Acorn Yoga (Brighton)

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Acorn Yoga (Brighton)

I am definitely not a runner but the endorphins I got from last Wednesday’s YogaSculpt class at Acorn Yoga in Brighton’s Oak Square caused a legal high I certainly want again. Everything about the class— the pace, the music, the room, the instructor and owner Kevin Groenjas— set the perfect environment to make me thoroughly enjoy having my butt kicked within the first five minutes.

 

 

Acorn Yoga was high on my list of studios to try around Boston for two main reasons. Acorn Yoga is most known for its GlowFlowYoga classes, a glow-in-the-dark yoga dance party held Friday (intermediate) and Saturday nights (‘beginner friendly”) that I hear is not only a great way to relieve stress but a great opportunity to make and strengthen friendships. However, I chose a Wednesday as my introduction to the studio because, nursing a shoulder injury that has kept me away from BodyPump at the gym, I was craving a full-body weighted workout.  I figured a studio offering me both a party and a workout was somewhere I wanted to be!

 

Acorn is a diamond in the rough, the rough being the studio’s less than exciting and totally incompatible exterior. First glance across the threshold, Acorn feels like a passion project. The colors on the walls and seating cushions as well as the wooden shelving for shoes and bags confirms this isn’t a commercial space in any way.  It’s clean, dimly lit, homey, and in no way intimidating (compared to those brightly lit franchise studios with merchandise hanging in your face).  

 

Walking into the front studio, I simultaneously understood and questioned how Acorn hosted GlowFlowYoga in such a small space. I’m still not entirely convinced they do, and from the pictures online I believe there might be a second studio in the back. Mats were set up in four wall-to-wall rows that could make a yogi of any level anxious about spacing.  But the room, completely aglow in neon purple and pink light,  effectively erased any worries you might have had about space, or your job, or anything else for that matter. Really, I’m inspired to read up on the effects of light therapy now.

 

When Kevin walked in and sat down right next to us in the front row, facing the room as his only distinction, I knew this class was going to be different. And so good. A good yoga class is made or broken by its instructor. Kevin explained what YogaSclupt was (a power yoga class with cardio and weights for those of you who like me, didn’t know)emphasizing that the class was meant to be high energy and encouraging us all to push through the intensity to get the best workout we could.

 

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much so quickly in a yoga class! Our warmup was a very basic salutation with chaturanga but we picked up speed quickly and suddenly I was drenched. There were modified mountain climbers (my shoulder happily thanked the yogi gods), planks (shoulder was less happy about those), jacks and jumps, weighted squats and lunges, and burpees. The stereo bumped funky techno beats loud enough to make you forget what exactly it was you were doing to yourself and just how much sweat was stinging your eyes.  It was a great and terrible beauty that class, only it really wasn’t terrible at all. The perfect amount of intensity.  The neon purple and pink overhead lights, switched to blue during savasana, kept the vibe in the room light and fun.  Best of all, the sense of community and intimacy is strong and encouraged in this studio.  We were all in this small space together yet moving around and with each other was seamless.

 

Fast-paced high energy classes are a refreshing break from a regimented yoga practice. Sometimes you just need to let loose and have fun too. Kevin energized the small room with crystal clear instructions pairing the music with the intensity of the movement and working out with us. Assistance was offered to anyone who requested but the pace made it difficult to concentrate too much on form. (For that reason, I don’t recommend the class to newbies). Still, there was no sense of judgement— switch weights when you wanted, drink as much water as you needed, or just take a break. It was hard and we all understood.

 

I swear I walked out of that class on a cloud.  

 

I highly recommend this studio to anyone in the Brighton area, and I can preemptively say that GlowFlowYoga is probably worth a trip out there if Brighton isn’t your neck of the woods. The studio overs a well-rounded, vinyasa-based schedule including heated flow (Vinyasizzle), restorative flow (ChillFlow) along with sculpt. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can try all three on Wednesday nights. The studio also has some of the most accommodating class packages that lets you pay per class, per month, all up front, or in class sets. Private sessions are also available. Don’t worry if you forget your mat at home because they have them free to rent.

 

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10 4th of July Picnic Dishes that Will Make Your Vegan Friends Jump for Joy

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10 4th of July Picnic Dishes that Will Make Your Vegan Friends Jump for Joy

Summer season is picnic season and with July 4th— arguably the biggest occasion for a picnic there is!- coming up, it’s the perfect time to dust off that red checkered blanket and pull out that well-worn wicker basket.

 

Ok, let’s be real. No one actually has all that, do they…?

 

It’s 2017 and although the good old American picnic may be ideal for a nostalgic 90’s baby, health-oriented millennials want a little more bad and bougie. Vegans especially are looking for an upgrade to the typical meat-fest of a ‘Merican picnic. More often than not, we are only able to enjoy one or two dishes— the ones we brought and have to guard with our lives because we are already getting the short end of the… picnic.

 

If you’re planning on hosting a vegan picnic, or are interested in not starving your vegan friends at your meat and mayo extravaganza, read on. On this 4th of July, the day we remember our brave independence from our former British overlords, these are the dishes we recommend to spice up your celebratory lawn soiree.

 

Rain drop. Drop top.

 

1. Tacos

Sandwiches are classic. But Tacos are the future. They’re a little more down to earth (less high tea finger sandwich-y) and absolutely fun. Plus, it’s easy to offer a vegan option.

 

2. Vegan Tortellini Kabob

Kabobs are a staple to almost all summer backyard grilling events. And when you’re vegan and not depending on the grill, it’s easy to keep these babies cold and portable.

 

3. Vegan Mayo

No not by itself. But whipping up some vegan mayo will make classics like Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, and Macaroni Salad options your vegan friends can share!

 

4. Bean Burgers

Burgers are more of a barbecue and less of a picnic item. But this is America and we make our own rules.

 

5. Hummus, Tabbouleh, Feta, Cucumber Dill Salad

Pretty much any dish from the mediterranean is picnic ready.

 

6. Vegan Corn Salad

There is almost nothing more American than corn. We quite literally grow more corn in this country than anywhere else in the world. But instead of throwing it on the grill, throw it into your picnic basket as a corn salad. Nostalgic and progressive. A true millennial’s dish.  

 

7. Vegan Summer Rolls

 

8. Avocados

As toast, as dip, on salad, in smoothie. Avocados may be basic but that’s for good reason. Avocado toast is a dish that’ll keep any brunch regular more than happy at your picnic!

 

9. Fruit Smoothie Bowls

Speaking of smoothies… pack mini fruit smoothie cups on ice for a refreshing and light dessert!

 

10. Vegan Cookies: S’mores and Classic Chocolate Chip

S’mores require fire. S’more cookies require eating.

 

Protip: To keep your food safe and to stop spoilage, eat as soon as the blanket hits the grass. We promise, no one will judge you!

 

Planning a picnic is a lot of work. You have to find the right dishes and glasses and tupperwares, not to mention ice packs, drinks, and figuring out what to do with all of that leftover trash. The 4th is only a few days away and if you’re not the type to think well under pressure— or corale your friends into turning your Independence Day bash into a potluck— let le banQ cook something up for you! Give us a call today and let’s work together to make this the best lawn fiesta yet.

 

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Prana Power Yoga (Cambridge)

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Prana Power Yoga (Cambridge)

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Stop one on my yoga studio challenge was Prana Power Yoga in Cambridge. Located on Mass Ave between Essex and Pearl Streets, the studio is on the 2nd floor (press 2R on the elevator). I attended an unheated 75-minute Vinyasa flow on a Monday night with Kate. They have a great New Member deal which I promptly signed up for: $25 for unlimited yoga for 1 week. With a drop in priced at $20, it was a deal. The best part: the package can be used at any of their 3 locations in the Boston area. The studio itself was cozy with two large rooms for yoga practice, a massage room, and several bathrooms. If you forget a mat or towel, no problem: they rent them out at a small fee. They also have water for sale as well as a small bookshelf of yoga related products.

After registering at the front desk, I set up my mat towards front of the practice room. The wall of windows in front of me looked out over Mass Ave which was a nice touch (and a great reprieve later in class when holding that third-and-longest chair pose). The other students around me quietly stretched and meditated. There were about 14 people present with two other men in class besides me, which was a pleasant sight to see. 

Class began with Kate introducing herself and asking if anyone had a request for poses or body areas they wanted to work on. She got a request for the back (all of it) and we began. She opened with some puttering in cat/cow and some warming up of the shoulders. She had us hold plank a few times as well to really wake those muscles up (feel the burn!).

After puttering we found our way to the fronts of our mats, joined each other in a collective om, and began to flow. Throughout class we did a lot of low and high lunging, with twists and without, giving us an excellent chance to strengthen and stretch our hips.  While in lunge, she had us place a fist on the low belly, drawing it in towards center, so that we could feel our core firm up and our tailbone point more towards the floor. It was an instruction I had never heard before but really appreciated. Kate skillfully worked in all the standard poses in our open and closed pose sequences, including warriors 1 and 2, triangle, utkatasana, side angle, side plank. All poses included cues for modifications to make the pose more difficult which was appreciated. 

Standing balancing poses included a fantastic sequence of lifting one knee, twisting the torso to the side of the room, and then transitioning into ardha chandrasana. This was also a new one for me, made sense anatomically, and had the bonus of being fun to do. One other creative sequence Kate put together for us was a transition from high lunge with eagle arms straight into eagle pose. It was a bit awkward my first time but pleasantly challenging. 

Class ended with a floor series of backbends (salambasana and bow pose) and shoulder opening (while on our stomachs, we bent our arm to the side in cactus shape and rolled onto our side. It was intense and felt excellent.) We then rolled onto our backs for assisted bridge pose with a block, then were encouraged to do regular bridge and, finally, wheel pose, if we were up for the challenge. 

The entire class was taught with no music, which is the sign of a skillful teacher to me. Kate provided firm and helpful adjustments throughout class. Her pace was challenging and her delivery smooth, firm, and nurturing. My first experience at Prana Power Yoga was a very pleasant one!

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A Healthy Meal Delivery's International Food Diary: Nepal (Part 1)

A Healthy Meal Delivery's International Food Diary: Nepal (Part 1)

Friends, Romans, Countrymen... we are officially up on YouTube!

 

 

Pop Up Dinner Party in Nepal: Part 3

Pop Up Dinner Party in Nepal: Part 3

In order to celebrate his 40th birthday with some style and adventure, Client #254 and his friends planned a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Nepal that culminated in a climb of the Himalayas.  On the evening before the hike, my client and his friends were to enjoy an unforgettable 5-course meal served up in a secret location by yours truly.

This is Part II in a three part series. To read Parts I and II, click here and here.

PART III

I had two missions before leaving Nepal: to see the Buddha's birthplace, and to take a few cooking classes. Upon checkout, the young man who worked behind the desk, Dipesh, asked me if I would be willing to come to his hometown and meet his family before leaving for my next destination. Unable to say no to such an honor (and intrigued about seeing "the real Nepal"), I happily obliged.

Dipesh lived perhaps 30 minutes outside of Kathmandu in an area called Jitpur Phedi. The drive out there was gorgeous. I saw the often talked about rice paddies and wondered at the beauty and practicality of their construction. Jitpur Phedi itself was in stark contrast to the open space all around it. The town, set on a hill, has winding paths that take you from one house to the next. Each was quite humble and basic, with no electricity or running water (for the most part). The wealth of the families lay in their livestock, which they kept either just outside the house or inside with them. Every house I walked past had curious eyes looking back at me. Dipesh's family was very kind. The offered me warm chai (Starbucks has nothing on them) and some food before my trip back to Kathmandu. I gladly accepted.

That evening, I boarded a plan for Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal. Pokhara is naturally beautiful in a way that Kathmandu is not. The Himalayas nearby certainly helps. I was advised to take my morning cup of coffee and climb a small hill to experience sunrise, and it was well worth the early morning alarm. The rising sun lit the Himalayan range up with dusty pinks and bright oranges. It was a sight to be seen.

For the next few days, I indulged in beautiful scenery and enlightening cooking classes. My instructor was a Nepalese grandmother and incredible cook. She was also open to sharing with me etiquette tips. Those I present to you below. After my classes ended, I said goodbye to my instructor and made my way to Lumbini. It was a peaceful town, and the site of the Buddha's birth was memorialized beautifully.

In all, I spent 6 whirlwind days in Nepal. While many tourists come to Nepal to hike the Himalayas, the country still has an unaffected feeling to it. I hope you enjoyed my photos as I enjoyed my time in that beautiful, delicious, and humble country.

--PB

Pop Up Dinner Party in Nepal: Part 2

Pop Up Dinner Party in Nepal: Part 2

In order to celebrate his 40th birthday with some style and adventure, Client #254 and his friends planned a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Nepal that culminated in a climb of the Himalayas.  On the evening before the hike, my client and his friends were to enjoy an unforgettable 5-course meal served up in a secret location by yours truly.

This is Part II in a three part series. To read Part I, click here.

PART II

With most of the evening's preparations in order and a full day on my hands, I set out to view more must-see sights around Kathmandu Valley. I returned to Durbar Square and took in the sights and architecture I missed the day prior. I then hopped in a cab and traveled to Bhaktapur, the Place of Devotees. Here I came across more ancient temples and statues. Next was Pashupatinath, the place in the city where bodies of the deceased are brought for their cleaning and burning ceremony. It was a sobering trip to say the least, yet also beautiful to see families gathered to perform their ritual. My final stop was Boudhanath,one of the largest stupas in the world and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history, tradition, and symbolism of the site was humbling. I enjoyed the opportunity to join other visitors in a meditative lap around the structure, spinning prayer wheels and reflecting. At the front of the stupa, I was fascinated to find colorful sculptures constructed entirely of butter. They were gorgeous.

That evening's dinner party was an undeniable success. My guests were alerted to the location of their pop up a mere hour before the event was to begin. They made their way to me and, upon walking into the venue, were taken aback by the atmosphere. I had transformed an empty flat into a vibrant dining room complete with Nepalese music humming in the background. Their 5-course meal consisted of American and Nepalese favorites, including a field greens and mixed berries salad and a warm bowl of thukpa, a soup that had become a favorite of my client during his time in Nepal. The evening closed with cordials and warmed brownies a la mode. Everyone left with sleepy eyes and overstuffed bellies. My job was complete.

Below are some photos from the day of the event. Enjoy, and stay tuned for Part 3, coming soon!

What are Truffles?

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What are Truffles?

The World's Most Expensive Food

 

When I moved to France after high school to learn about the culinary world from the masters, I had never seen truffles in real life. I had heard amazing stories of the delightful flavor and smell of French truffles. I was working with chefs around Paris hosting pop up dinner parties.  A secretive and unpredictable supplier would lurk around the back door of the kitchen, dealing only in cash. There was something about him that struck me as nefarious. I assumed some sort of alternate business was taking place out of the kitchen. I was soon to experience the glorious flavor and covert business of the black truffle. The man I had suspected as being up to no good was in fact a truffle dealer. Truffles are so prized and hard to come by that their growing sites are kept top secret and the whole market operates in cash.

 

As I learned more about truffles of all kinds and began incorporating them in to my recipes, I discovered some of the factors that give them their luxury status.

 

Truffles are known as the diamonds of the culinary world. This nickname provides some insight into their worth and value. A truffle is a type of edible mushroom that is extremely rare. It is the rarity of truffles that makes them so unique and highly sought after. Truffles are known to be a delicacy and have a specific aroma and taste that sets them apart from other types of mushrooms. They are known for having a firm texture, but they are most often used in dishes where they are used as shaved toppings for added flavor. Adding truffle to any dish has the ability to make it gourmet.

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SOME ELEMENTS THAT MAKE TRUFFLES SO PRIZED INCLUDE:

 

WILD

People for generations, if not centuries, have tried to cultivate truffles. Farmers in the United States and Australia have attempted to recreate the conditions under which truffles thrive in Europe, but truffle cultivation rarely produces full truffles or large crops. Since truffle production cannot be scaled up and they remain rare, chefs and connoisseurs are willing to pay high prices.  

 

HIDDEN 

Adding to the mystery of truffles, they grow underground at the roots of trees. Nestled under the roots of trees, harvesting truffles requires first finding them beneath the soil and digging them up. Trained dogs are often used to help with harvesting truffles. Dogs, (historically truffle hunters used pigs, but the pigs didn't want to share their finds) have to be raised and trained to help in the search for truffles. Truffles favor the roots of certain trees, including oak, poplar, and hazel, and are sensitive to changes in the climate.

 

Truffle Hunting Dogs

 

VARIETY

There is more than one type of truffle. Most truffles are categorized based on their color, season and appearance, including black, white burgundy, summer and winter. Different types of truffles can range in color and taste and are found in different parts of the world. They are also at different price levels, with white truffles form Italy often topping the price index for world truffles. France is often known for having the best black truffles, rivaling white truffles in Italy. Most are known based on the location where they are harvested.

 

Truffle Types. From http://therivermagazine.co.uk/

 

PAIRINGS

Truffles have a distinct aroma and a very noticeable taste, which is why they can be used in a variety of dishes. Truffles flavor starts to lessen after they are harvested, which also adds to the expense of this mushroom. Cooking actually dissipates the flavor of truffles. Truffles are often used to add a gourmet garnish to plain, hearty dishes like pasta and rice to ensure that the full taste is intact.

 

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Pop Up Dinner Party in Nepal: Part 1

Pop Up Dinner Party in Nepal: Part 1

Since our launch, the staff at le banQ has had the extraordinary opportunity to travel around the world hosting pop ups for our clients. Today's post is is the first in a series of three about one such trip I took to the inspiring country of Nepal. 

From the Himalayas to ancient temples to the birthplace of the Buddha, Nepal is full of little wonders and tremendous delights. And then there is the food! Being nestled between China and India means that Nepalese dishes are a unique combination of the two food styles. The tantalizing flavors and colorful dishes of Nepal are enough to keep any tourist satisfied. So, when Platinum Club Member #254 proposed that I host a pop up dinner party in Kathmandu for he and a few of his friends, I was happy to oblige.

In order to celebrate his 40th birthday with some style and adventure, my client and his friends planned a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Nepal that culminated in a climb of the Himalayas.  On the evening before the hike, my client and his friends were to enjoy an unforgettable 5-course meal served up in a secret location by yours truly.

PART I

I spent the first two days in Kathmandu acclimating and preparing. I explored the raucous, bustling streets of the capitol city in search of markets for ingredients and decorations. One of my favorite parts about traveling are the surprises and wonders you encounter being in a new land, and Kathmandu did not disappoint. I was walking down what seemed to be an average street on my second day when it opened up into Durbar Square. There I found ancient temples and intricate statues, preserved for hundreds of years. I saw a crowd gathering at the edge of square around one particularly large and modern looking building. As I drew closer, I noticed a golden palanquin carried out by four men and placed on the earth outside the door of the building. The crowd grew and, at the height of the excitement, the doors were flung open and a young girl in intricate clothes and makeup was carried out, placed in the palanquin, and carried away. Confused as to what I just witnessed, I turned to someone nearby for an explanation.

"That was the Kumari," he told me. "She is a young girl that is believed to be holy. She was selected and brought here to live. If you lay eyes on the Kumari, it is said to be good luck. That you had the chance to see her in this way is extremely fortunate."

"Where was she being taken?" I asked.

"There is a parade happening downtown. She will be marched in the parade for all to see."

And there you have it. I left with more questions than I had answers. In the weeks to come I read more about the Kumari- how she is chosen, what her life is like, where the belief originated and what happens to her when she is deemed an adult. It's these fascinating pieces of culture that make travel as awe inspiring as I find it to be.

I wrapped up the day in a large market downtown. I bought produce until I could hold no more. Then, I went to an area of the market with small statues and other such souvenirs, selecting items that could serve as decoration for the party. I wanted to have a blend of Nepalese and American influence in the food and decor as a nod to the blending of cultures that we do when we travel.

That evening, I met with the owner of the space where the event was to be held and, when he left me, I spent some time ensuring the table was set perfectly and the ingredients prepared to my satisfaction.

Below are some shots from my first couple of days in Kathmandu. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more in Part 2!