Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DUMBO Mexican Food

There is often a bias with ethnic food, that it should be cheap. Chinese, Thai and Mexican food – we shouldn’t have to pay a lot.

But there are exceptions. Gran Electrica, in DUMBO, is a hip, perennially packed restaurant where the food is thoughtfully composed and drinks hand crafted. So yes, the bill can be high, especially if you start with the yummy guacamole.

The guac, chunky and served with 4 salsas of varying heat, was accompanied by crisp, greaseless chips. Certainly delicious. But a bit steep at $13.

Margaritas come with a variety of fresh juices and bitters. There is one with fresh cucumber juice and cilantro, and a spicy one with habañero, jalapeño and grapefruit.

Tacos come in 2 vegetarian versions: one with butternut squash, parsnips and almonds, and fish with cabbage and avocado. Both are delicious.

We also loved the cheesy quesadillas with oyster mushrooms and epazote. The menu has medium and large plates, but we just added sides of rice, fried plantians and beans with avocado (each $5). We have to return for the snapper ceviche, with pomegranate and the crab tostada.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fitness Challenge: Runtastic app

For a long time, I resisted using my iPhone while running. I thought I could preserve it more if I just used my old iPod for music and left the phone at home. Plus even though I feel safe in Prospect Park or around NYC, running with an expensive smartphone does leave you vulnerable.

Then I learned about the app Runtastic. This app (also available for Android phones or a download online) gives you an accurate measure of how far you’ve run, and for how long.

You also get metrics about your pace, calories burned, and progress. Think your speed work is improving your overall pace? The app tells you.

If you sycn with Facebook and Twitter you can broadcast your running prowess. But not just running. 

The app lets you track aerobic activities like cycling, walking, skiing and golfing (?), or strength training.

And live coaches in different languages let you bone up on your German, Spanish, French or Italian. 

Though I imagine the French coach encourages you to stop for a Pastis and a cigarette if your workout is too intense.

Now I just need a good armband to keep my iPhone secure.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fitness challenge: historic hotel

If you look at historical photos, people did not have gym fit bodies. If you had muscles, it was because you had a manual labor job. People of means had soft, un-muscled bodies.

Of course now, it is almost the opposite; those with means can afford gyms, trainers, adventure vacations. If you have a hankering to stay in a historic hotel, you usually have to make do with a tiny fitness room.

Such is the case at the Hotel Utica, a grand hotel from 1912 with glimmering chandeliers, elaborate plaster and intricate, restored woodwork. The ceilings soar in the lobby, but the fitness room brings you back down to earth.

The room has 3 ancient cardio machines – an elliptical, a treadmill and a stationary bike, 2 benches and free weights. There is a television, but no way to adjust the heat pouring into the room.

Nevertheless, it adequately serves to keep visitors on fitness routines and if you time your workout right, you can exercise to Kelly & Michael or reruns of Friends. Watching TV is a great motivator for me; to finish a show (or a second sitcom), I have to work out for an hour.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fitness Challenge: Pet Health

February is love month not just for Valentine’s Day, but also for pets. It is also Responsible Pet Owners month.

Most owners love their pets and want to keep them healthy. And your pet even keeps you healthy. Many people run with their dogs, or de-stress by stroking a cat. I go to the park almost daily with my puppy, and though it is not my only exercise, I am outside, walking and running with her, for 90 minutes or so.

We tried a harness on our cat, which didn’t work, but I have seen people walking cats, too.

The emBARK on Pet Health campaign, by Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, asks pet owners to take a pledge  to become more mindful of their pet’s ongoing needs. Each pledge leads to the donation of a Sergeant’s Pet Health Kit, which - with the help of the American Humane Association - will be sent to help shelter animals nationwide.

Kits include
Sergeant’s Whiff Shampoo
·        PurLuv Sizzlin Strips
·        SENTRY Petrodex Dental Kit
·        SENTRY Calming Collar for dogs with Good Behavior pheromone technology
·        Sergeant’s Vetscription Joint Eze Plus

After you take the pledge, mark your calendars to be at the 1 hour twitter party, Wednesday, February 20, 7 p.m. ET.
RSVP at Twtvite and follow #SergeantsPet

Prizes include a pet health kit and emBARK on Pet Health t-shirts, with a grand prize adding a $50 gift card to Petsmart.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fitness Challenge: FlyBarre

In an old joke, a man says to a doctor, “Please help me, I can only lift my arms this high.”
“How high could you lift them before?” the doctor asks.

The man lifts his arms higher. “This high.”

That’s how I feel after my first FlyBarre class, a body sculpting complement to Flywheel spin class. Right now, only the flagship Flatiron studio offers barre classes in NYC.

The class is similar to Physique 57 and Exhale Spa core classes – you use light weights, a squishy ball, and resistance bands.

Unlike the other studios, though, Fly Barre changes its routines monthly, so you don’t take the same class over & over.

You can exercise in socks or barefoot, and either way you get a great workout that targets every muscle group in just 45 minutes. There is also a 60 minute class. While there is no cardio aspect to the class (for a cardio workout, you need to also take a spin class) you feel you’ve exhausted every muscle.
I loved the soft mats, and the abs exercises, where we hooked our feet under the bar, were among the most challenging I’ve ever encountered.

Fitness Challenge: M Gym

M Gym on the Upper East Side offers a great way for Manhattanites to work out for less. The gym has almost everything you need at a reduced rate. The 2 floor gym (you have to use external stairs to get between the floors) has an array of cardio equipment and free weights, and classes ranging from boot camp to yoga. You pay for what you use here; a month at the gym, a pack of classes, personal training. There are community classes at a reduced rate, and personal training for 2 that lets you and a buddy work out for less. The small gym has limited hours; you can only work out till 5 on weekends, and there is just one shower in each tiny locker room. But everything at the gym is clean and functional and if you don’t need all the bells and whistles, you can stay fit for less. The one thing it doesn’t offer is spin, though right downstairs, the boutique spin studio Flywheel has its intense classes. The 2 places have a relationship; Flywheel customers can shower at M gym, so gym members might be able to cut a deal on the occasional spin class.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fitness Challenge: Weighted Ball

Kettlebells are the 'it' equipment in many gyms, but I find a weighted exercise ball much more useful. You can do a lot of the same exercises as with kettlebells, snapping them from a squat to shoulder height, swinging them between your legs in a figure 8.
But you can also use them for your obliques, twisting from side to side. Or you can put the weighted ball under one hand and do push ups, then roll the ball to the other hand for more push ups. The ball is great for getting into the chair position, and holding overhead. You can hold the ball with your elbows out and raise and lower. A ball with handles gives you more options, like standing on one foot, with other straight out behind you. You keep the ball in your opposite hand and touch the ground, then straighten up. Exhale Spa has a Core Fusion Sport class using a weighted ball.