Kelly the Culinarian: July 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What I Packed for #CabotFit

Hi friends! I'm spending a thoroughly enthralling afternoon at the Philadelphia airport. Trust me, it's incredibly engaging ....

My flight was canceled and I'm on standby, so here's how I spend my time. No regrets. Anyhow, here's what in the bag I'm so very glad I was able to carry on instead of check.

Travel outfit on my body presently - comfy black dress from my mom, the necklace I wear every day always and big ass earrings. And flipflops.

If I make it to Portland in time to attend the farm tours Friday, I've got shorts and several shirt options, along with unmentionables. I may have a blog but I still have my secrets.

Athletic/race apparel. I had hoped to run Friday morning and then again race day, but I guess we'll see. I'll be rocking my new Cabot-supplied Newton Fates and the awesome #cabotfit shirt this year, I've also got an iPod shuffle, my Garmin and a few headbands and hair ties.

Swim gear! Again, if I ever make it there, I hear that Maine is great for swimming. Our BnB is a block from the beach, so I brought athletic and lounge swimwear.

Lots of tech is required for a blogger trip, including an emergency recharger, a laptop, a multifacet plug and my kindle.  And comfies for the hotel room, of course.

Hope I'm not missing anything!

Three Things Thursday

1. Last week, I went to my first baseball game of the season. My work got a skybox at the White Sox game and it was stellar. We took a bus downtown, had dinner and beverages and enjoyed a game complete with fireworks and lovely weather. This is my idea of a sporting event.

2. I'm currently blogging live from O'Hare Airport, which is my first stop on my #CabotFit adventure. Next, I'll land in Philadelphia before reaching my final destination in Portland, Maine. I left this yorkie face this morning it hopes of finally meeting Candace's furball. And the rest of my Cabot Fit Team, of course.

3. And finally, my work had a walking challenge - the goal was to walk 100,000 steps in two weeks. I had a 14-mile long run the first week, then the Hemingway 8K and Door County Triathlon back to back the second week. I'm now $50 richer in Amazon gift cards. Which I may have already spent ... Thanks, Misfit Shine, for keeping track of all my activities, and to my employers for the lovely #CompTIAPerks I enjoy daily.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Training Tuesday: Traveling Edition

This is going to be a busy week! After running on the treadmill Saturday morning and swimming at Alyssa's amazing outdoor pool (really, it's spectacular), I've been trying to get in workouts where I can before taking off Thursday to travel to Maine. I'll be running the Beach to Beacon 10K Saturday will my fellow #CabotFit teammates. This is my second year as a member of this awesome group of blogging runners and RDs, so I can't wait to see what the weekend will bring. Cabot has already hooked me up with an array of goodies and I know there's a beer and cheese tasting on the horizon, too. Who could ask for more?

On top of that, once I land safely in Chicago post race, I'll go directly to a work event downtown, where I'll be taking temporary residence for the duration of the conference. It's a glamorous life, sometimes.

That will, however, throw a wrench in my training plans. I've got Iron Girl Aug. 9 and Pigman 70.3 Aug. 16, so keeping up my miles in all three disciplines will be essential but also challenging. My plan is to take advantage of the ocean side vistas in Maine and swim in the ocean one of the days. I'd like to get in a bike workout when I come back Sunday before I start the working thing. Since I'm staying at a hotel downtown, I'm relying upon the on-site gym for a bike, the Lakefront Path for running and perhaps a hotel pool for laps. The thing is, you never quite know what to expect from a hotel gym until you're there. The photos can be rather deceiving. So I'll bring all the gear and hope for the best.

And just because I've been documenting my saga for a while, Suzie slice has new tires, a beautiful set of red Schwalbes. Which flatted out this morning prior to my trainer ride. Sigh. I should buy stock in tubes at this rate.

Otherwise, I'm hoping a week of missing my bed and my training plan won't come back to bite me. Time to rock the #TDB2B10K!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Door County 70.3 Triathlon Race Recap

Race twin Alyssa!
Six-word recap: Slowest half ever, will do again.

The Door County Triathlon was fun, just not while I was actually completing it. This race has been on my bucket list of races for a while, but it's the same weekend as Ironman 70.3 Racine, and it's also far enough away that you have to stay the night before to make it work. I ended up buying a bib for this race in late June, because you can transfer your registration until June 30. Free/cheap is for me, and for the price I snagged this at, it was a steal.

The only issue was that it's vacation season in Door County, and the hotels were already booked up. Not a single AirBnB was to be had, either. So, camping it was. We stayed at Frontier Wilderness Camp, which despite the name, had lovely accommodations. For $30 a night, we stayed right next to very clean and upgraded-looking bathrooms with individual showers that cost $.25 for five minutes. There was also an indoor pool, a playground, a game room with wifi, volleyball courts and a dog run. And it was 10 minutes from transition. This was a no-brainer - Alyssa and I split a campground and it was plenty big enough for two tents, two cars and all the gear needed both for sleeping outside and completing a 70.3 triathlon.

Welcome to the Jungle
Same-day packet pickup was available, and bib numbers are assigned based on when you pick up your stuff. So if you check in with friends, you get to rack your bikes together in transition. Bonus!

So I got my packet Saturday after the boring but easy four-hour drive to Door County , listening to this incredibly helpful course lecture on the way up. More races need to do this - it's an awesome resource.

The little triathlon village they build in the park is pretty impressive - there's plenty of parking, a few food and gear vendors and a ton of activity. When you check in, you're assigned a number, a bag of numbers for all your stuff and you get a shirt. I liked that the shirt was longer than most and the design was actually really cute. Also, you can choose between body marking and temporary tattoos. I went with the tats, but wished I would have done them myself the morning of. The tattoos are giant with a logo for the title sponsor, which I would have preferred to cut off because on the bike, it stuck to the back of my leg the entire time. And with camping, the tattoos stuck to the sheets the whole night before.

Anyhow, the morning of, I got to transition with 20 minutes left before it closed. I set up my area, hydrated, sunscreened up and added lube before walking with my swim stuff down to the beach. My brand-new wetsuit required quite a feat to get on and in place. I was wave seven, so I watched Alyssa take off into the abyss that was the lake that morning. I won't sugar-coat it - the water was total shitshow. It was like staring into a wash machine. The churn was enough that I ran into a stranger on the beach crying that she was going to drop out. I encouraged her to just try. The buoys are numbered 1-40, and I told her just to commit to getting to 5. If it still sucks, you can quit then and at least say you tried. After 10 minutes, it gets better.

After the end of my swim, I felt guilty giving that advice. It didn't really get better. My swim was a record for me, perhaps because of the new wetsuit, but that was no picnic. I was swimming up and down, breathing off every stroke and sighting for shit. The numbered buoys helped immensely, but I got confused when I neared the first turn because there were two triangle buoys. I couldn't decide it I was supposed to go in between them or what.

The whole time, the lifeguards were busy. Every breath, I saw more people taking a breather or getting pulled. It was just brutal and soul sucking. But I knew I was doing well when I pulled away from my wave and only saw men, which meant I had caught up to my previous wave. When I got out of the water, I knew something must be amiss because I could hear them counting down to the start of wave 13. The swim had overwhelmed the lifeguards and they slowed down the waves right after I went in to halt the chaos.

The wetsuit strippers were awesome, but my T1 was long. I took my time and reapplied sunscreen before hitting the bathrooms. I hit the course and realized there were very few women out of the water yet, but I was passed constantly. It was hot - I alternated between water and gatorade, and took three salt sticks on the bike. I also had two gels, mostly out of hunger. I had a cinnamon bagel with peanut butter and banana for breakfast, but it didn't seem to stay with me.

I also stopped once on the bike to pee, and a very nice volunteer held my bike and filled my bottles. Alas, none of the aid stations had sunscreen, and there wasn't any in transition. That's probably my only gripe with this race, and is easy enough to fix.

There were a few hills on the bike course, but nothing insane. I felt like I ended up looking for that port-o-potty for a long time, but I suppose if I was less inhibited or a guy, it wouldn't matter. The bike course is pretty scenic and not well-traveled, which is great for cyclists and those with full bladders.

When I got off my bike, I realized I was at exactly four hours, which meant breaking six was within my grasp ... if I didn't have a hellishly hot and hilly run in front of me. I knew from the race video there was a massive hill at 9, followed by two miles of running in total sun at the hottest part of the day.

It was not going to be a PR day for me.

I started running and ended up walking. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to keep pushing, but I had also done a race the day before and am not in as good of shape as I was the first time I took on a half Ironman. I ended up stopping to empty out my shoes, too, because they were full of tiny pointy rocks.

When I got to the infamous hill on Bluff road, there were audible curse words when I spotted it. I mean, I knew it was there, but it was worse than I thought it would be. That, coupled with a relentless downhill to the finish line, left me spent. I could have pushed harder, but I've got three weekends of consecutive racing to think about this month, and this was supposed to be for fun.

The finish line had a full medical staff and several dunk tanks for cooling. I opted to grab my medal and head to the beach for a dip in the lake, which I fantasized about from the bike on. After that, I cashed in on my free post-race meal of a pulled pork sandwich, corn on the cob and TWO beers. It was a damn good lunch and way better than your standard bagel and orange slice.

After recuperating for a stretch, I wanted to GTFO. I could feel my skin searing in spite of the triple application of sunscreen, plus a shower sounded downright decadent. When we got back to the campground, I would have paid several fold more than the going rate for that shower. We packed up our stuff and started heading home, but I wish we would have stayed another night to take in the post-race party on the beach. It looked pretty wild on Facebook, and I could have used a nap post race.

We're already plotting next year - I plan to acquire a bib in the same manner and stay at the same place, but maybe in a cabin. For $20-30 more, you can sleep in an actual bed with air conditioning. We were lucky camping wise and had zero inclement weather or wildlife, and the place was silent by 11. It could have gone the other way, though, so best to be safe next year when more options are available. Also, I'm totally going to make a trip out of this next year and stay a few days.

As for the race, I don't know what I could have done differently, training or strategy wise, other than push harder on the run and train for a faster post-bike half. Perhaps more longer bricks were in order. But really, I just need to stop making excuses and get fitter.

Time: 6:18:30 for 70.3:
Cost: I got my bib for $100 plus a $32 transfer fee
Pros: LOTS of volunteers, tattoos for race numbers, numbers assign on-site, labeled swim caps for each wave, free race photos, nice post-race meal and celebration (so I hear)
Cons: No sunscreen! I didn't see a ton of aid stations on the bike, either.
Would I do this race again? Already planning on it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Celebrating #NationalTequilaDay at Barbakoa

I'm a lucky gal. The folks at Blast PR contacted me this week to see if I might be interested in attending a dinner in celebration of National Tequila Day. It was at Barbakoa, which I have passed daily for at least the last two years, and have never had the pleasure of wandering into. And it featured a multi-course meal paired with tequila cocktails.

I cleared my schedule.

We showed up and were seated on the patio, which was a glassed in area tucked away from the bar. We started the meal with very spring cocktail featuring a ginger ice ball, hibiscus flowers and Patron Silver. It was a refreshing start to the dinner, which was paired with a duck empanada and thinly sliced jicama stuffed with shrimp and tuna tartare. Oh, and a Patron key chain, which was damn classy.

The next course was my favorite dish of the night - a tamale containing squash blossoms and poblano cream. The drink was a take off of Hemingway's daiquiri and had patron silver, grapefruit and lime. It was a little tart for my palate - I tend to go for sweet.

While we waited for our entrees, we learned more about the different types of tequila and how they're made. Patron's Roca line is made by hand, crushing the roasting blue agave hearts under giant stones to extract the flavors. The silver, or clear varieties, are not distilled and bottled, whereas the darker colors are aged in spent bourbon bottles. The darker the tone, the longer it's been aged, which is quite an endeavor in Mexico because the climate means a significant portion of the tequila evaporates.

The main course was paired with an awesome drink - Patron Anejo with agua de Jaimaica. It was a sweet drink that reminded me of punch, and was topped with a slice of orange dusted with nutmeg. 

The entrees included a poblano pepper stuffed with seafood and a flat-iron steak topped with chimichurri sauce. The steak was the clear winner, as it was tender and just slightly spicy.

No meal is complete without dessert, and this one was killer. I don't tend to associate tequila with dessert drinks, so this was quite an experience. The final cocktail included Patron silver, coconut milk and house-made ginger sauce. It was so creamy and delicious, and paired perfectly with a mango-mousse stuffed chocolate Napoleon. Yeah, I eat mangoes now. NBD.

Thanks, Barbakoa and Blast, for the generous invite and tasty tequila drinks!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I had a call with my Cabot Fit team mates yesterday and I can't wait for next weekend's race! I'm leaving Chicago on Thursday to run the Beach to Beacon 10k and it will be a whirlwind of a trip. I've never been to Maine, and it's been more than a year since I connected with all my Cabot peeps. I'm looking forward to a fun race in a new locale, and hopefully meeting more cows. All the cows!

Meeting cows on last year's #CabotFit Trip

2. My new tires for Suzie Slice arrived! They look great. I did not have them in time for the Door County Tri, but I got zero flats on race day, thankfully. I'm really excited to take these out on the road before Iron Girl and see how they do.

3. My garden continues to grow! I've had exactly one tomato so far this year, but there are a ton more ripening on the vine. With any luck, I'll be enjoying homemade sauce soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Win it Wednesday: Cosmos Creations Prize Pack Giveaway

Yay! Another delicious giveaway! Cosmos Creations contacted me recently because their products are gaining steam with the snack subscription boxes, specifically the Love with Food, which caters to the gluten-free crowd. While I don't have celiac and I'm fine with gluten, I love a good snack, so I was happy to give it a try.

Cosmos sent me a few bags of their premium popped corn in Salted Caramel and Coconut Crunch flavors. It was hard to choose a favorite, but I think the coconut crunch won by a smidge. It was nice to find a sweet healthy snack that was non-GMO and trans-fat free. I typically crave something sweet in the evening, so this fit the bill.

If you'd like to give it a whirl, I've got a giveaway from Cosmos that includes a variety of sweet and savory flavors, as well as some fun swag. I'll use RaffleCopter to select a winner on July 30. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Training Tuesday

You might be a triathlete recovering from a weekend of racing out of town if ....

Your dishwasher has been taken over by a swarm of sports bottles.

Your laundry room has exploded.

You have zero clean towels. Anywhere. Hand towels post shower? Sure, because adulting is hard.

You are sunburned and chafed and windburned and chapped.

Everything is drying/airing out.

Your pet vacillates between not recognizing you and clinging to you for dear life.

You'd do it all again in a heart beat.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hemingway 8K Running with the Bulls Race Report

Six-word recap: I could have won, but didn't.

The race director for this Oak Park event contacted me about this new race and I was delighted to join. I knew I had a half Ironman the next day, but at 8K, I knew if I dialed it back, I could treat this nearly five-mile race as a shake out prior to the Door County Triathlon.

The Hemingway 8K is a themed event that's part of Oak Park's bigger event celebrating Hemingway's birthday. It's themed, so of course, I had to wear horns. I got them on Amazon and got a lot of positive feedback about them, even though they were tough to clip into my hair. The price of beauty, I suppose.

I got there early and parked in a deck about a block away, and had no trouble picking up my packet from race volunteer Erin. I ended up walking back to my car in search of pre-race bathrooms. There were a few real bathrooms at Scoville Park, where the race started and finished, but they weren't open yet. Race swag included a gender-specific cotton shirt and a bib, plus there were tons of vendors on site. I got a pre-race rub down, which I figured could only help me given the level of activity slated for the following 24 hours. I also snagged new water bottles, temporary tattoos, hair ties and all manner of snacks while I waited for the race to begin. And my favorite vendor ever was there:

Despite being a modestly sized just short of five miles race, there were pacers ranging from a 7-minute mile to 11 minutes. They were all themed as bulls, too, and a ton of people dressed up even beyond my efforts. There was a spirit award and I was sadly not even in contention for the prize.

The race started on time with about 300 participants. It was hot. Really hot. There were a few aid stations on the course and quite a few people out with their kids and dogs watching the race.  In the first mile, I made myself slow down because I hit 8:14 and knew that wasn't a) sustainable or b) smart given the miles I would cover the next day. I plugged along through the neighborhoods of Oak Park, listening to music on a borrowed iPod shuffle and thinking about keeping it slow and easy. There were timing clocks every mile and I slowed down even more in the last two miles, rather than sprinting to a finish. I was absolutely soaked from the run - it was muggy and gross and I dumped water on myself to keep cool more than once.

At the finish line, they had a bounty of bananas, French bread, pretzel rolls (nice touch, in my opinion), granola bars and water. I drank everything until I could breath again, then enjoyed watching the kids race and awards ceremony. Kids got to decorate and race with these cardboard bulls around Scoville Park. It was adorable.

Because of my "take it slow" strategy, I came in fourth in my age group. A mere 40 seconds separated me from placing. Any other day, I feel like I could have rocked this race. Alas, there's always next year ...

Time: 42:23 for an 8K (8:32 pace)
Cost: Free for me
Pros: Small community race, cute theme, easy to get to and park, lots of vendors, better than average post-race food and a cute FREE kids race, very flat course
Cons: No on-course bathrooms, it's really hot this time of year
Would I do this race again? Sure thing!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Eating my way Through Summer at Seasons 52 Chicago

I love Seasons 52 - it's long been my go-to for professional lunches with clients and upscale dinners with the parents. What I like about the place is they cater to a number of different dietary restrictions with ease, and all of the food is less than 500 calories. The nutritional information is right on the menu, which changes weekly depending on what's in season (hence, the name of the place). It's nice to go to a place where you pay for quality ingredients rather than insane portion sized that you shouldn't be eating anyhow.

I got invited to enjoy the restaurant's summer menu, but as always, the opinions are all mine. We started the evening snack through all the establishments flatbreads and enjoying the signature summer cocktails, a strawberry basil infusion and a Meyer lemon cocktail. That lemonade was dangerous - it tasted so summery and fresh I barely ascertained it contained booze.

As for the flatbreads, this summer they're offering a sweet chili glazed duck that's amazing, although I think the roasted roma flatbeard that's next to that beautiful strawberry cocktail was my favorite. I love the flatbreads because they're so thin that they're super crispy.

After a wonderful introduction about the food we were going to enjoy, we were seated and treated to a delicious truffle risotto that was deliciously creamy and earthy with the generous portion of shaved truffles on top.

I was already starting to get full. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. So we soldiered on through appetizers. Upon the recommendation of our super awesome waitress (Thanks, Heather!), we tried the Ahi tuna tartare, the blistered shishito peppers in goat cheese and the heirloom tomatoes with warm her crusted mozzarella.

As my garden tomatoes are still super green, this was my first taste of fresh summer tomatoes. This dish did not stand a chance at our table. I had to restrain myself from finishing the tuna as I found mango in it (sweet delicious death, or maybe not, since I did not require medical attention), but it was like eating all the good parts of sushi. I sampled the peppers and decided to leave more room in my tummy for entrees. We went all out - upon the recommendation of the chef, I went with the chimichuri-marinated New York strip steak, which came with roasted potatoes. We also sampled the salmon with risotto, the shrimp scampi, the skillet roasted corn with bacon, roasted broccoli Ceasar and pan-seared scallops.

My steak was phenomenal - a good amount of char, but still pink on the inside. The tomatoes and potatoes were great complements, which I savored alongside the broccoli. The salmon was also deliciously charred and seasoned appropriately, and the corn was a nice side for it all. Can't wait to enjoy it for lunch today, in fact.

And no dinner out is complete without dessert. What I love about Seasons 52 is they serve only mini desserts - small bites that encapsulate entire plates of desserts so you leave satisfied, not guilty. There's an array of potential tastes, too: a deconstructed cannoli, cheesecake, tiramisu. We went with the keylime pie, the pecan delight, the smores morsel and the peanut overload. My favorite was the smores, which contained layers of chocolate ganache, cake and mouse, along with graham cracker crumbs and a toasted marshmallow. It's amazing how much flavor you can fit into a shot glass.

I very much enjoyed my meal and intend to keep coming back, most likely to the Schaumburg or Oak Brook locations. The one big bummer for me about this place is it's so busy on the weekends that unless I know a few days before, it's hard to get in without a reservation. First world problem, for sure: a great restaurant is so busy it's hard to get into.