Go to Hullar’s

I corrected a wrong on my eat local resume last weekend by going to Hullar's.

This place has been around since the early 19th century, and it still has a neighborhood pub atmosphere.

We started by walking in, putting our names on the list and flopping down at the bar for beers next to someone we knew. Always a good sign.

It's the sort of bar that brings out the older adults; while there were some families dining, we were easily the youngest people at the bar by close to 30 years. The bartender, Neil, seemed scattered at first, but I didn't see anyone wait more than two minutes for a drink, and when tables were called, Neil was quick with a check to settle up a bar tab.

The waiter did one of the things I didn't mention in my giving great service post that I should have: He knew his products. Specifically, when he came to ask if we were ready to order, I first asked, "This is our first time here. What have we been missing?" And he had an answer for me. We'd already decided on our dinner, but there's probably going to be a lunch in our future in which we try some of his suggestions.

The food is better than passable (I won't call it amazing, but it was definitely good), the portions generous (those of you who have seen me eat will be surprised to hear I'll have an entire second meal out of it), and the cost very reasonable (drinks, appetizer and dinner for about $50).

Absolutely worth a visit. They also have an adjoining coffee shop I'll have to hit up for breakfast some day.

It’s gotta be coffee

I'm a coffee drinker. There are no two ways about it. My coffee pot must have a timer so that the pot can be brewed by the time I wake up. I'll drink some Folgers or some Maxwell House if it's what's around. I'd prefer to be drinking some Paul deLima or something roasted at Recess.

It turns out coffee is a comfort food to me. It's not the caffeine.

I discovered that this morning when I drank an Xtreme Shock. I like this stuff as a pre-workout drink. It's essentially a high dose of niacin and caffeine.

And after my workout, I just had to have a couple of sips of coffee. I'd certainly had enough caffeine to avoid a withdrawal headache, and indeed I was buzzing a bit. But I wanted that warm drink, I wanted the flavor.

In the film "Mean Girls," Lindsay Lohan's character says that she likes math because it's "the same in every language." I'm beginning to feel that way about coffee. Even if people are drinking decaf.

photo credit.

How I’m going to reach my 2012 weight loss goal

The first time I weighed in during 2011 I weighed 170.8 pounds. The first time I weighed in during 2012 (which was around 5:30 in the morning on New Year's Day), I weighed 160.4 pounds. OK, I get it, 10 pounds in a year is good. But I'm not happy with that, especially since I did a weight loss program in the beginning of the year and dropped almost 30 pounds. I understand that maybe that was a little quick, and it explains why I gained 2/3 of it back.

This year I set a goal of getting to 145 pounds by March 1. That's 15.4 pounds in 60 days, or just under 2 pounds per week.

That's sustainable, and while I could probably drop that 15 pounds more quickly, I want to be able to maintain this year, and still be under 150 at year's end.

Here are some things I'm going to do (other than checking in on the blog occasionally):

Lose fat, not muscle. This means resistance training mixed with some heavy lifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I think it would be really easy to do a lot of cardio and burn off the weight, but I feel pretty strong and I want to maintain that, perhaps grow it. In that sense, if I don't hit 145 pounds but I get down to 11-12% body fat, cool (I'm probably around 20-22% now).

Use trackers. I have a DietMinder, and I'm using it. I also love FitDay, which counts my nutrients for me.

Live a little. Repeat after me: Diets. Don't. Work. You can get on a diet for a little while, but the second you feel like you're "cheating" or you hit your goal, all the results you achieved go out the window. I could pretty easily lose those 15 pounds in 2-3 weeks using a strict low-carb (under 15g or so a day) and high water consumption diet. But you know what? With a goal of 2 pounds a week, I'm going to be able to drink wine (dry red), eat chocolate (moderate amounts of dark), and enjoy the heck out of a Super Bowl party (unless it's a Giants-Broncos thing, then I can't enjoy it at all).

Try new exercises in my workouts. Know what kicked my butt during my first workout of the year? One-legged deadlifts with a 20-pound adjustable dumbbells reviewed by fitnessrocks.org. I've never incorporated them before, and 10 each leg – done immediately following some one-legged jumping rope (hopping rope?), which was also a first for me – had my quads burning like they haven't in a long time.

Have people I can check in with. Someone actually asked me yesterday if I could check in with him, call him "fatty" and be mean about it until he gets his act in gear. Done. And Ben, even if I don't comment on every entry, I'm watching you, pal. And there will be a dinner party at some point.

OK, I showed you mine. Show me yours.

What we’re drinking


Photo Credit

It's coming on autumn, the time of year I start to make the switch from post-softball game beer to nice glasses of warming red wine. Even the Mayo Clinic says it has good antioxidant properties, and both Mark Sisson, in his book The Primal Blueprint, and Timothy Ferriss, in his The 4-Hour Body, write that dry red wines (those with little or no residual sugar), consumed in moderation, won't have much effect on a weight-loss diet – plus they'll help you enjoy it.

One of my occasional summer stops is the Finger Lakes Wine Festival, which draws a bunch of Central New York wineries to the southern tip of Seneca Lake. Last year, I really got into rieslings (German varietals grow really well in our climate), and a few other more off-the-wall things. I kicked 2011 off with a weight loss program and changed up my diet – a lot. At the wine fest this summer, I couldn't take a second sip of anything with over about 0.5% residual sugar, which is extremely dry.

Here are some of my favorites from this year, along with some notes about some other wines the people I went with enjoyed.

Fulkerson Dornfelder. I tried more wines at Fulkerson's booth than any other vineyard over the weekend. I had never heard of this grape before, but it's another German varietal that can handle the sometimes harsh weather of the Finger Lakes. The winery bills this as a "red wine for white foods," which is probably an appeal to people who might be a little scared of red wines. The nose has a lot of berry in it, and it finishes exactly the right amount of dry. Their lemberger is pretty good, and if you like really dry, their vincent doesn't even make it to the back of your mouth (it was a little over the top for me).

Montezuma Cabernet Franc. Cab franc is a fantastic dry grape that you could reasonably compare to a beaujolais. The problem with that is that you can get a really good beaujolais for between $8 and $12, while most Finger Lakes cab francs run in the $20-plus range. We did find a decent $10 bottle from King's Garden, but Montezuma's runs $15 and is probably the only bottle I would have paid $20 for.

Niagara Landing Baco Noir. I can't get enough of baco noirs with moldy cheeses. Strong berry noses with tobacco-y finishes go great with gorgonzola, and I even get alliteration out of it. While Bully Hill is typically my go-to for a large variety of wines (because everything is really good and is typically in the $6-$8 range), Niagara Landing's baco surprised me so much at the launch party that I went back a second time to taste it and bought a couple of bottles.

Some other winners, according to my notes here:

  • Anthony Road makes something called a "Devonian Red," which is a cab franc, lemberger and pinot noir blend in the $10 range.
  • Glenora brought a pomegranate wine; much too sweet for me, but I have three stars in my notebook, so at least half our group thought it was exceptional.
  • Rock Stream Vineyards has some interesting wines, including dry niagaras and dry cayugas – two wines that are typically sweet enough to make sherbet cringe. Definitely recommend checking them out.
  • Coyote Moon makes a riesling so good even the sangria lovers made note of it.

And there you have it. If you were wondering what's in my glass while I sit in front of the fireplace, there's a good chance it's one of these.

The Saucy Swan

Next to the Swan Pond in the center of the village of Manlius, you'll find The Saucy Swan, a cozy family-owned restaurant with an Italian-ish flavor, heavy on the seafood options.

I won't discuss the service, since a friend waited on us, but the place is definitely worth a go. The Utica greens are really good; the calamari was just OK, and our dinners (a seafood goulash sort of thing – a special the night we were there – and a white clam sauce over linguini) were excellent, as was the creme brulee.

The Swan, though, is apparently known for its cotton candy. We had a sour apple cotton candy to share as we took a post-dinner walk around the pond.

Definitely recommend – and we'll be back, as there are more menu items we wanted to try.

Lew’s Sports Bar

It's been a while since we've done some restaurant reviews, but I owe a couple of restaurants some shouts.

Lew's is a new place on Church Street in North Syracuse. Last summer, the town turned Church Street into a dead-end, and Lew's recently opened on the cul-de-sac.

It's a small, friendly place, with TVs in the appropriate places, billiards, darts, foosball and cheap beer. Their wings are passable (not in my top five, for sure), their burgers are exceptional, and their staff is friendly in a neighborhood bar sort of way.

Plenty of parking in back and on the cul-de-sac. Definitely give them a try.

Jason’s homemade brocolli calzones

This is a recipe by Jason, a Syracuse attorney known on Twitter as @jaseface1. I'm not usually a recipe kinda guy, but I'll mix it up and give it a shot when I get back into the starches in a few weeks.

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup fresh broccoli
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves (optional, i have a plant so i use some)
1 egg (also optional)

Dough: In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in water. Add the oil and salt; mix in 1 cup of the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour, until dough is smooth and workable. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, or until it is elastic. Lay dough in a bowl containing 1 teaspoon olive oil, then flip the dough, cover and let rise for 40 minutes, or until almost doubled.

Filling: While dough is rising, combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, broccoli and basil leaves in a large bowl. Mix well, cover bowl and refrigerate to chill.

Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees.

When dough is ready, punch it down and separate it into 2 equal parts. Roll parts out into thin circles on a lightly floured surface. Fill each circle with 1/2 of the cheese/filling.. fold over, securing edges by folding in and pressing. Brush the top of each calzone with egg (or olive oil) and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 25-30 minutes. Serve hot.

Recipe: Chocolate, fruit and nut bark


Yummy, dessert!

What happens when you're experimenting with high-cacao chocolates (because they're actually good for you!) and you come across one that is just plain inedible? You make something yummy, of course!

This was a 100% cacao chocolate bar. No milk, no sugar. Way too bitter to eat by itself.

If you're like me and don't have a double-boiler, you can fake one by putting water in a saucepan, bringing the water to a boil, and then putting a metal bowl in the pan.

In the bowl part of the double-boiler, melt the chocolate and a stick of butter (keep stirring them so they don't stick to the bottom of the bowl). Add some almonds, blueberries and raspberries. Stir until everything's coated and somewhat evenly distributed.

Line a cookie sheet, casserole dish or pie plate with wax paper. Pour the chocolaty melty stuff on top, and stick it in the refrigerator. It should harden enough to eat in about 3 hours.

Recipe: Haddock and escarole


Sorry about the unsaturated cell phone blurriness, but I was too hungry to grab my camera!

Sometimes dinner's just so delicious it needs to wind up on the blog. And so it was with Sunday night's fare.

This started with large haddock fillets rubbed down with a Central New York favorite – a Java Gourmet dessert rub (Keuka Lake). After letting the rub seep in a bit, I sautéed some banana peppers in coconut oil and added the haddock, cooking until done.

Meanwhile, in the other pan...

I started with a generous helping of sesame oil and added some chili oil. I had some leftover chopped onions, so threw those in there, and then added a head of escarole.

And that's it, folks. Easy, tasty, healthy.

3 Meals No Dieter Would Try

Except that I did. One of them, I ate twice in the past week. And by the way, I lost just over a pound, which is less than spectacular, but sustainable.

I've now lost 20.6 pounds in six weeks, dropped my body fat percentage under 18% (calipers) from 27.7% (bio-impedance), and am working on my third belt.

Here are three meals (three breakfasts and a lunch) I ate this week that contributed to my weight loss, even though nobody who considers themselves "on a diet" would ever eat them.

Cheeseburger Omelet

This was so good, I made another one a few days later.

Saute some onions in butter. Break up a hamburger patty and mix it in. While it's cooking, whisk three eggs, and cut up some cheddar cheese into small chunks. Add it to the egg.

When the meat is cooked (or close to it), add the eggs and cheese and cook until done. Top with salsa if you like (I do).

Breakfast at the All Nite Egg Plant

I've always hated that they call themselves "all nite," not only because I'm a grammar snob, but also because they don't open until 7 a.m.

But after a 7 a.m. workout in a snow squall? No problem. It's near the gym, and they didn't have their normal weekend crowd.

The Egg Plant doesn't serve a giant mound of potatoes with every breakfast, and I had them hold the toast, but what I did eat was a delicious pastrami, spinach and Swiss cheese omelet with a side of ham.

Tres Hombres

We received an invitation to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I rarely, if ever, turn down such an invite. I suggest the same for you.

Frank, whose invitation brought us to lovely downtown Syracuse, looked at me while I perused the menu, and asked, "Hmm, how does Josh keep to his diet while eating at Dinosaur?"

Easily, actually. I just gave away the cornbread. I ate brisket, pulled pork, a quarter rack of ribs, barbecued beans and a tomato-cucumber salad.

Does it sound like I'm on a diet? Didn't think so. I love losing weight!