Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My most biased review yet

So I've gotten two reviews under my belt but I think this just might be my most important and best review yet. You see I am an expert when it comes to food. I have eaten food my whole life. I eat food everyday and I keep it stored in my house so I always have it around. I spend a good bit of my time every week planning and shopping for food. Food is on my mind a lot and several hours of my day are committed to preparing, cooking and eating food. Due to my long list of credentials I feel very confident and capable of reviewing my brother-in-law, Elias Pope's new restaurant HG SPLY CO.

Levi and I got the special invitation to visit HG (which stands for Hunt and Gather) before its actual opening this past weekend. Levi and I got there a bit early...okay we were the very first people to arrive but listen, when you have the opportunity to go somewhere cool without all your munchkins you get a little anxious and overly excited. We were seated and met by our waitress who was so stinikin cute and sweet with lots of personality which we loved! Levi and I spent the first few minutes just trying to get our bearings because we had been in this building before but now it looked completely different. Originally it was just a shell. Elias had taken us around trying to describe his vision but at the time all I saw was lots of dirty brick. But WOW! It was amazing to see his vision actually be reality and way better than I could have ever imagined. The walls are still brick, the floor still concrete but now it looks purposeful and planned. Everything has a vintage feel with subway tile (I'm such a sucker for subway tile) covering the bar area, chalkboards, and handmade tables from railway cars. Not one detail has gone untouched. Even the knives have "hunter" appeal.

We ordered our drinks, Bergamot Knees for me and the Kettle Bell for Levi. Both were amazing! In fact we managed to have every cocktail on the menu except for two which we will definitely try next time. Every drink was original and clean tasting. No mixes or refined sugars are used in these trendy named concoctions. Levi's favorite drink was the HG Moscow Mule, vodka, lime, agave syrup and ginger kombucha. Super cool. It came in a really awesome copper mug which Levi loved because usually when he orders a drink it comes in some girly glass that makes him question his manhood. This is not the case at HG where the general atmosphere has a definite manly appeal.

We ordered the bacon wrapped pork shanks as our appetizer and let me tell you I have NEVER tasted anything so good in all my life! I am going to have a hard time ever trying anything else on the menu because all I want is more of this amazing pork wrapped pork. What a perfect combination. So simple yet absolutely devine. Next was the salad. I can't remember the name but it was the one with arugula, apples and oranges. I really loved the fresh fruits mixed with the bitter arugula. It was light and refreshing and I'm planning on recreating this at home. After that more drinks arrived along with the sandwich Levi has not stopped talking about yet. This BLT was not your normal bacon, lettuce and tomato between two pieces of bread. This was heaven between temptation. Levi and I have not eaten bread since December so when this beautiful tower of chef-created nut and seed bread, pork belly, arugula, marinated tomato, cucumber and espresso bacon aioli arrived our will to say no to carbs flew out the door. Some temptations should be given in to. This is one of them.

The main course of duck confit came last and although we had eaten enough for four people already we still managed to savor every bite of this beautiful bird. (I'm laughing right now at myself because just thinking back on it has my mouth watering. But it is 9:45 am and it is perfectly acceptable to be craving duck and cocktails, right?) Our sides were sweet potato hash and the broccoli. We loved them both. This meal never disappointed. I was sure that with so much variety we would come across something I didn't love but with each new dish I was having to (unsuccessfully) contain the "OHHHHHH" and "MMMMMMMMMM" from escaping my busily chewing mouth.

And that was just the food. The atmosphere was fun and trendy with good music and Robert Redford movies playing out on the projector. Apparently Robert Redford is the ultimate man? Maybe just a really good hunter? I should ask about this...I do know the owner. The bar was busy and there was lots of movement and noise which only added to the awesomeness of feeling like you were somewhere that cool people go. (Do cool people say "cool" anymore? Well, this one does.)

And you think the experience is almost over once you can no longer put that fork back into the hole in your face but then your waitress says, "Would you like me to get you a drink to enjoy on our totally awesome roof deck with the most amazing view of Dallas?" YES PLEASE!!!! But let me just give you a little warning here...it is like a gazillion stairs to climb up and after 6 drinks I'm pretty sure they move. But it is totally worth the risk of falling to your death to enjoy this special feature of incredible views, cool breezes, and starry endless sky. But for those of you whose calves cannot make the climb there is a lovely outdoor sitting area right out back with a great view of the stairs which makes for great entertainment when people watching.

So when you go this week here is what you should expect:

You should dress cute. This isn't Applebees. Look good, it adds to your experience.

You are going to spend some money. BUT IT IS WORTH IT. Sure you could probably get by with ordering a salad and water but why would you? This food is worth every penny. It is REAL. It comes from local farms and businesses and that amazing flavor you taste is from God-made spices, not chemicals.  And your waiter/waitress is going to be awesome so be ready to leave a good tip. They will have earned it and deserve it.

Parking is in the back. You have to walk around to get to the front door. Bring some pepper-spray. Actually the area is pretty well lit but it is always good to be prepared.

Say hi to Elias for us. Encourage him to drink some water. He has been working so hard on this dream. He even hand-made the outdoor chairs and benches with my father-in-law. His literal blood, sweat, and tears are evident in the outcome of this phenomenal vision come to reality. I know this review is biased but it is because I know the man behind the scenes. I know he is a man of integrity, passion, devotion, and amazing talent. And all of these things are proven through his hard work and this new real food for real people restaurant, HG SPLY CO.

Check it out soon. It opens today. Let me know how much you loved it! I'm sure you will see us there!!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Want to see my muscles?

We are inching closer to summer and everyone is scrambling to beat the body that they have ignored and mistreated all year back into submission so that they are not embarrassed look hot in their itty bitty bikini. It is kind of funny actually. Why do we do this? Why do we only focus on our health when the temperature rises above 70 degrees? And are we really focusing on health or just pounds and inches? I really wish we could all lose this obsession with weight and focus on being healthy and strong. But I get it. I don't want to be that way either but I'll admit even though I have consciously been trying to gain weight this year I have kind of freaked out when that scale started to go up.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that we went to CrossFit back in  February. Well here we are in May and totally obsessed with perfecting our hang clean form and feeling ridiculously proud of our calluses. It boggles my mind that I love it so much. Every second I am there I am pouring sweat, muscles are burning, I'm secretly cussing the coach because he made me add more weight, and more than likely I will find a new bruise when I get home. But the really crazy part is when I wake up the next morning and my body hurts in areas that I didn't even know muscles existed all I can think  is, "I can't wait to go workout tonight." What is wrong with me?

This is very strange and bizarre behavior for me. I have NEVER been athletic. I was the girl in school that all the athletic girls hated because I made us lose the game because I was too concerned with my bow falling out of my super cute ponytail. (True story.) I have absolutely no desire to have giant muscles or those weird neck wings that bodybuilders have. I like being dainty and girly. You will never see me spit...why do people do that by the way? Is your mouth making so much saliva that you can't possibly swallow it? Maybe you should see a doctor about that. I have always been more than happy to let my husband lift the heavy objects and open the stubborn jars. The idea of sweating has never appealed to me unless it is while I'm laying on the beach and even then I'm not fond of it.

So what happened? I knew this year was going to be a tough one for me, physically and emotionally. I knew we would be getting foster placements and there were going to be battles to be fought. I would need to be strong. I wanted to prepare my body and spirit for the challenges ahead. And let me tell you, you cannot be a prissy little wimp when you have four kids. Sometimes my motivation during a workout is reminding myself that I already survived my kids that day and then sometimes my motivation to make it through a kiddo meltdown is to remind myself that I survived last night's really difficult workout and therefore am superwoman.

I love that I get a whole hour to focus on me. I know that sounds selfish and ugly but it is what it is. I take care of my family 23 hours a day and 24 if they peak their little heads out of the kid's room. (That's right, CrossFit 454 has a room you can shove your kids in for an hour.) Even though that hour is about me it is also about them because if I am a giant ball of mush and tears then I will not be the awesome parent that they need to help them grow up into awesome big people. CrossFit helps me be strong and feel confident in all areas of my life, parenting included.

I also really like my weird new muscular body. I have had a difficult time with it changing so much. I mean I feel like I did when I got boobs as a teenager. It is weird and new and things have appeared that I didn't even know existed (muscles, not boobs)! I'm not kidding. Did you know there are these weird muscles on the side of your stomach that stretch from your rib cage to the bottom of your hip bone??? It is crazy. And my back...I don't even know how to describe that to you. It is weird and cool but still weird. And my arms...well I pretty much love my arms. I will show any stranger standing next to me in line at Walmart my new arm muscles. Let me tell you, I am opening jars left and right. My legs are firmer but I will say my thighs seem bigger to me which is kind of weirding me out a bit but I keep telling myself it is not about inches, it is about strength and health. I look in the mirror sometimes and even though I weigh 10 pounds more than I did at the start of the year I like what I see. I look strong and healthy and I feel strong and healthy too. .

I really wish I had done CrossFit as a teen. I think it would have changed my world. I am amazed at the self-confidence that I have now and not because my body looks a certain way but because I am strong. And not just strong because of muscles. I'm talking about an inner strength. When a workout seems like the most daunting thing you have ever seen written across a whiteboard and you do it anyway that feeling afterward is amazing. Every step closer I get to doing an actual pull-up sans bands makes me feel empowered. I want that for my kids, especially my girls. I want them to feel powerful and strong. The second my kids are old enough to do CrossFit they will be on that floor doing it right beside me. We have several families in our box with teens and I love it.

The people you are sweating next to is another awesome thing about CrossFit. I've said it before in an earlier post but I was scared of CrossFit before I started going. I looked at the pictures online of all the hard bodied people with tiny mountains of muscles covering every square inch of their very shiny torso lifting these massive weights with the look of murder across their faces. That totally freaked me out! Despite all the sites saying CrossFit was for everyone it looked liked CrossFit was for really good looking, in shape people in their 20s. Well, let me save you some time searching on the Internet...those people are the minority. I mean sure they exist...they aren't quite as shiny in real life though. But mostly it is just normal people with normal bodies. There are all shapes and sizes. As long as you have a shape and a size you will fit in perfectly.And you will feel like a part of something. I can't really explain it but there is something really cool about busting out a difficult workout next to people that are struggling next to you, encouraging you on, and pushing you forward.

This post wasn't necessarily meant to be an ad for CrossFit. I do think that it is an awesome way to focus on your health, physically and mentally. And I would really encourage you to give it a shot. Try it out for the free two weeks. I'm pretty sure you will be hooked like we were but if not there is not love lost. There is no need to lose weight before showing up. So many of my customers come buy a pill to help them drop a few pounds so they can then start working out. I am more than happy to sell you something to help in your weight loss but get started on those muscles now. You don't have to wear cute clothes. They are going to be gross and sopping wet at the end of the hour anyways. Bring your kids, shove them in the room with my crazy crew or have them start working on those muscles beside you. We have two CrossFit boxes in Greenville...CrossFit 454 and CrossFit Downtown. Try them both out. We love our box but we have friends that go to Downtown and feel the same way there. And that is another really cool thing about CrossFit is that it is about community, working together. I know I have made it sound like a wonderful love fest but be ready to hurt, sweat, maybe throw up a little in your mouth. It totally rocks.