Obviously no matter how healthy your diet is, you could still have health problems….there is no disputing that and that is not what that saying is meant to imply.
However, I don’t think you can argue that “you are what you eat”. If we choose to fill our bodies with fresh, whole foods, we are more likely to live healthy, long lives than if we find our sustenance in processed junk. I’m not even talking about saturated fats and all that jazz, because Lord knows I eat my fair share of bacon, eggs, milk, cheese, and butter. I’m talking about real food, food that has been minimally processed-as in no added flavors, colors, or other chemical alterations.
I’ve been eating this way for about five years. You know what? I haven’t gained a pound, even though I used to eat lots of lowfat cheese and reduced-fat chips and crackers and mayo and sour cream. Now I eat the full-fat (less-processed) versions of all of those things (and even make a lot of them myself) and I weigh exactly the same as I did five years ago. And I have my numbers (cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, etc.) checked annually, and they are better thank they used to be (admittedly, I eat a 75% vegetarian diet now…but still). Gasp.
Still, it isn’t easy for me sometimes. I just went to Whole Foods (a little less than affectionately known as “Whole Paycheck” to many) today to stock up on a few items that I can’t get at Publix or Bi-lo (the grocery stores close to my house). I bought several bulk items (I love bulk bins more than I can put into words), some store-brand virgin coconut oil (usually it’s refined coconut oil sold at the larger stores….it’s, well, refined, and the coconut taste is gone, and it costs more), and some local milk and buttermilk (from Cruze Family Farm in Knoxville). $59.00. I cringed. But then I reminded myself of the title of this post.
I spend a lot of money on food. A lot more than most people spend per person at the grocery store, probably…definitely a lot more than I used to spend. The vast majority of what goes into my cart is fresh (perishable) food, and the rest is usually baking supplies. It’s been a process. It’s still a process, and I still crave (and occasionally eat) Doritos. I like to remind myself, though, that (a) it’s still a lot less expensive than eating out, even at fast-food restaurants; and (b) dang, I eat well. It’s all in the perspective.
Vietnamese food is not exactly easy to come by in this area, and I’m not going to lie….the first time that I noticed a “Vietnamese Bistro” in Dayton, I was a little suspicious. Dayton is pretty much a hole in the wall sort of city, a “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” sort of place (just like my hometown of Soddy-Daisy, so I’m really not making fun) and I just had to wonder how well they could really do Vietnamese food. Which was a dumb think to wonder because of course Vietnamese people know how to make Vietnamese food, and several months back I got an email from a reader who was raving about the Vietnamese Bistro in Dayton, telling me that it was better than Old Saigon. Well, ma’am, you have my attention, because I freaking love Old Saigon, so….
Somehow it still took us a while to get down there. I don’t really know why. I guess it’s because there’s really not a lot to do in Dayton, so the typical Saturday doesn’t really see us driving thirty minutes just to eat Vietnamese food. This week, though, I was off on Friday so we’d gotten our typical running around out of the way. We stopped at the antiques store in Sale Creek for a fruitless Fiesta ware search (lots of pieces but not a single one in a color that I want) then headed down to the Bistro.
There were a couple of tables occupied in the tiny restaurant, which was truly a blink and you’ll miss it sort of place; in fact, I had to point out the Philip exactly where it was in the former Wal-Mart complex as we drove by to park. There were probably not more than ten tables. A friendly young man told us to sit wherever we wanted then brought us menus and took our drink orders. The place is definitely about food, not atmosphere….several large photographs of Vietnamese scenes on the wall and photos of menu items under the glass on the tables is pretty much all the decoration you’ll find. I didn’t go there for atmosphere, though, so no big.
The menu is large and a little confusing to read; I actually found the to-go menu a little easier to follow for whatever reason. The regular menu begins with vegetarian selections then moves into the regular (carnivorous) selections. We decided on a couple of appetizers: 2 pork & shrimp spring rolls for $3.50 and an order of fish ball dumplings (which I never would have ordered on my own but Philip wanted to try them) for $1.99. The appetizers came out quickly, the dumplings on a skewer and drizzled with sriracha and some other sauce (hoisin, perhaps?). They tasted like…fish. The texture wasn’t weird and the flavor was fine, but I don’t know that I would order them again. But that’s just me. The spring rolls were amazing, stuffed with shrimps, a thin slice of pork, rice noodles, lettuce, and mint leaves. The mint really set off the flavor. I’ve got to make these things at home. I’m not positive what the sauce was….I want to say that the menu said it was ginger sauce, and it had fried shallots and some chili oil in it as well. It was pretty tasty and just a little spicy.
I pretty much knew before I went here that I wanted to order the phở bò (beef rice noodle soup), which is the Vietnamese national dish (by the way, that is pronounced fuh bah). I waffled briefly, though, when I saw a rice noodle salad on the menu…but in the end the regular-sized bowl of phở bò ($6.99) won out (by the way, chicken phở is called phở gà). What came to me was a gigantic bowl of broth, strips of beef, meatballs, rice noodles, onions, scallions, and cilantro, with a side dish of bean sprouts, basil, and lime, and bottles of sriracha and hoisin. I pulled the cilantro off the sprigs and dropped it in, tore up several basil leaves and dropped them in, put in a couple of handfuls of bean sprouts, and doused it with a little sriracha. This stuff was not easy to eat, because (a) it was so hot! and (b) how do you eat the noodles? Fork? Spoon? I ended up doing both, and once the soup cooled down enough I pretty much put my face in the bowl and shoveled it in (as evidenced by the photo below). The meatballs had some oddly textured little pieces in them but tasted good; the strips of beef were perfectly textured and delicious, and the broth was flavorful and perfectly seasoned. I would order this again…and again….and again.
Philip got much deeper into the entrée portion of the menu than I did, eventually settling on the thit kho (which I believe was pronounced “teet kuh”-no comments from the peanut gallery, please!) for $7.99, which was described as caramelized pork in condensed fish sauce (most of the descriptions that I found online called it caramelized pork belly, which this was not). All of the plates were served with either steamed rice or a choice of rice or egg noodles. Philip asked our server what he would recommend and he said that he usually eats it with steamed rice, so that’s what Philip ordered. It came with cucumbers (which Philip gave to me), bean sprouts, and shredded carrots on the side and a little bowl of spicy dipping sauce. It was thinly sliced, braised pork that was then caramelized and sauced with, well, a condensed fish sauce. Fish sauce is interesting stuff, very salty and stinky but delicious. The meat was indeed pretty salty and definitely had that fish sauce flavor but was tender and delicious. The rice was pretty plain (which is how Philip likes it) and the sauce on the side was spicy but not overwhelming.
A little piece of paper under the glass on the table said “desserts available, please ask your server” so we did. If there was anything disappointing about this restaurant, the dessert menu was it. I was hoping for a dessert menu like that at Old Saigon, which includes fried bananas, rice pudding, and mango sticky rice. Our server told us that sometimes they have two or three items available, but all they had that day were mung bean wontons. At $0.50 each, it was hard to pass up at least trying them, so we each ordered one. They were filled with a creamy batter made from mung bean puree and fried crisp. I was a little concerned about how the beany batter would taste, but I needn’t have been. It was just a sweet, custardy, vanilla-y paste in a perfectly crispy fried wonton. Pretty tasty and a nice sweet end to the meal.
Our total was about $24 before tip. Like I said, the atmosphere is lacking, but who cares? The food was fresh and delicious. They’ve been there for about five years and to last that long in a small town like Dayton speaks volumes about the quality. I highly recommend that you check it out!
Vietnamese Bistro is located at 200 Able Drive, Suite 11, Dayton, TN 37321. You can call them at 423-570-0100 or 423-285-7106. They are open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Since they are located in a larger shopping complex, there are curb cuts that allow for wheelchair accessibility, but the very cramped quarters would keep this from being an easy/comfortable place to go in a wheelchair.
Let me start this by saying that this post is pushing it a little bit. Bluewater is not a totally local restaurant. They are owned by the CraftWorks Restaurant & Brewery Group, which owns quite a few other restaurants around the U.S., including Big River Grille & Brewing Works. I am a little conflicted but since Chattanooga is the only location of Bluewater I decided to go ahead with the post.
I’ve been wanting to go to Bluewater for a couple of weeks now. The week before last I was struck with the urge for some sort of fish or shrimp dish, but as I mentioned in my Choo-Choo Barbecue post last week, we didn’t really want to risk downtown in the pouring rain on UTC graduation day….so we didn’t. Bluewater opened in Chattanooga in 2006, and 2006 or 2007 was probably the last time that I’ve been (we’ve only been once). I recall liking the food when I went, but for whatever reason we just never went back.
When we walked up, we noticed that the patio seating was full up and we were a little concerned that we were not going to be seated quickly even at almost 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday. We needn’t have worried….I guess a lot of people were just eager to sit outside. We were offered the options of sitting in the cocktail area (where a Bloody Mary bar was set up….sorry if you’re an aficionado, but bleh) or in the dining area….we decided on the dining area and were seated at a table in the corner of the dining area. It was nice and quiet, a little away from everyone else, with fairly decent light for taking photos (I’m so tired of taking cell phone photos and trying to find a solution to this problem that doesn’t require me whipping out my gigantic DSLR at the table). We were given a regular menu and a brunch menu and Krystal, our server, took our drink order.
The brunch menu had some interesting items, including Grand Marnier (an orange-flavored liqueur) French toast, which sounded lovely, and shrimp Benedict, with grilled shrimp, poached eggs, and Hollandaise on an English muffin, as well as some more exotic items like crab cakes Benedict. I briefly considered getting the shrimp Benedict but then Philip said, “Eh. I’ve already had breakfast today,” and jolted me back into the reality that it was afternoon, I indeed did already have breakfast (biscuits & gravy!), and was really more in the mood for a lunch item. The menu included soups & salads, features (like Cajun fish tacos, grouper piccata, and sesame tuna), chicken & pasta, sandwiches (such as a crab BLT and a blackened Mahi Mahi sandwich), and lunch specialties. I managed to narrow my choices down to the lunch specialties, between the coconut shrimp & a wedge salad (iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing, crumbled blue cheese, and bacon) and the fish & chips, served with malt vinegar mayonnaise. I asked Krystal if she would recommend one over the other and she said that she would order the fish & chips.
I decided to take her advice because more than once this week I was chomping at the bit to go to Hair of the Dog or Honest Pint for some fish & chips. It was a pretty straightforward dish, as fish & chips tends to be: three pieces of cod, battered (dipped in a liquidy batter before frying as opposed to being rolled in a bread crumb coating) as it should be, with hand-cut, skin on fries sprinkled with coarse salt. The fish was not greasy, which to me is the true hallmark of good battered fish. The fries might have been just a tad bit salty but that didn’t stop me from eating two-thirds of them. The malt vinegar mayonnaise was an interesting touch…a creamy dipping sauce with that smelly-foot tang that malt vinegar lends to everything it touches. I am not knocking malt vinegar…nay nay, I think that malt vinegar is essential to fish & chips and my BFF used to make fun of me as I doused my fish with it on our frequent trips to Captain D’s back in the day (I was a different person back then. Don’t judge me.). Fish & chips aren’t fish & chips without a potent splash of malt vinegar, and while this mayo definitely wasn’t traditional, it was strong and it was tasty. A nice touch.
Philip veered off the seafood path and decided to order the Kobe sliders with a house salad (with balsamic vinaigrette dressing). The sliders were pretty tiny, which made me laugh. They were pretty basic on what the menu touted as a “housemade bun”, no cheese, a mustard sauce, and pickles…though only one of Philip’s had a pickle. They were cooked nicely and had a good flavor. There was a pretty good portion of salad, which had mixed greens, tomato, cucumber (which Philip asked them to leave off), pepper jack & cheddar cheeses, bacon, and spiced candied pecans. The salad wasn’t drowned in dressing but everything was nicely coated and Philip didn’t feel that it had an overpowering flavor.
Our total was about $25 before tip. Krystal provided good service, checking back on us and keeping our water glasses filled. The atmosphere is nice, not too dark but not glaringly bright, with lots of wood and lovely light fixtures. I like that you can see what is going on in the kitchen. By the way, Bluewater offers a space for private parties and apparently has a pretty good happy hour (something I wouldn’t know anything about). We’ll try not to wait another six or seven years to go back….it’s definitely a great place to go for seafood in the Chattanooga area.
Bluewater Grille is located at 224 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402. You can call them at 423-266-4200. You can check out their website, http://bluewaterchattanooga.com. You can also “like” them on Facebook.