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One of the privileges of being the Weekly’s longest-tenured food writer is that I have the luxury of looking back over 14 years’ worth of columns to see how things turned out. Predictably, I find myself surprised. Like, surprised that Chimy’s is still here while Bistro Louise, Café Aspen, and Terra Mediterranean have gone the way of the brontosaurus. Chow, Baby has inked pages of commentary on trends and our area’s fickle dining scene, most recently last November. And in June 2018. And pretty much every year.

Back in 2014, the Weekly began covering Fort Worth’s quest to become a Blue Zones-certified community. At that time, we argued over the project’s marketing strategist, which, in retrospect, may have been a tetch petty. Blue Zones, sponsored nationally by a for-profit company, had the local backing of non-profit Texas Health Resources. The initiative’s goal is to increase the health, life expectancy, and general well-being of folks in Fort Worth. Although the project aimed to modify multiple components of lifestyle, much of the push revolved around promoting a Mediterranean-style diet. At the beginning, I wondered if the project, with its emphasis on plant-based eating, had a snowball’s chance in Cowtown. 

But in 2015, the Blue Zones group gained traction in the Fort, convening an Equitable Foods Summit with community partners that aimed to take a stab at addressing areas in the north and south of Fort Worth where residents have the least access to produce and non-packaged foods.  In 2017, I wrote about the giant inroads made into some of our more popular restaurants. While a couple of restaurant stalwarts took issue with the choice of menu selections, many agreed that adding a Blue Zones-approved dish didn’t dent their servers’ bottom lines. 

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BZ-friendly menu items are mainly plant-based but may include goat cheese or an egg. On the approved pseudo diet, you can still enjoy sourdough bread, corn, and whole grain products like pasta or brown rice. Some restaurants saw the benefit of adding what amounted to vegetarian or vegan dishes. Those of us who are among the pickiest eaters or have the most restrictions often dictate where the rest of our party can go for dinner.

This year, Fort Worth has become a certified Blue Zones community, and the non-profit is celebrating with Blue Zones Restaurant Week, through March 1. Whether you haven’t had a chance over the last five years to sample some BZ-friendly food items or you like your plant-based goodies, you can enjoy the cuisine this week at a discount. 

Here are some of the more drool-worthy deals:

The Veggie Blues enchilada dinner at Los Vaqueros Stockyards location (2629 N Main St): Mexican-spiced veggies cuddled into corn tortillas with a tomatillo salsa and a side of black beans will run you $5. I swear you won’t miss the cheese.

Taco Heads (1812 Montgomery St) offers 15 percent off all their BZ menu items, including the roasted corn and avocado taco on corn tortillas and the pineapple with Tajin spice.

Order any BZ menu item like the miso soup, Modern Waldorf salad, or beet burger at Café Modern (3200 Darnell St) and you’ll get 10 percent off.

Save $3 on the hearty portabella mushroom plate with goat cheese and a side of fresh veggies at Buffalo West (7101 Camp Bowie W Blvd).

At Branch & Bird (640 Taylor St, 12th floor), you can enjoy the stellar view of downtown and the Black-Eyed Pea tortellini for $16. 

Indulge in lentil, kale, and bean soup with a glass of Cote Du Rhone wine (because red wine is Blue Zone-approved) for $12 at Grand Cru Wine Bar & Boutique (1257 W Magnolia Av).

Interestingly, the health benefits of plant-based diets are trendy right now, recommended by experts (cardiologists and gerontologists) and of course, your vegan cousin. Whether you have high blood pressure and sassmouth like Chow, Baby or your hormones have gone rogue like mine, there are documented benefits to the plant slant. Am I surprised that Fort Worth was five years ahead of the trend in embracing Blue Zones? Pleasantly so. 

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