How I Eat When I Dine At a Restaurant: Dinner at Barbacoa

by Sara on August 1, 2012

Riddle me this: What do fitness and fried ice cream lollipops have in common?

Answer: I really can’t tell you. Possibly nothing, actually. 😉

BUT, I can tell you the secret to banging out the best muscle-pumping workout of your life.

Yesterday I set three PR’s at the gym (!!).

And it all happened after allowing myself to enjoy a sinful sweet treat Sunday night.

Okay, let’s be clear: I am not declaring fried ice cream lollipops the secret to  jacked arms. 😉 Heck to the no, frans! I eat clean and sweat dirty every single day.

However, I also occasionally eat dirty AND sweat dirty.

And by dirty, I also mean DELICIOUS. 😉

The reason I’m telling you this is to prove that it’s 100% okay to indulge from time to time. In fact, I’d argue that indulging is good for the soul—it strengthens the soul. Soul strength can than be used to push through that last rep in the gym. 😉

There will be more on that in a moment, but first let’s get to the food. In my last post, I  promised that I’d share the amazing dinner that I enjoyed on my mom’s birthday Sunday night.

So let’s continue the party, shall we?

Since today is Wednesday, I thought I’d link up over at Jen’s food extravaganza. This month’s theme is “summer staples,” which doesn’t quite fit with my restaurant recap! Jen, forgive me from deviating from the theme today? Next WIAW will most definitely feature my summer food favorites.


Barbacoa is, in my opinion, Boise’s best restaurant.

That may sound like a loaded statement, but everything at this dining establishment is near perfect—the artsy decor, the impeccable service,  the romantic ambiance,  the mountain views, and of course, the fan-freaking-tastic food. 😉

My brother, mom, and my mom’s boyfriend (err, “manfriend, as she insists he be called), Dave, enjoyed an incredible meal Sunday night.

We started with the tableside quacamole, which was fresh and chunky—just how I like it.

Our waiter, Ryan, brought us a delicious bottle of Shiraz—and a cute smile to go along with it. 😉

For their entrees, Dave and Alec ordered the Coulotte Steak and Cajun Shrimp, which came with the largest onion rings I’ve ever seen (the steak must have been shy; it’s hiding behind the mountain mound of mashed potatoes!)

The birthday girl (my mom), went with the 10 oz. HOT ROCK filet mignon.

This steak literally cooked on the 600-something degree hot rock at the table. It was so succulent and delicious!

Instead of ordering a traditional entree, I made a meal out of several appetizers: shrimp ceviche, tuna tower tartare, coconut crab mojito and an arugula-tomato and goat cheese salad.

The shrimp was well seasoned with cilantro, red pepper and minced onion.

The crab, which was infused with coconut milk and rum, was absolutely delicious.

My favorite of the three, however, was the tuna tower tartare. The tuna was tossed in soy sauce and sesame oil (<–love!), and topped off with avocado and mango sorbet.

Each bite literally melted in my mouth. :)

The salad was a perfect balance of spicy arugula, tangy goat cheese, juicy tomatoes, and sweet red onion.


Shortly after finishing our meals, Ryan surprised my mom with a birthday treat!

It’s been years since I’ve eaten cotton candy!

Inside the hollowed center, was a  miniature brownie, which held a birthday candle.

So cute, right?

We didn’t stop there though. I had my sights set on the fried ice cream lollipop tree.

We went for the small tree, which contained four lollipops.

The outside of each pop was slightly crunchy, and the vanilla ice cream inside was perfectly rich and creamy.

Heavenly, really.

As if that wasn’t enough, a parade of models—who were celebrating Boise Fashion Week—serenaded our table on the way out!

My mom, in her colorful dress, could pass for a model, don’t you think? 😉

Thank you, Barbacoa, for a fabulous evening!


 I love making choices that benefit both the environment and my body, inside and out.  Healthy living has become lifestyle, which happens to be a whole lot of fun! However, I used to have a very different (and very unhealthy) food mentality. What I ate, and how I ate, was dictated solely by numbers; I always chose the lowest calorie option. Whether it was at home (sugar free jello and egg whites for breakfast, anyone?) or at a restaurant (green salad with no nuts, no cheese and no dressing, please!), calories were the name of the game.

Praise sweet potato fries that those days are over. 😉

Now, I believe healthy eating means enjoying the foods I crave in balance and moderation. Food is one of life’s greatest joys, yet our society has managed to turn it into the enemy—something associated with fear, gluttony and deprivation. What was created to nourish our bodies and bring joy to our hearts now instills a tremendous amount of anxiety.

Should I eat this? Does it contain too much saturated fat? Does it fit into my diet?

It doesn’t have to be black and white. All or nothing. Good or bad.

When my relationship with food was black and white, I feared eating at restaurants more than anything; either I’d begrudgingly order that one sad little “light” option and watch everyone else enjoy what they really wanted to eat, or I’d see it as a license to go all out, stuff myself silly, and feel tremendous guilt afterward.

Now, my food philosophy when I’m dining at a restaurant is this: eat what I want in a balanced, moderate way, be mindful about it, and listen to my body’s cues to know when to eat and when to put my fork down. I order what I want, stop eating before I’m stuffed, and try my best to balance my restaurant meal with other healthy choices throughout the day. 

My meal at Barbacoa was an excellent example: lean protein from the tuna, crab and ceviche; healthy fats from the avocado, coconut milk and sesame oil; antioxidant-rich veggies from the tomato and arugula salad; a few bites of rich steak and potatoes; and then a full sugar-containing dessert. It doesn’t always happen that way, but I really strive to eat whatever I want in moderation. It was a satisfying, nicely balanced meal, with a delicious treat at the end. :-)

When natural ingredients are used—and I realize that “natural” is a blurry label—to make salads, stews, burgers, grilled vegetables, fruit salads, and even outrageous cakes, they all have a place on our plate. We just need to rediscover our innate ability to live and eat in balance. If you absolutely LOVE fettuccine Alfredo, ordering an occasional bowl of cheesy pasta will not blow your diet…or your body!

If I “overdo” it at a restaurant meal (or at any meal, for that matter), I recognize it as a learning experience and pay close attention to my hunger and fullness at the next meal.  I don’t beat myself up.  I let it go and move on; I remember how much I enjoyed my meal, and focus on feeling grateful for having access to an abundance delicious food.

We all deserve to be good to ourselves—to nourish our bodies and hearts. We’re given one life, and it’s our responsibility to keep our bodies healthy, mentally, physically and spiritually. That means piling our plates with nourishing foods, getting plenty of exercise…AND enjoying a fried ice cream lollipops, when the desire strikes. 😉


What’s the best dessert (healthy or unhealthy) you’ve eaten recently?

Guacamole: smooth or chunky?

Have you ever left your phone number on a receipt for a waiter?

I left mine for Ryan! 😉

How do you “balance” your meals when you’re eating out at a restaurant?

  • Jessie

    I seriously want to jump through this computer screen & eat everythingggg!! Gosh it all looks absolutely delicious.

    I dislike Guacamole. Never left the # (but I hope ryan calls ya :)).

    • Sara Stewart

      I’ll keep you updated! No call yet!

  • Amber

    I’ll skip the food and i’ll just have the waiter thankyou :)
    Ha, seriously though – the food looks amazing!

    I eat very clean, but go out to dinner pretty often – it’s a very big part of my social life and i love not having to cook for myself!

    Once again, congrats on the PRs – really awesome!

    • Sara Stewart

      Thanks, girl! I agree with you about eating out–it’s such a fun social activity; I’d never ever say no to dinner with friends!

  • Gothextramileblog

    Holy moly, I want all that food!!! Looks amazing! Love your philosophy on eating out. I am the same way! If I really want something, I’ll have it. Nothing is going to change ONE time eating out.

    • Sara Stewart

      Exactly! It seems like so many people have this all-or-nothing approach to food. The best way to live a balanced life is to let yourself enjoy what you crave, when you crave it!

  • Danielle

    Love the motto! Eat dirty sweat dirty 😉 You are awesome as once again you prove that being healthy is not a black or white process! You can enjoy yourself from time to time within balance of course! That looks like the best restaurant ever! Anywhere that serves cotton candy is awesome in my book! Fingers crossed Ryan calls 😉

    • Sara Stewart

      Aw, thanks, Danielle! I couldn’t agree more about the cotton candy–more restaurants should bring it back!

  • claire @ live and love to eat

    Table side guac is always the best! Love your approach to dining out. I try to follow similar ideas (lean protein, load up on veggies) and definitely had to watch my choices last week when we ate out almost 3 times a day during my family vacation.

    • Sara Stewart

      Yeah, I know what you mean–I’m about to take a 5-day trip, and know I’ll be eating out for most of my meals. I’ll pack lots of snacks and seek out Whole Foods for lunch, when possible!

  • Christina

    You are so awesome. Seriously.
    On another hand, Barbacoa looks and sounds amazing! Did you get Ryan’s number? Please say yes.

    • Sara Stewart

      Noooo, I didn’t get his number! But he brought me a piece of paper and asked me to write down my blog URL before we left (my mom had blurted out that I have a food blog when we sat down–ha). Soooo….he initiated first! I wrote down my name, but then realized I should have given my number too, so I left it on the receipt. 😉

  • Caroline

    Everything at that restaurant looks amazing! Especially the tuna! And the cotton candy tower?! SO fun! I basically save going out to eat for eating whatever catches my eye, even if it’s not the healthiest. I often try to order things that I don’t often cook at home whether it be because they are time consuming, complicated, or just plain unhealthy! I tend to have higher taste in restaurants these days though, so most of my meals out are balanced and fairly healthy – they at least always include a veggie!

    • Sara Stewart

      Yeah, I love ordering “complicated” dishes when I’m at a restaurant because I wouldn’t dare attempt them myself! However, if I’m eating out several times in one week, I’ll try to keep some of the meals simple. I often go with grilled fish and a salad, which is often what I prepare at home. For some reason it’s hard for restaurants to do simple food well though!

  • Dddd89

    Yes we seriously need an update if Ryan calls or not! That reminds me my two friends and I have a crush on a waiter in downtown Cleveland. We randomly got him to serve us on two different occasions. Too bad we’re all married, lol!

    • Sara Stewart

      Haha! Too funny. 😉 I have a feeling I’ll do the same once I’m married!

  • Ashley

    I’m so proud of you lady! You have come so far, and I can definitely see that in this post. :) The dinner and everything about it looks incredible! I love all of the unique dishes and desserts! I’m glad you all had a fun time. Happy Birthday to your Momma!

    • Sara Stewart

      Thanks, Ash! <3

  • Whatwouldjessicaeat

    Everything looks fantastic…if there is any reason to indulge, this would be it!

  • EH ;)

    Everything at that place looks amaaaaazzzzinnggggg! Omg! What a perfect birthday for your mom. You guys are such a fun family. I’m glad you can now enjoy a good meal without a million thoughts and anxieties going through your head. Hopefully one day they’ll be gone forever! I can’t believe you gave Ryan your number! He’s soo cute!

    • Sara Stewart

      Aww, thanks!! I wish you could have joined us! Someday will you pleeease come to Boise?! We’ll take you to Barbacoa! 😉 Miss you, roomie sis xoxo

  • Sally

    Truly the best birthday dinner ever complete with a cotton candy ‘cake’ (but your cake was the highlight!)! Thanks for making the day so memorable! We sure had fun!!!
    Definitely prefer chunky guacamole!

    • Sara Stewart

      I’m SO SO happy you had such a wonderful day!! It really was one of the best birthday celebrations ever! <3 xoxo

  • Julie

    Fried ice cream lollipops?! Cotton candy “birthday cake?!” I die. Everything looks SO SO good, Sara! I love your appetizer dinner–that’s what I do when I go to restaurants too; I love trying lots of tastes of different dishes! It’s much more fun than ordering one ginormous entree. I always steal bites off of others’ plates as well.

    I love chunky guacamole! Best dessert I’ve eaten recently was a homemade berry cobbler! Yum. :)

    • Sara Stewart

      I know, I’d love to recreate those fried ice cream lollipops at home! Berry cobbler is definitely my favorite summer dessert (after ice cream). :-)

  • Emily @ Glitz Glam Granola

    This is such an absolutely wonderful post!! You are so honest about your past struggles and it sounds like you have really come so far! I think you are so spot on too- eating at restaurants or eating in general is not black and white and shouldn’t be full of stress and anxiety. It should be a fun thing! I agree too that it’s all in moderation and balance, ie last night I had some grilled chicken and sweet potatoes for dinner and then at a friend’s party had some chips and salsa and a few crackers with my favorite cheese and a glass of wine. It was the perfect end to my night and I enjoyed having those things! That meal looks amazing too- I absolutely love how everything is done with a playful touch and the plating is amazing! The brownie/cotton candy looks so cute and those ice cream pops look delicious! And omg I LOVE that you left Ryan your number– I hope he calls you!! Please report back! I think I’ve left my number in the past, but one time a waiter brought me a to-go box and inside was a little note to me saying how cute he thought I was and his number– oh and the meal was free! Obviously, it was an awesome night!! 😉

    • Sara Stewart

      No way! He left his number inside the box AND gave you a free meal?! Go Emily! Did you call him? 😉

      I’ll definitely let you all know if I hear anything!

  • Min

    Ok..there are soo many things to comment on this post, I don’t even know where to begin! First of all, love the riddle and your answer… def got me thinking there! Such a trickster ;).
    Would you mind sharing some of your workout routines bc girl, you got it going on!! I LOVE chunky guacamole! not smooth. no fun. Ryan is very very charming and love that you actually took a picture of him haha..he seemed like he was a good sport about it! and I can’t believe you gave him your number!! your style 😉 I was always afraid of rejection so I never tried..
    Those onion rings are taking away the spotlight that the steak Cajun shrimp SHOULD be getting! How dare they?
    I love how you roll..I don’t like just ordering one thing..I’m all about sharing and trying as many diff dishes as possible 😉
    That tuna tartare tower sounds out of this world! Sweet and salty, my fav combination. And mango sorbet? oh I die..
    And the cotton candy, brownie idea is soo cute!

    I can relate to everything that you’re saying..I read it word for word and let it really sink in and register..You’re absolutely right. We shouldn’t be labeling food as good or bad, bc there’s no such thing. It’s what we make of it! I used to deprive myself of all the “fattening” foods which led me to binge like crazy whenever it was in front of me. Now that I listen to my body (still struggle with this from time to time), my eyes don’t flip every time I see a bowl of ice cream or a sexy looking steak. Moderation..that’s what it’s al about! Love Love Love!!

    • Sara Stewart

      Oh, Min, I think this might be my favorite comment ever! <3 Sometime we'll have to meet and share an appetizer dinner (with chunky guac, of course), k? 😉 Isn't allowing ourselves the option to indulge SO much more fun than the deprivation game? Cheers to moderation! xoxo

  • anne@lovemintchip

    this was a really great post!! i love everything you included. everyone has to eat dirty sometimes :) your mom’s filet is making me drool. the best dessert i have had recently is…. T-sweets!!! i like chunky guacamole better for sure! i am so jealous of all of your eats.

    • Sara Stewart

      OF COURSE your best dessert was at T-Sweets! 😉 I so wish we could have met this summer! Will you be back in DC again anytime soon? <3

  • fromfattofab

    This is such a great post! You have such a healthy attitude :)

    That cotton candy dessert has to be the BEST idea ever!

  • Lisa

    Wow my beautiful friend! 3 PR’s!? That is so amazing, I’m so proud of you and the efforts you’ve put into working hard and making those terrific results happen for you!
    It’s so true we don’t and shouldn’t have to eat clean 100% of the time. Its unrealistic and quite frankly, sad if we never break from our eat clean attitude.
    Everything at the restaurant looks so delicious. Especially the guac. My fave!!
    That brownie with the cotton candy is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen a restaurant serve! How creative?!
    Yes, yes, yes to food not being all black and white. There is a grey area in between that we have to be aware of.
    And I’m so happy you are over that phase of your life. You have a perfect food philosophy and I am trying to get myself to that exact place in thinking!
    We can’t beat ourselves up, it’s silly and does nothing positive for us if we do so.
    Ryan’s a cutie pie, I hope you actually did leave your number for him!! I’ve never done that actually, but I may in the future;)

  • lindsay cotter

    look at you, living life, building muscle, celebrating good food! HIGH FIVES all around… and a hug

  • Just_Jac

    helllllll yeahhhh girl!! I was reading this and thinking ” oh she better have gotten/given numbers” –>he is HOTT!! lol

  • Mary Legare Whaley

    Wow! You definitely found the hottest fluffy rainbow unicorn man ever in the world. That is hilarious! What a cool restaurant. I love restaurants with creative, colorful dishes. Your meal looked stellar. I love to make meals of appetizers…sometimes apps are more obscure and exciting than the entrées. I’m a fan of chunky guac. Same with salsa. And peanut butter. I don’t eat out very often, mainly because I’m cheap. But I usually choose restaurants that specialize in seafood (I live in Charleston, SC), and it’s always easy to find boiled shrimp or steamed oysters on a menu. And mahi-mahi tacos. Always a standard on local menus!

  • Meg

    Sis, you are incredible. This brought me to tears, you know? Good tears of course, though <3 I love you so much. I love YOU, your KNOWLEDGE, your STRENGTH, and your PASSION. You are doing amazing things, sis <3

    This is definitely the best post you've ever wrote <3 Thank you for it :)

    Goodness me, I love you more than you'll ever know.

    Ok, mayyyybe you'll get a clue when you get a bear hug from me in Boston 😉 Muahahahahahaha <3

    P.s. I'd be allllll over that tuna tower and you know it 😉

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin

    I LOVE you for this post! Seriously, I think you have such a healthy outlook on food and eating out and I’m glad you’re sharing it. Eating out (as long as it’s every once in a while) is meant to be a pleasureful experience – and ordering a green salad with only vegetables and lean meat isn’t very pleasureful to me. 😛 Getting a cream based pasta dish or carby pizza every once in a while isn’t a big deal – and I would argue that it’s healthy for the mind! 😉

    Like when I went to the food festival over the weekend I definitely didn’t eat healthily (beer battered fried banana fritters anyone?), but it was such a fun time and I think it would have been unhealthy for me to deny myself that experience.

    Also, can I just comment on your meal and say “YUM”!? I would have been all over everything from the guac (chunky please), to the tuna tartare, to the lollipop tree!

    Love you girl and can’t wait for some food adventures with you in Boston! <3

  • Kailey

    Girl your arms are AMAZING 😀 Really I just love how toned you look. Its kind of epic.

    I used to be the SAME way when eating out. Always the same old borning/lowest calorie thing. Now I just order what I want and ENJOY it. Much more satisfying and I never feel pressured to eat the whole meal, unless it is really good :)

    • Rach

      Ditto! I definitely used to be this way when eating out and now I eat what I WANT to eat! :)

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