Tag Archives: NYC

Physique 57 Review

I have no idea what took me so long to write this review. Maybe I just assumed it was too obvious. Maybe not talking it up was a futile attempt to keep my beloved 6:30pm classes from getting filled up. Whatever it was, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Part of the reason I write this blog is because I want to share my love of health and fitness- and hopefully inspire others to love it a little more too. Physique 57 is the kind of workout that gets you hooked. And although it’s by no means a newbie on the fitness scene, it still rocks my (grippy) socks, and deserves a shout-out on any blog I sign my name to.

Physique 57 is a barre method class with studios in both NY and LA, as well as a growing DVD series. Hopefully if I write a glowing enough review, they’ll open one in San Francisco in the near future. (HA! Look at my jokes. But seriously, please guys?) Physique has streamlined its class offerings to focus on what it does best: hardcore barre workouts offered in 4 flavors depending on experience level: Beginner, Mixed, Intermediate, and Advanced. They also offer a handful of other classes including Physique Mat (a barre/Pilates hybrid), Yoga, Formula 57 (a great class with a focus on core stability), Prenatal, and a new Cardio class that I’m dying to take. I’m going to stick to the bread and butter barre workouts here, because a) I love them, and b) I’ve taken like 500 of them so I feel like if there’s anything that I’m qualified to talk about, it’s this.

About 2 years ago I set out to get in tip top shape for my wedding. (You can never be too fit while wearing a tight white dress. Never.) My friend Christine suggested I try out her beloved studio, Physique 57. It was expensive, but I figured I could justify it as a short-term wedding expense and then go back to my dank but free basement gym in a couple of months. WRONG. I got hooked. And I’m not even a little sorry for it. Not only does it give me a fabulous workout every time, but I also leave class practically euphoric- giggly from the endorphins, great music, and satisfaction that I get from conquering round-back chair.

Ok, enough jibber jabber. Onto the workout.

Though the specific exercises performed in each class vary a little, they follow a strict formula that keeps all your major muscle groups engaged throughout the 57 minute workout. First, arms. Using 5-8 pound weights, each major arm and shoulder muscle is worked to the point of fatigue. It’s a fast and furious segment that ensures arm jiggle is a thing of the past.

No matter how strong I think I am, the thigh section of Physique 57 class murders me every time. Typically performed facing into the bar in various chair, water ski, or curtsy positions, this section is dedicated to pulsing in small movements to take your thigh muscles to the point of total decimation. Pulsing “up an inch, down an inch” is excruciating, but the personal satisfaction that comes from staying in the exercise through the entire series without breaking is really empowering. (An epic love/hate relationship…) The section ends with a sassy little exercise called thigh dancing: propped up on your shins, you use quad and core strength to pulse/dance through a 60-second burst of calorie torching. After that, you’ve definitely earned your stretch. Savor it, however brief it may be. And foam roll when you get home. Your quads will thank you.

Playground ball + foam roller = BFF

A seat workout comes next, in which various tush muscles are isolated and pulsed to the point of fatigue. This is often the segment in which I really appreciate the instructors’ corrections, as little shifts in your positioning and posture go a long way to working the correct muscle group. As with all exercise, form is critical, and can mean the difference between a super effective workout and injuring yourself. P57 instructors are really wonderful about making gentle corrections, too. They lovingly shame you into lifting your leg higher, pointing or flexing a little harder, and eliminating that last bit of bend from your knee. My personal favorite seat exercise is the pretzel. My attempt at an explanation will likely make it sound like cirque de soleil, but easy this tutorial will get you pretzel-ing like a pro.

Final push: abs, which is choreographed in 3 parts to ensure all parts of the core are hit. Part 1: you lie flat on the floor under the barre, arms holding onto opposite ends of a stretching strap, legs in the air and lifted in various toe taps, scissor kicks, and bicycle curls. This segment targets the deep lower abs. (AKA my arch nemesis since around the age of 13.) Part 2: round-back. The standard position in this exercise is with your upper back up against the wall, lower back slouched in a c-curve, arms pressed up against the bar, legs held up by your ab muscles. This position has never felt good or effective for me or my hip flexors, so I (along with nearly half of the class) perform this section flat on my back, head propped up by a playground ball, hands gripping the sides of the mat for extra core engagement. More foot shuffles, taps, and scissor kicks ensue. It doesn’t get easier over time. Sorry. Part 3: With the aid of a yoga mat, a squishy pad for lower back support, and sometimes the playground ball and stretching band, the final abs segment of class is an intense pulsing marathon made up of modified crunches, kicks and turns. Class ends with some back exercises, a few rounds of hip thrusts, and a lovely final stretch.

How the Physique 57 instructors keep a smile on their faces through the entire class is beyond me. They are upbeat, encouraging, and SERIOUSLY impressive. I don’t care about the fact that they all have careers as dancers and fitness instructors- when I’m in class I want to be as good as them.  If only there weren’t mirrors everywhere proving otherwise, I’d swear I’m almost there. (I’m not. Not even close. In fact, the woman in her third trimester next to me in a recent class put me to leg-lift shame. I should just stop talking now.)

One final note- The NYC instructors are all top notch, but I highly recommend taking classes with Lindi, Cassie, Alexander, Antonietta, and Brigitte  if you have the opportunity to do so. Also, P57 recently launched new online workouts, available on demand. I’ll miss the helpful in-person correction, but am really excited to give this a try.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, a steady rotation of a barre method class (like Physique 57), an interval/strength based workout (like Refine Method), and good old fashioned cardio (like running or elliptical-ing) makes up my exercise sweet spot. What’s yours? 

I heart NY

I have been circling a number of posts from overhead lately, intending to finish and publish them last week. But then last week happened, with all its hurricane force fury, and now anything health or fitness related seems downright trivial in comparison. Other bloggers and writers who experienced Hurricane Sandy first-hand have been able to string their thoughts together far better than I can here, and I’m impressed with their eloquence (per usual). However, as a newly minted San Franciscan, Hurricane Sandy has been a strange experience for me. And for once in my verbose life, I’m having trouble finding the right words, so I’ll go with a picture.

I keep getting comments from people about how lucky I am to have moved out of NYC when I did, since my apartment was located squarely in SoPo (South of Power). But I don’t. I’ve been glued to Twitter and every news outlet out there for information and signs of hope in New York and New Jersey. It’s hard to be a New Yorker and not live in New York right now. I’ve given monetarily to Red Cross relief efforts, but it still feels like a cop out. I want to be out there volunteering my time, donating my blankets, being a Helpful Harriet. But I’m many many many miles away. So instead, I’ll use my internet connection and my credit card to help house, warm, and feed people who have lost everything. You should too. Here are a few resources to help you out in that department:

New York and New Jersey are tough cookies They will rebuild. Let’s help em out, team.


Uplift Studios Review + A Giveaway

There’s a newcomer in the Flatiron District fitness scene. Her name is Uplift Studios, and she’s a sweetheart.

She cheers you on with uplifting mantras at every turn.

She gives you a little juice if you’re running low.

She even feeds you water bottles and snacks for a little pre and post workout fuel. At any given hour there is trail mix, granola, fruit, and an assortment of mini Luna bars laid out for your snacking pleasure. Sometimes there’s even wine. What a gal.

I tried out a couple of Uplift’s signature classes over the past few weeks, and am pleased to report that not only does the studio boast incredibly gracious accommodations (seriously their bathroom is nicer and better stocked with beauty products that my own), but it also has some great fitness classes.

Of Uplift Studio’s many classes, I have tried (so far): Summer Shape-Up, Tighten and Tone, and Power Yoga. My overall conclusion is that I would happily return to all three. In fact, I already have. Here’s a brief overview of my experiences:

Summer Shape-Up: A seasonal offering taught by a real live surfer girl, (who hails from Alaska, amazingly) Shannon. The class is meant to simulate summer sports: surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Shannon is bubbly, encouraging, and just downright adorable. She also effectively guides the class through the use of its many, many props. (dumbbells, weighted balls, stability platforms, resistance bands, and “magic circles”- I think it’s the most props I’ve ever used in 1 class.) The exercises tap into muscles that are ordinarily left underutilized, and left me sore for days. (I love when that happens!) Sadly, the end of summer means the end of Summer Shape-Up as well. Good thing the fall class lineup looks fantastic…

Tighten and Tone: This class blends elements of the Lotte Berke method, pilates, ballet, and good old-fashioned resistance training to form a 55 minute full body toning session. Also, Patricia may be Fitness Barbie. Seriously, she is the happiest fitness instructor that I’ve ever met. Her demeanor can’t help but make you smile- even as you power through your thousandth weighted leg raise. The many props make another appearance in this class (weights, resistance bands, magic circles…) and are all used to help work each major muscle group to the point of fatigue. This makes the final figure four stretch especially glorious.

Power Yoga: I was lucky enough to take this class with only two others, so it felt like a semi private yoga session. Our instructor, Amanda, asked what muscles each of us would like to focus on that day, and we replied with hamstrings, hips and core. (Core was my vote, if you were curious.) Amanda used those cues to divide the 55-minute class into thirds, addressing each of our needs and providing an intense sweaty yoga workout. The class was athletic in nature, and the poses were held for longer periods of time than in a ”regular” yoga class. I emerged feeling toned but limber- an incredible feeling.

These classes all get a thumbs up in my book, and I’m looking forward to trying even more. In my mind, however, what really sets Uplift apart from the crowd is the way it blurs the line between working out and socializing. It’s a women-only studio that bills itself as a “fitness and social movement.” The check-in station is set up like a bar, complete with counter seating. One of the studio’s three owners (Leanne Shear, Helena Wolin and Katie Currie) can usually be found behind the counter, striking up conversations and offering up treats and beverages. Nespresso by day and generous wine pours by night. Yes, that’s right. Get your sweat on, and then chill out with a glass of vino and snacks. Prior to visiting Uplift I was impressed by a water bottle or an apple. The bar (or barre, har har) may be officially raised in my mind.

There are those times when I just want to workout and get out, but more often than not, I appreciate the opportunity to relax with friends, meet new people, and hang out in a place where a head-to-toe Luon outfit is socially acceptable. It’s a wonderful message: working out is fun. YES! I couldn’t agree more.

Now, the part I know you’re excited about: the giveaway!

Uplift has generously offered to give a free 55-minute class in their NYC studio to one HealthyPantz reader. To enter, simply comment with your favorite “uplifting” quote. You can enter with a new quote each day to increase your chances, but you must leave a separate comment for each. I’ll randomly choose the winning quote next Thursday evening. Please keep in mind Uplift is a women-only studio. (Sorry, fellas.)

Good luck!

FlyBarre with Kara Liotta

If you didn’t catch my post about last week’s Summer of Fitness workout, here’s a little rundown of the program: Every Tuesday in June, July, and August, LOLË and FITiST are offering free outdoor fitness classes. Each week spotlights a different (stellar) NYC fitness studio and instructor, and classes are taught outdoors in Tribeca. It’s a magical NYC thing.

Speaking of magical NYC things, walking down Pier 25, I caught a glimpse of Freedom Tower. It feels like it was so slow to go up, and then BOOM, it’s suddenly there.

It has been two days since I attended the FlyBarre workout in Hudson River Park, and my obliques are STILL. SO. SORE. Kara Liotta is no joke, man. She’s fun and upbeat, plays great music, and she loooves planks. And obliques as well, if you didn’t catch that already.

FlyBarre is a great barre method class which utilizes light weights for an upper body workout, and a ballet barre + mat for legs, tush, and ab work. The class format is very similar to other barre method classes in the city (like Core Fusion, Physique 57, Figure 4), and like the others, it has its own unique features that set it apart from the crowd. One of FlyBarre’s most unique quirks is the “dynamic arms” section which is sort of a dance routine done while holding up light weights, choreographed to a super upbeat song. The routine changes monthly, and it’s a funky little way to jam out a little while toning up. I dig, but that’s me.

While we didn’t have a ballet barre out in the park, we still had a tough workout. We started with a plank that felt like it was held for 10 minutes. Maybe it was. Likely I’m exaggerating. But it really did feel super long. (Even my friend Christine, who has abs of steel, gave me a wide-eyed look of despair during the plank- signaling that I’m not as much of a wuss as I thought.) We were given light dumbbells for the class, which we used for an arm series, then the dynamic arms dance, and THEN an oblique push. Weighted side bends get me every time, especially when they’re done in a wide plie. Makes me want to stretch just thinking about it… The rest of class flowed from an intense thigh section (lots of pulses and plies), to a seat section performed down on the floor. And then there were more abs. I quickly forgot about my burning obliques, however, when Kara cued us to “point your knees toward the Statue of Liberty and look up at the sky.” Really cool New York fitness moment.

Then, finally, my favorite part: stretching. The sun was going down, the weather was perfect, I was so in the endorphin zone. Love that.

Summer of Fitness is taking a break this week for the July 4th holiday, but will resume the following Tuesday. I’m off on my Turkey and Greece adventure tomorrow (SQUEEEE!), so will have lots of fun things to share with you upon my return. 

I hope you all have a FABULOUS week. What are your plans for the holiday week/weekend?

Summer of Fitness: Nalini Method

How cool is this? Every Tuesday in June, July, and August, LOLË and FITiST are teaming up to offer FREE outdoor fitness classes. Each week is a different NYC fitness studio and instructor, and the line-up is freaking stellar. The last meet-up was cancelled due to torrential downpour (get with the program, weather!), so this week’s workout was led by Rupa Mehta, the founder of Nalini Method. So cool!

It was a beautiful evening at Hudson River Park, and Pier 25 was the perfect setting for an outdoor workout. I mean, look at that scenery. It’s the polar opposite of claustrophobia.

Perfect backdrop for a summer workout

Did you know there’s a beach volleyball court in NYC? Tribeca has all kinds of hidden treasure

I got down to the end of the pier, where I signed my waiver and unfurled my yoga mat next to my lovely friend Vanessa. The Nalini Method is a unique workout that combines elements of yoga, pilates, and strength training. Our outdoor class was unique in that there was no barre, nor weights, nor props. Just a yoga mat and good old-fashioned body weight. Given that, I thought the class would be pretty easy. I was pretty wrong.

Rupa led us through an hour of arm lifts, plank poses, lunges, and push-ups. The Nalini Method focuses on sculpting long arms and a firm, high seat. By the end of the class, I was a believer in that promise. The workout definitely targeted my arms, abs, and tush, making me grateful for the generous amount of stretching at the end of class. Rupa’s a fireball of an instructor, and her energy made me really want to try out a “real” class at the UWS studio.

Next week’s meet-up will be led by Kara Liotta from FlyBarre. I’ve taken class with her before, so I know we’re in for a treat. Sounds like fun, right? You should join me! Did I mention it’s FREE?

Any NYC-ers want to join in the fun next time around? Tuesdays, 6:30, Pier 25 in Tribeca. Let me know if you’ll be there!

Brunch at Locanda Verde

As a New Yorker who claims that brunch is her favorite meal, I’m embarrassed to admit that my first visit to Locanda Verde was this weekend. What was I thinking by not trekking over to Tribeca sooner? Clearly, I was not thinking at all. Lesson learned.

By noon on a Sunday the place was hopping. (Sidenote: Is everyone who lives in Tribeca really that good looking?) Despite all the tables being occupied and wait lines being formed at the bar, I found the service to be wonderful. Our waitress even took the time to run down the entire menu and detail which dishes could and could not be made vegetarian. It seemed like she’d gotten that question once or twice before. The menu appeared pretty pork-heavy at first glance, but it turns out that many of the dishes can be made veg with 1 or 2 easy tweaks.

sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey & burnt orange toast

We immediately ordered the item I was most excited to try, the sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast, as an appetizer for the table to share. It was as glorious as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe even better. And 100% worth the dairy consumption. (Turns out my stomach was in the mood to tolerate dairy on this particular Sunday Funday. Had I known this ahead of time, further gluttony certainly would have ensued.) As an aside, if any reader has figured out how to replicate elements of this dish, please do share!

zucchini egg white frittata

For my main, I had the zucchini frittata with roasted tomato, goat cheese and basil, made with egg whites. Nothing to complain about here. Light, fluffy, super fresh. This was pretty much the egg dish you always hope will be presented to you at brunch and seldom is. I was a happy camper, though the frittata was so big I actually couldn’t finish it on my own.

hazelnut-crusted french toast with sour cherries

Also ordered at our table was the hazelnut-crusted french toast with sour cherries and mint. Hello, decadence! I only sampled a couple of bites of this, but whoa- such an awesome flavor and texture combo with the soft bread, crunchy hazelnuts, sweet syrup, and sour cherries. I mean, look at that photo! (Embarrassingly, I’m salivating typing this. Macbook, meet drool. Drool, meet Macbook.)

breakfast stromboli

Carnivorous Hubs got the breakfast stromboli with fennel sausage, spinach, strachiatelle, and a runny egg mixed in there. He reported that there was a little more bread in this dish than he had hoped for, but then realized that’s what a stromboli is supposed to be (second lesson of the day learned). Bread notwithstanding, Hubs found the dish to be great comfort food, and the innards to be warm, tasty and indulgent.

Final thoughts: Don’t be a silly person like me; go to Locanda Verde at your earliest convenience. And please get the ricotta appetizer. It’s that incredible.

I think I need to go back immediately.

What was the last game-changing meal/dish you had- brunch or otherwise?

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!

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.