current facility in town. They both gave me a tour of the operations from the shipping and receiving to the production facility where I saw the product being mixed, formed into bars and packaged.

They currently produce 20,000 bars a day, all of which ship to their customers in less than a week.  Their product line currently consists of 11 full size bars and four mini bars, all of which are organic, vegan, and gluten free.  However, they are constantly looking at new recipes, and Amelia can often times still be found in the kitchen, creating new products and is the final say in the research and development process.

Currently, their products are distributed in many independent health food stores as well as Whole Foods (sorry Seattle they aren’t in our region yet) and PCC as well as available for purchase on their website. Amelia’s daughter, Jola, manages the sales and marketing and is quickly increasing their distribution so if they aren’t yet in your local store don’t fret!

I was so happy to have had the opportunity to take a side trip off the beaten path to see this great company and even happier when I walked away with a sample box of all of their bars.  As I thanked them and walked away Amelia warned me to not eat them all at once, good advice as I could have eaten them for every meal if I allowed myself.

Go Macro Group Pic