Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Love and Cheesecake.

I love dessert and one of my favorites is cheesecake.  There are so many varieties and I enjoy many of them, but not all cheesecakes rate equally.  I prefer the Creme Brûlée option at one of my favorite restaurants, Mario's Tutto Bene.  I'd love to tell you what it is exactly about the taste of this dessert that I love so much, but like the other things that I fall in love with, I can't put my finger on the very ingredient that puts me into the state of automatic cheesecake bliss.  Some things are just too great to put into words.  Let's pretend for a moment that Creme Brûlée cheesecake  is your favorite too.

Imagine you're at a convention of all the best cheesecakes in the world.  Upon walking around, you see it, with an imaginary light glowing down on it, your favorite Creme Brûlée cheesecake, that always gets better with every bite.  Even if  it's been months since you've last enjoyed this dessert, you can always remember quite distinctively, the taste.  As you walk closer, you notice that the pieces of this cake are dissapearing and just as you approach the sample table, the last one is gone!  You are instantaneously disappointed, but a small bit relieved when the representative of the company tells you that they may be bringing more out.  Being that now you have to wait for your favorite cake to come out, you decide to walk around and sample the others.  All of these cakes are raved about by many different people, and some of them are rated high and even more expensive than your favorite.  You taste and taste and find some of these Cheesecakes to be quite good.  The thought then crosses your mind that there maybe one comparable, or even better than the one that you've been raving about for so long.  You also think that maybe you were so used to that one cheesecake that you'd forgotten that they made so many other varieties of this dessert.  Now, you're confused about which cake to purchase because you have to pick only one to be delivered every month for the next year.  Finally, now with many choices at hand, you walk back on over to The Creme Brûlée table.

This can go a few different ways.  Either you taste your original favorite cake and know instantly that you were right all along and that it's always going to be your favorite.  You may decide that what used to be your favorite variety of this dessert, is not as good as you remember and decide that now you prefer the peanut butter option.  There is also the chance that you decide to still take home your original favorite, but realize a little more with each month, that when you get the delivery and break the box open, that indeed you kind of wish you'd ordered the peanut butter cake instead, but were too scared to take the chance and commit to something completely new.

As you can probably tell, I'm talking about more than cheesecake here.  This scenario can be used in dating or in other situations in life.  If, at the moment for some reason someone or something that you can't seem to get enough of is unavailable to you, its not a bad idea to explore your options.  You may be stuck on one person for a long period of time, but sometimes seeing who else is out there, can change your idea of a suitable mate.  Although you may come to the conclusion that you do prefer your original choice of person you will never be left wondering, what if?  Also, if you're presented with a more suitable date along the way,  don't be afraid to try them out.  I personally believe that I usually know exactly what I want, but we can all surprise ourselves from time to time.  Keep your options open, if by chance life runs out of Creme Brûlée cheesecake at the moment.   Maybe something about the Macadamia Nut flavor will intrigue your taste buds in a whole different way, but even if it doesn't, you'll be able to know for sure that there is only one type of cheesecake, that to you, makes dessert worth the calories.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's time to go Insane!!!

I purchased the Insanity DVD set about 6 months before actually opening it.  I did one or two of the workouts previously while borrowing a friends set and just wasn't feeling it.  For about three years I've been working out in my house.  I like to exercise alone, or with someone that is really interested in getting results.  During workouts I put my iPod on the dock and zone out.  Fussing around is not on my agenda,  If all you wan't to do is chit chat, let's just go have coffee after instead, capeesh?

We've always had a treadmill and over the years accumulated a Smith Machine, Bosu, Kettle Bells, weights, bands a bench and many other pieces of exercise equipment.  I used to work out in a gym, where at first I was a "cardio queen" that would kick-box, or stay on the elliptical for an hour while reading a magazine.  I graduated into the 20 minute weight circuit and knew zero about what I was doing, hired a trainer, switched gyms, worked out with friends, took spin class and then finally started exercising in my house.  Over the years, I've also tried countless workout DVD's, which I always got sick of.  I later started running outside or on my treadmill and hired a new trainer, who'd come to my house once every other week to teach me a bit about weights.

I was extremely bored with my workout and needed to try something new to switch it up.  One Monday, I opened my Insanity package and did the "Fit Test," this was a workout in itself!  The next day Plyometric Circuit, then Cardio Conditioning on Wednesday, Thursday Recovery (which is pretty much yoga with some deep muscle movement), Pure Cardio Friday and Plyo again Saturday.  There's a lot of "Interval Training" in Insanity.  Interval Training is when you push to your maximum limit for 1-3 minutes, recover for a small amount of time and then repeat the sequence.  This way of training is very effective for burning fat and it really rev's up the metabolism!  The Insanity workout schedule switches  every week and all of the workouts are approximately 40 minutes or so in the first month.  This is a plan someone needs to be mentally prepared for, it is by no means easy and one should follow as close as they can to get the best results.  There is something about Shaun T. (the trainer and face of Insanity, seen below) that makes me wan't to go faster and push hard through the workouts.  I actually may have a crush on him at this point, It's too bad he's taken and very uninterested in women.  Anyway, after the first week I was addicted. I didn't veer from the scheduled workout calendar, even though it differed from what I was comfortable with.  "A recovery day in the middle of the week?"  I hated the "Recovery" workout because it was very easy in comparison to the others and I hated that I was supposed to rest on Sundays.  I was also scared that I would lose any muscle mass that I already had from previous weight lifting, boy was I wrong!  Although Insanity does not require weights, using your own body weight is quite effective on its own!  I realized that the Insanity workout schedule is perfectly planned.  I found that the "Rest" or "Recovery" days came when I needed them.   It was hard for me to hand over the reins of my workout schedule to Shaun T. but I'm glad I did.

After the first three weeks I started to see noticeable changes in my body.  I was pumped for the workouts and while they didn't necessarily get easier, I felt stronger.  After the first month there is a recovery week.  Cardio Core and Balance on tap for the full week.  This is a lighter workout than all the others but it still gets your heart rate up!   During this week I was bored and started to get nervous for the second month.  I was told by other people who tried Insanity, that each workout is about 50 or 60 minutes long and so much harder.

Month two rolled around and by that Wednesday I was relieved.  Although the new workouts were more taxing, i found them to be a bit more fun.  They didn't feel that much longer and the calorie burn  was higher which is a plus!  I loved feeling energized again after the workouts, as I did in month one before the recovery week.  By the end of the program I felt like a champion.  I was so excited to have finished but more excited to start again!  As hard as Insanity is, I absolutely love it.  As much as I thought that I would never be a "workout DVD" person, I am.  Shaun T. is my hero.  I think he may even be able to see me through my T.V. and is now biting off of my style,  because we even wear the same yoga pants!

I love the Insanity workout so much that I opted for another round!  I may even do it a third time!  Never, did I think that I would even finish a full week on the program, yet want to do it again! I guess I should have sent away for the t-shirt after all!  If you are bored with your workout or feel like it just isn't working anymore, you really need to try Insanity.  Pop It in the DVD player, put on your Polar heart rate monitor, lace up a pair of cool colored cross training sneakers (i swear bright colors give me more energy) and push play!  Most importantly, don't forget to DIG DEEP and by the end of the workout, like I always do, you'll feel like the guy in this video when you're done!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Googa My Mooga.

It is almost time for one of my favorite events of the year!  The Great Googa Mooga is a outdoor  music festival.  Picture a park full of tents run by NYC's hottest restaurants , craft beers, specialty liquors shaken into amazing cocktails and even a few wine stations too!  Googa Mooga takes place Prospect Park in Brooklyn, on a weekend in mid May.  Our group of friends had a blast last year and can't wait to go back ever since!

Being outside on a sunny day is great for the mind body and soul.  Picnic tables and lawn chairs full of people in casual summer attire, music, food and drinks all make the atmosphere relaxed and so much fun.  I am actually smiling now just thinking about it!  If you don't have a ticket yet for this year, you'd better act quick, they are selling out like hotcakes!

Last year the day of Googa Mooga a group of us met at the Cupping Room Cafe in SoHo.  We had a low key brunch and then headed on the train to Brooklyn.  Prospect Park was a bit of a walk from the last subway stop but I never complain at the thought of a little extra exercise.  When we arrived at the park we noticed the "valet bike parking" which I've never seen before, but got a great kick out of.  After walking around and taking in the scene, we wandered through the tents and grabbed a fancy beer from one.  Later we sat at a  long picnic table on the perimeter of the scene and the laughs and fun became endless, I also got a little crazy with the picture taking!  I would love to talk to you about the food at GM but I'm not really sure if I ate anything to be honest,  possibly a slice of pizza.  I was full from the meal we had earlier, I was too busy having fun and didn't wanna miss out on anything while standing in a line for an hour.

After the festival we all got on a train back to Brooklyn to venture to a bar or two.  While en route we had a small pull-up competition that would probably be frowned upon by any employees of the subway.  I was a little disappointed at my performance but demand a rematch this year.  I've been doing the Insanity workout and it includes many push-ups which are vital to creating a strong back, I'm hoping for at least a "half."  Cheers to Fran for winning by the way!  After being at the bar for a small moment we all realized we were a bit tired and done for the day so we headed back to the car in SoHo and then headed home.

I believe that this year Googa is going to be run a bit more efficiently.  They gave away tickets last year to many people but this year for a free ticket you had to win a raffle.  One of my friends made the point that this was probably in order to control lines and be a bit more prepared for the crowds, last year they actually ran out of beer.  If you've read my blog before you know that I love "brunch" but I wouldn't advise anyone to go before this festival, there is so much to taste and enjoy there, you will want to make the most of it!

I am so excited that in a few weeks I get to experience Googa Mooga again!  I love a relaxing day outside, maybe even a bit more than a night at a swanky restaurant.  Always keep in mind, when planning any gathering the most important factor is the company you bring along with you, so make sure to bring the fun people.  I'm not sure I can do much better in that department!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My favorite day of the week.

Sunday is my favorite day of the week, it's typically a day tucked away for fun and relaxation with friends or family.  It's on top of my list of favorite things!  It's also nice to take a day of pleasure after a long stressful week full of chores and the routine schedule.

Sundays are also a great day for doing brunch and I really love a great brunch!  My first brunch experience was quite memorable.  I went one Sunday with my friends Ant and Tina.  At the time I really didn't understand the concept of "brunch" because it was a bit new and NJ hadn't caught up to the NYC day-party scene.  We started at Balthazar and managed to get a table.  It's a well known restaurant in NYC located on Spring St, which is nearly impossible to get in on Sundays.  There we each had a delicious ratatouille omelet while we imbibed on a Billini (or two) before we made our way over to the Cupping Room Cafe.

The three of us sat at the bar as the Mimosas started flowing.  We heard the music pulsating from next door at Via Dei Mille (which is now closed) and just had to go over.  People were dancing on every table and even on the bar, this was one of the best parties I have ever been to in my life.  Because of the rainy day Tina and I both had on flat boots and all three of us had on comfortable outfits no where fit for a club. The girls here were dressed for a night out on the town and the men were all in suits, we didn't even care what we were wearing and before I knew it Tina was up on the bar dancing in her rain boots!  This day/night experience will go down in the books for sure.

Later on Jersey caught on, as usual.  The rest of my friends had never experienced "brunch" this way, so of course, like any other experience I've had and loved, I HAD to share it with them!  My birthday party that year was held at the W in Hoboken upstairs in the  Chandelier Room.  Just like the previous day-party it was a blast but we were all prepared and dressed appropriately for this one!  The next year we calmed it down a bit and hit Gemma, a great restaurant in the Bowery Park Hotel followed by a leisurely or not so leisurely afternoon inside the Standard Biergarten, still very fun but less dancing.

My friend Phil and I went to The Standard Grill a few weeks ago.  We ordered a Chopped Vegetable Salad, Charred Spanish Octopus with Sweet Potato and Chiles (one of my favorite things) and the fluffiest Omelet ever I have ever seen in my life.  Each of us ordered "Standard 69" cocktail, which was a mix of raspberry puree, gin, fresh lemon and champagne.  This cocktail was delicious but too heavy for my taste, I took two sips, handed mine over to Phil and asked the waiter for a Patron and seltzer with lime.

 The High Line is a park built on a historic freight rail line that is elevated about the streets on the West Side of Manhattan and I've been dying to see it ever since it was first built.  I have been to the Meat Packing District many times but always seem to miss the time of day when it's open.  The best times to see The High Line are in the Spring or Summer and I probably should have waited!  We both got a great laugh at the fact that the attraction I would not stop talking about was completely flower-less and the grass appeared to be more like hay.  Afterwards we headed to Fig and Olive. Here I had a Cucumber Cosmo and Phil had a Dirty Martini, both perfectly made.  We also shared a cheese plate and olives, laughs and stories about lame men and women that we've each encountered. This was a  subdue and fabulous day.

I always like to venture to new places and put a spin on things.  I enjoy new experiences and sharing them with my friends.  This year for my birthday a couple of us are going to take a Trapeze class on Chelsea Piers in NYC, following I'm sure we'll find a great spot for a casual brunch.  I used to view fun as getting decked out on a Saturday night and heading to a club or lounge in heels so high I could probably suffer a nose bleed, drinking too much vodka and staying out until sunrise.  Although I can't say I've seen my last party brunch, currently, I'd rather have a nice meal and a glass of wine in the afternoon and then go for a walk around the city or check out a movie on the projector screen at The Highline.

Brunch can come in the form of eggs at the corner diner or a full on drink and dance fest at a hot NYC restaurant.  Although I may have had a different opinion a few years ago, shots of Patron and bottomless glasses of Proseco aren't really my weekend scene these days and I don't need to stand on a table to have fun anymore.  Now, my favorite kind of brunch takes place on a Sunday at around 1 o'clock in a great setting (either NYC or somewhere on or near a large body of water).  Sharing different plates of delicious food, with good friends, along with a lot of laughs and a Mimosa, Bloody Mary or a special cocktail that is crafted at the hands of a A+ Mixologist, completely rocks let alone my Sunday, but my world.