Kika Tapas – I came for the Sangria but stayed for the Paella

Tony and I have been on a goal to venture out beyond South End and Malden in our date night. A few weeks ago we trekked to the other side of the river…. the tough journey to Cambridge.

Kika Tapas sits in Kendall Sq among the shiny new developments and pharma tech. The name is inspired by the work of filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and the menu includes modern Spanish tapas, traditional paellas, and Latino flavored dishes. There are always fun specials and “happy hour” (i put in quotes because everyone knows Boston doesn’t do alcohol happy hours but it can do food specials).

The inside decor is super fun and funky!

We always start with patata bravas because it’s the tell all of how the rest of the tapas will be. Trust me, you pass the patata test and you know the rest of your night will be tasty. You fail… well there’s always just more drinks! The flavoring on the potato roast was perfect, but I wouldn’t have minded some extra spicy sauce.

With our first test passed, we placed in some more tapa orders while our Sangria arrived

Next was the Palta Reina which is crab meat, mango and avocado! Never had this before, but it’s definitely a fave for the future

Our final tapa was the baby lamb Chuletillas served in apricot sauce.

We only ordered three tapas because our next stop was the Paella. It takes about 30-40 minutes to make so we had to appease the hunger for a bit.

When it comes to sharing paella with Tony, we always have to take turns, I love seafood, he um does not. This time I caved and we went for the Cazador- Duck confit, chicken thighs, super tender braised short rib and chorizo paella.  Half of ended up being an awesome lunch the next day.

And on a side note of specials, Saturdays have 50% off Paella so it’s a pretty darn good deal.

Tony’s Banana and nuts dessert (he’s bananas for bananas!) While I sipped on some whiskey to help cute my cold.

All in all, not a bad night. Check out Kika Tapas in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA.

Marching through Madness with Yard House Pub Fare Menu

I was gifted a meal experience courtesy of Yard House. All opinions are my own.

Yard House has been celebrating a special Pub Fare Menu for March Madness featuring Irish-inspired dishes and drinks specially created by Chef Carlito Jocson. This limited menu is ending April 8th so Tony and I were excited to try it out before it was gone!

I also just learned yesterday that while I thought it was just Fenway that had a location, Yard House is actually in about 80 locations across the country and started in California, not Boston. Look at dat! You learn something new every day.

We ordered an app first, their new featured item Poke Nachos. It wasn’t on the Pub Fare Menu but I couldn’t tear my eyes from something that combines my two life staples, nachos and poke. Yes, they are served on Fried Wontons!

Yard House Poke Nachos

I also tried the whiskey margarita and I gotta say, I didn’t think it would but it worked! The mix was a little more sour but blended well with the whiskey.

Our next app was the Whiskey black pepper wings. The only debate – wings or legs? Def the wings for me.

Wings

Next, I ordered the Salmon for my main course. It had a light Whiskey glaze with option to add more on the side which I loved. The salmon was pairs with kale, cabbage and bacon mashed potatoes. I may need to try this mashed potato combo at home or maybe go to Yard House

Yard House Salmon

Tony went for the grilled GUINNESS Cheddar & braised beef melt served with tomato bisque. I snuck in some bites and definitely double dipped with no apologies.

Yard House Soup

My only regret is that I wasn’t able to try the Shepard’s Pie & Mash because I was too full and Tony commits blasphemy by not liking lamb. It features ground lamb simmered in stout beer with herbs, peas and potatoes, baked inside a flaky pastry crust and topped with parmesan mashed potatoes, brandy-shallot gravy and parsley.

So do me a favor, check it out before it’s gone after this weekend!

 

 

 

Floating away my woes at Cloud 9 Boston Float Therapy

I was gifted a float experience courtesy of Cloud 9 in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’ve been at a couple of spas lately (usually massage cause my back/shoulders are being killed to death by desk job) and I always walk by a room with a big egg shape bathtub. Always curious, but too scared to try. This egg pod is part of a new trend in spa therapy called Float Therapy.

What is Float Therapy? The benefits are said to be wellness, relaxation, pain relief and better sleep. But at the core of it, it is 1,000 pounds of salt in a tank of 180-200 gallons of water that creates a 30% salt solution, enabling you to float effortlessly atop the water. Kinda like the Dead Sea only you don’t have to go all the way to Israel to try.

So when I had a chance to try out Cloud 9 Float & Wellness in Boston, I decided to conquer my fear of getting trapped in that thing and maybe even see if its as magical as everyone been telling me. So one day after wanting to rip my hair out at work, I ventured on the orange line from Back Bay Boston for a 20 minute ride to Forest Hills.

About a 5 minute walk from the train stop, I found the family owned business on South Street in Jamaica Plain. Both owners were working with clients as I looked around the space to sign in.

Alex greeted me and had me exchange my kicks for some cushy waterproof slippers. Since it was my first time and I clearly looked out of my element, he had me watch a 5 minute animated info guide. I am not a very good listener but I tried to learn the benefits I should be experiencing as I try to relax, count to 300 and if can be avoided, don’t splash myself in the eyes.

As I was getting ready to go for my float, Alex’s mother who is the co-owner said they had a cancelation for the infrared sauna and asked me if I wanted to try it out for 30 minutes. Never one to refuse a deal or a sauna, I agreed.

The infrared sauna uses light to create heat. It is dryer and lower temperature than a typical sauna and causes reactions similar to those elicited by moderate exercise, such as vigorous sweating and increased heart rate.  There was also different lights for light therapy, but I was just content listening to some music while I sweated out the toxins of my day, week, year. I’m a big Sauna fan and loved how much easier it was to stay in an infrared compared to a traditional sauna.

There is also a shower in the room to rinse of and refreshen when done. I loved that each service had it’s owner shower so you never had to go to a locker room.

After the sauna, I was walked into a private room with a shower, float tank, and all the essentials (toiletries, ear plugs, etc) . I got my final ask if I have anymore questions and then was left to be.

You start of with taking a shower to remove some of your body oils. I was super nervous about my hair bleeding or my color being eroded by the salt so I researched a bit before I went. It was recommended to fully soak my hair in the shower and a silicon swim cap should help.

The next step was to put in the ear plugs they provide and than you enter the tank.

I actually started with all the lights still on. In the pod there is a switch to close the pod and turn on/off the light. Since the room is private, you are actually encouraged to be nakie but I felt more comfortable in my bathing suit so in the tune, you do you.

Upon first entry, the water felt warm like a bath as I anxiously went belly up. There was a headrest float available if I needed, but once I got into the belly up formation, my head seemed to just know where to float on its own.

My first thought was wooowwww this feels amazing on my back and I started to stretch a bit (but carefully cause the fear of splashing water into my eyes was real, although they do provide a water bottle should that happen to help clean out the salt).

As I eased into comfort, my body was adjusting to the water that was body temp as well and I was now ready to go the next step, turning off the blue light of the pod.

Done.

And my anxiety came on again as I played around with what position I wanted me body in – from the mummy, to whatever else they showed in the info video. In the end, I found that what I started with, Shavasana like belly up float was the most comfortable for my body.

My mind on the other hand was racing… about work, about my to do list, about a training plan for a BQ, what to eat for the next week, worrying that this float was cutting into time I could be running/training,  everything and anything . I tried counting to 300 but every 20 numbers or so I went back into mind racing thoughts that could only be causing more anxiety then relaxation. It sort of became a tug of war, I told my mind to relax, it would do the opposite, I’d tried to count and repeat.

I have to confess.. at one point, I pulled up and checked my watch thinking I must be almost done. I was only 21 minutes into my soak! You can leave at any time, but if there’s one thing I try to avoid, it’s a DNF. So never a quitter, I returned to my belly up stretching which was the only trick that worked to relax me and started counting to 300 all over again, each time i wavered, I didn’t let my thoughts finish, but went back to the number I thought I left off at and continued to count off into nothingness.

At one point, the idea of closing the pod came, but I was too nervous that without my glasses, I wouldn’t find the switch to open it again and I was finding some Zen and didn’t want to ruin in by fiddling with all the buttons.

I honestly don’t know where my mind went but I zoned out somewhere for 30 minutes because before I knew it, a low light that indicated my 60 minutes were up came on.  Maybe I napped? Float therapy black out? Is that a thing?

I slowly eased my way out and into the shower. I was feeling pretty relaxed and lazy and wanted a bed a lot more than a shower, but a shower was definitely needed for all the salt I probably had on me.

There’s a lot of benefits to float therapy that are listed on the Cloud 9 Website  and as with most therapy, you do need to go regularly to really feel the physical and mental benefits. I was also told that floating regularly also helps reach the meditative state more easily than what I experienced which is why they also offer 90 minute floats for the more experienced. I never even meditated for 10 minutes before this so IMO, that was a grade A floating performance for Liana.

Aside from some trailing salt in my ears that I found the next AM, I left with the following benefits right away:

  • My back felt awesome
  • My PF foot felt better than ever (maybe that’s cause I skipped a run to float heh)
  • My mind felt weightless for the evening
  • I slept a lot better than I have in a while that night

I am not sure if my brain ever reached the step where it is suppose to increase creativity. They say 40 minutes into a float the brain stops producing its normal Alpha and Beta waves and starts going deeper into a Theta or Delta state. I am not sure I got there on my first float, but I plan on trying a few more to find out.

If you’re in the Boston area, check them out at 162 South Street, Jamiaca Plain 02130 Cloud 9  Float & Wellness street parking and train access available,

2019 Cowtown Marathon Race Report

I hate you I love you
I hate that I love you

Marathons hurt… but I guess we’re in an on/off relationship

I haven’t been posting much about running or racing cause well it’s been pretty minimal. In the past 13 months I have ran a half marathon, a 10K, another 10K I got too lazy to recap and the rest I ran vicariously in my sleep from the comfort of my pillow.

The 10K felt good and sometime in the fall, I decided hey if my crappy foot could hold out for 6 miles, why not 26. I started searching for  marathon in the January/February timeframe with a few objectives – If I’m suffering through a marathon, I want it to be a new state and possibly somewhere with a high chance of not being freezing rain.  Soo after several cruises of running in the USA and google flight searches, we landed on COWTOWN Marathon.

Cowtown is held in Fort Worth Texas (Dallas Area) and is actually a two day running festival with 26,000 runners consisting of 5k, 10k, a half, a full and for the overly ambitious a 50K and if you want to be extra, you can do a combination of some Saturday and Sunday races because why not be extra. In another time (another decade) that extra extra may have been me but for now the marathon was sufficiently 20 miles to extra enough for me.

My training wasn’t terrible, I stacked up four 20 milers including one pretty happy 21 miler, some solid high teens and pretty much swept up each week with about 35-40 weekly miles. Not quite BQ training, but the thought of BQ2020 did flirt my heart too often.

I even enjoyed my taper like a seasoned athlete, taking long naps on the couch, cruising a few 5 milers at race pace and carbo-loading with pizza like the pros.

By Saturday AM, I was ready for my flight and eager to get running. In typical fashion of getting too distracted by eating and exploring, I made it to the expo at 4:50 (we may have gotten a bit lost in the giant expo center block of buildings and museums). With 10 minutes to spare on picking up my number (there was no same day number pick up), I caught about zero to none of the expo, but it looked pretty extensive and I’m sure it had the typical – nuun, gus, shoes, and headbands that you would expect. If i had a do over, I would have come a little earlier to check out the new running digs out in the market.

The race started at 7AM and I was a little bit nervous about making it on time. Setting the alarm for 5AM made me want to cry and question why am I such a masochist. My wake up time is usually 8AM and I am more of a sunset runner than a sunrise anything. I also had the outfit dilemma. The weather was predicted to be anywhere between 35 – 60 degrees so I felt lost in how warmly or not I want to dress up. I opted somewhere for the middle – light leggings, a long sleeve and a sacrifice of a winter hat that I hated anyways.

Of course on the morning of the race, the Garmin that I haven’t used in months decided to crap out. I thought about using runkeeper, but I needed to save my phone battery to find Tony and my co post race.  I contemplated stumping the S— out of the garmin but then decided it’s not that important anyways.

The race organizes some hotels that offer discount runner rates but they were all sold out when I tried to book. We managed to snag one with a fairly decent rate that was 2 miles away. Except lesson for next time – avoid hotels around train tracks because instead of getting 6 hours of sleep, you’ll get 6 naps of sleep in between horn blasts 😉

The race organizers sent us an email the night before telling us all to be patient so I decided to try to make it to race start 30 minutes early but things seemed easy enough that I just chilled in the car until 15 minutes before the start. The Coral organization was pretty amazing! I forget how many in total (def more than 8) but there was plenty of space. The race started on time without any issues so massive kudos to the organizers, volunteers and everyone in between.

The above map was posted and if you can follow it, kudos. For me, I never really had a clue where I was so I just hoped there was a runner in front of me. The Marathon and Half shared the course for about 10 miles.

We passed the stockyards which were a fun little district of cowboy boot stores and saloons. It also happened to be on brick road which did not feel pleasant at all.

There were water stops about every 1.5 miles and while I didn’t notice any clocks on the course, the mile markers were there every mile and super easy to see and guesstimate into a pace.

For the first half things felt good. I mostly hung behind the 1:40 half marathon pacer (I couldn’t find the 3:25 one) as I figured I’ll slow down in the second. I didn’t have a watch but the race results have me clipping around 7:35-7:45 pace through the 13.1 miles. This got me through the half in 1:41:30, a pretty respectable half if I don’t say so myself.

I remember thinking somewhere between miles 10-13, it’s not that it’s hilly, but this sure as heck ain’t flat. The other thought, damn I forgot how painful running fast on concrete feels. (I usually run on a treadmill or dirt path on the Charles when I can).

Somewhere between mile 13-16, my quads decided they’re done with this whole running thing. Done with a massive DONE. And somewhere after the 20 miles, my right foot decided it really feel like being walk on either.


Mile 22-25 was around this park river that pass our hotel where my brother got a shot of me attempting to jog or walk or just not cry at mile 23. When your body starts losing it’s ability to move, you have two options – give up and cry or just get the damn thing done. I knew my BQ has slipped after mile 16 and I probably let that weight down my legs just as much as my angry quads – determined to finish but really not interested in running hard anymore.

I ended up crossing at 3:50:29. so 1:41 half 2:10 second half. Not my proudest pacing moment. I knew going in that I was probably a steady 3:40 finish but the dream to try for a BQ just won over. Could I have ran a smarter race in a faster overall time? Probably, do i regret trying for the BQ? Not at all! Maybe 2021? But I got a new state, a new medal and I rung a cowbell at the end.

The post race was just as organized as the start, they had marathon blanket and a finishers jacket that sort of resembled one of those reusable grocery bags in a neon green. After that, you went into this barn that had food – a noodle soup that felt like a beacon of hope (seriously, all marathons should have ramen or noodle soup at the end), some bananas and another gray finisher shirt that was quite nice and I’m excited to wear! There was also some music and a beer tent for two beers per runner.

Overall Time : 3:50:29

Age Group Place:  11/56

Gender Place: 49/406

Overal: 225/1,095

Until next time – As for now, I am resting my foot and eating some more donuts 😉

Dining Out and Brunching at Alden & Harlow

Alden & Harlow has been on my list of WANT, no NEED to try for a while. It is located in Harvard Square and while I run through it about weekly, getting myself across the river in non-running mood seems like a chore, or maybe it’s the parking and red line situation. However, we are trying to make a better effort at going across the river and checking out the Cambridge and Somerville dining scene that is all the rage. Alden & Harlow opened in 2013 and focuses on small plate inventive American cuisine from a constantly changing menu that I need to try each time from now on.

Booked weeks in advance, Tony surprised me with a date on Valentine’s day this year We are usually a home made pizza and nap type of couple but a gal can’t complain when offered a fancy dinner.

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Our meal started with a complimentary snack of PICKLED beans topped with sesame seeds. Getting a serving of veggies and the much needed electrolytes in one chew.

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Next we got the patatas bravas which were the best I ever had! Like I’m still dreaming on these a week later. They’re spicy, with some pepper relish and and a garlic flavor like no other. GET THESE if you go. The rest of the menu is optional, but this is a MUST.

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Our next selection was the smoked duck breast! Candied walnuts and jam bounced of the flavor

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Next was the smoked trout and I think I may have reached my smoked foods limit because I have to confess I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The roe and latkas were a nice touch but I wasn’t digging the trout as much.

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The superstar of the night (after patata bravas of course) was the Secret Burger. It’s not so secret given that it’s listed on the menu, but supposedly the quality is limited. We were dining early side of 6:30 PM. 8 oz of meats, with a house made roll and chips topped us up for the night.

But where’s the dessert? Well… we were feeling a little stuffed (maybe the secret burger did us in).  But don’t worry I got to try those as well!, A week earlier I also had a brunch with the gals (Galatine) and of course the irony of waiting 5 plus years to try Alden and Harlow is that I was invited to two reservations in one week. If course I couldn’t miss out because brunch and dinner are not the same!

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The Bloody Mary is on the menu “Spicy, Savory & Necessary” and they are not lying! A rich flavor with their famous pickled green beans that I learned is apparently their thing.

img_20190209_114542.jpgI went back and forth on what to pick, but ultimate went with them lamb belly hash and was not disappointed.  Although I wouldn’t have complained for a bigger slice of sour dough bread #gimmeallthecarbs

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The dishes are all on a slightly smaller side as the are designed for sharing or for those who are on a diet and not marathon training so I had to tag on this side of cheesey grits to hold me over until the next meal. It ended up being the perfect companion to the lamb hash.

And I probably should have stopped there but what’s a Galatine without dessert?

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Olive Oil Cake with Earl Gray whip

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Smoked chocolate bread pudding with ice cream! Hot out of the oven

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and my favorite were these simple but soooo good almond short bread biscuits and custard

There was also a cinnamon roll I had my eyes on, but the ran out by the time I tried to order! I guess I’ll need to return soon to get my non-sticky hands on one.

Checking Out Sarma in Somerville – A Dining Review

Sarma has been on my radar to scope out for a while. Constantly being praised and hyped up, it was a shocker that last minute reservations aren’t really available. So why night we decided that we need a treat ourselves dinner out so we went night by night until a dinner time slot was open (about 6 weeks out ha!)

The interior is modeled after Turkish meyhanes, Mediterranean a la gastro pub. For those of us a little less cultured in food and vocabulary, the menu has a side glossary of common terms used in the menu (and I guess so we don’t bother the server?).

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They also have a surprisingly good beer selection and I stuck with Save the Robots, a New England Style IPA.

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First step up was the seven layer hummus that will make the rest of your hummus meals feel like a bore.

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Next up was the biscuit pork belly with jalapeño-whipped feta

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And because Tony can’t pass an opportunity to test out a new take on nachos, we got the lentil nachos with spicy feta fondue, radish tzatziki, cabbage, sprouts

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Next came the monk fish grape leaves, my favorite dish of the night. It is served in a miso avgolemono, maitake, yuzu, puffed rice

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Next came the Brisket Shawarma that looks like tacos with apple hilbeh, fenugreek, barley, everything bagel

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We wrapped up the final course with feta cheese gnocchi in a saucey loukaniko, rabe, red pepper, olive crumb.

Overall, with our hungry eyes we ended up ordering 6 small plates, a bit ambitious for the two of us. I recommend starting with 2 per person and adding on one at a time as they do come out very fast! The menu changes often with seasonally so can’t wait to return!

Sarma – 249 Pearl St. Somerville, MA  – street parking was relatively easy

Last Second Gifts for your Favorite Runner under $20

Twas the week before Christmas and you scream o shit, I haven’t ordered a gift. Luckily the Amazon slave elves are working away and thanks to the prime employees, you still got time to pretend you planned weeks in advance.

As always, I recommend stopping by a local running store if you have a chance. Instant gratification and all. Its also nice having a running store near by in business and not another bank or Sweetgreen chain.

But it is less than a week, and work is busy and humanity is tough to deal with so if you sneak off a few amazon orders, I won’t judge.

Fun Arm Sleeves! $19.99 as you have to buy them separately – Cause races start at crack of dawn and crack of dawns tend to be cold

2019 Desk Calendar $17.99 for your daily dose of reminding you to take a run

No Limits Medal Rack – $39.95 – Okay, not in the under $25 category but it can hold up to 60 medals and I want one because the medal rack that i once tried to make on my own is still sitting in my old house’s basement or in the land of crafts with good intentions but failed efforts land

When your legs get tired, run with your heart tags $10.99 – no real reason why you need these besides when you’re panting with your hands at your knees wondering why you’re doing this to your life, you can look down at your shoes and smile with your heart

Lock Laces $7.99 – nothing like a PR killer when your shoe laces untie because you didn’t double loop your rabbit ears – here’s a solution
Lock Laces (Elastic No Tie Shoelaces (Hot Pink)
Drying Inserts for Shoes – $14.97 okay I don’t know if these actual work but I’m going to try them but rain or shine, a race goes on
Balega Socks $9.99 These are currently my obsession since my feet suddenly decided they want to sweat like balls (or so I imagine) and blister with other brands. Also, Amazon has the lowest price I’ve been able to find. Although sometimes the run specials of buy 3 get one free at expos and running stores
Need more ideas? Check out prior lists I’ve made
Want to splurge and treat your runner? Ask them what their favorite shoes and shoe size is. Or a race they want to run. Or better yet, running is nice, but a spa gift card for a massage is also never wasted 😉
Mizuno Waver Riders – Size 7, A marathon in Maine, o and I love Etant spa in the south end, but who’s hinting ;).
Happy Holidays and Happy Running!