I Went to The Melting Pot and I Didn’t Have to Cook My Meal!

17 03 2015

A few weeks ago, Bill and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Melting Pot with some of his friends. I haven’t been to the Melting Pot since I lived in DC, so I was really excited to visit their St. Pete location. If you’ve never been to a Melting Pot, it’s such a fun dining experience. If you choose the typical 4-course menu, you’ll be treated to a salad, a cheese fondue appetizer, your entree, which you cook in a delicious broth at your table, and then the pièce de résistance: the chocolate fondue for dessert. All the food is delicious, and if you’re in the mood for a romantic, casually-paced meal (and if you’re super hungry!) you definitely need to check it out.

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Our dining experience was going to be a little non-traditional. We were lucky enough to get a sneak-peak of The Melting Pot’s newest menu: FonDONE. The FonDONE still provides you with your salad, cheese fondue and chocolate fondue, but the one difference is that you order an entree (or several, as they are more like small plates) and sides that will be prepared in the kitchen and delivered to the table, done! No need to wait for the bowl of cooking sauce to boil or for your meat/vegetable to come to the proper internal temperature. The cooking is done for you, and you just need to eat!

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For our party of 6, we started our meal with two different cheeses: the spinach artichoke and the tomato basil cheddar. Served with apples, veggies, and some crusty bread, both of these warm, gooey cheese were winners, though I think I preferred the spinach artichoke a tiny bit more. We also ordered one of the new sides (typically served as a pair to an entree) to dip: rosemary fries. YUM! Crispy with just the right touch of rosemary and salt, these were great by themselves or dipped in cheese!

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We moved on to the salad course, where I enjoyed the pear and gorgonzola salad. Sorry, I didn’t grab a photo!

Finally, it was FonDONE time! Since we were there as guests to try the new menu, we didn’t have a full selection of the FonDONE menu, but it didn’t matter- the options we had all sounded so delicious! I went with the filet mignon and wild mushroom sachetti.

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All the entrees are served with 3 warm dipping sauces: Goat cheese fondue, marsala (a sweet marsala wine sauce topped with Gorgonzola crumbles), and savory cabernet (a red wine demi glace reduction).

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We also ordered the remainder of the shareable sides to try out: quattro macaroni and cheese, seasonal roasted vegetables, and the fresh asparagus risotto.

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Wow. Everything was SO DELICIOUS. My filet was cooked perfectly and laid atop a pile of mashed potatoes. And the sachetti, which was a little purse (sachet) filled with a mushroom blend- so savory, so good! The sauce- I’m not entirely sure what it was- but it was out of this world! I really enjoyed the three additional dipping sauces too- of course the goat cheese was my favorite! My only challenge was that the sauces were shared and I didn’t want to double dip- so I had to cut, and then switch to my fondue stick, dip, and then put back on my plate to eat with my fork. It was a little bit of a process, and I think I’d prefer to actually have my own cup of sauce so I could just dip with my fork. I’m also not sure I really needed the sauces- the entrees were wonderful by themselves! Other than that, I was super happy with my two entrees. It was definitely enough food too, especially with all of the other courses we had!

The sides were great as well- I think my favorite was probably the macaroni and cheese, but the risotto was a close second. I like that I got to try a little of each side, rather than just have the one I ordered.

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For dessert, we ordered a dark chocolate with Grand Marnier, and the turtle (chocolate with caramel and pecans). I barely had room for any more food, but who can pass up chocolate, especially warm, dark chocolate?? This is always my favorite course at the Melting Pot, and our choices did not disappoint. I really liked the turtle fondue, since we requested dark instead of milk chocolate. Mmmmm. SO good!

I left the restaurant with a full belly and a smile on my face. What a great dinner!

I really enjoyed the FonDONE concept. Sure, I like the experience that is cooking your own food, but when I go out to eat, it’s usually because I don’t want to cook! So, it was great to have a high-quality, kitchen-prepared meal delivered to the table. I really like the “small plates” idea, since I love to explore and try different things. I could see myself coming to the Melting Pot for just a few of the small plates alone. Of course, I’d also return for the full four-course option, but I think next time, I’d only get one entree because of all the other food. I’d highly recommend checking out the FonDONE option if your Melting Pot is offering it!

Full disclosure: My meal was comped (Thank you Dan and Jewell!) but all opinions are my own! 





What’s Going On?

6 02 2015

And I said HEY-YEA-YEAH -YEAH…anyone else singing that song? Just me? Oh. Ok.

Anywho- I figured I’d check in with a life update- I know, super exciting for a Friday post, but hey, you gotta take writing inspiration where you find it.

Fitness:

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I’m still struggling to find my run mojo. I ran a few times in December, and both times I did my “normal” 4k loop around my house. Unfortunately, I’m so out of shape that my calves were sore for several days after and that killed my desire to run. However, I ran earlier this week, just 2k this time, and a) no soreness and b) I actually wanted to go for another run, but rain and my yoga challenge got in the way. I guess technically I could have run on the treadmill, but who wants to do that when it’s perfect running weather outside?

Speaking of my yoga challenge, I’ve got 9 days left (well, I guess 8 by the time this publishes)- and I have to make ALL of them in order to get my 21 days in. I’ve missed 3 classes because I chose not to go (lazy!) and the studio was closed for Gasparilla and then the city shut off the neighborhood’s water so classes were cancelled. Thankfully, they’ve added one more day to the challenge to make up for the unexpected closing. I’ve really enjoyed regularly practicing yoga; however, I do find myself missing my beloved cardio. It’s too bad because the classes I like to go to just so happen to be at the same time I’d normally run (since I haven’t been able to get my butt out of bed in the morning to run). I’m glad I’ve learned this, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a 5x per week yogi.

Fun:

So I mentioned Gasparilla above- and for those of you who don’t know, Tampa has a festival every year at the end of January, where we “celebrate” the pirate Jose Gaspar and his “rule” over southwest Florida. Basically, beginning right after New Years, all things pirate-themed start popping up in Tampa. Houses are decorated, costumes are sold, and beads- tons and tons of beads are commonplace. It’s basically Mardi Gras with pirates. It just so happens to always be around my birthday, but since being in Tampa, I’ve never actually been a part of the festivities.

This year, I made a point to at least check out the parade. Drunken debauchery isn’t really my thing, but I really just wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Bill and I stopped at my friend Jennica’s house for some food and drinks before heading over to Bayshore to catch some of the parade.

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Oh, it’s also an excuse to dress up, which can be kind of fun!

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Holy masses of people. The crowd for the parade was probably about 10 feet deep, before it thinned enough to walk through, and the majority of people had been drinking since 9am (or earlier)- it was after 3 by this point.

Bill and I walked along the outskirts of the crowd, people watching, and occasionally grabbing some beads thrown from the floats. I noticed that there were a ton of police officers from surrounding counties there- there were so many people, the reinforcements were necessary. There were a few occasions where I saw a police officer hovering over some poor drunk person who was vomiting in the streets. Gross. Keep it classy Tampa.

The parade? To be perfectly honest, I thought it was pretty lame- just floats (some fancier than others) where people were throwing beads. Yay? We were there for maybe an hour before deciding we’d had enough and headed to one of our friend’s houses.

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The one thing that struck me as we rode home for the night was what I’ll call carnage- there were beads, cups, trash, and just loads of stumbling people all over town, hours after the parade had ended. It certainly is quite the day in Tampa, but I think I’ll stick to going to friend’s parties away from the mess of the parade.

And finally, Food:

Trader Joes is my jam y’all. The other night for dinner, I nom’d on wine, cheese, and other crudités. Have you guys had the caramelized onion cheddar from TJ’s yet? OMG I could eat it all in one sitting! And those cherry peppers? The perfect combination of sweet and heat!

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Another night, I went to TJ’s hungry, had a bite of what they were sampling, and hook-line and sinker the ingredients ended up in my cart.

IMG_7666Veggie Masala burgers with peach chutney (mixed with some Greek Yogurt) served on some of their frozen naan? DELISH! If I hadn’t taken the time to make the sweet potato fries, this would have been a complete meal in 10 minutes. Easy peasy.
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Another frozen section find: Vegetable Fried Rice. Bill and I could live on fried rice from Kombo Kitchen (me: pineapple fried rice; him: thai fried rice), so we decided to give TJ’s a go. I stir fried it in my wok, and doctored it up with some soy sauce, tempeh, tomatoes, and some frozen green peppers. It was really tasty, but it wasn’t Kombo. IMG_7681

And finally, there is nothing better than a warm croissant and a good cup of joe. Well, maybe if they were pumpkin croissants, which is what I got from TJs. I think they are typically a fall special, but the last time I was at TJs there were a few boxes left, so I grabbed one. They’re frozen, and come 4 to a package. You need to take them out the night before, lay them on a buttered baking sheet, and in the morning, they’ll have doubled in size (or even tripled!) and they’re ready to bake. As long as you remember to take them out the night before, this is SUCH a delicious and easy breakfast. They’re warm, buttery, and there’s just enough of this pumpkin pie-like filling. Breakfast perfection. And cheaper than the croissants at Starbucks. Win. Win.
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So, what’s been going on with you?





Fuelng for Long Rides

12 03 2014

If you’ve seen my weekly workout recaps, you’ll notice that I’ve been putting in a lot of time on the saddle. This year, particularly in the early season, the XP crew is working on getting in some miles on the bike so that we head in to Ironman training strong.When you’re riding that much, you get time to start playing around with your nutrition plan.

One of my goals for 2014 is to really master my nutrition on the bike. I know how crucial this will be in November when I’m biking for 112 miles before I stumble off and then go run a marathon.

IMG_4147(will I be that happy when I start the run of my Ironman? Doubtful)

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I definitely struggle with headaches caused by electrolyte imbalance during/after hard workouts or races. Salt tabs have typically been what’s worked for me, taking them at regular intervals while on long rides or runs; however, there’s definitely been times where I’m so focused on moving my feet that I forget to take them. So, I wanted to come up with some kind of plan that allowed me to only take salt if it was really hot and needed it as a last resort, rather than needing to take it on a regular schedule.

drinking cokeCoke is also good perfect after a long ride.

The caveat here is that it hasn’t been super hot here yet- I’m really interested to see how this plan works through the heat of summer. But so far, this is what’s been working for me:

Several hours pre-ride: We typically don’t ride until late morning, so I have plenty of time to get up and make myself some pancakes. I don’t have a go-to, just whatever flavor combination that comes to my head, but it typically has yogurt in it.

Just before we start:

Depending on how long has passed since I’ve eaten breakfast, if I feel like I’m just starting to get hungry, I’ll eat a Feedzone Rice Cake. My favorite has been Allen’s Rice Cakes. We call them “breakfast sushi”.

Allen's Rice Cake

During ride:

Every 45 minutes to an hour I’ll eat a rice cake or some other “portable”. Allen’s rice cakes have approximately 225 calories in them. The first time I ate a rice cake on a ride I thought it was so weird that I was eating “real food” while cycling. I was afraid I’d get an upset tummy, especially because those rice cakes have bacon in them, but they’ve worked tremendously well. I LOVE having real food now, and now I only bring a bag of gummies as back up.

Bacon muffin(bacon chocolate chip muffins anyone?)

As far as fluids go, I’ve made the switch to Osmo, and let me tell you friends that I am hooked! I first heard about this awesome hydration product system through Katie, and after exchanging a few emails about it, I decided to take the plunge and I haven’t looked back since. I love that it is specially formulated for a woman’s physiology! #womenarenotsmallmen (Learn more about the science behind it here.) The flavor of the Active Hydration is great- the mango flavor is light and refreshing. It’s not too sweet and not too salty. It’s not made to be concentrated, so I’ve been following the mixing instructions to a T. It’s also not meant to be a source of calories- which is why I’m eating real food! I typically go through one of my bike bladders (20 oz I think) and then my 24 oz bottle over the course of a 2-3 hour ride. I actually think I should be drinking a bit more…

Osmo Nutrition(Osmo offers three products for women: PreLoad, Active, and Recovery. I’ve used the Pre-Load once or twice, when I knew it would be hot and we’d be going long. I don’t feel like I can give a full report on it just yet, but what I can say is that at first, I did NOT like the taste. It’s starting to grow on me, and it is most certainly better as cold as you can make it. I’ll give a full report once I’m using it more frequently when summer hits.)

Post Ride: As soon as I get home from the ride I make myself the Osmo Recovery. If you like horchata, this is a great drink for you. (Unless of course you consider yourself a horchata snob, you might find this to be too powdery.) The flavor is great mixed with rice milk (or any kind of milk and/or water), and it’s also light enough that you could blend it into a smoothie with just about anything in it. I’m a big fan of this mix. It’s got protein and glucose, and helps to:

  • Promote Muscle Synthesis
  • Reduce Hormonal Influences on Recovery
  • Optimize Training Adaptations

Since I’ve been using Osmo Recovery, I’ve definitely been capable of riding long on both Saturday and Sunday, as well as comfortably add on a run too.

Based on my performance so far this season (in training), I’d say that I’m definitely on the right track in terms of food and fluid intake during and after workouts. So far (knock on wood) I haven’t had a dehydration headache! Weather will certainly be a factor, so as temperatures rise, I’ll need to adjust as necessary. But, right now, this is what is working for me, and I’m going with it. Real food + women-specific hydration has been my key so far!

Question of the day: How do you fuel for a long ride or run?

**Please not that I’m NOT a nutritionist, I have NO degrees in any of this. I’m just sharing what has been working for me!