Monthly Archives: May 2012

May Foodie Penpals Reveal

This month, I participated in the Foodie Penpals program for the first time. Foodie Penpals is an adorable idea dreamed up by Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean where foodie-minded bloggers and readers from different regions are paired up to send one another boxes filled with fun foodie things, local food items, or even homemade treats. Really, who doesn’t love getting a package full of interesting goodies in the mail?
One of my favorite “rules” of the program is that each penpal box must contain something handwritten. As someone who spends nearly every waking hour within arm’s length of an electronic device, it was really refreshing to receive a thoughtful note from a new friend with a shared interest. Pam, my May foodie penpal (who happens to be a reader, not a blogger) lives in Blacksburg, VA, and filled my penpal package with a slew of interesting and delicious items grown and manufactured in Virginia. Pam has great Blacksburg pride, and her love for her town was evident in the 2-page heartfelt note that accompanied my goodies.
As for the goodies, they were impressive:

Here’s a rundown of what she sent:
  • Blacksburg backdraft coffee with a conscience. Fun fact: Pam’s brother is the dapper Fire Captain pictured on the coffee’s packaging
    • Handcrafted soap from the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market with a tagline of: “snooty soap for people with discriminating taste.” I love that.
    • Fiery peri-peri dark cherry salsa. Perfect to pair with veggie sticks. Or better yet, with Hint of Lime Tostidos (my vice!) Is too much delicious on 1 bite a thing?
    • Loose tea, also from the Farmer’s Market. I love that the tea’s flavor ingredients are hand written on the package and am excited to make some iced tea out of this asap.
    • Chocolate bar sweetened with Stevia. SO good. Not too sweet, just really rich and chocolatey.
    • 2 bags of potato chips: Route 11 Dill Pickle flavored and Mama Zuma’s Revenge habanero flavored (I opened the bag of spicy habanero chips almost immediately, just meaning to try one. Oops, ate em all. Not sorry; they were worth it.)
Participating in the foodie penpal program was a great move for me, and I’ve already gone ahead and put my hand up for the June pairings. It’s a great way to connect with people who you otherwise never would have the opportunity to “meet.” Plus, it adds a personal touch to the otherwise digital life we tend to lead.
My only bone to pick at the present time is with USPS, who has had the gall to return the foodie penpals package I sent out back to me, and then allow it to be lost in mail-land at the present time. Anna, I PROMISE that box will get to you- even if I have to Pony Express it over. (Thank you for being so understanding of the debacle even though I’m totally mortified that you did not get your package in time for reveal day!) In the meantime, check out Anna’s Adventure’s in Health for a great read from a truly good-natured blogger who knows her stuff.
If you’d like to join in on the Foodie Penpals fun next month, here are the details:
  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It is your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal.
  • The spending limit is $15, and the box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers.

SurfSET Fitness: Stoked Surf 360 with Kira Stokes

I had so much fun at SurfSET Fitness the first time around, that I couldn’t wait to get back on the RipSurferX and take another class. Last week, SurfSET teamed up with Solo Event Space to host “Surfing on Wall Street” for a one-night-only sold out evening of classes. A few things made this workout event extra exciting for me:

  1. I got to go with the BFF, so that just makes any evening better.
  2. We got free stuff at the event. Score.
  3. Kira Stokes taught our class(!) Kira is the creator of The Stoked Method, and teaches classes at Reebok Sports Club on the UWS. I’ve never had the chance to take one of her classes, so when I learned that she would be teaching SurfSET I was, well, stoked. #punintended

Solo is a massive event space located on the bottom floor of the Setai Hotel building.  I arrived 15 minutes early for our 7pm class to scope out the scene and see how an event space could transform into a fitness studio. What I found was a huge LED-lit space filled with thumping Rihanna/Flo-Rida/LMFAO. An excellent sign. Kira Stokes was perched on her surfboard at the far end, with four rows of surfer students facing her. In the back were a couple of event sponsors giving out freebies. Branded beach balls were strewn about, popsicles were being eaten, Zico coconut water was being guzzled… it was a gnarly scene, man. My iPhone photo isn’t the most wonderful image, but you get the idea of what the class area looked like.

Class started with a super quick orientation to the RipSurferX: how to paddle, how to distribute weight, and most importantly, how not to fall off. And then we were squatting. I’d forgotten how hard it is to stabilize atop the surfboard, and found myself shaking like a leaf throughout most of the warm-up, which really wasn’t much of an “ease-into-it” type warm-up at all. I love how I assumed that since I’d taken a SurfSET class before that it would somehow be easier this time around. WRONG. Power squats, one-legged squats, and lunges were nothing like easy. But they were really fun.

The remainder of class consisted of a bunch of Kira-created circuits, with each being performed 3 times though (to allow the muscle focus group to completely fatigue). While we watched her demonstrate each circuit, we weren’t just hanging out, hanging ten. Nope, we were on our bellies, paddling furiously. Each set had elements that made me sure I was going to fall off the board. In one, we performed burpees with little jumps punctuating each movement. Jumps! In another, we had the most intense round of triceps work that I’ve experienced in quite some time, concluding with us kneeling on our boards, holding the paddles, and doing a modified crunch/triceps pull-back. In yet another, we were in a one-legged squat which led into an upright paddle row. We concluded with a set created to simulate surfing, which consisted of pop-ups, body weight shifts, and lots of core stability. And then finally, there was a dedicated abs section with a crazy amount of planks and oblique crunches.

The moves sounds insane as I write them out, mainly because they were. Yet all in all, our class rocked it. I largely attribute this to the fact that Kira is an incredible instructor. The acoustics in the space were not on her side (given the super high ceilings, loud music, and a huge space overall), yet her energy was palpable, and I found myself remaining motivated to push myself the whole time. Plus, she has an amazing body that really proves to you that she’s serious about fitness. No joke- the woman is composed of one chiseled sheath of muscle.

After class, Linds and I took photos with a sleepy puppy (SurfSET’s mascot, Hammy), politely  turned down a complimentary spray tan (because it would have just slid right off given how sweaty we were), collected our swag bags containing FakeBake self-tanner, more Zico water, Mercy hangover prevention drink, and our very own SurfSET branded beach balls, and then headed out to grab some dinner.

We ended up at Bite, on 14th street, which is one of those places that we’ve walked past hundreds of times but never thought to stop in. Turns out it’s really good as a quick, yet healthy and delicious Union Square spot. As we shoveled forkfuls of Mediterranean salad into our mouths (we so earned that dinner!), Linds and I recapped the high points of class, kvetched about how sore we’d be the next day, and agreed we’d go back to SurfSET the very next chance we had. I kind of can’t wait.

What was the last workout that you were really excited about or challenged by?

FancyPantz Dinner @ Per Se

Last week was kind of a big deal in the HealthyPantz household: I celebrated my 30th birthday, and Hubs and I celebrated our 1-year anniversary of marital bliss. Clearly, this called for an extreme form of celebration, which, we decided, was worthy of splurging on the once-in-a-lifetime experience of dinner for two at Per Se. By many critics’ accounts, Per Se is the best restaurant in New York City, and arguably one of the best in the world. What you can expect to find there is an impeccably executed, extraordinarily pricey, multi-course feast-a-thon. It’s also next to impossible to score a table on a weekend.

Celebrations galore!

One month to the day of our intended celebration, Hubs and I had our dialing fingers poised at 9:59 a.m. so as to try to score a reservation when the Per Se phone lines opened at 10:00. We landed a table for the weekend sandwiched between the birthday and anniversary milestones. Perfect! The reservationist took down our litany of dietary restrictions and preferences without comment or judgment (no meat, very limited dairy for me; no chocolate for E since he’s allergic), and confirmed that all would be accommodated. Here’s an overview of the millions of courses and delights that we were served over the course of our celebration. It was far and away the best meal of either of our lives, and though it pretty much emptied the wallet, I dare say it was “worth it.

A couple of tidbits worth noting about our evening:

  1. I’ve never been made to feel so normal about my dietary preferences while dining at a restaurant. I loved Per Se for that fact.
  2. The wine list was on an iPad. COOL!
  3. Speaking of wine, we kept it low key with the booze, considering all the food we were taking in. A glass of champagne + a glass of German reisling for me, and a glass of Austrian reisling + a glass of red (a Brunello, I think) for Hubs was a perfect amount. There’s only so much room.
  4. The service was not stuffy at all (as we’d wrongly assumed it would be.) While professional and attentive, the staff was young and very relaxed, so we actually felt right at home.
  5. The meal pictured below took about 3.5 hours to eat. That’s marathon territory, folks. The courses weren’t all that far spaced out, either. So much delicious food. I’m salivating writing this post…

Taste 1: Warm gougeres
These warm little morsels of gooey goodness are a Thomas Keller signature. Just a little taste of the fun to come.

Taste 2: Salmon Cornets
This, too, is a signature treat for Chef Keller: crème fraîche stuffed tuile cones topped with salmon tartare. I literally ate mine like an ice cream cone until all the salmon was gone, and then handed it over to E to finish off the crème fraîche part. (He’s so the yin to my picky-eating yang.)

Taste 3: The bread basket
For E, 2 types of butter were first presented along with a single warm pillowy roll.  The exact details of each butter evade me now, but I recall that one was salted and one unsalted. Noting my dietary restrictions, 2 types of fresh pressed olive oils were offered to me. Color me impressed. As if the heaven pillows weren’t enough bread, we were offered 4 additional different types from a basket: pretzel, sourdough, buckwheat, or baguette. Hubs and I opted for a piece of pretzel and buckwheat each.  The pretzel bread  tasted like what soft pretzels from street carts taste like in my dreams: soft, warm, lightly salted, addictive. I had to physically muzzle myself so I wouldn’t ask for more.


Course 1: Oysters & Pearls
I was really excited to try this Per Se staple of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and Sterling White sturgeon caviar, and possibly even more excited that it was intended to be eaten with an adorable mother of pearl spoon. I like kitsch. Whatever. So this dish was as good as I’d hoped it’d be. Salty, creamy, and exotic. The portion looks teensy in comparison to the 800 pieces (okay, 3) of china it rested upon, but it was actually properly sized given its richness. Plus we still had a marathon of eating ahead.

Course 2: Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm
Diagonally placed across the plate were alternating bites of avocado, compressed granny smith apple, brioche melba, beet crisp, toasted pistachios, red ribbon sorrel, and of course hearts of palm. We were told that Hawaiin hearts of peach palm are actually sweeter and milder than other hearts of palm, and that they are flown in twice a week from Hawaii to New York. This dish was light and refreshing art in salad form.

Course 3: Pave of Spanish Mackerel
Atop this filet was a cornbread “panade” which added a great texture and slightly salty/sweet accent to the already perfectly flavored mackerel. Jingle bell peppers (the most festive pepper!), braised globe artichokes and a really spicy swipe of salsa verde accompanied the fish. For a tasting menu, this piece of fish was really large, so it was at this point that I became concerned with my ability to eat the remaining courses. (Don’t worry, I prevailed.)

Course 4: Poached Nova Scotia Lobster
I think this course may have been our favorite savory item. My lobster was poached in olive oil, while E’s (pictured) was poached in butter and came wrapped in Applewood smoked bacon. Both preparations were served with green almonds, pickled ramps, and cauliflower cream. There was also an almond crust atop the lobster that was absolutely incredible. I think if bandits tried to take this dish away from us we would have thrown them out the window in defense of this perfect lobster.

Course 5 (mine): Endive en Feuille de Pommes de Terre
I swapped out the carnivorous next course for this item off the vegetarian menu: braised endive wrapped in crispy potato, and served with ragoût of fava beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano and parsley coulis. It was crispy and salty on the outside, earthy and creamy on the inside. E had food envy, so I shared. In return, he let me pick a cherry off of his quail dish. That’s love, folks.

Course 5 (E’s): Diamond H Ranch Quail En Crepinette
This quail somehow only had one bone in it (which made it look like a lollipop), and came dressed in foie gras-madeira emulsion. Brook cherries, red radishes, and frisée accompanied it. The cherry I was gifted tasted like summer and sunshine, and E was a happy camper, so let’s just assume it was flawless like everything else.

Course 6 (mine): Broccoli & Semolina Agnolotti
I subbed the second meat course with another option from the vegetarian menu, which, I’ll admit, didn’t sounds all that incredible when described as “broccoli pasta.” I should not have been surprised when I was presented with the most elegant, delicate version of broccoli-filled pasta that I could imagine. There were sweet little young onions, broccolini, and navel orange confit in a sauce of black winter truffle “mornay.” Every flavor was distinguishable from one another, and complemented each other perfectly. I ate this in the teensiest bites possible in order to stretch out the deliciousness.

Course 6 (E’s): Lysian Fields Farm’s Selle D’Agneau
We were told that this medallion of lamb came from the saddle of the animal, which is located right under the ribs. The mental image grossed me out slightly, but the unphased E said it was delicious. The lamb came with Oregon morel mushrooms (which I tasted and wanted to eat all of), English peas, sweet carrots and “Paloise Mousseline.”

Course 7: Isle of Mull
The cheese course consisted of a creamy cow’s milk cheese, and was accompanied by a Pearson Farm’s Pecan set inside medjool date steamed pudding, white celery glaze, and whole grain mustard. Truly the most interesting interpretation of a cheese course I’ve ever seen. Plus, I hadn’t had real cheese in so long that this was a real treat.

Course 8: Raspberry & Oats
We were presented the “sorbet course,” and my first thought was “every meal should have a sorbet course!!” Layered in the sundae glass were toasted oat crumble, Greek yogurt panna cotta, and raspberry soda, topped with granité de crème de cassis. There were a lot of audible “Mmmmm”s. I thought I was stuffed when this arrived, but it turned out I could have eaten a few more helpings. It also made me realize how much I miss Greek yogurt in my life.

Course 9 (mine): Gataeu Marjolaine de Fernand Point
My dessert was a french cake with alternating layers of vanilla, chocolate, wafers, meringue nut cake, and glory. It was topped with vanilla and chocolate “glace.” The dessert was so rich that I could only sample it to get a taste, but each delicate layer was sweet and uniquely delicious. (The photo unfortunately doesn’t really do it justice. By this point it was getting pretty late, so we didn’t have the benefit of natural sunlight on our side.)

Course 9 (E’s): Pamplemousse Rose
This was described as “the grapefruit dessert” but it was really so much more interesting. There were a lot of tastes on that little plate: vanilla génoise (a sponge cake), grapefruit bavarois (fluffy pudding), fennel bulb “relish” and olive oil sorbet. I think I liked this better than my dessert. (I’m glad Hubs is a sharer!) Again, sunlight fail on the photo.

Course 9.5: Chocolate Birthday Cake
Okay, this was really thoughtful. Though it was not on the menu, I was presented with a small piece of chocolate birthday cake, accompanied by a scoop of buttered popcorn gelato. It contained one lit candle, and was tactfully placed on our table for me to blow out. I was more stuffed than a Gund bear at this point, so I could only manage a bite of the rich cake. But what a decadent bite it was!

    Post dinner treat: Mignardises
We were so full that when we were asked if we would like a sampling of mignardises to complete our meal, our eyes nearly popped out of our heads in disbelief.  I asked if it would be possible to box up the treats so that we could truly enjoy them the next day, and of course, the answer was yes. We lingered over perfectly foamed cappuccinos for a little while. On our way out, we were handed a gift bag whose contents are pictured above to the left. The 2 baggies contained various nougats and caramels, and the 2 boxes contained chocolates, fudges, and macarons. Full disclosure: after our long meander home from Columbus Circle, (Yes, we were so full that we walked the 2.25 miles home- I Google-mapped the distance.) we had managed to make enough room in our bellies to devour the 2 macarons. They were mint chocolate and orange creamsicle flavored, if you were curious.

So there you have it- our glorious dinner date celebration at Per Se. Sorry to sound cliche, but it was truly everything we’d hoped it would be, and an incredible way to celebrate our 1st year of marriage and my 30th birthday. I’ll also note that the festivities for “Wife Week” (the week inclusive of my bday and anniversary; brilliant, right?) didn’t end with our dinner. E came home the next day with an armful of my favorite treats: peonies, macarons, Chocolate Crispies from One Lucky Duck, and of course a birthday cupcake. I got me a good one.

30 is shaping up to be a good year for me. In fact, I’m of the opinion that 30 is the new black.

Figure 4 Review + Private Class Giveaway!

I’m a huge fan of barre method classes. Huge. Luckily there are a number of these studios sprouting up all around the island of Manhattan. (Of course, they exist in other cities, but I can realistically only go about indulging in the NYC-based ones for the time being.) One of the new-ish classes I’ve been chomping at the bit to try is Figure 4, which was created by Kate Albarelli at Pure Yoga. Pure Yoga is a membership based studio, and taking the class a la carte is typically not an option. I also don’t live near either of their locations, so unfortunately full-fledged membership doesn’t make sense for me right now. (They are based on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side;  I’m a downtown girl.) But that doesn’t stop a barre enthusiast from hearing rave reviews and wanting to try out the class for herself. I had taken a great Core Fusion class with Kate Albarelli awhile back when she was working at Exhale Spa, so was really excited to see what she had cooked up.

I love to read articles and blogs penned by fellow health and fitness lovers. Recently, I was catching up on one of my favorite websites, Well + Good NYC, where they were offering up a giveaway for a private Figure 4 party to a random lucky reader and a group of friends who commented on “why you like to work out with friends.” I commented on this post, and I was their lucky winner! YAY- I would finally get to try the class!

So a couple of weeks ago, 15 barefoot friends and I “partied” our way through an intense Figure 4 class. Heather, our awesome instructor, coached our rowdy group (about half of whom were brand new to the barre method) through an hour of pulses, pliés, crunches, and stretches. Those who hadn’t seen the inside of a gym all winter struggled more than others (the class was legitimately tough!), but I’m proud to say that we all made it through the class with only moderate amounts of groans and whimpers. (And we only digressed into an impromptu round of dodgeball with the prop balls once!)

Our Figure 4 class started with the thigh section facing the inside of the room with our elbows leaning on the barre for support. Heather led us through a series of pulses and pliés which made my friends quickly realized that this party might not be such a cake-walk. At one point we were instructed to raise our hands into the air while holding a deep plié, a move that required stability and core engagement… and whimpering from the peanut gallery. The rest of the thigh section was performed facing the barre, and utilized a variety of poses to exhaust the muscles. I was fearful that we may lose a couple of party-goers while in round-back chair, a pose which requires holding the bar with outstretched arms while the body squats into a seated position with a rounded back- all while maintaining a 90 degree angle in the knees. We performed a never-ending series of pulses and holds while in this position, the last of which was done holding the tush as low to the ground as possible, with our heels held high.  That’s tough for even an advanced thigh warrior. But everyone held on (figuratively and literally!)

Next up: arms. After a lovely stretch, we moved back to the center of the room and began the upper body series with light weights. We all assumed that this was going to be sooo easy, but then Heather threw a wide second position plié into the mix, and we were fed a slice of humble pie yet again. (My friends are such good sports.) We worked through push-ups, triceps dips, and planks of varying difficulty on the floor before moving on to the abs section. With a cushion positioned at the small of our backs and a small ball held between our thighs, we then curled our shoulders up for a series of crunches and targeted oblique exercises. This section was tough (as was every section!), but Heather definitely did not let us slack. She also provided great guidance and modifications for the varying levels of experience in the class.

Ordinarily, a standing section would follow next to work the seat muscles. Apparently our class needed so much corralling and cajoling that we had to skip this section entirely due to time constraints. (I was mortified when I realized this!) In lieu of the standing seat-work, we stayed on the floor and performed a series of leg lifts targeted to work the outside tush muscles. I’ll be honest: I’m a barre class enthusiast, and I couldn’t perform the entire series without stopping for a break at least once on each side. We were feeling the burn without the standing section for sure.

Class wound down with a final abs series performed lying on the floor under the bar with our legs in the air. Pulling down on a strap hanging down from the barre, we raised and lowered our hips and legs to work the lower abs. Finally, a series of pelvic lifts and tucks signaled the end of class, the humor of which was not lost on my male friends (there were 4 in attendance!!) We finished with a gratifying stretch, and even saw the appearance of a couple of splits from the underdog dancers in the room.

In sum, I loved the experience. The “party” brought a unique cross-section of my health-conscious friends and friends-of-friends together for a truly fun afternoon. The 15 of us laughed and whined together (some more laughing, some more whining), and felt good about an afternoon fit-fully spent. Afterward, we held a post-mortem of our muscles’ trials and tribulations over a healthy brunch and toasted our efforts with (Vitamin-C rich!) mimosas. Hey, we’d earned it!

And now the really exciting part- THE GIVEAWAY!

Since my friends and i had such a great time at our Figure 4 party, the team at Pure Yoga has generously offered to give the same experience- a private Figure 4 Party for you and up to 20 of your friends– to 2 lucky HealthyPantz readers!

To enter, leave a comment below about anything your heart desires- what you’d like to read more about, your favorite workout, or just say hi! For an additional chance to win, follow me on Twitter!

I will randomly select 2 winners on Friday, May 18th at 5pm- and announce the winners that evening. (Pure Yoga is NYC-based, so winners should be located here as well.) Good luck!

A Kale Tale

In case you haven’t heard, kale is having a moment of glory. And for good reason, too. It’s low calorie, high fiber, antioxidant-rich, and packed with a ton of letter-branded vitamins. (vitamin A, vitamin C, K…) Basically, the stuff is fantastic for you. Also, it’s delicious. Have I convinced you yet? (Ha! Like you needed convincing in the first place…) I’ve sampled/inhaled a couple of really great kale-centric foods and juices lately, and I thought it might be nice to share my finds here with you. So, without further ado:

Kale Salad Photo: Northern Spy Food Co.

Kale Salad
Photo: Northern Spy Food Co.

Kale Salad from Northern Spy Food Co.
The thing about Northern Spy’s kale salad is that I crave it for every meal. Consisting of lightly dressed kale with cheddar, delicate squash, almonds, and pecorino (I ask for cheese on the side), it’s perfect when topped with 2 egg whites at brunch, or as a lunch/dinner salad. The tell-tale brunch lines each weekend can’t lie. It’s a stellar salad; please try it.

Green Monkey Smoothie Photo: Organic Avenue

Green Monkey Smoothie
Photo: Organic Avenue

Green Monkey Smoothie from Organic Avenue
This sweet smoothie is my favorite liquid form of kale these days. It consists of banana, kale, Thai coconut water, lucuma, barley, and wheatgrass powder- and is utterly magical. I first tried this drink while doing an Organic Avenue 3-day juice cleanse, and could have subsisted on this juice alone for the entirety of the detox. My office is now a block away from one of the OA boutiques, so the Green Monkey Smoothie has served as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up on a number of occasions. It’s a great 200-ish calorie alternative to evil office cookie trays.

Greek salad (with kale!)

Greek salad (with kale!)

Greek Salad from Jack’s Wife Freda
This take on the Greek salad involves kale, cucumber, tomato, and feta (also comes standard with pickled red onions and salt-cured olives, neither of which this picky eater likes). As you can see, we began to devour this salad before realizing that I meant to take a photo. Sorry I’m not that sorry, because it was delicious. Hubs and I are going to Greece this summer, and I’ll be the happiest person alive if we find salads like this there.

Rootsman Shake from Miss Lily’s

Rootsman Shake (and my iPhone)

Rootsman Shake (and my iPhone)

I wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find a juice bar inside of a Caribbean restaurant, but Miss Lily’s Bake Shop & Melvin’s Juice Box manages to marry up the two cuisines pretty well. This humongous drink consists of 3 ingredients: coconut, kale, and banana. (Technically mine consisted of 4 because I added pineapple to give it a sweet kick.) The shake was thick, with pieces of raw coconut meat blended throughout. It was actually a little too rich for me to finish alone, but was a good size to split with someone you love enough to share a straw with. I’m excited to go back and try more of Miss Lily’s juices, but you can be pretty certain

that I’ll add kale to any and all. I hope kale’s moment in the spotlight never ends. I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that I could eat kale for every meal. And I’m always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate more kale into my diet.

So, tell me: What are your favorite kale-centric dishes or recipes?

SurfSET Fitness: Riptide with Chanelle Lagace

SurfSET’s Chelsea Market pop-up


SurfSET Fitness
is one of the most original workout concepts I’ve heard of in quite some time. You get to surf. Inside. With no possibility of sharks nibbling your toes.

They had me at hello.
Utilizing the RipSurferX, a surfboard which is perched atop a few inflated body ball discs, SurfSET Fitness aims to simulate surfing’s strength and cardiovascular training benefits, bringing the sport to those who can’t make it out onto open water. (Or, in my case, who are afraid of the creatures within it.) And for the month of April, SurfSET collaborated with RateYourBurn to bring NYC’s most beloved fitness instructors onto the teacher’s board, all of whom incorporated their own personal fitness bent into each individual class. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I opted to take class with Physique 57’s famed Chanelle Lagace. Chanelle is the creator of Formula 57, which is a mash-up of Pilates and Physique 57’s original barre-work class. It’s a great class if you’re looking for a concentrated core workout. I’ve taken and loved her classes before, so I knew I was in for a fun (and tough) 45 minutes.
Since the RipSurferX constantly shifts from side to side, threatening to topple you over with your every move, core strength and stability are key. And since you’re set a few feet off the ground, simple movements are nothing but simple. Our warm-up of various squats and lunges also doubled as an orientation to working it on the surf board. Then Chanelle got fancy, leading us in a series of squatted hops and jumps, step-ups onto the board, and some fancy one-legged moves that made me feel like that scene in Dirty Dancing when Baby and Johnny danced it out on the tree trunk. We quickly transitioned to a series of planks and push-ups, mountain climbers, and then standing splits. Though my core was screaming by this point, I DIDN’T FALL OFF! Phew.
Two pulleys positioned at the front of the surf board serve as paddling simulators. They work just as you’d image paddling on the open water would, and engage your shoulders, triceps and upper back. Chanelle led us though a few sets that really felt like surfing: lie on your belly, paddle ferociously, then pop up onto your feet, catch your balance, and then duck dive back down. Rinse, repeat. My muscles were working overtime on this set, since the instability of the surfboard intensified the difficulty of performing any sweeping movement.
Before I knew it, we were on our lower backs with table-topped legs for core work. (Though really, I’d categorize the entire class as “core work.”) This section felt like Formula 57 atop an unstable surface and included leg raises, Pilates arm pumps, crisscrosses, and full body roll-ups and teasers. It flew by surprisingly quickly, and then were standing back up on the board, using light weights (3-5lbs) for the final arm series. I’m always shocked by how intense of a burn those baby weights can create. Just when I thought I couldn’t keep my arms up a moment longer, Chanelle shifted the movement slightly, and we burned on. Finally, we were through, stretching for just a couple of minutes before hopping off our boards, clapping it out for a job well done, and drinking a metric ton of water.
I can’t stop raving to my friends about how “gnarly” the SurfSET workout was. It was incredibly challenging, and because I was so distracted by my effort to not fall of the board, I barely noticed the time pass. It’s a great class to add to your regular exercise rotation, since it really changes things up by engaging muscles that might ordinarily lie dormant. (I’m looking at you, lats.)
While the celebrity instructor pop-up shop is now closed (I literally got in on the last day), SurfSET will be opening up a permanent studio in NYC this coming September. If you’re like me and can’t wait ‘til then, the SurfSET crew is teaming up with the Solo Event Space on May 16th for a night of “Surfing on Wall Street.” If you’re interested, you can sign up here. I’ll be at the 7pm class, trying my hardest not to fall off. :)   Let me know if you’ll be there too!

 

Restaurant Review: Eat your Veggies at Dirt Candy

One of the things I love most about living in NYC is that it’s chock full of incredible restaurants. Unfortunately the city’s culinary playground doesn’t often lend itself to being super vegan-friendly.  So there are inevitably those times when I get to a restaurant and there’s virtually nada for me to eat. Nearly everything’s either centered around meat, or comes served in a cream sauce, or both. But really, that’s fine. There’s rarely an occasion when I can’t concoct a (great) Mariell-friendly meal out of the menu’s offerings, and I like to think that I’m practical and tactful enough in my delivery that it’s not a huge pain for the kitchen, nor a total buzzkill to my carnivorous dining companions.

And then there are those times when it’s is a complete non-issue. Like at Amanda Cohen’s Dirt Candy.  Here, the vegetables are the stars, and while it’s technically a vegetarian restaurant, everything can easily be made in vegan form as well. For me, my dinner date with E (the hubs) at this adorable shoebox-sized East Village restaurant was like a dietary double rainbow. Here’s what we ate:

Portobello mousse (Image courtesy of Dirt Candy)

Portobello mousse, truffled toast, pear compote: This dish was beautifully (and deliciously) composed: a square of silky mousse, a few perfectly roasted whole mushrooms, a mound of sweet compote, and truffle-laced toast. Photos really don’t do it justice. If you like mushrooms, you must order this.

Steamed bbq carrot buns (Image courtesy of Dirt Candy)

Steamed bbq carrot buns and cucumber salad with sesame seeds and carrot halvah: YUM. These buns were sweet, fluffy, delicious pillows of carrot-y filled goodness. I loved them. The the accompanying cucumber salad with halvah was a huge winner as well, and I’d gladly order an entire plate of it alone for any meal.

Chard gnocchi (Image courtesy of Dirt Candy)

Chard gnocchi, grilled chard with garlic granola and drunken fig jam: When we asked for recommendations, our waitress steered us toward the gnocchi, insisting that the dish was incredible. She was right. The gnocchi were fluffy and carb-y like a gnocchi should be, but the chard provided an element of earthiness that made you feel like you were still eating your vegetables. The flavor combo of the chard + granola + fig jam was an intriguing pairing on paper, and plate-licking good in practice.

Coconut poached tofu (Image courtesy Dirt Candy)

Coconut poached tofu, shiso galangal sauce, salsify, and hearts of palm: This was the least exciting of all the dishes we ordered. I make tofu at home all the time, and this preparation wasn’t so exotic that it left me weak in the knees. That said, there wasn’t a morsel left over, so we definitely liked it a great deal.

Eggplant tiramisu with rosemary cotton candy (Image courtesy of Dirt Candy)

Rosemary eggplant Tiramisu , rosemary cotton candy, mascarpone: The science nerd within us lit up when we read the description of this dessert. Eggplant IN the tiramisu? Rosemary IN the cotton candy? So while yes, it contained dairy, we went for it anyway. Especially since I was pretty full at this point and really, really wanted the cotton candy. I love rosemary and cotton candy separately, and my taste buds didn’t really know what to do with the fusion of the two flavors at first. But then I had another bite and was undeniably addicted. I found myself wondering how much counter space a cotton candy machine would take up in our apartment so we could make it at home. Seriously, this cotton candy is a star.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend Dirt Candy to vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, as the food is thoughtful and delicious and just truly special. I’m already jones-ing for a repeat visit.

BluePrint Cleanse Review: The good, The bad, The weird

In the 3 month intermission between my wedding and honeymoon, my healthy lifestyle took a little nap. The newlywed diet consisted of champagne, treats, and a well-deserved break from an admittedly crazy bridal workout regimen. (Whoever decided that women should wear fitted white gowns on the most photographed day of her life has some karmic revenge coming.) As you’d imagine, after a few months of a less than clean diet, I was feeling blah- like I needed to recharge the health batteries and get back to my normal self. Luckily, my BFF, Linds, was more than up for the idea of doing a juice cleanse together to help hit the restart button. So we signed up for the 3-day BluePrintCleanse and dove head first into detoxing.

At this point, BluePrint is a staple on the juicing scene, and you’ve likely heard or read other juicers’ blow-by-blows of their cleansing experience. So I’ll skip that for you here, and just give you the most interesting bits: the highlights, the lowlights, and the oddities of my first juice detox.

The pros:

  1. BPC’s system is so convenient and easy. Each day’s 6 juices are labeled in the order that you’re intended to drink them. Further, the company delivers (for a small fee), making the juice-getting process painless.
  2. I lost a good 3-4 lbs over the course of my cleanse and kept them off for a while (until I went to Italy on my honeymoon and was a complete carb monster).
  3. During the daytime, I felt fantastic: clear mind, tons of energy, in a good mood, feeling awesome in general. (Evening was a different story…)
  4. My chronic Crohn’s-related stomach pain was nowhere to be seen. Amazing.
  5. One of my main goals of cleansing was to crack my dirty habit of drinking diet sodas. The cleanse was a great way to get in the habit of defaulting to water instead.
  6. Pineapple & Mint, Spicy Lemonade, and Cashew Milk were DELISH. I find myself craving them now that my cleanse is over.

The cons:

  1. To put it politely, I didn’t care for BPC’s green juice. I actually had to hold my nose and drink through a straw just to get it down. The Foundation level cleanse gave me 3 greens a day, so it got a little tedious. (Plus my co-workers looked at me like I was moderately insane. They were probably a tiny bit right.) Linds didn’t mind the green juice as much, so really could just be me. Maybe it’s an acquired taste and I just need to cleanse again?
  2. Around 6pm on Day 1, I nearly passed out. I wanted to just melt into a puddle on the ground in the middle of sidewalk because I felt so weak. For this reason I switched out my 3rd green juice of the day with 1/4 avocado + 1/4 cucumber and it made a world of difference for the remaining 2 days of the cleanse.
  3. Drinking a lot of cold liquid + my body being in a strange hunger state = me feeling like an icicle. I wore multiple sweaters at once while in a/c. This added to the co-workers thinking I’m insane factor.

The weirds:

  1. (TMI Warning) If green goes in, green comes out. It’s unnerving.
  2. Along the same lines (sorry!), a high volume of liquid going in leads to a high volume of liquid going out. My advice is to plan your outfits carefully and not wear anything that had to be re-tucked and belted because the time seriously adds up! In fact, I wish I had worn a pedometer to see how much mileage I tracked walking back and forth to the ladies room over those 3 days.
  3. I noticed food everywhere. I was so hyper-aware of not being able to eat solids that I suddenly realized that every commercial is about food, every TV show has a meal scene in it, and every freaking person on the streets of New York City is eating pizza. I’m not really exaggerating all that much here. That’s why it wasn’t such a big deal to meet friends for lunch or dinner while I was cleansing- I saw food everywhere already so might as well get the added bonus of seeing my friends’ pretty faces.

Blueprint Juice Cleanse Review

So that’s my take. I will note that it’s more fun to cleanse with a friend so you can kvetch and be totally self-centered about everything you’re feeling together. All in all, Linds and I had an interesting first ride through Juicing Land together. While I would love to go for round 2 of BPC, there are also a number of new juice brands on the scene that I’d like to try as well. (Well+Good NYC recently published a great guide to New York’s up-and-coming indie juice brands.) What are your favorite juice companies? I would love any recs of what to try next!