Kelly the Culinarian: November 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

My First Class at Flywheel

I've eaten so, so much in the past 48 hours. Turkey, pie, stuffing, hot chocolate, you name it. And I've loved every bite. But today, it was time to pay penance for my eating sins.

All the bloggers seem to be gaga over Flywheel, so when Katie invited me to try a class, I said YOLO. Flywheel is like a spin class on speed. It's in a tiny room, stadium style, with like 40 bikes in there. The gym provides shoes and towels, and classes range from 45 to 60 minutes.
Other than that, I had no idea what to expect. Katie warned me that it was intense. But I'm Ironbitch, how bad could it be?

Bad. Like jello legs, jello arms, kind of light headed bad.

Let's start at the beginning. I opened an account online and reserved my bike. By the time I checked in on a laptop at the studio, my shoes were waiting in a cubby that corresponded with my bike. Despite being tiny, the Highland Park location is quite posh. I saddled up and adjusted my bike, then embraced whatever came next.The instructor turned off the lights and I noticed my bike had a computer that measured torque, RPM, current power rate and overall power rate. There was also a screen overhead that periodically ranked us based on power output.

This class was challenging, but it is what you make of it. You adjust the resistance and pedal as fast as the instructor says, or not. The music was loud and awesome, the instructor really pushed you and my legs felt unstable by the end. There was also a brief arm workout thrown in there using weights that were attached to the bike. When it was all over, I was red faced and soaked. Because you log in when you show up, your stats are saved and you can check it out after the class. According to this, I burned more than 1,200 calories. Not sure if I believe that, because I worked hard, but that seems really high.
I'm glad for it, though, because Katie and I went out for breakfast afterward at Once Upon a Bagel, which was adorable and delicious. I got a garden egg white omelet with an onion bagel and light chive cream cheese. It was amazing, but I was still snacky when I got home.

Sadly my eating needs to be reigned in regardless of how hard I bust it in the gym if I want to get Ironman ready this spring. Details, details .... can't wait to see how sore I am tomorrow!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Tradition

I'm not a very good shopper anymore. I don't get the thrill I once had in scouring stores for just the right trinket. I'm done with my Christmas shopping, all of which will arrive on my doorstep courtesy of the Internet.

Instead, I've made a lovely run my Black Friday tradition. For the third year in a row, I went out to Waterfall Glen for a loop with the Frankfort-New Lenox Running Club. And today might have been my favorite iteration of this run, and certainly my fastest. In 2011, it took me about an hour and a half and last year, it took me 1:28 with an overall pace of 9:53. Today, the 9.45-mile loop took me 1:25 with an overall pace of 9:01. It felt pretty awesome, too. I ran with two Boston Qualifiers and a speedy local runner. We chatted the whole time and I felt pretty good at the end. Plus, this distance and speed was right on for my marathon training plan.

Hope you had a great Black Friday!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. Happy Thanksgiving! In addition to my family, job, health and puppy, I must say that I'm very thankful for this little corner of the Internet and the people who follow me here. Thanks for continuing to read, post after post. I really appreciated it!

2. I may never eat again. I am so uncomfortably stuffed to the gills with delicious food. My mom is a great cook. She thoughtfully purchased sweatpants for my sisters and I as well. I have no idea how I keep making these animated photos on my phone, but I'm going with it. Watch my dad carving our 25-pound bird!

3. Napoleon came with us for the festivities and is utterly exhausted. It must really wipe him out to do all this supervising and treat stealing. He even snatched an appetizer right out of the oven, burning his little mouth. I'm sure he'd do it again, too.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Win it Wednesday: Aronia Drinks Giveaway

Mmmm, berries. I don't always drink juice, but when I do, it better be damn healthy. I've followed ARO Drinks on Twitter for a while and recently had the opportunity to review their products. I had a case delivered last week and have been blissfully drinking my way through it. I really enjoy the flavor of the drink, which is like a richer, less sweet grape juice. Aronia is a superfood, so I should be running the world sometime around next Tuesday. Take note.

Here's what you can expect, according to the company's website:

Aronia berries are similar in size to blueberries and are deep violet in color. As is true of many intensely colored foods, they contain exceptionally high levels of biologically active compounds, especially anthocyanins and polyphenols. These give the aronia berry an extremely high antioxidant content.

Mmm, biologically active compounds taste delicious. It really is a very satisfying beverage, and if you want to try a case yourself, I've got a great deal for you. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget and it will choose a winner next week. I'll announce the winner here on Thursday, Dec. 5. Good luck!

Monday, November 25, 2013

November Bestowed Box Review

Another month, another Bestowed Box! This one was complimentary as well, but the opinions are all mine, because my brand of sass just can't be bought. November's theme is Marathon, which is perfect, since I just signed up for my third marathon.  I've started my training and everything.
So here's what's in the box:
So far, I've tried the crackers, which are awesome. I haven't tried the Skratch yet, but they served it at Venus de Miles, so I'm good to go. I also ripped into the Quest bar immediately to see what the hype was an thought it was similar to other bars I've tried.

I'm most excited to try the portable hummus and the frozen cube nutrition items. I love trying all these snacks and treat. As always, I think this is a great value. If you'd like to give it a try, you can use HELLOTEN105 to get your box for $10 instead of $19. Happy snacking!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Think how much we'll save on shampoo ...

I've always wanted a pixie cut. My sister rocked that look back in 2007.
So finally, I worked up the nerve. Not sure how I feel about it, but YOLO ...
It'll grow back.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Naperville Bites and Sites Tour from Xperience Days

Today was a lovely, but super cold, day. I started by hitting the treadmill for my required training miles before meeting Jenny for a fun afternoon. We got complimentary tickets to the Naperville Bites and Sites Tour from Xperience Days, a company that connects gift givers with tours and events by city. We chose this tour because it was one we hadn't seen before, and it was right in our backyard.

We met at Fifth Avenue Station and learned a bit about the history of the building and Naperville before stopping at our first destination, Orazio Pub. We sampled the potato peasant soup and toasted Italian sub. The soup was kind of meh, but the sub was absolutely delicious. The bread was crispy, the meats were hearty and the melted cheese and sauce brought everything together.

Then, we headed to Green Basil to try a bit of Vietnamese food. The pho there looked/smelled delicious, but we were there for spring rolls. They were awesome, of course. The peanut sauce was lovely as well.
Our next stop was my favorite: Le Chocolat du Bouchard. No surprise, it was amazing. The owner believes in the healing power of high-quality chocolate. The stuff is decadently top shelf and the store itself is amazing. We sampled the signature piece, which is a molded dark chocolate nugget subtly infused with spices. We also tried the Mexican hot chocolate. Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was my inner Fat Kelly, but this hot chocolate was my favorite treat of the day. I expected it to be spicy, but it wasn't. It was a creamy chocolate drink with notes of almond and cinnamon. It hit the spot.

The shop was so cute. When they tore down a wall, the found this original pharmacy fixture and obviously had to keep it.
The chocolates looked amazing, but I had to be strong. There were still items to taste.
Next up was the Twisted Olive, which offers olive oils and balsamic vinegars in every possible flavor permutation you can imagine. All of them are available for tasting, too. The caramel balsamic over vanilla ice cream was quite heavenly. It was a bit tart and surprisingly creamy. And how much more foodie cred can you get than saying you enjoy your organic non GMO French vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of balsamic?
Next up, we went to Cookie Dough Creations, which is basically every fat kid's dream. And mine. This place allows you to choose from 24 ice cream flavors and eight cookie dough flavors, all of which is free from raw eggs. You can purchase either independently, or sandwich the cookie dough in between two giant homemade cookies of your choice. I didn't even know such delights existed in the world, but I'm hooked. I'm sure this was low calorie.

I was so happy/full of sugar at this point, but the samples don't eat themselves. The final stop on this food/history train was Giordano's for some awesome stuffed pizza. I've had it before, so it wasn't a surprise, but it was a nice way to close out the day.
Overall, this was a great day. It was pretty cold, but we made the best of it. The tour was a combination of Naperville history and local bites, so it was a good way to get a new perspective on a city I've spent a lot of time in. Initially I thought it was a culinary tour, but Bites and Sites is a much more accurate description of our afternoon. The food was plentiful and varied, and the tour would have been a great walk in better weather. And hey, I made a new friend!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. Congrats to Megan for winning my Runskin giveaway! She scored a racing singlet and package of decals.

2. Meez Meals, which I've reviewed here before, has a pretty cool partnership in play. The company just announced a year-long initiative with Chicago's top chefs to benefit Common Threads, a charity focused on helping kids and families discover the magic of home cooking. Meals for Good will feature a recipe from a different chef every month. It kicks off tomorrow with a meal from Art Smith -- Oprah's former personal chef and comfort-food-gone-healthy guru. If you want to give it a try, mention Kelly20 for $20 off your first order.

3. Weird thing happened to me yesterday. I went for a run in a park nearby, which is a one-mile loop. After a few loops, I chucked my hat and gloves at my car and continued on. They weren't there when I finished, and I knew who took it. I ran her way and asked her if she saw my hat and gloves. Sure enough, she had pocketed them and told me she thought someone abandoned them and took them for herself. They were near my car, but on the ground. So who's in the wrong here?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Travel Recap: Portland Sister Trip Part 2

If you haven't read about the Seattle leg of my trip or the first part of our Portland adventure, you might want to start there. We started our day at the Portland Farmers Market, which was an absolute blast. It was chock full of produce, jams, artisan breads, pastured meats and eggs, mead, hard cider and cheeses. I could have spent all day there.
We also sampled more bites. We got a cheddar and chicken sandwich from Pine State Biscuits, which was pretty tasty.

We also split a chicken tamale from Salvador Molly's, which was quite tasty. Not the best thing I sampled at the market, but we had to give it a try while we were there.
The next stop on our magical adventure was McMenamin's Kennedy School, which is where we were hunkering down for the night. That's right, we stayed the night in a school. This property might be my favorite hotel so far, period.

The school was built in 1915 and closed in the 1975, then was purchased by the brewery in 1997. Now, the school has a new life that I'm sure would make the man who donated the land at the turn of the century to build it a very happy ghost. The joint has an on-site brewery, a coffee roaster, several school-themed bars (think Honor Room, Detention, Boiler Room) and a great theater with tickets included for hotel guests. In addition, the campus has an outdoor soaking pool, community garden and heated courtyard. My favorite bar was the Boiler Room, which was a three-level bar with the original broiler and equipment refashioned into railings and balconies. We got a chance to watch two movies while we were there, too, which was fantastic.

Next up, we met up with Justin, a cyclist at PDX Pedicabs for a brewery tour.
We got a buy one get one free offer and the tour included three stops at our choice of breweries, along with two tasting trays at each. I did not finish my trays, but it was lots of fun. We started at Lompoc:
Continued to Bridgeport, which was the swankiest of the places we visited.
And rounded out the night at Rogue. I understand brewers think the guy who runs it is a jerk, but the beer was pretty great. I ended up ordering a pint here because Mandy and I both enjoyed a smoky stout there. Who knew I liked stouts?
We topped off that night at Pie Spot, where we split a peanut butter cup mini pie and a bacon jam empanada. My sister said the empanada was the best thing she ate all vacation, so I would say it was worth the out-of-the-way locale. Don't ask me how I'm missing a picture - maybe I was distracted by a jam made of bacon.
See, we were supposed to leave Portland the next morning after leisurely collecting our items and making our way to the airport. But a horrific tornado was busy ripping through Illinois. Just as my sister poured out what was left of our chocolate stout growler from Stoup, we got an e-mail that our flight was canceled. Not delayed, not postponed, but canceled. It took us two hours to rebook to the next available flight ... the following day. I was initially pretty upset because I had a ton to get done at work, but I eventually gathered my thoughts and decided to make the best of it. We took a bus to the brewing district to complete our vacation on a positive note.

We started at Base Camp Brewery, which our pedicab driver recommended for its smores stout. It's served with a toasted marshmallow on top! It was delicious and amazing, and this was my favorite brewery in terms of atomsphere. I could see myself hanging out there and eating schwarma fries out by the fire place. They even sell smores kits!

And while we were there, we had to stop at Buckman Botanicals and The Green Dragon. Here, I had my favorite hard cider the entire trip: the Schilling Spiced Apple Cider. It was the perfect combination of sweet and spice for my palate.

The place even had a dog menu. I love Portland.

Keeping the fun rolling, and mostly because we were lost in the brewing district, we stopped at Lucky Labrador Brewing, which my sister enjoyed, but I was nonplussed. The menu did look excellent, but I had to leave room for delicious stuff.

The final stop was Cascade Brewing Barrel Company, which specialized in sour beers. This place was delicious. This place's pumpkin smash beer was the best pumpkin beer I've had this season. It was complex and delicious. They also had this Oblique Coffee Black &White Stout, which was aged in rum barrels and had a smoky, coffee flavor, but was golden in color. It was surprisingly and delicious.

We finished off the day by heading back to our hotel to do some work, pack our stuff, change into our comfies and get ready for another movie! But first, we had to try McMenamin's brews. I mean, we were rounding out our third day at their properties and had only tasted the seasonal ales. So we ordered a tasting tray and split the tasty treats. I enjoyed the Ruby, which was brewed with a raspberry puree. My sister enjoyed the Hammerhead, which was stronger than I anticipated.

McMenamin's tasting tray
So there you have it. Fifteen breweries, three hotels, two airports, one flight delay, two markets, one train ride and countless calories consumed, our first sister trip was quite the success. We came, we saw, we ate, we drank. I am sad this trip was over, but will always have my photos and memories. I'm looking forward to another sister trip with the whole gang sometime soon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Travel Recap: Portland Sister Trip Part 1

Picking right up where I left off, my sister and I arrived in Portland via Amtrak and walked to our first hotel, the Crystal Hotel in downtown Portland.

I kind of want these lamps from the Crystal Hotel
It's a converted space owned by the McMenamin's brewery. It was such a cool vibe and a great place. Our room was tiny and required a shared bathroom situation, but it was cheap and in the heart of downtown Portland. I wouldn't stay there again, though, because our window was impossible to close completely and we heard everything from the street below. Not the most restful night I've ever spent in a hotel, but oh well.

Hubers Cafe Spanish coffee
We started the night with dinner at Zeus, the in-house restaurant that had a fantastic happy hour food menu. The truffle fries with black garlic aioli were amazing. So fragrant, so fat, so worth it. We had the seasonal tasting there, then headed out to Hubers Cafe for the famous Spanish coffee. It was quite a show - the waiter starts with a sugar-rimmed glass, pours three different types of liquor, sets it on fire then tops it off with coffee and cream. However, the place was crowded and we couldn't finish our $10 drinks - it was straight up booze.
We totally bought those glasses

So we walked. And walked. And walked. To end up at Hair of the Dog brewery, where we split a tasting flight. My favorite was the one closest to the camera. Called Matt, this beer has notes of smoke, chocolate and leather. Bizarre, but so good.

Book shop wisdom
We visited the famous Powell's City of Books next, which is amazing. The place has an entire room of cookbooks. There is a floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with nothing except books about chickens. I was in love. I could have spent hours there, easily and happily.

Of course, we went to Deschutes Brewery as well. We split a flight there, too, but nothing there really caught my fancy. However, it was on my sister's must-taste list, so I'm glad we got to check it off the tab.
At Deschutes Brewery

This is more my jam
On a whim, we decided we wanted a sweet nightcap. We stopped at Cacao, which was right around the corner from our hotel (and is evidently a punchline in Portlandia?). We opted to split the hot chocolate flight, which featured three sample sizes of drinking chocolate. We tried the spicy dark, the toasted dark and the cinnamon milk. The cinnamon was our favorite, but each tiny cup was so luscious and creamy it was hard to choose a favorite.

After my run the next morning, we started the day at Voodoo Doughnut, because that's what you do when you're in Portland. I got the dirty old bastard and Mandy got the traditional maple bacon bar. Both were excellent - mine was a glazed yeast doughnut topped with chocolate, crushed oreos and a peanut butter drizzle. My sister thought it was overly hyped, but I don't eat donuts enough to have a strong opinion on the topic.

I think I'll take a break in the narrative here, because our next stop was the Portland Farmer's Market and it was amazing.