Second to Bali’s number 1 industry – tourism - is farming and agriculture and it’s no wonder. There is an abundance of locally grown and fresh Balinese produce and when it is put into practice – fruit and savory salads, grilled fish and vegetables, fresh veggie curries, mango or guava juice flavored (no added sugar) with local ginger and mint – you feel as though you have arrived in heaven.
But I wanted to take it one step further and try out Glow, a restaurant (within a concept spa resort) that is committed to locally grown (field to table) produce, organic grains and meats creatively combined and served with the intention of “wooing” even the greatest cynic when it comes to eating “live” raw food. The COMO Shambhala philosophy for food states:
Inspired by the living foods tradition, cooking methods are minimised to help maintain the nutritional integrity of the original ingredients. This allows guests to benefit from the ‘life force’ of specific foods, which in their raw state are rich with enzymes, essential vitamins and minerals.
Wherever possible, these ingredients are sourced locally, organic and delivered from field to table with minimum delay. Meat, fish and vegetables all have their place. COMO Shambhala Cuisine also actively accommodates food intolerances and diabetics.
I was feeling very excited about the prospect of experiencing Glow. Diabetes mentioned at a hip resort? When I told my husband I wanted to go to a holistic, organic and nearly vegetarian spa restaurant (they offer fish, chicken and beef in select dishes) for our night out on the town, I think he wondered at my logic and didn’t quite understand how health food and romance could possibly go hand-in-hand. How does one explain this to an individual who considers beef tenderloin and a bold Cabernet as the pinnacle of fine dining? (You don’t.) Don’t get me wrong, my partner is extremely supportive with my need to eat right – but he also believes I should be able to indulge occasionally with moderation. While it wasn’t by force that he accompanied me, he did require a little convincing that it was going to be fun. The fact is my husband was a part of the test: would this be a culinary experience or an expensive health food catastrophe that left one (him) or both of us dissatisfied?
We arrived at COMO Shambhala in the early evening and as our visit to Bali has been during a rather low season for tourists, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. I read the menu aloud ooohing and aaahing to try and extract enthusiasm from my husband who, in fairness, is often more courageous and innovative than me when it comes to trying new things, including new foods. The server delivered a bread basket of organic grains including crackers made from flax, linseed and pumpkin, and organic whole wheat sour dough bread.
Verdant extra-virgin olive oil was placed next to the basket with a dish of zesty spices for dipping (no butter was served). Verdict? Best dinner rolls ever. For a starter, I chose an “asparagus, celeriac, artichoke and soy bean salad with fine herbs and mustard dressing” which now ranks as one of the most delicious salads I have ever tasted. The slow cooked celeriac and seared artichoke had been lightly doused with the hearty puree underneath layers of asparagus, cilantro and parsley. Edamame beans added a punch.
My husband had a salad with yellow beetroot, crunchy like a nearly ripened peach, with sweet cherry tomatoes and citrus dressing. He raved about the flavors with every mouthful. Next up was our main course and we both decided on fish. He chose a seared Kingfish with braised puy lentils and a cucumber mint and rhubarb salsa. The menu did not mention the addition of pomegranate which enhanced the subtle flavors of the fish. Mine was a slow cooked basil scented salmon with Jerusalem artichoke puree topped with a bean, lemon and seaweed salad. Roasted red peppers added warmth. The salmon was moist and tender. Slow cooking works.
At this point, we were both full. When the server came to clear our empty plates my husband and I marveled at how full we felt but how we were not uncomfortable or tired – a feeling that usually comes with eating a high carbohydrate meal – even if the carbohydrates are complex. On the downside, the meal was expensive (250 US including a bottle of white wine). There is an elitist nuance that colors holistic, healthy eating. I believe a paradigm shift needs to happen in the West – healthy, wholesome eating should be democratized, economically available and most of all, thought of as easy as 1-2-3.
The most disastrous thing about dining out for a person with type 1 or type 2 diabetes is ordering the most safe or bland meal to ensure minimal disruptions are caused to blood sugar readings; food choices are often limited to tired “healthy” options on traditional menus. The most wonderful thing about our dinner at Glow was how we both felt indulgent and naughty as we dug into our “full-on” with flavor entrees, and we felt good. The dessert menu was more tricky to navigate and I am sure I could have asked for specifics on exact carbohydrate count, but neither of us actually wanted to eat anything more. There were fruit sorbets and fruit salads, seed and nut cookies and one chocolate dessert made with real cocoa. Out of curiosity, we decided to see what the avocado and lime tart sweetened with stevia was all about. It was a rich dessert and I just couldn’t muster the energy to eat anymore than one-two bites. If anything, this was the only gamble we had taken.
“How is it possible that I feel so satisfied and awake at the same time?” my husband said as he reached over the table for my hand.
“That’s what I believe food is supposed to do.” Feeling relieved, I understood the vote was unanimous – the dinner had passed the test. I second my husband’s revelation, but I had one other thought, too. This evening, I ate whatever I wished off the menu, and enjoyed every bite without worry. I had a glow – perhaps I have never felt so free dining out.
(Blood sugar at start 91; BS at finish 124 (2 hours later) 1.5 bolus for bread, veggies and a bite or two of an avocado lime tart).