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,

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

2018 B.A.A 10K Race Report

Maybe 10Ks are not that terrible.

Yes, I wrote that. After swearing for years that a 10K is a miserable distance. It’s got all the painful parts of a 5K that just refuses to end. However, the B.A.A. 10K felt different this time. I don’t know, I guess lately I’ve been embracing each racing distance almost like a racing virgin. Guess a 3 years racing gap with a rejuvenated love for running again can make you love the things you used to hate.

After my fun run, but race in my mind, Donut 5K, I signed up last-minute for the BAA 10K cause all the cool kids (my friends) were doing it. I generally don’t do BAA races because well I am cheap ($10 per mile!!!!!!), they’re early, and crowded but I’ve been feeling like I needed something now that I haven’t ran a BQ in a few years. However with summer hitting up Boston (who else is dying after 6 straight days of 90 degree weather?), the racing options besides post work evening 5Ks have become slim and this race started at 8AM. Early, but doable with an easy access of starting in the Boston Commons.

I picked up my race bib and race shirt at Adidas’ B.A.A store, RunBase and won’t lie, I was pretty pissed off to learn the shirts were Unisex. Prime example of sexism in the running industry by race organizers and sponsors. First of all, no they’re not unisex, they’re men’s that you think I should settle for. Let’s have a race director use women shirts as unisex and see how the men react. The shirt is part of my race fee, I deserve to havee a damn shirt that fits just as much as any male does. Also, Adidas makes women shirts, this isn’t a local race director putting on their first race who doesn’t know how what a tech shirt is to begin with, this is a well-oiled B.A.A. machine that should know better. A store for runners (not just male runners) should respect and realize the value in giving shirts to women that are cut to fit them. Running in ill-fitting clothes is a great way to get hurt and hate running. RunBase & B.A.A, you should be ashamed of yourself. SHAME SHAME SHAME

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Plus the shirts had unicorns 😦

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 Anyway back to race night as I’ll rant about “unisex” shirts another day. Although I am up to 10 mile runs now, I still had the race night butterflies that seemed a little like joy and excitement crushed by extra flavorings of fear of oversleeping, or stomach problems  so after waking up like 10 times, I finally gave up at 6AM (hey, I usually wake up at 8am) and decided to eat and get dressed. It was also probably not a good time to realize on race morning that, that I probably should have done workout clothes laundry the night before because my options of running clothes were limited to blah, eh & meh. At least I found an old unused sports bra and blessed the workout gods that let me forget this one at the bottom of the drawer.

So walking out slightly like a toddler who dressed herself in the morning half blind in clothes that no longer fit quite right, I still had goals in mind. My public goal, 50 minutes (figured with a 23 min 5K, this seemed reasonable given double the distance and the confusing weather where I felt overdressed and underdressed all at the same time). My secret goal was 48 minutes wanting to stay slightly on pace with my 5K time.

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So walked over, tummy feeling relatively okay, pondering if I drank enough water (yea probably didn’t cause half a cup of tea doesn’t count as hydration); I started trying to figure out corrals. It was self-seeded (with 10,000 runners in a relatively narrow street, I was surprised they didn’t do required seeding. I saw a 5:59 pace sign (yea definitely not even in my prime), and then the signs just dropped off. I started walking back and forth trying to figure out where my paced peeps are all at and settled on basically finding other women who looked like me, short girls, slightly soft with muscular legs and decided, yea these are people who probably run like me.

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Despite the feel of confusion when I tried to seed myself, the race started really smoothly! I fangirled over the elites like Meb & Desi doing their strides or charge ups or whatever it is that real runners do before a race to warm up (isn’t that what the first mile is for?). And before I knew it, it was my turn to run around 8:05 or so.

I stopped running with a Garmin when I was constantly injured. Getting reminded of my pace on a regular basis would frustrate me because I kept wanting to run at my former speed and so I was still running device naked. I had runkeeper on in the background of my phone, but with no audio queues. Instead I just ran by feel of where I pushed myself just enough but not enough to heave on the side of the road (or worse). At the mile markers, I estimated I was running somewhere around 8 minute miles. Also surprisingly, my corral seeding strategy worked as the group I was running with was in pretty similar pace where I didn’t have to zigzag to pass people nor was anyone really zigzagging around me. baa10k_coursemap The course starts and ends at Boston Commons and is basically the JP Morgan corporate challenge course that doesn’t end because part two is the BU 5K.  It runs up Comm. Ave, a short bypass to Bay State road and back to Comm. Ave to continue past all the BU green line stops wrapping up into a turn around by West Campus just to see the other side of Comm. Ave as you make your return.

Overall, the course is “flat” with the exception of the rolling hills around the BU Bridge. I cursed and really wondered how 15 years from when I was a little BU Freshman, that this damn thing is still under construction. The cursing at the bridge distracted me for the next few miles (I hate that damn bridge) as I looped back into the 2nd half. Cursing at things is usually what leaves me face planting into concrete, but luckily I avoided that stage in this run as I realized I had less than 2 miles to go (33%!! Yea anyone else think of miles in race through percentages?). While I was happy that I was feeling pretty comfortable in my pace (look Ma, no walk breaks!), I was struggling trying to pick up the pace as glory of negative splits came to my brain know that going back should have a decline. I guess with no real speed work under my belt, it makes sense I had no surge abilities.

As I went past the 6 mile marker, I did try to kick a little (or kinda look like a duck trying to run out of water for bread crumbs) and damn is that .2 miles always taking forever. But just like that it was over and I was into the finishing area. Medal check! I was stuck in a daze between wanting to grab all the “free” food I can and the feeling of if I eating anything this moment, I may throw up. There were bagels, bars, chips, cranberry raisins, and probably more crap that can let you eat up to your heart’s desire. Being lazy, I settled for a few bags of chips and a bottle of water and went to find Tony who was waiting by the finish line (yet somehow missed my champion finish line crossing).

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My runkeeper app said I ran 6.33 miles but the satelite on my phone isn’t the most accurate so the pace may be a little offer, but overall I am pretty happy with the fairly steady pace versus my old style where I start fast, die mid way, and drag myself through the finish.

Official finish time was 46:37! Woohoo I hit my goal and it’s been a damn while since I hit goals (I estimated for the photo).

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 Another unicorn joins the collection

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Avocado Dreaming – #Blendmoreveggies Boston Brunch Tricks

I don’t know how, but one day I woke and toast, warmed up bread, became a trendy thing. Yup, things you ate as a little kid in your pjs because the toaster was the only thing your mother trusted you to use in the kitchen (okay, maybe that’s just me). You know what I never did have as a little kid, avocado! I somehow spent 20 years of my life in vain without this vegetable (or is a fruit?) in my life! Luckily that gets me to my first trick of enjoying avocados!

AVOCADO Toast!

And yes, writing in CAPS always makes it that much tastier. Seriously, don’t shake your head at me in hipster scum disdain. Avocado toast is pretty amazing and one spot that excels at it in Boston is Tres Gatos in JP! Check it out. And no, I don’t just love the place because it has the word cats in it. (Although that does help just like my cat leggings).

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AVOCADO Smoothie

Yup, instead of peanut butter, add an avocado for a creamy filling texture. Avocados are an excellent source of fiber and protein and pack an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants! Smoothie King in Back Bay (and other places near you!) just released a Veggie Avocado Pineapple Smoothie (tip, you do have to tell them to not add sugar if you want yours veggies only, but the pineapple gives the perfect amount of sweetness!). FullSizeRender (9)

Check out their site for more ways to #blendsyourveggies and #drinkyourveggies or sign up for a $2.99 smoothie coupon!

Grilled AVOCADO

Because honestly, nothing tastes better than when it’s grilled. That it reminds me of summer and I miss summer.

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This is not my picture because I kinda made mine disappear in 5 seconds before it takes my phone to turn on, but Toro  in South End at one point had this as a brunch option! Hopefully, they’ll bring it back soon!

 

Do you have any favorite, non traditional ways to enjoy avocado? Any recommendations?