RippedPHL: A review!

Philly is currently blowing up as far as fitness goes. I’m not the first to notice this (Be Well Philly even put together a list of all the new studios coming to town). I’m definitely not the first to experience most of these. But hey, maybe some of y’all are on the fence about some of them. Maybe you’re not sure what the workouts are like, maybe you wanna know what to wear, maybe you’re just narrowing down your list of which fitness to focus on this week / month / year. And I need a little more “sweat” in this whole foodsweatnbeers situation (it is wedding season, after all.) So I’m going to try to check some of them out. And then I’ll talk about them. And we’ll go from there.

First up: RippedPHL

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This studio opened a few weeks ago on 15th and Walnut and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy two classes already. And, while this doesn’t make me an expert by any means, I do think I understand the general concept of the classes. Let’s get into it. First of all, when you walk up the stairs (so many stairs, call this your workout), you’ll enter a clean studio with a sexy, sleek atmosphere. Red, white, and black are their colors and they let you know that immediately. To your left, the studio (where you’re going to be sweating your face off).

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To your right, the locker rooms. These are pretty small, but you can nab a key from the front desk to keep your goodies safe, and the lockers themselves are big enough to hold a backpack, jacket, a tote. You know, the essentials. There’s also a little vanity area to get dolled up a la Marilyn after your class complete with hair dryer, curling iron, and assorted products. 263cfe12-98b7-4e44-8d0a-9336fdef5b24.jpg

But, knowing you, you’re not interested in hearing about how good the hairspray smells (pretty good). You’re here for the workout, so let’s get to it:

According to them:

 RippedPHL is Philadelphia’s newest and best high-intensity class designed to torch calories and push your body to new limits! The class alternates every 15 minutes between intervals on industry-leading Woodway®treadmills and strength training on the floor with TRX®, Dynamax balls, body bars, free weights, etc.

According to ME: RippedPHL is literally the only experience that has ever made me want to get on a treadmill. Ever.

It’s grueling. You can choose to be on the treadmill or ground first. If you choose treadmill (would recommend choosing treadmill), you’re going to hit these cool “Woodway” treadmills at paces and inclines you get to watch on these little TV screens. The screens also are a nice touch, showing different scenes. The first time I went was a reddish canyon-looking setting, but the second was scenes from the Boston Marathon! Since I’m someone that will never ever run a marathon, this was pretty novel. Loved the pace and incline changes, made the 15 minute chunks go by like a breeze, and added a lot of variety (read: spice!) If you’ve got a heart rate monitor, that cues up to the treadmill and you can see your heart rate as you’re running. Top of the line.

The “floor” is where you hit the weights, but don’t think you’re off the cardio hook, yet. Mixed in with heavy balls, body bars, free weights, etc., you’ll get some fun bonuses like burpees and tuck jumps! Lucky you. Then, just when you think you can’t go any longer… back to the treadmill to repeat the whole cycle over again.

As promised, this workout TORCHED calories.

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The trainers are motivating, pushing you against yourself and occasionally the other folks in the class. They’ve got free weights for all levels (if you don’t see the weights you want, they could be hiding from you against one of the walls). They don’t have time for stretching after, which I didn’t love. That said, it does make it a true hour-long workout. The showers are INCREDIBLE and they provide towels for both your workout and your shower after PLUS great bath products. Love that. The whole studio is pristine.

They’ve got a pretty rich schedule with classes seemingly all the time. I’ll be really impressed if they can maintain this pace and fill the classes, but I honestly preferred my smaller class to the first class which was completely full

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The classes are not cheap. If you buy a 15-pack it’s about $19 / class, $18 if you splurge for 20. That said, there are some decent introductory options. Either 3 classes / $45 OR a $140 new client month unlimited, if you’re just going for it. That said, as I’m balling on a budget, I probably won’t make it back unless there’s a sale or a special event. BUT it’s definitely a workout that gives results. My tush was sore for days after.

Go, get RIPPED! And let me know how it went.

 

 

Philly’s #NOSHHH: Snapchat Style

(TLDR; Play along with this silly #NOSHHH Philly Snap Story)

Look, I’ve sung the praises of Snapchat before, and I’ll sing them again and again. But there’s perhaps no circumstance more awesome for this incredible, mostly evanescent social media app than a night out exploring something that most of your friends may not know or have access to.

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Like a sexy party featuring bites and sips !

I’m talking Snap Stories, and, this weekend, I was talking #NOSHHH. According to the fine folks that put this bad boy together (Home Brewed Events and Spirit Forward):

Noshhh is a collaboration project between Home Brewed Events and Spirit Froward to help promote Philadelphia’s local handcrafted industry.

What better way to do so than with a killer speakeasy-themed party featuring local vendors doling out everything from (The) Bacon Jam(s) to beer from Saint Benjamin, spicy Cheng’s Chicken from Wokworks to coffee and desserts from United by Blue. I toted along my buddy, Samaya, and we had a wild ride eating and drinking everything we could to some killer tuneskies from .

LUCKILY, I saved this little story which you can watch HERE.

If you refuse to watch that INCREDIBLE YOUTUBE VIDEO, first of all, you’re missing out.

Second of all, you might miss the prep for us eating our way through all these sauces…

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Rock the Roll Sauces are INCREDIBLE, especially the Ginger Sesame Barbecue sauce. I’d never imagine I would wanna put BBQ sauce on fish… and yet here I am, wishing for some salmon for all that sauce.

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Major props to Two Brother Hummus for getting me hype enough about chickpeas to make a hummus pun (SEE VIDEO FOR PROOF). Also, for making buffalo chicken hummus that belongs on every respectable crudite platter in the country.

Don’t worry. I drank some things, too. You’ll have to see the video for the craziest one (Spoiler Alert: three words – cookie shot glasses). BUT, as a self-proclaimed brown liquor abstainer, I was terribly pleased with the offerings from New Liberty Distilling. A Pennsylvania Whiskey had both my date (who’s spent her fair share of time in Kentucky) and my self boggled… until we tasted it.

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Whiskey and Punch. Delightful combo…

I’m not saying I’m gonna run off to grab bottles off the shelf at the liquor store (at least not right away). But Kinsey’s given me hope to hang with the badasses putting away whiskey like it’s water (ya know, as long as mine’s diluted with a lot of water. Or punch.)

I could yammer on about #NOSHHH until the cows come home. But really, just watch the video. And maybe, one day, when I decide to not be a cheapskate, I’ll post videos like this on the actual blog!

HUGE thanks to Home Brewed Events and Spirit Forward for the invite, keeping my eyes on what y’all have coming up next (spoiler alert: Coffee and Beer after hour event next week….)

MBFW: A British Bach Bash

My Best Friend’s Wedding” – The 1997 hit featuring a young Julia Roberts pining for Cameron D’s man just moments before their wedding.

My best friend’s wedding (MBFW): the upcoming 2016 production wedding featuring my boon companion Claire and her fiancé, Theo, a strapping young Brit who’s taken a shining to my favorite Brooklyn babe.

Where we last left off, these lovebirds were celebrating their future wedding with tarts and Pimm’s Cups at a Rustic Engagement Party. It was a classy affair.

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The Bachelorette Party…. decidedly less so.

Ok, I kid, I kid. If you know Claire, you’ll know that she strictly forbade any of the typical debauchery of a Bachelorette Bash. No sexy police officers or firemen went Magic Mike on us. There were no phallic tiaras or necklaces. The only sign of the corruption of Claire was this artfully done wall courtesy of this garland kit from Paper Source. Maybe there were some questionably appropriate straws, but don’t worry, they didn’t leave the confines of our quaint Asheville Airbnb.

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From all along the East coast (ok, let’s be honest, Jersey, NYC, and rogues from Philly and Richmond), 8 of Claire’s nearest and dearest (and one gorgeous puppy) gathered in Beer City, USA. We made sure that, immediately after arriving, we enjoyed a few of the city’s signature cocktails (spoiler alert: it’s BEER!)

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Don’t worry, she shared.

And after visiting Burial Beer Co. (where we appreciated their INCREDIBLE Bolo Coconut Brown and their gorgeous Tom Selleck painting), we figured “Hey, let’s keep this party going.”

Luckily, Twin Leaf was merely a stone’s throw away (seriously, I could probably throw a stone from the one and hit the other. I LOVE ASHEVILLE SO MUCH!) We enjoyed some spirited competition….

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Laser-like focus

And some competitive spirits (ok, you got me, it was beer again).

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Flights at Twin Leaf: A MUST!

We also hit up Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium. Unfortunately for y’all, my camera could not capture the glory of this house of sours, this barrel-aged paradise…. Or maybe I was too busy sipping the nectar of these brewing gods to whip it out. Either way: it was amazing.

Thoroughly versed in the fermented brews of the town, we scampered (Uber’d*) home for some homemade tacos and gal time.

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Fueling up while cooking

I’m gonna shoot you straight: after a day of travel and brewery hopping, I’ll be the first to admit: I was asleep before 10pm.

No shame in my well-rested game. 

Plus, we had a big day ahead of us. Trombatore Trail and the Blue Ridges beckoned, and we could only heed the call. So, we suited up.

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Holly channeling her inner Damian a la Mean Girls

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SHE DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE

As a non-hiker (I walk to the bus stop like, every day. Sometimes I walk to get a hot dog when I’m on the beach. That’s nature, right?) This 5-mile round trip hike… was tough.

But I’ll do almost anything for a good photo op, right?

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Sorry, Ashleigh. Blame the crummy log/tripod

There was a light at the end of the tunnel, though. And that light…. was more tacos.

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Bangkok Shrimp and Crispy Fish

White Duck Taco Shop: MUST visit on any Asheville jaunt.

We bopped for a bit, napped, showered, and dolled up. Because we had rezzis at Rhubarb.

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Angel or bride-to-be? 

Our resident videographer, Marianne, nabbed a shot of the blushing bachelorette before we ate our faces off.

There was goat cheese burrata, there were lobster corn dogs and rabbit rillette, and there were, of course, drinks.

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As for where the night went from there…. well, we’ve all gotta maintain some mystery around these female bonding traditions. Right?

See you at the wedding, ladies. Thanks for the memories. And the tacos.

 

 

The Perks of Yelping and Optimism: Han Dynasty Dumpling Class

I’ll start this post with a few caveats. First of all, I’m a Yelp Elite. They explain it better than I do, but basically it means that I “Yelp” often, and I Yelp “well” enough that some group decided my reviews are pretty legit. About once a month, this also means I get to go to some cool party or event with free food, or booze, or mini-facials. I’ve written almost 300 reviews, so what this really means is I’m a total geek. And the Elite events…. They’re full of total Yelp geeks, too. It’s okay, it’s all in good fun. But the other night, I was invited to an event not because of how often I Yelp (too often), but because of a glowing 5-star review I gave to one of my favorite spots in the city.

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Spoiler alert: this was the final product

Han Dynasty has several locations around the city, but I’ve been to the one in Old City more times than I can count. From a quick happy hour drink and snack to a dinner for 72, to a bottle share with Philly Beer Scene, Han’s team always delivers. And I reflected this in my review. Apparently, Han and his squad are digging around on Yelp, inviting folks that left 5-star Reviews for some in-house experiences. A little “Behind the Scenes at the Dynasty”. In our case, it was dumpling creation.

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We made dough (well, we kneaded dough that he mixed for us.)

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We rolled out tiny dumpling skins.

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We mixed up chicken, pork, and vegetarian fillings.

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We stuffed and folded about a ZILLION dumplings. Some looked great (see below).

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Some looked awful (nope, deleted all photos of that. Shame.)

We took a break for some chit and some chat while the dumplings were being served. It was AWESOME to see Han in his natural habitat. He explained how, when he was growing up, his grandmother would do full days of dumpling prep while the kids would be stuffing and folding dumplings.

He also explained how he’s got a parody in the pipeline for all those awful one-star reviews (think “Celebrities reading mean tweets” gone dramatic), but I’ll let him share that with y’all closer to the release date.

He also explained how dumplings don’t always have to be perfect.

As long as it’s sealed up, it tastes the f***ing same.

Wisdom from the master.

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Roomie and I posed (as we often do), and then… I ate dumplings we’d created in a style that winded me.

That’s right.

I crammed dumplings into my mouth so fast and so furiously that I was winded.

Needless to say, despite some of them looking a little less than professionally made…. they were delish.

If you’re ALSO trying to get some lessons from the master, I’d recommend heading over to HD and living an experience worth rating 5-stars. But trust me, that won’t be too difficult. Might I suggest the dumplings?

I promise, I didn’t make them.

Ghost Bottles with Garrett Oliver

The ever-wise UrbanDictionary defines fangirl as such:

A rabid breed of human female who is obesessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Similar to the breed of fanboy.

I don’t consider myself a fangirl too often. There was that one time with Jason Segel, but he and I both agreed not to dwell on that too much. However, when the opportunity presents itself to geek out over incredible beer with one of the humans that defines the craft beer industry (he, quite literally, wrote the book on the stuff. And then wrote the other book on beer [and food, COME ON!]), I can’t help myself.

I go a little gaga.

Well, guess what I did on Monday?

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You’re damn right I did.

You might remember me obsessively following Brooklyn Brewery’s events during their annual Philly Mash this summer. But Monday was something especially special.

The entire evening at City Tap House Logan featured a full-fledged Brooklyn Brewery tap attack. They had slews of those rare Ghost Bottles RIPE for the drinking. Proceeds from the sales of these bottles went to Philabundance. (This made me feel especially charitable when, between the roomie and myself, we sipped every single one.)

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I’d love to describe the beers to you, but I’m not cruel. See, chances are, unless you’re stalking all of Brooklyn’s events or a close personal buddy with one of the brewers, you may never see these bottles in your life.

I will say: they were fantastic, complex, and I can’t believe my tongue was #soblessed to taste them.

Then there was a panel of beer bros discussing the industry:

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Sorry for this shot, Curt. But doesn’t Garrett look SO CUTE?!

They talked shop. Highlights of this included:

  • Garrett Oliver comparing the beer industry to a) The Cage/Travolta classic, “Face/Off” AND b) Dick Cheney [had to do with him shooting you in the face, but being honest about it… You get it, right?]
  • Lew Bryson reflecting on how folks that exclusively drink “craft beer” putting back major brands’ spirits without giving it a second thought.
  • Garrett explaining how, when he hears someone mention “I’m thinking about starting my own brewery,” his first thought tends to be, “Of course you are.” I feel that.
  • How many brewers approach the industry for the love of money (there was a moment where it sounded like they were discussing an episode of ANTM).

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    We get it

  • Craft beer in the US: Sours make up like, 1/3 of 1% of sales, but about 80+% of talk.

There was a Q&A session during which I, giddily, asked Garrett Oliver what he would pair with the Philly classic, the Roast Pork Sandwich.

His answer was their Galahad (Local 1 aged on cider lees in bourbon barrels). I was drinking that beer at this exact moment. FATE! So we took a photo together.

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Garrett, myself, and Miles Moser, local Brooklyn rep AND fellow Tar Heel

I’m not saying that my heart was racing the entire night…. but I will say, it was tough to go to sleep following all the excitement.

Garrett, you beautiful brewer, you eloquent author, you magical man…. thanks for coming out. I’ll see you in Brooklyn soon, I hope. You bring the ghost bottles, I’ll bring the unending buckets of enthusiasm.

Shake Shack Shake Up: Beer AND Chicken!

I first learned about Shake Shack several years ago, while I was still in North Carolina, when my buddy dated some sort of manager or something. I don’t really remember his exact role, and I refuse to check LinkedIn for that kind of thing, but it was a very gentle introduction to the concept of what was already a staple in New York for nearly a decade.

Coincidentally, about 3 years ago, Shake Shack must’ve heard I was moving north, because they decided to open up their first Philadelphia location just about a month before I became a permanent resident of this fair city. Me and “The Shack”, we’ve had some good times together. Almost all were burger related, and I’m more than okay with that. And, when they decided to collaborate with Yards Brewery and La Colombe to brew a very special Coffee Stout, well, I had to make a stop to check out the brew!

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Philly, burgers, AND beer?! Speaking my language.

As Shake Shack, Yards, AND La Colombe are all about community, $2 from every pint sold was donated to City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. And, instead of the typical Yards Love Stout, this Coffee Stout is a dark ale brewed with roasted malt to create a smooth, creamy brew. La Colombe coffee beans infuse the beer with lavender, orange and caramel. It was a blend of typical CO2 pour and nitro, making it a realllllly smooth mouthfeel and experience.

 

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If you’re near a Shake Shack and you see it around, FIND IT!! And drink it.

However, as the team for Shake Shack is insanely generous, they didn’t stop there. They wanted me to try something new.

Something…. chicken.

That’s right, Shake Shack is going BEYOND THE BURGER! And straight to Clucktown with their Chick’n Shack. This sammy is a crispy 100% all-natural and antibiotic-free chicken breast with lettuce, pickles and buttermilk herb mayo.

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I promise, I only ate most of this

Y’all: It’s so good. There’s been a lot of comparisons made to other chicken sandwiches, some local, some less local. But I beseech of you: go in with a clear mind. Order a Chick’n Shack. Get this beer (or the classic Shackmeister Ale). Get a side of cheese fries (do NOT skip the cheese.)

Pro-Tip: Order a side of cherry peppers (traditionally reserved for their SmokeShack). Take a bite of the sandwich, untainted. THEN, doctor the hell out of it by slathering on some cheese sauce and cherry peppers.

I don’t even know how to put into words that bliss. Heat, melted cheese, chicken, PICKLES! Rapture.

The fellows at Shake Shack Center City, Tom and ESPECIALLY Derek, took SUCH good care of us. In fact, they wouldn’t let us leave until  without a boozy adult dessert.

Yup, vanilla custard in a grown-up beer float.

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Talk about a sweet ending!

What I SHOULD have done after this meal: Take a long run with the Shack Track and Field group.

What I DID do: promptly waddled home and laid in bed, drifting to a full-bellied half food-coma, half-regular sleep.

SO MUCH THANKS to the entire team at Shake Shack for treating me to the tastiest pre-blizzard meal possible. Perfect prelude to a long weekend hibernating… If you have the ability to hit up the Shack in Center City OR University City, do yourself a solid, Chick’n up, and meet me when the snow melts in the spring for some Shack Track runs!

SweatX Launch (or Why I Can’t Date a Crossfitter)

We’re gonna start out with a tale. It’s brief, I promise. It’s called “Why I Can’t EVEN with Crossfit.”

Once upon a time, I dated a fellow. He was charming and handsome and had quads for days. There was also a laundry list of reasons we were rubbish for each other, but I’m a sucker for a strong vocabulary and a tight end. But then, it happened. Or rather, I noticed it was happening. He evolved from casual enthusiast to full-blown “Crossfitter.”

You know the type.

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Suddenly, those quads were gains. The term “Thruster” was not sexy at all. And paleo living made for really lame dates (this coming from the woman who eats her way through every city she visits.) And all he ever talked about was the gang at the box. What meat they were eating… Cool.

We didn’t last, and I vowed that I forever would give the Crossfit Cult a side eye.

Damn shame since, beyond the typical reasons everyone else gives it a side-eye, Crossfit sounds right up my alley. Competitive, team vibe. Hype AF. Unfortunately, also super expensive. Oh well.

Only this week, something magical occurred. I think I found the perfect combination of all that to a lighter degree, at a gym I already know and love, without the cave people (no offense to you avid Crossfitters out there, I’m sure you’re lovely).

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SweatX classes are taught by SWEAT Fitness’ top instructors and are customized for each participant’s fitness level and ability. Translation: Whether you’re used to working with 50 pound kettlebells or you’re a newb to weights entirely, they’re here to help you have a killer workout at YOUR skill level. You’ll use weights, ropes, kettlebells, box jumps, interval training, and more to lift your fitness game to new heights.

What ALSO sets this program apart is that the classes are capped at ten participants allowing SWEATX Instructor and Director of Personal Training (Oh, and total babe), Chris Harris and his team to oversee each class member’s progress.

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Here’s Chris warming the team up.

Is there a slight competitive nature? Yup. Is there that hyper-crazy GOTTA BEAT EVERYONE vibe? Nah. Maybe it’s like… Crossfit Lite.

Was I a little bummed out when women 9″ shorter than me were squatting literally double my weights?

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Maybe.

But I’ve gotta say, having Chris and the team right behind me, as someone who’s never used a squat rack before, coaching me on form and telling me to just push a little harder was more motivation than I would’ve been able to muster up alone in the gym.

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Ample Opportunity to Tighten my Own End

ALSO: Gotta appreciate any opportunity to get a photo of my tush looking like that….

We warmed up as a team and with partners, we did dead lifts, we squatted our asses off (just kidding, it’s still there. A little sore, but it’s there), and we even rocked some kettlebells.

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Far too high energy to be caught by modern technology

Clearly, this wasn’t a time to be looking terribly photogenic. But it was a time to break a NON-STOP SWEAT. We ended with five sets of 25 squats and these terrible nightmares called Ramp Runs that I hope you never have to experience (just kidding, come join us, they’re a total joy).

Even though I never felt like I was ENTIRELY unable to push myself anymore, I was drenched. That was a hell of a workout, and the numbers don’t lie. Sub-hour workout, 718 calories burned. You really can’t beat it.

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Whoah.

I just may have something in the works to see what SweatX can do beyond the first workout. But I’ve gotta say, if that first round was any indication, this style of class can take you from a Jelly-legged Jordan to an elite athlete if you put your mind to it. For $149 per month, you get unlimited SWEATX classes PLUS a full SWEAT Fitness membership and access to all 8 of their locations. Luckily, I’m already a member of Sweat, so I’m feeling this price point for something that has the potential to be transformative.

Wanna know more about SweatX, or sign up? Head to Sweat’s Queen Village location at 700 East Passyunk Ave

Stargazy: Got Me Pie-Crazy

I’m a big fan of Harry Potter.

My best friend’s about to get married to a bloke from the UK.

My favorite non-alcoholic breakfast drink is Earl Grey tea, over-steeped and served somewhere between room temperature and piping hot.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes makes me melt a little with every episode.

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Smoldering

I believe that’s about where my direct connection to anything British ends. Until now.

Sam Jacobson, a dual UK/US citizen, decided to bring a little taste of home to 1838 E. Passyunk Ave. this summer. Stargazy is now THE place for pies and mash in Philly.

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The offerings change daily, but the charm, that’s always available

Admittedly, it may also be the only place for pie and mash in the city, but don’t let that hoodwink you into thinking it’s anything less than dreamy.

Despite opening in the summer, Stargazy still manages to rock that “New Resto Smell” and the lines haven’t stopped for these flaky, piping hot meat pies. My buddy and I picked a (slightly) chilly December day to stroll down south and see what the hype was about.

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Starvin’ like Marvin, girl

We were the first ones in the door, and the pies weren’t quite ready, so we loitered outside, reviewing the day’s menu on my phone, licking our lips and clutching our empty bellies. Oh, and sipping some (free!) tea.

Our patience was soon rewarded.

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Come to mama

Pie, mash, and parsley liquor (spoiler alert: no actual liquor in there, you’ll have to hit the pub afterwards). So simple. So very, very satisfying. BONUS: If you spot a star on the bottom of your pie, they reward you with… ANOTHER PIE!

As you can see in the case below, Jacobson is also offering an assortment of British treats straight from the source. I haven’t dabbled (yet), but I had my eyes on the prize.

Or, should I say, I had my eyes on the pies?

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Hot sausage, broccoli rabe, and mozzarella. I went “off-tradition” away from the regular offerings of beef and onion pies because I spent most of my life trying to find new ways to enjoy spicy sausage ( #notaeuphemism).

It was absolutely to die for. The crust was perfect. The fillings were steaming and rich in flavor. The parsley liquor made me consider a life of sobriety if I could, instead, just have a steady stream of that to pour over any and all savory treats.

You catch my drift?

Sure, I didn’t have the stomach capacity at the time for a sausage roll or one of their legendary bananoffee tarts. But that’s the point, right? Much like with the velvety voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, all it took was one taste for me to begin jonesing for more.

Stargazy, I’ll see you soon. Keep the kettle boiling, and I’ll be looking for stars.

Herban Quality Eats Comes to University City!

Back in October, I scuttled over to Drexel’s Center for Hospitality and Sports Management to get school’d by restaurant professionals from throughout Philly. We learned from distillers and burger slingers alike, but I was most interested in a new-to-town restaurant opening down the street from where I worked. Herban Quality Eats, opening TODAY at 3601 Market Street, is a welcome newbie to the neighborhood of University City which hosts students and employees of Penn and Drexel, employees and patients from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and CHOP (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) alike.

And, while we do have Subway, Wawa, and food trucks nearby, sometimes you want something fast, something healthy, and something delicious. OR something to fuel a good workout.

Enter: The Bros from Herban.

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Snacketizers. Nice portmanteau.

This fine establishment was founded by two 2013 graduates from Wharton, the Penn MBA program. And if I know one thing about the graduates from Wharton, it’s that they’re savvy. If I know another thing, it’s that they appreciate the finer things. This is reflected in the quality of ingredients on Herban’s menu.

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Mini Menu

Monday, December 14th, 2015 some lucky locals (myself included) were invited to try out the goods at their exclusive preview lunch, a day before the grand opening. The mood was excited, the smells intoxicating, and the employees rocking like a well-oiled machine.

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Check out Amir Fardshisheh, one of the founders, prepping the squad!

We waited patiently, salivating as the goods started rolling out. The open kitchen allowed guests to watch the process, and I’ll admit, I eat with my eyes. It was no surprise, then that my tummy began growling watching the lean steak flavored with a house spice rub being sliced on the table.

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That quinoa and cheese is looking pretty fly

In an area where the only “healthy eats” are salads and…. mostly salads, it was awesome to see a hearty and healthy plate loaded with delicious ingredients that didn’t feel like bunny fodder.

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LOOK! There’s even some Vegan Jawn (also gluten free)

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My platter (plus Perrier)

I went for the Himalayan red rice as a base, the backyard steak, and sides of Brussels sprouts (roasted in coconut oil and tossed with dried cranberries and onions) and the quinoa and cheese (a high protein/fiber substitute for the often indulgent mac and cheese).

The Verdict?

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Moment of Truth

GOSH this was good. The steak was fantastic, still pink inside and super juicy. I loved the base of the red rice, full of antioxidants and fiber. Their hot sauce wasn’t quite to my tastes, but I’d put the walnut coriander (the green) sauce on EVERYTHING. Happily. I tried bites of the plantain chips and guac (nice deal for $3.70 when you need a quick snack) and the salmon, which was tasty, but the portion was a bit on the small side.

Taste-wise, this place is off the charts. And I think I could probably see myself grabbing lunch from here once every week or two. I’ll also admit that, truth be told, the prices are a pinch steep for what I typically budget for lunch. Luckily, they’re located in the heart of an area full of doctors, MBA students, and college kids LOADED with disposable income. I’m certain the gang from Herban is going to do very well for themselves.

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I see you, baby.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Herban. I still may not know exactly how to pronounce your name, but I’m so happy you’re here.

MBFW: Rustic New Jersey Engagement Party

My Best Friend’s Wedding” – The 1997 hit featuring a young Julia Roberts pining for Cameron D’s man just moments before their wedding. It’s a whole thing.

My best friend’s wedding (MBFW): the upcoming 2016 production wedding featuring my boon companion Claire (you might remember Claire from a buncha times) and her fiancé, Theo, a strapping young Brit who’s taken a shining to my favorite Brooklyn babe.

Both, I am certain, will be classics. One, I imagine (**spoiler alert**) will feature slightly less heartbreak for Ms. Roberts.

BUT I DIGRESS. This is not a post about rom-coms. This is a post about the most beautiful engagement party thrown  to celebrate these two lovebirds. Set in the charming home of another one of Claire’s best pals, this party had it all, nestled in a quaint Jersey shore town on a brisk November afternoon.

Picturesque noshes.

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Biscuits for days, tarts for hours. Goat cheese and tomato and onion tarts featured.

Warm flannel blankets clustered around a fire pit….

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Oh, and a cornhole set

HAND-CARVED WOODEN LETTERS for the names of the couple-of-honor and simple, bright yet subtle flower arrangements (Pinterest, eat your heart out).

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Precious moments.

A rugged Englishman to tend to ALL THOSE FIRES!

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Theo does chimineas. Everyone benefits.

And a TON of frittatas.

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Hello, lover.

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I know….

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EGG-BASED CASSEROLES FOR THE WIN!

Apparently, Claire, the blushing-bride-to-be, agreed. She is (expertly) pictured below, in a stunning almond-colored, embroidered Free People frock, her face crammed with homemade Vietnamese spring rolls just dripping with fish sauce.

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She loves this photo and, because of it, has hired me to be her wedding photographer.

And while the food and the decor were divine, the part of this engagement party that made it so magical were the people. The couple’s friends and family from near and far (luckily, mostly near, England is a hike) gathered together over the most amazing, homemade eats (shoutout to Katherine and her family, the hosts for the day, who probably have more tart pans than I have fingers) to eat, drink, and be merry (ALMOST made the married pun, but I’m better than that).

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Grandmothers gabbing

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The firepit served as primo real estate on this chilly November day

They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” And I’m pretty sure that it also takes a village to throw a quality engagement party. From a signature cocktail speaking to the couple’s favs (it was a Pimm’s Cup, British roots are strong!) to crowdsourcing main dishes and desserts, from understated decorations to perfect placement of seating areas, the flow of this soirée allowed everyone to mingle, munch, and merrymake in the most natural way possible. It takes a village to throw a party.

But, don’t worry, we didn’t forget about that child.

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This little man tried hard to make this photo NSFW by yanking on this dress.

As is tradition, the party couldn’t be called official until the Cermonial Crying of the Mom. Kathleen, Claire’s mama, delivered.

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No, I just have some smoke in my eye.

To Claire and Theo, I raise my (virtual) glass to you both. You have one of the most loving support systems I’ve ever witnessed. Your family and friends loves you more than you can ever know, and I’m elated at the opportunity to chronicle this whole process.

By Claire’s request.

 

 

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Papa Brandow toasts. Everyone tries not to cry.

Thank god for that smoke, made for the perfect excuse.

Could someone pass the tissues?