Thursday, August 14, 2014

And now for something completely different...

Just about all of our posts here at "Adventures in Gastonomy" are about great food, beer and wine -- a little overindulgence with a side of geeky. But not this one.

As I write this I'm sitting here staring at a bottle of mixed up fruit juice. It's the sixth one I've consumed today. And it's all I've consumed today. That's right -- I'm doing a juice cleanse.

If you know me well, I'll give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor.

The juicy lineup!

So how did I come to this? Well...while we've still been having plenty of great meals and making a hobby out of food and drink, I think we've both recognized that maybe, just maybe, we ought to pay attention to our health. At least a little. It struck home when I tipped the scales at a higher-than-ever number earlier this year. I knew I needed to get better at taking care of myself. Or at least try.

So I took up exercise. Walking at first and then walking interrupted by jogging/running. Nothing too hard on the knees. Now I do a two mile walk/run five days a week. That's helped stabilize things. I also bought a new bike earlier this summer, which is both good exercise and a great way to explore DC. I even cut back on beer during the week (oh the sacrifice!). I'm losing weight -- not in gobs, but definitely trending in the right direction. Even with a little indulgence.

But a juice cleanse?

The first time I heard about a cleanse was when one of the guys who used to sail with me said that he and his then girlfriend (a model) went on a weeklong cleanse where they drank nothing but water with a little cayenne in it. Or something like that. And that sounded crazy. Or maybe something that guys who date models do when they want to keep dating the model.

Patti came across a Groupon (Or was it Living Social? Or Gilt?  Rue-la-la? I never can keep them straight) offering a deal on a juice cleanse and it came in three- and five-day increments, as well as a week. Three days sounds more doable than a week! And juice sounds better than cayenne water. She tried one of the cleanses a few weeks back from an outfit out of Brooklyn, liked it, and wanted to do another. I decided it was worth a try. After all, it's only three days. If it really sucked, I'd stop.  

So, armed with Groupons, we went into DC to a local juice/raw food shop in a transitional (but on the upswing) neighborhood that reminded me vaguely of a head shop -- countercultural vibe, espousal of hemp, crunchy atmosphere, etc. We left laden with three days worth of juices -- six per day, including a coconut water to start the day, and various fruit and vegetable juices for the remainder. That's all we were going to consume for three days.

The literature actually called it a "fast." A fast? What have I gotten myself into?!?! The only time I fast is when it involves an inordinately long un-catered (Communists!) meeting at the office or a trip to the doctor. And even when I go to the doctor I try for a morning appointment so I can sleep through most of my fast. But, as I keep reminding myself, it's ONLY THREE DAYS! And I strategically timed it so it would be a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and not ruin any social outings, weekend plans or ballgames.

So here's how it went down (so to speak):

Day One
I learned a very important lesson right off the bat. Don't start the first day of your juice cleanse with a hangover. The night before, since I knew it was my last solid meal for three days, I grilled a beautiful hangar steak with a side of corn on the cob and a salad. Plus of course I drank some beers while grilling and then split a bottle of awesome Foxen California Syrah with the meal. Plus another beer while doing the dishes. I went to

Until I woke up. Let's just say that was probably a mistake. Especially since when you're hung over the first thing you want is a big, solid breakfast -- *not* coconut water. But I battled through, and the cleanse is on!

So far, I've spent the day vaguely hungry. Not starving, but like a case of the perpetual munchies. I don't know that I've witnessed any "periods of clarity and energy" like the literature promised. But I'm surviving. Though passing the office sandwich stand/cafe in its full lunch rush sounds and smells -- the same place that I usually turn my nose up to in favor of the food trucks or an actual restaurant -- sent me into a Michelin Three-Star swoon!

On the plus side, it's amazing what you can do with the time and mindspace freed up by not having to think about what you're eating for your next meal. I spend most of my day planning, anticipating, chomping at the bit for my next meal. We've both been the kind of folks who sit at lunch and talk about dinner, or sit at dinner and talk about tomorrow night's dinner. But on a cleanse, you already know what it is. Juice. Already prepared. Just reach in the fridge, open it, and drink. Evenings are much more free when you don't have to cook or do dishes! The productivity! You can do other things. Like blog, for instance.

Day Two
Things started off well, I didn't wake up hungry. After my walk/run I weighed in and was almost four pounds lighter than I had been the day before. Not a bad start. We'll see how the rest of the trendline reads over the next couple days.

As the day wears on, I'm still a little hungry, and my stomach gurgles a bit with all the liquid. There's a bit of monotony setting in. I don't focus on it constantly like I did yesterday. But not having a meal to look forward to until Thursday is a little depressing. The good news -- it's a very rainy day for the first time in a while. I don't have to go out in it to get lunch, or visit the cafĂ© of last resort downstairs. That's good, right?

Now as things wind toward what, on a normal day, would have been dinner, I'm a little more depressed. But hey -- we're going out to run errands tonight! I think the secret is to keep busy enough that you don't have as much time to think about food. Only one more day!

Day Three
I can't complain about the weight loss -- just shy of another four pounds. It'll be interesting to see how much I put back on, or whether exercise can at least keep the weight (mostly) off.

Today should be interesting, as I'm working from home all day with a fridge full of food (and BEER!) beckoning me. Since it's the last day, I think I can hold out. I was a little hungry this morning, but my exercise went well.

I will say I'm getting tired of the lineup. This cleanse has pretty much the same juices in the same order. First thing -- coconut water; then watermelon ginger; then a couple of veggie oriented juices (including a rather smelly one involving cabbage), then mostly fruit juices around "dinner." It's a little boring. I just went down to the fridge and put some beer where the large quantities of juice were. I probably won't get to pop one until tomorrow night, but I need that light at the end of the tunnel.

So what have we learned from this?
  1. Juicing may indeed help with weight loss. I did drop some pounds and it'll be interesting to see if I keep it off as I move back to normal eating (and drinking). But remember, this is a "cleanse" (or a fast), not a diet. So it may be a way to jump start things, but I don't think it's sustainable long term on a number of levels (for me, at least).
  2. I really do spend a lot of time and mind on food. One of the hardest things to deal with was the absence of having food and meals and drinks in my life. Given that I'm into food and drink enough to blog about it, this is a Big Deal. I missed having meals. And being able to determine what I eat, and thinking about it all day. A part of my daily existence was gone (for three days, at least).
  3. Not having food to think about frees you up for other things. As I pointed out above, when you don't spend time planning for, acquiring, preparing, eating and cleaning up from meals, you have more time. Our lives are so crowded with work and various other activities that when we come home and pull together (or order) a meal, by the time we've cleaned up it's time for bed. Without that, we were able to do other things.
  4. I'm really glad I picked a time to do this when I had few or no social plans. I think a happy hour, ballgame, dinner or other social occasion where I was with people who were eating and drinking while I couldn't would've broken me. The closest I came was having to sit through a catered lunch meeting on the first day (thank God it was sandwiches and not pizza or something!) and my Wednesday night sailing regatta on the third day, where I had to refuse (much to my crewmates' surprise) the traditional post-race beer.
  5. I'm not sure what the benefits are in terms of the "energy and clarity" the literature promised. I felt pretty good, energy-wise, and had good workouts every day during the cleanse. And I didn't get the mid-afternoon sleepies like I sometimes do when I've had a big lunch. That said, I also didn't feel faint or sick. In fact physically, except for feeling a little hungry pretty much all the time, and having some gurgly feelings in my stomach, I did okay.
Will I do this again? Maybe. Let's see how things are after I get back to normal. It could be something good to do every few months just to reset your body a bit and get a little of the bad stuff out. Or potentially to jump start a little more weight loss.

All-in-all, as I sit and enjoy my first meal (a berry salad and one cup of black coffee -- trying to ease back into it) I'm glad I did it, if for nothing else just to explore what this would be like and to prove I could do it. Time will tell whether this becomes a regular part of my life, or just a one-time experiment.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Successful Experiment?

When last we left our intrepid diners, they were about to embark on an experiment in dining -- a Dinner Lab, if you will. And now it's a couple weeks later and I'm sure you're waiting breathlessly to find out how the experiment went.

In a word (or two), pretty well...

I suppose the Twitter version would go:  Cool place, excellent food, decent drinks, meh service, fun experience.

But let's get into a more detailed write up.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dining out...experimentally

A few months ago we read about a concept coming to DC called Dinner Lab. It advertises itself as an opportunity for an up and coming chef to present a unique experience. It's one of those underground dining scenes I've read about, usually in places like New York, or San Francisco, where you imagine fabulous dinners are being served in strange, out-of-the-way places like loading docks or abandoned subway stations in a "gotta know the password" way.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hiatus?!?! What hiatus?!?!

If you'd have told me when I made my previous post (Super Bowl weekend) that my next post wouldn't be until after the All Star Break, I'd be more than a little disappointed in myself, and terribly embarrassed. But here we are.

Clearly I didn't intend to take a hiatus from the blog -- it's not like we haven't been doing anything (more on that in a minute) and I didn't have anything to say. But sometimes when your day job is sitting down and typing words into a computer, you find that's *not* what you want to do during your spare time. And then one week of no posts turns into another, pretty soon it's been a month, you get busy with other stuff and you find yourself staring at the Fourth of July.

So why am I back? Well, I do like the concept of blogging (even if I'm flawed when it comes to execution) and I keep seeing/doing/eating/drinking things that make me think "This would make a good blog post." We'll see if I can keep this up, but I thought it might be worth another try. If only I could find a way to quit my day job, or maybe spend a little less time trying to get some of my posts absolutely perfect...

Anyway, the stoppage in blog posts has definitely not been an indicator of a stoppage in Gastonomical adventures. Quite the contrary. Here's a couple of high points from the first half of 2014:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Downstate Weekend -- Saturday Touring

Showing the love at Cardinal Point

I'll be honest -- we covered a lot of ground and as the day wore on, my notes got less and less. But we hit some good places and had some good beer and wine. Here's the rundown:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Downstate Weekend -- the Ride Down

Half the fun of a trip is the journey, and that's especially true when you're stopping at wineries along the way, right? After a burger in old town Warrenton at the Iron Bridge Wine Company, we started southwest and hit three wineries on our way to Nelson County:

Friday, January 31, 2014

Headed to the Blue Ridge

Been a couple weeks since the last post, but a business trip, a heavy workload and a (much needed) slow weekend will cramp the Gastonomical adventures. This weekend, on the other hand, we've got a little getaway going down. We found a Living Social (Or was it Groupon?) deal for a dog-friendly B&B down in Nelson County, VA, just southwest of Charlottesville.