Delicious Things: El Gaucho

Much has been said about my place of employment: it’s swanky.  It’s fancy.  It’s decadent. It’s expensive.  It’s a meal that people look forward to for days (seriously – some of our guests don’t eat for an entire day to save up for dinner at El Gaucho).  It’s where I spend four or five nights a week, decked out in my finest tuxedo.  It’s not the first stop for anyone dieting or looking to be the most nutritionally-focused version of themselves.  In fact, people who are focused on nutrition will likely avoid El Gaucho like the plague.

This is totally unnecessary.

First, El Gaucho (EG from here on out) is a steakhouse.  Specializing in the highest-grade beef in the United States.  All steaks served are all-natural Certified Angus Beef Prime from Niman Ranch, which account for 0.1% of beef sold in the country.  Not too shabby.  Second, there are tons of non-beef menu options that are nutritional all-stars.  Prawn and Crab Cocktails, Caesar Salads, Steamed Asparagus, and wild king salmon.  The portions are massive, but can all be boxed and enjoyed for lunch the next day.  The trick to a healthy meal at EG? Learning how to order your food.  The following tips can be applied to orders at many restaurants, but for sake of ease I’m focusing on how and what I order at EG.

1) Just say no to the bread basket.  Garlic bread at EG is delicious.  Perfectly crusted baguettes packed with enough butter and garlic and parmesan cheese to last a family in a developing nation for days.  I let myself have a slice once a month or so and the accompanying sugar high is as intense as when I down a Red Bull.  If you’re in the mood, go for it.  If you’re focused on nutrition… just. say. no.

2) Start with your entree.  Leaner cuts of beef include filet mignon, chateaubriand and top sirloin (marbled, but not as well as a rib eye).  Seafood is always a great choice.  Steer clear of dishes that are sautéed, served with noodles, or laden with sauce after sauce.  If you must have a dish with an accompanying sauce, take control of your future and ask for the sauce on the side.  Also, your entree will always be brushed with butter at least once during the cooking process – ask them to skip this step.  If you are avoiding gluten, be sure to ask if there is gluten in the meat seasoning.  There usually is, so ask for that to be held as well.

3) Recognize that entrees are not your only “entree” choice.  Pancetta prawns with a mixed greens salad? Prawn cocktail with steamed asparagus? Bunless hamburger with a side of sliced tomatoes? Grilled scallops with filet tartare? Those all sound like fantastic, nutritious dinners to me.

4) Think about how to get your greens in.  Then, figure out how to order them.  “Steamed” greens will often be dressed in lemon butter.  Salads will often have hidden cheese and croutons paired with lots of full-fat, dairy-laden dressings.  Tell your server to ex-nay all the butter on your veggies (or at least put it on the side), and to avoid cheese and croutons in your lightly-dressed salads.

5) What to drink? What to drink? Clearly, the answer here should be: water.  But that’s boring.  And odds are that you aren’t going to a fancy dinner to down sparking water all night long.  Skinny cocktails are your best option: vodka soda, gin or vodka martinis with a lemon twist, tequila and soda with a heavy amount of fresh lime juice, bourbon on the rocks (high in sugar buuuut absolutely delicious).  Anything outside of these and you’re going to get sugar and calorie bombs.  Pick your poison well.

6) Dessert.  My biggest vice.  I once ate an entire forbidden sundae in one five-minute sitting.  It’s always delicious and never a nutritionally sound choice.  Ask if there is a fruit plate option that is off-menu.  Order sorbet.  Ask yourself if you really are hungry enough to warrant a dessert order.  Or, say “screw it” and indulge, with the knowledge that tomorrow morning’s workout might not be so fun.  I base my dessert decision on a five-point celebration scale: 1 = no celebration, no big deal, no bad day = no dessert. 5 = major life change = dessert all to myself.  Anything in between is either nothing or sharing.

Eating out at a high-end restaurant can absolutely be a series of poor nutritional choices.  But it doesn’t have to be.  I’ve been able to gain over 4 pounds of muscle and lose nearly 5% body fat while eating and working most nights of the week at one of the most calorie-laden restaurants in Seattle.  Learn how (and what) to order and you’ll leave happy and satiated, with lunch for tomorrow ready to go.

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