Not just gym grub

Get healthy with Henri at the new Grilla Bites at In Motion Fitness

DAILY EXERCISE<br>Carissa Martin (left) and Christine Powers prepare the healthful treats for the morning workout crowd at the In Motion Grilla Bites.

Carissa Martin (left) and Christine Powers prepare the healthful treats for the morning workout crowd at the In Motion Grilla Bites.

Photo By Jason Cassidy

Grilla Bites
1293 E. First Ave. (inside In Motion Fitness), open weekdays 7 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sat.-Sun., 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (530) 324-1400.

Grilla Bites

1293 E. First Ave.
Chico, CA 95926

No one is more aware than Henri himself that he has certain personal issues to work on, and being reminded—again!—that he’s shaped like a food pyramid does not help! You’d think grocery-store clerks would be more discreet.

And it’s not like I haven’t tried to address my shortcomings. In fact, last year I actually joined a gym, merci very much. Unfortunately, I joined over the phone and neglected to ascertain the gym’s exact location. I have also been shopping for a treadmill, but it has been more than a little bit frustrating, the designers seeming to have conspired on a common flaw: cup holders hopelessly inadequate for wine glasses.

I have been trying to eat a little better, though, in part to assuage the well-meaning Dr. Epinards, who continues to chide me for my weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, alcohol intake and four-decade abstention from physical exercise. So we’ve been grilling vegetables, eating lots of fish and cutting back on sugars. Diet tonic does not compromise my Tanqueray as much I suspected it would.

Recently, Colette suggested that we try the new Grilla Bites on East First Avenue. We had eaten at the one on Cohasset Road several times, and we love the salad bar and delicious sandwiches. We also knew that the owner, Fred Marken, promoted and served local, organic and sustainable foods—and in fact had a food philosophy that encouraged a way to live, based on giving back to one’s community.

Marken opened the first Grilla Bites on Second Street in downtown Chico in 2000 after running a bed and breakfast (with a 10-acre organic asparagus farm) and serving as president of an organic company that sold pastas and sauces. Recently, Marken moved out of the downtown location and into the Garden Villa on Cohasset. The new Grilla Bites opened this spring. We headed over for lunch.

Sacre bleu! Henri hadn’t realized that the restaurant is literally inside a health club, In Motion Fitness, in a room next to about 3 million working-out machines (although the dining area extends outside to a covered patio by the swimming pools), and the grunting and whirring and swarm of completely unnecessary physical activity made me very, very uncomfortable. Henri would much rather be in stasis than in motion.

But Colette insisted, and we ordered lunch.

Grilla Bites’ huge salad bar ($9.25/lb.) features a wide variety of organic vegetables, fruits and other foods, from pesto tofu and edamame to olives, black beans, grapes and feta, as well as nuts and other toppings and a choice of eight dressings. “Grillas” (grilled sandwiches—$9-$10) include Thai tuna, pastrami, Portobello mushroom, wild salmon and buffalo. There are also several fresh soups to choose from, plus cheese quesadillas and nachos ($5-$7). The restaurant serves local wines and ales, as well as other craft brews, including Drakes and Eel River. The menu indicates vegetarian and vegan items.

Henri ordered a smoked-turkey and pesto Grilla and assembled a small spinach, shrimp and artichoke-heart salad, with a light balsamic dressing. Simple, light and delicious—just right for a starter. Colette ordered a smoked turkey and avocado Grilla and a cup of artichoke bisque. The sandwiches, which came with blue-corn tortilla chips and a delicious and intriguing hummus dip, thick and herby (cilantro?), were very good, although we both liked mine better, the pesto and red onion giving the turkey and the sourdough bread a nice little bite. Colette regretted not ordering her favorite Grilla, the BST (soy bacon, spinach, tomato), but loved her creamy soup.

Unlike the Cohasset restaurant, the First Avenue Grilla Bites serves breakfast, so a couple of days later I headed over. I got a breakfast burrito (eggs, black beans and salsa, grilled in a whole wheat tortilla—$6.95) to go and ate it while watching Wake Up! with Rob Blair, which Colette had been thoughtful enough to TiVo for me. Delicious.