Seasonality Spices - Maharajah

I'm a spice snob -- sorry, not sorry -- and always on the lookout for new spices. Believe it or not, I have come across few with soy in them which surprised me. Natural flavors are a red flag as well. I stay far from those. I never know what is lurking and a not being able to breathe stinks. I don't have time for a trip to the ER.

Recently I added quinoa to my husband's food plan. Quinoa is a flowering plant in the amaranth family. It is a herbaceous annual plant grown as a grain crop primarily for its edible seeds. Quinoa is not a grass, but rather a pseudocereal botanically related to spinach and amaranth. Per Shape.com.

Quinoa is bland but cooking it in broth helps. Also, use a flavorful spice such as Maharajah from Seasonality Spices.  

Seasonality Spices is on Etsy.

Per their site, Maharajah (Indian Curry) - Handcrafted Spice Blend - All-Natural, Organic, Vegan, Fair-Trade. Maharajah translated is "great king", which means this spice is the Great King of Indian Masalas. It reigns king because of its superior flavor and its use of 6 of the 7 most expensive spices in the world: saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, turmeric, and pepper. This powder blend is known for its versatility and extra-rich flavor. 

I added the spice to my quinoa. Immediately the aroma filled the kitchen. Saffron, cinnamon, and clove were the first noticeable. I tasted the quinoa because any great chef will tell you to taste, taste, and taste again. 

Earthy. Savory. Fresh. 

A subtle bite from the pepper. Heat is prevalent but not overpowering. 

When I drizzled my garlic infused oil over the quinoa all the bold flavors drew me in. I was ready to eat.  

In my air fryer, I made a salmon filet.

The combination was perfect. I savored each bite. 

Seasonality Spices sells by the weight. 1, 2, or 4oz. Their packaging is secure. Shipping time within a handful of days. Not long at all. 

Their Sampler Of The Month is a great way to try out their variety of spices, rubs, and herbs. 

I'm eyeing the Truffle Salt and Cumin next. 

I wouldn't call being a chef gratifying in a lot of ways. It's an act of love. Alex Guarnaschelli
 

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen

The excitement in Spring Hill/Brooksville Florida area increased as the opening of Cheddar's neared closer. It's new, different, and the perfect location. When it comes to chain restaurants, for good reason, I'm skeptical. However, when Cheddar's opened their doors, a few of my close friends went and assured me I would love it. 
Again, I wasn't thrilled. New restaurants come with hiccups and mistakes. It doesn't instill confidence in someone with a food allergy. On the flip side, how are restaurants going to learn if they aren't put to the test?

Per Cheddar's website: At Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, we’ve been graciously serving made-from-scratch goodness since 1979. Our founders, Aubrey Good and Doug Rogers, believed that when a meal is prepared and cooked fresh just for you, it not only tastes better, it makes you feel good.

We use quality ingredients and take the time to prepare them in our kitchen. It’s the right way, not the easy way, because it tastes better that way. And really, isn’t that the point?

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen serves made-from-scratch goodness in a welcoming place. Enjoy House Smoked Baby Back Ribs, hand-battered Country Fried Chicken, Scratch Burgers, Homemade Onion Rings. 

I do appreciate the nutritional information at the bottom of their website, but even on their menu, there isn't any mention of what oils they use or any food allergy information. 

Upon arriving with five of my dear friends it was a 25-30 minute wait. Understandable. It was six o'clock in the evening and still new to the area. They do not take reservations. We only waited about 15 minutes. The front of the house was pleasant and helpful. Thumbs up. 

The decor is rustic with an edge of modern. Southern vibe. Wood beams. Brick. Stone.  

Our server was prompt though he was quite busy. The dining room was hectic but he never rushed us. Their menu is extensive, especially the cocktail portion. Our server answered all our questions. I informed him of my food allergy and he wrote it on the ticket in the large letters. He asked what I was thinking of ordering and he would have a discussion with the chef. Perfect. Exactly what I wanted to hear. I was leaning towards the Grilled White Fish (that night it was Grouper) - Lemon pepper or blackened over rice. He went to have a chat with the chef.

I was feeling a bit less skeptical but it was early.

He returned and assured me the chef would use olive oil and prepare it away from the other food to eliminate any risk of cross-contamination. Bonus.

The meal did come with two sides but I was good with one and chose a house salad with oil and vinegar.

My plate was a little awkward because of the lack of side but the Grouper smelled delicious. I went the lemon pepper route. The fish was cooked perfectly. Not dry. Opaque in the center. Took a bite. Waited. Because you never know.

Okay, I can still breathe.

The seasoning was spot on. I didn't need to add any salt. The bite of the pepper was nice. The rice was heavy on the onions -- not a fan -- but I picked around them. Now, the other dinner plates on the table were quite different. If you choose to dine at Cheddar's you better be hungry. 

Our server I was pleasantly surprised by the food and experience. My food allergy fears faded away but that doesn't mean I'd let my guard down next time I dine at Cheddar's or any other place. It's important to emphasize the severity of the food allergy. I always say "I will die if I ingest soy." I don't care if I'm that annoying guest. I've received plenty of eye rolls in the past and I actually had a server once say to me "Oh, is that like the gluten allergy trend?" Oh, yes. That happened. As did a lovely lesson from yours truly in food allergies to the server and the manager.

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen has locations from Arizona to Pennsylvania. You can find yours on their website.    

They offer an EClub sign up, Be the first to know about new menu items and have access to special offers. Not to mention, you’ll receive free Chips & Homemade Queso just for signing up – what a delicious way to seal the deal! Per their website

Cheddar's is a step up from similar chain restaurants. I didn't die -- a good thing -- and another promising option for those with soy allergies. 

Brooksville location:

12280 Cortez Blvd

Brooksville, FL 34613

 

The Cove - Casual Classy Comfort

When we relocated back to Florida from Illinois last year, our dear friends raved about their favorite restaurant in Hernando Beach. Casual atmosphere. Upscale cuisine. And more than likely, soy-allergy friendly. I hopped on the website to get a feel for their menu. Easy to navigate. Immediately drawn to the seafood and organic salads sections, I felt confident I'd find success there.  

Girls lunch out. Where to go? How about The Cove? 

They have inside and outside dining. The large patio sits on the canal which was fun to watch the alligators and turtles. Our waitress greeted us immediately. Friendly and knowledgeable of the menu. I addressed my soy-allergy concerns. She went through the menu with me, and once we settled on a Cobb salad with salmon, our waitress went to discuss everything with the chef. Upon returning she assured me all would be good. The chef would grill my salmon and use olive oil. No cross contamination would happen. They'd make sure of it. I appreciated their seriousness and wasn't worried at all.   

The ambiance was relaxing. Warm breeze. Palm trees. A hint of salt in the air from The Gulf. The waitresses weren't pushing people out. They were busy, but it wasn't a hectic vibe. The ladies and I enjoyed ourselves while we waited for our food. Which wasn't long at all. Sometimes my dishes take longer because of preparation. But if the kitchen is efficient and properly informed the process isn't a problem.  

Beautiful salmon filet. Oil and vinegar on the side. Fresh veggies. The salmon was crisp on the outside. My first cut into the salmon revealed a perfect shade of pink. Not dry one bit. I was pleased. 

I've learned when I go out to take a bite of my food and wait because if there is a trace of soy, I'll know within seconds. That's my trust level with restaurants. Sad but it's a reality and something I must do because of my experiences. 

However, no issues with The Cove. 

I devoured my plate.

I have eaten there twice and both times were magnificent. Date night with my husband will be next. To know the chef and entire staff care about food allergies is HUGE. I've dealt with restaurants who feel my food allergies are a nuisance. Look, I hate them too. I wish I could eat whatever I wanted under the sun but I can't because I like to live, as do others who have food allergies.     

The Cove's menu ranges from Lobster Bisque -- my dear friend's obsession -- to Hawaiian Style Marinated Pork Chops to Pan Seared Scallops.

Open every day except for Mondays

Tuesday - Thursday Noon - 8 pm

Friday & Saturday Noon - 9 pm

Sunday Noon to 8 pm

Early bird menu 2 pm - 5 pm

If you are visiting the Nature Coast, I highly recommend The Cove. I look forward to dining there again and I am ordering the salmon again.

My tastebuds demand it.   

First Watch - The Daytime Cafe

Over the years I have written reviews on restaurants, products, and books. I took a break, but I want to revive that part of my life. The reasoning being is I have food allergies, sensitivities, and IBS (Irritatable Bowl Syndrome C & D) depending on which way the wind blows. Back in the day, it was called Spastic Colon, and I spent a significant amount of time in the ER with horrible abdominal pain. Now with the food allergies and a few other woman issues, chronic pain is my norm. Going out to enjoy a meal with friends or with my husband and son, is not. Why, because I fear I will die and almost have a couple of times due to the lack of concern at restaurants. I have a soy allergy. Soy is in EVERYTHING. 

Publix bread - soybean oil
Some seasonings - soybean oil
Most chocolate - soy lecithin

I don't expect restaurants to rid of soy, but I do expect waiters, waitresses, and chefs to be knowledgeable of food allergies. Gluten. Soy. Dairy. Nut. ALL FOOD ALLERGIES. Especially if it's a high-end establishment which I had the misfortune of dealing with recently, but that's for another review. 

Okay, there's a little bit of background on me and now onto the review.

First Watch - The Daytime Cafe. 
It's a chain breakfast/lunch eatery. 
They have locations from Arizona to Wisconsin to Florida. 
It has a rustic vibe. The menu reminds me of farm-to-table. The coffee is crack in a cup. Not bitter. Not weak.  
One of their newest locations opened a few months ago in Brooksville, FL. Residents were thrilled to have another option besides Panera. Don't get me wrong, we love Panera, but variety is good. 
I have frequented First Watch since their opening, and I've never once had a terrible experience. The wait staff is knowledgeable about the menu and food allergies. Halleluiah! Also, they write in large letters on the ticket SOY ALLERGY. The attention and concern are refreshing. Unfortunately, This is lacking in many food establishments. 
I am avocado obsessed. I could eat it with every meal. First Watch has Avocado Toast. Yes, I make this at home, but sometimes I don't want to and have I mentioned their coffee. Oh, my. You can find Avocado Toast under The Healthier Side of the menu.

First Watch description:
Our thick-cut whole grain toast topped with fresh smashed avocado, EVOO, lemon and Maldon sea salt. Served with two basted eggs.

Their menu does list the calories, but on their website, it contains all nutritional information. There is an egg white substitution. 

 No fluff or filters. iPhone photo. 

No fluff or filters. iPhone photo. 

I always order the Avocado Toast. Not out of fear but because I love it. The egg yolks are runny and blend perfectly with a forkful of avocado smash and toast. The bread is hearty and soaks up any leftover yolk. The seasoning of the avocado smash is salty (not over) and citrusy. The textures work well together. Also, it's comforting to know I won't stop breathing because of cross-contamination. This meal fills me up for hours. Healthy fats. Protein. Grains. Even my fickle digestive system gives it two thumbs up. I couldn't eat it every day, but I enjoy each bite when I do. 

My husband ordered the Eggs Benedict - BLNo tomato. 

First Watch description:
Two poached cage-free eggs atop toasted ciabatta piled high with bacon, vine-ripened tomato, avocado and lemon-dressed arugula and covered with hollandaise. Served with lightly dressed organic mixed greens.   

He was in heaven. 
The hollandaise was light and citrusy. Pretty much all he said while devouring his breakfast. 

IMG_7180.JPG

I am always suspect of chain restaurants due to experience, but my mind is changing. First Watch exceeded my expectations. 

My goal is not to be a food critic my goal is to bring peace of mind to those who have food allergies. More so soy allergies. When I'd Google "restaurants soy allergy friendly" one food blogger site popped up, and my heart sank because when we travel options are limited. 

Again this isn't about banning soy it's about education. It's about acknowledging food allergies. 
They are real no matter what anyone says. 
I want people to know there are options out there. I cook 95% of the time, but sometimes I want to go out. Where I live is a blend of locals, snowbirds, and tourists. Wouldn't it be nice to know you could eat out minus the fear? Well, of course, there is a sliver of doubt -- human nature -- but there are options. Make them clear. Talk to the chef. 

If you live or are visiting the Nature Coast of Florida, I recommend First Watch. Their hours are 7 am-2:30 pm. They offer a seasonal menu. Sides and small plates. Teas and iced coffee. Reasonably priced. 

Did I mention the coffee?