During the winter, food lovers tend to load up on hearty dishes like wild animals preparing for hibernation. Unfortunately, the human anatomy doesn’t work like a grizzly bear’s, so when the ice thaws, the gut remains. Rich comfort foods can be hard to resist, but here are a few ways to trick the tummy. Chefs are employing new tricks to reinvent decadent dishes to provide all the comfort with less guilt.Read More
Lighten Up With These 12 New Takes on Comfort Foods
Get all the comfort and less of the guilt.
1. 1789 Restaurant
With the beet Wellington ($28) at 1789, anglophiles can still enjoy flaky, buttery puff pastry while getting an extra dose of nutrients from the garnet root vegetable replacing the slab of red meat. The dish has the requisite mushroom duxelles, and is plated with Thumbelina carrots, Swiss chard, Brussels sprout petals, and beet Bordelaise.
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Venison is a leaner alternative to beef. Since it’s lower in fat, it can often be dry or tough, but that’s not the case with Bidwell’s venison chilli ($10). It's topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese, onions, and, depending on the season, fresh chives from their aeroponic garden on top of Union Market.
3. Black Market Bistro
For many, the term veggie burger elicits bad memories of dry and spongy packaged patties. At Black Market Bistro, the black bean and sweet potato burger ($14) packs flavor that rivals a traditional hamburger. It’s made with quinoa, black beans, and sweet potato, and comes on a potato roll with lettuce, tomato, pepper jack cheese, and cilantro-lime sour cream.
Pasta packs a heavy dose of carbs, but Brine gives the starchy indulgence a redeeming quality. Their Plankton Pasta ($13) is made with powdered plankton and toasted nori, which turns the bucatini noodles green. The dish includes clams, guanciale, brown butter, and chili threads. Plankton itself is a superfood, full of amino acids and vitamins, so there’s no need to feel too guilty about carbo-loading here.
5. Burger Tap & Shake Foggy Bottom
The Upstream Run ($8) at BTS is another win for not-beef-burgers. The patty is made with ground salmon and topped with Asian slaw, Sriracha aioli, and mixed greens. Bring on the omega-3's.
There’s nothing like a rich, creamy potato gratin to warm the soul on a cold winter night, except for maybe the rutabaga and sweet potato gratin ($24) at Cedar. While potatoes are starchy and filling, they don’t provide much in the way of nutritional value. Rutabagas and sweet potatoes on the other hand, are nutrient-dense, and filled with antioxidants and vitamin C. Red quinoa, preserved cherries, and parsnip purée complete the dish.
7. China Chilcano
Pancakes are great for curing hangovers, but all those carbs tend to result in a crash before lunch. China Chilcano’s take on the pancake, made with heartier grains and root vegetable, has a little more substance to. Their Dorayaki menu offering ($11) is quinoa pancakes filled with sweet potato and served with carob-pecan butter and spiced maple syrup.
Fried and glazed, General Tso’s Chicken isn’t doing the arteries any favors. That’s why Equinox has created a plant-based riff on the Chinese favorite. The crispy glazed winter squash and Brussels sprouts ($15/$27) is served over basmati rice with black sesame and toasted coconut.
9. Legal Sea Foods
At Legal Sea Foods, diners can enjoy a lighter version of clam chowder ($7) with just a third of the calories. Instead of heavy cream, the soup is made with fish stock. Carrots and celery replace the salt pork.
10. Mintwood Place
With five grains instead of just one, Mintwood’s risotto ($22) gives vegetarians more nutritional bang for their buck. The grains are farro, wheatberry, bulgur wheat, pearl barley, and buckwheat groats. They are accompanied by smoked chestnut, autumn squash, and hon-shimeji mushrooms.
Skip the chicken and try Ripple’s winter vegetable pot pie ($24). Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are baked in a velvety mushroom béchamel sauce to provide that same comforting feeling.
12. Sticky Fingers Bakery
Essentially fat plus salt plus starch, biscuits and gravy are a nutritionist’s nightmare. At Sticky Fingers, the vegan version ($11) of this Southern classic is smothered with a mushroom gravy instead of sausage. It’s served with tofu scramble and roasted potatoes.