Sunday, September 29, 2013


I need a vacation - ASAP!  Fortunately, I'll soon be flying away on a jet plane.  T-minus 10 days and counting until I'll be landing in the Windy City - CHICAGO!

While in Chicago, I'll be celebrating my 29th birthday.  Gosh, 29 sounds so old.  Anyways, the trip is sure to be filled with fun - exploring the city with my family, running along the water, fantastic meals, and best of all, an escape from reality!

To completely change the subject, please allow me to proclaim my excitement for the recent fall weather.  The crisp, cool morning air is so refreshing after the humidity of summer.  Suddenly I find myself craving a long run just to bask in the beautiful day.  Fall also brings the return of apples.  Last weekend I diced up a half dozen apples from a local farmer and put them in the crock-pot with cinnamon and a splash of apple juice.  In addition to making a perfect topping to a bowl of oatmeal, they made my house smell incredible.

Lately, dinners have been very simple.  Tomato and avocado sandwiches have become a staple.  Yesterday, however, I needed to create something with the spaghetti squash sitting on the bottom shelf in the pantry.  After considering several options, including an Italian-inspired twist, I opted for Daily Garnish's Spaghetti Squash with Vegan Mushroom Cream.  I made a few changes - omitting the shallots and cream, decreasing the amount of milk, using shitake mushrooms, and adding curry powder for additional flavor.  If you're looking for a comforting vegan meal without the heaviness of traditional pasta, this is definitely a unique dish.

Finally, a peak at my eats at work today.  Although many people consider it to be difficult to maintain a healthy diet when eating the majority of meals outside of the house, I would argue that with a little effort, it is certainly feasible.  Take for instance, my breakfast favorite - PANCAKES!  I packed two blueberry cornmeal pancakes from home and then topped them with peanut butter, blueberries, strawberries, and trail mix from the cafeteria.  Instant gourmet breakfast!

Lunch was courtesy of Earth Fare.  Yesterday they sent a text-coupon for 50% off the hot and salad bars.  A combination of salad veggies, Indian-spiced chickpeas, and marinated kale made for an affordable grab-and-go lunch option.

Another week comes to a close, and another Monday is knocking on the door.  Let the rat race continue . . . but only for 10 more days.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Call Me Grace

As my brother tells me, "The golden rule of running is one foot in front of the other."  Evidently I needed a reminder of that wisdom this week.  Wednesday evening I was out for a very enjoyable six mile run.  The weather was beginning to feel a bit fall-like, it had been a good day, and I was less than a quarter mile from home.  I remember looking down at my Garmin to see my pace and then in a flash of a second, found myself careening towards the pavement.  I knew immediately that the road rash was bad, but scurried to my feet and acted as though all was fine.  It was rush-hour and I was running along Park Road, thereby ensuring a very captive audience for my acrobatics.

Casualty number one was my iPhone.  I've had various iPhone models over the past six years, and this was the first time that I've cracked the screen.  Fortunately, the phone was still functional.  Unfortunately, any attempts to move my finger on the screen resulted in little shards of glass causing further injury.

My phone wasn't the only thing that took a beating.  Somehow, I managed to abrade most every bony prominence.  Both hands, both knees, and my left elbow, hip, and thigh dripped blood as I made the walk of shame back home.  Several friendly drivers offered a ride or napkins, but I wanted nothing more than to limp home and avoid the attention.

To add insult to injury, I attempted to take a shower with daggers of water piercing freshly torn skin.   No fun!  Aside for a very sore right hand, I think the majority of the damage was isolated to soft tissue. The problem, however, is that it's hard to be a surgeon with open wounds on your hands. 

The only good to come of the whole ordeal is a brand new iPhone.  Yes, I was one of those people standing in line of fifty people deep on Friday morning in anticipation of Apple's latest release.  Two hours later, and a large chunk of cash out of my wallet, I have a brand new iPhone 5S.

I still am unclear as to exactly what sent me face first towards the cement.  I've been a runner for many years and can honestly say I've never done such a "slip-and-slide" type dive.  It was an area of sidewalk  with gravel and uneven  sections, so I'm going to blame it on that.  Needless to say, I was much more aware of picking up my feet when I braved a run again yesterday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

What Do You Eat?

It's been far too long since I've given a play by play of some of my daily meals.  Obviously, life gets busy and my camera becomes full of pictures waiting to be downloaded.  Without further ado, here is just a sprinkling of my favorite plates of food from the past few weeks.

A perfectly created heirloom tomato sandwich from a local food truck.
Freshly toasted sourdough bread was layered a house-made aioli (with a hint of goat cheese -
SO GOOD!), ripe tomatoes, and red leaf lettuce.  So simple, yet so delicious.
Breakfast on the deck -
Scrambled eggs, local bakery bread with PB&J, and a juicy summer peach
Bourbon marinated salmon atop lots of farmer's market veggies
A rather odd collection of ingredients:
Tortilla layered with hummus, bean sprouts, and tomato + a side of papaya
A lazy weekend breakfast -
Mexican scrambled eggs (bell pepper, vegan sausage, salsa, crushed tortilla chips) + Grapefruit.
The mix of ingredients for the eggs was a complete success!
Try crushing tortilla chips (the saltier, the better) and mix them into your eggs with a minute of cooking time remaining.
Post-workout recovery lunch -
Green smoothie + Tomato and avocado sandwich on Great Harvest bread
Eggs and veggie scramble and Greek yogurt topped with sliced figs.
So nice to eat a casual breakfast while watching the news.
My favorite sandwich of the summer!
Great harvest bread, Greek-yogurt based tzatziki, heirloom tomato slices, and avocado.
Plus, another perfectly juicy local peach.
This week's dinner -
Roasted tofu, roasted sweet potatoes, and sauteed squash with onions.
Salad greens topped with lentil veggie salad +
Rosemary crackers topped with Earth Fare chicken salad.
Check out my homemade dessert!
Vegan Coconut Cream Berry Pie
Food Truck Friday!
Two Tacos - Thai Shrimp and Buffalo Cauliflower.  Plus, a side of charro beans.
Breakfast of Champions
"Fried" egg, peanut butter and blueberry jam english muffin, and sliced figs.
Thanks to my parents for bringing me a giant harvest of figs from the tree in the yard!
I wish I had my own tree to keep the bounty coming.
The avocado + tomato + tzatziki sandwich earlier in the week left me craving another!
Sides of kale chips and cinnamon-doused apple slices rounded out the plate.
And with that, I'm finally caught up with my camera roll.  I frequently am asked how I have the time to cook and prepare healthy meals, and I think this round of meals sums up my eating philosophy.  Simple, generally healthy, 95% vegetarian, and focused on local produce.  Give it a try - it's actually much simpler than you might believe!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sip and Savour - Charlotte Event

Today I'm very excited to tell you about an upcoming Charlotte event.  I'm always on the prowl for fun community events to check out on weekends when I'm not working.  While I enjoy a range of activities - from yoga in the park to outdoor concerts - I get especially excited about anything related to food.  Sip and Savour is an event in my own backyard which combines local Myers Park art galleries, dining and drinking from local restaurants, live entertainment, fundraising for a great cause.  

Here's how the event works:
Purchase a ticket for $35 in advance or $40 at the door.  Your ticket earns you admission to four separate art galleries, each of which will have a selection of gourmet food, wine, and entertainment.  Check out the list of the fantastic Charlotte restaurants that will be featured!  You can browse the event details section of the website to plan your gallery crawl and discover which restaurants will be providing bites at each gallery.

All proceeds from the night benefit Melissa's Voice Foundation, a charitable organization with the purpose to raise awareness of eating disorders and provide educational and financial support to individuals and families in need.  The organization was developed by Lynn Dreyer, whose sister Melissa lost her battle with an eating disorder.  I personally had the opportunity to talk to Lynn and could truly sense the immense passion she has for this event and the Foundation.

After reading about the incredible evening that is in store on Saturday, September 21st, I see no way possible for you to miss out on this event.  Last year, tickets for the evening's festivities sold out in advance.  Do yourself a favor and click here to reserve your ticket for Sip and Savour - it's a charitable night not to be missed!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2.4, 112, 26.2

On September 28th, 2014, THIS IS HAPPENING!

And I'm going to be there, racing every step of the 
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run!

I keep pinching myself, convinced that this must all be a dream.  Over the past two weeks, I've been weighing the pros and cons and questioning my sanity.  Ultimately, however, I was one of the lucky ones who hit that registration button at exactly 12 noon today and unlocked the key Ironman Chattanooga.  Can you believe the race sold out in a matter of 3 minutes?!

I am beyond excited to begin the year-long journey to make this dream become a reality.  It will no doubt be by far the toughest thing I have ever done physically or mentally.  I'll be providing weekly updates along the way once I officially begin Ironman training - my way of dragging you along on my crazy quest to combine the life of an orthopaedic surgery resident with my passion for swimming, biking, and running towards a finish line.  


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dinner at 5Church

5Church is the talk of the town when it comes to Uptown Charlotte restaurants.  Located at the corner of 5th and Church (hence the name), the exterior leaves much to the imagination.  You'd be unlikely to imagine the energy and contemporary vibe that fills the interior.  After hearing many people talk about their spectacular dining experiences, I knew a Labor Day weekend trip was in store with the parents.  I was a bit hesitant given the reputation of a loud atmosphere, but opted to take a chance on a less intimate dining experience in exchange for a first-class meal.

We were escorted to a table in the corner of the main dining room and introduced to our server, Hack.  Talk about stellar service - this guy has perfected the art of waitressing.  After a brief scan of the menu, we elected two appetizers to wet our palate.  

The cheese plate featured generous wedges of blue, white cheddar, and feta cheeses.  The blue was paired with a beet puree, the cheddar with a raisin chutney, and the feta with an olive tapenade.  The cheddar and raisin combo was to die for!  In addition to crostinis, the plate include many olives and a few peppers.

Artisan Cheese Selection $12
 Our second starter was the mixed greens salad, which Hack graciously offered to split three ways.  We were immediately impressed by the split portion size when it arrived.  The combination of the marinated mushrooms, slight bit of cheese, and tangy vinaigrette made for a well balanced crisp salad.  The only food-related negative comment I would give is that the "fresh" bread left much to be desired - flavorless and a bit too dry.

Local mixed greens, green beans, marinated mushrooms, bellavitano gold cheese,
grilled red onion, porcini thyme vinaigrette  $8
5Church's menu boasts a range of cuisines, from small plates to traditional "steaks and chops", burgers, seafood, and even tofu.  I was deciding between several fish options, but ultimately chose the North Carolina grouper entree.  The grouper had a nicely seared exterior, while maintaining a beautiful moist and flaky interior.  The popcorn shoots were unlike anything I had tasted before - sweet and crisp.  The succotash featured a mix of fresh vegetables served warm, yet not overly cooked.  The red pepper emulsion provided the key to unifying the dish.  I loved the large portion, yet thanks to the freshness of the ingredients, never felt overwhelmed by richness.

NC Grouper with corn and fava bean succotash, red pepper emulsion, popcorn shoots  $27
Dad was quick to make his entree selection - the lamb burger.  While ninety percent of his diet is vegan, he just simply could not pass up the enticing burger.  Fortunately, he was beyond happy with the juicy and incredibly flavorful lamb.  The fries were noted by our waiter to be dipped in duck confit prior to frying to preserve a soft interior while generating a crispy exterior.  Judging by the several fries that went uneaten and packaged in a to-go box, I'd say they were not terribly impressive or he was simply too full to keep eating.

5Church Lamb Burger with grilled red onion marmalade, gorgonzola cheese, arugula,
house-made sesame bun, and crispy confit potato  $13
Mom's choice for the entree was the salmon.  As far as flavor combinations were concerned, this was the winner of the evening.  The wasabi crust over the top of the salmon paired perfectly with the seaweed salad and flaky salmon.  The bok choy continued the Asian theme, and the miso emulsion was one of the best sauces I have ever tasted.  We all agreed that sauces are the secret to taking an otherwise basic meal and kicking it up to a culinary masterpiece.

Wasabi crusted salmon with sauteed bok choy, marinated seaweed salad, and miso emulsion  $19
After thoroughly enjoying our appetizers and entrees, we decided that it would be an injustice not to personally attest to the quality of the entire menu.  Hence, dessert became a necessity.  While many of the sweets sounded delicious, the s'mores trifle was the clear winner.  Imagine for a moment the mouthwatering goodness of layers of hot brownie chunks, crystalized fudge sauce, and homemade marshmallow.  Seriously, one of the best desserts I have tasted!

S'mores Trifle
Have I made my love for 5Church clear?  I would declare the evening an epic culinary experience.  Charlotte has an abundance of fantastic restaurants to choose from, but I would argue that 5Church would rank near the top when it comes to an evening of fine dining.  It does become a bit loud as the evening moves into night, but not so much so as to disrupt conversation within each table.  The impeccable service and variety of well executed entrees combine to make this a top-notch eatery.  Do yourself a favor and make a reservation to dine at 5Church in the very near future!  I'll definitely be back!

5Church on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day Adventures

Hello three-day weekend!  Look who came to visit.  That's Bailey the destroyer - a new nickname I'm giving her after she mutilated the poor innocent moose in an attempt to rid him of his stuffing.  She does it with such an innocent face though, so you can't help but laugh at her.

She brought Dad and Mom with her for a holiday weekend trip to Charlotte.  We kicked off the long weekend with dinner at the newly opened Chuy's Restaurant in South Park.  I've heard great feedback about the casual Mexican eatery and was particular intrigued by the "free" nacho bar served on weekdays from 4-7pm.  We arrived just before 7pm and munched for a bit on the nachos (chips, refried beans, salsa, queso) while sipping on drinks (a mojito for me!).

The weather was warm, yet very comfortable with a light breeze and we enjoyed lounging on their patio with our appetizers.  Eventually, we proceeded to share two main dishes - an appetizer sampler plate and vegetarian enchiladas.  The sampler plate featured nachos, quesadillas, flautas, a chile relleno, and guacamole.  The veggie enchiladas were filled with grilled squash, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms, topped with ranchero sauce, and served with beans and rice.  It was traditional Mexican cuisine, but both dishes were well seasoned and full of flavor.  Between our excessive chip-eating and large portions, we had enough left over for another full meal.  As evidenced by the empty plates, my appetite was in full force.

Saturday morning started with sleeping in and then proceeded to include a 6 mile run with my favorite puppy.  I arrived home to a house full of delicious breakfast smells - stove top oatmeal topped with a coconut fig reduction.  Great job Mom!  In honor of the start to college football, I couldn't help but break out my FL gator cup filled with OJ.

Summertime Saturday mornings are nothing short of perfect.  We set out for a morning of all of my favorite things - caramel lattes at Not Just Coffee, Atherton Market, and the regional farmer's market.

For dinner that night, I had made reservations at 5Church.  I've heard wonderful buzz about this uptown restaurant since it originally opened more than a year ago, and decided I had to witness all of the hype for myself.  The meal was nothing short of epic perfection!  More details and pictures coming soon . . .

We cheered for Florida in their victory over Toledo that afternoon, and then later in the evening relished our food coma while rooting for Georgia.  Obviously Bailey is far from a night-owl, and instead opted for sleep while wrapped up in a Florida Gator blanket.

I'm always planning outdoor excursions in the Charlotte area, and as the summer draws to a close, I chose to take advantage of the warm weather for a kayak down the Catawba River.  We rented kayaks from Catawba River Expeditions and set forth on a paddle from the Lake Wylie Dam.

I love the fact that my parents are always up for an adventure!  We had to modify our usual long hikes due to dad's hamstring injury and mom's bum achilles, but still managed to have a great time.

Mom and I had a tandem kayak and led the way down the six mile stretch of the Catawba River.  There were a few areas of shallow water and rocks which generated a bit of white water and added excitement, but otherwise it was a peaceful morning on the water.

Dad was in a solo kayak and opted to follow behind the ladies.  He claims he took up the rear to rescue us if needed, but I secretly think he was just using us to lead the way through the rough patches.

 We saw lots of wildlife, including waterbirds, osprey (diving and catching their lunch), turtles, and jumping fish.

After a 2.5 hour hike we had worked up quite an appetite.  I packed a picnic lunch for us to feast on at a nearby park.  We enjoyed a vegetable lentil salad (a recipe from Veganomicon), chicken salad on rosemary toasts, clementines, a Great Harvest savannah bar, and ice cold drinks.

What a fantastic weekend!  Great eats, fun adventures, and always enjoyable time with family!