Category Archives: Reviews

Hers: Exercise Gets You On The News

Some of you may have read Greg’s post a few days ago about the KOGA workout.   I think his focus was on how much his ass hurt the next day, so I’ll give a little bit of background about one of the best ways I’ve found to break a sweat, and how it got me on the local news.

The KOGA workout was created by Jon Koga, a personal trainer and fitness guru out of Long Island, NY.   It combines high-intensity cardio kickboxing with yoga poses, resulting in an ass-kicking a la Walker Texas Ranger, Yogi division.   Jon’s passion is infectious, and after one class, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be signing up for another.   You can also be certain that your muscles will be shaking and you’ll be sweating like a beast.

I found KOGA about 6 years ago, while living back home on Long Island after college.   I was a devoted attendee in the weekly classes and, as always, a fan of exercise that doesn’t actually FEEL like exercise.   KOGA was a great way to alleviate stress, burn calories, and, as a kicker, my abs weren’t looking too bad.  I was hooked.

Unfortunately, after moving to NYC for work, I was unable to find a gym that offered the cardio-beating I loved.   I settled for the occasional Spin class and spent the rest of the time staring at the clock on the elliptical, wishing the time away. It wasn’t until this past August that I noticed a flyer for a KOGA demonstration at a local Summer Streets event.  I made plans to attend the class, hopeful, but not terribly optimistic.  Could it be?

IT WAS!

I’ve since reconnected with Jon Koga and his team, feeding my addiction as often as I can at gyms around the metro area.   I am also making the jump and getting certified to teach in November.   When Jon called me a few weeks ago and asked me to attend a taping for the local NYC news, I was glad to help spread the word.  KOGA is slowly making it’s way through the Tri-State area, and with any luck, it will end up in gyms near YOU very soon!

If you have any questions about getting your butt kicked or how to get involved, please email me at venusandmarsbars@gmail.com!

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Hers: The Waverly Inn Makes Great Butter

Alright, I have a secret to tell you.  Greg and I went somewhere very exciting the other night, but we weren’t really supposed to be there.  The food was excellent.  It was very secretive, and I don’t even have pictures to show you.  If you take a picture in this place, the manager will kindly come up to you and kick.you.out.

Are you curious?

Well, sit back down, and I’ll tell you the story.

The Waverly Inn is not a restaurant.  It is, in fact, “a semi-private dining club tucked away in the West Village.”  There is no reservationist, and there is no telephone number for Average Joe’s (or Greg’s) to call from Astoria and secure a table by the fire.  The only way to get a table is, if by some miracle of God, you have been blessed with the private phone number or email address that confirms you are one of the chosen few.  Or if you are a celebrity.  Or, in our case, if you regularly dog-sit for a cop in that particular precinct.  Thanks for the hook-up, Adam.

Owned and operated by Graydon Carter, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair magazine, the Waverly Inn is the epitome of exclusive city living.  For two wanna-be yuppies living in the Outer Boroughs, it is the holy grail.  Good food and celebrity sightings are our siren song, and when Greg got the call that a Thursday night table was ours, we dropped our trashy weeklies and jumped on the subway.  For one night, we were going to be the upper crust.

The Waverly sits on an indescript corner of Bank and Waverly streets, tucked in amongst the brownstones we’ll never afford and the luxury cars we’ll never drive.  We arrived early, looking forward to a good meal and hoping for a celebrity sighting or two.  After checking in with the host, we sidled our way up to the bar and perused the drink menu while waiting for our table.  I had my nose stuck deep in a glass of Syrah when…

…Wait a second….is that Karl Lagerfeld?  The father of Chanel?

I elbowed Greg, who was busy slurping on an elderflower margarita, and pointed out the Fashion Guru.  Celebrity sighting? Check.  As we were lead to our table a few moments later, we casually scanned the dining room.  You never know where those famous people might be hiding.

As is customary, every dinner starts with a basket of the Waverly’s famous biscuits and strawberry butter.  Yes, strawberry butter.  Only in places like the Waverly Inn and the Wonka Chocolate factory do things like strawberry butter exist, the perfect accompaniment to a rich and flaky biscuit.  Please note that it is inappropriate to slip leftover biscuits and butter in your purse.  Fight the urge.  You will not be invited back.

The waiter recited the night’s specials and left Greg and I to debate our choices.  We agreed to split an appetizer and each ordered one of the specials (as usual, meat for Him, fish for Her) for our main course.  Though tempted, we did not order the Truffled Macaroni and Cheese, for $95.  $95 is too much money to spend on pasta with cheese; however, if you’ve had, please let me know if it is worth our electric bill.

Our first course arrived, a Tuna Tartare with Avocado, Diced Egg, and Dijon Emulsion, served with toast points for dipping.  The waiter had barely set the plate down on the table before Greg and I pounced on it; biscuits with strawberry butter, while decadent, are not very filling.  The tuna was rich and unctuous, heightened by the creamy avocado and fattiness of the egg yolk.  The dijon added just the right touch of acid and a hint of salt.  We both felt the dish could have used some crunch for a little texture, but the toast points were a nice substitution.  So far, dinner at the Waverly was off to a rousing success.

Shortly after we licked our plates finished the first course, our main dishes were upon us.  Greg’s eyes grew large when the waiter placed before him a Grilled Rib Eye with Roasted Root Vegetables.  Greg is a Meat and Potatoes type of guy, and the thick steak on his plate was enough to make any vegetarian have second thoughts.  The thick crust crackled forgivingly when it met Greg’s steak knife, and the medium-rare meat glistened on his fork.  I, one who generally scorns red meat, had immediate second thoughts on my own dinner choice.   Fork came to mouth, and it was confirmed: few things make Greg happier than good steak.  Except maybe, Pittsburgh sports and peanut M&M’s.

Before I could experience any buyer’s remorse, I was rewarded with Halibut over White Beans, Kale, and Celery Root.  Oh my. The chef is clearly very thoughtful, as he left my fish swimming in a delicious broth, flavored with smokey bits of bacon.  (Fish, like everyone else in the universe, love bacon.) The heady aromas of ocean and pork were enough to make me forget the steak across the table in a matter of seconds.  Because I am Considerate and Kind, I offered Greg a bite of my fish, and then ate every last bit. I am also a Dainty Little Thing, wouldn’t you know.  It was light and delicious, an excellent choice.

The best part of the meal, perhaps, was something not on the Autumn menu.  It was the knowledge that,”hey, this is a pretty cool thing we’re doing tonight.”  Greg and I don’t get too many chances for weeknight dates, and even fewer chances to eat in elite NYC restaurants.  Throw in some possible celebrity sightings and strawberry butter, and we are a happy pair.

Desserts were politely rejected.  No need to be greedy, and my emergency purse stash of M&M’s is a good safety for late night subway snackage.  We (Greg) paid the check and left our table by the fire, only to brush past Harvey Weinstein on the way out.  Celebrity sighting #2? Check.

So, is the Waverly all its cracked up to be?  I say, sure.  The food is good, the service is sufficient, and the experience was a nice break from work and other weekly stresses.  Even though we’re not important enough to demand a standing reservation, it was fun to pretend that we were.  I’ll pretend to be anything that lets me eat strawberry butter.

I’m sorry we don’t have any pictures, but maybe you’ll get a chance to eat there yourself.  There are plenty of cops in this town, so start dog-sitting and you might earn yourself a table.

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His: The Last Train to Scoville

Throughout history, there really haven’t been that many great people named Wilbur.  If I had to really think about, though, there may be a few.  Let’s see…there’s the greatest Wilbur of all time, Wilbur Wright.  He, along with his brother, were the first people to have sustained powered flight in 1903…..IN THE AIR!!!!.  Oh, and his brother may be the most famous person ever named, Orville.  However, that’s a debate best saved for my popcorn blog.  I suppose next would be that dude who owned Mr. Ed.  It’s a little before my time but there are few people who have never heard that wonderful speaking equine saying, “Hello Wilburrrrrrrrr.”  Oh, sixties comedy, how I love thee.

Don't yell at me, Wilbur, I'm not your wife.

Don't yell at me, Wilbur, I'm not your wife.

And I suppose that’s it for all the……wait a minute.  How could I forget the most important Wilbur of all time as he pertains to our world?  Wilbur Scoville.  The man, the myth and the legend.  The very gustatory gladiator who, ironically in 1912, came up with a scale that measures the heat in peppers.  The scale starts at 0 units with the likes of the sweet bell and sweet banana pepper and goes up to the dreaded Ghost pepper which comes in at over 1,000,000 Scoville units.

Hot hot heat.

Hot hot heat.

The chemical that causes the “heat” is called Capsaicin, which you may recognize from anti inflamatory creams used for joint pain.  The capsaicin is what causes the heat and thus the pain relief.  This spicy chemical is present mostly in the ribs and seeds of hot peppers; if you’re looking for a little less burn, just scrape those bits out and use the outer flesh for a slightly cooler sensation.  Additionally, eating foods containing capsaicin has been known to increase metabolism, and thus, aide in weight loss.  Heat is a great way to add flavor to food without additional calories.  This does not count if you are eating Buffalo wings.

Like Pacman chasing a Ghost

Like Pacman chasing a Ghost

As I got thinking more and more about peppers and heat, I felt that I wasn’t being true if I didn’t try some of the peppers from all parts of the Scoville Scale.  With that said, today, I went out and bought six different peppers, all with different Scoville rankings.  I set out with the goal of trying all of them and relaying the experience to you readers.  (Note: Ally does not eat spicy food.  She did not want to “burn her freaking tongue off,” so she will be my trusty photographer and milk pourer.)

Moo juice saves the day.

Moo juice saves the day.

Interestly enough, milk is the best remedy for heat-overload.  Casein, a protein found in dairy products, has a detergent effect on capsaicin.  Too heavy on the hot sauce?  Head to the dairy aisle.

First up was a sweet banana, which is a 0 on the scale.  Honestly, I thought there was a decent heat to this pepper.  Certainly, my expectations were lessened by the 0 rating, but I was most definitely surprised.  It wasn’t an uncomfortable heat but rather a nice heat that would  be welcomed in any number of prepared dishes.
Not so bad.

Not so bad.

Second was a hot cherry pepper, also called a pimento, which comes in around 500 on the scale.  Again, I was surprised by the heat.  I guess I was expecting nothing, but I was very pleased with the flavor and the heat level.  I should also say that I ate larger pieces of these peppers.  At this point, I was beginning to question my ability to eat spicy food and was fearing the peppers that were coming up.  Oh well…I’m a guy.  I can eat anything.

Next was an Anaheim Chile.  Or is it a California Chile or is it a Los Angeles Chile?  No, it’s a Los Angeles Chile of Anaheim (any baseball fans out there?)  Anyway, this pepper can have anywhere from 500-2500 Scoville units.  I ate a rather large piece of this pepper and was blown away by the LACK of heat.  I assumed that we picked up a small bell pepper by mistake, and I offered the rest to Ally.  (Ally loves snacks.)  She happily popped the pepper into her mouth and….it was an Anaheim Chile after all.  Bad news.

Not happy.

Not happy.

I’m sorry that I doubted you, anonymous produce section worker.  I’m sorry you burned your freaking tongue, Ally.

The fourth pepper was a Jalapeno.  A largely popular nacho accoutrement, I’ve been eating jalapenos forever…or so I thought.  I cut myself a nice healthy slice and chewed vigorously.  We’ll just say it was too big of a slice.  I immediately began to sweat profusely, my mouth feeling like Phoenix in August.  I had to chug a large glass of milk and let myself cool down before I moved onto the Serrano that awaited me.

My taste buds hurt.

My taste buds hurt.

After recovering completely, I stepped up to the plate, facing all 22,000 Scoville units in the Serrano Chile.  Knowing this, I cut a small piece, but all the while making sure to eat some of the spicy seeds.  I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and the perceived mild heat.  It definitely burned at the back of my throat which was a new sensation, but not bad enough for me to go to the milk.  Score for manliness.

It's almost time.

It's almost time.

All that was left was the Red Habanero.  I cut a tiny piece of this guy, knowing that 285,000 Scoville units might do some damage.  I thought the pepper itself would contain enough heat, but I was mistaken.  I wanted to show you the full effect so I went back and ate a seed.  Just one….but the damage was done.  I’m fine now, but I can’t imagine eating more than one, maybe two of those seeds.  The heat was incredible and all around my mouth and throat.  It’s definitely not a sensation that I enjoyed or want to experience again.

No more peppers.

No more peppers.

So that’s the end of my battle with the peppers.  For now, I’m going to avoid touching my eyes and other areas, and relax with an Iron City….Pittsburgh’s official brew.  I hope you guys enjoyed today’s post because I went through some pain for it.  For more information on hot peppers, check out this great site:

US Hot Stuff

Do you like spicy foods?  Hit me with your best spicy food stories!

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His: That Little Green Pill

I got nothin

I got nothin'.

If you have read a few of our previous posts, you may have read the one where I talked about taking Spirulina as a daily supplement.  Well, I actually bought some, and I took my first “dose” tonight.  I can only hope that I don’t get angry and turn into a giant monster who then has two terrible movies made about me.

Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know that I will keep you posted on any ill or positive effects of this little green organism.  And again, I want to reiterate that if any of you have taken spirulina or any other so called “super foods,” we want to hear about them so we can try or not try them.

Little, Green, Different.

Little, Green, Different.

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Hers: Whatchia Eatin’?

I know, epic fail on the headline.  We’ll leave it at that.

I’ve been reading about chia seeds all over the blog world, so I was really excited when Diana from Greens Plus offered to send me a free sample to try.   From the Greens Plus website:

“Salvia hispanica, also known as Chia (pronounced chee’ah), is the richest and only unprocessed, whole food source of pure Omega3. A member of the mint family, Chia is native to Central America and has been used traditionally for over 3000 years.  Due to its high fiber content (more than 35%) Chia seed has the remarkable ability to absorb ten times its weight in water, making it an excellent source of hydration. Omega3 Chia’s fiber forms a gel that slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, binds it to toxins in the digestive system, and helps eliminate waste.  Omega3 Chia is especially rich in essential fatty acids. One 15gm serving provides more than 3gm of Omega3 (as alpha-linolenic acid) and 1gm of Omega6 (linoleic acid) in a perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio, making it the richest, unprocessed and fully-digestible whole food source of Omega3.”

Impressive, no?

Mmm...chia.

Mmm...chia.

I waited patiently/not-so-patiently for my chia to arrive, all the while planning nutritious meals in which to incorporate my magic seeds.  I envisioned myself as a lean, mean, chia-eating machine, a Superfoods Superwoman.  My sample arrived earlier this week, and this morning, I geared up for the total chia transformation.  I made myself a big mess of Greek yogurt for breakfast and opened my packet of seeds, making sure to sprinkle them evenly over my breakfast for maximum chiability.  I gave it a good mix, loaded up my spoon, and…

Chia, Chia, Yogurt Eata

Chia, Chia, Yogurt Eata

…it tastes like there are bugs in my yogurt.

While I may not be a chia convert just yet, I’m willing to give it another (and another) try.  In the meantime, here are some interesting facts about chia seeds:

  • Chia seeds are 100% cholesterol free and and trans-fat free
  • Chia seeds include significant amounts of Quercetin antioxidants to reduce inflammation
  • Chia is one of the highest overall antioxidant-containing foods—even higher than blueberries
  • Chia seeds are gluten-free
  • Chia seeds enhance energy levels and extend endurance
  • Chia aids in nutrient absorption and utilization
  • Chia seeds are a complete, whole, and natural food, not a supplement

With a biography that reads like a nutrition textbook, I’m determined to find a way to incorporate chia into my diet.  Superfoods Superwoman, I am not, but there’s hope.

I was sweet enough to save some chia seeds for Greg, so I’ll be sneaking them into his dinner sometime soon.

How do YOU chia?

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