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ROUND-UP: Lighter bites 

After weeks of holiday feasting on cookies, cakes, eggnogs, and ham with all the trimmings, I like to reset my palate in the new year by eating lighter foods. That's not code for dieting; it's seeking out foods that are lighter in flavor, the way Swiss cheese is more delicate than Parmesan, or lighter in weight, the way a Riesling feels lighter than a cabernet sauvignon.

Below is a short collection of lighter dishes I find tantalizing and satisfying, with the added bonus of not leaving me feeling stuffed and weighed down. Have your own favorites? Please share them by commenting on this article at rochestercitynewspaper.com.

The land of cultured milk and honey

At Voula's Greek Sweets, I can order almost anything from the lunch or brunch menu and know it will be both delicious and nourishing. Hummus, lentil soup, horiatiki salad, gythio plate — all tasty.

I am particularly fond of Voula's Greek yogurt and fruit salad ($9). Brilliantly white and thick, the yogurt stands tall on the plate like a whipped cloud. It's drizzled with golden honey that pools on the side, and is topped with crushed pistachios. Fresh, tangy, creamy and lovely, it elevates milk to an ideal. There are also toothy hunks of fresh fruit, like pineapple, grapes, honeydew melon, and pomegranate arils, with a whisper of added sweetness from rose water syrup. Other fruit and yogurt plates hang their heads in shame, knowing that they will never be this simple and delightful.

Voula's Greek Sweets is located at 439 Monroe Avenue and is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 242-0935 or visit facebook.com/voulasgreeksweets.

Fresh and bright

While it has only been open for a few months, Saha Med Grill has already made a name for itself. At the lunch rush, it's packed with customers who, like me, are eager to mix their choice of bright flavors and fresh ingredients. I usually order a pita wrap ($8), either stuffed with a smoky, roasted organic eggplant, or long thin strips of turkey shawarma. From there, I can pick from a plethora of toppings that includes zingy tzatziki, salty feta, sweet tomatoes, sharp onions, cool cucumbers, and vinegary pickles.

All of those items work well with Saha's salads, too, like the Grecca ($8), its take on a Greek salad. The standard Grecca comes with Greek dressing drizzled onto mixed greens, sweet and banana peppers, Kalamata olives, and the aforementioned feta, tomatoes, onions, and cukes. But it's all customizable: swap the dressing for tahini, throw on grilled chicken kabobs, and bolster it with chickpeas, hearts of palm, or roasted nuts.

Saha Med Grill is located at 1290 University Avenue (266-5000) and 14 South Main Street, Pittsford (387-8000). The University Avenue location is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; the Pittsford location is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit sahamedgrill.com.

Fried can be light

SEA Restaurant is well-known for its pho ($6.50 to $7.75). Tureen-sized bowls of soup are filled with flavorful broth, rice noodles, and meats and topped with equally important are the vegetables, herbs and spices. Even if I ate an entire bowl in a single sitting, I probably wouldn't feel like I swallowed an anvil.

Maybe more surprising is that eating a plate of SEA's fried squid ($5.75) doesn't leave me feeling weighed down, either. Each piece is chewy, crisp, and addictive. The squid is cut into flat, rectangular strips and given a coating. Frying puffs the breading in some places and makes it crunchy in others, with plenty of crags for minced garlic, bits of chili, and salt and pepper to settle into. The squid is tossed with thinly sliced red and green peppers, resulting in a dish that is spicy but doesn't set the mouth on fire. Tingling like pins and needles on my tongue, I'm urged to pick up the chopsticks and pop more into my mouth.

SEA Restaurant is located at 741 Monroe Avenue (473-8031) and 1675 Mount Hope Avenue (461-4154). Open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Monroe Avenue location is also open on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

click to enlarge Crispy squid at SEA Restaurant. - PHOTO BY JOHN SCHLIA
  • PHOTO BY JOHN SCHLIA
  • Crispy squid at SEA Restaurant.

A new kind of comfort food

I appreciate The Red Fern for providing a menu that meets the needs of family and friends sticking to vegan and gluten-free diets, while offering me, someone who salivates thinking about spaghetti carbonara, options that don't leave me feeling deprived. I like the restaurant's cheekiness in offering a compost plate ($11; vegan and optional gluten-free), made with mac salad, sweet potato salad, a choice of vegan proteins and "meat" sauce. I also like that its lentil loaf ($12.50; vegan and gluten free) can sate a winter food comfort craving for meatloaf. The lentil loaf gets lots of flavor from its caramelized onion gravy, deep brown and filled with strings of slow cooked onions. The loaf itself doesn't match the texture of meat but it does offer some of the weight and density ground beef brings. On the side is a helping of deep green kale, braised until the greens' toughness has melted away. Flavored with white wine and onion, this kale makes eating one's vegetables not a chore, but a pleasure.

The Red Fern is located at 283 Oxford Street (563-7633) and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit redfernrochester.com.

Head South this winter

Rio Tomatlan has finally re-opened following a building fire at its previous location last May, and the new space is larger, and the menu has expanded. A few of its once-in-a-while specials have made it to the regular rotation, including the beer-battered tilapia tacos ($13). Each order comes with three tacos and a side of rice and beans. Inside each soft, blue corn tortilla is a crunchy fried filet, a creamy avocado sauce, an addictive chili aioli, snappy shredded cabbage, and magenta-hued and pungently flavored pickled onions. Even in a menu filled with dishes packed with vibrant flavors, colors and textures, these tacos stand out.

Rio Tomatlan is located at 106 Bemis Street, Canandaigua, (394-9380) and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit riotomatlan.com.

click to enlarge Beer-battered tilapia tacos from Rio Tomatlan. - PHOTO BY JOHN SCHLIA
  • PHOTO BY JOHN SCHLIA
  • Beer-battered tilapia tacos from Rio Tomatlan.

Find Laura Rebecca Kenyon on Twitter and Instagram @LauraKenyon, and dig through her recipe archive on her personal website, LauraRebeccasKitchen.com.

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