Downtown Disney

August 9, 2012

It has been a busy two days. Tonight, after work, I headed downtown to see a play. After getting home, I quickly changed and headed out for a run. It wasn’t a great run, but it was something, and when I add up the time spent running with the brisk walking warm-up and cool-down, I was on the streets for 45 minutes. I was antsy to go on the run, because yesterday ended up being a rest day. I didn’t work out before going to the office (I’ve been failing all week at morning exercise), and after work, I had dinner with an old friend from high school that was in town for a convention. And by ‘in town’ I mean Anaheim, which is an hour away, so when you factor in drive time, that left no time for a workout.

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New York, New York (Part Two)

May 16, 2012

This post is a continuation of yesterday’s post, which is appropriate titled “New York, New York (Part 1)”. In it, I shared tons of pictures and discussed how I kept active during my 4-day trip to New York City last week. Click here if you missed it.

Since I’ve already discussed exercise, this post is gonna be about the other major part of health and weight loss: food. There have been times, when I’ve been traveling, where I’ve started to worry about when and what I’m going to eat, because as anyone who’s tried to lose weight knows, this shit is HARD. And it’s even harder when you have less control over your food, like you do when you’re traveling.

I’m happy because I don’t think I ever worried on this New York trip, which is thanks, I think, to the successful creation of new habits and a major shift in thinking when it comes to restaurant menus: I used to dread looking at menus, because I’d see all sorts of delicious items that I would love to eat but probably shouldn’t, and now, I consider finding healthy options on menus a fun challenge. What used to be a chore is now a game, and it’s a game I rarely lose.

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Photo Phriday

April 6, 2012

Happy Friday! Since yesterday’s Haircut Photo-Essay got a great response (thanks for all the compliments on my new ‘do!), I thought I’d share some other random-ish photos that have built up over the past few days. First, though, I wanna give a great big appreciative shout-out to my friend Tavi, who was the one that actually cut all my hair off AND took all the photos in yesterday’s post. Our little haircut/photo shoot yielded 173 photos (!), which I edited down to 11.

Because we both knew what the end result was going to be, I let Tavi shave my head in whatever manner he wanted. That’s how I ended up with the Mohawk in the 6th photo, and the more Tintin-esque ‘do in the 7th (click here to see both). But what you didn’t see was what Tavi did in the back. He gave me what he called the “hare krishna” – and here’s a photo of it that didn’t make the cut for yesterday’s photo-essay:

It’s quite possibly the best mullet I’ve ever sported. Or worst mullet. Or both. I’m so glad I only had it for a matter of minutes.

A few of you, in your comments, asked if I’ve noticed a difference in my head shape, since the buzz cut was inspired by my hairstylist’s observation that I’ve lost weight in my scalp, and to answer your question: YES. I think my entire head is narrower, and I used to have bulges of skin along the back that are no longer there. This isn’t the first time I’ve buzzed my head – I did it my freshman year of high school as a member of the swim team, and I’ve done it in the past decade, too, most recently a few times about four or five years ago. A picture of me from that last head-buzzing period is in the ‘Keep It Up, David’ header at the top of the page, and here it is again, next to one of the new pictures of me… which means it’s time for a…

‘BEFORE’ and ‘CURRENT’ Photo Comparison! Photo on the left is from March 2008. Photo on the right is from yesterday. I see a difference. Do you?

I’ll be sure to add that to my collection of ‘Before’ and ‘Current’ photo comparisons in the Photo Gallery.

Now for some other photos I’ve been meaning to share:

The View From The Gym. I’ve had three great weightlifting workouts this week at the gym, and during each one, I’ve taken a moment to look out the windows. My gym is on the second and third floors of a building right at the base of the Hollywood Hills, which means I get to sweat my ass off while seeing this out the window:

Not too shabby!

Locker Room Signage: My gym has a fun sense of humor with their signage, as evidenced by the last rule on this sign in the locker room:

Yes, I know, I broke the third rule because I wanted to share the fifth rule. Shhh… it’ll be our secret.

New Kicks. Because I raised the most money during a specific five-day period leading up to my big 63-story stair climb last weekend, I ended up winning a new pair of shoes from a local running store! Yesterday I headed to Fleet Feet Sports in Encino, where a nice guy named John helped fit me with a great new pair of shoes. I ended up picking the Nike Air Pegasus, partly because they fit well and were comfortable, and partly because I loved the yellow:

Love them! My prize had a $100 limit, and these were $95, so I ended up paying $3.31 in tax. No complaints from me!

Border Grill Truck. I got dinner last night at a food truck. The Border Grill truck was parked outside the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, the venue for a great Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra concert I attended that explored the connections between food and music. The special guest speaker at the concert was Susan Feniger, the restauranteur behind the Border Grill restaurants, and one of the earliest Food Network stars (her show with partner Mary Sue Milliken, Two Hot Tamales, debuted in 1995, shortly after the network first launched). I’ve been a couple times (years ago) to one of Feniger’s restaurants, but this was the first time I’ve eaten at her truck.

The truck serves burritos, quesadillas, and more, but I ordered two tacos and ceviche. One of the tacos was Yucatan Pork (roasted achiote pork, pickled onion, orange salsa), and the other was Citrus Chicken (with tomatillo and creamy salsa fresca). The ceviche had fish, lime, chile, pickled onion, and a couple tortilla chips, and was served in a paper cone, like you’d find at an old-school water cooler.

It was all ridiculously delicious. I wouldn’t object to following the Border Grill Truck around, eating my way down their menu.

Eating reasonably from a food truck… new workout shoes… a great exercise week…

…Keep it up, David!


CRUISE Part 1: Eating My Way Through the Caribbean

January 4, 2012

Let the cruise recapping commence! As I type this, it feels like my building is gently rocking under my feet, like I’m still onboard, and I wonder when that feeling will go away. The last 36 hours on the cruise were in the midst of pretty sizable waves that never let me forget I was on an ocean-going vessel (it wasn’t bad enough that things were flying off shelves), but now that I’m on dry, stable land, I’d like it to feel that way. Is that too much to ask?

I have no right complaining. I just spent a week on a fantastic cruise, and I enjoyed every minute of it. At the beginning of December, My uncle Philip invited me to join him, my aunt Mary, and their daughters Olivia, Camille, and Isabel, for a week in the Caribbean. Yes, Please! On the day after Christmas, I flew from Michigan to Puerto Rico, met up with them at the pier, and we boarded Adventure of the Seas, a ship in the Royal Caribbean International fleet. The Adventure of the Seas is big (3,700 passengers, 1,300 crew) and I couldn’t fit it all in one photograph, so I had to stitch together two:

Our ship is the middle one in this picture, taken in St. Thomas:

The ship had some great features. Ten pools and hot tubs…

…a four-story promenade that ran down the middle of the ship, lined with stores and bars…

…and a three-story main dining room:

Other cool features included a gym, a rock climbing wall (!) and an ice rink (!!), and believe me, I have plenty to say about all three of those places in an upcoming post!

It was a seven-day cruise, and it departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico with stops in St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, and 2 days at sea before heading back to San Juan. It was an extraordinarily active week for me, but I’ll get to that tomorrow. Today, I thought I’d focus on the one thing that weighed most on my mind before the cruise even began:

FOOD.

Chances are that if you’ve only heard one thing about cruising, it’s that there’s no shortage of food – an endless array of meals, buffets, snacks, more meals, more buffets – a conveyor belt that doesn’t stop depositing coconut shrimp and cheesecake directly in your mouth. Moments after I accepted my uncle’s cruise invitation, the questions arose: How am I going to handle this? How will I eat well on a cruise ship?

There’s truth to the notion that you can eat nonstop on a cruise, and I decided that I wouldn’t do that. I needed a strategy. I talked about it with a few people, including my friend Kristy, who honeymooned a few years back on a Mediterranean cruise. She made a valid point: “People go on cruises and eat like they’ve just gotten out of prison and have never seen real food in their entire lives. Just don’t eat like that.”

Sounded like a plan to me. I knew we’d be dining every night in the main dining room (table #443 on the Mozart level of the three-story dining room pictured above), and those meals would be fancy ones that I would want to enjoy, so I established a rough plan: eat sensible breakfasts and lunches, and then enjoy dinner.

Royal Caribbean ended up helping me with dinner decisions more than I was anticipating, too. They have a Vitality menu, which has, every night, options for a three-course meal that add up to under 800 calories.

I didn’t order exclusively off this menu, but I used it as a foundation. The rest of the menu didn’t have calories counts, so it was nice to see a few items that did. Most nights I skipped dessert, and ordered two starters (a soup and a salad, for example), and if the Vitality entree was something that didn’t interest me, than I ordered another one, and made sure the other components of my meal were light. I ate well: lobster tail, pork tenderloin, caviar. My family was happy to let me sample things that they ordered, so I tried bites of a lot of other items: escargot, duck, and a bunch of desserts: passion fruit cheesecake (not very good), chocolate-orange parfait (not bad at all), and a chocolate mousse brownie sandwich (amazingly delicious).

The two desserts I did order were both off the Vitality menu: one was a berry mousse, and the other was angel food cake, and both were under 200 calories. On New Year’s Eve, our waiter came by with a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries, so I enjoyed one of those, too.

Here I am with my cousins during dinner on New Year’s Eve – Olivia (20) is on the right, Camille (18) is on the left, and Isabel (13) is next to me in the middle:

Another good thing about the fancy dinners was that the portion sizes were appropriate, which is to say, in a world of super-sized everything, that they were small. One night I ordered a non-Vitality entree: a salmon dish that came with potato croquettes (a fancy term for deep-fried potatoes). My plate arrived with two croquettes that, combined, were about the size of four tater tots. I ate one of them, and after realizing that they also tasted just like tater tots, I set the other one aside. Not worth it. Sometimes the portion size provided a good laugh: this is the butternut squash and white bean salad from the Vitality menu (keep in mind that’s a salad plate, not a dinner plate):

It was delicious, all five bites of it! And you know what? I didn’t need more.

The biggest challenge for me during the week was breakfast. We ate breakfast every morning in the Windjammer, the big dining room that serves a buffet, non-stop, from 6am to 4pm. I love breakfast food, and their buffet had it all: waffles, pancakes, three types of eggs, five types of breakfast meats… the former version of me would have gone batshit crazy and eaten it all – plate after plate after plate. But I’m not the former version of me anymore!

The first morning, I took a few minutes to survey the entire buffet before I even picked up a plate. I wanted to know every option before making a decision. I ended up piecing together a healthy breakfast that became my template for every breakfast that week:

  • Fruit. Cruises have lots of fruit, and I took advantage. I ate melon and pineapple with my breakfast, and would take whole apples and bananas in case I needed a snack later in the day.
  • Eggs. They had hard-boiled eggs every morning, so I took three, and either ate no yolks or just 1 yolk.
  • Toast. An english muffin or a piece of wheat toast, always dry.
  • Protein. They always had smoked salmon, so I often got a little of that. Sometimes I switched it up and got 2 turkey sausage links or a small piece of ham.
  • Veggies. The smoked salmon area always had cucumber, tomato, and onion slices, and I always loaded up on these items, even if I didn’t have any salmon that day.

There were other items that I occasionally included in the mix, like yogurt or cottage cheese, but, for the most part, my breakfast remained pretty consistent.

Half the time, I returned to the Windjammer for lunch. The lunch buffet was expansive: a grill with hot dogs and hamburgers, all sorts of hot entrees including a carving station, and platter after platter of desserts, but I focused on the salad bar. It wasn’t a great salad bar, but it sufficed, and I supplemented my veggies with fruit, a roll, and protein: a small slice of something from the carving station, or some turkey from the cold cuts platter. The first two days I didn’t eat lunch at all, because we were so busy running around St. Thomas and St. Maarten, but that left me more hungry for dinner than I preferred, so I made a point after that to never skip lunch again.

Some other elements of my food strategy:

  • Alcohol. I stayed alcohol-free. That was easy, because I’m already a non-drinker, except for very special occasions, like weddings or New Year’s Eve. I permitted myself a drink on New Year’s Eve, but didn’t end up ordering one – I had a sip of my aunt’s champagne, which wasn’t very good, and decided I didn’t need to drink. Plus, that was the night that the ship was rocking the most due to the waves, so I didn’t even need alcohol to stagger down the hall and feel a little out of it!
  • Beverages. So what did I drink? Water. Lots of water. Philip, Mary and the girls are big iced tea drinkers, so I drank a lot of that, too.
  • Snacks. The apples and bananas I grabbed every morning at breakfast served as my snacks, which I mostly ate during the day. I didn’t eat at all after dinner, except one night, around 10pm, when I was feeling hungry – so I ate a banana.

There you have it – my guidelines to healthy eating on a cruise ship! The most difficult days were the first couple, but after I settled into a rhythm, it got a lot easier. It helped that the buffet items I ate were always in the same spot every day, so most of the time, I didn’t even have to see all the food that I was passing up.

One of the things I thought, throughout the week, was how special this week was. I can’t think of another situation where I would be exposed to so much food for so long, and I stayed motivated by reminding myself that if I can stay healthy on this cruise ship, than I can stay healthy in any situation. And I did. Now, whenever I’m feeling especially tempted or in a setting full of unhealthy options, I know I’ll be able to look back with pride and think, I did it on a cruise ship, so I KNOW I can do it here. What a good feeling that will be!

Keep it up, David!

Coming Tomorrow: CRUISE: Part 2: Burning Calories


Gator

October 15, 2011

Happy Saturday!  How is your weekend so far?  I had a lovely evening last night with a bunch of friends, nearly all of whom I’ve mentioned or talked about on this blog at some point.  Robyn was there, as was Lisa, and so was Joe and Giana.  In fact, the only person in attendance that I haven’t ever mentioned before was my friend Blair, who I haven’t seen in a few years.  So congrats on your first blog mention, Blair!

We met at a restaurant/bar in Burbank called Michael’s.  I’ve been to Michael’s many times before, but not in a few years.  Michael’s calls itself a “Mardi Gras Steak and Seafood House.”  I opted to eat dinner beforehand so I didn’t even have to crack the menu open.

While I enjoyed a few bottles of sparkling water, my companions ordered food, and, a little while later, the food arrived.  The waiter started setting down plates, and said, “OK, who ordered the gator?”  There were some quizzical looks, because no one had ordered the gator.  “Oh, that was my mistake,” said the waiter.  “I’m sorry about that.  Would anyone like to try the gator?  It’s on the house.”  I was curious – I don’t think I’ve ever had gator before – and some others were curious, too, so the gator stayed.

According to the menu, the Fried Gator was “Gator nuggets tossed in a light breading and fried crispy.  Served with our Cajun dipping sauce.”  I wasn’t interested in the breading, which also had a buffalo-like sauce on it, so I took a few pieces of gator and peeled the breading off.  It was dark, and I didn’t have my camera, but a got a picture with my cell phone:

That’s Blair’s fork on the right, with a breaded gator nugget.   My fork is on the left, with a de-breaded gator nugget.

So how was the gator?  It wasn’t bad!  A touch on the chewy side.  As the picture shows, it kinda looks like chicken, but it’s denser than chicken.  The texture is more steak-like, and it wasn’t nearly as gamey as I thought it might be.  I don’t think I’d go out of my way to find or eat gator again, but since gator isn’t really on menus very often (at least outside of Louisiana), that probably means it will be a long time before I eat it again, if ever.  I’m glad I tried it… you know me, always willing to try something new!

Because I was curious, I just looked up some nutritional information.  Per serving, gator is higher in calories than chicken – almost twice as many calories.  But gator is also a protein powerhouse, with 46g per serving (over twice as much protein as chicken), so that explains the calorie count (46g, by the way, is almost all your protein needs for the entire day).  Gator is also very lean, with about the same amount of fat as chicken, and because it’s free of cholesterol and saturated fat, gator is considered a heart-healthy protein source.

Until you bread and fry it.  Which is why I’m glad I peeled the breading off.

Have you ever eaten gator?  Have you ever cooked it?  Do you like it?  Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Keep it up, David!


Silver Lake Breakfast

September 24, 2011

Because I’ve been so wrapped up in preparing for my motivational speaking gig and getting my business cards made (and, oh yeah, there was the matrixectomy too), this blog has veered in recent days from two of its main focuses: eating and exercise.  So this weekend I’m going back to basics.  I’m gonna write a little about food today, and a little about exercise tomorrow.

OK.   So, food.  Hmmm….

Well, I’ll be honest:  My eating at home has been super boring this week.  I’ve done nothing that warrants a blog post: no new recipes, no RediSetGo usage, no new types of produce. I’ve been eating lots of veggies and fruit, lots of lean proteins (mostly eggs and protein shakes), some yogurt, so oatmeal, and absolutely nothing that I find at all interesting or worthy of sharing.

But I did try a new restaurant the other morning!  It was the day after my speech at Whole Foods, actually.  My friend Mat invited me to breakfast in Silver Lake, his super-trendy, hipster-filled Los Angeles neighborhood (it’s where I got my awesome new glasses).  “There’s a couple super-vegan places I’ve been wanting to try,” Mat said, coining the word ‘super-vegan’ in the process.  I’m not vegan, but I love vegan restaurants, because they tend to be creative and interesting and have fun things I’ve never heard of on the menu.  “I’m in!”  I responded, and at 9am, I was knock-knock-knocking on Mat’s door.  A few minutes after that, we took off on foot for a super-vegan breakfast.

The super-vegan breakfast establishments had other ideas, though.  One turned out to be not a restaurant at all, but a juice bar.  The other one was closed.  Apparently super-vegan hipster restaurant proprietors can’t be bothered to open for breakfast on weekdays.

We ended up at Madame Matisse, a tiny little corner cafe:

Their breakfast menu was full of delicious-sounding options, from Chocolate Stuffed French Toast to five different kinds of Eggs Benedict (five!) to a dish called Chef’s Revenge, which has a great menu description:

“A scramble of eggs, corned beef hash, rosemary garlic home fries, pork sausage, bacon, cheddar, and salsa with a side of toast.  Don’t ask for a vegetarian version because it doesn’t exist.”

I love breakfast food, and I was really tempted to order something that I normally don’t eat, like one of those Eggs Benedicts (maybe the one with brie, leeks, and black truffle oil) or their Homemade Belgian Waffle, but I was good, and made a healthy choice.  The thing with breakfast food is that when I order smartly, by the time my food comes, I stop missing what I could be eating, because all breakfast food is delicious!

I chose the Build Your Own Omelet option from the menu, and got it with egg whites only, and filled with tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, and chicken.  I had them replace the home fries with fruit, and got rye toast, no butter, on the side.  Mm-mmm!

I had never seen ratatouille on a breakfast menu before, but they offered a Ratatouille Skillet, which was ratatouille with two eggs on top, sausage and toast.  That’s what Mat ordered:

I’m pretty sure both of us renewed our memberships to the clean plate club…  I know I did.  I love a good omelet, and that was a good omelet.

We walked back to Mat’s house, and before I took off, Mat and wife Maggie let me raid their little herb garden (I raided their tomato plants earlier this summer).  They have a giant sage bush and tons of rosemary, and I helped myself to a few sprigs of each:

That’s all sage and rosemary in the background!

As I drove home, I had a light bulb moment about how I would use my herbs.  It involves picking up a few things at Whole Foods (which I’ll do today) and also using one of the items in my kitchen that came all the way from Sweden…

a brand-new recipe is in the works!  Stay tuned… I’ll be sharing it shortly!

Keep it up, David!


Downtown Detroit

September 9, 2011

A quick plug: My first public speaking gig is now less than two weeks away!  I created a “See Me at Whole Foods” link at the top of the page that has all the details.  So click on it, and RSVP.  I wanna see you there!

I have strong feelings about the city of Detroit.  While I’ve never considered myself a Detroiter, as I’ve never lived within the city limits, it’s always been there, not that far from my childhood home in one of its northwest suburbs.  It’s a major American city with a long and rich history (it’s the oldest city in the Midwest – founded over 100 years before Chicago, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee) that has given the world everything from mass-produced automobiles to Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross to the ice cream soda.  The first regular radio reports were broadcast from Detroit, and Detroit was home to the first paved road, the first tri-colored stoplight, and the first urban freeway.

You don’t hear many good things about Detroit in the news; it has a pretty bad rap.  Detroit has plenty of huge problems, and people tend to say plenty of terrible things about it.  I’m not one of them.  I like to think that Detroit will, one of these days, get out of the slump it’s been in for past 40 or so years, and rise again as a place where people will want to live and want to visit.

It’s easy for me to be positive – I live 2,000 miles away, unexposed to the crumbling infrastructure, the poverty, the rampant unemployment.  I just don’t think that being negative is very productive or helpful.  I have fond memories of Detroit from my childhood, and have heard many more wonderful stories from my father, who grew up there.  You may think me naive or unrealistic, but I think the city has a lot of potential, and I will always root for it.

My attitude towards Detroit are best reflected in this 1985 television commercial produced by the local ABC affiliate.  It’s dated and super-cheesy now, but it used to air all the time, and I remember loving it as a kid.  And since I’m sharing local commercials from the ’80s, check out this one for the Detroit Zoo, which is one of my favorite commercials of all time.

Thank you for indulging me in my little pro-Detroit rant.  It’s been on my mind because yesterday I headed downtown to meet up with a buddy for lunch.  Matt is a friend from high school who lived in Los Angeles after college, then moved back to Michigan with his wife and started a family.  He’s the author behind The Dad Scene, a funny and smart blog chronicling his experiences as a first-time father.  Matt is a tremendous writer, so you should definitely check it his blogno, really, check it out.

Matt works at Compuware, a software company that moved their world headquarters to Detroit about 8 years ago.  Their building has an impressive atrium that rises up 16 stories, and that’s where I met Matt:

We apparently just missed a doggie fashion show in the atrium that wrapped up minutes before we got there.  I hate when that happens.

Here’s the both of us:

For lunch, we headed a few blocks away to Vicente, a Cuban place that Matt likes. 

I’ve had Cuban dishes before, at restaurants that featured cuisine from across Latin America, but this might have been my first visit to a full-fledged Cuban restaurant.  Everything on the menu sounded good, but I settled on the Pan con Bistec, a pressed sandwich with skirt steak, swiss cheese, grilled onions, mustard, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.  I considered having them hold the cheese and mayo, but decided that since I eat Cuban food so rarely, I should enjoy it as it’s intended.  My sandwich (with a side of plantain chips):

Matt’s sandwich was similar, but with chicken:

I love a pressed sandwich.  They’re dense and flavorful, and this sandwich was fantastic.  It was also huge, and both of us ended up eating only half.  We boxed up the other halves to take with us, but as we walked back to Matt’s office, we were approached by two homeless women who asked if we’d consider sharing, so we gave the food to them.

After I parted ways with Matt, I did something I haven’t done since I was a kid: I rode the People Mover.  The Detroit People Mover is a rather silly example of mass transit.  It’s a 3-mile-long monorail that encircles downtown Detroit and doesn’t really go anywhere.  No stop is more than 10 blocks from any other stop, so it’s not very efficient for commuters, but for someone like me who just wanted to see a little more of the city, it was perfect.  Here comes a train now!

I took some pictures from the monorail’s windows (it was gray and rainy, so they’re not great).  Here’s Woodward Avenue, which extends from the heart of downtown all the way out to my neck of the suburbs:

The old Wayne County Building:

The skyline, looking east from Joe Louis Arena (where the Red Wings play).  The towers on the right are the Renaissance Center, which I’ve blogged about numerous times before (most notably here and here, and it’s featured in my Skyscraper Collection):

I like that picture because you can see raindrops in it.

Time to get international!  This is a picture of a totally different country – it’s the skyline of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is directly across the river from Detroit.  I took this picture specifically for my trainer Craig, who grew up outside Windsor and asked that I say hello to it on this trip.  Hello, Windsor!

Finally, one of Detroit’s most famous landmarks, the 8,000-pound statue that honors Detroit resident Joe Louis, the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937-49:

OK – bedtime for me.  Gotta hit the gym in the morning!

Keep it up, David!


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!


SEATTLE Part 1 (and Chart Update)

August 4, 2011

Are you comfy?  Do you have a blanket and a (healthy) snack?  Good, because you may be here a while.  After sharing lots and lots about my trip to Vegas last week, it’s time to tackle part two of my tour of the western United States: The three days I spent in Seattle.  There’s tons to share, so I decided to break it up into two posts.  Today’s post will be kinda sorta mostly about food, and tomorrow’s will be kinda sorta mostly about exercise and activity.

But first, since I wasn’t near a scale on Tuesday (instead I was on virtually every form of transportation invented), my weekly weigh-in got pushed a day.  When I got on the scale today… well, I’ll just let my updated chart share the good news:

That’s right, bitches - down 2 pounds!  This puts me back at my lowest weight ever, 236 pounds, which represents 166 pounds lost.  It also means that I’m successfully lost the 3 pounds I gained two weeks ago, and can continue on my downward path to new all-time lows.  Today has been a good day in many ways, but seeing that number was definitely a nice boost.  I think back to a couple weeks ago, and how awful I felt when I gained those 3 pounds, and how I almost skipped a weigh-in to avoid the inevitable, and it almost seems silly and over-dramatic.  But I’m not embarrassed or ashamed at how I felt at the time, because it reflects how important all of this is to me, and it provided the kick in the nuts that reinvigorated me.  Had I gained three pounds, shrugged it off, and gave up… that’d be a different story, now wouldn’t it?

So.  I managed to lose 2 pounds during a week when I spent most of it traveling.  It’s not easy to travel and stay on program, but no matter where you are, you can always make the best choices you can, in any situation.  Sometimes, like my first day in Vegas, you can alleviate temptation by bringing your own food, but that wasn’t really an option for my time in Seattle.  So how did I do it?  A lot of it has to do with the choices I made every day in Seattle.  And that, my friends, is what I’m sharing today and tomorrow.

Wow, that transition really couldn’t have worked out any better!

SEATTLE – Part 1.

I headed up to the Emerald City to spend a few days with a really great friend, Collin.  I met Collin a few weeks into our freshman year at college, and we’ve been friends since (and roommates, too, during our senior year).  Collin and his boyfriend Blayne live in a charming little house in Seattle, and, shockingly (and embarrassingly), this was my first time visiting him since we graduated, in any of the three cities he’s lived in.

Plum.  My plane from Vegas landed on Saturday afternoon, and after dropping my stuff off at Collin’s house, the two of us went on a walk.  First order of business: lunch.  We ended up at Plum Bistro, a vegan restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Since it was Saturday, we ordered off their brunch menu.  Collin went with their Mayan Blue Corn Pancakes, which had a tofu scramble on top:

I ordered the Mofongo.  That’s right, you heard me – Mofongo.  I’d never heard of it either – apparently it’s a traditional Puerto Rican plantain-based dish (here’s a non-vegan recipe from the New York Times) and, well, I’m a sucker for trying new things.

The Mofongo is the ball in the center, which is plantains mashed with other things, and fried.  Those strips are baked tempeh, and there’s a creole sauce.  Had I known the Mofongo was fried, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it, but I’m glad I did, because it was savory and flavorful, and incredibly delicious.  Collin’s pancakes were great too.  You know how sometimes you crave sweet breakfast food and sometimes savory?  I’m glad I went savory, even if it was fried.

Pike Place Market.  Our Saturday walk also included a brief stroll through Pike Place Market, one of Seattle’s most famous destinations.  It’s a market that stretches a couple blocks, and features vendors selling food of all kinds, as well as souvenirs and crafts.  Since it’s right on the water near the port, it’s best-known as being an extraordinary fish market – the fishmongers there like to throw fish – but what caught my eye were the beautiful produce displays:

Oprah Fish.  That night, Collin, Blayne and I made dinner and had a quiet night at their place.  Collin’s handy with a grill, so while we were out, we hit up the seafood counter at Whole Foods, and, thanks to a staffer’s recommendation, came home with Oprah fish.  (Why didn’t we buy fish at Pike Place, you ask?  Because we knew we’d be walking around for hours more before making it home, and we didn’t want to carry it around.)

Did you know that in addition to her own network, Oprah has her own fish now?  She doesn’t.  I’m lying.  What we actually bought was opah, but we couldn’t resist calling it Oprah.

I had never heard of opah before (they’re also known as moonfish, but I’ve never heard of moonfish either).  They’re big and steak-like, and the guy at Whole Foods compared it to swordfish and marlin (both of which I rarely eat).  You can see what an opah looks like (they’re pretty!) in this Iron Chef America clip.

Here’s our opah steaks after Collin first put them on the grill:

Collin seasoned the opah with a Hawaiian ginger salt rub.  That’s onions and zucchini, and a chicken breast for Blayne, who’s not a big seafood eater.  My plate:

My contribution to the dinner was the salad – mixed greens, orange cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red pepper, and bottled dressing.

The opah was mellow, satisfying, and delicious!

Farmers Market.  On Sunday, we headed to Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle that has a Sunday farmers market.  We picked up some blackberries and raspberries and ate them as we strolled the stalls, and ended up finding a food stall that intrigued us so much we decided to get lunch there.  It was Patty Pan Grill, which offers tamales and roasted vegetable quesadillas:

Collin got the roasted vegetable quesadilla, and I got a black bean tamale with roasted veggies on the side:

I don’t know if you can tell in the picture or not, but the roasted veggies must have contained well over a dozen types of veggies, from onions and peppers to beets to many types of leafy greens like chard and kale.  They were insanely delicious.  I wish I took a picture of the cook workin’ those veggies: she had a big flat top that had heaping piles of veggies cooking away, and she was stirring it up and flipping those veggies every-which-way with two spatulas.  I want to go back!

Blueacre.  On Monday, my final full day in Seattle, Collin and I met up at Blueacre Seafood, because they have happy hour specials on oysters, and you don’t go to Seattle and not indulge in some seafood!  I don’t ever crave or think to seek out raw oysters, but when I do have them, about once a year, I really enjoy them.  We split a dozen, which came with a horseradish cocktail sauce, a champagne mignonette, and a ginger soy sauce, and they were well-priced at $1 apiece:

These oysters came from Dabob Bay in Puget Sound, less than 20 miles from where we were sitting!  We also ordered the potted salmon appetizer from the happy hour menu:

It’s basically a smoked salmon mousse, served with pickled red onions and herbs… I’m a sucker for smoked salmon, and it was tasty.

Collin and I wanted to do some shopping before having dinner (we treated the salmon and oysters as an appetizer), so we took off from Blueacre.  Before we left, though, we looked over the dinner menu (because we were curious), and saw something that caught our attention:

Angry lobster?  Do they poke it until it gets pissed off?  The next time our server came by, we asked her what that meant.  “We poke it with a stick,” she said.  “That’s what we said!” Collin and I said, simultaneously.  A good laugh was had by all, and then the server explained it’s prepared with a some sort of spicy rub or sauce or something – I guess I stopped paying attention.

Shopping.  A few blocks from Blueacre is a Nordstrom Rack, so Collin and I ducked in and I ended up purchasing a bizarre item of clothing that I really like.  It’s made from soft sweatshirt material, but it’s cut like a blazer.  Collin combined those two words and came up the name I will forever call it: it’s a Swazer, and it’s really comfortable.  Here I am, in my Swazer, lookin’ orange thanks to the setting sun, back down by Pike Place Market:

It looks like the sleeves are comically long, but my right hand is cropped out of the picture, and my left hand is blocked by my body – I assure you the sleeves fall at the right spot!  Be sure to come back tomorrow, though, for a photo of me wearing a truly comical article of clothing!

And now that I’ve mentioned Collin 10,000 times, how about I show a picture?  What a good idea!  Here’s the two of us:

A stranger took this picture, and then her hubby/boyfriend insisted on taking one too, as he was convinced she took a crappy picture.  So he took a picture of us, and then they argued about whose was better.  They were kind, and probably a bit tipsy, but for the record, that’s the lady’s photo that I used.

Seatown.  Our final dining excursion came after the Swazer purchase, when we sat down at Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie, a well-known restaurant right near Pike Place Market.

I ordered the dungeness crab cocktail off the appetizer menu:

And a side dish of watermelon and grilled corn:

The menu didn’t mention the part that the watermelon would also be grilled!  Just like when I grilled watermelon on my RediSetGo a few months ago!  Does this place have a RediSetGo too?  How hilarious would it be if they did!  My RediSetGo melon doesn’t hold a candle to this dish – the melon was velvety-smooth, well-spiced, and amazing.  I could eat stacks of grilled watermelon!

Phew.  Are you still with me?  Has anyone made it this far?  Thanks for bearing with me – like I said at the top, there’s lots to share!  And I didn’t even cover everything – in addition to all those meals, I also had great meals I didn’t document at Columbia City Ale House and Portage Bay Cafe – the latter was lunch with my buddy Shawn, a friend from way back that I haven’t seen in 15 years, but reconnected with a couple years ago thanks to Facebook.  Shawn, by the way, is a rock star realtor in the Seattle luxury market, so when you’re ready to buy or sell a high-end Seattle-area property, he’s your guy!

Are you ready for more?  Because the fun’s not over yet!  Tomorrow I’ll cover what I did to stay active, and some more of the sights I saw while sight-seeing.  I’ll leave you with this little tease:  I calculated that in 3 days, I walked or ran over 20 miles!  See how it breaks down tomorrow.  Until then…

…Keep it up, David!


Mas Malo AND New Before/Current Photos!

June 29, 2011

Yesterday I headed downtown and met up with my friends Heather and John for lunch.  Heather came up in my blog two weeks ago, when we had a delicious (and noisy) dinner at Bottega Louie.  John was working and wasn’t available to join us then, but both Heather and John were free today (they work on a touring musical, so their work hours are mostly nights and weekends), so we headed to a place that I heard great things about (Heather and John had heard good things too): Mas Malo.

Malo is a popular Mexican restaurant and bar in Silver Lake (a neighborhood not too far from downtown Los Angeles) that’s really good, despite its name, which means ‘bad’ in Spanish.  Recently, the folks behind Malo opened a second restaurant downtown, which they cleverly called “Mas Malo” (More Bad).  It’s in a beautiful space that was originally a jewelry store that opened in the ’20s: high, ornate, carved ceilings, lots of rich wood panelling – I took a picture, but it didn’t turn out well, so you can check out the pics on their website.

Generally speaking, I’ve been staying away from Mexican food lately, because, compared to other cuisines, Mexican menus are difficult to order off of if you’re try to eat healthy, like I am.  Everything on them is so tempting, too!  What isn’t delicious when it’s wrapped in a tortilla and covered in cheese, sour cream, and guacamole?  But most good, trendy establishments in Los Angeles offer menu items geared towards the health-conscious, and Mas Malo was no exception.

I ordered their Grilled Local Fish Salad, and the fish today was Red Snapper.  The salad part was cabbage, spinach, tomato, and some avocado.  It was dressed in olive oil and lime juice, but I had them hold the oil off of mine.  How good does this look?

It tasted even better.  The fish was really flavorful.  Heather and John got chips and salsa, and the salsa they ordered (because Mas Malo has five different kinds) was Burnt Habanero and Creme, so I tried a few teaspoons of that with my fish, and it was amazing.  And spicy, which I don’t mind at all!  I could feel the residual heat in the back of my mouth a good half hour after finishing our meal.  I’d totally go back to Mas Malo – no doubt about it.

OH – And this is VERY exciting: I have a new  “Before” and “Current” photo comparison to share!  I meant to do this a few weeks ago, but forgot.  One of the “Before” pictures that I’ve been using throughout this whole weight loss shebang is this one:

It’s a classic “Before” picture:  I look huge (which I was), and it’s also wonderfully unflattering, even for a “Before” pic:  I’m shiny, I look tired (which I’m sure I was, as the photo was taken around 1am), there are sweat marks on my shirt, I hate my hair, and that background isn’t doing any favors whatsoever (it’s this weird glowing wall in the basement of a downtown skyscraper).

Literally millions of people have seen this picture.  It was featured on Richard Simmons’ website last summer, when I was his featured success story (read what I wrote here), and it was shown on national television when I was a guest on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” (which you can watch here).

But I’m not the only one in the picture… I cropped out Heather!  Wanna see the whole picture?  Here it is, I’m showing it publicly for the very first time:

Ugh – that background is so hideous.  SO.  HIDEOUS.

That photo was taken in August of 2009, and with Heather back in town now, I thought it’d be good fun to take another photo of the two of us together.  Because I’m not the only one who’s lost weight!  Heather has, over the past year or so, dropped 50 pounds and kept it off!  She did it using Weight Watchers, and it’s amazing and wonderful.  Everything about Heather, for that matter, is amazing and wonderful.

John took a picture of Heather and I today outside of Mas Malo, so here we are two years later – and what you don’t see is the 215 pounds we’ve collectively lost:

And here’s the side-by-side (for maximum comparison):

If you wanna see more “Before” and “Current” photos, check out the Photo Gallery – there’s some good pics there!

One more photo for I wrap this up…  My friend Amanda sent me this picture yesterday:

Amanda made my zucchini salad recipe that I blogged about the other day and sent a photo of the end result!  This really made my day.  Amanda made the recipe her own: she added chicken and black beans for protein, and a little feta on top, and served it on a bed of lettuce.

Does my blog or my recipes inspire you in the kitchen?  Send me your pics!  Find out how to contact me here.

Keep it up Amanda, and keep it up Heather, and…

…Keep it up, David!


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