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ClassPass Comes to Philly!!

December 16, 2014

I’ve been holding onto a secret for about a week or so, but the cat is outta the bag: ClassPass has officially arrived in Philadelphia!!

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If you’ve ever met me, spent time with me, or really even read my blog, you might understand why I’m so pumped for this arrival. For $99/month (the cost of some gyms around the city, and the cost of something like 4/5 classes at a lot of Philly’s premiere studios), you get unlimited classes to use at studios in the ClassPass network (Well, unlimited to a point… While a member can take as many classes per month as they’d like, they can visit the same studio up to 3 times per monthly membership cycle.)

It’s basically an all-access pass to work out at different studios all throughout the city (and some are even in the suburbs). For more information, check out their FAQs.

I’ll admit, I’ve been anxiously awaiting launch because I’ve been given a month membership to try out Philly’s own take on ClassPass. My heart skipped a beat when I received the email that launch had gone down, and immediately signed up for my first class. After ogling all the others, you can BET I’ll be visiting a buncha spots. Here’s just a sample of the studios that are participating in Philly’s ClassPass (and the ones I can’t WAIT to check out):

  • Focus Barre and Yoga (20th and Chestnut)
  • Allongée (Old City) – ballet based fitness, I’ll give it a try!
  • Body Cycle Studio (Also 20th and Chestnut, looks like the same address as Focus) – for all my spinning needs!
  • RowZone (Rittenhouse) – I’ve been DYING to try a rowing class!!
  • Lithe Method (because DUH)
  • Unite Fitness Studio (12 and Arch) – they’ve got yoga AND cross training, which is like cardio strength and yoga!
  • Bikram Yoga (16 and Sansom) – LOVED this earlier in the year enough to do 2 months unlimited. I think I went at least once a week throughout, great for the cold weather, let’s get bendy and sweaty!
  • FlyWheel (Rittenhouse) – Another one I’ve been meaning to try forever…. now’s as good a time as any!!

If I even went to a single class at each of those, with drop-in costs, I’d probably be dropping at least $160. However, I can go to all of those spots like… 3 times each. I’m overwhelmed with anticipation.

I’ll keep y’all abreast of what this experience is like, and feel free to follow along on Twitter with #ClassPassPhilly and #LivingtheSweatyLife!

T-minus 2 hours until my first class, wish me luck!

Philly: All I Want for Christmas is YOU!

December 15, 2014

When I was down in NOLA in November, I crossed paths with a buddy from my fraternity. He’s living in New Orleans now, and asked me how I was liking Philly after 7 years in sunny North Carolina. When I responded, gushing about how much I love Philadelphia, he shook his head, professing general distaste for the city I love. I scoffed in his general direction, turning back to the bar to get something ridiculous like a hot buttered rum because, “When in N’awlins…” (But seriously. why isn’t every bar offering this drink the second temperatures drop?)

I tell you this story to lead into this post. This post is nothing more than a love letter (not a Love Note, as someone already has that covered) to Philadelphia. This is not to say that my previous homes (Wilmington, DE; Chapel Hill, NC; Durham, NC) weren’t all wonderful in their own rights. And, in some way, I’ll always love them for the person they made me. But I spent the last two years of my 7 in NC trying to get back to Philly. And the way I feel about this city can easily be described as romantic. Truly, it’s a relationship you can only have with a city that is oft hated, mocked, and seemingly never celebrated for more than sloppy meat sandwiches. The love you defend to the death, despite complaining all year about the cold, the dirt, the smell, the Rittenhouse rats, and the PPA.

So click on this Youtube version of a Mariah Carey-oke (BAHAHA get it?!) version of All I Want for Christmas, and sing along with my new, much more romantic lyrics.

This one’s for you, Philly.

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There’s not much I really need
Tastykakes, could take or leave them
Prefer my steaks grilled, hold the cheese

Head to Monk’s to have a beer
Thank goodness that I live here
My wishes all came true…
Philly, all I want for Christmas is you!

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I don’t want a lot for Christmas
Really, not much that I need
Maybe just a lil’ Budino
Spicy cukes – Han Dynasty

I don’t need to hear those carols
Sang throughout Rittenhouse Square
I’ll give up the lights on Locust Walk
Honestly, don’t even care!

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I just want my postal code
to start with one nine one ZERO
Wishes all came true….
Philly, all I want for Christmas is you!
Youuuuu, Philly.

I won’t ask for much this Christmas
Definitely won’t ask for snow
Trudging out to get some groceries
Fighting crowds at Trader Joe’s

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If I were to make a list I’d
Send it straight to RTM
Stock up on some “OK” Produce
Meats and Sausages from Martin.

‘Cause I just want to spend the night
Staring at those PECO lights
Wishes all came true…
Philly all I want for Christmas is YOU!

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Oh, all the kids are watching
The Macy’s Christmas Show
As folks slip at Rothman
Butts are sore, ya know…

And though our skin is stinging
Still hear those sleigh bills ringing
Philly, bitter as we may all seem
Won’t you please spend this Christmas with me??

Oh, I don’t want a lot for Christmas
This is all I’m asking for
I just want to have my city
Right outside my tiny door

Oh, I just want you for my own
(Though I don’t mind sharing, don’t ya know?)
Wishes all came true
Philly, all I want for Christmas is you
You, Philly.

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Philadelphia’s Christmas Village: Eats n’ Sweets!

December 12, 2014

If you’ve been reading for a little while, you may know a little about my belief in pockets of magic, hidden throughout Philadelphia. Maybe it’s a monochrome pop-up picnic. Maybe it’s a giant garden made up of found items, mosaic, and art. Maybe it’s one of those incredible nights where you look around and realize you know more people at the bar than you don’t, and you’re all singing along to the same jukebox. Moments like that where you look around and just fall in love with the city all over again.

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Philadelphia’s Christmas Village, modeled in the style of German Christmas villages, is one of those awesome annual traditions that is easy to overlook with the holidays being as jam-packed as they always are. Every year, my parents take a trip to the city to visit this spot, and I normally meet them afterwards. But, this year, I got the chance to tour through (when the weather was oh-so-frightful) and sample some of the goodies and, I’m telling you this, “Make Philly’s Christmas Village a destination this year, not an afterthought!”

Come for the photo-opps, stay for the baked cheese?

I don’t know, something like that.

We first got to try the meats.

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Wurst?

More like…. best. (Is that the most played out German food-based joke? Good.)

I think the Germans just like…. “get it” when it comes to sausages. Every single bite was tastier and snappier than the last. And then, the icing on the cake (or… the sugar on the streudel).

Look at this REAL LIVE GERMAN DUDE who brought dessert out for us!

gute Nacht, herr streudel-meister

gute Nacht, herr streudel-meister

But sometimes, your loved ones can’t make it out to the village with you. Here’s where the shopping aspect comes in…. only shopping’s much better when you can taste some of the goods before you buy them (I wouldn’t recommend this with like… scarves. But definitely with: bacon jam!)

Spreadable bacon: for the one who has it all!

Spreadable bacon: for the one who has it all!

This stand has bacon everything. You see that bacon caramel popcorn?

Yup, for the one who has it all!

Other folks prefer the sweet to the savory. Don’t worry, they’ve got you covered:

It's like a tiny Willy Wonka stand!!

It’s like a tiny Willy Wonka stand!!

German treats, gingerbread hearts, marzipan fruit. There’s also a macaron stand in the back that I had to fight every urge not to rob purchase heavily from. But I’ll give you a serious tip: if you just get ONE edible treat for someone important to you, give the gift that keeps giving (good feelings… and maybe a stomach ache if you overdo it).

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Yeah. That’s just like… baked cheese full of bacon.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?

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I tried Original, Bacon, AND Garlic. And I did it for you all. Although the bacon was pretty world rocking, the absolute tastiest was definitely the GARLIC CHEESE. Imagine halloumi. And then, imagine it being even better.

Stocking stuffer? Mouth stuffer? Why choose just one?

I mean, I won’t pretend that there’s not a TON of great shopping to be had at the Christmas Village. Everything from jewelry to decorations to handmade scarves to doner kebabs [oh sorry, those are food too. One track mind.] It’s picturesque. It’s festive. AND, if you buy a cup of mulled wine, you get a pretty cute mug to take home. I’ve already got plans to crash my parents’ date night this year and get some full-sized snacks of my own.

Ok, I did get ONE full size snack.

Ok, I did get ONE full size snack.

Bring your family. Bring a date. Bring your appetite.

Sometimes, You Just Knead Bagels (get it?)

December 8, 2014

I woke up Saturday morning feeling, as my Carolina friends might say, like death warmed over. And I’m not sure if it stemmed from a restless sleep, my general malaise in the winter, or (most likely) a few too many celebratory Proseccos following a buddy’s successful dissertation proposal defense. Whatever it was, I spent the first half hour of consciousness sending whiny Snapchats and wondering, David After Dentist-style, “Why is this happening to me?”

2n04rwmBut then, something magical happened. Something that social media, god bless it, made possible. The folks at Knead Bagels, a new bagel joint at 7th and Walnut, tweeted out this picture.

Come to mama.

Come to mama.

In case you can’t see, that’s a Nigella Seed Bagel, jalapeno bacon (from 1732 Meats) and Agave cream cheese. As I’ve been eye-ing Knead for some time now, drawn to the exciting bagel flavors and intriguing cream cheese options, I had a feeling this was just what the doctor ordered. I begrudgingly donned all the rainy cold weather attire needed for a miserable winter morning and headed out the door. A woman with a mission.

Mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished.

The space is open and almost rustic. Think wood, think chalkboard menu, beautiful art on the walls. And though my tastebuds were piqued by options like pastrami spice, togarashi, fennel seed & sea salt, flax and chia seed bagels…. scallion lime, kimchee, roasted tomato, and balsamic cherry cream cheeses…. I knew what I needed.

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I squirreled my special bagel back home to be enjoyed on the comfort of my couch as I watched something dumb and mindless on TV. The verdict?

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MEDICINAL. Momentarily disregard the bags under my eyes and realize that these bagels…. I’m fairly certain they’ve got healing properties. Because as I consumed my nigella seed bagel, full of burnt onion flavoring, and the hearty bacon-filled cream cheese (spice and sweet, oh yes), I felt rejuvenated from the inside out.

I can not WAIT to hurry back and try the rest of the options. Or perhaps, when I’m feeling peckish, I’ll even enjoy some of their new lunch options.

Knead has won my heart and my tummy. Philly (k)needed a new bagel spot, and Knead delivered.

A Very Philly-centric Gift List

November 27, 2014

it’s that time again. The Philly Thanksgiving Day Parade is parading across my family’s television, I’ve got a puppy curled up at my feet (admittedly, he’s about 108 lbs… Great Danes don’t stay babies for long), and folks have been lining up at Best Buy since like… Halloween. It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve started thinking about gifts for this holiday season. I’ve always prided myself on my gift-giving skills. I spend what some might call an “unreasonable” amount of time thinking of gifts to give. It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve been brainstorming this year’s presents since…. well, maybe since last year. I can’t unload ALL my brilliant ideas, heaven forbid one of the recipients checks out the blog… But I figure for those of you who aren’t constantly thinking about what you should get your loved ones, I’d help out a bit. Let’s just stick with the theme of the blog, while we’re at it. Food, sweat, and beers.

Food

6a0120a848bbaf970b0153909573ca970b-500wiCOOK is a Philly Bucket List experience for me, and a gift certificate would make a KILLER gift. Featuring cooking classes from Philadelphia chefs, cook book authors, and the general foodie elite, these Rittenhouse Square based classes range anywhere from $70-250 and, in addition to sipping on fancy wine and noshing on tastiness, you get some serious ambiance and, according to folks that have tried it, a pretty world-rocking experience. The classes fill up fast, but they’re always scheduling more. If you’re looking for a date night with a food-lover, look no further.

It’s no surprise that Reading Terminal Market, a mecca for food lovers in Philly, is one of my favorite places. And it would be easy enough to get and gift a gift certificate to this spot. BUT if you are willing to work a little bit, why not put together a “Best of” basket full of your favorite goodies? Cheese from Salumeria, a pint of ice cream from Bassetts (the literal best ice cream), preserves and nut butters from Kauffman’s. There’s so many options, let your palate be your guide. OR your recipient’s palate. Yes, definitely that.

For the non-perishable food fanatic, I’m all about repping this city with what you wear. Here are some of my favorites.

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Two Paper Dolls, based out of Wayne, PA, has a pretty fantastic cheesesteak shirt I’ve been ogling… (Don’t worry, they have them in baby sizes.) Their Philly/Phillies Pretzel shirt is AMAZING!

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And if you like your fried chicken served with a side of donuts, we’ve got the Federal Donuts apparel.

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Let’s get into some SWEAT

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We’ll start off with the very sweatiest…. BIKRAM YOGA! I got a two month unlimited last year and just sweat my FACE off. They’ve got a pretty fantastic Introductory Month deal for $30 unlimited for a month. I would totally recommend as a gift OR a personal present/escape from the frozen Philly tundra.

Now I’m no runner, but as a friend with a plethora of speed demons and road warriors, I know few things are tougher than running in the winter. If you’re looking for gifts for these men and women to keep em going during the chilly months, hit up Philadelphia Runner for some of the sage running wisdom from the folks that eat, sleep, and breathe running. I just scooped up a pair of waterproof sneakers from Brooks because they were touted as “better than boots”. Admittedly, I got these bad boys because…. well, because I won them. BUT folks who know better than me can give you more tips on running gloves (Be Well Philly).

This last one isn’t Philly specific, and it’s not out until March yet, but if the advertising is telling the truth, this could be my number one recommendation for your friends/daughters/sisters/mothers/cousins who live in the city and spend their time running outside, walking outside, biking, really anything.

Look at all these cute options!

CUFF: Wearable tech. Bonus: Look at all these cute options!

 The Cuff is supposed to work with your smartphone to help with your health, your safety, and your courtesy (i.e. it alerts you if your phone rings while it’s in your purse so you’re not constantly checking up on it at the table). The video on the website says more than I can, but the concept of being able to press a button if I was in danger and alert my friends and family of my location…. I’m all about this, and have ordered one of my own. Hope it delivers.

Last, but not least: Beers (or Booze in general)

The Philly spirits game is crushing it lately. So if you’re looking for something special for the boozehound who has everything, why not gift them some of Philadelphia Distlling’s own absinthe, Vieux Carre, or their award winning Bluecoat Gin? The bottles, whenever you’re finished, make beautiful decorations or vases.

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Or, for a more complete gift, try a signature cocktail kit!  Start with one of Art in the Age‘s fancy liquors like their Alcoholic Root Tea, ROOT. Toss in some Maple Porter (wanna stay local-ish? Try Sap Sucker Maple Porter from The Brewery at Hershey if you can get it! But I know Brooklyn has one, too. Regular porter works, so pick your [porter] poison), a mini maple syrup, and some bitters, add a mason jar, and VOILA! Cocktail Kit (click for official recipe)!!

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Finally (and this is a gift I’ve given that was very well-received), hit up Duross and Langel in Midtown for some of their beer soaps (made with brews from locals Yards, Victory, and Dogfish Head) and a pint glass from the corresponding brewery for a perfect (flight-friendly if you’re traveling) gift! No need to check a bag.

We started off our Thanksgiving day with a HEARTY breakfast, so I’m off to Turkey Trot a little of this food fatigue off….

But HAPPY THANKSGIVING, Y’ALL! I’m always, always thankful that anyone thinks my words are interesting enough to read. So, ya know, thanks.

#CampCampbell: Tasty Traditions

November 25, 2014

Two PhDs, a yarn expert, a circus performer, blogger, and a lawyer walk into an apartment….

Nope. Not the beginning of a hilarious joke (YET! Accepting any takers.) But it was the beginning of a night filled with some of the most interesting and inspiring ladies that I know (well, at least those that live in Philly. Maybe I’ll try to scoop some more distant buddies next time).

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but I’m a member of a lovely network of women organized by Campbell Soup called Camp Campbell. It’s made up of women 18-34 who are passionate about food. Change makers and tasters and movers and shakers. Apparently, I qualify as one of those, so when they reached out to see if I wanted to host a fall dinner, I jumped on the opportunity. I invited a handful of inspirational women in my life, and we went back and forth with what to eat from the ingredients sent over. Although I received a generous box of Campbell family products, when I described them to the ladies, one option came out as clear.

Taylor ogles the spread

Taylor ogles the spread

PIZZA PARTY!

Prego Pizza Sauce, unknown to me before delivery, is part of the family often known only for their soups (and like…. a bunch of other brands. Learn something every day, right?)

PREGO: Not just for pasta anymore!

PREGO: Not just for pasta anymore!

Almost all the other stuff was brought and supplied by my buddies. And we were fully loaded. Prego, pesto, two crust types, sausage, salami, roasted vegetables, cheese far as the eye can see, spinach, pine nuts. SUCH GOURMET, am I right?? Not only are we inspirational. We keep it classy. Since my dear friend Susan let me bogart her home for the evening, I played cook.

Chef BoyarJay

Chef BoyarJay

Pizza a plenty

Pizza a plenty

And Ame brought the treats.

Ame's got dessert covered (she also brought the snickerdoodles)

Ame’s got dessert covered (she also brought the Snickerdoodles)

Despite most of the photos, though, the night was not only about pizza…

Dinner is served!

I mean, it was a lot about pizza.

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner and kicking off the holiday season, we decided to share some of our favorite traditions. From singing with wine to rotating hosts of Thanksgiving dinner to choosing who brings the novelty butter (you guys haven’t LIVED until you try some turkey-shaped butter) to putting together Thanksgiving hoagies the next day with all the leftovers, it wasn’t surprising that some of our best holiday memories revolve around food.

Since two 'zas is never enough

Since two ‘zas is never enough

But here’s the thing. Although I was provided some choice ingredients courtesy of Campbell’s, and I deeply appreciate that, the best thing that came from the night was not the food (despite the fact that the brussels sprouts pizza was off the chain).

The MVP(izza)

The MVP(izza)

The best part was the promise of a new tradition. These are women that I know from different walks of life. School, work, friends of friends. And they all came together, by my invitation, to dine. To dish. To gossip and reflect. And then, at the end, we were like “Wait. This was great. Let’s do it again around Hanukkah!”

So we will.

Sure, anyone can be a girl who grubs… but we’re going to be ladies who latke. And that can be our new tradition.

Domenica: Indulgent Eats in New Orleans

November 20, 2014

I’ve been to NOLA now a total of four times. Thrice on trips to fraternity formals, and this last time for a conference. Whenever I go, though, I make sure that food and drink are priorities (then again, I could probably say this about anywhere I go. It’s who I am.)  From beignets and hand grenades to alligator sausage and turtle soup, from crawfish to oysters and, always, back to Abita… It’s a hell of a town to eat, drink, and be merry.

My first beignet! 2008

My first beignet! Cafe du Monde, circa 2008

This last trip, though, I had an opportunity to get super classy with one of my meals. Academic conferences are a great time to schmooze and network, and everyone knows that’s best over delectable dishes shared with colleagues. So here’s a tip: If you’re going for class, head into the Roosevelt Hotel and go straight to Domenica (bonus points if it’s from 2-5pm for half-price happy hour) and don’t skimp on trying as much as you can. For instance, we started with vegetables.

Fried Tuscan Kale with pine nuts, tomatoes, and Parmigiano Reggiano

Fried Tuscan Kale with pine nuts, tomatoes, and Parmigiano Reggiano

If all kale tasted like this, the french fry business would go bankrupt.

Wood fired eggplant filled with olive oil braised vegetables & tahini

Wood fired eggplant filled with olive oil braised vegetables & tahini

My fault for focusing on the fork over the eggplant. My hunger was getting the best of me… But that housemade tahini just WOULD NOT QUIT. It was like a rich, creamy, blend of all that is right with the world. Who needs the bread when the eggplant tastes that good?

I’ll tell you who. Me.

The true star of this veggie show was the cauliflower, though.

Fried whole head of cauliflower? Sure.

Whole head of cauliflower? Sure.

Simply listed on the menu as Roasted Cauliflower with sea salt & whipped feta… this was just so much more. We learned the head of cauliflower undertook some sort of brining process before roasting. A coworker referred to this dish as “The type that ends friendships”. I get it. Slap some of that whipped feta on there, and I don’t really know who I wouldn’t slap to get that last bite…

And then, after all that, we figured: let’s keep going.

Pizza party

Pizza party

This pizza, while picturesque, was probably the part of the meal I was least inspired by. Roasted carrots with goat cheese, red onion, Brussels Sprouts, beets, and hazelnut, it kind of tasted like a salad on top of a crust. Would’ve preferred the ingredients off of the crust, but who am I to tell John Besh how to top a pizza? Luckily, we weren’t done yet…

Lasagna bolognese with pasta verde, bechamel, mozzarella, pork ragu

Lasagna bolognese with pasta verde, bechamel, mozzarella, pork ragu

That casserole dish, right there? That is a SINGLE SERVING OF LASAGNA! Major props to the individual that eats this all on their own. The pasta verde was PERFECTLY al dente, and, unlike so very many lasagnas, it didn’t sloppily give up after one cut into the cheesy mass. But I couldn’t eat too much, as I had my eyes (and fork) glued to another dish.

Come to mama.

Come to mama.

Black squid ink tagliolini with blue crab & herbs. If I could put all the fish and wave emojis into this post, I would, but you’re just going to have to believe me when I say that I’ve never known what “tasting the sea” would be like. Until Monday afternoon, when I lived it. If mermaids made pasta, they would make this for Christmas under the sea. Triton would request it for his birthday. And Ariel would convince Sebastian to dabble in cannibalism for the crab bits flecked throughout. If you’re only going to get one dish…. get two. This, and the cauliflower. Invite a friend. Don’t leave a speck behind. Lick your lips, and then come back to this post to relive it all.

New Orleans, yet again, you delivered on the food front. I’m counting down the days until I can come back… In the meantime, this photo collection will have to do.

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