Monday, May 11, 2015

Pera Soho: 'I Woke Up Like This.'

Amazing news... Spring has sprung! It's official, the Winter wardrobe is in hibernation, the A.C. has been dusted off and rooftop bars are in full swing during both lunch and dinner. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that we may have skipped Spring all-together and went from Winter to Summer. Well, I for one, am NOT complaining!

That said - just a few short weeks ago I finally took peek over the 15ft fence of nearby Mediterranean restaurant, Pera Soho.  I had been keeping an eye on this little corner of Soho at Broome & Thompson since it first opened in December 2012. You can never be too sure how long a new spot will stay around, no matter how inviting it may seem. Admittedly, I was a bit discouraged by some mixed reviews when Pera first came on the scene -- but it's amazing what a place can do when they seem to really listen to the feedback of their patrons to turn things around.

Because, well, they seem to have it easy. A perfect location; gorgeous, relaxed outdoor space; professional, attentive (but not too attentive) service; well-made cocktails and a tapas menu (among their very attractive main dishes and sides) that makes you want to try everything.

After peaking into the modern, chicly-dress inside of the restaurant that seemed to be trying just a little too hard - it almost seemed as if the outdoor garden space was the more relaxed, 'I woke up like this' yang to the dressed-up inside's yin. I have to say, we were definitively feeling more 'yang' than 'yin' that day. 

The menu items we chose also seemed to be a mix of unfussy goodness vs. food art, which was fun to try. I wouldn't say each item was necessarily a culinary explosion of flavor, but the menu was decidedly Mediterranean in the sense that it had what you'd want and expect: a solid hummus platter, side of seasoned fries and perfectly charred octopus. This was juxtaposed by items such as the beet and goat cheese dip, which was almost too pretty to eat (and even more delicious), but then we were thrown by our lamb dumplings, though pretty too, left us wanting more flavor and lamb than the artistic dumpling shapes on our plate.

That said, we would absolutely come back for the lovely cocktails, dependable Mediterranean items, great service (which seems to have improved immensely after certain 2012 reviews...) but most of all, the sexy and sweet outdoor garden - which will always have us coming (out) back for more.

Char-grilled Octopus

Season Fries

Lamb Dumplings

Beat Goat Cheese Dip

Here's to a hot summer, cool nights and plenty of outdoor Soho goodness (and gardens)! ; )

Feel Good!
Alycia

Monday, April 27, 2015

My CKO Kickboxing 10-Week Challenge...and a Sweet Potato Smoothie


Well friends, spring is officially here. You know the little saying, “beach bodies are made in the winter”? That didn’t happen this year. Would you be surprised if I told you it was difficult to muster the motivation to hit the gym during this long, snowy winter? I did well though, considering the circumstances. I joined a kickboxing gym in November and stuck with 2-3 workouts per week, most weeks. I maintained my weight while simultaneously carb-feasting, but now it’s time to get serious. We could be donning bikinis in just a few short weeks, after all, and I want to feel confident in mine. 

That’s why I joined CKO Kickboxing's 10-week challenge. The program involves one circuit training along with a recommended three kickboxing classes per week and meal plan recommendations. You track your food daily and submit it to your trainer weekly. You set goals at the beginning and track them throughout, with the overall goal of reducing your body fat percentage. The person who loses the most body fat wins a six-month membership – as if looking and feeling amazing isn’t motivating enough!  

Today starts week 4 of the challenge. I'm happy to say that I've lost six pounds already. More importantly, I finally feel healthy. The first two weeks of circuit training felt impossible. I was dizzy during each session and did not understand how the other seven people in my group weren't passing out. By circuit #3 I still felt the burn, but I got through it without having to stop from dizzy spells. PROGRESS! My kickboxing is also getting stronger each week.  

As a foodie though, my favorite part has been meal planning. I'm finding that the more I prepare, the healthier my meals are throughout the day. For me this involves grilling a ton of chicken every Sunday and lots and lots of fresh veggies. To keep it interesting, I'm also trying out new recipes, like this sweet potato smoothie. Sweet potatoes in a smoothie? You heard me right! I'll admit, the recipe took me two tries before I was satisfied. The first time I added nutmeg, and it tasted too much like I was drinking pie filling. The second try was rich and dessert-like, but not too much for breakfast. Try out the recipe below and let me know what you think! 



Ingredients: 
1 small sweet potato, baked then refrigerated  
1 cup vanilla almond milk (or similar) 
1 frozen banana 
1 teaspoon cinnamon  

Directions: 
Peel and slice the sweet potato. I like to pre-bake a few potatoes on Sunday to use for meals throughout the week! If your blender is of lower quality, pre mash the potato a bit. My Ninja is super powerful, so I just add the sliced chunks. Similarly, I also cut and freeze a few bananas for smoothie days as soon as I buy them.  

Once your potato is ready to go, add it to the blender with all other ingredients and blend until smooth. That's it!  

Do you plan your meals ahead of time? Share your favorites in the comments! 

Feel good, 
Christina 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Yelp Review of the Day: Danny Bowien's Mission Cantina

Feel Good Foodies has been on a slight hiatus, but what you readers must know is that when I'm not blogging, I'm Yelping. It's no secret that I love Yelp. It's more than just a website with reviews of local spots - it's a community. I realized this two years ago. I quickly applied for something called Yelp Elite, a group of Yelpers that attend exclusive events and serve as ambassadors of the Yelp community. The rest is history.

Why am I telling you this? Today I achieved a new milestone on Yelp: my first Review of the Day, or ROTD in Yelp-speak. Each day, the homepage of  Yelp for each city refreshes, and serves up a new Review of the Day for all to read. All day on March 1, 2015, you'll see my mug, and my favorite review that I've ever written in the top-right section of the Yelp Manhattan homepage. You can read the review, a unique experience had at Danny Bowien's Mission Cantina, here.

I'm also sharing it below, with excitement and documentation of this proud moment in history.

Feel good,
Christina



To begin, Danny Bowien is so confident, that he knows you don't need a knife to eat dinner at Mission Cantina. To only receive half of a silver wear setting at a hip chef's LES Mexican joint has to indicate confidence rather than negligence, right? ...There I go again starting a story in the middle. 

Let's rewind. It's a chill Friday night and my boyfriend and I find ourselves on Stanton Street, early. We're searching for that laid back little cash-only noodle bar across the street from Arlene's Grocery. You know, the one called Noodle Bar. It's gone. In its place stands Mission Cantina, looking like a mix between a diner and a night club with its metallic surfaces, triangle mirrors and neon lights. They take our phone number, we go get drinks elsewhere, they call us to come back. I LOVE when restaurants do this.

Once seated, I immediately order a michelada (perfection), and realize that the entire ceiling is hand-painted in a camouflage pattern. I ponder the amount of time and work that must have taken, while I simultaneously realize that the music sounds like my iPod from 2007.* Missy Elliot, Aaliyah, Nelly Furtado, the works. What IS this place? The entire ambiance puts me in the zone, and when the waiter returns I put on my big girl pants and order for my boyfriend and I: 
-- octopus ceviche with avocado, coconut milk and habanero
-- grilled brisket alambres with bacon, queso Oaxaca, peppers and onions
-- masa fried chicken with smoked habanero honey, pumpkin seed furikake

Done. I'm satisfied with my order and my boyfriend is jaw-dropped in shock that I  made all the decisions for once. Every bite of food we consume is pure euphoria. The brisket dish is my favorite - fatty, but not TOO fatty, it melts in your mouth and the flavors have that distinct balance that reminds you that you're consuming a Bowien creation. Ride or Die B*tch plays as we polish off the honey habanero fried chicken.

Before leaving I hit the restroom, and while waiting in line I'm questioned by another patron on which items I ordered. I'm convinced this only happens here.

___________
* I asked about the playlist - it was a NYE mix by the hostess. Happy New Year, indeed!

**Minus one star for service. The rest of the staff seemed on-point, but had our waiter visited us a few more times we definitely would have ordered more drinks - a lose-lose situation.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Soho's Worst-Kept Secret: Chalk Point Kitchen

The weather in NYC is officially cold, Winter is exactly two weeks away and we're right smack in the middle of holiday season.  All to say, Christina and I have both taken up hibernating in a very serious way lately. This has been great for cooking at home with the chilly weather inspiring us to turn on our ovens and use our stoves, but can't say we've really ventured out to try any place 'new and exciting' lately.  That is, until a few weeks ago, when we stumbled upon a little gem just a few short blocks from our office: Chalk Point Kitchen.

Now, there's a part of us that secretly hopes our co-workers happen not to see this post...because we'd really like to keep this place all to ourselves.  Working in Tribeca/Soho, there are countless trendy and exciting options for lunch, dinner and drinks - but there are certain spots you just always keep going back to...that everyone always keeps going back to...

But we wouldn't mind if we kept coming back to Chalk Point Kitchen. It's quickly becoming our new neighborhood spot that has the perfect cozy, inviting ambiance that is second only to the mouth-watering farm-to-table menu and freshly-squeezed cocktails. 

From the outside, it feels completely unpretentious and almost beckons you to come in through it's dramatic, reclaimed wood doors.  The rustic feel continues inside with a design that is decidedly 'vintage farm house'.  Intimate lighting and antique market finds from Upstate New York and Pennsylvania all have their own place on the walls that give the room character - and yet still feels fresh and uncluttered. The 'fresh' feel is complimented by herb gardens heated by "grow lights" along the perimeter of the dining room that are actually used in CPK's cocktails.

The food is a mix of locally sourced, seasonal, sustainable and organic products and, wow, is it delicious!  Check out a few of the menu items we can't wait to come back for:


New Orleans Style Crab and Avocado: flavorful with lime and old bay, generously chunky & fresh, paired sesame crisps.

Union Square Cauliflower Steak: salty tahini against sweet golden raisins with the perfect al dente texture.

CPK's signature Kale Martini.  
You can have your kale and drink it too!
Incredibly refreshing (think cucumber martini), balanced and easy to drink.

Classic Butterscotch Pudding with vanilla ice cream and duck fat popcorn.
It's amazing how well butterscotch, vanilla and popcorn go together!
Fun, inventive and so, so delicious we were licking our spoons!

Feel good!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pumpkin Pancake Flavor Face-off

Fall is in full swing and I've been having an apple moment for the last month ever since we went apple picking in early October. But after making apple-everything, it's all about pumpkin now. This is my pumpkin moment.

It's the first weekend in November that we've been home to enjoy the crisp, fresh, Fall air and so I took advantage to do exactly what should happen on a perfect Saturday morning: homemade brunch.

The tricky part about cooking anything when it comes to the hubby and I is that we eat completely differently.  He's all about flavor, and I'm all about how healthy it is. My argument of course is that the two can, and do, go hand-in-hand.  

However, when it comes to pancakes, he wants the old-fashioned flour, milk and sugar kind, while I'm left scouring Pinterest for a hemp seed, flourless, protein-packed version.  And so today I ended up with a flavor face-off of pumpkin pancakes.  I'm happy to report that BOTH were delicious!


Traditional Pumpkin Pancakes for Him:

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Pumpkin Pancake recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com


Healthier Pumpkin Pancakes for me:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup oatmeal
6 egg whites
1/4 cup pumpkin
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
a splash of vanilla extract
2 tbs hemp seed (optional)
1/4 cup crushed walnuts (optional)

Grind the oatmeal first by using a coffee grinder, magic bullet or a blender (I used my new Ninja blender, which worked amazing).  Stir the rest of the ingredients all together. 

Set a non stick pan to medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Cook each side for about a minute. Depending on the size of your pan it could make from 3 large pancakes to 5 smaller ones (which is what I did).

Recipe courtesy of fit-fun-delish.com

Like I said, both of these recipes were delicious.  I would say 'his' were a bit sweeter (even before adding maple syrup!), and did have a very nice, spiced pumpkin flavor.  I loved mine for the nuttiness of adding the walnuts against the sweetness of the pumpkin, and ended up topping with raspberry jam for a fruity kick.


Feel good!




Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mashed Cauliflower with Jalapeno and Cheddar Recipe

I made mashed cauliflower a couple of weeks ago and I've been a bad, lazy blogger about sharing it with you. I had just received my Ninja blender in the mail, one day before my final CSA (AKA huge bag-o-veggies) arrived, and I just wanted to blend everything. Realizing that would be unwise, and likely unappetizing, I took to the CSA bag to find something that made sense to blend, and that is how I landed on mashed cauliflower.

I had never mashed cauliflower before, so I did what every normal 27-year-old girl would do - I spent a half hour on Pinterest looking at pictures of it. But the pictures made me think of grits, which made me crave jalapeno grits from The Smith, and I did have one last jalapeno left from my summer garden, so I decided I would switch things up and treat my mashed cauliflower like loaded grits.

And that is how the following recipe came to be. The final product was so rich and creamy. The spicy jalapeno gave it the perfect kick, and the sharp cheddar added just the right cheesy flavor to counter it. You can take out the jalapeno and cheddar for a more traditional mashed potato taste, which I might try for Turkey day, though I worry that it might be sacrilegious to forgo real mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving.

Oh, ONE ANNOUNCEMENT before you read this delicious recipe: Alycia and I are both proud new owners of the Nutri Ninja I Ninja Blender DUO With Auto-iQ. We'll be conducting a 'blend off' over the next few weeks to put them to the test! This blender was the star of the show at IFBC, and the nice folks at Ninja are letting us try them out for the blog, so expect smoothies, soups and sides in the near future!


Mashed Cauliflower with Jalapeno and Cheddar
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets 
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • fresh chives, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)

Fill medium-sized pot with water and bring to a boil. Place cauliflower florets into water and boil for about 10 minutes, until fork-soft.

Drain the cooked cauliflower and place in Ninja blender (or any blender/food processor). Add chicken broth, butter, salt and pepper; puree until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in jalapeno and cheddar, leaving some aside to use as garnish. Top with remaining jalapeno, cheddar, and chives, and serve.

Feel Good,
Christina

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Our Favorite Little Corner of Seattle: Le Pichet


Who would have thought that in the port city of Seattle, we would stumble upon the most adorable French café and discover our new all-time favorite French rosé?

Well, we did. Our very first night in Seattle, fresh off our flight from New York. We were hungry, thirsty and dying to wet our palates with our first experience in this new city. After getting situated at our hotel for the night, Inn at The Market, we were told that there were two late-night options that would be open for a bite and drink - and thank goodness we chose Le Pichet.


Located just around the corner from Pike Place Market, steps from our hotel, Le Pichet seats just 32 at a time and transports you straight to France with it's small wooden tables and warm, humble ambiance. The café's name, 'Le Pichet' means 'The Pitcher' - a simple, ceramic vessel used to serve wine, which is the norm for traditional neighborhood restaurants in France. This is one French custom we (literally!) picked up quite nicely.



We somehow made time to come back for a second visit while exploring every nook and cranny of Seattle. Whether it was the deliciously delicate rosé or the quaint, inviting café - Le Pichet made us come back for more of 'Le Pichet'.


The wine wasn't the only slice of heaven we came back for. Our first night, we shared a mouth-watering display of cheeses and charcuterie, as well as their pâté albigeois (pork pâté), and a beautiful salad with thin, delicate shaved duck atop fresh greens. When we returned a few days later, we sampled the vibrant beet salad with pommes frites, traditional ham and gruyere on baguette and the quiche special, which changes daily but was spinach and red pepper on this particular day.

The beets were accompanied by a soft boiled egg. Which, at first, felt a bit unnecessary. However, once the egg was cut into, the bright yellow yolk escaped immediately and became the perfect, sunny backdrop to the dish. The sharp contrast of the yolk against the blood-red flesh of the beets was almost startling. I soon discovered how much soft-boiled-egg and firm-tender-beet actually belonged together. This, against the salty pairing of the pommes frites, was the perfect introduction to our meal.
Beets & Pommes Frites
For my main dish, I chose to go traditional and unfussy with a French baguette layered with mild, nutty gruyere on top of salty-sweet ham, complimented with country whole-grain mustard. It was perfect and simple. Just what I was going for. Until...

Ham and Gruyere on Baguette

...Christina chose the quiche. You could almost taste it with your eyes. I remember instantaneously rethinking my decision with the baguette as soon as I saw it. The fluffy, pie-sliced egg looked like a pastel-colored cloud interspersed with veins of deep green spinach and subtle, translucent cheese.  The flakey crust was almost too delicate for a fork to handle. Although the crispy, buttery pastry wed so perfectly to the pillow of eggs and spinach, it was just so good you almost forgot about the pie crust all-together. That, my friends, is a French quiche.

Spinach and Red Pepper Quiche
I think perhaps the only way to top this truly French experience in our favorite corner of Seattle would be for a foodie field trip to where else...France?!?  Girls can dream!

Santé!
Feel Good!
Alycia