It has been YEARS since I had a Latte and I must admit that I miss them.  I was a “Grande Non-Fat Latte” or “Double Tall Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato” kind of girl for years before I said goodbye to dairy (…and coincidentally my ‘paunch’ disappeared at the same time) and switched to black Americano’s and coffee (and more recently, decaf).  So when I heard that my friend Freya Ravensburgen and her beau Clinton Pontes were opening The Primal Grind – the FIRST (EVER, I think) paleo/primal cafe – inside of the Academy of Lions, I knew I had to check it out to fulfill my Latte fantasy.

Located in downtown Toronto on Dundas St near Ossington, the name speaks for itself…staying true to its Primal roots –  No dairy, no grains, no sugar and no soy.  This is REAL food kids!  To the everyday Starbucks customer, it might seem like it is lacking everything of familiarity.  But to me, it offered a whole new level of indulgence.  Want a Latte or Chai Latte?  You can get one with Almond or Coconut Milk.  Want a muffin?  They’ve got that too!  The baked goods from Primal Indulgence are to die for…more on that in a second.

I asked Freya about what inspired her and Clinton to open The Primal Grind and she said it had always been their dream to open a cafe.  The idea came into fruition during a (blueberry picking) trip to Quebec last year and from that point forward the wheels were in motion to open The Primal Grind.  They use Intelligentsia’s Black Cat espresso blend on a slick Nuova Simonelli espresso machine – But rest assured, although the ‘inputs’ are the Christian Louboutin of the coffee world, The Primal Grind maintains the same hardcore yet warm (kind of like Eddie Vedder) attitude as Academy of Lions.

OK, enough chit-chat….I was ready for my Coconut Milk Latte…I had been dreaming about it all week.  Although I have significantly reduced my caffeine consumption since November, I knew I had to make an exception for this.  I have tried to mix coconut milk and coffee before, but it never turns out right.  The coconut milk always separates from the coffee and ends up being a lonesome glob floating in the coffee.  But with the coconut milk steamed, it mixed perfectly with the espresso….and looked like a real latte.  I topped mine off with some cinnamon and was good to go.  From the first sip I knew I was in love.  It is so rich and creamy and amazing and delicious and so SO perfect.  I brought along my 2 non-primal co-workers and they also tried out the Coconut and Almond milk latte’s. We savoured every sip and my non-primal co-workers were pleasantly surprised by how much they loved their drinks.  The Coconut Milk Latte is amazing and fills you up almost like a meal.  If you’re looking for something lighter, go with the Almond Milk Latte which is equally as delicious, but a bit lighter in your tummy.  The verdict: It surpassed my Latte fantasy and made me want to rollerblade around in a crop top and jean shorts like Mariah Carey (from the Fantasy video…get it??) while singing at the top of my lungs.

Coconut Latte! Cue Mariah!

Next we had to try the baked goods from Primal Indulgence – all made with REAL food…no grains, refined sugar, agave, processed crap or dairy.  Being a baked good fiend, I was stoked to taste test them all.  It’s not often that I have a legit excuse to sit and eat 4 different treats.  OK, I shared them with my 2 co-workers…I’m not that much of a pig….although I did hog/inhale most of the Choco Zucchini Spice Loaf.  Each treat was amazing and I was impressed…This is a big statement from me because I am a baked good aficionado.  The Banana Cacao Muffins contain ZERO flour (not even coconut flour) and are made with walnuts, banana, raw cocoa, honey and a couple other ingredients.  O…M…G… it was good! So moist and satisfying….If this Banana Cacao Muffin went head-to-head with a regular banana muffin on American Gladiator, this muffin would win hands down and that poor gluten-filled banana muffin would be jousted from the stage in seconds.  We also had the Apricot Nutballs which are a bit sweeter from the fruit and were the favourite for my co-workers.  Then we had the MACaroons which were coconut-y goodness rolled up in a cute little ball.  They were crunchy and light…and I could eat 4,000 in 1 sitting.  I saved the best for last…The Choco Zucchini Spice Loaf  which was my personal favourite…super moist and chocolaty with a little kick of spice. Hot DAMN… that squash makes a mean brownie base!  The verdict: I was so tempted to eat the entire display case…I can picture myself with crumbs and raw cacao all over my face running down Dundas St jacked up on espresso laughing hysterically and rolling in the street like cookie monster on crack.

As I write this I’m drooling for more of everything….but alas, I must wait until my next visit.

Clockwise from top: Apricot Nutball, Banana Cacao Muffin, MACaroon, Choco Zucchini Spice Loaf

All REAL ingredients…

Once I was able to take my mouth away from the Latte and treats, I had to ask whether they have had any customers come in from the street and ask for a Starbucks clone… “Non-Fat, no whip, extra hot SOY Latte.”  Freya told me that they have had people request ‘Starbucks’ fare.  Rather than making them feel like they’ve entered the twilight zone, she kindly tells them that they choose to use Coconut and Almond Milk instead and provides them with some information on WHY they choose to serve it up Primal style.  For the most part, it sounds like people are willing to ditch their “Venti  Mocha’s” in favour of trying something new which is pretty awesome.  I can speak from experience that once you taste the rich, creamy Coconut Latte you will be hooked for life.    And I think I’ve converted my non-primal co-workers too.

And it’s not just about the drinks and food….the experience ROCKS….literally.  The combination of enjoying a Coconut Milk Latte and some of the Primal Indulgence treats while watching a Crossfit class at Academy of Lions do deadlifts and handstand push-ups was my idea of heaven.  Of course the whole experience was elevated to another level with GnR’s Patience blasting in the background.  Take note Starbucks….I’d much rather sip on a Coconut Milk Latte to some sweet Axl than your Jack Johnson boo-hoo music any day.

Check out the Primal Grind here and here.  And if you’re in Toronto, what are you waiting for?  Go get your own Coconut Milk Latte!

It’s Movember!!  In case you haven’t noticed, there are many dudes sporting the ‘stache and since the ladies can’t (or at least we hope) we decided to throw a Mo’Meat dinner party.  I cannot take credit for thinking of this, as it was the genius idea of Sio, part owner of Crossfit Quantum.  There was Mo’Meat indeed with sausages, bacon, grass-fed beef and mo’bacon!  It was most definitely a meat-fest and all for a good cause.  Big thank you to Sio for hosting and providing the Mo’festivities!  Big thank you to The Healthy Butcher for supplying the beef (100% grass-fed goodness).   I cannot forget Fully Primal Husband, who spent Friday night peeling Rutabagas and Turnips with me….thank you!   Nothing like spending a night at the Peeler with your husband.  Thanks to FPH for grilling 20 sausages at 10am on a Saturday too.  Last but not least, thank you to everyone who came to support the cause and for everyone who sported a ‘stache! Ladies included (you know who you are).

I was busy in the kitchen and failed to take any pictures of the mouth-watering dishes.  If I can get my hands on some pic’s I will post them.  In the meantime, drool over this Burt Reynolds pic.  I have to admit that I’ve been very busy lately, so the dishes that I prepared are not my own.  I borrowed with pride.  Here are the recipes that I used:

Appetizers
Bacon-Stuffed Mushrooms
– Assortment of Sausages (Hungarian and Chorizo) – from Green Gate Farms who are at local farmer’s markets around Toronto.  I see them at Appletree Farmer’s Market on Thursdays.  BTW, they also supplied the bacon… it’s from naturally raised pigs (hormone/antibiotic free) and it is the BEST bacon i have ever had!

Main
Braised Beef Blade Steak – this was the piece de resistance.  Braising sounds so fancy, but it is actually a very easy cooking technique and it resulted in melt in your mouth beef that was so moist and delicious.  
– Roasted Root Vegetables with Bacon and Rosemary – this one was actually my own creation and I’ll post the recipe soon.
– Fall Salad – this was inspired by this recipe i grabbed from the Food Network – I used raw shredded fennel and peppers, with roasted beets on a bed of arugula.  I also changed the dressing by adding some white wine vinegar.

Dessert
– Pumpkin Muffins – from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook.  Buy it!

Now onto the Day 25 update! HOME STRETCH!!!!! YES!!!!  I have to keep this short, but hope to write more this weekend.  Things have been going great!  I have to admit that pulling off Mo’Meat was not easy without my coffee or celebratory wine.  There were a couple points in the evening where I wanted to strangle FPH and Sio as they discussed the merits of a wonderful Malbec.  I ended up drinking so much Perrier that my stomach hurt from all the gas later (sexy).  How is everyone else doing??

I'm pretty sure this is how I may look on Day 1

I’m about to take on the craziest and most intense physical and mental challenge that I have ever done in my life.  It’s not a Crossfit Competition or a Marathon…no, this is much MUCH worse.  This is something that I may totally regret starting, but I’m going to do it and I’m going to finish it.  Ready…..

I’m ditching coffee for 30 days.  AAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAHhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!  I know, crazy right?  Am I on crack?  Possibly.  This might be worse that Lindsay Lohan’s latest attempt at detox.  Especially given the fact that I’m about to start my Bio-Chem course.  I’m completely and utterly terrified to do this. 

Why are you doing this, you ask?  There are a few reasons:

1.  I am my own guinea pig…..Now that I’m doing Nutrition Coaching I need to be able to recommend things to clients that I have tried myself.  In my past, I have tried many different diets.  Today, I try different brands of supplements, various recipes, sources of meat and read lots of articles and books to understand both Paleo Nutrition and the garbage that ‘conventional wisdom’ still spits out.  It’s important to walk the talk and I cannot recommend things that I don’t truly believe work.  Thus, it is my duty to Haute Life and all future clients to endure these 30 days.

2.  Starbucks called, they want their coffee back.  Yes, I drink WAY too much coffee/americano’s.  My tolerance has skyrocketed and as a result, so has my consumption.  I probably drink the equivalent of an entire pot (12 cups) before 9:30am each day.  I don’t stop until my palms are sweaty and my leg is shaking.  I love that feeling….it totally feeds my Type-A personality to be ‘go go go’!  This is not good.  This leads to point #3…

3.  Detox.  I’ve been learning a ton about vitamins and minerals recently and one consistent theme is that excess caffeine consumption depletes important vitamins/minerals.  This is not good considering many of these important vitamins and minerals are related to mood and overall nervous system health.  I’m curious to see if I have a sensitivity to coffee and whether I feel better once it is removed.

4.  Paging Dr Drew.  I think it’ll make for a few good blog posts.  It’ll be like reading the transcript to an episode of Celebrity Rehab….picture me as that washed-up beauty queen who’s detoxing from meth and screaming at people to “bring me my juice!!” Except I’ll be saying, “Bring me my Fish Oil!!” and Dr Drew will be Fully Primal Husband sympathetically nodding with a pouty face and making me say affirmations every morning. 

Now that I’ve posted this, there is no turning back.  Day 1 is Monday November 1st.  I’m also doing a Whole30 , but that is not a big deal because I’ve done that before and felt great…in fact, I’m quite looking forward to sticking to 100% good food for 30 days. 

I should mention that I am still going to allow myself some green tea and other herbal teas.  I need the warmth. 

Sooo……WHO’s COMING WITH ME??!?! Anyone? Anyone??!?!  You don’t need to give up coffee like me….But if you want to do the Whole30 with me….hop on board and let me know that you’re with me!