Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can, Can, Can You Do the CAN CAN?

A few months ago while channel flipping, I ran across a story on the local Eye on the Bay show about a San Francisco company that makes a different kind of liquid cleanse. Called the CAN CAN Cleanse, this program includes healthy fruit, vegetable, and nut drinks to detoxify your system over one to three days. We all overindulge at times; my vices happen to be coffee, sugar, and carbs. I'd never done a cleanse before and didn't know if I could last even one day, let alone three, but CAN CAN piqued my interest so I thought I'd give it a try.

The program includes eight liquid drinks or soups for each day made from organic fruits and vegetables sourced from local farmers. The menu changes with the seasons so I tried the summer menu:

8:00am  Lemon Lime Juice (lemon, lime, cinnamon, cayenne, filtered water)
9:00am  Green Juice (celery, cucumber, green cabbage, broccoli, fennel, romaine, spinach, kale, parsley, mint, ginger, lemon, apple)
10:30am Hibiscus Tea (dried hibiscus flowers, filtered water)
12:30pm Green Pea Basil Soup (green peas, basil, mint, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, sea salt, olive oil, filtered water)
2:30pm   Watermelon Juice (watermelon, apple, lime, filtered water)
5:00pm  Green Juice (same as above)
7:00pm  Vanilla Almond Milk (raw almonds, vanilla bean, dates, filtered water)
8:00pm  Lemon Balm Lavender Tea (dried lemon balm leaves, dried lavender flowers, filtered water)

Besides the price ($175 for three days, $65 for one day), my main concerns were taste, how I'd feel (detox symptoms can include headaches, irritability and skin breakouts), and the waiver that reveals the juices are not pasteurized. The main benefits I sought: fewer caffeine/ sugar/ carb cravings, more energy, and hopefully lose a little bloat for swimsuit season. 

So how did it go?

Taste varied by drink and over time. It was shocking to have the first lemon lime juice concoction with cayenne pepper and cinnamon. It made a strange start to the program, so different from my usual first beverage of the day, Peet's French Roast with skim. The next drink, the green juice, was even more shocking. Made from a long list of vegetables, it had an earthy smell and grassy taste to start, but then unexpectedly I started to enjoy it. It seemed like each sip tasted a bit different with the various ingredients popping on my taste buds. Everyone else in the family couldn't stand the smell. The hibiscus and lemon balm lavender teas were light tasting herbal teas, nothing extraordinary, although I marveled at the bright red color of the former and lavender scent of the latter. At lunch time the flavor kicked up a few notches with the green pea basil soup. I loved the delicious, warmly nourishing soup with a bright green color to match its flavors. Then at mid-afternoon my favorite beverage came, the watermelon juice. Yummy and summery, I found it a wonderfully refreshing drink that quenched my thirst and then some. Later it seemed a bit strange to have vanilla almond milk for dinner, but I found it surprisingly soothing. It had a mild flavor, and felt creamy and pure going down.

I found enough variety over the course of a day, but since I did the 3-day cleanse, I repeated the same schedule for the next two days. It got a little repetitive and less exciting, yet also somehow I started to enjoy and appreciate the flavors more over time. The unusual ones started to grow on me, while I still looked forward to my favorites (watermelon juice, pea soup, and almond milk). I paid more attention to what I consumed. 

Was I satisfied? The program is about 1000 calories a day and surprisingly I wasn't very hungry. I expected to feel sharp hunger pangs and weakness. Instead I felt pretty good, yet sometimes tired because I cut down on caffeine. The second day I noticed more energy and even made it through my boot camp class okay. The third day I managed a 5 mile hike in the hills with no problem. I still drank one cup of Peet's a day, and also had an approved apple and handful of almonds. It sure made me appreciate the simple acts of chewing and biting more.

Would I do it again? Yes, I would. The CAN CAN website suggests customers do a quarterly cleanse. I'm not sure what the right frequency is, but I can see the rhythmic logic to a seasonal liquid cleanse. Since the menu changes with the season, I'm also curious to see what the other varieties of drinks would taste like. It was a good exercise for my taste buds, for trying a liquid cleanse, and for being mindful about how I felt. It took some willpower and discipline, yet I found it did reduce my cravings for the sugary things and coffee that I usually love. I also lost a few pounds of bloat, a welcome result that gave me a mental lift and motivation to eat healthier moving forward. I wasn't expecting an attitude change from only three days, but I think the experience and benefits will stay with me.

Check out CAN CAN if you're curious, and see what others say on Yelp.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lobster Roll and Clam Chowder Round-Up

When it comes to seafood, there's something so irresistible about lobster rolls and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Maybe it's the mix of fresh, chewy bread with sweet shellfish deliciousness, or the balanced mix of protein and carbs, salty, yeasty and tasting of the sea. Maybe it's the way the flavors remind me of lazy summer days at the beach. Or maybe it's just because both of these taste damn good.

Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl makes a great lunch or dinner, especially when made by Boudin. The Boudin family accidentally invented sourdough bread in 1849 during the Gold Rush due to the serendipitous combination of San Francisco wild yeast with their traditional French bread recipe. With several restaurant locations including Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf, Boudin's soup in a bread bowl makes a true San Francisco treat.

Other yummy renditions of this seaside delicacy can be found at the Santa Cruz pier restaurants, at Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay overlooking a nice little beach, and at Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach, where the line inevitably winds down the block. When we curiously joined the line over the 4th of July weekend, the woman in front of us declared her love of the clam chowder in a bread bowl. She had just driven four hours to satisfy her craving, so it had to be good! It's extra yummy with crab and shrimp piled on top of the soup, the sourdough bread filling lightly toasted and buttered. Eating at a picnic table on the pier with a wonderful ocean view made it taste even better.

Another seafood favorite of mine is the lobster roll. Even though it originated on the East Coast, the lobster roll has found its fans on the West Coast too. Nearby in both Portola Valley and Redwood City, the Old Port Lobster Shack sells a delectable version with a buttery roll and lobster flown in fresh and live from Maine and Massachusetts several times a week. The owner, who moved to California from Boston when he married, brought his extensive experience in the lobster business to his Bay Area restaurants. While known mostly for its lobster roll, the Lobster Shack offers many other dishes and, for those who are ready to yield to their desires, sweet blueberry pie a la mode. 

Perhaps most impressively, the Old Port Lobster Shack's lobster roll was named 'Best of Show' at last month's Lobster Roll Rumble in Manhattan. While some East Coasters grumbled about the rumble judges choosing a West Coast sandwich, we in Northern California can rest assured we've got the best right here.

Yankee Pier restaurant at the Santana Row shopping center also offers a delicious lobster roll. With its elegant, upscale shopping location near the Winchester Mystery House and Valley Fair mall, Yankee Pier creates a delightful stop to enjoy the atmosphere and re-energize for shopping. 

Both of these seafood dishes have the mark of a winner: As soon as I'm done eating, I'm already thinking about the next time I'll get to indulge.