Take a Holiday in Maine (Portland, Specifically)

Whoah, it’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it? Blame August, it’s rubbish for second dates (according to the Washington Post) and also for blogging. With weekends at the shore, helping put together a small, understated pop-up party for 5,000 in this city I love, and trying not to fall completely off the health wagon after finishing Whole30, there’s been less time to write it all down.

LUCKILY, I did manage to find time for a quick vacation to Portland, ME with my Main(e) squeeze. It was picturesque as can be, but I spent more time snapping shots of our eats than light houses or sunsets (sorry, not sorry.) We did a LOT of recon before our jaunt to make sure that we enjoyed the tastiest treats and most delicious drinks. I’m pretty proud to say we succeeded; demonstrated especially by the fact that we were inadvertently tailing the New York Times, in town to update their “36 Hours in Portland” piece.

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Ok, fine, I took one picture of a sunset. You’re welcome.

The drive from the Philly area to Maine isn’t TOO bad, a comfortable 7ish hours. Luckily, en route, you pass almost DIRECTLY through New Haven, CT. Cue a fully necessary stop at Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana. I’m no expert, but as a pizza lover, you’d be remiss to skip any opportunity to stop by for some of that New Haven-style Pizza GOODNESS!

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Not from Portland, but I had to mention it.

This “apizza” isn’t a perfect circle, just an oblong oval of crunchy, cheesy perfection. We also got pepperoni, because YOLO. But… I digress. Onto the Maine attraction (hehehe).

Portland: I love you. You’re breezy and chill when the rest of my world is muggy and hot, you’re lobster rolls when everyone else is grilling burgers, and you’re full of weird and wonderful shops and eateries. Here’s the tip of one of the most scrumptious icebergs ever….

We were in town for three mornings. Two of them featured breakfast from Portland’s “The Holy Donut”. By breakfast, I just mean a buncha Maine Potato Donuts.

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My favorite: Blueberry!

Don’t get me wrong, my heart is always in Philly with Federal Donuts. Whether it was the crisp air, the morning rush, or the delicious glaze, this donut tasted ethereal. Apparently, the addition of Maine potatoes makes the dough especially moist. And if you’re one of those people that hates the word moist, get over it, because these donuts are insane.

The next image may LOOK like it’s still breakfast, but don’t like your eyes fool you.

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One skillet. Seven slots. Infinite joy.

Boda is a hip little joint inspired by Thai street food and tapas, serving up gems like these Kanom-Krok Quail Eggs seasoned with soy sauce and scallions. I know we ate other stuff, I promise you. I have vague memories of killer brussels sprouts that are all but washed away by the distinctly crispy edges of these huevos, the salty soy, the vibrant bite of the scallions. If I could eat only these for all meals, I’d be happy. Minus the high cholesterol, or something, but definitely happy. And hey, while we’re on the topic of eggs…

Duckfat was our singular “breakfast” that wasn’t donuts. And also, we kinda ate lunch. BUT the egg on our poutine basically makes it brunch, right?

Right.

Belgian fries cooked in (what else?) duck fat, cheese curds, duck gravy AND chives. Served with (let’s call it a side of?) a house-smoked brisket panini. You know, gotta keep that girlish figure… The “vegetable chow chow” in the brisket panini is practically a salad.

And while I could talk about Portland eats for hours, but the thing is, when you go to Eventide Oyster Co., you basically hear an imaginary mic drop on your tastebuds. So here goes nothing.

Y’all.

This place.

It screams MAINE in the way that a true Maine-iac might. Which is to say it’s cool as a cucumber, hip AF, and probably tosses around the word “wicked” for good measure. We had lobster chowder (lobstah chowdah? top right), salmon poke, and (of course) our only lobster roll of the trip. But, despite the trendy take on the roll (instead of a “roll”, EOC used a steamed bun and brown butter for the lobsters. Enough of that brown butter that Paula Deen would’ve been proud.

Shoot. It’s been well over 700 words. And I’ve scratched the surface…. I guess I’ll just have to visit again.

Cheers to you, Portland. I can’t wait to come back.

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On the scene at Allagash. Doing important research.

 

 

Whole30: Results, Regrets, and Reintroduction

“So….”

“Hmm?”

“How’d it go?”

“What?”

“Come on! WHOLE30?! How’d it end?!”

Has it been a full week since I finished that Whole30 days?! It seems like I just started it. And then I was 20 days in. And then I was finished.

Regrets

It ended with success. The results were fantastic, and I woke up on Day 31, June 30th, feeling incredible. But I just want to start off with one part that I did not succeed in. The second part of Whole30: Reintroduction.  They recommend introducing foods back into your system one group at a time, in order to figure out how your body responds.

I introduced just about every possible lousy food into my body in one fell swoop this weekend. And I’m paying for it today. See, the 4th of July is my favorite holiday. I spent it with my favorite people, surrounded by my favorite food. And instead of gradually reintroducing, I rocked my body like a hurricane.

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Captain of the S.S. Eatsa Lott

From pizza to beer to hoagies to donuts, I didn’t even bat an eyelash. And on the morning of the 5th, I woke up with an aching tummy finally understanding why they suggest gradual reintroduction. Feeling like a garbage fire the past 2 days was NOT part of the plan.

I’m back on a semi-healthy wagon for a bit, not quite as strict as Whole30, but I would like to feel as incredible as I did on day 31. Ideally, I’d like to feel that great all the time, but I could realistically shoot for 80% of the time and still be living my best life.

RESULTS

Ok, let’s get to what you really wanna see. The results.  Left is the morning of Day 1, right is morning of Day 31.

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So yes. 30 days of clean eating. I forgot to weigh myself on day one, but remembered by day 3. So, in 28 days, I went from 173.2 to 166 lbs.

166 lbs is the lowest weight I’ve ever been in my adult life (I believe I hit 166.1 once before back in 2012, but in a much less healthy way that involved over-exercising, under-eating and ZERO socializing).

The most amazing thing about this experience?

I never felt like I was missing out on things. Not even once. Were there some nights when I wished I could’ve attended a PR event or try a new restaurant? Sure. But I never experienced the crippling FOMO that my generation is known for.

My friends all knew I was on Whole30, and (even though they knew I couldn’t drink or eat fried foods or food truck offerings) invited me to dance, to explore daytime festivals, to festive Game of Thrones finale meals. I felt supported and encouraged every step of the way.

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To my squad: Thank you. I love you and would be lost without ya!

Advice for folks who wanna try Whole30

I was lucky enough to have a wildly supportive partner AND a super enthusiastic mother who were both doing Whole30 with me. It definitely would’ve been nearly impossible without them. If you’re thinking about undertaking this challenge, find your support network. Teamwork REALLY made the dreamwork here.

Also: trust the process. Do NOT introduce ALL your favorite foods in the weekend after you finish. Sure, have a slice of pizza. But you don’t need pizza for 3 meals in two days (oops).

Going forward

I think I can sustain, as I mentioned, about 80% of this type of lifestyle. Whether that’s eating clean during the week and partaking in one night of indulgence every now and then, or adding cheese but not grains, or shifting my focus to some grains to fuel exercise (I never really felt SUPER STRONG during this challenge. Didn’t feel hungry after the first week, but the sustained energy just wasn’t there.)

I’ve got to feel it out. I’m thrilled to continue this journey, and learn more about what makes my body feel good, look good, and operate at peak efficiency.

Whole30: 20 Days and Counting

20 days into Whole30  (well, at least when I started writing this post) and I’ve had a handful of questions from friends (IRL and Internet alike, or any strangers with whom I’ve discussed Whole30 .

To those strangers, I apologize. Really, to everyone. Sorry. Because I’ve found that, when y̶o̶u̶’̶r̶e̶ I’m on Whole30 , chances are… most conversation focuses on Whole30 . For a life that revolves around food, sweat, and beers, when you get rid of most of the foods (and all of the beers), it’s just sweat (and that’s mostly gross). But hey, in case you’re interested and I haven’t told you already, here are some updates.

How am I feeling?

When I last updated, I was feeling TERRIFIC. And now?

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Flying High

I’m still feeling pretty great. No super-powers, and my energy for exercising has kind of ranged from normal to SUPER HYPE, but mostly normal. My skin isn’t magically clear, and I don’t have rock-hard abs.

But I wake up nearly every morning before my alarm feeling well-rested. My stomach doesn’t feel bloated like… ever (ok there was one day where I ate too many potatoes.) I go to sleep feeling as good as I feel when I wake up. It’s just an even, relaxed, consistent feeling of goodness.

What’s been the hardest part?

Sugar is in EVERYTHING.

I don’t crave anything, not anymore. But I hate reading food labels to find sugar in ketchup, sriracha, salad dressing, this Brussels sprouts dish that sounded delicious but then it contained pomegranate molasses… I feel obnoxious asking to see the list of ingredients when folks offer me things, but sticking to the plan is the only option. Taking a break or veering off never was, not even for a day.

What has been the most surprising experience?

The other day, I went to put on some dress pants I hadn’t worn in a while. And then, they practically fell off. I was swimming in them.

I’ve lost weight before, but this feels different somehow. Like my body’s shape is changing. I wish I felt motivated or energized enough to exercise more. But some days, I feel like I spend enough time preparing my food that I just say “**ck It” to the gym. I’ll be curious to see the scale at the end.

I am also surprised that potatoes are allowed, and MAYBE have abused that a bit, but these smashed potatoes are the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.

What have you missed the most?

This isn’t terribly different from what I eat typically, or how I eat. But damn, I miss cheese.

What I have NOT missed is fun Philly things. Even as a teetotaler, turns out you can still find some joy in Philly Beer Week activities

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Dunkel Dare 2016 (that pie was NOT compliant)

What tasty foods have I been eating?

Thank the LORD for Pinterest. It’s a Whole30 GOLD MINE! (Click image for source/recipes)

 

 

 

How will you celebrate when you’re done?

I will officially complete Whole30 Wednesday, June 29. Whole30 advocates for a slow “reintroduction” phase. But the thing is…. On Thursday night, I’m going to get pizza. Specifically from Nomad Roman. Maybe a beer (I’m sure I’ll be a real cheap date).

I plan to continue eating relatively clean, but I haven’t drank the Kool-Aid enough to join the Whole9 movement and make Whole30 my WHOLE LIFE.

I’ll definitely be doing a recap post afterwards but, in the meantime, welcome to THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

 

Guess who’s doing Whole30? (Spoiler: it’s me.)

Folks make life-changing decisions every day. Maybe you’re going to apply to grad school, get a perm, propose to your partner, get a puppy, or buy a house. You can hem and haw, discuss these major (or less major) moves with friends and family, make lists of pros and cons, weigh your options.

Other times, you just send an email to your husband and BAM you bought a house (shoutout to the Ilagans for really leaning in on the whole real estate thing.)

I’m typically the hemmer and hawer. Lists on lists. Venn diagrams galore.

This time, it was as simple as “I’m game if you are” with a link to this Thrillist article.

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Who wouldn’t be inspired by this guy (eating a disgusting-looking red delicious apple, gross)?

Three days later, Tuesday May 31st, was Day 1 of 30 days.

THE WHAT

Whole30 (click link to go to THEIR explanation, here’s my abbreviated take) is 30 days without:

  • Sugar (we’re talking honey, syrup, Stevia… it’s everywhere)
  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol (during Philly Beer Week, smooth one, JP.)
  • Grains (from corn to quinoa, wheat to farro!)
  • Legumes (BEANS! also, all soy. fack.)
  • Dairy (milk? who cares. CHEESE!)

While the decision was made quickly, it wasn’t without reason. Otherwise, why else would I be facing the shocked looks of friends when I pass on incredible, rare Philly Beer Week offerings as I sip seltzer (with lime juice when I’m feeling totally wild)?

THE WHY

This is the part everyone keeps asking me.

WHY would you do this?!

You LOVE grains, sugar, booze, and cheese. You look GREAT now, you don’t need to lose weight! You’re going to miss Philly Beer Week! You’re going to miss (Insert: my birthday! Some cocktail party! A potluck dinner! Whatever.)

But the thing is, there’s always going to be something to “miss”. Whether it’s a meal or a beer. Doesn’t mean you miss out on the events. The real reason why?

I needed to press “RESET” on things. I was already taking a hiatus from drinking, so I figured let’s just really get down to business. I typically have this tendency of hitting the summer hard. PR events, outdoor parties, beer gardens, day drinking, al fresco dining…  And I kind of started revisiting some old, bad habits (namely: “treating myself” every time an occasion felt “special”).

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Date nights, festivals, food trucks, and beer garden openings: apparently they all require loads of indulgence

But my sleep was crummy and my workouts were severely suffering. I hate to imagine myself as sluggish ever, but I was making excuses to skip fitness, or replacing it with meals out.

Shoot, I was sluggish.

TL; DR: My WHY Whole30? Simply put, I wanted to feel better. I’ve always found that a certain amount of self-discipline is required for achieving highest performance. I thrived with Weight Watchers in 2010, losing 40+ lbs and totally changing the way I ate, cooked, and experienced food (for a wordy look back at those days and a photo of me at probably slightly over 215lbs, check out THIS POST). Whole30 seems like a good refresher.

What’s been tough?

Social engagements based around food, cooking constantly, being “that girl” that talks about her slow cooker recipes… I apologize to everyone that hangs out with me for the next twenty days.  I’ll look at your pizza longingly. I’ll smell your cookies and probably hate you a little bit. But I haven’t stopped going out and doing things. I just typically bring snacks and occasionally leave to go eat a meal I prepared at home.

What’s been great?

Oh gosh. I’m going to say it. I feel incredible. I don’t feel tired. The first week, I had some trouble eating enough, so my workouts were either half-ass or nonexistent. I don’t think it’s tiger blood, or sugar demons, or some of the silly terms they spout. I just… feel good?

We’re not supposed to weigh ourselves during these 30 days. But, even though the focus isn’t weight loss, we are supposed to take before photos. In interest of honesty and sharing my truth, here are mine. I’ll definitely be updating at the end, if not one more time around 20 days. But ten days in… This feels pretty terrific.

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Taken May 31, 2016

 

 

CorePower Yoga in Philly: A Review!

When we last met (digitally), I was talking fitness. Specifically about how Philly is lighting 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).

As I mentioned before, 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. So I’ve been checking some of them out. Since we went ahead and got RIPPED, let’s focus on our cores, eh?

CorePower Yoga has come to town.

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They offer new members one free week (click the link for your own!) so, being the budget babe that I am, I jumped on the opportunity. One week (ok, maybe two weeks, I had my buddy’s wedding to attend!) later, I’m ready to write about the 4-5 classes I took (one was outside of the week).

CPY is a HUGE company, it seems. They’re also not that new to the city, opening in December. But I hibernated until the weather was a little closer to the temps of their signature hot yoga classes. I tried three of their four types offered at the Philly studio, descriptions here (didn’t manage to make it to Hot Power Fusion, but the candlelit ones sound terrific!)

CorePower Yoga 1 was nice and easy, a fast moving flow but not so challenging (OR so hot) that I felt out of my league.

CorePower Yoga 2: hotter (like, over 95 degrees), harder, and uncut. The class moved fast, the poses were challenging, and I was definitely pushing the outer limits of “my league”. But I survived, and felt strong (though maybe not as strong as that yogi easing into Eka Pada Bakasana like it ain’t no thing. 

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Dang Julie Wilcox. Show me how it’s done (click photo for source)

Yoga Sculpt, though, was my favorite. By far. This class keeps things sweaty to begin with at 94 degrees, PLUS you use hand weights for things like push-ups, tricep extensions, etc. There’s even a cardio break built in that reminds me a bit of Lithe Method.

This was the most I’ve ever sweat in ANY fitness class. That includes Bikram’s 104 degree temps, and brutal bootcamps in the middle of the summer. Seriously, my workout gear needed to be wrung out before I put it in the laundry basket.

It was all very gross (and weirdly satisfying).

The PROS:

  • Insane workout catered to your skills
  • Lots of classes offered daily (like, 10-12)
  • Beautiful studio, lots of space
  • Variety from your standard yoga class (loved mixing in cardio and weights, even though it was hard as hell)

The CONS:

  • No mat storage
  • Corporate feel
  • Crowded locker rooms for some of the bigger classes
  • (I hate to sound like a cheapskate BUT) The price

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However, with prices of Classpass skyrocketing across the country, maybe this is the cost of boutique fitness now. Scary thought for a gal in pediatric research… However, I will note they have a discount through a “work-study” program if you help clean 3ish hours a week. Worth looking into, if you’ve got the time.

Thank goodness for all the Free Fitness in Philly.

ONTO THE NEXT WORKOUT!

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 PROS:

  • 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 CONS:

  • 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.
  • Lack of stretching after each class, or suggestion of stretching on your own.

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.