When it comes to thyroid blood testing, there’s a lot of confusion. For those newly diagnosed. For veterans like myself. And especially for those who manage to never get an official diagnosis, but still feel like a hot mess.
After dealing with my own Hashimoto’s for a decade, I’ve gotten a little better about glancing at my numbers and being able to evaluate what it means about the state of my endocrine system. But it’s taken years of practice, and many far more knowledgable practitioners helping me advocate for myself, get the right panels one, and interpret the results properly.
Even though The Wellness Project has helped me manage my symptoms, the state of my thyroid is still a moving target, one that I try to check in with on paper every few months. I get a full thyroid panel to check my levels quarterly, which helps me tie some of my changing symptoms to my thyroid function and ensure I’m medicating properly through food and supplements.
I’ve been meaning to share the in’s and out’s of thyroid function testing for some time–what panels to request, and how to interpret the end results–but I’m glad I waited until I had one of those far more knowledgable practitioners willing to help me clue you in on the best course of action!
Read on for the biggest mistakes practitioners make when it comes to testing your thyroid, and Jill’s amazing advice for how to advocate for yourself at the doctor’s office. And if you’re in need of thyroid-friendly recipes, make sure to pick up her book!
With health and hedonism,
The Best Thyroid Blood Tests to Ask For and How to Read Them
It’s a common yet unfortunate scenario.
You don’t quite feel like yourself, so you go to the doctor. Fatigue, constipation, dry skin, and stubborn weight gain have been your constant companions for too long. Perhaps you’re frequently cold and your brush is revealing just how much hair you’re losing.
Your doctor may isolate these symptoms (with an anti-depressant, laxative, or a suggestion to “eat less and work out harder”). Or he or she may say, “Let’s check your thyroid.” (Right answer.)
“Checking” can have vastly different meanings, again, depending on the doctor’s worldview.
Many medical professionals (endocrinologists included) operate under the conventional medical conviction that low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) can be diagnosed via one blood test and one blood test only: thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), a pituitary hormone that tells the thyroid to do its job.
But TSH can be “normal” in the face of raging hypothyroidism. It’s not wholly irrelevant, but it tells a small part of the story and should always be taken in the context of other thyroid hormones. (More on this in the chart below.)
Regarding the evaluation of TSH as a sole indicator of what kind of shape your thyroid is in, women’s health expert, Aviva Romm, MD states, “In a world where medical over-testing is rampant, I have to say, I find myself confounded by the fact that so many physicians are resistant to ordering anything but a TSH … as the first form of evaluation, when from a scientific and medical standpoint, that test can be normal and there can still be a low functioning thyroid. It’s outdated medical dogma to order solely this test.”
To add a third layer to this story, many doctors utilize outdated lab reference ranges—those parenthetical numbers next to your lab value that tell you whether you’re within the acceptable range.
This type of thyroid “treatment” leaves many un- or under-diagnosed.
“You may be told you have borderline thyroid problems or sub-clinical thyroid disease and your doctor will watch it,”says Dr. Mark Hyman. “What will he or she watch for? For you to get really sick?”
These archaic practices cast aside a vast group of people who often have subclinical hypothyroidism, meaning they will experience a bevy of symptoms, yet only see slight changes in their TSH blood labs.
An equally important layer: the antibodies that show the presence of Hashimoto’s/autoimmune hypothyroidism–thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPOAb) and thyroglobulin antibody (TgAb)–are tests that are infrequently performed.
You deserve to know if you have Hashimoto’s, which indicates thyroid tissue attack.
It’s estimated that a whopping 97 percent of people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s. And it’s been shown that once you have one manifestation of autoimmunity—any manifestation—if it goes unmanaged, the likelihood of developing yet another autoimmune condition is significantly increased.
By using old guidelines and limited thinking, conventional medicine glosses over the millions who suffer with low thyroid function.
As the saying goes, “Don’t guess, test.” It’s important to do the right tests and to evaluate your labs based on the functional reference ranges, not antiquated ranges that often lead to misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and the passage of time with continued suffering.
Here’s a Cheat Sheet for the Top Issues in Thyroid Blood Testing:
Telltale symptoms, thyroid not suspect (or tested)
Testing TSH only
Using outdated reference ranges
Not testing for thyroid antibodies (TPOAb and TgAb)
Why is the Thyroid So Important?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck below your Adam’s apple and is hailed as “the master gland” of our complex and interdependent endocrine (hormonal) system. It’s the spoon that stirs our hormonal soup. It produces several hormones, with tri-iodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) being the most critical to our health.
Given that our endocrine system is responsible for growth, reproduction, energy, and repair and the thyroid is largely at the helm of this complex and interdependent system, an underfunctioning thyroid can have profound implications for the whole body.
Thyroid hormones transport oxygen into your cells and are critical for energy production. Every cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormone and the thyroid is a master toggle that flips on the genes that keep cells doing their jobs.
It’s the boss of our metabolism and an underactive thyroid can affect weight, mental health, and heart disease risk.
Thyroid hormones affect our health systemically and directly act on the brain, the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, gall bladder and liver function, steroid hormone production, glucose metabolism, protein metabolism, neuromuscular function, digestion, and body temperature regulation.
Given the thyroid’s far-reaching impact, it’s not difficult to understand how misdiagnosis and under-diagnosis is nothing short of a public health concern.
You Are Your Best Advocate
If you have a cluster of symptoms pointing to hypothyroidism (find a list here), listen to your body and trust your intuition. Managing hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s is an exercise in becoming the CEO of your health.
Reject the notion that TSH alone determines your thyroid status.
Don’t allow your doctor to use outdated lab reference ranges or to neglect testing for the antibodies that could reveal Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Arm yourself with the right information. Use the chart below as a cheat sheet. You can use this to get a new set of labs or to compare values with any recent labs you’ve done.
This is what I feel are the most clinically relevant thyroid tests and reference ranges. Ask your doctor for a “full thyroid panel”and make sure the following are included:
Functional reference range
Free T3 (FT3)
3.2 – 4.2 pg/mL
Free T4 (FT4)
1.1 – 1.8 ng/dL
Reverse T3 (RT3) b
90 – 350 pg/mL or < 10:1 ratio RT3:FT3
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) c
0.9 – 2.0 mU/L
Thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPOAb)
< 4 or negative
Thyroglobulin antibody (TgAb)
< 4 or negative
Some important notes:
T3 is “the big daddy” of thyroid hormones and the most metabolically active, affecting almost every physiological process. The “free” in front of T3 (and T4) tells you what is available and unbound and therefore usable by the body.
Reverse T3 is just that—the “reverse” of T3. It blocks thyroid receptors and can cause patients to be unresponsive or resistant to T3. When the body is in conservation mode due to stress, including fatigue, nutritional deficiencies, or infection, it will reroute thyroid hormones. You want RT3 low, and high RT3 is often brought about by intense or prolonged periods of stress. RT3 is typically high in people with more advanced adrenal dysfunction (aka HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis dysfunction). You can see that there are two metrics in the chart above for RT3; while RT3 alone is an indicator of thyroid hormone resistance, calculating your RT3: FT3 ratio can also provide information on thyroid status. Click here www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/rt3-ratio/ to calculate your RT3:FT3 ratio.
According to many in the functional medicine community, anyone with TSH over 2.0 is hypothyroid, although TSH is an overall poor marker of thyroid function and should always be taken in the context of other thyroid labs, especially given that TSH can be normal in the face of low thyroid function.
This was a guest post courtesy of the wonderful Jill Grunewald, HNC, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, and founder ofHealthful Elements, is a thyroid health, Hashimoto’s, and alopecia (autoimmune hair loss) specialist and co-author of the #1 best selling Essential Thyroid Cookbook.
Have more questions about interpreting thyroid labs? Ask away in the comments section!
It’s a motto that I believe in, but one that, as a recovering perfectionist, I have a hard time role modeling in my life.
Especially when it comes to photography for this site, I struggle with shooting outside the perfect (or at least, reliable) conditions of my apartment, with its predictable light patterns, go-to surfaces, and array of ceramics. Images have become even more important in the world of blogging. But I’m not sure my efforts to perfect them always serves you at the end of the day.
The truth is, I usually don’t do my best cooking in my apartment kitchen.
It’s when I’m out of my comfort zone, or beyond my home turf, that I really get to experiment. Especially when traveling in foreign countries, buying groceries from artisan makers and the most vibrant farmers markets, I’m known to crank out my most creative dishes.
I do my best to recreate them at home. But a part of me wishes I could just take a janky iPhone picture on AirBNB Ikea plates, write up the recipe, and be done with it. Knowing, of course, that the recipe is what you’ll actually be using anyway.
A slightly less dramatic example of this is my parent’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s my happy place. My favorite kitchen to cook in. And an island that gives me endless inspiration at the markets. I’d argue that this is where I make my best food. And yet, a very small percentage of it ends up on the site.
I don’t have my favorite surfaces. I don’t have anything to house the food other than my grandmother’s purple paisley china, which if you know anything about food styling, is perhaps the worst possible backdrop for food. And the light floods the living room from all sides, making it hard to get any depth or flattering shadows on what I’m making.
Like most perfectionism, all these excuses just showcase my flaming insecurities in the photography department. If I was more confident in my abilities, I know I’d be able to make any situation work. But, alas.
All of this is to say that today’s simple recipe for vegan Creamy Tomato Soup, which I made on the vineyard last week, almost didn’t make its way to you. Even though it’s one of the most delicious and easy soups I’ve made in the last year, I nearly didn’t attempt to shoot it.
Instead, I fought those perfectionist tendencies, used a beat-up wood cutting board as a surface, placed it by the door to the backyard, and got the fuck over myself.
Done is better than perfect.
Though, if we’re getting technical here, this cream of tomato soup itself might be pretty close to recipe perfection.
Most people are used to either eating raw gazpacho made from fresh summer tomatoes (sometimes made creamy with stale bread, like in this recipe), or having a canned tomato creamy bisque with a grilled cheese sandwich in the wintertime.
This version is truly the best of both worlds. It uses peak farmer’s market tomatoes from my happy place, cooked gently for a few minutes on the stove to cut their acidity and release some juices. Though the recipe is only 5 ingredients, you might be surprised by the main one: cashews. A quick soak of the nuts makes the texture of the soup super creamy without having to add any dairy.
If you’re in the paleo or Whole30 camp, I think you’ll find this simple cream of tomato soup beyond satisfying. And if you’re sensitive to FODMAPs, don’t sweat it – I have some advice for you in the recipe notes!
Last but not least, the other moral of this creamy tomato soup story is that once I got over the roadblock of perfection, I actually really like the photos!
Read on for the recipe, and even if the conditions aren’t perfect, I highly recommend you make it ASAP.
With health and hedonism,
Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup with Basil
This creamy tomato soup is a cross between a classic cream of tomato and the orange-hued Spanish soup salmorejo. Instead of using stale bread or milk to create that gorgeous light red, this vegan paleo version uses soaked cashews for creaminess. With only 5 ingredients, it’s the perfect quick and easy use of summer tomatoes – it only needs a few minutes of cooking stovetop.
1 cup whole raw cashews
1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes (cored and very roughly chopped)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 sprigs fresh basil (plus more for garnish)
Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil in a kettle. In a heatproof bowl, cover the cashews with the hot water and allow to soak for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium-low flame. Add the garlic cloves and gently infuse the oil until the cloves turn golden brown on all sides. Remove the garlic and discard.
Carefully add the tomatoes and all their juices to the pan. Stir in the salt, arrange in an even layer and nestle the basil leaves on top. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have released their juices (they should be submerged in liquid) but are still al dente, about 5 minutes. Remove the basil leaves and discard.
Transfer the cashews and their liquid to the bowl of a high-speed blender or food processor. If you’re interested in achieving the two-tone look, add 1 cup of the tomato mixture and blend until smooth. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cashew-tomato cream and set aside. Add the remaining tomato mixture and liquid to the blender and puree until smooth.
Divide the soup between 4 bowls and drizzle with the cashew-tomato cream. Garnish with an additional drizzle of olive oil and torn basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This recipe is moderate FODMAP because of the cashews. If you’re sensitive to cashews, you can reduce the total quantity to 1/3 of a cup. It will just be slightly darker in hue.
Recently, I’ve been doing a series of nutrition talks around New York.
In some ways, this feels like a stretch for me, as I’m not a nutritionist or dietician or recipient of any formal diploma besides the one I’ve earned from the unaccredited University of Life, where I minored in Autoimmune Studies. That, and I have learned a lot from writing my unofficial dissertation, The Wellness Project.
Though they may not be the meat of the 20 minute sessions, the Q&A’s that follow are usually the most informative for everyone involved—especially me. I love honing in on where people find themselves stumbling, which of the latest trends are front of mind, and what age old questions remain sources of confusion.
A subject that seems to be a cross-section of all of the above is supplements.
Which ones you should be taking. Whether they are snake oil in a tablet. And what the cheapest, most efficient options out there are to get a bang for your nutrient buck.
With convenience and price point top of mind, it’s no surprise that the single most frequent question I get asked at these sessions is: should I be taking a multi-vitamin?
My answer is multi-faceted. But in brief, like all nutrition plans, I’d say it really comes down to the individual’s needs.
Filling in the Gaps
For the average person, whose bloodwork is sound and doesn’t have much to complain about, a multi-vitamin could serve a useful purpose in filling in the gaps where your diet might be lacking.
For maintaining vibrancy and keeping the engines chugging, a multivitamin is a great tool.
But for those of us who are autoimmune, or dealing with a host of specific health concerns, or have simply lost our vibrancy all together, a personalized approach may be more effective at bringing you back to your baseline.
If you’re seriously deficient in Vitamin D or B12, it’s unlikely that the small amounts in a multi-vitamin will make a difference. So how do you go about building a more advanced supplement regimen?
Making up for Deficiencies
If you’ve read my dissertation, The Wellness Project, then you know I am wary of doctors who prescribe bags upon bags of supplements.
It’s one of my main gripes with functional medicine in practice, as it’s just as easy to overmedicate with natural options as with big pharma. And ultimately many of your problems are going to be solved in the kitchen, not just by taking a pill.
During the height of my treatment with holistic practitioners, I was spending all my money on green juice and supplements with very little awareness for what was moving the needle or the “why” behind my spending. I had very real deficiencies and a need for the extra support. But I also had to occasionally wonder whether the supplements that gave me a boost on a physical level, were also making me feel sicker emotionally.
I had to buy three day-of-the-week pill cases just to keep up with my new regimen and switch to a larger purse to carry them all with me. Some supplements needed to be taken with meals, others on an empty stomach. As a result, I had to remember to take one capsule or another five times a day. It was a lot to wrap my head around. Especially a head already being addled by a special brand of Hashimotos dementia.
The process made me feel like a patient, 24/7.
This was one of the pain points that brought me to my project. But I haven’t necessarily shunned supplements since then. I do, however, always make sure these periods of heavier pill taking has a timeline and plan associated.
For example, this past fall, I started seeing a new functional doctor, who performed tests that ultimately diagnosed me with SIBO. That period of healing—much of the last 6 months—has involved herbal antibiotics and more supplements than I was apt to normally take. But I need them to support my digestion.
It’s important to note that as you heal your gut, the more nutrients your body will be able to take advantage of, via pill or otherwise.
When you’re suffering from SIBO, leaky gut, dysbiosis, or all of the above, you may not be able to absorb all the nutrients you’re consuming in food, which necessitates a more robust approach than a simple multi-vitamin. It also means, though, that you need to do the work and not solely rely on pills, since much of their contents may not even be reaching your bloodstream.
As my system healed, I let bottles run out, and restarted the process of finding my new multivitamin normal.
A Personalized Approach
Since transitioning from the triage stage back to on-going maintenance, I’ve been using Care/Of’s mail order system to supply my personalized vitamin packs that I can easily take with me everyday.
How it works is that you take a quiz, which covers everything from health history to how you’re currently feeling—sleep, stress, digestion, headaches, etc. You’re also asked practical questions like how many pills you want to take a day—for instance, if you’re on a budget or sick of throwing handfuls of supplements down your gullet, you can select under 4—and what size you prefer. For those who tend to choke on horse pills, they will give you your dose in two smaller ones!
The convenience and price factor are what blew me away most. Each assortment is packaged in a cute packet with your name on it, and housed in a convenient (and beautiful!) cardboard dispenser. No day-of-the-week cases necessary.
It might sound silly, but I can’t stress enough how big of an effect the packaging alone has had on my routine. It makes taking my vitamins fun, it makes packing for trips ten times easier, and most importantly, it makes me actually take my supplements. Without the sorting, or the prospect of swabbing at TSA, I’m much less likely to get lazy about popping my pills and just do it.
Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on various bottles, Care/of bills you a monthly fee based on the supplements in your pack. It usually ends up being closer to wholesale pricing than if you were to source everything individually yourself. Mine was $40 a month for my daily 6 pills. And you always have the option of removing or adding.
Care/of is also very transparent about where their ingredients are sourced from (not the case with most OTC vitamin companies). For example, the fish oil is from Wild Alaskan salmon, and their herbal supplements are all sustainably sourced. The recommendations are backed by a scientific advisory board, and you can also browse research studies that explain the “why” behind each pill in your pack, which as a minor in autoimmune studies, I appreciate.
In short, it’s been a game changer.
If you want to try your own personalized pack, you can get your first month for 25% off by using the code PHOEBE. Boxes start at $20 a month so you can try it out for just $15. You can’t beat that bang for your buck, in my opinion!
And best of all, if your one of those lucky vibrant folks who just needs to fill in the gaps, they offer a great multivitamin to get you started.
With health and hedonism,
Do you have any more specific questions about supplements or multivitamins? Let me know in the comments!
This post is brought to you in partnership with Care/of. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this site and my on-the-go vitamin protocol possible.
If there’s one gluten-free dish to sample while in Portugal, it’s peri peri chicken.
In general, the country is a lot more friendly to the dietarily challenged than their neighbors over in Spain, who seem to sneak jamon or bread into unsuspecting dishes like romesco sauce and gazpacho. For most of my trip, I got by with simple grilled seafood, homemade potato chips, and tomato rice.
But at the top of my culinary to-do list was the Portuguese version of BBQ chicken made with spicy red piri piri peppers brought over from Africa. In the States, barbeque is a hot bed for gluttonous offenders like Worcestershire, soy sauce and sketchy thickeners. So the idea of a national grill culture that centered around fresh ingredients like shallots, peppers and herbs, seemed like a dream.
And it was!
In some ways, the marinade reminds me of this gazpacho steak that I invented many years back for my summer BBQ pleasures. The charred meat tastes smoky, spicy and bright thanks to all the acid (vinegar and lemon juice). And I love pairing the sticky cooked chicken with more of the raw sauce on the side to get the best of both worlds.
Speaking of the best of both worlds, the recipe below is designed to fit a sheet pan, for those of you who don’t have access to a summer grill. In Portugal, the chicken is served with a side of fries or thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes, which were often but not always gluten-free, and a simple salad.
Finishing the meat under the broiler allows for you to get a similar char, while combining the meat and potatoes under one roof means less clean-up. Plus, potatoes cooked in a little chicken fat cannot be beat. But you can easily throw the chicken on the grill instead and roast the potatoes separately in the oven. You do you!
Read on for the recipe for this sheet pan Portuguese Peri Peri Chicken (also spelled Piri Piri…I couldn’t figure out which was correct!).
Is there a BBQ dish that you’ve brought home from a different culture? I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments section!
With health and hedonism,
Sheet Pan Peri Peri Chicken and Potatoes
You can make this uber flavorful Portuguese sauce up to 24 hours in advance and let the chicken hang out in the marinade in the fridge. To make this low FODMAP, simply omit the garlic and shallot. I made it without both and it was still fabulous.
1 small red bell pepper (seeded, roughly chopped)
1 small shallot (roughly chopped)
1 small garlic clove
1 Fresno or other small red chili pepper (seeded and chopped (see note))
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro leaves (plus more for garnish)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
1 1/2 pounds baby yukon gold or new potatoes (sliced 1/2 inch thick)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small food processor, combine the bell pepper, shallot, garlic, hot pepper or harissa (see note), parsley or cilantro, paprika, lemon juice, vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the chicken with 1 cup of the piri piri sauce until well coated. Cover the chicken and marinate on a counter for 20 minutes, or for up to 24 hours in the fridge.
Meanwhile, on a parchment lined baking sheet toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Arrange in an even layer and nestle the chicken thighs among them. If they have to sit on top, that’s fine. Roast the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the skin is starting to crisp.
Turn on the broiler and transfer the pan to the top rack in your oven. Broil for 5 minutes, or until the chicken skin is lightly charred.
Transfer the chicken and potatoes to a serving platter and serve alongside the excess sauce (see note), and a light salad.
If you can’t find a hot red pepper, you can either sub 1 jalapeno for a slightly less vibrant sauce, or 1 tablespoon harissa, which is the route I went.
I love the combination of the raw pepper sauce and the caramelized marinade, but if you prefer a warmer more developed sauce, simply heat the excess sauce in a small saucepan and reduce for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Have you ever been to a new restaurant’s friends and family night? I hadn’t until last year, when I got the opportunity to order an entire grand aioli seafood and vegetable crudités platter for two people.
I say, opportunity. Because it didn’t actually happen.
Had I understood the nature of these trial runs—mainly, the free part—I would have swung for the fences, ordering not only an appetizer platter that could feed 6, but oysters, beef tartar, and crudo, followed by 4 mains.
This is what the couple next to us did, and what Charlie and I realized halfway through our shared salad, was obviously the superior plan (doggy-bags-for-days!).
Instead, I was so distraught at myself for having missed a dish that was entirely composed around homemade mayonnaise, that I returned to the restaurant and paid $125 for the privilege of trying the grand aioli.
Note to self: the next time you have a chance to take a New York City restaurant to town, do it. Because otherwise it will be taking you next.
Needless to say, in my many dreams of this grand aioli, I also thought about how fabulous it would be as a big appetizer at a summer cookout. Robust. Delicious. On the house.
Last month when I was paging through Bon Appetit, I came across a recipe for their interpretation of a Grand Aioli, and for the first time realized that this wasn’t something unique to the restaurant, but, in fact, a thing.
For those who are also hearing this for the first time: Le Grand Aioli is often a meal in and of itself. The summery answer to fondue that requires no heat, no gadgets. Just clean hands and the willingness to dunk them in raw egg yolks.
For mayophobes, the grand aioli is also the dinner equivalent of a trip to Guantanamo. So I recommend for entertaining purposes that you offer it solely as a hardy buffet appetizer.
To make my aioli a little extra, I used charred scallions fresh off the grill. Though I’m back on high FODMAP foods for the most part, I’m still taking it a little easy with garlic in my kitchen. The scallions allowed me to get away with less and still have that lovely punch.
Read on for how to make a grand aioli crudités platter with some of the best vegetables and seafood of the summer season.
I’m going to be taking my mayo-y hands to Martha’s Vineyard next week, so you might not see me in these virtual parts as regularly. Have an amazing holiday and I look forward to hearing about all the things you dip in your aioli when I return!
With health and hedonism,
Grand Aioli Crudités Platter with Grilled Scallion Sauce
This tray may seem more involved than your standard vegetable crudités platter, but I assure you it’s worth the extra effort! If you want to speed things up, you can use multiple pots to cook the shrimp, eggs and baby potatoes. But there’s no need to. Make sure to leave the making of the aioli for last since a skin can form on the top. It’s no big deal, though: just whisk again right before serving. If you’re low FODMAP, you can omit the garlic. You should still be able to tolerate the scallions in modest quantities.
For the platter:
1/2 pound baby potatoes
1/2 pound peeled deveined shrimp
1 bunch radishes (thoroughly washed)
1/2 bunch asparagus
2 heads endive (quartered)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
5 ounces cured ham (optional)
For the aioli:
1 bunch scallions (ends trimmed)
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic (optional)
¼ cup olive oil (plus more for brushing)
¼ cup coconut oil (melted and cooled slightly)
½ teaspoon sea salt
Prepare the cooked components of your crudites platter: Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 3 minutes, and drain. Allow to cook until room temperature in the shells. Meanwhile, replace the water in the saucepan and add the shrimp. Bring to a simmer (along with a splash of lemon juice) and cook until pink and curled, about 2 minutes, depending on the size. Drain and immediately rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Finally, add the baby potatoes to the saucepan and cover by 1 inch with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cool water, and cut in half.
Meanwhile, grill the scallions: heat an indoor grill pan or outdoor grill until smoking. Brush the scallions with olive oil and grill until charred on both sides, 2 minutes on each. Set aside to cool completely.
Last, make the aioli: In a small mixing bowl or bowl of a food processor, whisk or pulse the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and garlic until smooth. Working slowly, add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and whisk or pulse until incorporated. Repeat with 3 additional teaspoons. Once the oil is emulsifying easily, slowly drizzle in the remaining olive oil, followed by the coconut oil, whisking or pulsing throughout until thick. Add the salt and cooked scallions. Puree until smooth and adjust seasoning as necessary.
The four days I spent in Lisbon after my friend’s magical Portuguese wedding in the north was the first stretch of time since Charlie and I started dating that I explored a foreign city all by myself.
Solo travel has its perks and its drawbacks, so I was appropriately both looking forward to and dreading this stint of “me time.” But Lisbon turned out to be the perfect city to conquer on my own.
Like so many places in Europe, Lisbon is extremely walkable, with narrow, lovely white-stoned streets to wander and shop. It’s got the vibrant, yet quaint feel of San Sebastian, Rome’s sense of old world grandeur, and San Francisco’s trolleys, bridges, and steep sidewalks.
I spent most of my time in Lisbon zigzagging between the two hills that surround the tourist valley in city center, admiring colorful painted facades and 16th century tiles, and stopping every few blocks to put something delicious in my mouth.
My lovely AirBNB was located in Chiado (pronounced she-ah-do), right next to the pink street that houses much of Lisbon’s nightlife.
On my first night, my phone died and I had to find my way back to the apartment just from memory. It was helpful to remember the valley layout and that most places were only a 10-minute walk from my street near the water. But even after I managed to successfully follow the pink-brick road, I spent the next hour trying my key in every single door on the adjacent blocks. All part of the solo travel adventure!
After 24 hours of unguided and mishap riddled exploration, I was lucky to sync up with a Portuguese friend I’d gotten to know through my work with the Natural Gourmet Institute. Teresa showed me a whole other side of the city, both in the center of town, through her restaurant hidden gems, and by driving me around the southwest bank of Belém.
As an architect turned chef, she was also a tremendous source of fun facts about the food and scenery. Thanks to Teresa I learned that Lisboa’s soft pinks, blues and yellows—which might have been even more effective than a SAD lamp for my mood—were painted with minerals specific to the region, and served to ward off various bugs! She said this is why you sometimes find certain colors just around windows and doors, and why the color palette was more muted than Porto to the north. And, perhaps, also why I managed not to acquire 50 mosquito welts on my hands and legs like most other trips.
She also mentioned that the reason San Francisco has such a similar makeup of transportation is that the city’s trolleys were in fact made in Portugal, and the Golden Gate Bridge was built by the same engineer as Lisbon’s.
I am most grateful, though, for the pastry intel.
After having passed pastry shop upon pastry shop in Porto, lamenting my gluten-freedom and inability to partake, Teresa told me that most of the orange-hued treats inside were made from just eggs, sugar and almond flour.
When the nuns were hard on their luck, they turned to baking, using the only materials they had available to them. Eggs from backyard hens were sweetened and molded into various shapes, cooked for different periods of time at varying temperatures, and sold to unsuspecting patrons who appreciated the variety, ingenuity and deliciousness.
Having learned this disparagingly late in my trip, I only got to try one type, manjar dos deuses, which are made with pumpkin and tasted like a very dense, marzany financier.
For the rest of my sweets prior to this knowledge, I went to a dedicated gluten-free bakery that I found through my friend Jodi’s fabulous guide. It just so happened to be half a block from my AirBNB and my familiarity with it was another reason I managed to refind my lodging.
There, I got to try the famous Pastéis de Nata in gluten-free form. These custard cups cradled in puff pastry originated from the monastery in Belém, who later sold the recipe to the local sugar manufacturer. If you can eat gluten, I highly recommend stopping by Pastéis de Belém where you can try the original. Only a handful of people know the secret recipe, and the bakery sells 20,000 of them a day!
Read on for some of my other favorite things to eat, drink and see in Lisbon. I mostly avoided the tourist monuments and museums in favor of walking various neighborhoods, but if there’s any one activity I’d recommend you don’t miss, it’s the Oceanarium! The otters are worth the trip alone.
With health and hedonism,
THE BEST GLUTEN-FREE RESTAURANTS IN LISBON
Pinoquio – If you’re looking for a traditional meal of Portuguese seafood, this spot is the real deal. It’s around the corner from one of the main tourist pedestrian thoroughfares, but tucked away in the corner of a piazza. Many of my friends who passed along recommendations said to go to Ramiro. Teresa, my guide, assured me that Pinoquio was better. And after tasting the salt shrimp, whole crab, and clams, I have to assume she’s right! The crab body is stuffed with a dip made from all the excess bits and pieces of crab, and if you can’t eat bread, the house made potato chips are perfect for dipping.
Ultimo Porto – This was the second authentic fish meal I had with Teresa. The restaurant was right on the port, surrounded by shipping containers, with a grill outside the front door. Needless to say, I definitely would have never found it on my own! The grilled sardines were mouth wateringly tender and mild. She even showed me a technique for eating them quickly, while keeping as much of the heat inside the skin before each subsequent bite.
Cantina do Avillez – For those who want to splurge on a more upscale meal, chef Avillez is the biggest name in town. He owns 7 restaurants that all have a similar style, feel and price point (more on par with the rest of Europe). Even with all the hype, I very much enjoyed my meal at Cantina, especially since the menu was clearly labeled as GF. The spot prawns in curry were my favorite, followed by the steak tartar and mushroom risotto, so long as you don’t mind the dairy bloat that follows.
Heim Cafe – Brooklyn hipster influence has indeed found its way to Lisbon, if this little cafe is any indication. Usually in Europe it’s hard to find spots that serve a real breakfast, so I was surprised to discover that was not the case in Portugal. If you’re looking for a luxurious brunch or breakfast experience, order one of the breakfast sets at Haim cafe. The one I got came with a silky egg scramble, perfect bacon, and a platter of granola to follow. The pancakes also looked heavenly, though not GF. Be prepared to wait to get a table, and wait longer to place your order. Luckily I had a good book, and it was a very pleasant place to relax.
Mercearia da Mila – The recommendation for this neighborhood market came from a reader, and it turned out to be right next to Heim Cafe. I didn’t have a chance to taste anything (I was insanely full from my breakfast) but it looked like a fabulous place to grab lunch or a picnic for the road.
Time Out Market / Mercado da Ribeira – The queen of farmer’s markets and king of all food halls comes together in this warehouse on the waterfront. The prepared food side curates stalls from the best restaurants in the city and has a rotating row of chef-led counters. After so many days in Portugal I was craving something different, so I ended up getting noodles at the Thai booth. I wouldn’t necessary recommend that! Instead, try some of the chef curated meals, including GF piri piri chicken, or some of the delicious ceviche. It’s also a fabulous place to get a glass of wine and some sliced meats before dinner.
Pistola y Corazon – As I mentioned above, I found myself getting a little sick of Portuguese food and craving some more ethnic flavors to break up my days. Some friends of mine who also felt this way ended up at this taco shop one night. They raved about the homemade corn tortillas and said there were lots of gluten-free options.
Go Juu – This sushi spot is off the beaten path, but worth a visit for their impeccable fish. Yes, you might be thinking that this is another far cry from Portuguese cuisine and not worth seeking out in Lisbon. But you’d be wrong! There’s a robust Japanese population in Lisbon, which is no surprise since Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside Japan. Tuna is also one of Portugal’s biggest food exports, and most of it goes straight to Japan. The owner of Go Juu is one of these fish exporters. And from what I tasted, it seems like he also keeps some of the best cuts for himself. Best of all, you can go for a stroll in the park across the street (and/or the modern art museum) afterwards to work off your meal.
LxFactory (Pronounced L-Sheesh Factory)– On the west side of the city, en route to Belem, is a vibrant arts compound that I’d consider to be the Bushwick of Lisbon. It’s worth visiting if you’re interested in doing a little shopping and eating in a different artsy industrial backdrop. I loved the store June for home goods and tableware. There was also a great natural foods restaurant serving fresh juice, kombucha and plant-based fare.
I’m not one for fashion rules, but there’s something in me that always has to wait until after Memorial Day to officially say yes way to Rosé.
Now that the hour of sunshine, linen, and maxi dresses is upon us, I thought I’d take a deeper dive into how to make the most of your pink-hued wine this summer–from unexpected rosé regions to explore to how to pair your homemade creations with them.
If this post is any indication, I’ve been trying to mature my wine palate over the last few years. This has been as much out of necessity as snobbery: ever since my Vice Detox, my taste buds and my head can’t handle the cheap stuff anymore. I’ve gotten much pickier about where the contents of my glass come from. And I try to go the extra mile to seek out small producers who practice old world techniques and treat their land with respect.
That said, it’s taken me a bit longer to evolve beyond the basic when it comes to rosé. And I’ve realized it’s high time I expand my horizons beyond the châteaux of Provence into other territories. When Charlie and I did our road trip through Italy last summer, one of the things we most enjoyed was getting to know the rosé wines (also known as rosato) in various regions–from the dry pale pinks of Lake Garda to the garnet, fruity, floral Sangiovese of Tuscany.
Usually, there would be just one option on each menu, a true testament to how the country’s wine and food culture values local artisanship above all else. Small menus reflect how Italians are impeccable curators of the best products available in any given place, during any given season.
As you know, ever since I studied abroad in Rome, I’ve put the Italian way of life on a high pedestal. Every time I return to the country, I’m once again reminded why. The simplicity and elegance that local makers bring to a hand-rolled string of spaghetti or a slow-cooked ragu, was equally represented in a glass of rosato. I know that sipping the full spectrum of wines of Italy‘s pink wine will be the perfect way to bring that sense of romanticism and deliciousness back into my kitchen before the next time I can return later this summer!
As far as wine connoisseurship goes, Italy can be tough to navigate since there are so many regions and grapes involved.
So, I’ve taken the liberty of putting together a little cheat sheet to help you identify the Italian rosé classics and what part of the country they come from. (For a taste of what you can expect from trying one, make sure to watch the video at the bottom of this post!)
THE BEST REGIONS FOR ITALIAN ROSATO AND WHAT TO PAIR WITH THEM
There are a ton of examples of great Italian Rosati. Here’s a cheat sheet for the classics and what make them special, from roughly North to South.
Chiaretto (Veneto/Lombardy) – Known as one of the dryer Italian rosés, these wines made from the Corvina or Groppello grape, depending on what side of the region they are from, are an elegant pale pink. “Chiaro” means “light” or “pale” in Italian. You can find these beauties in the Lake Garda region, and their minerality makes a perfect pairing for freshwater fish grilled or baked in salt. Pairings: Whole Roasted Trout with Thyme and Lemon
Rosato Spumante (Veneto) – From ground zero to Spumante (meaning sparkling!) wines (hello, Prosecco) this vibrant pink is perfect for seafood-based dishes and as an aperitivo, thanks to its liveliness, charm, and tart, delicate sparkle. There are delightful examples of pink spumante all over Italy. Pairing: Rosé Steamed Clams with Leeks
Nebbiolo Rosato (Piedmont) – Nebbiolo, named for the region’s pervasive fog, is one of the most famous grapes in northern Italy. Located between the Alps and the Ligurian Apennines, these rosatos have the fruitiness of Provence Rosé but the aromatic profile of Sauvignon Blanc. They pair well with heavier dishes, charcuterie and pasta from the region. Pairings: Classic dishes include veal tonnato, rosemary risotto, and fried zucchini blossoms. I’ve chosen this lemony saffron risotto, even though the saffron is more akin to the Milanese preparation in the Lombardy region.
Sangiovese Rosato (Tuscany) – Sangiovese, a dark-berried vine, is the most widely planted grape variety in Italy. The rosato wines that come out of Tuscany are a deeper garnet, and pair well with salty salumi, herby chicken, hearty legumes, and Mediterranean flavors. Pairings: Spicy Summer Chickpea Stew with Roasted Carrots, Spinach and Za’atar
Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo) – Cerasuolo, which derives from the word for “cherry” in Italian, pretty much sums up the color and tone of these rosati from the eastern coast of the country. They are bright, fruity, and lower in tannins than the red version, due to less time spent fermenting on the skins of the Montepulciano grape. Pairings: Cheeses, fresh pasta, and tangy Asian flavors. I love the idea of pairing it with this Sweet Corn Pasta with Ricotta. It’s sweet, salty and savory.
Aglianico (Campania) – This ancient grape comes from the land of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. The volcanic soil of this area lends the wines their aromas of cherry, cinnamon and anise. They pair well with rice, pizza (duh) and pasta dishes, and also white meat poultry. Pairings: Healthy Chicken Parmesan with Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce
Etna Rosato (Sicily) – Grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Etna, this zesty rosato can complement every dish at your table but goes especially well with eggplant and meatballs. It’s made predominantly from the Nerello Mascalese. These wines are some of the driest Rosati in Italy. Pairings: Eggplant Caponata Pasta.
What are your favorite Italian wines? Please give me your recs in the comments section! Also, check out the video below to learn more.
You’ve heard me lament the sensitivity of the smoke alarms in our new apartment. This means that unlike my white skinny jeans, quick meals on the grill pan are not coming back into season in my kitchen.
Instead, my strategy for summer is leaning on quick-cooking meals like this coconut lime shrimp recipe that ensure the oven only needs to be on for as little time as possible.
You can easily throw together this combination of coconut milk, fresh ginger, green (low-FODMAP friendly) veggies, and lime juice on the stove-top. But I love the way cooking seafood in a parchment or foil packet keeps the vegetables perfectly tender, yet crisp.
During the winter months, a slow-cooked coconut curry with melted (i.e. limp) vegetables is par for the course. But during summer I love honoring the fresh bounty with just a quick and simple steam.
If you’re new to the “en papilliote” technique, I’ve included detailed instructions below. It’s a fun activity for a dinner party as everyone can load up their packets with their desired ratios of veggies and fold it themselves. They always end up looking slightly different, but you can also use a pencil to label everyone’s names. Then it’s just a quick 10-minute trip to the oven and dinner is served.
As much as I love an old-fashioned shrimp boil in foil with corn, potatoes and old bay, this Asian-flavored version is lovely, mild and packed with many more nutrients. First, using parchment paper is always preferable to aluminum, which has been linked to a host of chronic ailments. Second, these packets are packed with zucchini, green beans, peas and mint versus starchy veggies that aren’t as good for SIBO recovery.
It’s a fabulous quick dinner that also happens to be paleo, Whole30 friendly, anti-inflammatory, low FODMAP, and all around delicious.
As for me, I’m spending a few days in LA after a restorative and informative (!!) weekend in Arizona at Mind Body Green’s Revitalize conference. I can’t wait to report back on all the things I learned and get home to start developing recipes around them.
With health and hedonism,
Coconut Lime Shrimp Packets with Summer Veggies
It you’re looking for something easier and more interesting than your standard shrimp boil packet, try these papilliote-style parchment pouches. The coconut lime shrimp is so tasty and packed with healthy veggies like zucchini, string beans and peas. It’s low FODMAP to boot!
1 pound extra-large shrimp (26-32 count, peeled and deveined)
1 cup coconut cream (from the top half of a 14.5 ounce can of full fat coconut milk)
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sambal olek (or your favorite Asian hot sauce)
1 medium zucchini (about 1/2 pound, thinly sliced)
1/2 pound French string beans (trimmed)
1 cup fresh English peas or chopped sugar snap peas
1/3 cup mint leaves (finely chopped)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the shrimp, coconut cream, ginger, lime juice, sambal olek and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt until combined.
Cut 4 sheets of parchment paper roughly the same length as your baking sheet. On a clean work surface, working one packet at a time, fold the parchment paper in half lengthwise. On one half of the paper, scatter 1/3 cup of zucchini, 10 or so green beans, and 1/4 cup of peas, making sure to leave at least an inch and a half of space along the edges. Top with a fourth of the shrimp mixture. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt, and garnish with mint.
Fold the parchment over the shrimp and fold the edges from one side to the other, making sure the lines are clean so that no air escapes. The end result will look like a tightly sealed empanada origami in the shape of a half heart.
Bake in the oven for 7 minutes, or until the packets are puffed. Allow to cool for a minute before opening, then serve immediately directly in the packets or spooned over rice or quinoa, with additional mint and lime wedges for garnish.
I remember the day I first heard the term basic bitch. I had no idea what my friend was talking about. I felt old. Out of the loop. I worried that I was possibly…basic myself?
According to my friend’s explanation, and some quick follow-up research on urban dictionary, basic people are only interested in things that are trendy and popular. And in the context of our interests here, that there’s nothing more indicative of the basic lifestyle than a kale salad.
Except, perhaps, if you were eating it on top of a SoulCycle bike with a Blueprint juice in your hand.
As kale salads have become more and more basic over the years, I’ve shied away from sharing some of my favorite ways to prepare them on the blog. And yet, they often find their way onto my cooking class menus, not just because I know that they are indeed crowd pleasers, but because of a myriad of techniques that go into making my kale salad the best fucking kale salad you’ve ever eaten.
So today I’m doing things a little differently than usual by doing a deep dive into what makes this recipe so basic, yet so damn good.
The Anatomy of a Basic Bitch Kale Salad
First, let’s put on our nerd goggles and break things down. Below are some of the elements that are most important for making this salad both basic and the best ever. Because, after all, sometimes things become basic because of their deliciousness. (See item 2, avocado.)
1. Massaged Kale: Not all kale salads are created equal, and I think the quality really comes down to which type of kale you choose. When I’m using kale in raw preparations, I opt for Lacinato (also known as Tuscan, Dinosaur or Cavo Nero) for two reasons. First, it’s darker, smoother and less toothsome than curly kale. Second, the leaf is much easier to separate from the stalk. And if you want a delicious, tender kale salad, first rule of thumb is that you must remove the thick stem.
The idea of massaging the kale has become a pretty big requirement for a kale salad’s basicness. But I think it’s misleading. I prefer the term “marinated” to describe the preparation since the idea is really that you’re coating every leaf in a mixture of acid, oil and salt. Like a ceviche, this helps to tenderize the vegetables by drawing out excess liquid and breaking down the leaves. The best way to do this is to use your hands. Since kale is sturdier than lettuce, you can get handsy with it, but a deep tissue massage isn’t really necessary. The marinade will do its job just fine as it sits.
2. Avocado: DUH. Enough said.
3. Color: Basic bitches love pretty colors. For this version, I love the vibrant combo of radicchio and garnet beets. But other variations include shredded purple cabbage or sliced fruit.
4. Sweetness: Since kale salads tend to have more acid than normal salads, they taste most balanced when there’s a pop of sweetness. I used to use dried cranberries or cherries for this purpose. Now I let the beets do double duty since I’m watching my added sugar.
5. Crunch: Toasted croutons or breadcrumbs are the less healthy options. I use chopped cashews in this version, but any nut will work. Almond is perhaps the most basic option. Go nuts!
Some Other Reasons That Make This Salad THE BEST KALE SALAD
Garlic Paste: You can use a garlic press for a similar effect, but mincing the garlic with a few dashes of salt does double duty in breaking down the clove and taking the edge off. This means less big bites of garlic that might offend your significant other, and by making a paste, you release the garlic’s juices which will seamlessly infuse the rest of the dressing.
Tahini Sauce: While you don’t need more than the oil, lemon juice, garlic paste and salt, if you have time to gild the lily, a drizzle of creamy tahini sauce makes this kale salad that much more luscious.
The thinnest ribbons: I use a similar technique to chiffonade basil. Stack the leaves roughly biggest to smallest, roll them up like a cigar, and slice the kale as thin as possible. This will give you that elegant restaurant effect, and it will also mean less to chew through when you get down to the task of eating it.
If all of these reasons don’t convince you that this kale salad has reached a higher level of mastery, read on for the recipe and decide for yourselves! And tell me in the comments: what elements are in your favorite kale salad? There’s always room for improvement over in these parts.
With health and hedonism,
The Best Basic Bitch Kale Salad with Beets, Avocado and Tahini Dressing
This simple kale salad may be as basic as it gets, but all elements combined also make it the best kale salad around. Colorful beets, creamy avocado, nutty tahini. It can be made ahead of time, which means you’ll be eating it every day of the week.
Prepare the kale: Remove the thick stem from the center of the kale by carefully tearing away the bottom part of the leaves and then grabbing ahold of the stem. Pull up along the stem. The leaf should come away intact, missing the center when the stem once was. Stack the kale leaves with the largest at the bottom, smallest at the top. Roll the leaves width-wise into a cigar. Turn the roll over so that the opening is touching the cutting board. Thinly slice the cigar – the result will be beautiful ribbons of kale. Add to a large mixing bowl.
Make the garlic paste: Mince the garlic on a work surface. Gather into a pile on your cutting board, and sprinkle with sea salt. Keep mincing, rendering the garlic even finer. Now, begin scraping the garlic with your knife. The teeth should be flush with the cutting board. Put pressure on the blades as you draw it over the surface of the garlic forming a paste. 10 or so strokes should do it. Transfer to the bowl with the kale.
Marinate the kale: To the bowl, add 3 tablespoons lemon juice, the olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss the kale with your hands until it’s very well coated in the lemon-oil mixture – don’t be afraid to man handle it!
Make the tahini: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together (a fork is fine) the tahini, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. A thick paste will form – culinary magic! Whisk in water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dressing is the consistency of ranch. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lemon juice as necessary.
Assemble the salad: Toss the radicchio with the kale and transfer to a serving dish. Top with the beets, avocado, and cashews. Drizzle with the tahini and garnish with the hemp seeds.
Having traveled many stretches of Spain by myself, Portugal has been on my list for a while. So when my friend Ali met and decided to marry a stallion from Porto, I knew I had to be there to show my love and support, and eat all the shellfish I could get my hands on.
I will go into more depth about gluten-free cuisine in Portugal in my next guide on Lisbon, but overall it’s a fairly easy country to eat “clean” and simply. While in Porto, my cup runneth over with crispy potatoes and buttery octopus. Simple grilled fish was served alongside cauldrons of tomato rice. And freshly cut jamon lined every table I sat at.
I stayed at a lovely two-bedroom Airbnb on the edge of city center that I’d highly recommend for both the design aesthetic and hospitality. The operative word in Porto is cozy. That goes for most of my surroundings, especially my accommodations. But it was also the adjective most used for restaurants.
If you pull up any of the recommendations below on Google Maps, you’re likely to see “cozy” as an actual label describing them, and I also found it peppered throughout the thick packet of restaurants that my Airbnb host gave me. It applied to a wide array of aesthetics and establishments. And yet most of them still lived up to that description in each of their own special ways.
You can easy walk the narrow, meandering streets in a few days. In fact, it’s pretty impressive how many recommendations I have, considering I was only there for a long weekend, and two of the nights were spent at wedding festivities. But it seems that all I did in my spare time was eat! And when the nights raged on until long after 1am, there was even more time for extra meals.
Read on for some of my favorite restaurants, what to order there that’s gluten-free, and what to do to work off your meals.
With health and hedonism,
THE BEST THINGS DO, SEE, AND EAT IN PORTO
Chocolataria Ecuador – With multiple locations around Portugal, this shop had some of the best chocolates I’ve ever had. You can get a truffle or individual square at the counter, or choose from one of their many colorfully packaged bars to take with you. Mast chocolates in the US seem to have taken a page out of their book with their thick paper and vibrant designs. But the chocolate that’s inside is far superior. I loved the passionfruit and raspberry flavors, not to mention the “explosive caramel.”
Mercador Cafe – On one of the main tourist thoroughfares, this cafe is a perfect mix of western breakfast fare and authentic Portuguese pastries. The silky scrambled eggs come in a cute little saucepan topped with thick cut bacon – perfect for those who crave a simple breakfast. Though I couldn’t eat it, the grilled cheese sandwich looked like the perfect combination of thick, chewy bread with a light toast and stringy melted cheese. There’s also green juice to balance it out.
Claus – One part soap shop, one part museum, this store is worth a visit for the space alone. The products aren’t natural, but you can still admire the beautiful paper packaging, which seems to be a signature of Porto design/retail culture. Downstairs there’s an enviable giant marble sink where you can sample the hand soaps. Upstairs, is a detailed history of the brand’s evolution from its founding at the turn of the century when personal hygiene was considered optional, and soap was the ultimate luxury.
Mercado Porto Belo – On weekends, this square turns into an artisan market with some of the vendors from the Urban Market and a few vegetable stands. It’s a great place to buy honey, jams, prints and other gifts.
Livraria Lello – Also known as the “Harry Potter Bookstore” (after all, Rowling dreamed up her books in this city!) this old livraria often has a line around the block to get in for a viewing. You can buy tickets in advance to avoid them. It’s also right across from a beautiful park that perches on top of a stretch of stores.
Base – An outdoor bar on the stretch of park mentioned above with floor pillows and lawn chairs that are perfect for lounging in the shade of olive trees. It’s a great place to enjoy a daytime vinho verde inland.
A Tasquinha – This authentic restaurant was highly recommended by my AirBNB host. They didn’t speak amazing English but I managed to communicate my gluten allergy. Most of the seafood in Porto was breaded and fried, so at times it could be hard to find alternatives other than a whole fish. The octopus though—drenched in olive oil and surrounded by melt-in-your mouth baby potaotes—was worth the trip alone. We ate it with a side of tomato rice.
Ze Bota – Around the corner from A Tasquinha, but not open for lunch, this restaurant is considered one of the best in Porto. I didn’t manage to make it there, but it was recommended by locals and travels sites alike.
Muralha do Rio – By the water there’s a stretch of restaurants that line a narrow walkway, where you can enjoy a meal al fresco overlooking the river. This is only doable for groups of less than 4, since it’s a tight squeeze. We happened to find a table at this one and ended up really enjoying our meal there. The prawns with garlic was a perfectly sized appetizer, and made a deeply satisfying meal with a side of tomato rice. Be warned that said side arrived in a giant steaming pot—but it was the most flavorful tomato rice of the trip. They also have omelets all day served with buttery rice if you’re looking for something vegetarian or a break from seafood.
Restaurante Terra – If you make your way to the ocean, I highly recommend visiting this upscale sushi place in Foz. Yes, that’s right. SUSHI. The chef’s “freestyle” platter included slices of amazing local fish and some of the most creative rolls I’ve encountered. Even the vegetarian sushi platter was exceptional and gorgeously presented. Other highlights were the prawn and zucchini pasta (sadly not GF) and the prawn and zucchini risotto, which was! Warning they did not have GF tamari. I used just a splash of regular soy sauce and fresh lemon.
Praia da Luz – A great place with an outdoor patio right on the sand to enjoy a sunset cocktail by the ocean in Foz, and just a stone’s throw from Terra. They also had excellent padron peppers. The water was too cold to dip in while we were there, but I’d imagine renting a bike in town and cycling out to this stretch of beach would be a very fun activity in the summer.
Fundacao Serralves – About a half mile from the ocean near Foz, this contemporary art museum housed in an old mansion is worth visiting for the gardens alone. The sea was quite windy and chilly in May, so this was another nice option for being outdoors.
daTerra – For a break from the norm, this all you can eat vegetarian buffet looked beyond delicious. If I had had more than a few meals in Porto I would have definitely ventured here for lunch.
Nabos da Pucara – A modern take on traditional Portuguese dishes that has locals and tourists alike lining up along the block. This is a fantastic stretch for eating and drinking. When we couldn’t get into this place (and it was 11pm!) we ended up at the spot below.