The Food Psychologist: Dean & DeLuca (Part 2)

In the last post, we met Chef Clifford and Adeline, heard a little about the background of the restaurant and the plans in store. Next up, food. Without further ado (I can practically hear you going, “Get on with it!”), join me in experiencing what Dean and DeLuca has to offer in their healthier menu.

The Food

Upon seeing the salad and grains selection for the gourmet plates, it was the obvious choice for me. I was lucky enough to get a taste of almost everything on the menu thanks to this gorgeous plate laid out for us. The only items missing were the Roast Harvest, which I hear is quite the favourite, the Romaine Salad and the Pear Arugula Salad (I didn’t think it was necessary to sample these). The mains came on a different plate, a plethora of the various fish and meat offerings.

Down to the eating business. Let’s start with the salads.

From the greens and veggies selection

Chilli & lime squid saladThis stood out for me. The squid was a little tough, but the citrusy sweet dressing drizzled on fresh leaves (thankfully they were not wilted) was refreshing.
Cauliflower & Bulgur WheatAnother winner. The charred cauliflower added a smoky flavour to the parsley-infused bulgur. Moreover, the inclusion of pine nuts gave each mouthful a creamy texture and the cranberries balanced the dish with a touch of tangy sweetness.
Broccoli Cauliflower GratinI quite liked this one too. The vegetables were nicely cooked, but the gratin cheese sauce was a little chalky, perhaps due to the addition of a little too much flour in it.
French Beans with Mint Almond OrangeThe beans were crunchy and fresh, which I liked and the orange zest came through very lightly. However, it lacked the mint flavour and I was hoping for more of an almond crunch.

From the Grains & Pasta Options

Seaweed SobaMy personal favourite, a dish I could come back for again and again (and I did in fact!). Many times I encounter dry, bland soba passing off as “healthy food” simply due to the nutritious properties of buckwheat in these noodles. However, not only did Chef Clifford cook the green tea soba perfectly, these green noodles were enriched with sesame seeds and oil, fresh seaweed, pickled ginger, marinated and charred tofu, silvers of yellow capsicums and shiitake mushrooms, making for a real cacophony of tastes with each mouthful. What a wonderful balance of sweet and umami!
Mushroom FregolaThis was another palette-pleaser. The earthy essence of the assortment of mushrooms paired nicely with thyme, and I daresay I detected a whiff of truffle too (showcased below). The fregola was cooked al-dente, adding great texture and extra chewiness to the soft mushrooms.
Lentil saladThis salad was tasty too. With the inclusion of fresh onions, cherry tomatoes and a tart lemony dressing, it had almost salsa-like quality to it.
Pumpkin Red RiceI though the red rice was decent. Though one can argue that the rice was a little tough, I felt it was deliberately hardened to give it an almost fried quality. The soft chunks of pumpkin and onions added a natural sweetness that worked well with texture of the rice.
Zucchini Lemon Cous Cous & Quinoa Corn Capsicum SaladThese two grains did not leave an impression. While the use of whole grains like quinoa and couscous was commendable, they weren’t quite cooked well. Some of the flavours also failed to shine through. The couscous wasn’t lemony and I couldn’t quite taste coriander, which tends to have a distinct taste. I liked the rich nuttiness from the red quinoa, but otherwise it was a little too grainy, and could have done with a tad more vegetables.

Finally, the Mains

Their meat selection would have made most meat-lovers very happy: Beef Meatballs with Tomato Sauce, Teriyaki Chicken, Roast Chicken with Brown Jus, Cajun Snapper with Salsa, Pan-Fried Barramundi with Béchamel Sauce and Rosemary Garlic Pulled Pork with Brown Jus. There aren’t any vegetarian mains, but the selection of salads and grains would satisfy most veggie-lovers.

My favourite meat was the Barramundi. Firm yet flaky, it was cooked well, except that the skin could have done with a little more crispiness. The béchamel was thankfully not too rich, which kept the entire dish light. I also really liked the Teriyaki Chicken. Thigh meat (with skin) was used instead of breast, ensuring that it was soft and tender, and the sweet teriyaki and sesame seed glaze was not too overpowering.

I was slightly disappointed with the rest of the meats however. They were rather dry, even with the inclusion of the sauces. Maybe the meatballs (which I did not order) would have been juicier, as they were cooked in tomato sauce. I noted that the meats were placed under a heating panel to keep them, which could have contributed to dryness. On the plus side, the flavoursome salads and grains more than make up for it.

For Dessert

For dessert, I tried the Rainbow Cake. For those with a sweet-tooth, the bubblegummy sweetness of the seven layers together with the fluffy vanilla cream would make for the perfect end to a meal. For me, the cake was a little too sweet. I must say though, for a cake with seven layers and so much cream, it was remarkably light and not as rich as I had anticipated.

Featured Ingredients

Cha Soba

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. The name is misleading as buckwheat is not actually wheat. It is a fruit seed related to sorrel and rhubarb, therefore suitable for people with low-tolerance for wheat and/or gluten. Not only does this nutty flour have one of the highest content of protein and fibre, it is also rich in minerals like copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese, and contains loads of antioxidants. Notably, it consists of an essential amino acid lysine, which is lacking in most cereal grains.

Soba also has high amounts of vitamin B and, interestingly, vitamin P, which assists in the absorption of vitamin C. Low in calories and fat, with a low glycaemic index (GI), it is a great addition to your diet, particularly if you’re at a risk of diabetes, or heart disease. The distinct green-colour of cha (tea) soba, is derived from green tea powder (matcha), which is renowned for its medicinal and healing properties. If you’re looking to buy soba, be sure to read the label as some noodles may include wheat in them. Go for a brand with a hundred percent buckwheat and the cha in chasoba means that there is added green tea for a different flavour. Check out our Mushroom Soba recipe for a great idea on how to use these tasty noodles!

Truffle Oil

No, we’re not talking about oils from chocolate truffles. Truffles are actually a type of highly priced mushroom well-known for its rarity and unique flavour profile. Black Truffles are pitch black in colour interspersed with whitish veins and grown in the Perigord region of France. White Truffles are pale with a luminous marble-like white surface. They come mainly from various parts of Italy and are the most expensive food on the planet – over US$14,000 per kg!

Black truffle

Pure truffle oil has an exquisite taste. Surprisingly, it has lower fat content than most other oils. They are a great source of minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, sodium, potassium, calcium and even some aluminium. What’s more fascinating is their medicinal properties. First off, they are immune-modulators, which means they can regulate immune function. Immune-modulators can boost a weak immune system and control an over-active one. They are filled with antioxidants, which are known for their anti-inflammatory function, and are also purportedly to have anti-carcinogenic and anti-bacterial effects.

Unfortunately, due to the high cost of production, most supermarkets only carry the synthetic variety of truffle oil, if they carry them at all. These have been derived from chemicals that are infused with olive oil. To get pure truffle oil, you might have better luck at speciality stores or even online.

The Wholesome Factor Verdict

Chef Clifford’s philosophy of leading a healthy lifestyle clearly underlies both his home and work environments. Overall, he has made an effort to incorporate healthy ingredients that are of good quality. Herbs and oils were infused into most dishes to maximise flavour without the need for sugar or processed sauces. I also liked the fact that the integrity of all the vegetables in the salads and grains or pasta was retained. Some cafés with similar salads and veggie offerings tend to “kill” their vegetables either by overdressing them or cooking them until they lose their nutritional value. Nothing from the gourmet plates was deep-fried (they have fries on the main menu if you so desire), but I do hope they’ll expand their cooking repertoire to encompass other nutritive cooking styles.

With all this in mind, here are my ratings for Dean & DeLuca’s gourmet plates:

Quality and types of ingredients7/10Looking forward to more exciting new ingredients next time!
Taste6.5/10The hits outweighed the misses.
Cooking Methods7/10Even with the limited ranges, healthier ways of cooking were definitely adopted.
Overall Wholesome Factor23.5/10Keep at it Chef Clifford! We’re definitely looking forward to what the future holds for Dean & DeLuca.


If you liked this article, please support our book project “Building Body Confidence” by pledging an amount here. Every dollar goes into the publishing and distribution of the book and you will get a copy of it once it does get published!

Photo Credits: Dean and DeLuca and Pexels.

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