Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Nutrition Upgrade

          Ultimate Bootcamp is definitely the most hardcore workout I've ever tried! If you follow my fitness and lifestyle blog you know just how tough!

          When I heard the founders of Ultimate Bootcamp had started a new online nutrition program, which can be done on its own or in combination with a bootcamp package, I had to check it out!

           My Nutrition Upgrade is a customizable online nutrition program with three different
tracks depending on your health and fitness goals:
  • Go Getter: You’re happy at your current weight but want to take your performance and fitness to the next level.
  • Feeling Fit: You’ve got 10-15 pounds to lose and are looking to transform body composition.
  • Shape Shifter: You’re looking for a big lifestyle transformation and big changes, with 15 or more pounds to lose.
          I chose the Shape Shifter track, with the goal of finding tips to make dining out a little bit healthier, and come up with a healthy meal plan for the times I actually do cook for myself.

          The program is four weeks long, and just before getting started you'll receive a welcome packet outlining the total number of calories you should be consuming each day, along with the percentage of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The welcome packet also explains basic food groups, and how many portions of each you should incorporate in each of your daily meals to meat your caloric goals.

          Once the program begins, Registered Dietitian Kerri Hawkins emails tips and challenges twice a week with suggested recipes to help meet your goals. She is also available throughout the week to answer questions in the Google groups forum, and when I asked a couple of questions she responded pretty quickly.

          One of the things I love about this program are the meal ideas, and in addition to using Kerri's email suggestions, I've found quite a few on her pinterest board I can't wait to try. My favorite so far was this Parmesan Chicken Bake. It was delicious and only about 250 calories per serving.

          I've found that with any online program or class, a large part of what you get out of it is what you put in. If you're ready to put the work in, My Nutrition Upgrade and Kerri definitely have a lot of great material and give you the information you need to be successful! I didn't give it my all the first week, but the second week I really tried to follow all of Kerri's recommendations and I'm already down a couple of pounds!

          If you'd like to give it a try, you can save 33% when you sign up with my coupon code 13MNUURBAN. If you're thinking of trying Ultimate Bootcamp in combination with the nutrition program, use my code AMKU13 for 10% off.

West Bridge

          West Bridge in Kendall Square has been at the top of my list for awhile now (ever since I'd read several rave reviews of the almost mythical egg in a jar). Often times I research a place quite a bit before I go, but this time I went in simply knowing I HAD to try this egg.

          The menu is set up with a mix of small and large plates, so you can dine tapas style or choose the more traditional appetizer, entree, and dessert. My friend and I decided to try a mix of both, starting with three small plates and then sharing one of the large dishes for two as our main course.

          Our meal began with a surprise from the kitchen, an amuse bouche of crispy chicken skin served with aioli and bits of charred corn.

          Of course I ordered the egg in a jar- a soft poached duck egg in a mason jar served with mashed potatoes, hen of the woods mushrooms, and crispy duck skin. Our server's instructions were to break the yolk, and mix it all together. It definitely lived up to all of the hype, and I would have been satisfied if my meal had ended on this note (but I was glad it didn't).

          We also tried a seared scallop special and the fried crispy pigs head; both very good but the egg was definitely my favorite!

          We shared the pork shoulder for two served with steamed little neck clams and a broth of celery and apples. This was fantastic! I loved the flavor of the crisp skin and although the meat was already tender and juicy, the addition of the broth made it even more so.

          Even with the two of us sharing we weren't able to finish, but we sat picking at it and taking small bites long after we were full. I can't wait to go back to West Bridge, maybe next time with a larger group so I can try even more!

West Bridge on Urbanspoon

Beat Hôtel

          This weekend I attended a grand opening party at the Beat Hôtel in Harvard Square. Inspired by a small, run-down hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris as a residence for members of the Beat poetry movement, Beat is a bohemian American brasserie. In addition to a dining room, the venue boasts two bars, and a performance stage featuring nightly live performances. The menu specializes in eclectic fare with global influences featuring fresh, seasonal and wholesome dishes from the Executive Chef, Rebecca Newell, formerly of The Beehive.

          In addition to its accessible menu, Beat Hôtel’s beverage list celebrates American spirits and American artisanal wines crafted by small batch winemakers with heart and soul. The state-of-the-art tap wine system features 24 true wines by the glass, mostly either certified biodynamic, certified organic or sustainable culture wines, all available in 2.5 oz, 5oz, or 12oz pours, in addition to a large and carefully curated wine list available by the bottle. Beat’s expert bar staff also serves craft-cocktails and 6 beers on tap.

          We started with some cocktails and passed h'ordeuvres, my favorite was the American Breed made with Makers Mark, Elderflower, and Apple Cider. It was the perfect seasonal fall cocktail!

          Next we sat down, and shared a few apps including lamb nachos, crispy veggies, and a shellfish tower. Everything was delicious, but my favorites were the smoked tuna and salmon tartares on the shellfish tower. Everyone at our table agreed, we would come back just for this dish!

             For my main course, I tried the heritage rack of pork with an apple and bacon stuffing. You generally can't go wrong pairing roast pork with apples or bacon, and this was no exception! It went perfectly with a glass of the Austin Hope Troublemaker, a California blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre, zinfandel, and petite syrah.  The portions were huge and I ended up taking most of it to go, so I'd have room to try the desserts!

           We ordered one of each of the desserts to share, including a chocolate peanut butter cake, cheese cake, and bread pudding. I planned to try just one bite of each, but couldn't help stealing a few extras of the cheesecake!

          The Beat Hôtel is a great addition to Harvard Square, and with it's eclectic, bohemian feel it will fit into the neighborhood perfectly!

Beat Hotel on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fogo de Chao

          I used to have a running joke with one of my vegetarian friends that we were going out for a Meat Fest. Now she eats meat, and I think she might be the second vegetarian I've converted! Although I didn't try Fogo de Chao with her, it is definitely the perfect place for a meat fest!

          Fogo de Chao is a high end Brazilian steakhouse and part of a national chain, although it certainly doesn't feel like a chain restaurant. When you walk in you're encouraged to first check out the salad bar and buffet complete with different types of salads, veggies, side dishes, antipasto, and my personal favorite - a bowl of bacon!

          When you're ready to get started with the meats, you flip your card over from red to green and the many gauchos will start coming over to your table and slicing meat onto your plate. They just keep coming until you flip the card back!

          There were a ton of options available, several different cuts of steak, pork, chicken, lamb, and more. Some of my favorites included lamb chops, a bacon wrapped filet, Parmesan crusted pork tenderloin, linguica sausage, and chicken legs.

            The meal also comes with several side dishes including Brazilian cheese bread, mashed potatoes, fried polenta, and plantains.

          I had a great meal and left completely stuffed! Although I enjoyed the buffet, I would skip this (or at least be more selective) next time since the meats and side dishes are very filling. At ~$50 per person, it's a better value and leaves more room for trying all of the meats.

 Fogo de Chão on Urbanspoon

H Mart

          I've been hearing about an amazing Asian grocery store and food court in Burlington for awhile now, so I decided to make the trip up one Saturday to check out H Mart. The only thing I had to compare H Mart to was Super 88 in Allston, and this place is sooo much better! While the food court was a little smaller, the grocery store itself was much larger and cleaner with a huge prepared foods section and tons of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. There was a wide variety of meat and fish available, and even kobe beef for around $30 per lb. The best to describe it would be something akin to an Asian Whole Foods.

          Options available in the food court included Chinese, Japanese, and Korean street food. I went with a bowl of ramen with dumplings from the Korean restaurant. It was a huge bowl for only $5, and better than any other ramen I've had in Boston. It was loaded with noodles, pork dumplings, and had bits of egg similar to an egg drop soup.

          After enjoying my ramen, I walked around the store and realized they give out samples on the weekend! I tried Korean BBQ chicken thighs, several varieties of kimchi, pork belly in spicy broth, and more. I would have loved to buy some of the prepared foods, but wasn't going right home and didn't want to leave them in the car. The dumplings and marinated meats were especially tempting!

          Although H Mart isn't convenient enough to shop regularly, I'd definitely make the trip for the Ramen or to get some of the prepared foods to make on a weekend!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


          How would you like to try the best steak in the world? Mooo Boston is the only steakhouse in the area to offer Japanese A5 Wagyu beef on the menu, and it truly the is the highest grade of steak you can get. A friend and I went in specifically for the steak, and had a great meal overall including the drinks, apps, and sides.

          We started with some wine, this bottle of Cabernet is one of my favorite California reds and it went really well with the steak!

           The fresh, house made rolls were warm and topped with a bit of sea salt. I tasted a bite, but resisted the urge to finish the entire thing so I could save room for the rest of my meal.

          We shared an appetizer of the roasted bone marrow, which was served with toasted brioche and a demi glaze. It was rich and decadent, and a perfect prelude to the Wagyu.

          When the steak came out, it was everything I hoped it would be. Although I could have easily taken down two of these, at $145 for a six ounce portion I showed as much restraint as possible. I ate it as slowly as I could manage, sprinkling just a hint of sea salt on top to enhance the flavor. Each bite literally melted in my mouth, and I was legitimately sad when I finished the last piece.

          The side of potato skins with Gouda and bacon were an excellent accompaniment. These were more like a twice baked potato, a side dish I've recently become obsessed with. Mooo's version inspired me to make my own the next night for dinner, but mine were not nearly as good!

          I was too full for dessert, but the wagyu beef was the perfect way to end the meal. I'm already craving it again and it's only been 3 days!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Harvard Sweet Boutique

          I've been known to travel across country for a great meal, so why not head to Hudson? I recently hosted a Blog and Tweet Boston event at Harvard Sweet Boutique where we sampled some delicious sweet and savory goodies!

          Harvard Sweet Boutique was founded by Sue George six years ago as an ecommerce website providing fans all over the country a convenient way to order her delicious goodies and have them shipped right to the doors of friends and family. Following huge success online, George decided to open a community bakery near her hometown of Harvard in 2012 to offer nearby residents a location to enjoy fresh-from-the-oven treats.

This Hudson storefront (designed to look like a gingerbread house) has thrived since, and today the menu includes:
  • The handmade all-natural dessert items available online, as well as cakes, cupcakes, pies and more
  • A newly expanded menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner savories like granolas, tarts, soups, salads, focaccia breads and pizzas
  • A new grab-and-go shelf stocked with packaged candies and nuts, and products from other favorite local companies such as Gracenote Coffee Roasters, Quinn Popcorn, Doves and Figs, Joanna’s New World Biscotti, Salt Traders and Sweet Lydia’s
          Our tasting started with some breakfast treats including fresh baked sticky buns and cinnamon rolls.

          Next were some macaroons including some unusual flavors like tiramisu, passion fruit, and orange coconut curry. I tried the coconut curry and it was delicious and so unique sweet with just a hint of curry.

          We also tried selections of biscotti from Joanna's new world biscotti. She makes them all from scratch including tempering the chocolate. My favorite was the white chocolate and coconut, but the orange spice was the best dipped in coffee.

          We paired the biscotti with some gourmet coffee from Grace Note, a local roaster specializing in some of the best fair trade beans around. My favorite was the lighter, Kenyan roast.

          We moved onto savory with the croque monsieur, and this was by far my favorite dish we tried. It was one of the best I've had, with home made mornay sauce and fresh baked bread. Despite being full, I had four of these little bites and bought two sandwiches to take home (one for me and one for the bf). The bf also loved his. If I lived closer to Hudson, I would get one of these every day for lunch!

          If you want to check out Harvard Sweet Boutique on your own and sample some of these amazing treats, they have a one year anniversary event coming up this week! The celebration will take place Thursday October 17th from 11:30AM - 1PM and include complimentary samples, light lunch, coffee from gracenote, door prizes, and more. If you're in the area, make sure to stop by!

Harvard Sweet Boutique on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chilling at Frost Ice Bar

          I recently had a chance to check out the newly opened Frost Ice Bar in Faneuil Hall. The bar is made entirely of ice, as are all of the mugs and decorations. The temperature is kept at a cool 21 degrees, and a $19 ticket gets you entry for forty five minutes with the use of a warm cape and gloves.

          I went with a friend on a Monday night and we scored tickets for the last entrance (around 9pm on weeknights). It was pretty quiet, which was nice because it gave us the chance to sit down in one of the ice couches and take pictures with all of the fun sculptures and decorations.

         I tried the no name cocktail, a tribute to the historic restaurant nearby. This was a blend of different flavored vodkas including watermelon and blueberry. All drinks were $11, and served in these frosty mugs.

           The experience was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed going for the novelty of it. I don't think I'd go back regularly, but it's a great stop as part a celebratory night out for something like a bachelorette or birthday party! With the Fanueil Hall location and affiliation with the Boston Duck Tours, Frost should do well with tourists and out of town guests.
Frost Ice Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Just Crust

          I recently had the opportunity to try The Just Crust in Harvard Square, a food story with a social consciousness. The company was bought out of the Upper Crust bankruptcy by the attorney who represented the exploited Upper Crust workers and many of the employees are former Upper Crust employees.

           The Just Crust aims to serve delicious pizzas with the highest quality locally sourced ingredients, prepared and served by employee owners. Employees are paid fair wages and share in the company's profits, and all ingredients are grown and sourced locally and sustainably, benefiting both the health of the customers and the local economy.

          I went in on a Tuesday night, and the place was packed! I ordered a slice of pepperoni and the tomato and mozzarella salad to eat there, and a sausage and ricotta pizza to take home. The slices were huge, and I liked the thin, crispy crust (definitely better than the old upper crust). My favorite of the two pizzas was definitely the pepperoni, and I also enjoyed the salad which was fresh and topped with a great balsamic vinaigrette. 

          The Just Crust is a great addition to Harvard Square, and I enjoy the pizza a lot more than the Upper Crust. Especially given their background and story, I hope they do well. 

The Just Crust on Urbanspoon