Tonight, we are sitting on the world’s best beer collection…

…in a hotel room.  I’m certain of it. And we’re too tired to drink it.

When I came to the States in 1999, American beer was constantly ridiculed as various forms of piss.  Who’d have thought the tables would turn to the point that Belgians and Germans are coming to the US to learn how to make beer?

Four days in the North East with two aficionados as tour guides blew my mind.  Think wine tasting with a hipster vibe.  No shortage of beards, tattoos and piercings.

First stop, Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, VT.  Quaint downtown.  It’s raining on and off like it will do for the entire trip.  The trees are just starting to bud so they have a smoke ring of red just forming around their gray skeletons.  It’ll look completely different in two weeks. We step into one of those comfortable local joints with whitewashed walls and a collection of signs, pictures and hunting trophies that feels authentically collected and curated.  Not like one of those brand new joints where somebody had to go out and buy all this arbitrary stuff two weeks before opening to make it look like this.

At 8:30 on a Wednesday the crowd is thinning out, so we grab three open stools at the bar and introduce ourselves to Kevin. The bar has a classic comfortable wooden countertop with that delightful bevel for your elbows.  I feel at home already.

The guys are intently studying the beer menu.  The names are almost as much fun as the beers.  I start my tour right with Lawson’s Finest Sip of Sunshine, a lupulin-laden tropical, juicy, hoppy, unfiltered, smooth double IPA that I’ve learnt is an excellent example of the North East IPA style vs. the bright hop riot typical of the West Coast IPAs.  Grapefruit vs. lemon might get you half the idea.

The check ins begin.  Untappd, is a Facebook for beer drinkers to keep track of and score all they’ve sampled (both my guides make it to 1,000 on this trip.  I feel like a novice when I hit 100.)  There are now over 5,000 registered craft breweries, so keeping track of the 50,000 plus brews is not a job for human memory.

 

The elusive BackAcre’s Sour Golden Ale in it’s cradle

While we tuck into some chorizo-stuffed grilled peppers, Jake spots a rare Sour Golden Ale from Backacre Beermakers.  Kevin leans over the bar to tell us this is what those in the know are really excited about. This is beer that will change your mind about beer.  It comes in a wine bottle, is poured into tasting glasses and then lovingly rested in wicker cradle to the sediment at the bottom is not disturbed.  The nose is incredible, and the balanced sour is so refreshing after the IPA.  A worthy competitor to champagne, far more scarce and way less expensive.  At $22 for the bottle it feels like a bargain and it’s a most enjoyable companion to the TPT signature burger with the brilliant unexpected twist of peanut butter.

We climb back in the car, satiated, yet keen to get to Burlington before close.  The Farmhouse Tap and Grill allegedly had a maple-inspired event but they’re on last call.  The bartender recommends a local dive bar around the corner.  Finnigan’s Pub definitely is.  Amongst the skull stickers on the fridge is “Vermont as Fuck”.  Here I get to try the phenomenal Heady Topper.

the delicious Heady Topper

It comes in a silver can with intricate tattoo-like graphics and the all caps instructions around the rim “DON’T POUR THIS”.  Apparently the amazing mix of smells and tastes will be damaged by the act of pouring into a glass.  I sip contently, marveling that we landed barely 5 hours ago in Boston and I’m already having this much fun.

As we stagger out of the bar in the wee hours, we learn that pizza falls from the sky in VT.  A man carrying boxes asks if we want any.  Umm, hell yeah! We tear the slices apart like starving dogs who can’t believe their luck as we walk back to the hotel.

The days start pretty late.  Most tasting rooms don’t open until 12.  On holiday, I like to make room for the coming calories with some exercise before the decadence starts.  After a little more shaky than usual yoga and a bracing run on the bike path alongside Lake Champlain with dog walkers and runners I’m ready for more.

Burlington Beer Co is not actually in Burlington.  It’s in an industrial park about ten miles out of town.  Of course, everything is desolate and deserted except for this parking lot.  There’s not a lot of money in this game and there’s no need for a picturesque vineyard.  The industrial vibe sits well with the hipster aesthetic.

Stepping inside is like entering something from Ken Kesey’s Electric Cool Aid Acid Test.  Trippy music is blaring.  The server is incredibly lean (not surprisingly, many of the brewers and their clientele are hardly svelte).  He’s clad in black, with dark rimmed glasses and a beanie and a chest tattoo peeping out the top of his Henley shirt.  The brewery’s graphics are incredible, line-drawings of wizards, deers and apparitions.  The names and brews are even more creative.

We order tasters of all 12 on draft and get to sni

Samples!

ffing, swilling and checking in.  You Can’t Get Here From There (Key Lime & Kumquat), I See the Vision (Paw Paw & Dragonfruit) and the signature It’s Complicated Being A Wizard are standouts.  The smokey and sweet mushroom tacos and were welcome and unexpectedly good sustenance.

House of Fermentology does not have a tasting room.  Fortunately a few of their creations are on tap at Foam Brewers down by the lake, who are producing some outstanding drops as well.  Like Clockwork is a knockout surprise.  Rites of Spring is a tasty palate cleanser.

We score a last-minute cancellation and treat ourselves to some sophisticated farm-to-table fare at Hen of the Wood.  The rabbit liver pate is a standout amongst beef tartare and heirloom carrot with homemade ricotta starters.  We enjoy a four flight taste of bourbons and rye whiskeys another area of incredible artistry and innovation in the US.  Enjoy them while they last, we’re drinking them faster than they can age them.  Another excellent sour with our main course of pork loin and a delicious couple of desserts round out the meal.

The Growler Garage is a not so well thought out concept but we enjoy chatting with a few locals and helping them finish the antipasto plates from their office function.  In search of more beer and apparently suffering from bottomless stomachs we find ourselves drinking more beers and devouring a superb mushroom and sausage pizza at American Flatbread.  Time to stagger back to the hotel again.

Must be ready to roll by 10am.  We’re going to the world’s best brewery today.  There’s a palpable tension with sticking to the schedule because supplies are limited.  After some more unsteady yoga and a much slower run, I check out and pile into the car for the nearly 2 hour drive to Hill Farmstead.  It’s at the end of a long dirt road on top of a ridge.  There’s still snow on the ground in patches. This feels more like a winery especially with a new tasting room commanding views of the surrounding country.

We arrive ten minutes before 12 and there’s already a line of cars and people assembling their coolers.  You can’t buy these bottles online, so you have to be here to get this golden nectar.  Sean Hill has been producing incredibly finely crafted Pale Ales, IPAs, sours and other exotic varieties and these patrons can’t get enough of it.  First stop is the retail store to see what’s on sale today and what’s in limited supply.  Then into the tasting room to get a number to get in line to fill bottles and start sampling to choose the two pours we will have today.

Liquor licensing in this country is a nonsensical patchwork of state regulations.  Minnesota just allowed liquor stores to open on Sundays.  In the Live Free or Die state of New Hampshire, you can only buy hard liquor from state run stores.  In this tasting room, they don’t want you getting drunk and driving on those windy hill roads, so two pours is the limit and no pours are allowed of the stronger double IPAs.  You can buy bottles to drink on site but they’re 60% more expensive than the takeaways.  Signs everywhere advise you not to open the takeaways on site.

Part of the FOMO tension is driven by this scarcity and these crazy rules.  There is an active trading market for these limited bottles and mules from all over the North East are here to pick up bottles.  The guys have trouble relaxing as they wait for their number and decide how to allocate the precious slots in their luggage to the bottles they can take home.  I just sample everything and wish my nose wasn’t blocked as I’m having trouble picking up the floral, spice and fruit notes of these beers.  There is no bad beer here. The onsite list is reminiscent of a winery with a seemingly endless list of rare bottles. It can’t be long before the best breweries start to charge for samples, much like the wineries.  There’s a constant struggle to keep this market for the everyman and somehow still cover the costs.

Unfortunately, being doubles, Abner and the Double Galaxy are not available for pours.  So I settle down with the creamy dry Pale Ale Harlan, and the wonderful wheat saison, Florence. The sours are such a welcome pallet cleanser on this trip after all the bitterness of the hops.  As we settle down and enjoy our pours and the initial opening wave thins out, we can feel calm descending. I’m struck by the mild irony of Frenchman filling a dozen bottles with American beer while his wife and kids patiently wait in a room and where the only food available is a selection of artisan cheeses.

It’s back to Waterbury to check in and visit The Alchemist’s new out of town tasting room.  It looks like a punk winery, the crowd and the graphics on the merchandise and the building cement the vision.  A black cap with a vibrant green line drawing of hops makes me realize that image has become a symbol of craft beer as iconic as the hemp leaf for cannabis.

At Alchemist they’re milking the success of Focal Banger and Heady Topper for all it’s worth.  It’s all about cranking out these cans at scale.  Locals are dropping in all the time to pick up their limited allocation.  It’ll be interesting to see how long they can stay ahead of the fierce competition.

If I lived in Waterbury I would weigh at least twenty pounds more.  The small downtown has three outstanding brewpubs and restaurants separated by about 20 paces.  We hit Prohibition Pig (Pro Pig as the locals call it) for some beers and fine barbeque. I’m thrilled to find Hill Farmstead’s Double Galaxy on tap and it goes well with some dry rubbed wings, very tasty pimento poppers with chili jam, and a good brisket with duck fat fries.

Across the road is the Craft Beer Cellar.  Just looking at the labels is entertaining.  Boom Sauce, Consolation Prize and Steal This Can crack me up.

We head across the road to The Blackback Pub (try saying that fast after a few brews). Dave stops by our table to check in and gives us some recommendations including the surprising Rodenbach’s Fruitage (raspberries and elderberries, queue Monty Python’s Holy Grail) and lets us know which local brewers he’s excited about.  Asking staff what they’re excited about is my pro trick contribution to this trip.  The nachos with bacon, blue cheese, green onions and maple syrup are so good we go back for seconds.

We unsteadily cross back across the road to The Reservoir for yet more beers.  And then we stumble back across that same road to Blackback for a final round. At this point I’ve clearly had way too much, somehow we’re eating yet more pizza and then ubering back to the hotel.  Alchemist’s Crusher crushes me and I crush the can.  Definitely time for bed.

ice cream 🙂

You can’t live like this forever.  Or even a week.  I’m a mess the next morning.  We’re right next door to Ben & Jerry’s Factory so Tom and I take the factory tour for a change of pace.  Even on a cold rainy morning the humorous graphics and community programs give you the warm and fuzzies about this institution.  A funny graphic video of their history, a guide that somehow bursts with authentic enthusiasm, and a generous sample of Milk and Cookies flavor have us back on track.

We’re heading back to Boston today.  Following up on Dave’s recommendation we stop in at River Roost Brewing in White River Junction and yak it up with the guys behind the bar and Brandon the man behind Big Fatty’s BBQ across the lot.  Big Fatty’s is awesome, with an incredible salad bar and world-class brisket, burnt ends and ribs.  Terrific selection of beers on tap and in their bottle shop.  It’s worth remembering the unplanned surprises are the so often the highlights of travel.

today’s selection

We’re all pretty tired by now so the conversation in the car is thinning out.  We’re rather pleased to finally make it to Trillium Brewing’s Canton MA location.  The lot is packed, there are cars parked everywhere.  Clearly we are in the big city now.  Inside is a noisy zoo, with opposite lines for tasting and purchases reminiscent of United Zone 1 and 2 boarding snaking across the floor and overlapping. Dogs on leash add to the chaos.  Again a two pour purchase limit.  We divide and conquer hitting both line. The beers are really, really good making all the waiting for beers and somewhere to sit worthwhile.  Vicinity, Double Dry Hopped Congress, Double Dry Hopped Summer are a juicy, cloudy, tropical collection of goodness. A decent, perhaps bit too fruity, Raspberry Soak sour to finish. Sadly, we miss out on the Fort Point Pale Ale.

After checking in at our airport hotel and dropping off the rental car we Uber over to Night Shift Brewing in Everett.  Winding through an urban wasteland we reach the industrial oasis of the brewery, and the ever-present BBQ food truck. There’s a line to get in the door! It’s a lively scene inside and we choose our beers carefully and scout for a table.  Morph, Santilli and The 87 are winners here.  Of course, I finish with another sour, the well-balanced Rickey Weisse.

With dying cell phone batteries (the scourge of the modern traveler) and flagging energy we catch an Uber back to the hotel.  There’s an amusing conversation with the driver who has recently graduated from Corona to Stella Artois and has noticed a craft brewery near his home and his thinking he should give it a try.  He can’t remember the name.  It’s something like Brewery he says.  That should narrow it down a bit we later chuckle.

Back at the hotel, it’s time to sort out what will fit and what has to be drunk that night.  Right here, right now, fresh cans and bottles of what is unquestionably now the best beer in the world are ready for consumption.  And we’re too tired to enjoy it all.  It’s time for goodbyes and half formed ideas of the next trip.  Richmond, VA anyone?

Watermelon plays nice with chicken

 There’s been so much tasty goodness this summer.  This was another popular food porn shot receiving multiple recipe requests.  The tangy lime dressing is so refreshing with the watermelon.

This is a great example of how you can turn a salad into a meal by combining it with a protein, in this case, a foolproof (always juicy, never dried-out and rubbery)  grilled chipotle-lime chicken recipe from Cooks Illustrated (subscription required)

I’m trying to eat more greens, so I tend to always have clamshells of organic arugula or mixed greens in the fridge.  A handful goes on the plate first, and then I just lay the salad on top

Watermelon Feta & Mint Salad with Chipotle-Lime Grilled Chicken

  • Make ahead: the grilled chicken (I make a huge double batch and use it throughout the week, good for 4 days in the fridge and much longer in freezer )
  • Prep time: 15 minutes for watermelon salad, 1 hour for the grilled chicken
  • Serves 4
  • Ingredients:
    • Chicken (for each 1.5-2 lbs of skinless chicken breasts)
      • Marinade: whisk together 3 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice, 1 tsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 3 cloves minces garlic.
      • Sauce (this sauce is awesome, and perfect if you’re having the chicken by itself, otherwise you can omit for this recipe): whisk together 3 Tbsp EVOO, 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp minced chipotle chile, 2 Tbsp  cilantro leaves, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
    •  Dressing
      • 1/2 cup mint leaves
      • 1 serrano chile (seeded and minced) or 1/2 tsp red chile flakes
      • 1 Tbsp  honey
      • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
      • 1 Tbsp lime juice
      • 3 Tbsp EVOO
      • Salt & pepper
    • Salad
      • 1/4 cup mint leaves
      • Seedless watermelon about 3lb, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
      • 6 oz feta crumbled
  • Preparation
    • Charcoal grill: if using (you can also broil the chicken if you’re in a hurry), fill and light the chimney starter,  then make a two level fire – all charcoal on 1 side.
      • I like using smoker chips.  Add 1 cup of Hickory chips to 2 cups of water before starting the grill (they need about 30 minutes of soaking).  Add to the charcoal after its gone white, then add the grate back in
    • Chicken:
      • Make the marinade and pour into a gallon size zip-loc freezer bag
      • Add the chicken and massage around, squeeze out the air, seal the bag and put in the fridge for 15 minutes (I usually do this after starting the grill)
      • After 15 minutes flip the bag, and leave for another 15 minutes (total of 30 minutes)
      • Use a wad of paper towels with oil on them to grease the grate just prior to adding the chicken to the side withOUT the coals.
      • Grill 5-7 minutes each side on the cool side with the lid on (until chicken goes white, maybe some minor brown marks)
      • Move chicken to the hot side (where the coals are) and add some color (grill marks) about 2 minutes each side
      • Use an instant read thermometer (you’re good once it reads 135 degrees in the thickest part, and get it off straight away if you’ve topped 150! If you’re using a broiler, you’ll just need to watch it, plan on around 5-9 minutes each side)
      • Cover with foil and let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes
    • Dressing:
      • Put all dressing ingredients (remember to save 1/4 cup mint leaves for garnish!)  in a blender, buzz, taste, add more chile, lime, salt or pepper to taste
    • Salad:
      • Toss the watermelon with the dressing up to 30 minutes before serving
      • Add the feta and grilled chicken and toss lightly
    • Plating
      • Lay down some arugula, then place salad on top to desired portion size.

Enjoy!

 

Summer Bliss (aka: How to learn to love salads)

 Summer fruit and veg are just irresistible to me.  Tomatoes, figs, peaches, nectarines, pluots, berries.  So good.

If you’re not into salads, summer is the time to start.  The cookbook that made me finally get salads is Salad of the Day, by Georgeanne Brennan. The genius of this book is right there in the sub-title: 365 Recipes for Every Day of the Year.

There’s a ton of different flavor profiles: French, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Indian, favorites and favorites with a twist…  Many of these salads are meals in themselves with protein  included.  Many are easily made into meals by adding some grilled chicken, salmon, tuna, steak, lamb, or shrimp.

Most weeks, usually Friday arvo or Saturday morning, I’ll flick through that month’s recipes and get some ideas.  Then, when I get to the market, I go with what looks good, and know I can look forward to some delicious days using what’s seasonal.  (Added benefit: if it’s in season, it’s often relatively cheaper)

This week has been ridiculous.  I’ve been teasing friends on Instagram and Facebook with some of the photos.  Here’s the recipe behind the food porn pic.  What makes this recipe rock:

  1. It looks and tastes amazing (thanks to the best heirloom tomatoes you can find, never refrigerated, just bursting with flavor and juices)
  2. The unexpected combo of oregano, and sherry vinegar (instead of basil and balsamic)
  3. You can let it sit a couple of hours and it just gets better (unlike most salads that need to be eaten almost as soon as they’re tossed with the dressing)

Heirloom Salad with Oregano, Sherry & Balsamic Vinegar (August 8, p. 183)

  • Serves 2 with 2-4 heirlooms, 4 with 6-8 (recipe below for 2, double for 4)
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Prep Ahead: up to 2 hours
  • Ingredients:
    • 2-4 Heirloom tomatoes
    • 1 green onion (or 3-4 chives)
    • 1 clove garlic (optional)
    • 1-2 tsp fresh oregano
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Sherry vinegar
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO, a good salad-worthy one if you have it)
    • Salt (Maldon crystals are awesome, but regular salt works)
    • 1/4 tsp sugar (skip if desired)
    • Country-style bread for mopping up the juices (if you want 🙂 )
  1. Slice tomatoes a bit over a 1/4 inch thick.  Lay them out on plates or serving platter
  2. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp sugar, 1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste over the luscious beauties (do this from about 12 inches above the plate for a more even sprinkle)
  3. Finely chop the oregano & green onion (or chives), and mince the garlic (if using) and sprinkle over those tomatoes.
  4. Drizzle lightly with sherry and balsamic vinegar (a couple of drops per slice seems to work), drizzle more generously with the olive oil
  5. Try not to eat this goodness for at least 15 minutes.  It’s good to stand out for a couple of hours.  Then dive in.  No one will mind if you lick the plate.  You could always mop up the juices with a tasty bread.

What’s your favorite summer bliss?  Let me know if you want me to post more recipes 🙂

Review: Barnana Bites replace sticky gels, end stomach upset and calf cramps

barnanabitesOver the last 10 years of endurance events, GU and other energy gels appeared to be a necessary evil for energy and electrolytes.  Unfortunately I’ve found they get harder and harder to stomach the longer the race and the harder you are working. I was getting a lot of gastrointestinal (GI) upset and still getting debilitating calf cramps after about 2 hours of hard exercise. I’ve tried more or less water, salt tabs, magnesium, and potassium supplements all to no avail.

The longer and harder the run, the more likely the issues.  At Quicksilver 50 mile race in 2010 I clearly remember knowing I needed to eat, but just not being able to force down a GU, and reaching for PB&J sandwiches, bananas and salted potatoes instead at the aid stations.

I first tried these Barnana Banana Bites about 6 months ago and found it not only was easy and relatively pleasant to eat no matter how hard I was working, it also caused no GI distress and my cramps were gone. Barnana is literally just partially dehydrated banana (which is why it is chewy rather than like the banana chips we all know), so its packed with potassium, which seemed to be just what my body needed to avoid the dreaded calf cramps.

As you can see from the pic above, they do look a little odd (dare I say unappetizing?) as they are little brown lumps. For me, all the other advantages easily exceeded the issue of appearance.  You can also get a chocolate flavor, but I didn’t see any need to add that to the mix while running.  Amazon sells them in bulk if you want to save a few $, and some Whole Foods stores stock them if you want to try a single pack without paying shipping charges.

For me, a full bag is perfect for a marathon – 1 chew each mile from roughly mile 4 to mile 22. Using this strategy , I ran a personal best (almost 30 minutes faster) at California International Marathon in December using them. You can put them in a sandwich bag and there is no mess like you have with the sticky energy gel packets. Price wise its about the same as doing 4-5 gels in a marathon, so it was a no brainer to switch for me.

So if you’re tied of the gels, this might work for you.  Let me know what you think!

(Note: this is an authentic review.  I’ve had no contact with the owners or makers of Barnana Banana Bites and received no compensation or free product)

It took Thomas Keller to teach me the secret of beautiful poached eggs

Keller cookbooksI’ve always loved poached eggs ever since my grandma used to make them for breakfast on top of toast and promite (a sweeter version of vegemite).  The splash of yellow as you cut into the yolk and the luscious unctuous sauce the yolk makes.

I never had much luck with making them.  Seemed like there was always strands of white all over the saucepan.

 

Enter Thomas Keller.  Sorry, not in person.  But through two beautiful cookbooks I received for Christmas – the very ambitious The French Laundry Cookbook and the more relaxed Ad Hoc at Home.

Time: 5 mins to boil the water, 2 mins to cook the egg

Start with a deep saucepan. Boil the water, and add 2 Tbsp vinegar.

Here’s the secret:  Create a whirlpool in the saucepan by stirring and break the egg into that gently.  Then drop the heat so it doesn’t hit the bottom and stick but spins beautifully in that little whirlpool.

poached egg whirlpoolRemove after 2 mins with a slotted spoon and you have poached egg perfection.

Repeat for how ever many eggs you want to do.  If you’re Thomas Keller presentation crazy you put them in an ice bath, dress them up by snipping off any straggly bits and reheat them later.  But they look pretty damn good after the whirlpool treatment and I say eat ’em while hot.

If you want to get healthy serve these over some wilted greens and some warmed cannellini beans with garlic, salt, pepper, lemon, chili pepper flakes (or Sriracha sauce).  Asparagus and bacon are great adds too.  Or follow my grandma’s lead and go Aussie-style with some nice thick toast with vegemite.  Below is a tasty Mexican inspired breakfast from the other day.

Egg with black bean and roasted poblano chile salad and avocado

Egg with black bean and roasted poblano chile salad and avocado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers.

Simple tricks for improving your success with New Year’s Resolutions

resolutionRecent research suggests you are ten times more likelihood of succeeding with New Year’s resolutions if you explicitly commit to them (such as by writing) vs. just thinking about them – it’s the difference between intention and commitment.

How incredible is it that 46% of those explicitly making resolutions are maintaining them after 6 months vs. 4% of those who don’t? That seems like pretty good odds to me – you have nearly a one in two chance of long term success with a resolution if you write it down!

If you want to increase your chances of success further, make resolutions some or all of these:

  • Specific (how many, where, what, by when)
  • Realistic (lose 10 or 20 pounds not 100 pounds in weight),
  • Public (fear of embarrassment if fail), Shared (who’d let a friend down – share a goal to run weekly or train for a specific race)
  • Competitive (challenge a friend to beat you in achieving the resolution)

So to increase my own chances of success, related to this blog,  in 2013, I will:

  1. Enter and train specifically for 4 marathons or ultras, at least one international, in locations on my list of places to travel to.
  2. Post on training, racing, eating, travelling, and hopefully useful “life hacks” like this once a week.
  3. Have folks over for a dinner I will cook using at least one new recipe once a month.

So far, (if I can count New Year’s Eve!) I’m off to a good start.

  1. Entered the Napa Valley marathon for 3/1, the Gorges Waterfalls 50k on 3/31 on the Columbia River, and the Swissalpine K78 in Davos, Switzerland.  I’m hoping to get into the UROC 100k on 9/28 from Breckenridge to Vail.  That’ll take me to Colorado destinations like Vail, and Oregon destinations like Bend and Ashford (I’m planning an awesome running and craft brewery road trip around Oregon after the 50k) and a chance to visit Switzerland and see the alpine stages of the Tour de France.
  2. Resurrected this blog with this post and a list of topics.
  3. Cooked for 4 last night from a bevy of new cookbooks that I received for Christmas 🙂 Zuni Cafe’s cookbook Roast Chicken with Bread Salad  along with Roasted Root Vegetables and a Squash, Farro and Black Rice salad from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.

Ok. I’m committed. What are you committing to?

Here’s to succeeding at our resolutions in 2013 🙂

Were we born to run?

Do you remember running as a child? If you’ve got kids watch them run. Unbridled joy and beautiful form in any kind of shoe. Why do so many lose this as they get older? What happened?  Currently, I’m training for my first 50 miler, the Quicksilver 50 Mile on May 8th. Tell people you’re running 50 miles and they look at you like you’re crazy. But lately, I’ve been enjoying running like I was a child again.

The unabridged audio version of Chris McDougall’s Born to Runhas only fanned the flames, filling me with conviction that I’m rediscovering what we were all meant to do. I was heading out in some brand new shoes when I got to the section which argues the heel strike advocated by Nike’s Bill Bowerman was only enabled by the cushioned shoes Nike was trying to sell, and this modified foot strike, is the source of most running injuries. Apparently, people get injured running more often now than they did in the 70s before the rise of this new foot strike and shoe type.

I was a prolific teenage runner, who used to have a natural midfoot-toe strike and who used to love just running.  About 10 years ago, I developed knee problems with a heel strike and overstriding (extending the leg straight out in front prior to impact).  Since reverting back to my natural style and spending more time barefoot, I’ve been running faster and with less injuries.  Chris McDougall tells of similar experiences.

The Vibram Five Finger shoe is the poster child for this new barefoot/natural running movement.  It’s a bizarre invention to those of us used to the modern running shoe, and certainly a conversation starter – a Vibram rubber glove for your feet.  You only have to look at the customer reviews to see how much people love these things, injuries decrease and they never want to wear heeled shoes again.  I’m going to get a pair myself to see if they address the chronic ilio-tibial band (ITB) issues I’ve been dealing with.

BTW, the book is fantastic on a number of levels and also a wonderful audio book that will make any workout fly by.  It builds to this incredible 50 mile race on the Tarahumara‘s home turf, by way of Chris’ personal story, and many wonderful side bars on legends and characters in the sport of ultrarunning like Scott Jurek, 7 time Western States 100 mile winner, and Ann Trason.  He explores nutrition and running shoes, and the amazing story of persistence hunting – a technique still practiced by a very few Kalahari bushmen, and a theory that we evolved to be able to actually consistently run antelope and other pray down via exhaustion (the key is not speed, but 3-5 hours of endurance and team work) and we evolved very specific body parts to assist with this.  In other words we were born to run.  If nothing else, I no longer feel like I’m the odd one for taking on a 50 miler.