If you are one of the many people whose mouth doesn’t immediately start watering upon hearing the words “healthy food,” here’s a simple exercise that’s going to change your mind about as fast as you can say “pepperoni pizza please.”
Head down to The Bistro at Water’s Edge. Stop at the cooler at the entrance to the restaurant. Look for the clear plastic container with “Almond/Cashew Raw Balls” handwritten on the top (a sign that it’s fresh and house made) and take a bite while you are fumbling for the cash to pay for it. Then plan to fumble for more cash, because you’re going to be wanting more of these to share — or not — at home.
But before you go, stay for lunch and let Bistro manager/chef Carrie Royal and her staff convince you further that eating food that is good for your health and well being doesn’t require that you adopt the diet of your basic pet parakeet.
Since joining The Bistro in November, Royal has been using her vast food-service industry experience and her lifetime commitment to healthy eating to re-energize the restaurant’s menu with a broader selection of offerings made with ingredients that are better for you but still taste great.
“In addition to new menu items, we’ve taken a lot of our existing elections and are now just making them healthier,” says Royal. “We’re substituting white flour with whole grain, replacing mayonnaise with an alternative spread, offering more gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian selections. We just want to give people healthier food choices and let them experience how good healthy food can be.”
Royal says she thinks healthy food gets a bad rap sometimes just because many people haven’t been educated enough about exactly what it is. It’s a lot easier for most of us to guess what tastes good but is bad for you than figure out what’s both good for you and tastes good as well. We’ve been brought up to think if it’s good for you, there’s a good chance it’s a brussels sprout or one of its ilk.
Royal, on the other hand, knows better. She’s been doing research into the subject since she was, oh, in Kindergarten.
“My mom was a real health nut, and started me cooking when I was5,”she says.
As an adult, Royal attended culinary school, then went to work in a series of a food-related settings.
My very first restaurant job was at Burgerville in the 80s,” she says. “And yes we were serving hamburgers, but I was also squeezing orange juice fresh every day and breading our own halibut. Everything was made from scratch.”
Other stops included several fine-dining establishments in Portland, the Skamania Lodge and Nature’s grocery store (later bought by Whole Foods). All her stops reinforced her belief that the best food was fresh, made from scratch and from local sources, and with healthy ingredients. They also added to her cooking skill set.
When she learned of an opening at a restaurant located adjacent to a medical fitness center on The Dalles waterfront, she seized the opportunity to put her knowledge into practice in what sounded like her ideal setting.
“I’ve been an exercise nut my whole life and I’ve been studying nutrition my whole life,” Royal says. “And I’m not trying to push my own philosophy on people. But I have watched a lot of people I care about suffer from diseases that might have been prevented with a healthier diet. And because we are part of Water’s Edge, and a lot of our customers are members of the fitness center or are people who may be living with heart disease or another condition, I think we have a responsibility to make sure we are offering healthy food options for them in our restaurant.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t find meat or chicken or even bacon and eggs on the Bistro menu. But whenever possible those items are going to be coming from the best local sources.
“Almost everything you buy in a local grocery store is going to have something undesirable in it,” Royal says, “So I use local sources whenever I can, not just because I want to support our local providers but because their products are just better and better for you.”
Royal says her healthy approach is being well received by Bistro customers. She’s even attracting new customers, including people passing through town, just because they have heard of the healthy menu options, including the availability of vegan and vegetarian options.
“I love what I’m doing, and people have been very positive about it. I’ve even told customers who are interested in eating healthier that if they tell me what they like to eat I can convert an old recipe into a healthier one. We are not getting rid of what have been the most popular items on our menu. We are now just offering a greater variety of healthier choices."
Now that we've whet your appetite for delicious healthy food, be sure to stop in to The Bistro and Water's Edge soon.
Water's Edge is located in Lone Pine Village just south of The Dalles Bridge. See the full menu online at www.wellnessatwatersedge.com/bistro.