Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Equinox Challenge - Complete

Today marked the completion of the Lululemon Equinox challenge this month: 25 classes in 30 days.  Aside from the time commitment, it wasn't that hard to finish; most days when I went, I would take two consecutive classes.  I ended up taking 28 classes with a significant break around Thanksgiving; I would have been done with all 25 classes by November 20th had I gone to yoga as planned, instead of getting sucked into the Lanvin x H&M insanity.  Most of the classes are less than an hour, so it wasn't too much to take two classes in a row, particularly if they were different workouts; ie yoga & spinning, or strength & cardio.  I enjoyed trying all the classes; the most effective class, ie the class after which I would be the most sore was consistently Tabata, which involves 3 series of 4 exercises for 20 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest between each exercise, repeated 6 times.  I think it was primarily the squats and lunges that really got to me; you just don't work out the same muscle groups in yoga or running.  I worry about Tabata building bulky muscle though; the class that I enjoyed the most and that I think would be a good complement with yoga in terms of building long, lean, toned muscles would be barre burn.  I really like ballet barre style classes (like Pop Physique and Bar Method); I feel like the classes tone muscles that I don't usually work in yoga, plus I like how the strength exercises are mixed with some nice stretches.  The yoga classes were good recovery classes since I was doing so much more strength training and cardio than usual, but on their own, they were a little too easy, I would barely break a sweat compared to Yogahop, Power Yoga or Up Dog.  The pilates classes were ok, I preferred the class with more traditional pilates moves versus the more repetitious aerobic-like class.  I liked kettlebells and didn't quite get ViPR.  I still don't really like spin; I really dreaded the classes and would find myself checking the clock often.  I think it would be a little better if I had proper spin shoes, but I never really got into the spinning groove.  All in all, it was great to try all these new and different classes in a really nice gym for free for a month.  I feel pretty good, although I didn't lose any weight and didn't develop noticeable muscle tone, so I'm not sure how effective it ultimately was.  I'm not ready to commit to a gym yet, but I will reevaluate joining one from time to time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Newport Seafood Review: Incredible Lobster and More

We went to Newport Seafood in San Gabriel for lunch with some family friends on Saturday.  I thought it was an amazing meal; every dish was simply bursting with huge flavors: lots of black pepper, chilis, green onions, ginger and garlic and the seafood was succulent and fresh.  We had elephant clam two ways (soup and sauteed with thai basil), special crab, special lobster, fried tofu, sauteed pea sprouts, and steamed duck.  It's hard to pick a favorite since I would order everything again, but I've got to start with the specialty, the lobster.  We had a big six pound live lobster; the lobster was so fresh and cooked perfectly; a huge meaty bite with just the right chewy texture.  I love the seasoning, lots of black pepper and green onions.  I couldn't stop eating it, it was so savory, flavorful and addicting.  I really liked the giant clam with the thai basil.  The giant clam had such a nice bite to it; that perfect chewy / crunchy texture, and the dish had some nice heat to it with all the chilis, tempered by some salty soy and fresh basil and mung bean sprouts.  I really loved this dish.  The soup version was delicious too, warm and soothing.  The steamed duck was also so moist and flavorful, the fried tofu was perfectly fried: light and crispy on the outside, molten softness on the inside.  I really liked the crab; it was fried lightly with lots of flavor from ginger, garlic and green onions.  I like it a lot better than the crab at Seafood Village (Bi Feng Tang).  The sauteed pea sprouts was a nice cleansing dish next to all the seasoned seafood.  While everything was seasoned boldly and many things were fried, I didn't find the meal to be overly heavy.  I didn't detect much, if any, MSG, which I'm really sensitive to; I felt pretty good afterwards and I ate a ton of food.  We brought two bottles of wine that went perfectly with the meal: a 2006 Albert Boxler Grand Cru Riesling from Alsace and a 2009 Nigl Gruner Veltliner from Austria.  The riesling was quite big, with a deep, sweet floral nose, but very balanced taste that stood up to and complemented the rich seafood.  The Gruner Veltliner was much lighter, but I loved it; just so drinkable and food friendly.  I really like Gruner Veltliners, they are definitely one of my favorite types of wine, just so good with food, particularly Asian food.  The restaurant was bustling; no reservations are taken and there is always a line.  It's best to go on the early or later side when the wait is shorter, but it's totally worth it.  There are a couple of semi private rooms separated by latticed partitions, making it a great place for groups.  The food is also conducive to eating with larger groups too, as you can order more to share.  It was really a great meal and I can't wait to go back!

Elephant clam with thai basil, chili, mung beans and soy
Elephant clam soup with tofu and cabbage
Special Crab
Fried Tofu

Newport Seafood (Xin Gang Hai Xian)
518 West Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA  91776
(646) 289-5998

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post Thanksgiving Beer Tasting Review: Out of State Brews

After watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at the Landmark Theaters in the Westside Pavilion (favorite LA movie theater) last night, Rich and his mobile 40 gallon cooler of beers, Amy, Will and Katie came over to taste some of Rich's new acquisitions.  Most of these beers cannot be purchased in California and are only released annually in their home state (exceptions being the Trader Joe's 2010 Vintage Ale of course, San Diego's Alpine Ichabod Ale, and the He'Brew Rejewvenator, the Chosen Beer, for real).  The favorite of the night was Goose Island's 2010 Bourbon County Coffee Stout from Chicago, brewed with Intelligentsia's Black Cat Espresso in bourbon barrels.  It was strong yet smooth, powerful and delicious.  I quite liked Alaska's Midnight Sun's Brewing Companies T.R.E.A.T. Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter with its pumpkin and chocolate flavors (reminds me of that delicious chocolate and pumpkin bread pudding from Gjelina) and subtle cookie spice flavors (I really like spice-y beers, like Belgian Ales).  I thought it was quite complex in the nose and the taste, and very good.  The New Glarus Brewing Company's fruit ales from Wisconsin: cherry, raspberry and apple were also quite good and unique; sweet, a little like juice / sparkling cider.  It would be hard to drink a lot of it, but the fruit flavors are really good in their own ways.  The pumpkin sour from Alpine Brewing Company (a San Diego company that makes my favorite IPA, the Duet) actually grew on me.  Sours are apparently the "it" thing in beer now.  The lingering puckering taste was off putting at first, but after trying quite a few bottles of the Russian River sours last time and a few sips of the Ichabod and knowing what to expect, I got used to it and could appreciate the other flavors in the beer.  The He'Brew Rejwvenation was just terrible.  It's the first beer we've ever poured out after a sip.  I think it might have gone bad or something, but it was undrinkable.
New Glarus' Raspberry Tart, Wisconsin Belgian Red (cherry), Unplugged (apple).  My favorite was the apple
Alpine Beer Company's Ichabod Ale, a pumpkin sour, and Alaska's Midnight Sun's Treat, brewed with pumpkin, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg
Rejewvenator He'brew, the Chosen Beer, Goose Island 2010 Bourbon County Stout, Trader Joe's 2010 Vintage Ale

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving All!

Just wanted to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!  I made my very first turkey this year; turned out pretty well.  K. made his first ever pie, a pumpkin pie, Mom made stuffing and gravy, and I made mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a salad.  We stuffed ourselves early and went on a long walk from the beach back to our place with the dogs before dessert.  Recipes to follow (mostly so I remember what to do next year)
Arugula salad with roasted butternut squash, toasted walnuts, cranberry and a warm cider vinaigrette
Sourdough stuffing with sausage, granny smith apples, cranberries and herbs
Orange cranberry sauce with toasted walnuts, Grand Marnier and golden raisins
Garlic mashed potatoes in the way back and gravy in the middle
Thanskgiving Turkey Recipe:
  • Remove neck and gizzards and wash turkey thoroughly.  Brine for 24 hours in a solution of 6 quarts of water, 3/4 cup of salt,  1/3 cup of sugar, 6 bay leaves, bunches of rosemary, thyme, sage, 1 head of garlic cut horizontally, 1 onion, a few slices of ginger
  • Night before roasting the turkey, combine two sticks of room temperature butter (must be really soft to be easily spreadable), with 1/4-1/3 cup of chopped rosemary, sage and thyme leaves, salt and pepper.  Remove turkey from brine, dry the turkey, and push 1/2-2/3 of the butter mixture under the skin, a bit in the cavity and the remainder on top of the skin.  Salt and pepper the turkey generously.  Truss the turkey according to Tyler Florence.  Let sit in the refrigerator overnight uncovered
  • Thanksgiving Day: Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  On the bottom of a roasting rack, place 1 chopped onion, smashed head of garlic, carrots, celery, and a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary, cover with turkey stock, 1 cup of white wine, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar.  Stuff the turkey cavity with quartered lemons and oranges.  Melt 1 stick of butter in a pot on a stove.  Let cool a little, and soak cheescloth to put on top of the bird (folded in quarters, to fully cover the turkey lengthwise, and widthwise to cover the tips of the wings and drumsticks).  Cook at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees, setting the timer for half hour increments.  Baste the turkey every half hour.  Remove the cheesecloth when there is about an hour to go.  If anything gets too brown, particularly the wings and tip of the drumsticks, cover with foil.  Turkey is done when the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 degrees.  For our 11.25 lb turkey, it took about 3.5 hours total.  Tent and let rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.  I saved the pan juices and made more gravy for leftovers the next day by refrigerating it, spooning off all the fat except for a TB or two which I whisked with 3 TB of flour over low heat for 5 minutes to make roux, then added the pan juices and 4 cups of chicken stock and boiling for 5 minutes, seasoning to taste.  You can never have too much gravy!
Thanskgiving Gravy Recipe from Tyler Florence
  • A really good recipe that had a very pronounced turkey flavor since you were basically making turkey stock.  Good to make the day before.
Orange Cranberry Sauce with Walnuts and Raisins
  • Put 1 lb of frozen cranberries in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Zest and juice 1 orange and add 1 cinnamon stick, sprinkle of nutmeg and 1/4 cup of sugar (to taste, my frozen cranberries were already sweetened).  Let the dish simmer for 10 minutes, then add 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier, handful of dried cranberries, golden raisins and toasted walnuts and cook for another 5-10 minutes stirring constantly.  Let cool to room temperature.  Can be made the day before. Makes for really good "jam" for leftover turkey sandwiches.
Sourdough Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Apples, and Cranberries from Ina Garten

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Peel and dice 5 russet potatoes and mince 5 cloves of garlic.  Place in stock pot, cover with 3 cups of chicken stock (I had leftovers), 4 cups of water, 1 bay leaf, 1/4 of the garlic and 1 tsp of salt.
  • Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for ~20 minutes, until the potatoes are really fork tender, drain and put back in the pot
  • Heat up 1 cup of half and half, 2 TB of butter and the remainder of the garlic
  • Mash the potatoes in a pot with my new potato masher, and gradually stir in the sauce mixture, a little at a time.  I didn't use all of the mixture.  Add a couple spoons of room temperature light cream cheese, salt, white pepper, and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Arugula salad with roasted butternut squash, toasted walnuts, cranberries in a cider vinaigrette adapted from Ina Garten's recipe:
  • Only changes: I used more arugula, a lot less olive oil, and only about 1/2 of the dressing.  Also, I had to roast the squash for longer since it was cooking in the same oven as the turkey at 350 degrees
Wine review: we started with a bottle of the 2006 Copain Pinot Noir from the Kiser En Bas vineyard and another bottle from the same vintage, a 2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir from the Koplen vineyard.  Both went well with a food, matching it without overpowering it.  The Copain was a little more tart and acidic than the Kosta Browne.  While acidic, it was rather subtle on the nose and the finish.  The Kosta Browne had a much bigger nose and generally bigger and sweeter taste, a lovely Pinot soft but enveloping mouthfeel, and slightly sweet finish.  Everyone preferred the Kosta Browne to the Copain; it can always be counted on as a crowd pleaser.  For dessert, we heated up some pear cinnamon cider from Trader Joes and mixed it with some bourbon and served it warm.  It was delicious, I could drink a lot of this, which could be dangerous.  For me, a bourbon / brown liquor novice, the sweetness of the cider was a nice way to balance the strong bourbon.
2006 Copain Kiser En Bas Pinot Noir and 2006 Kosta Browne Koplen Vineyard Pinot Noir
K's delicious pumpkin pie (served with vanilla frozen yogurt)
Sun starting to set over Santa Monica
Empty Montana Avenue at dusk


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