The pretty rainbow cake at Barnaby's.

Stress during the lead-up to the midterm elections, plus the arrival of tempting holiday treats, had me­­ eating my feelings. While I try to offset the extra calories with ample cardio, my new strategy is to strive for nutritional balance ... in extreme fashion.

Barnaby’s is the perfect site to test this tactic, for it serves healthful, vegetable-centric options, as well as killer desserts. When I entered its South Shepherd location on a sunny, pleasantly chilly weekday, I was immediately drawn to one of the newer additions to its line-up of sweets: a towering rainbow cake boasting five glorious levels of blue, green, yellow, orange, and red, interspersed with layers of vanilla frosting.

“Ooh. Me want!” I thought.

Well, I thought. 

Unfortunately, I forgot to flip my internal monologue switch to “on” because I actually uttered my aforementioned approval of the cake out (fairly) loud. The lovely worker behind the counter looked at me with a mixture of pity and amusement. “Anything else?” he asked.

Now, what to order to counter that colossal slice of cake? I decided any of the Barnaby’s equally colossal salads, for which the restaurant is famous. I paired my dessert with the Chinese chicken salad.  

Eat your veggies: the Chinese chicken salad at Barnaby's.

The wedge of cake I was received trumped the salad in mass but not in volume, for the latter’s portion resembled something you might serve at a seated dinner party for six. Unsurprisingly, I relished both but finished neither.

Having sampled rainbow layer cakes at numerous bakeries around town, including at Three Brothers and The Dessert Gallery, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of multi-color confections. The grand girth of Barnaby’s version actually belies lighter layers of moist sponge cake that are well-matched with airy, mildly sweet vanilla icing with more of a whipped rather than buttercream-like consistency. Thus, I could in theory demolish more of this rainbow slice than others; however, I didn’t, not only for the sake of balance but also because the salad was so damn good.

Addictive is the word that comes to mind, a descriptor I never thought I would apply to a salad but an accurate one nonetheless that comes from the terrific assemblage of romaine, red cabbage, cilantro, carrots, tortilla strips, and shredded chicken breast. It was hearty with a salty crunch.

Though the salad is normally tossed in honey-lime vinaigrette, I asked for it, plus peanut dressing, on the side. I recommend this, so that you first enjoy the base flavors of the salad before adding more dimensions of taste.

I exited lunch with sweet tooth satiated, my RDA of vegetables met, and enough leftovers for dinner. That’s a triple win in my book, no matter how you look at it.

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