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!

Last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of attending Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution Seminar.  More importantly, I was able to bring my mom who has heard my continuous praise of the Paleo lifestyle for years and has slowly been transitioning to this lifestyle herself.  I was super fortunate to attend a dinner hosted by my friends at Academy of Lions with Robb and Nicki a couple days before the seminar at Enoteca Sociale.  My friend Cindy at PALEOdish did a recap of the dinner, so you can check out her post here

This was my third time attending one of Robb’s seminars and I’m so glad I decided to attend again because the content has really evolved (incl powerpoint! Loved that addition) and I learned so much more.  The first half of the seminar was UBER-science-y pulling from the books of Mat Lalonde.  EVERY mechanism related to digestion, gut permeability, autoimmunity, hormonal responses to food/sleep/stress and metabolic derangement were covered at length.  I think my mom wanted to kill me at the halfway point….thinking this was some kind of sick punishment for not having read the book yet.  But alas, I saw her taking some notes whenever Robb said something in laymen’s terms and that made me smile. 

My friend Joey Shillolo from JS3PT did a great job of summing up many of the key takeaways in practical terms, so I will direct you to his blog to read about them.  Aside from what he noted, I want to share a few key things that I took away from this seminar.  Of course, I highly recommend reading the book, the blog and listening to the podcasts if you want to learn more.  Here we go:

Science – It works bitches!  It is time to put this whole cavemen thing to bed and come into the 21st century.  The Paleo Solution is based on science, not what cavemen ate.  Sure, it draws the hypotheses by looking at evolutionary biology, but the physiological mechanisms must be proven in order to make the recommendation and this is what Robb has done.  If you have/had any doubts on the protocols, Robb put the ‘nail in the coffin’ and then buried the coffin 10 ft under by helping everyone understand the mechanisms behind EVERYTHING….from why we get fat to gluten to CVD to infertility to autoimmunity to cortisol….and backed them all up with scientific journal references.  I also learned so many new Scrabble words including, but not limited to: Sepsis and Zonulin!  I should note that there were doctors and RD’s in the audience who said they NEVER learned these things in school.  I can relate.

The Evil Trifecta: Gluten, Linoleic Acid and Fructose.  Where do I begin?  In short, avoid these  like the plague.  Each of these things contribute to metabolic derangement, inflammation, autoimmune conditions, obesity, mental health etc etc….and why you feel hungry 2 hours after you’ve had your Kashi crap.  This applies to EVERYONE.  Much of this was similar to what Mat had in his seminar which you can buy and view online from Academy of Lions (I highly recommend this if you want to geek out!).  Does this mean that you should avoid fruit? No…fructose really applies to things like corn syrup (or agave!).  But it does mean that you should limit your fruit consumption and stick to fruits that are lower in fructose.  And if you suffer from any metabolic derangement or excess weight, then you should severely limit fruit in favour of veggies (try Jicama!).   If you’re wondering what fruits are best, Loren Cordain has a nifty chart that sums it all up here

Eat Your Veggies!  Oh ya, grow them TOO! There is a stigma (yet another) that people who eat Paleo devour meat like Fred Flinstone after a tough day at the quarry.  Yes, part of the equation is to eat animal protein….this includes sourcing it from local and humanely raised/wild sources.   But the other part of the equation is to eat LOTS OF VEGGIES.  I was so happy to hear Robb talk about how many vegetables he eats.  Personally, I love vegetables….I seriously probably eat more than most vegetarians….Whole Foods applauds when i walk in and rolls out a red carpet through the produce section for me.  Alas, this brings up the point of Nutrient Density.  Robb talked about the nutrient density of the diet and showed a RDA comparison between a conventional diet and the Paleo diet.  This applies to babies, kids, elderly…the point is that you are not missing any nutrients by following the Paleo approach.  Want more proof? The fabulous Krista at Stumptuous did a blog post about this after attending the seminar which sums it up nicely.  The other great thing that Robb talked about was growing your own food or supporting local farms via farmer’s markets and CSAs.  He has started the Liberty Garden initiative on his blog to promote eating locally and growing your own food.

The proof is in the pudding.   Robb shared some of the transformations from his clients (and himself) and a plethora of these are available on his site.  It is truly amazing to see people reverse disease with food.  It’s a simple concept if you think about it….heal the gut via foods and heal yourself.  Despite it being so easy to understand, there is still a huge polarization in the nutrition world.  Rather than wasting time on a never-ending argument, the answer is really to try it for 30 days….  Assess how you “look, feel and perform” and whether your biomarkers of health have improved.  PERIOD.  We are (I am) better off spending my time with people willing to listen and change.  Life is short and there are way too many sick people in this world looking for help to waste time on those not willing to give up 30 days to try something that could change their lives.

We are all Unique Snowflakes.  Robb did a good run-down on how the diet can be tweaked to satisfy various people’s goals/conditions.  He also spent time talking Supplements and protocols for using them.  Robb talks about this stuff every week in his podcasts, so if you’re looking for details on your unique situation I would encourage you to tune in.  But what I love about this is that it illustrates that there is still an element of customization involved in the process and you need to tweak and play around with it.  I am constantly ‘tinkering’ with myself (wow, that sounds inappropriate) to see what works/doesn’t. 

OK, that was a lengthy run-down and yet I feel like I only scratched the surface of everything that I learned.  I’ll end by saying that one thing that really stands out about Robb….aside from the fact that he is the “King of all Paleo Media” (i just made that up)….is his passion and drive for helping people recover from disease and get healthy.  He shared some amazing stories about helping people reverse their diseases and his quest to change conventional thinking.  Hearing these stories fired me up to continue my journey to help others get well.

LASTLY, I’m proud to announce that my mom has gone “Fully Primal” since attending the seminar is already reaping the benefits!  She even did a test (a la Robb) where she stopped including Stevia in her coconut milk smoothie and then added it back in after a week to see how she would react.  Sure enough, it caused a sugar craving a couple of hours later.  She has now removed it from her roster.  I am so proud of you Mom!

I know I’ve been quiet with posts and especially recipes lately….this is because I have been working hard on bringing my dream to life.  I am thrilled to announce the official launch of Haute Life nutrition coaching!!  I am channeling my nutrition smarts and CPG sassiness to help people achieve their goals.  Want to know more? Don’t know what Haute means?

You can read my full story here.

And you can find my services here.

Big thanks to Crossfit Quantum for partnering with me on this journey!

Don’t worry, Cosmopolitan Primal Girl is not going anywhere! This blog is so important to me and I will continue to bring you advice and recipes….now with a Haute touch.

 

i should've worn heels....i look like a gymnast next to Dallas & Melissa

 

I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Whole9 workshop AND their first Trainer workshop at Crossfit Colosseum in Toronto this weekend.  I had been a fan of Melissa’s blog Urban Gets Diesel before she and Dallas started Whole9 – she is one of my ‘blog-idols’ as her writing is intelligent, sassy and incredibly witty – so I was pretty excited to meet the real deal in person.  

One thing I want to clear up right off the bat…In the words of Derek Zoolander, Dallas and Melissa are ‘really really REALLY good looking’.  The dictionary definition of ‘fit and healthy’. I don’t mean to be superficial, but I felt the need to state that point.  They are also really down-to-earth, incredibly friendly and generously offered me their time to provide me with valuable advice on my own career path and goals.

I’m not going to talk about the content of their seminar because you can see a rundown on their website.  I’m also not going to talk about the trainer workshop, which was a whole other experience of awesomeness.  I want to use this post to tell you why you should go to one of their Whole9 workshops.  In 3 words, here is what they do best: Keep it simple!  

If you’ve not had the opportunity to attend any of the nutrition seminars going around the crossfit universe, then you should make a point of going to this one first.  It’s a fantastic overview and introduction to the concepts behind why certain foods make you healthy, while others are damaging to your health.  They also spend a great deal of time showing you how to PRACTICALLY implement it into your life without depriving yourself or requiring you to own an electronic scale and accounting calculator.  Dallas and Melissa do an amazing job of taking what are complicated concepts and making them simple and easy to grasp. Your brain won’t swell up by overloading it with words you can’t spell and you WILL NOT have horrifying reminders of why you dropped science after grade 9 (freshman year for all you Americans).    I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to improve their health or help others in their life get healthier.  You don’t need to be in crossfit or even know what crossfit it.  This is for ANYONE and EVERYONE.  

This is why I’d recommend it to people who already know their stuff: I’ve been to Mat Lalonde’s seminar and Robb Wolf’s seminar (which are both amazing) and have read a plethora of nutrition books/articles, so I’m confident with the concepts that Dallas and Melissa discussed.  But I learned so much about how I take that information and explain it to friends, family and clients in a simple, concise way with no BS.  One of the things I sometimes struggle with is trying to explain why I don’t consume dairy/grains without using words like ‘casien’ and ‘lectins’.  You can quickly start sounding like you belong to a cult much like scientology when you talk to normal people this way.  Dallas and Melissa gave us so many simple explanations and analogies that I can now use to explain these concepts to people like my mom or even new clients at the gym.  If you want to be able to promote why Paleo/Primal principles are the best for your health, then you need to go to this seminar.    

I’m seriously fired up about taking what I have learned and sharing it with the people in my life and future clients.  It’s inspired me to work on some of my own analogies and a “paleo elevator pitch” (stay tuned for that).  I’m also incredibly grateful for the experience that I had with Dallas and Melissa and the advice that they offered me.  Lastly, I’m also very happy to have been able to hang out with people who are also really really really good looking.

It’s finally here…I’m so excited!!!  My friends at Crossfit Quantum are having their grand opening this weekend.  If you live in the Toronto area, come by their new space at 2 Thorncliffe Park Dr, Unit #41 – tomorrow, Saturday Feb 27th from 10am-3pm.  Their will be a WOD at 11am – I highly recommend taking part in that if you can.  

I’m stoked about this location for 2 reasons: 1) It’s the first Crossfit location in Midtown Toronto (where I live!) and 2) it’s owned & operated by some really awesome people.  

If that’s not enough to get you excited, I will also be there providing goody bags filled with some of my favourite treats and recipes.  

As they said in the 50’s – Be there or be square.