Girls on Food

Burgers

Take Me, I’m Yours Morgan Street Food Hall & Market in Raleigh, NC

Recently, food halls have been popping up all over the country. When I heard Raleigh was getting not one, but two, my immediate reaction was “great, a glorified mall food court” because really, when was the last time you felt cool eating at the food court, amiright? But there are a couple huge differences at play here, so put your worries aside!

First, food courts are so often chains and standard fare. Morgan Street Food Hall & Market is, for the most part, neither. Rolled ice cream anyone? Poke bowls, empanadas, and ramen were the first things to catch my eye. Cousins Maine Lobster (the only option I would consider a chain) is slightly more accessible here, and with a lot more seating options! The line is still out the door but with a beer in hand and a bustling crowd, a far cry from the hot food truck rodeo lines you’re usually waiting in! Last time I tried that, I was “red as a lobster” by the time I ordered my Connecticut lobster roll!

Raleigh Rolls rolled ice cream, which is a treat for all! (yeah, I shared with the baby!)

When you first walk into Morgan Street Food Hall, you’ll see a bustling crowd and tons of seating options, from picnic tables to couches and arm chairs, and finally, 4 top tables with chairs. There are indoor and outdoor seating options, with a couple bars to frequent as thirst arises. There are 18 dining options, ranging from southern to Mediterranean to Asian; comfort food and hangover food and on to desserts and bubble tea. For our family, this is the perfect place for all of our meals out: we have 2 picky preschoolers who think the margarita pizza at Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza and Tapas is out of this world (and less than $10, thank you!).

For me, I get the “adventurous” foods I can’t talk the whole family into – ramen and poke bowls, while hubby gets to fill up on empanadas, which he loves! We have an Italian au pair living with us this year, and she has enjoyed working her way through the options Morgan Street has at her disposal. Currently, her heart resides in Raleigh.

I’ve now eaten at Morgan Street 3 times. Hubs and I met a group of friends here one night before an Umphrey’s McGee concert downtown. There were a lot of empanadas and some curry plates, a kick ass looking pizza, a whole lot of beer, and my amazing delicious tuna poke bowl, with fresh tuna on their California bowl (from The Bowls), loaded with amazingness and topped with avocado! It was incredible, and I couldn’t wait to go back!

So the next weekend, a girlfriend and I met up there, and she got ramen and I went back to The Bowls for round 2 – this time trying their spicy tuna on the Malibu bowl, which has spicy seaweed salad in it. The biggest difference was that the tuna was chopped up instead of chunks, so I would probably go regular tuna in the future.

We also ventured over to the bar, and I tried the Deep River Brewing Company’s (out of Clayton, NC) pumpkin pie porter, which was oh, so good and also very seasonal! It was delicious after a long afternoon of shopping and enjoying the suddenly cooler temps here in NC! Finally (maybe the first finally), we waited in line at Cocoa Forte Desserts for chocolate dipped cheesecake, which we were saving for when we got home, and then I talked my friend into trying out Raleigh Rolls, the rolled ice cream place! It’s a little bit Coldstone Ceamery (you get to choose 3 flavors that go into your ice cream, and then 3 flavors for the toppings) meets a sushi roll (because in the end, they hand you a bowl with 6 rolls of ice cream). So good news – you can sub flavors – I subbed in coffee flavoring for the graham cracker in my s’mores ice cream, and it was the.best.thing.ever! Little man ate way too much but also thinks I’m the coolest mom ever for sharing my ice cream with him, ha! (Verdict on cheesecake – its on a stick, so go ahead and eat it immediately. I waited a few hours to eat mine, and it fell apart really fast. Pretty sure it was user error though).

So the next day, my hubs was still out of town (he went on Phish tour last weekend), and I needed to provide food for my little ones for the 4th day in a row. So…I started thinking about that pizza, and the fact that cow burger has hot dogs. Surely they could find something to eat…

Here’s the deal – I was nervous to bring a 5 year old and a 3 year old and a 5 month old into such a busy place. But…they loved it! My son is begging to go back, my daughter can’t stop talking about the ice cream, and the baby slept thru the thing. We also found an awesome place for our family photos in 2 weeks. So all in all, a great trip. I will send you all day every day to Bella’s pizza – it was incredible, and the kids ate every bite of that pizza. I loved the portion size of the burgers (I got the classic cheeseburger) and I’d heard great things about it, but I would definitely trust your gut on that place. First, the line took F O R E V E R which I’m not really into, and wouldn’t have waited in it but our au pair and I both wanted a burger so we stuck with it. Second, we waited F O R E V E R for our buzzer to ring. Like it took the entire time the pizza cooked to wait in the line and order. Then the kids ate the whole pizza. And I took them back over to Raleigh rolls and waited for someone to turn melted ice cream into frozen ice cream rolls, and then the buzzer sounded as I was paying for them. So the burgers were delicious, great bun to burger ratio, and overall very satisfying, but with so many faster options, I’m not sure I would wait for it again.

Also, pro tip – if you have a picky child who only eats vanilla ice cream (I know, I know, its super weird but what I’m dealing with right now), there is another small ice cream scoop place in the food hall. Don’t waste your $7 on plain vanilla with a tiny sprinkling of rainbow sprinkles. Spend that money on the whole experience and all the toppings, and get Sir Picky something from the cheaper place!

So final verdict – run, don’t walk, to the Morgan Street Food Hall if you’re in Raleigh. Bring an appetite. Check out the unusual places, especially the bowls, the broth, and curry in a hurry, and take the time to wait in line for Raleigh Rolls! I’m looking forward to heading down there again next weekend after the International Festival to try out some new places!

MEDIA TASTING: The Thirsty Merchant in Valley Village, CA Brings Out The Kid In Us!

Los Angeles, I’ve just found your new go-to summer hangout! If you’re looking for good drinks, good eats, and fun games in a laid back but classy atmosphere, look no further than the Thirsty Merchant in Valley Village.

THE THIRSTY MERCHANT

12430 Riverside Dr
Valley Village, CA 91607
http://www.thethirstymerchant.com

I enjoy watching and playing games as much as the next girl, but I usually avoid my local sports bar because I’m not interested in jockeying for a spot at the pool table with a bunch of annoying bros.

Thank goodness for the Thirsty Merchant. Not only are there plenty of games to choose from (bocce ball, foosball, corn hole, darts—even giant Connect-Four!), but the vibe is warm and inviting with an elegant Victorian-inspired twist. We had a lot of fun playing these bar games, especially darts. It makes me want to buy my own so that I can play with it whenever I want too, (and to improve on my skills that I seemingly don’t have). My friend who has her own dartboard told me that if I was seriously considering getting one, that I should have a look at the reviews from somewhere like 1 Hattrick so that I can get one that I know would be best for me. I will definitely have a look when I get the chance, but for now, I am enjoying my time in this bar. The bar is impressive, and they offer a wide selection of beers, but they also have an excellent wine and cocktail list for those like myself who aren’t into brews.

Hot Lips

Upon arriving, my companion and I settled into a cozy, dimly lit booth and perused the menu. We decided to start off with a couple of spicy drinks to get things going. He ordered a Hot Lips cocktail made with jalapeño infused vodka, mezcal, lime, pineapple juice, and vanilla simple syrup. I ordered a Merchant Mary with Bang Bang Shrimp Cocktail from the “Day Drinks” menu (which, by the way, accompanied a rather appealing weekend brunch menu that I intend to return for).

The Hot Lips definitely did as its name implied- it made my lips tingle with flavor. I know spicy drinks aren’t for everyone, but if you enjoy heat, definitely try this drink out. It has a smoky taste on the front end, builds into a zesty jalapeño burn, and softens with the sweet vanilla finish. Delicious!

The Merchant Mary was also a very solid Bloody Mary, though after trying the Hot Lips, it didn’t seem spicy enough for my taste. But the mix is fresh and made in house and had all the right elements – including a refreshing celery flavor that I really enjoyed. Be careful with this one though… it makes for some really easy drinking, and I didn’t realize how strong it was until I finished it. Oh, and did I mention the zesty and meaty shrimp that was the prize at the end of the drink? (Or are you one of those people who eats all the garnishes first? No judgement here!)

For an appetizer we tried the Roasted Shishito Peppers which were UH-MAY-ZING. Who would think such a simple dish could be so delicious? For me, it was all about the perfect char and garlicky vinegar dressing the peppers were dressed with, and the equally mouthwatering truffle aioli that accompanied them. I could have eaten a bucket of these, but I had to save room for the rest of the night.

We also tried a Sonoma Salad before diving into the main course. This salad is a refreshing summer treat made with crisp butter lettuce, roasted corn, candied walnuts, and dried cranberries, tossed with a light champagne vinaigrette and feta cheese crumbles. It would make a great meal on its own with some added protein like chicken or shrimp.

There were a lot of other appealing appetizers that would make for good sharing with a group of friends, such as steak tips and pan-fried dumplings, but we decided to order something more hearty for our main course. After trying the shrimp in the bloody Mary I was tempted to go with the Louisiana Bang Bang Shrimp, but ultimately I decided to go with the Bistro Burger. My companion took a Southern route with the Southern Livin’ fried chicken sandwich.

It was time for a drink refill while we waited for our food and I simply had to try another “day drink” selection, the Frosé (“God’s gift to your mouth” as the menu states.) I have to agree. This is the perfect summer treat. I’m a sucker for frozen drinks, and this one is a delight. If you love rosé, you’ll enjoy its crisp and citrusy flavor. Plus, it’s just plain fun to drink.

My companion got a Hotsy Tosty – another spicy drink, but more fruity and sweet than the Hot Lips. Like the first drink, it’s also made with jalapeño infused vodka, but the difference lies in the fresh strawberries, agave nectar, and fizzy ginger beer. I liked this one even more than the Hot Lips – but I’m partial to sweet and fruity drinks. You can’t go wrong with either choice.

Before long our food arrived. The Bistro Burger was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time. The patty is ground in-house and crusted with pepper, topped with Boursin cheese and shoestring fries.

The burger was bursting with flavor – it had a hint of heat from the pepper tempered with creamy garlic from the cheese. It was as close to the feeling of having a fancy picnic with summer sausage and cheese as you could get in a burger. The shoe string fries were also perfectly crisp and the burger came with an additional side of them as well. I ate the whole thing, which is rare for me when it comes to burgers.

The Chicken Sandwich was equally amazing, but much heavier (as is to be expected with Southern-inspired cooking). The chicken was double-breaded with buttermilk and perfectly crusty on the outside and juicy-tender on the inside. The pimento cheese added a bit of heat, but the dill slaw provided a crunchy and satisfying cooldown.

We were pretty stuffed, but we had to had to try the highly-recommended dessert: the Peanut Butter Pie. Trust me, you’ll want to order this one – it was so rich and delicious with its Oreo crust and creamy peanut butter filling. It even had a couple Reese’s cups as a topper along with crushed peanuts and a dollop of whipped cream. Peanut-butter lovers rejoice!

I was honestly surprised by how good the food was for a place that offers sports and games. Oftentimes at bars like these, the food is an afterthought to the entertainment, but not so at the Thirsty Merchant. Come to watch your team on one of the many screens, or get a group together to share some apps and play a round of bocce ball (or three.) Or come with a date and snuggle into one of the cushy booths and enjoy a romantic cocktail. You can do it all at the Thirsty Merchant, and I for one will be making it one of my hangouts this summer. Connect-Four, anyone?

Between the Buns Slides into Home Plate with Their Inaugural Slider Event

Last Saturday the Dallas Observer and Whole Foods held the first annual Between the Buns – Slider EventThirty of Dallas’ hot spots were busy cooking some of their most tempting treats for the taking. Seriously, there really isn’t a better biteful than a slider and a great vehicle to pretty much get anything into your mouth! 

Between the Buns
Dallas Farmers Market
920 S. Harwood St.
Dallas, TX 75201

There were sliders for every taste and eater. Here are some of the best bites of the day….

Hutchins BBQ – Pulled Pork
If there is one thing Hutchins knows how to do it is BBQ and this slider was no exception. Sauce-laden and juicy to the last bite with a nice crunch from the coleslaw.

Full Circle Tavern – The Italian Stallion
The Italian seasoning was spot on and the peppers added a little bite. Mamma Mia!

Arepa – BBQ Jackfruit Arepa
Shout out to all my vegan and gluten-free foodies! This fluffy corn cake was stuffed full of seasoned jackfruit and jicama slaw. A great change from beef or pork.

Snuffer’s – Bacon Cheddar Slider
Man, I love a poppy seed bun! his baby was filled nicely with a beef patty smothered in Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and bacon.

Dot’s Hop House – Club Schmitz Burger
Dot’s Hop House pays homage to a Dallas legend with their namesake burger. Two patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and housemade pickles. Club Schmitz would be proud.

Easy Slider – The Mini Mac
Move over golden arches there is new burger in town that has you beat. This double-decker has two angus beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles and special sauce. It is small in stature, but mighty in taste.

The Dapper Doughnut – Strawberry Bella Mini Doughnut
After all that savory goodness it was time for something sweet. Warm and yummy, this mini doughnut was just what I needed to finish off the bevy of burgers.

The inaugural Between the Buns is in the books! Clear your calendars for next year’s event.

Sweet and Savory at Truffles N Bacon Cafe in Las Vegas

The first time I visited Truffles N Bacon, it felt like a well-kept secret, tucked into the corner of an antique mall. My husband thought it was a trick to get him to go shopping when we pulled into the parking lot. We had driven across the Las Vegas valley to try the Not Yo Mama’s Grilled Cheese, a grilled cheese loaded with brisket, bacon jam, grilled tomato, kale, and chipotle ranch–it was love at first bite.

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Meatless Monday at El Amerikano in Fullerton, CA

Being a non-meat eater I’m a huge fan of “Meatless Monday” becoming a thing. Mainly because I feel its raising awareness about the awesome dishes possible without having a formerly living creature in the recipe (tehehehehe). On a given Monday it’s always super exciting to see all the different recipes and dishes being showcased in the interwebs! Jackfruit tacos, DIY chickpea veggie patties, tofu nuggets – oh my! Little by little the rest of the world is being exposed to the lavish lifestyle non meat eating tastebuds are subjected to. 

Usually others will ask “OMG how can you live without meat? It’s so delicious blah blah blah.” The answer is now becoming clearer to them. I’ll be showcasing some of my fave dishes from a local gem of mine you can make your new Meatless Monday go to’s. 

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Burger City Grill in Torrance, CA

Do you ever wonder where the word burger derived? I decided to look it up and sure enough Hamburg, Germany is the home of the first hamburger, made from a Hamburg steak (this blend consists of three muscles: chest, shoulder, and back). German immigrants in New York brought the steak into restaurants, then it naturally took a turn during the Industrial Revolution and became more Americanized. It was served first to industrial workers as a “steak” from a food cart. Workers found it hard to eat while standing so this unknown innovator decided to put the meat between two slices of bread. How ingenious, right?

My milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard…

Growing up burgers have always been revered as America’s favorite food. I grew up first with Mc Donald’s, In-N-Out, Carl’s Junior, Jack In The Box, Burger King and Fat Burger. I thought those were the best back then. Then over the years Umami, Fuddruckers, Five Guys, Smashburger, Steak N’ Shake and Shake Shack emerged and elevated the burger game.

Now there’s a new player in Southern California that has been around for seven years, Burger City Grill. I went to their newest location in Torrance, which has been open since January 2017. What’s great about this fast food restaurant is that you have the choice to build your own Hamburger or to choose from the preset menu. Always good to keep options open.

 

Burger City Grill
3605 Artesia Blvd, Torrance, CA 90504
http://burgercitygrill.com/

After a carnivorous trip to Texas, I laid off meat for a week to be sure I would really savor the burgers here. So, when I took that first bite of that juicy burger, it was extra special.

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Christmas in July: McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar and Fegley’s Bethlehem Brew Works

I headed down to Pennsylvania to catch The Three Musketeers in the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival playing now through August 6th. It was a spirited evening of Muskateering which turned out to be a super funny and well produced show. Anyone in the area should swashbuckle over to the PA Shakes Center at DeSales before they close and be sure to bring a bottle of wine and picnic for outside beforehand- there’s a lovely seating area to partake in. You shall notethhhh be diappointedettthhhh (see what I did there)

Of course, all of this theater-ing made me hungry and I headed back to Bethlehem, PA which I had visited on the holidays a couple of years back. This time, I fully experienced the quaint Celtic eatery McCarthy’s which was definitely way more than we bargained for.

McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar
534 Main Street, Bethlehem, PA, 18018
http://www.redstagpub.com

The first notable item to catch my eye on the menu was the House Made Banana Whiskey. They had a ginger version too but how could I say no to banana? I feel like the minions could get really into this. O-M-G…..SO GOOD. I want a bottle. Seriously, I want a bottle….but that would be bad news.

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Weekly Wanderlust 7/28/17: #GOFxHooch Event at Harlowe in WeHo, FM Kitchen and Bar in Houston, Burger Parlor’s Portland Burger in OC and Paula’s Pesto and Goat Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

Every Friday here at Girls on Food, we’ll bring you Weekly Wanderlust, featuring the best our in cities, recipes, videos and advanced notice on events we’ll be appearing at.

The Botanist Gin and Tonic

Julianne here: The #GOFxHooch event, referenced in last week’s WW column was a blast! Friends of GOF were hosted by the Hooch app at Harlowe in West Hollywood for an evening of drinks and bites!

The favorite cocktail of the evening was The Botanist Gin and Tonic. This G&T incorporates fresh muddled cucumber for a very refreshing taste! Favorite treats included Mary’s Fried Chicken Strips, Margherita Flatbread, Vegetarian Flatbread and the Mushroom and Mozzarella Flatbread.

We’re already in talks to host another event with them, so stay tuned to the Weekly Wanderlust Column for the next collaboration with Hooch!

Margherita Flatbread

Ginger here: Every time I visit Houston my friends take me to wherever Chef Ryan Hildebrand is behind the pass. That place used to be the upscale Triniti restaurant, but since it recently closed Chef Hildebrand has gone in the opposite direction, to the land of burgers and brews (or what I’ve seen described as “road trip inspired food”). But please don’t confuse FM Kitchen and Bar with your average gas station and roadside diner food! The food at FM is leaps and bounds above quickie road-side fare!

Behold the Double Burger with Shhh sauce.

In fact, the burger is so mouth-watering that it won a blind taste-test conducted by staff at the Houston Press, and if you think that’s fake news then consider this: I prefer not to eat burgers often for health reasons and yet I ate this burger twice in a 3-day period (the second time in my car during the 3.5 hour drive back to Dallas) and my nephew dragged his father to FM four times in one week for the burger while mother was out of town.

Order your burger as a single or double with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and secret Shhh sauce (so darn good!) and, instead of the standard fries, pair it with a side of hush puppies or tater tots. I think the burger is a must, but there are plenty of other tasty non-beef items like the fried shrimp and hush-puppy plate (add a side of smothered green beans for some veggies) or the lemon-thyme brick chicken.

You can’t leave without trying one of the cocktails (all under $9), like the strong but refreshing Watermelon Mule made with melon vodka, fresh watermelon and ginger beer or the Farmhouse Tea with TX Ranger whiskey, lemon and tea.

Have room for dessert? Then try a virgin shake for the kiddos or a loaded shake with shots of alcohol for the hard-working adults. You can work off the calories by playing yard games on the patio while listening to live music.

Portland Burger

Carla here: Hey all! I’ve been a pescetarian for more than 7 years now and yet my love for burgers has never left my side. Burgers without meat are always better since they have to try a little harder. #fact. 

I am beyond blessed to have the absolute best vegetarian burger in OC down the street from my home. May I present to you… Burger Parlor’s Portland Burger. Contrary to most vegetarian options, a veggie doesn’t replace the meat patty. At Burger Parlor, a square of fried mozzarella is the patty that brings envy to all your pals eating cows. The pickled carrots, sprouts and arugula are great companions as well, but the marinated beets really get you to flavor-town.  

Friends, please don’t be scared of beets — they are amazing when done right! The onion rings here are beer battered, which make them of the softer variety and beautifully melt in your mouth. If you want to be a little healthier Burger Parlor allows you to get any of their burgers in salad form or, if cheese isn’t your thing,  you could also sub any of the patties for a portobello mushroom. Also, try the shakes, they get slept on way too often! 

Paula here: We are now officially in the middle of summer, which means we are embarking on fresh delicious veggie season! Beans, corn, sugar snaps, and of course… zucchini!

Zucchini is such a versatile vegetable. You can make anything with it! From sweet zucchini breads to my personal fave Pesto and Goat Cheese Stuffed Zucchini. Luckily, it’s super easy to make and a perfect addition to any summertime BBQ.

Pesto and Goat Cheese Stuffed Zucchini 

Ingredients 

-2 large zucchini sliced thin and length wise

-1/4 cup basil pesto

-1/2  cup goat cheese

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-salt and pepper to taste

-toothpicks

First either fire up your BBQ or start heating up the grill on your stove. Brush the zucchini with olive oil, both sides and place on the grill. Make sure you get those beautiful grill marks. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium high then flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a cool plate and set aside for 10 minutes until it has cooled down.

Next, spread a good amount of pesto over each zucchini slice. At the thicker end of the zucchini place some goat cheese. Don’t be shy, goat cheese is life. Once all of that is done start rolling the slice, starting with the goat cheese side, and secure each one with a toothpick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then chill in the fridge for an hour. Such a great little appetizer! Enjoy!

Stay tuned for next week when we feature a Bay Area Bakery and an upcoming event from our friends at Thrillist.

de Vere’s Lighter Side of Ireland + Thursday Specials

Thursday is the new Friday!

Well, at least if you live in Sacramento and visit de Vere’s, they sure are. And unless you live under a rock and have never been to de Vere’s Irish Pub, not even for one St. Patrick’s Day!

de Vere’s Irish Pub // 1521 L Street – Sacramento, CA 95814 

Last year I brought you Chef Wes Nilssen’s Lighter Side of Ireland and apparently it wasn’t a one-summer wonder, because he’s back at it AGAIN! And thankfully for all the Sacramentans! Most people think of this as the place for beer + footy (soccer for you Americans), but Chef Wes has been consistently working his magic in the back, creating dishes on dishes of goodness that seem to be under ordered, in my humble opinion.

A group of Sacramento’s best and most active food photographers and myself (not one of those said cool photogs) were invited to de Vere’s to try the newest Lighter Side of Ireland menu, the Thursday burger of the month special, and the Thursday Moscow Mule specials. Seriously, ALL three of those things were graciously provided for our group to try, salivate over, and snap some serious food porn.

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Weekly Wanderlust 7/14/17: Omakase at Kru in Sacramento, Nashville Fall Wine Festival, Hopdoddy’s Impossible Burger and Cristina’s Hojaldres de Nutella

Every Friday here at Girls on Food, we’ll bring you Weekly Wanderlust, featuring the best our in cities, recipes, videos and advanced notice on events we’ll be appearing at.

Julianne here:

I recently visited my mom back home in Sacramento, and I finally decided to make a stop into Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine. Back when I lived in midtown Sacramento, I often dined at the original Kru location (at that time it was on J street… I’m talking 2007), and I was excited to check out the new location in East Sacramento on Folsom Blvd.

The new location is quite spacious, with multiple seating options for diners; bar seating, dining room seating, patio seating, sushi bar. I was a little shocked at how big of a space the new venue is. I’d describe the previous location as “hugable” whereas this location feels more “big time”.

Sushi Chef Ricky Yap

Good things come to those who wait, and I have been waiting a long time to taste Kru’s Omakase, so the day finally came for me! I sat at the sushi bar, and Sushi Chef Ricky Yap guided me through this smorgasbord of special appetizers, sashimi, and nigiri with a couple of wagyu steak dishes.

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A Whole 30 Days of Adventure With Megan!

If anyone out there has heard of Whole 30, they know it’s gauntlet thrown down at your social life when you decide to take it on. It is mostly paleo, definitely gluten free, and also bears a host of other restrictions because it’s supposed to show you what foods you are allergic to. Did I mention no drinking? YUP. Here’s a more comprehensive understanding of the plan.

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