I first discovered spinning 3 years ago when my Bestie told me about her awesome workout during spin class. All I knew about spin at the time was what I learned from looking into the class - everyone always looked super intense and tortured during class. AND the teacher would be screaming at them to bike harder. Yikes. Also, how good of a workout could spinning be anyway? Aren't you just riding a bike to nowhere?
I didn't want to try it until Bestie gave me extra words of encouragement to go. It also didn't hurt that the class was free at the gym I already paid to go to. After my first spin class, I found out that spinning is a cardio class like no other. By the end of class, I was completely drenched in sweat. I know, ewww, gross yet SO so satisfying.
I've found that the more I ride now, the more I love it. For those of you who are as skeptical as I was when I first decided to give spin a try, here's that extra push for you:
5 Reasons to ❤ Spinning1) Joint Health. You can never be too young to be thinking about joint health. Silly or not, I've always had a concern that if I ever ran too much, I would end up with bad knees. I know friends who are marathon runners who are just fine, but the thought of that hard impact freaks me out. So, cycling is a great way to get the cardio in, but have the least impact on your joints since it keeps the pressure off of your knees and feet.
2) Work at your own pace. You control the resistance of your bike, and how quickly you pedal. Instructors will usually guide you and tell you on a scale of 1-10 of how hard you should work, but you are in complete control. This is great because it accommodates people of all levels. In other gym classes, if I stopped lifting and didn't finish a rep of weights, people will notice. In spin, there is no way that you can't keep up, because even if you push yourself to your max and you get tired, you can ease up the intensity quickly and just keep riding.
3) No coordination needed. If you're like me, and hate, hate, hate, choreography in gym classes (I'm looking at you Zumba), then spin is great, because there is minimal instructions to follow. Great for those who are uncoordinated like me. There's only 3 hand positions for the bike, and usually you're either sitting or standing. That's it. I actually haven't tried the madness at SoulCycle or FlyWheel yet - I know there's some upper body weights involved, but as far as I know, there's no dance moves to follow and that's fine by me.
4) You can't really give up. After work, the last thing I want to do is hop on the treadmill or elliptical for an hour. I'm not the best self-motivator and if you give me the chance, I will usually just stop half way through my intended workout time. Going to a spin class is different because not only do you have an instructor telling you what to do - they are working to motivate you and to push you harder. The more that I get yelled at, the less I can hear myself telling myself to give up. Almost like a free personal trainer if you will. Plus, any time you think you want to give up, you really can't because it's a bit embarrassing to ditch the class early. Trust me, I've considered it more than once.
5) Burn more calories. People come out of spin drenched in sweat for a good reason - spin can be really challenging. For me, it pushes me to go harder, faster and stronger than I normally would by myself. On average, ever since I started using my heart rate monitor (I'll write about this in another post), I've found that I burn about 450-500 calories during my 45 minute spin class. Also, once you get past the first few classes of spin and think more about your posture and concentrating on different muscles, you'll find that you'll begin to work your abs and upper body in addition to your legs.
Oh, if I haven't mentioned it already, it's super fun! I could probably talk to you all day about why I go to spin 3-4 times a week, but I'll save some more spin tidbits for later. Hopefully you found these reasons enough to push you to try it at least once. If you have free spin classes at your gym, you really have no excuse.
Also, I encourage you to shop around for an instructor that you like. Not all spin classes are made equal, it may vary from spin class to spin class, so it is important to try at least a few before you make up your mind about if spin's for you!
Have you ever tried Spinning? What have you liked or not liked about it? Let me know about your Spin experience!
Another awesome one I've found is that if you take several pictures of the same scene, it will automatically make a Panoramic. Here's my favorite one, taken from the backyard of our house during Coachella 2013. (Click picture to enlarge.)
I have to note that I actually don't love sharing photos on social networks for many reasons. I might go into why in future posts, however being able to share albums privately with a few close friends on Google+ is pretty cool, and then these added features make it that much more exciting for me when I do.
"How good can this be anyway? Blog worthy? Naww...", I thought.
|The best cucumber salad you'll ever have - probably served with a healthy dose of crack - it's so addictive|
As it turns out, I was 100% wrong, and the food was HELLA FREAKING GOOD! Han Dynasty is the one place I tell EVERYONE about when they ask me where they should eat in Philly. What I continue to dream about is their Spicy Crispy Cucumber Salad ($6.95): a cool, spicy and garlicky cucumber salad that's both sweet and savory. It's pure perfection plus a bunch of MSG probably. That sauce the cucumbers sit in must be some type of liquid crack. You dip anything in it, and it will make it taste delicious.
In fact, this sauce is SO good, I've been told by the waiters that they never clear the dish from the table, even if all the cucumbers are gone because everyone loves to put this sauce on everything else they're eating. The memory of this awesome salad would taunt me for over a year. I kept wanting to go back to Philly for more.
So, imagine my excitement when I got word a few months ago from the food blogging world that Handy Nasty was opening a location in Manhattan!?!
I was also a tad disappointed that the restaurant looked pretty small, which means that once this place gets discovered by other New Yorkers, the wait times are going to be out of control. Even with 4 restaurants total in Philly, the Philly location I visited had a 45 minute wait time without a reservation, so imagine what will Manhattan be like eventually.
But enough about the boring stuff- you're probably wondering how the meal stacked up to the memory. Last Saturday, I dragged 5 other friends to dine with me and everyone at the table agrees, Han Dynasty is a clear winner.
Dan Dan Noodles, or 擔擔麵, a noodle dish that's topped with bits of minced pork, some preserved veggies, scallions that sits on top of a spicy sauce made with Sichuan peppers and sesame (and/or peanut) paste.
An order of Dan Dan Noodles will set you back a mere $7.95. One bowl of these noodles is good enough to have by yourself as a meal. However, where's the fun in that? Don't you want to try other dishes with your buddies and share the yummy variety?
|Wontons in Chili Oil ($6.95)|
So in addition to our 2 orders of Dan Dan Noodles, our group of 6 ordered a few more things. One of the dishes that surprised me the most was the Wontons in Chili Oil ($6.95) since when I first looked at pictures, it looked like it sounded - wontons just covered in chili oil. It didn't really sound appealing to me until I gave it a chance and took my first bite. The wontons were perfectly cooked - the skin wasn't too soft or too firm - and the chili oil didn't completely coat the wonton as I expected. In fact, it gave it just enough of a kick. I'd easily order this again.
|Pork Belly w/ Sweet Garlic Chili Oil Sauce ($9.95)|
|Beef & Tripe in Chili Oil ($9.95)|
In comparison to the previous 4 dishes, the Beef & Tripe in Chili Oil ($9.95) is less of a standout dish to me. This is actually listed as the spiciest dish on the menu with a level 10 of spiciness, and is one of the more traditional dishes in Sichuan food. The texture of the beef was a tad tougher than I would like, but both the beef and the tripe acted as a great vehicle for all of us to test our spicy meters.
Unlike the unpleasantly spiciness of Mission Chinese, the spiciness here slowly crept up on you. On the first bite, you know the dish is a bit spicy, however, as you finish tasting the flavors of the meat itself, what you're left with is a slight numbness in your mouth that Sichuan food is known for. This way, you're allowed to first taste your food, then feel the burn. It was executed perfectly here.
Another dish I found less exceptional, but still tasty was the Scallion Pancake ($3.95) which came with a black vinegar sauce. It was thin enough so that every bite is crunchy and not doughy - so it was well done. Just not my favorite thing here. However, keep in mind this is a non-spicy item on the menu, so it might be a good way to cool your mouth down. Also it tastes excellent dipped in sauce leftover from the cucumber.
Finally, stepping away from the appetizers, we ordered only one of the entrees on the menu - the Double Cooked Style Fish ($17.95). We picked this dish because it was another one of my favorite dishes that I recall from my meal in Philly. The fish here is perfectly fried, not too greasy, but perfectly fried with a flour coating to make the outside crunchy and the inside cooked just right. Here, it's cooked with black beans, leeks hot peppers, and chili oil (duh).
|Pea Leaves w/ Garlic ($12.95)|
Sharing is Better Than Not SharingBy the end of this meal, everyone was more than satisfied with all the dishes we ordered. However, as if eating at Han Dynasty wasn't exciting enough for me, our meal was made even better as we had time to get to know the owner of this awesome restaurant, Han Chiang. Since I was stalking the opening of Handy Nasty all summer long, I've read quite a few things about Han's temperament and his ridiculousness such as free noodles for anyone who comes into his Philly locations with a parking ticket (funny enough, after our meal at Han Dynasty in Philly, we received a hefty parking ticket too, grrr PPA!).
His reputation was living up to its name in NY as one of the first Yelp reviews during its soft opening was about Han's personality - the Yelper gave it a 1*. Anyway, knowing all this, I was interested to meet the man and make up my own mind about him.
|All of us with Han (in the black shirt)!|
As it turns out, Han was very hospitable to us, as foul-mouth as he might have been, he reminded me of a crazy cousin who you'd look forward to having family dinners with, because you can't wait to hear some of the hilarious things he might say.
During our meal, he made sure to come to us several times to chat with us, telling us about how Han Dynasty came to be (he was a college dropout with little future, but a passion for food helped him start this place), a history lesson behind the Beef and Tripe dish we ordered (read about it here), and he even mentioned how he got a 1* review on Yelp because the group of guests who came to eat didn't understand the concept of the restaurant in which most of the time, everyone shares and dishes come out as it comes out of the kitchen.
He emphasized how important it is to him to share food, it's just a part of the culture and I totally get it. However, if others have problems with it, he will undoubtedly voice his opinions - and sometimes it might turn people off. I also believe this has become the reason why he's added this to the top of his menu:
I'm already counting down to the next time I come back to Handy Nasty. You will bet I will bring many others, and we shall all share our dishes.
Han Dynasty | Yelp
I first became obsessed with Handy Nasty (yes, I said it, Handy Nasty) during a weekend trip to Philly . I know I did quite a few of reviews...
Normally I would think, "innocent until proven guilty", but after reading all about him after eating at Chef's Table, I am not surprised and take his sous' word over his for sure.
Looks like my gut was right about him - even though amazing food lies here, I would not recommend this as an establishment to spend your hard earned cash because there are just much better chefs and restaurants out there who deserve your money more (Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, Momofuku Ko, Atera, Marea, just to name a few).
Food versus Service. Which do you prefer? Should that even be a choice you need to make when you're going to dine at a 3 Michelin Star Restaurant?
Apparently at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, you just might.
I'm having a difficult time figuring out how to write my review of Chef's Table because my interactions with the chef himself has left me with such a mixed opinion of my experience there. Many guests in the past have complained about the fact that while Chef César Ramirez is a culinary genius, he's not necessarily the best people's person. I actually had zero knowledge of all this prior to making my reservation.
While I'll start off by saying that even though I really enjoyed almost every dish during our 19-course tasting menu last night at Chef's Table, the whole service aspect was just so off to me. Now I can see what others mean when they speak of the chef's somewhat, let's just say, eccentric behavior.
At the risk of sounding like a bratty food blogger, I'll let you read the rest of my post to let you decide for yourself whether or not if the risk of questionable service at Chef's Table is worth it for you to experience the meal. Also, since J and I are such big nerds, we played a game of "memorize the entire meal" so we can have a play by play of the meal on the blog for you. So if nothing else, I hope you get an awesome diary of their most recent tasting menu since their newest price increase (now $255 from $225) in July 2013.
|J and I were super excited for our 10 pm reservation at Chef's Table last night, hungry and ready to eat!|
Getting a reservation at Chef's Table at Brooklyn FareI didn't know too much about about Chef's Table until we decided go just a month ago. Upon research, I read that getting a reservation is a bit difficult. They open reservations every Monday morning for meals 6 weeks ahead. That means for our reservation last night, we would have had to book the reservation all the way back during the week of July 29th. Come Monday morning, the phones are always busy and it takes a bit of dedication to land a reservation.
Luckily, I didn't actually have to call tirelessly for a reservation. Somehow by a weird twist of fate (or just poor planning on my end), J and I end slacked on making reservations for our anniversary and I ended up calling on a random Friday morning just to see if they had ANY openings available soon, and they happened to have one for Thursday September 5th at 10pm. Just right before our anniversary. Score!!!
UPDATE (12/3/2014): Looks like there's new accusations about César Ramirez by his sous chefs that he's a racist pig who calls asi...