We are inundated with diet ideas and lifestyle advice on a daily basis through the mainstream media, social media, celebrities and TV programmes.
Vegan, paleo, high carb, low carb, proteins, no grains – it's a jungle to say the least. Of course, the main question should be, what suits you best? And to whom would you prefer to listen? With all the information out there, how do you proceed?
Lets start by defining what all of these weird and wonderful diets, or shall we say 'lifestyles' are all about.
The Paleo diet claims to be the original human diet. It encourages followers to eat foods that we used to eat in paleolithic times, such as nuts, seeds, meats, fish, fruits, veggies and good fats, such as olive oil, avocados etc. Foods to avoid are legumes, dairy, grains, processed foods and starches. Several books have been written on this subject and many modern day gurus claim it to be the only solution to a long and healthy life. It doesn't take a great deal of research to realise that fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and meats were not the only sources of food our ancestors survived on. Add offal, half-digested foods from animal bellies and soured milk from calves and it's not quite as pretty a picture anymore. So all in all, the so called 'caveman diet' is actually rather modern.
This is an extreme form of vegetarianism that excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients. Many vegans also do not eat foods that are processed using animal products, such as refined white sugar and some wines. There is some debate as to whether certain foods, such as honey, fit into a vegan diet, if you are cooking for vegans, avoid these foods. Most vegans extend the definition of veganism beyond food and will also avoid the use of all personal and household products tested on animals and all animal derived non-food products, such as leather, fur and wool. There is some debate as to whether second hand animal products, such as a leather jacket from a thrift store, can be included in a cruelty free vegan lifestyle or not. In any case, veganism is very restrictive and, if followed to the letter, involves adherence to many rules and regulations.
WIKIPEDIA : Vegetarianism /ˈvɛdʒətɛəriənɪzəm/ is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, insects and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter. There are varieties of the diet as well: an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy, and honey. Some vegans also avoid other animal products such as beeswax, leather or silk clothing, and goose-fat shoe polish.
Meet The Flexitarian Diet
The term flexitarian, defined as “a person whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish" entered Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in 2012, but it has quickly become one of the biggest health buzzwords today.
The flexitarian label means actively moving away from consuming huge amounts of meat. It’s a healthier way of eating that includes more whole grains, pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds and a growing consciousness of where our food comes from. The main gist of the flexitarian diet is exactly what it sounds like: it's flexible.
Michael Roizen, MD, a wellness officer, says another way of thinking about meat, especially red meat, is to consider it an "occasional side dish." He recommends cutting down red meat to about four ounces per week for optimal health.
All flexitarian advocates point out it’s not just about eating fewer animal products, but also making smart food choices in general. This means minimally-processed, nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy.
Whatever diet or lifestyle you choose, I think it is important that we stop and think for a minute. We are so busy following other people's expertise and suggestions that somewhere along the line we have forgotten to listen to our own bodies.
Start simply, go back to basics and figure out what works for you without taking too much notice of what is trending at the moment. Not everyone should be a vegan and not everyone is equipped to eat meat - but the only person that can establish that is you!
When, in June, the talented team at Paella's y Mas celebrated the second birthday of this extraordinarily successful and popular restaurant, they could be forgiven a few self-congratulatory moments. In only two years, Head Chef Javier Ponte and his dedicated staff have built a business which already has gained the reputation as being one of the best restaurants in Marbella – in fact, when it comes to Spanish cuisine – it is unquestionably the best.
Even in a city which has far more than its fair share of great eating places, ranging from cheap and cheerful family run establishments to posh and pricey joints that tend to pull in celebrities and the seriously well-heeled, Paella's y Mas stands out. One of the main reasons is its menu, which contains everything that you could possibly want from an authentic Spanish restaurant.
Chef Javier learned his craft from his mother and grandmother, both of whom taught him that the key to great cuisine was using the finest available ingredients. He uses these recipes and added creative touches which elevate the simplest dish to new heights, a technique which has customers returning again and again to revisit old favourites and sample new ones.
Paella's y Mas is busy throughout the year, but is especially busy during the summer thanks to its gloriously expansive terrace, which is ideal for dining out under the stars. When the sun goes down and the candles are lit, this is one of the most romantic places in town. However, you definitely don't need to be a couple to make the most of the dishes on offer. This is a place that the SOCIETY Magazine team loves to visit because it delivers the perfect excuse to order a variety of dishes which can then be shared. Diners on a budget are also in luck, because the team can draw up set menus for 30€ which include some tasty and imaginative tapas and paella to share. Your menu can also be personalised depending on what dishes you especially like and adjusted to suit how much you want to spend.
The most popular items on the menu are the 40 plus tapas varieties and the traditional Paellas and Fideuas but, while these are the arguably the dishes for which Paella's y Mas has gained its reputation as Marbella's culinary capital, they are by no means the only strings to Chef Javier's bow. Vegetarians will enjoy the range of meat-free options and there is also a section offering grilled meat, fish and seafood, which always proves popular.
Since its opening Paella's y Mas has been a hotspot for gourmands and casual diners alike so, whether you are an aficionado of Spanish cuisine or a beginner who wants to start with the best, we can't recommend this establishment highly enough.
Be smart and book your table now!
Visit Paella's y Mas for lunch from Monday to Friday and enjoy free beer and house wine.
There are cuisines for all seasons: comforting goulashes for the winter, gorgeous green salads when spring is in full flower but when summer comes round again you know that your local Thai restaurant can deliver exactly what you need.
We are very lucky to have a number of local establishments that deliver dishes packed with flavour and one of our favourites is Top Thai, conveniently situated in Nueva Andalucía's Centro Plaza. When we heard that it was opening in Estepona's Laguna Village we just had to go along and test drive the new restaurant.
First and foremost this is a wonderful summer venue, with diners being offered the chance to enjoy a cocktail on the terrace while being lulled into a state of blissful relaxation by the centre's many water features and the sight of the sun sparkling on the Mediterranean. In fact, we must confess that we have often intended to pop in to Laguna Village for a quick snack at lunchtime, only to find ourselves glued to our chairs for most of the afternoon. Needless to say, we feel that the owners of Top Thai have probably found their ideal venue.
When we had roused ourselves out of our Zen coma we managed a stroll through the menu, which contained all our old Thai favourites, along with some imaginative additions to the culinary canon. Admittedly our starter, a Thai Mixed, was a bit of a compromise to our stomachs, being a dish which contained many of the elements that make Thai cooking such a fresh and tempting option when the summer kicks in. You really must start with this when you visit Top Thai because it includes Spring Rolls, Prawns and Wonton, all of which can be dipped into a tempting variety of peanut, sweet and sour and spicy sauces. We enjoyed the process of deciding which was our favourite dip but were happy that we had opted for a sharing starter; all the more room for the main courses.
The Kapraw was a big success – this dish is offered with Chicken, Beef, Prawns or Duck, but we chose the Fish. This is a beautifully crispy stir-fry dish, served with Chilli, Green Beans, Garlic and Basil Leaves. The chef was very accommodating about the level of spiciness required, but we left the final decision to him. Apparently some customers ask for the levels of chilli to be stepped up but, in our collective opinion, you would need an iron constitution to cope with the damage to your taste-buds and it would be a pity to mask the seamless marriage of flavours with too much heat.
Phad Thai is probably one of the most famous of all Thai classics, a solid favourite with the punters who frequent Bangkok's famous street food outlets so, in a further stab at authenticity, we ordered the Chicken version. Served in the usual way with Noodles, Bean Sprouts, Peanuts and Egg this was a true taste of Thailand all in one dish, satisfying and packed full of flavour.
The third member of the party decided to choose something from the Specials section of the menu. Namtok Ped is basically a Crispy Duck Salad, served with Chilli, Onion, Coriander and Lemon Juice and is the ideal summer lunch choice, being both filling and beautifully fresh and zesty. This proved a hit with all members of the party, who mysteriously found their forks being drawn to the plate of the unfortunate person who had the bad luck to order it.
Mention the words 'comforting' and 'dessert' in close proximity and thoughts inevitably turn to winter warmers like crumbles and sponge puddings. However, Thai cuisine also offers third courses that comfort, albeit in a slightly different way. Designed to cool and soothe the most over-stimulated palate, we loved the array flavours and textures on offer. Our recommendation? For a real taste of Thailand, do not miss the Mango and Sticky Rice. If you have ever experienced the horrific childhood staple of six grains of rice in a litre of watery milk, then we can guarantee that this is not even remotely similar. Think, rice pudding as it might be served in heaven – just the dish to round off a wonderful lunch.
Top Thai proves, once again, that you can travel around the world in 80 dishes without once leaving the Coast. For those of you who aren't planning a trip to Thailand in the immediate future, you can be sure to find all the authentic flavours of that country in Estepona's Laguna Village.
Porterhouse Grill is raising the bar for a great steak!
A good steak is very often at the top of many people’s list of favourite foods. There is nothing quite like the scent of steak cooked on the grill wafting through the air to make the olfactory sense perk up and the stomach start to rumble. The thought of a juicy piece of meat cooked to perfection and melting in the mouth is a meat lover’s dream and when excellent service, a warm and friendly ambience plus some heavenly cocktails accompany it, then that steak is even better. And, you will find all this and more at the Porterhouse Grill in Nueva Andalucia.
Located adjacent to Marbella’s casino, Porterhouse is already garnering five-star ratings from its guests on TripAdvisor. So, the Society team was thrilled to receive an invitation to review this new restaurant and get our teeth into one of its famed Porterhouse steaks. Even the ‘reformed vegetarian’ in the party had a carnivorous gleam in her eye as she sat down at the table.
Maythel, Porterhouse’s manager, whose smiles and friendly manner enchanted all of us, greeted us and showed us to a table outside. The evening was hot and humid out of the shade, but the leafy and secluded patio area at Porterhouse ensured that we were all able to cool down to a gentler temperature conducive to eating. Once we had a welcoming drink each, Maythel brought us warm bread rolls with an outstanding chimichurri salsa to dip it in. The rolls were light and fluffy with a delicate crust and one of our party was so enthusiastic about dipping the bread in the beautifully flavoured salsa that before we could blink all the rolls had disappeared.
And then the starters appeared. Some eyes were totally captivated by the Mac & Cheese with Crispy Bacon and Truffle Oil that bubbled and oozed deliciousness. It is hard to come by a good Mac & Cheese and while to some it may seem the most unsophisticated of dishes, for others it is manna from heaven and the Porterhouse recipe didn’t disappoint on that score. The Baked Camembert studded with Rosemary, Garlic and Honey had a crunchy crust with a liquid gold centre that we scooped up with the accompanying rustic toast and savoured every last cheesey bit of it. And if these don’t whet your appetite, then the Homemade Chicken Liver Patê with Piccalilli is divine. This patê has the lightest and smoothest texture and we all agreed that this was one of the most refined we’d ever tasted. Piccalilli took some explaining to those who don’t know about the British love of pickles and the salty-sour flavour of this British classic that is based on an Indian recipe brought back from the days of The Raj complemented the patê to perfection.
Once we had made short work of the starters Maythel appeared with cocktails. Oh my, these were good. The Mai Tai, served in a highly unusual ceramic container that resembled a stone statue from the Easter Islands was a delightful concoction of Dark Rum, Orgeat Syrup, Fresh Lime Juice, Orange Curacao and Pineapple juice. The Jamaican Mule was sublime and a refreshing drink for the summer heat. It is made with Spiced Rum, Lime Juice and Ginger Beer that combined heat of ginger with the cool lime. And fans of watermelon will adore the Watermelon Cooler that blends Vodka, Fresh Watermelon and Sugar Syrup. If you like fruity cocktails then the Bootylicious is also one to try. There is also an extensive wine list featuring wines from around Europe and the staff are happy to advise on pairing them with dishes.
Shortly after, Maythel put a stand covered in a cloth on the table. “I’m going to work some magic,” she laughed. We peered under the cloth when she disappeared into the kitchen, but there was nothing there. She suddenly reappeared with a tray holding what looked at first like a King Cobra rearing from a basket to a snake charmer’s tune. Our jaws dropped! The Porterhouse for two was a majestic piece of meat that we tucked into eagerly. Perfectly grilled and seasoned it was accompanied by grilled tomatoes and mushrooms that proved the simplest dishes are often the tastiest. And chips! The triple cooked chips at Porterhouse have a final fry in beef dripping. We all agreed that good, old-fashioned dripping beats every kind of oil hands down. Chef David, who is the maestro in the kitchen, popped out to ask if we were enjoying the dinner. We assured him that we loved every morsel so far and it was the truth!
A mixed grill of belly pork ribs, rotisserie cooked chicken, chistorra and chorizo sausage gave us a taste of some of the other dishes available on the menu that you can have as single orders, or as mixed grill to share with a friend. Plus, if you’re a burger fan, you are well catered for here. And, there are dishes for those who prefer not to eat meat, such as salmon, calamari and a vegetarian dish of the day. It really is a most appetising menu and it struck us that when you want a restaurant that will keep kids happy as well as older family members, then Porterhouse has designed a menu with widely recognisable dishes suited to all, and we all know that familiarity is a comfort.
We were bursting at the seams when Maythel brought dessert and a cheese platter with chutney. But who can refuse Chocolate Tart and a Forest Fruit Cheesecake? Not us! And they were absolutely worth making room for.
It is worth noting that Porterhouse offers an “Early Dinner Menu” from 5.30pm-7.30pm with two set menu prices. As Maythel explained to us, these set menus give you exactly the same quality and quantity of food as if you were dining at any other time.
The meat at Porterhouse is of the highest quality, the menu is one to work your way through and the service is impeccable – this Grill serves steaks and much more in style.
This is the issue.
On the one hand, you have conventionally grown fruit and vegetables; on the other, you have organic fruit and veg. Both look the same, provide vitamins and fibre and are free from fat, sodium and cholesterol. So which should you choose? Get the facts before you shop.
The word 'organic' refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products such as fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.
Farmers who grow organic produce don't use conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds. Examples of organic farming practices include using natural fertilizers to feed soil and plants and crop rotation or mulch to manage weeds.
Different countries have different labelling. Just because a product is labelled organic doesn't mean that it is 100 per cent organic. In the UK, for example, you can label a product organic as long as at least 95 per cent of the farm-grown ingredients are organic.
Spain's percentage is similar and the country has really climbed onto the organic agricultural bandwagon, seeing a steady increase in the past few years. People are becoming increasingly aware of how their food is produced.
On a personal level I try to buy as much organic produce as possible because I find that it lasts a lot longer, tastes better and I get to support a local community of farmers who are growing some amazing veggies.
Scientific studies also prove the point that 'going organic' has proven benefits.
“Organic food has more of the antioxidant compounds linked to better health than regular food, and lower levels of toxic metals and pesticides, according to the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date.
“The international team behind the work suggests that switching to organic fruit and vegetables could give the same benefits as adding one or two portions of the recommended 'five a day'.
The team, led by Prof Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University, concludes that there are "statistically significant, meaningful" differences, with a range of antioxidants being "substantially higher" – between 19% and 69% – in organic food. It is the first study to demonstrate clear and wide-ranging differences between organic and conventional fruits, vegetables and cereals. "The crucially important thing about this research is that it shatters the myth that how we farm does not affect the quality of the food we eat," said Helen Browning, chief executive of Soil Association, which campaigns for organic farming.” - The Guardian
I suppose because buying organic produce has become a trend, some retailers and suppliers tend to take advantage and put the prices up, so I have some tips and tricks on how to make it work.
Find a local farmer or farmers' market
We are very lucky to live in the garden of Europe. Spanish families still have a habit of shopping at markets where you can find fresh fish, skilled butchers and greengrocers. Ask the shop keepers where the produce comes from and if it is grown organically. I go to Guadalhorce Ecologico, a travelling farmers' market that visits different locations every Saturday and Sunday. The goods are favourably priced and you can find everything from olive oil to fruit and veggies. They also deliver in Marbella once a week. Find their weekly schedule on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/guadalhorceecologico/
Subscribe to a Organic Veggie Box
Several people prepare and deliver veggie boxes on the Coast. The benefits of a veggie box is that you eat seasonally, you cook with veggies you normally might not choose and you can have it delivered to your door. I have used Los Hortelanos in the past and they are great! Give it a go and get a five Euro discount on your first order by using the discount code BETTINA. https://loshortelanos.es
Quality versus Quantity
I have had this conversation many times and it is far more important to me that I buy quality (even though it takes effort to go to a market) rather than quantity. In my humble opinion when something is priced ridiculously low you have to ask yourself - why? How was it produced, by whom and where? As consumers we hold the power over what is being sold to us. It's a simple theory of supply and demand. If we stop buying the cheap, nasty stuff and demand better, producers and supermarkets will have to comply.
Les Cubes is an extraordinary find. Located at the Urb. Oasis Club on Marbella’s Golden Mile, this beautifully revamped space offers a novel concept in drinking and dining where you can enjoy a majestic view of the Med while exploring the exceptional menu prepared by executive chef Tim van Buchem, who some may remember from his days at Healthouse Las Dunas and Finca Cortesin. It’s a culinary pedigree that he is taking to new heights at Les Cubes.
The carefully considered entrance allows the diner to take in at a glance the three spaces that Les Cubes offers: the To Be or Not To Be bar area where one can sharpen the appetite with a pre-prandial drink, relax after with a digestif, or meet friends for a few beverages and a chat; the Kalinka Malinka restaurant where chef van Buchem showcases contemporary Mediterranean dishes, and the more formal C’est La Vie which offers gourmet dining with an Asian twist. They are all open from 1pm to 2am, which gives you the possibility of lunching at Kalinka Malinka, dining at C’est La Vie and having a nightcap in To Be or Not To Be.
On our visit, the Society team was warmly welcomed by restaurant manager Juan and ushered to a table with a view of the pool and the sea. The tableware set the scene for what was to come; who could doubt that when plates by Christian Lacroix are matched with cutlery from Villeroy and Boch that the food is going to be of an equally high standard. Once we had admired the place settings and the overall look of the restaurant that blends contemporary design with furniture that is both smart and comfortable, we turned our attention to reading through the menu and our appetites increased with each turn of the page.
An appetizer of Ceviche of Butter Fish with Pink Grapefruit and Spicy Vinaigrette had a thrilling tang of chilli to create a delicate explosion in the mouth that got us off to a great start and increased our anticipation of what was yet to come. Next up was a Cauliflower Veloute with Orange, Pistachio and Prawns. We were slightly puzzled by the combination, but after a couple of mouthfuls we were total converts. The delicate cauliflower cream was set alight by the prawns topped with tiny slivers of Chinese oranges that took the dish to another dimension. But this was not the end, the Sauteed Scallops with Pea Puree, Crispy Ham and Lobster Bisque were a treat for scallop lovers and this reviewer just happens to be one of that merry band. Alongside it came a visually exciting dish of Pickled Mackerel with Beetroot Puree and Vegetable Salad. The freshness of the mackerel and its distinctive flavour was a perfect marriage with the beetroot to create a plate of exquisite refinement using a humble fish that is all too often ignored by fine dining.
By now we were almost impatient to taste the main courses. Could they possibly be better than these amazing starters? The answer is, of course, yes. Or at least we can say that the second act was every bit as good as the first! We started with an unusual combination of Chicken with Quinoa, Turnip, Daikon, Beetroot, Green Asparagus, Radish and Almond sauce. Well, we have no idea where Les Cubes sources its chicken, but this has to be the best piece of poultry that any of us has ever tasted. Indeed, it sent one of the Society team flying out to the kitchen to congratulate the chef on the spectacular texture and moistness of the dish. The quinoa worked perfectly with the chicken and with the other flavour combinations to deliver what Gregg Wallace on Masterchef would undoubtedly pronounce “a thing of beauty.”
And from chicken we moved on to Rack of Milk-Fed Lamb with Cous Cous, Pumkin Puree, Green Olives, Moroccan Lemon and Ras al Hanout sauce. This was another winning combination that nods its head to the flavours of the traditional Moroccan lamb tagine while serving the elements in an updated style to create a thoroughly contemporary dish. By now our waistbands had started to strain a little, but ever diligent in the pursuit of great food, we happily kept going when Smoked Sturgeon with Vegetables and Brava sauce was set in front of us. It is the first time we have seen sturgeon on a menu and at first sight we guessed that it might be tuna due to its dense texture. However, after one bite we knew this was no tuna; this substantial and meaty fish is not as boldly flavoured as mackerel and its delicate taste belies it appearance, and we agreed that its closest relative may be smoked haddock, a glorious dish if ever there was one. If you’ve never eaten sturgeon, go to Les Cubes for the chance to do so.
Then the grand finale arrived – desserts from The Sweetest Moment of the menu. The two selected were excellent choices to conclude our visit: Piña Colada Caramelized Pineapple with Piña Colada Ice Cream and a Crispy Pineapple Flower had us all fighting over the last spoonful and trying to remember the lyrics to “The Pina Colada Song.” We then dived into a Chocolate Fondant with Pistachio Ice Cream and Raspberries that we all agreed was just flawless in every respect. The fondant was light and gooey and the pistachio ice cream had the density and richness that only a handmade ice cream ever has.
Then it was time for coffee. Just as we all agreed that this was one of the most superlative menus we’d ever tasted the heavens opened, but we left happily singing, “If you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain…” Next time we visit—and we will—we hope the sun is shining over Les Cubes, because then the weather, the view and the menu will add up to total perfection.