I Arrived! Then, I Dined At Assaggi.

August 31, 2011

Hello from the Great Lakes State!  I’m writing from Michigan, my home state.  After a wonderfully smooth flight experience (unlike my recent craptacular flight to Colorado), I landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.  My dad had dinner plans with a friend last night, so my mom and I were on our own for dinner.  I was already starving – I was in the air from 10:40am – 3pm (no, the flight wasn’t 4+ hours, it was 2+ hours, plus a 2-hour time zone change), so I never ate lunch.  My breakfast in Colorado consisted of a banana, a few grapes, and the leftover salad from last night, and after I landed I bought another banana and a small container of watermelon.  You can see why I was starving!

I met up with my mom as she was finishing up at her office:

Me:  “I’m really hungry.  Really hungry.  What do you want to do for dinner?”

Mom:  “Well, I never ate the salad I ordered for lunch, and it’s a big salad, so we could split that.  Or, why don’t we go out to eat?  There’s two restaurants I wanted you to try while you were in town.  One of them is pricey, so you may not want to go there with your friends, so why don’t I take you?”

I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a fine dining opportunity where I wouldn’t be responsible for the bill, and I wasn’t going to start now!

The restaurant my mom had in mind was Assaggi Bistro, a restaurant in Ferndale, a little suburb about 20 minutes away.  She had recently been there with a group of her friends, and everyone loved the food and had a great time.  The restaurant has a totally unassuming facade – you would never guess by driving by that this place was recently named one of the best restaurants in metro Detroit by The Detroit News:

Assaggi has a spacious patio out back, surrounded by lots of greenery, and we got a table back there.  My chair ended up being close to a speaker, and I noticed right off the bat the eclectic selection of music that totally had me laughing – a bizarre mix of standards like “That’s Amore” alongside cheesy wedding-band instrumental jazz versions of recent hits, like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).”

Assaggi’s menu combines elements from countries all around the Mediterranean.  They have pizzas from a wood-fired oven, a meze plate with hummus, tabouleh, and other Middle-Eastern items, and dishes with French, Spanish, and even African influences.

I was less concerned with watching what I ate that I normally am, on account of the lack of calories I’d eaten so far that day, although I did choose to avoid anything deep-fried or swimming in oil.  For an appetizer, my mom and I split one of their specials, California golden figs wrapped in prosciutto, stuffed with Robiola cheese (a creamy soft Italian cheese), and served with a balsamic reduction.  It was the first fresh fig I’ve eaten since I bought some a few months ago, and, like me, they had come all the way from California!

The fig had so many great textures and flavors – salty, sweet, rich, crispy, creamy – a great way to start a meal.  And how awesome is that photograph?  I normally don’t boast about my camera work – in fact, I’ve apologized for it on more than one occasion – but these pictures came out fantastically!  Probably because of all the natural light.

For my entree, I ordered their Moroccan duck legs, which came with dried fruit and pistachio couscous, spinach, and a pomegranate barbeque sauce:

I don’t eat duck very often – maybe once or twice a year, and always at restaurants.  And it was goooood.  The meat fell off the bones and melted on my tongue, and the pomegranates, pistachios and dried fruit perked up every bite.

My mom ordered the rainbow trout, which came with squash and heirloom baby tomatoes, a creamy dill sauce, and the same couscous I had (minus the fruit and pistachios):

I tried a piece of the fish, and it was smooth and well-cooked, but I liked my dish better.

Oh, and our meal started off with a bread basket that I didn’t photograph – we each had a piece of what seemed like a fresh-baked, warm (steamy, in fact) pita.

The dessert menu looked appetizing – who doesn’t like chocolate lava cake or creme brulee? – but we decided to pass and call it a night.  It was a delicious meal!

A quick update on my lower back before I call it a night:  Today I didn’t experience any discomfort or pain at all.  I’m so glad I’m healing so quickly after my move-induced injury!  Today was another rest day, exercise-wise, but tomorrow I’m gonna head to the gym for some light cardio.  I’m not going to push myself – I just wanna see how it feels, and how my body responds.  If there’s any pain or discomfort, I’ll stop.  With 3 of the last 4 days being rest days, I’m getting antsy to move!  I also have a massage scheduled for Thursday – which Richard Simmons recommended I get – and I’m looking forward to that as well.

Keep it up, David!


Garden Fresh Salad. Literally.

August 30, 2011

You know by now that I love produce straight off the tree.  Or vine.  Or bush.  Most recently, I scored some great lemons and oranges from my friend Robyn’s backyard and some limes from my friend Emily’s.  Although they’ve told me about it, I had completely forgotten that this year, my sister Sarah and her husband Justin put in a little garden along the side of their house, and Justin and I raided it to help put together last night’s dinner.

Here’s the garden:

They’re growing tomatoes, and these two guys were ready to go:

Justin harvested four cucumbers from his cucumber plants (he says they can barely keep up with the cucumbers they’re growing):

There’s also green peppers that are coming along nicely:

And some strawberry plants that haven’t yielded much this year, but I did find this little green guy:

So what did we do with the tomatoes and cucumbers?

We made a salad, of course!

Both tomatoes and 2 of the cucumbers got chopped up.  My 5-year-old nephew Sam helped – I did the chopping, he put them in the bowl.  We added a few more store-bought veggies: baby arugula, mushrooms, and 1/2 an orange bell pepper.  For dressing, we added a little olive oil, some vinegar, and salt and pepper.  This may be one of the freshest salads I’ve ever eaten:

Delicious!

The rest of my dinner was two sliders (each burger was 2 ounces), with tomato (also from the garden), lettuce, pickles, and mustard.  I split 1 bun between the two of them, and ate them open-faced.  I also nabbed about 4 french fries off my nephew’s plate.

My back is doing much better.  If you saw yesterday’s post about pools and high-dives and moving and skyscrapers, then you read about how I threw out my back.  Ouch.  I consulted the fitness professionals in my life today: Richard Simmons, among other things, suggested a massage (which is a great idea), and Craig laid out a plan for when I should get back to the gym, and what I should do.  Over the course of the day, during which I occasionally did stretches, my back improved.  It’s not 100% better, but it’s improved.

Tomorrow I hop on a plane and fly to Michigan.  Hopefully, this travel day won’t be as long and arduous as my last flight!

Keep it up, David!


Are All Colorado Pools Awesome? Plus, an Injury.

August 29, 2011

Do you have a few minutes?  Yesterday was a big, long day, so this may end up being a big, long post.  I won’t waste any time recapping, except to say that I’m currently outside of Boulder, Colorado, where I’m hanging out with Sarah (one of my older sisters), and her family.

Yesterday, Sarah and I wanted to get a workout in, so we did something we both grew up doing: swimming.  When I visited last Thanksgiving, we went swimming at the local rec center, which has this amazing indoor pool complex – lap pool, separate kiddie pool, 3-story water slide, lazy river, hot tub, and sauna (see pictures of it here).  We didn’t really swim laps (except for maybe a couple); it was more of a recreational swim outing.  This time, we went to another local pool – an outdoor one at the local YMCA – and it was also amazing.

Are all Colorado pools awesome?

This complex had 3 water slides, two diving boards, and a kiddie pool and spray park in addition to lanes for lap swimming:

Sarah and I arrived in the morning, after planning our workout while we ate breakfast:

Let me decipher that for you:

  • Warm-up:  500 yards freestyle, then 3 x 200 yards (1 kicking, 1 pulling, 1 IM)
  • Ladder, all free (100, 200, 300, 200, 100)
  • 6 x 100 yards, alternating free and IM.
  • 4 x 50 yards freestyle all-out sprints.
  • 200 yards cool-down.

If you whip out your calculator, you’ll see that, in total, we swam 3,000 yards, in a little over an hour.  That’s 120 lengths of the pool, which equates to about 1.7 miles.   It’s the longest swim workout I’ve had since I started swimming last December after 15 years out of the pool (my first foray back in the water is at the end of this post, and here are the memories that came flooding back).

It was a lot of fun swimming with Sarah.  She’s a stronger swimmer than I am (and always has been), but not by much.  We raced during all 4 of the 50 yard sprints that ended the main set of our workout, and while she won every time, I came in pretty close a couple times, maybe even within a second or two.

We were both exhausted, but soon after our workout finished, Sarah’s hubby Justin arrived with their two kids: my nephew Sam and my niece Allison.  Sam, who’s 5 1/2, had recently passed his swimming test, meaning he could go in the deep end, so we went down the water slides and off the diving board.

Sam, doing a cannonball:

Uncle David’s cannonball splash:

Then, it was time to tackle… the high dive.  I think it’s a 3-meter springboard:

I can’t remember the last time I was on a high-dive, but it’s surely been at least 15 years.  I grew up in Michigan just as many pools and swim clubs were taking out their high dives due to safety and insurance reasons.  It’s high!  Sam got a little nervous, so I went first, and I stood at the edge for a good 30 seconds before making the leap.

It’s just as scary and fun as I remembered it, and after a few more jumps, I even tried diving a few times.  Sam was brave, too, and jumped 3 or 4 times.  Here he is, getting ready to jump:

Sam, Allison, and I after we were done swimming:

Between the workout and the fun swimming, it seemed like we were at the pool all day, but when we left it was just after noon.  We stopped by a Subway for lunch (I had a chicken breast and spinach salad), and went back to the house for a few hours, before heading out for our second big activity of the day…

…helping our cousin move.

My cousin Laura just made the move from Michigan to Colorado, and she’s been crashing at Sarah’s place until she gets settled here.  She recently found an apartment in the Denver suburbs, and the other day, her Pod was dropped off, and she asked for help unloading it.  We went down and lent a hand, and it turned out to be the second workout of the day for Sarah and me.

Laura’s apartment is on the third floor, and there isn’t an elevator, so we estimated that we climbed those 2 flights of stairs 20 to 25 times, carrying something each time.  Lots of times it was boxes and stuff, but we also got some big items up there, too, including mattresses, dressers, hutches, and all the pieces to a bunk bed.  We also moved a piano – a piano – that Laura gave Sarah and Justin from the Pod to the back of Justin’s SUV.

The aftermath of the move has good and bad elements.  Let’s start with…

…the bad:  I threw out my back.  I don’t know exactly when I did it, but as we were standing around when we were done, trying to figure out where to go to dinner, I noticed my lower back felt really tight and really sore.  It hurt to bend over.  There wasn’t any sharp or acute pain – it was similar to the feeling after a really hard workout, times 10.  I went home and went to bed early (which is why I’m delayed in publishing this post).  This morning, it was still really sore, although, as the day has gone on, it’s gotten slightly better.  I walked to the corner supermarket (maybe 1/4 mile each way) to pick up some Aleve, but apart from that, I’m not going to exercise today.  In fact, after I’m done with this post, I gonna go and lie down and watch TV or read or something.

There is, however, an upside to all this, which brings us to…

…the good:  I have a new skyscraper to add to my collection!

I add a skyscraper to my collection after every StairMaster workout, and because I ended up climbing so many stairs yesterday (20-25 x 2 flights of stairs = 40-50 flights), I decided a skyscraper is in order.  I didn’t keep track of exactly how many flights I climbed, so I’m staying towards the conservative end.  Since I’m in Colorado, it seems only right to pick a local skyscraper, so I’m going with 1999 Broadway, a 43-story tower that’s the 5th-tallest building in Denver and the state:

Yep, I climbed that!  While carrying boxes and furniture!  And I also climbed back down it, too – which is something I can’t say about any of the other skyscrapers in my collection.

As you can see, 1999 Broadway has a unique circular side, and that’s because the tower was built around the church at the base, so the church didn’t have to be torn down.  Clever!

Let’s add it to the chart:

  • Aon Center, Chicago, IL (83 floors, climbed 8/5/11)
  • CITIC Plaza, Guangzhou, China (80 floors, climbed 12/1/10)
  • JPMorgan Chase Tower, Houston, TX (75 floors, climbed 3/9/11)
  • Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI (73 floors, climbed 6/19/11)
  • The Sail @ Marina Bay, Singapore (70 floors, cilmbed 11/9/10)
  • Yokohama Landmark Tower, Yokohama, Japan (70 floors, climbed 4/11/11)
  • 900 North Michigan, Chicago, IL (66 floors, climbed 4/1/11)
  • Vista Tower, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (62 floors, climbed 7/2/11)
  • Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt, Germany (56 floors, climbed 8/19/11)
  • 1000 de la Gauchetiere, Montreal, Canada (51 floors, climbed 11/3/10)
  • Hotel Arts, Barcelona, Spain (44 floors, climbed 8/12/11)
  • > > 1999 Broadway, Denver, Colorado (43 floors, climbed 8/29/11.  Climbed down it, too)
  • Ernst & Young Bldg, Los Angeles, CA (41 floors, climbed 10/3/10)
  • City Place I, Hartford, CT (38 floors, climbed 5/11/11)
  • Ocean Towers, South Padre Island, TX (31 floors, climbed 1/20/11)

Keep it up, David!


Two Weeks Until Cedar Point!

August 28, 2011

It just hit me.  In exactly two weeks from today, I’ll be riding the coasters at Cedar Point!  For any of you that aren’t familiar, Cedar Point is an amazing amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.  It currently has 17 roller coasters, and is the only park on the planet to have 4 that are over 200 feet tall.  It’s been named “Best Amusement Park in the World” for the past 13 consecutive years.  Need I say more?  It ROCKS.

I haven’t been to Cedar Point in 10 years.  But I’m going in two weeks.  I can’t wait!

You’ll be hearing LOTS about Cedar Point on this blog in the next couple weeks.  For now, I’m gonna keep this post short and sweet (I’m really tired), and post a video of one of the rides I’m most excited about: Top Thrill Dragster.  It’s 420 feet high, goes 120 mph, and since it was built after my last visit, I’ve never been on it.  Check it out:

In other news, today was a rest day.  I’ve exercised for the past 9 days in a row, so I was due.  I did go with my sister, nephew, niece, and cousin for a walk to the playground – we were gone over an hour – so I wasn’t completely inactive.  And tomorrow, we’re going for a hike in the mountains.  I gotta remember to bring my camera!

Keep it up, David!


A Loooong Travel Day

August 27, 2011

I finally arrived at my sister’s place in Colorado, way later than scheduled.  My 3:30 United flight out of Burbank was delayed.  Because of the heat (105 degrees), they asked for 19 volunteers to find an alternative mode of transportation – apparently when it’s really hot, planes need to be lighter in order to take off.  Nobody stepped forward and volunteered.  They started boarding the plane: first class and premiere club members, then people with connections in Denver, and then… that’s it.  Nineteen of us got bumped.  The 50-seater regional jet went up with 31 passengers.

There were no other Burbank-Denver flights that day, so United provided us bumpees $400 in vouchers, and offered those of us that were interested a shuttle to LAX to catch a 7pm direct flight.  I took them up on their offer, and squeezed into a passenger van with 7 others, our luggage, and the driver, and we headed out in Friday night Los Angeles rush hour traffic to get from one airport to the other.  Our shuttle driver got us there with a little time to spare (he knew a kickass shortcut), and I made it on the 7pm flight.

As I waited to go through security at LAX, I knew I’d have to find something to eat to bring on the plane.  I didn’t want to land in Denver starving, and I was already hungry – it had been about 6 hours since lunch.  A challenge had presented itself to me:  Get through security (which was moving slowly), get to a bathroom (which was also becoming an urgent need), find something to eat, and get on that plane!

Moving through the terminal, the first option was a McDonald’s.  NO.  Didn’t even humor the idea.  There was also a Wolfgang Puck eatery.  There’s a special place in my heart for Wolfgang Puck ever since he made me a awesome YouTube video after I blogged about dining at his Spago restaurant, but as I cruised by on my brisk walk to Gate 77, it seemed as though all the food was made-to-order, and I wasn’t certain I’d have the time.  Moving on.

I came across a La Brea Bakery, and could see they had a grab-and-go case.  This could be a potential jackpot.  They might have a healthy option or two:

And they did!  I opted for a salad that had chicken, cabbage, radicchio, olives, parsley, and a mustard dressing (that I used about 1/3 of).  I also grabbed a bottle of sparkling water:

Anyone want to guess what I paid?  I’ll give you 5 seconds to think about it…

…5…

…4…

…3…

…2…

…1…

My dinner only cost me $14.55.   How close were you?

In the grand scheme of things, an expensive meal isn’t that big of a deal on a day that could have ended up much worse (like me missing the 7pm flight, and delaying my Colorado trip by a day), and I know I’d be much more annoyed had I made poor food choices.

The salad hit the spot, too.

I’m finishing up with a link to a post I wrote at the end of last year.  It compares what it’s like to fly now to when I flew at my heaviest, and it’s proven to be one of my all-time most popular posts, and one that has really struck a chord with my readers.  So, if you haven’t read it (or haven’t read it lately), I invite you to click here and check out “How a 400-Pound Man Flies.

Keep it up, David!


What Made Me Blush Last Night

August 26, 2011

Exciting news!  (For me, at least.)

In a few short hours, I’m leaving on a jet plane.  Time to get out of Los Angeles for a while.  My first stop is Colorado, for a long weekend with family, and from there I’m flying to Michigan, where I’m spending about 2 weeks catching up with more family and friends.

Even though I’m on vacation, my blog won’t be.  I’ll keep you posted on where I am, what I’m doing, what I’m eating, and how I’m exercising.  Don’t you worry, you’ll be kept in the loop!

Now for the story that the title alludes to:

Last night, I headed to Slimmons for my last class with Richard Simmons for a few weeks.  He was dressed in a Beatles-themed tank top and played dance remixes of Beatles songs (yep, they’re as strange as you think they are).  It was definitely a fun class, and it was hot, so there was lots of sweat and it came quickly.

The highlight of the evening actually happened before class, when I was stretching a little and staking out my spot in the classroom (a necessity, because classes can get crowded).  Nearby, a posse of women, all of them Slimmons regulars and lovely, friendly gals, were chatting amongst themselves, when, all at once, they all turned and said my name.

Seconds later, the posse had surrounded me.  They moved quickly.  It was almost disorienting.

Posse:  “Hey David, we were all just talking about you right now, and we decided we might as well let you know.”

Me:  “Oh yeah?”

Posse:  “We were all talking about how handsome you are.  You’re so handsome!”

Cue blushing.

Me (fumbling and stumbling a little bit):  “Thank you, that’s really very kind.”

Posse:  “Look at him, he’s blushing!”

Me:  “I appreciate it, I really do!  Thank you – that made my day.”  (Which is true.)

Posse:  “It made your day that a group of old and middle-aged women think you’re handsome?”

Me:  “Yes.  And I didn’t use those words – you did!”

I’m handsome.  I’m handsome.  It’s not, historically speaking, a word that I’ve ever used to describe myself, nor is it a word that I’m used to hearing about myself.  To be honest, up until recently, when someone did call me handsome, my mind immediately had a response ready:  They’re just saying that.  They’re just being nice.  They’re just being polite.  It’s not true.

Last night, though, my mind didn’t race to squash their compliment.  I heard it, received it, thanked them, looked in the mirror, and silently agreed.

Keep it up, David!


I Am The Waffle Doodler

August 25, 2011

I’ve spent a lot of time with my friend Kristy over the last 24 hours.  You know Kristy, right?  She’s popped up on this blog before – she’s a very talented singer-songwriter and she’s even written a song inspired by this blog.

Here’s Kristy and me, in a photo taken just a few hours ago:

On Tuesday night, I worked out with Kristy, as she and her hubby Mike attend the same boot camp class that I do.  Read about Tuesday’s class at the end of this post.  Actually, Kristy and Mike were the ones to introduce me to Craig, who leads our boot camp class and is also my personal trainer.  He trains Kristy and Mike, too.  We’re all one big happy sweaty sore family!

On Wednesday afternoon, I had a session with Craig, which included a new exercise called treadmill hops.  We fired up the treadmill to 9.0 incline and 3.8 speed, and I turned to one side and did sidestep/jump movements.  After 30 seconds on one side, I pivoted, did 30 seconds on the other, and then 30 seconds of regular walking.  That cycle got repeated waaaaay too many times.  Treadmill hops kicked my ass, which means, naturally, that they’re probably really good for me.  But I still think they’re terrible, and I told Craig that.  “I hate these.  I feel like a horse,” I said, because the rhythm is similar to a gallop.  “You sound like one too,” Craig responded.  Then Craig said, “Be sure to tell Kristy you did these, because they’re her favorite form of cardio.”  I could tell by his smile and tone that that statement was probably false.

I was able to ask Kristy in person on Wednesday night, at a little show that she was a part of.  She laughed when I told her what Craig said, and said, “There’s nothing more awkward than doing treadmill hops in a crowded gym.  I hate facing the side on a treadmill when there’s someone else right there on the treadmill next to you!”

Kristy’s show was at a cute restaurant in South Pasadena called Firefly Bistro, which has a weekly singer/songwriter show called Wine & Song.

I was looking over the menu when I saw an entree that sounded so good that I couldn’t stop thinking about it all night:

CHICKEN FRIED DUCK & WAFFLES?  My mouth watered instantly.  Every element sounded amazing:  Chicken-fried confit duck leg?  Yes, please.  Cheddar-scallion waffle?  Can I have two?  Stewed peaches?  Pile them on.  Maui onions?  Mmm-mmm!  House made Tabasco?  You must be kidding me.  Lime syrup?  No, seriously, you’re kidding me.

Two things prevented me from ordering it, though:

1) I had already eaten dinner before I came.

2) $24.50 is a lot of money, especially for a guy who is unemployed between jobs.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that goddamn dish all night, and how much I wanted to eat it.  Since I had a pen on me, and since the menus were printed on regular sheets of paper, I turned one over and started doodling.  I doodle often.  I am a regular doodler.  Last night, I was a waffle doodler.  My first doodle:

My friend Ashley saw the doodle and asked to finish the equation:

Me: “Why is the eye crying?  Because the duck and waffle dish is so delicious?  Or because it’s sad because it’s not eating any?”

Ashley:  “It’s open to interpretation.”  What an artist-like thing to say! 

My friend Dan also saw my doodle (we were all sitting around one big table) and said that my waffle doodle looked appetizing, so I started a new doodle just for him.  Here’s what I came up with:

That’s syrup getting poured on a waffle garnished with mint and fresh assorted berries.

My final doodle was also waffle-inspired:

That is one sexy lady waffle!

On the drive home, the thought crossed my mind that I could stop at the store and pick up some waffles.  I’m currently out, but I usually have a box of frozen waffles in my freezer.  I eat 1 or 2 a week, with a drizzle of honey, a little jam, or some fresh fruit (I don’t use syrup).  But I didn’t stop, because I knew that indulging this craving could result in me going a little crazy and eating the entire box of waffles in a matter of minutes, and I didn’t want to open the door to that possibility, especially on a day where I had such a good workout, especially one day after an exciting weigh-in, and especially not at 10pm at night, which is a horrible time to load up on carbs.

So.  No waffles for me.  Waffle doodles, yes.  Actual waffles, no.  I have a hunch that my waffle craving will be gone in the morning.

Keep it up, David!


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