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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, March 8, 2013

It's easy to Lighten Up when you have a Good partner

This isn’t a restaurant review, but it probably will seem like it.

It’s going to be about food, excellent service and a pretty awesome area business owner.
Darn it. I should have said he was a “Good” owner.

Well, anyway, that’s how I’d describe Cabana’s Island Restaurant leader Mike Good.

I first met Good in the fall, when he said he wanted to provide meals for the participants in Lighten Up.

I broke it to him immediately that he volunteered for the first season of our weight loss contest that we weren’t going to turn anyone away.

He asked what’s the most we’ve ever had apply. I probably whispered the number 45, but I’m not sure he heard me.

He didn’t flinch.

He just put his chef of 12 years, Rick Pachay, on the job of creating a menu with dishes with fewer than 600 calories.

For the record, Good also didn’t flinch when I broke the news that 56 people were starting the contest with the Jan. 19 weigh-in.

Good said he got involved for very personal reasons.

“I know what a battle it is to lose weight,” he said. “I was working out with Jaime (Brenkus, owner of LEAN Living, one of the sponsors for Lighten Up in 2013), and he mentioned this contest, and I told him that I almost put my name in a couple times. I thought about it, and talked about it, but I never did it.

“I get embarrassed too easily, so I’m not going to do it.”

Good said he’s been battling his weight for years.

“I’ll lose 60, then gain 30,” he said.

Good talked about how expensive it is to eat healthy.

“That’s why you have so many overweight people,” he said. “You feed a couple of kids on a couple of pizzas and chocolate milk for $10.

“It’s not necessarily healthy, but they’ll eat it.”

He said he and his family — wife, Kelly, and their three children, ages 21, 18 and 13 —  don’t eat that way at their home in Chardon.

“I have a wife who eats healthy 90 percent of the time, and I do, too,” said Good, who admitted that his weakness is bread.

“I could sit down and eat a loaf of bread three times a day and be happy.”

I just hope the 48 contestants still taking part in Lighten Up in 2013 didn’t see that.

I’m hoping that instead, they’re focused on Good’s other menu — the one he created for them at Cabana’s.

That’s right — the meals Good said he wanted to feed the contestants come from the “2013 Lean Menu” he debuted in January at both his Mentor and Chardon eateries.

There are nine items, all featuring various protein selections.

In my unscientific study, the Pesto Parmesan Filet is the most popular. It’s described thusly on the menu: “Seasoned and grilled, finished with a light pesto sauce, served with roasted potatoes and broccoli.”

It looks even better in person, I’ve noted as I’ve stood by countless tables as servers have come to drop off entrees during the Tuesday night dinner hours.

I’m not a big beef fan, so I’ve tried other dishes, and have enjoyed them all. My favorite, though, has been the Chicken Scallopini. It’s, according to the menu, “lightly floured and seasoned, simmered with fresh basil, broccoli, garlic, mushroom and onion, in a light lemon and garlic sauce, served with roasted potatoes.”


Oh, I should point out something important. The filet as listed above is 581 calories. The chicken dish is 455 calories.

But don’t think for a minute that you’re missing out on anything. This past Tuesday, I had a garden salad and the scallopini and left Cabana’s too full to think about any dessert.

Good said the lean menu is doing well at both locations, with about 100 meals served per week. I noted this week that there are plenty of choices for those who wish to stay true to Lenten Friday pledges.

My contestants have raved about their meals on our group page on Facebook. They arrange meetups in the dining room and there’s lots of joking between the tables across the room as they’re enjoying dinner.

It’s a true family atmosphere, and it’s made even more enjoyable because of excellent service from Good’s young staff. They’re friendly and helpful, and mindful of the goal of those who take part in the Tuesday dinner. During my first visit, our server took care to check whether I wanted the cheese and croutons that normally come on the side salad.

I said at the beginning that this isn’t a restaurant review. It really isn’t. If it were, it would have been in Friday’s edition and in a different section.

But that’s not going to stop me from praising Cabana’s cook for offering those who are calorie conscious some options for their meals, and the staff for the gracious way they handle guests who might otherwise get a little picky.

As I’ve learned over the past few months, though, it’s a Good thing.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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