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!

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! 

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

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, 

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,

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.