I want to tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You’re probably thinking I’m Jack Nicholson in the A Few Good Men. No, I’m just JB and I have to tell you truth, the cold hard facts. Nutrition will always stand in your way from being a success or a failure in your fitness journey. It is the rule, science backed, and JB approved. You CANNOT out exercise your diet. So, why do people overeat and make bad nutritional decisions? Well planning and preparation are everything and those that do not plan, fail. It is that simple.
You must plan your meals ahead of time to be a success. Eating habits play a huge role as well. Habits are powerful behavioral patterns that allow us to perform many of our daily tasks without conscious effort. Translation, sometimes what we think we are eating is actually good for us! That’s scary! Social pressure from our inner circle can influence the way we approach our diet on a daily.
Last and most important people overeat for emotional escape. There is a strong correlation between “comfort foods” and making humans feel good. Refined sugar, sodium, high saturated fat filled food causes our brain to release serotonin. This causes our bodies to relax and feel good. This becomes a behavior and not a physiological need for food. After a stressful day, people tend to throw the rule book out the window and eat whatever makes them feel better. Not good.
So with that said here are The Rules, that if followed can produce some great results.
Prepare all meals in advance regardless of location. Coolers, bags, Tupperware etc. Must prepare for success and not prepare to fail. Most important rule. If this is absolutely out of the question refer back to this article for strategies for eating on the go http://eepurl.com/bc_ACD or this on what to eat out http://eepurl.com/8AjIn
Breakfast- Must be the largest meal of the day. Breakfast literally means to break the fast. When our bodies sleep we utilize glycogen from our liver stores to keep our blood glucose levels normal. When we wake up our body requires glucose to revitalize our body and allow our brain to function at a high capacity. Also, eating breakfast prevents overeating the rest of the day. This will get our metabolism moving for the rest of the day.
Choose a Cut Off Time- This is more behavioral than physiological. Start by setting a cut off time for when you will stop eating. At first, start with 8 pm and progressively move it up til you are eating dinner at 6 pm and not eating again to the next morning (if you workout late at night, adjust the time because you need post workout nutrition). This discourages late night cravings which can destroy our diets. This will get clients in the habit of cutting off their eating habits at a certain time for maximum weight loss. Dinner must be 1/3 smaller than breakfast for optimum weight loss.
Drink Water- water plays a part in most physiological aspects of our body, from anabolism to washing waste out our body. YOU MUST drink water and lots of it. 10 glasses a day will not cut it. Shoot for a gallon every day. The more water you ingest the less your body retains. View this article for more on water http://joshjbbowen.com/2012/12/31/the-old-gallon-jug/
Squat- Simply put DO IT!!! Squatting is primal movement pattern we have been doing since we learned to walk. It involves virtually every muscle in your body and quite frankly is a must for anyone. Read more about it here http://eepurl.com/–1Lz
Eat Fiber- Fiber’s most important property is it helps regulate blood sugar levels. Also helping the body in ridding certain waste. 30-40 grams.
Soluble- dissolves in water. Oats, legumes (beans, peas and soy beans) apples, bananas, berries, barley
Insoluble- whole wheat bran, nuts, seeds, skin of fruits and veggies.
Stress: Manage it!- Stress can be a huge culprit in preventing weight loss and eventually leading to weight gain. We either do not eat or over indulge because of our stress levels. Worse, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol that cannibalizes our muscle tissue as well as slowing our metabolism. Learn more about your hormones and how they impact your body fat loss and retention here http://eepurl.com/7YX6b
Limit Alcohol Consumption- People are more likely to eat 20% more calories while drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin to the human body that must be eradicated before any other nutrient. Thus slowing down the breakdown of fat and carbohydrates, slowing the metabolism. Limiting this even 50% will have amazing turn around effects.
Limit Refined Sugar- sugar increases the rate the pancreas releases insulin, thus causing an imbalance. If it is not required by the body it is put into storage. Devoid of 90% of its vitamins and minerals contributing to an ineffective metabolism and poor recovery and weight control. Also inhibits the release of growth hormones depressing the immune system. Increase ingestion will increase inflammation of joints requiring more time for recovery.
Work out 3-4 days per week. Preferably mostly resistance/strength training based programming with concentration on whole body lifts (squats, deadlifts, lunges, pushups, presses). More muscle, less body fat. The equation is simple, backed with proper nutrition and you have a recipe for success.
The combination of all 10 of these guidelines would make a dramatic difference in who you are and who you want to be. The question is the execution. You’ve got it!
Humans have been using sugar since the 5th century. And since that time, humans have been consuming it in record amounts. In fact in 1801, historians estimate each American consumed 8.4 pound of sugar each year. In 1909, Americans consumed 85 pounds of sugar a year (6 lbs of corn sweeteners, 80 lbs of cane and beet sugar). In 1999 Americans consumed 151 pounds of sugar (84 lbs from corn sweeteners). Oh and by the way a person dies from Type 2 Diabetes every 7 seconds and it wasn’t officially discovered until 1935! Wow! There is a direct relationship to the amount of sugar one ingests to the potential for contracting Type 2 Diabetes.
Sugar is very debilitating to the human body, causing hormone issues and ultimately leading to Type 2 Diabetes. It is also very addicting. Princeton University did a study and found that sugar has the same effects on the brain as cocaine and other street drugs do. “Our evidence from an animal model suggests that bingeing on sugar can act in the brain in ways very similar to drugs of abuse,” says lead researcher and Princeton psychology professor Bart Hoebel. Some of this information may surprise you, as there are a lot of myths out there as it relates to sure. Here are a few, with the real story.
Both “reduced sugar” and “No added sugar” mean the product has no sugar? NO
FDA allows the term “reduced sugar” on all products that have 25% less sugar than the leading brand. Meaning that the product could still have 75% of the sugar content of the original formula. “No added sugar” is used for a variety of foods with naturally occurring sugars such as jams, jellies, yogurt, milk, tomato sauce.
If a food is labeled “sugar free,” it contains no sugar? Not necessarily
“Sugar free” foods can legally contain trace amounts of sugar (less than .5 grams per serving). Meaning 1/8 of teaspoon of sugar might be in the food you are eating. If you consume one serving its no big deal, but if you are eating several of these items it could add up.
“Low fat” and “Fat free” mean “Sugar free?” False
Low fat yogurt is a perfect example, low in fat but high in sugar. It is possible the product could have more sugar than its high fat counterpart. Many low fat muffins, breads, cookies and salad dressings have more sugar than the regular product. Many of these products also contain health harming artificial sweeteners.
Raw sugar, brown rice syrup, and maple syrup are better for you than refined sugar? No
This is a way manufactures fool consumers by capitalizing on their desire for natural sugars. Raw sugar and maple syrup have different flavors but their nutritional value is no different than plain table sugar. They are all metabolized like sucrose raising blood sugar levels and suppressing the immune system.
Fruit juice concentrates are better for you than refined sugars? False
Foods containing orange, pineapple, or other fruit concentrates may look healthy but they are metabolized in the same way as refined sugars. Fruit concentrate is stripped of its vitamins and minerals, fiber.
Honey is much better for you than sugar and we process it differently? Not true
Honey is made up of 1/3 fructose, 1/3 glucose, a little maltose and water. Honey is more concentrated than sugar. It has 5 grams of sugar per teaspoon versus 4 grams for table sugar. Some studies even have shown that honey raises your glucose levels higher than table sugar and suppresses your white blood cell count more.
Sucrose is natural? NOPE
In its natural state sugar would be a 20 foot cane stalk. Natural means you can pick it off a tree or bush or dig it out. To make sugar, sugar they have to add hydrocholoric acid or sulfuric acid to rid it of impurities. In addition, sodium nitrate or salt is added as are chlorine and other harmful agents.
Anything labeled “All Natural” is better than anything refined? No
There is no legal term for using the word natural under US food law. Companies can call anything natural that they want. In fact some sweeteners are made from all natural ingredients but are highly concentrated sources of sugars
Fructose comes only from fruit? No
Fruit consists of many sugars, only one of them is fructose. Fruit also contains glucose, dextrose, maltose, galactose. You can also get fructose from processed foods and beverages as well as pharmaceuticals, flavors and cosmetics. Fructose typically is chemically refined from corn in the US. People get it confused because they think of fruit. Fructose is more readily metabolized to a form of triglycerides in the liver and in the blood.
Sweeteners are ok to use in substitute of sugar? No
Most popular sweeteners used today:
High fructose corn syrup
These cause water retention and decrease potassium, causing the adrenal glands dysfunction because of the mineral imbalance.
At the end of the day most of us (myself included) have physical goals related to decreasing our body fat. The first place I would start in that quest would be to evaluate the amount of sugar I took in. From here we can decrease as necessary to achieve our goals. Foods higher than 5 grams per serving of sugar would be the first I would dispense of. This is easier said than done but keep it simple and great things will come.
Life is busy. We live in a world that goes a hundred miles per hour, everyday. Eating healthy can sometimes get put to the back of the line. From day to day travel to business trips to flying on airplanes, learning the best ways to eat better when we are busy can be challenging, but they can be done. From the appendix of my book 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom here are 12 steps to eating on the go:
1. You either prepare to succeed or fail. Preparing your lunch ahead of time would ensure you didn’t stop for fast food on your way back to the office.
2. Knowing what restaurants are on the way on a three hour business trip that serve healthy options would allow you to stay within your healthy eating strategy and not go for convenience. If we prepare, we can succeed.
Know Your Food
3. Anytime I go to a restaurant I know what my choices are going to be. I have either looked at their menu online or I have frequented there before. I know what I am walking into.
4. Use nutrition apps to look at menus and food items before sitting down for dinner. This will help you better understand the food quality.
Bring Healthy Snacks
5. If you are in an airport your choice of healthy options are slim. Bring almonds, nuts, Quest bars or fruit with to curve your appetite an prevent you from making a decision out of convenience.
6. Know the ingredients and how to read the food label on the back to know what your are eating.
Know How to Order Food
7. Different restaurants use different things to cook with. Some use olive oil, some may use butter. Either way, I always ask for my food to be prepared without butter or seasoning.
8. If it is chicken or beef I asked that it be prepared over an open fire and grilled. This cuts down on all the extra calories the cooking process can add.
9. On the go we sometimes forget about hydrating ourselves. Water keeps us hydrated but also decreases the hunger signals and keeps us full.
10. Keep big bottles of water on you at all times and refill as necessary.
Say No to Fast Food
11. If it has a drive through, say no!
12. If you have to stop for something quick choose grilled chicken over beef and baked potato over French fries.
She gets out of bed and feels the soreness in her muscles from her workout the day before. Her workouts have been hard and she loves them and loves the momentum she is on. Her goals were to lose 15 lbs before Spring Break. She walks down stairs to fix breakfast before she starts her day. Her confidence is high, she isn’t dodging her appearance in the mirror and she feels so much more energy than the month before. Before she eats, she wants to weigh herself. She thinks to herself, “surely I have dropped 5 lbs after the past two weeks of hard workouts and stringent eating.” All of sudden you hear a loud bang, as if something was thrown up against the wall. It was the scale.
How could this happen? How can you workout so hard, eat so well and not lose enough or any weight? Let me let you in a secret. It doesn’t matter what your scale says. It will never tell you what you want it too. No matter how hard you try. It is very much the Bermuda Triangle of all things fitness. The scale does not define you. It does not state your worth. It does not state your beauty And an added caveat it does not mean your fitness program is not working and you are not putting enough effort in. It simply is a measurement of physical weight on planet Earth ( hey on the moon you way nothing). The worry and anguish that goes into worrying about what the scale says is enormous. I am begging you to stop worrying about it. Here is why:
It is out of your control…mostly
Yes, you can watch what you eat and exercise but outside of that, you cannot control what the scale says. Your body will reduce body weight when it wants too. You have zero control over when this happens. Some people lose weight quickly, for a variety of reasons, some don’t. Some lose body fat and retain or gain muscle, creating an exchange effect thus causing them to not lose any weight. It runs the gamut but you have to remember it is out of your control.
Females can fluctuate as much as 7 lbs in a week. Males can fluctuate as much as 5 lbs in a week. If you weight yourself in the morning you will weight differently at night. So why weigh yourself?
Less Weight Doesn’t Mean Less Body Fat
Or vice versa. If you chose losing weight as your goal, your behaviors will different from someone trying to lose body fat. Strength training provides increased muscle tissue and with dietary help, lowering body fat. This does not always equate to lowering physical body weight. You can actually look different but weight the same. Would it matter if you had your dream body but you weight 10 more lbs than you want? Doubtful. Look at this chart:
Doesn’t Mean You are Not Working Hard
The scale, again, is measurement of physical weight on Earth. Not a judgment of how hard you have or haven’t worked. Do not let it get you down, define you or put you down. Find other ways of measuring progress, like how your clothes feel or how much energy you have OR how you look in the mirror. For women especially, this is an important lesson to learn and hold onto.
Control what you can control. Everything else should not be worried and obsessed about. You are putting in great work and doing all you can, do not let the scale make you feel like you aren’t. Throw the scale away and be free.
A friend of mine, who is an elementary school teacher, told me that her kids are only alloted 15 minutes of recess a day. Often times the teachers are under such scrutiny to hit certain test scores that PE and recess are both put on the back burner. If the school systems would only take a look at several studies that show the more active a child (or adult for that matter) is the better their mind works to absorb vital information. So by limiting and abolishing recess and PE we are doing a disservice to our youth. We have to take matters into our own hands to keep our kids moving and active. These strategies are not revolutionary but they are helpful. Here we go!
Not exercise- Huh? Yeah! Promotion of exercise and workouts are going to get your kids hyped up to go to the gym or even ride their bikes. They may not be ready for “exercise” but they will more than enjoy activity. This keeps the young mind that loses interest quickly, on task and having fun. I suggest the following:
Ditch the video games and play catch, hide and go seek, Simon says and twister. Go old school, take it back to when you were a kid and you played hide and go seek for hours. Remember how much fun that was? I can’t tell you the last time I heard a kid talking about hide and seek, they would rather play Halo. Halo ain’t got nothing on hide and go seek (forgive me, I am from Kentucky)!
Try an Active Party
In the summer time throw a party for your kids at the batting cages or in the winter a bowling party would fit the bill. Old school mentality but activity nonetheless. This may inspire your young ones to pick a sport or find a hobby, all of which is great!
Give them a Choice
Yes, they should be consulted with these decisions. A ten year old is not going to do something they do not want to do. So back door them, get them to pretend it was their idea and watch what happens!
Limit Screen Time
A surefire way to increase your child’s activity level is to limit the number of hours he or she spends in front of a screen — including television, video games and online activities. For example, you might consider a limit of one or two hours a day and, for a better night’s sleep, no screen time in the hour before bed. To make it easier, don’t put a television in your child’s bedroom, don’t watch television while you’re eating dinner, and restrict computers and other electronic gadgets to a family area. Also consider limiting other sedentary activities, such as text messaging or chatting on the phone.
If your child plays video games, opt for those that require movement. Activity-oriented video games — such as dance video games and video games that use a player’s physical movements to control what happens on the screen — boost a child’s calorie-burning power. In a Mayo Clinic study, kids who traded sedentary screen time for active screen time more than doubled their energy expenditure.
Walk the Walk
Here is the most important one. If this is not in play, the rest do not matter. You must back up what you preach. Children with active parents are far and away to be more active. It is that simple. You can’t go tell your child to go play outside and be active, if you are sitting on your rear end doing nothing. The facts hurt but they are true. We are at fault for the lack of activity our youth gets. Not technology, not our school system (well maybe they get some blame) but us.
I do not have children so many of you can point that out and say I have no idea what I am talking about. And your argument may be valid. However I have trained children as young as 11. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my career. I sought out to spark a young mind to value activity, not just exercise. Exercise is just the tool.
Wonder how much physical activity is enough? Consider these guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services:
Children and adolescents age 6 and older need at least an hour a day of physical activity. Most of the hour should be either moderate or vigorous aerobic activity. In addition, children should participate in muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week. Many classic activities — such as playing on playground equipment and jumping rope — cover all the bases at once.
So there you have it, a game plan for establishing activity and play in our youth. This is important, more important than most realize. The quality of life of the next generation depends on the current generation. Let’s do our jobs and inspire, motivate and build a healthier future for our kids.
Here is a young, active kid from Lexington, KY (with hair!) Just a kid with a dream of being a personal trainer!
“Escape from the bustling city for a day;” the brochure boasted and while I can’t say that the laid back city of Chiang Mai was getting to me a day out of any city sounded like heaven. The Thai Farm Cooking School is located only 17 km out of Chiang Mai, Thailand but the cool country breeze and fresh scents were a very welcome break from hot traffic and smelly exhaust. The morning began with a trip to the local market with a guide to explain the ingredients that go into a typical Thai dish. I had my notebook ready to take notes and plenty of questions from my previous market visits. I was happy to find the guide spoke excellent English and was happy to answer my myriad of questions. Once we had picked up all the necessary ingredients for the six dishes we would be preparing we headed out to the farm.
Upon arrival on the seven acre organic farm we entered the magical world of 1,000 trees as the residents refer to it. We were given a detailed tour of all the herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables that are grown organically at the farm and had the opportunity to taste each fresh ingredient. I found that I really enjoy long beans and that Thai coriander is basically a strong cilantro. With all of the items from the market and then the fresh picked veggies and herbs from the farm we were ready to cook.
The setting for our prep work was a picturesque gazebo over a lily pad pond offering a vista of the whole farm. If I could do all my kitchen prep in this type of setting I wouldn’t even mind how much I cry when chopping onions. We each had a mortar and pestle along with a cutting board and knife for making fresh green, red or yellow curry paste. I chose to make green curry as that’s my favorite, but once you learn the technique the only difference is the ingredients. The technique we were told takes lots of muscle and should be loud. We each took this advice to heart as the cacophony of mortar against pestle filled the air.
With the curry paste made the majority of our prep work was done, so we preceded to the spacious well-equipped kitchen. We each had our own cooking station with plenty of elbow room. ” Cook” our appropriately named Thai teacher began to demonstrate our first dish of curry with chicken, a delicious curry soup with coconut milk. The soup came together effortlessly and quickly by simply chopping up some pumpkin, chicken and onions then bringing it all to a boil with coconut milk. With the soup done we started on Tom Yam with shrimps where we really perfected the art of blending sweet, spicy and bitter flavors. If it’s too spicy add more sugar, if it’s too sweet add more salt and if it tastes bitter add more chili, sugar and salt. We had just one more dish before lunch and that was chicken with cashew nuts.
Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: A Day on the Farm
I have a few people request nutritional advice and/or grocery store lists. Using my Exercise Nutritionist certification from Precision Nutrition, I have compiled the best damn grocery store list I could compiled. These are only items you will see in a big box grocery store, some local farmer’s markets or Whole Foods may have a wider variety, but I wanted to keep it to things you could find where you shop now. I also didn’t want to link it to anything, so that you would have all the information in this email for you to print off and go to the grocery store.
Aspire Fitness Supermarket Survival Guide
Hit the grocery store prepared with our handy Supermarket Survival Guide, which will help
• navigate the supermarket like a pro;
• shop as efficiently as possible;
• reduce temptations and distractions; and
• ensure you get all kinds of healthy foods!
A few notes:
These shopping lists are to give you ideas. You don’t have to buy everything on the list! We suggest you start with a few of your favorites from each group. For example:
• 3 veggies: spinach, carrots, broccoli
• 3 fruits: blueberries, oranges, grapes
• 3 proteins: extra-lean ground beef, salmon, lentils
• 3 fats: coconut, avocado, almonds
• 2 grains: oatmeal, wild rice
If there’s something we’ve missed that fits the criteria, please feel free to try it. For instance, you might find other fresh fish than the ones we’ve mentioned, or another fruit or veggie.
Always shop with a list, whether that’s ours or your own. If it’s not on the list, you don’t buy it.
That saves you time, money, and having to throw out impulse buys.
Most supermarkets are laid out the same way: Most of the healthy stuff is around the edges.
Most of the stuff to avoid is in the inner aisles.
Here’s a sample supermarket layout to help you plan your attack.
Stick mostly to the perimeter, where you’ll find lean protein plus fruits & veggies. Areas to avoid
or visit sparingly are orange. Be especially cautious around the cash register and ends of the aisles, where there are often eye-catching displays of
Fruits & vegetables
Look for colorful fruits and veggies and much as possible. Eat the rainbow!
Look for what’s in season and/or local. It’ll be fresher, cheaper, and tastier.
Purple & blue
Blueberries, blackberries, lingonberries
Orange & yellow
Winter squash and pumpkin
Beet greens (the tops of beets)
Any other dark leafy green (e.g. turnip
greens, collard greens)
Fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, basil)
Green beans, green peas
Zucchini, cucumber (if you eat the peel)
Red & pink
Red lettuce, radicchio
Onions, leeks, shallots
Lean/extra-lean cuts of beef
Lean pork (e.g. pork tenderloin)
Wild game (e.g. venison, elk)
Eggs & egg whites
Smaller fish like herring and mackerel
Shrimp (fresh or plain frozen)
Mussels, clams, scallops
Vegetarian protein powders (e.g. hemp
protein, brown rice protein, vegan blend)
Of course, you’re taking your fish oil… right?
Extra-virgin olive oil
Hemp seed oil
Pumpkin seed oil
Avocado seed oil
Flax seed oil
Extra-virgin coconut oil
Nuts & seeds
Raw, unflavored, unsalted nuts
(e.g. almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans,
Brazil nuts, hazelnuts)
Raw, unflavored, unsalted seeds
(e.g. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
Ground flax seeds
Natural peanut butter
Natural nut butter
Remember, you want whole grains. The whole thing.
Oats (steel-cut or oat groats)
Wheat berries (whole wheat kernels)
Label reading checklist
No more than a few ingredients
Food that is close to what it used to be
Organic if possible
Local if possible
Minimal or no packaging
Sugar (look for trick words and phrases)
Hydrogenated and fractionated oils such as
corn or palm oil
Additives, preservatives, and colouring
Any other ingredients you don’t recognize
More than a few ingredients
Trick words & phrases
“Syrup” – corn syrup, brown rice syrup,
agave syrup, etc.
Words ending in “ose” – sucrose, glucose,
Words starting with “malto” – maltodextrin,
“Made with / contains real fruit”
Don’t be fooled!
Ignore what the front of the package says. Look at the back of the package. Remember, if a
packaged food claims to be “healthy”, it probably isn’t. “Organic sugar” is still sugar.
It is time to get to work. Most everyone has fitness on their mind when discussing their plan for 2015. Hell, even I have fitness related goals I would like to focus on for the next 360ish days. Most of my goals have a common theme and today when discussing 2015 with a client something hit me like a ton of bricks. It was an epiphany of sorts. While trying to simplify the process, I discovered the most important word for the the process, consistency. Without it, there is no workout plan, juice cleanse, yoga retreat, treadmill known to man that will create the results MOST are seeking out. Consistency is everything when discussing fitness. Those that do not have consistency have no results. Its a fact.
“So specifically what are you talkin bout JB?”
Most everyone would agree true, long lasting results take time. Even the the January resolution crowd that is showing up at your neighborhood gyms know that results take a while. So what are the keys to results? In my opinion it falls down to consistency. Those that are consistent in their workouts, eating habits, keeping stress low are more successful than those that are sporadic. Lets simplify this even more:
Here are the four areas I see where the results start to wane and frustration starts to set in because of lack of consistent habits.
Plain and simple, if you do not work out on a regular basis you are not going to achieve the maximum amount of your goals. Start small, commit to 3 days per week to go workout (whatever combination you would like) and be consistent. You do not have to have the craziest of workouts every time you workout (leave those to me) just be consistent ( are you tired of reading that word yet?) Side note: Do not cancel on your trainer unless you absolutely have too. If you book an appointment, keep it. You will not be disappointed.
A huge gaping hole for most people is how they eat. Most are neither consistent nor nutritious which leads to no results. We may need to start small by simply making it a priority to prepare our lunch every day. It literally could be the same meal all week if you would like. Any thing to start a consistent behavior pattern.
I do not sleep enough some days. It is a goal of mine to achieve at least an average of 7 hours of sleep a night. My body needs and your body needs it. There is a correlation with happiness and the amount of sleep one’s gets. Let that sink in.
Huh? Yes I am going there. If you have negative people in your life, get rid of them. They are detracting from what you are trying to accomplish. They are in your way, consistently. It is preventing you from reaching your full potential. Say goodbye!
Resolutions are great, declarations are better. Declare 2015 as your year and keep the theme of consistency in the forefront of your mind as we process through this new year. Victory will be yours.
Wine regions rarely disappoint. The combination of the visual, well-tended vines climbing towards the sky, and the experiential, flavors of the wine and food, will excite the most dull among us. Almost universally wine regions are worth the trip, but being situated literally halfway around the world from most people, Argentina’s Mendoza region needed to offer something more than tours and tasting rooms. Mendoza has succeeded in creating a food and wine experience worth the trip.
Mendoza is one the world’s most improbable and unique wine regions. Naturally it is a barren, as precipitation is kept on the Chilean side by the highest part of the Andes range. It should be a productive agriculture region as little as it should be a wine destination. Therein lies why it is successful though, generations had to work to make it happen, never taking for granted natural gifts. The culture of hard work that led to the irrigation and cultivation of the land has since been put into creating an international tourist destination.
Fulfilling it’s duty as Argentina’s largest wine producer by volume, Trapiche offers the gold standard of large-winery tours similar to Mondavi in California. Informative and thorough, the tours walk visitors through the entire process, albeit closer to the process than you can get in many other places.
What makes Mendoza special? It is the overall experience of European indulgence meets Latin America. It has incomparable views of wineries nestled against the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas. It offers the expected wine tasting, but also locally produces the unexpected: world-class gelato, chocolate, honey, olive oil, and much more. It blends a historic town center with thousands of acres of parks and modern amenities. It even has adventure sports including climbing of one of the Seven Summits. In short, it has everything.
Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: Why Wine Taste in Mendoza
Ah, chocolate. The albatross of Valentine’s Day. Snarky online articles will chide you for taking the easy route of buying your lover such clichés as flowers or a heart shaped box of sweets. But let’s be honest. Chocolate is pretty amazing. As the poet Rita Dove wrote about the treat, “dark punch/ of earth and night and leaf, / for a taste of you/ any woman would gladly/ crumble to ruin.” Who would turn up their nose at that?
If you’re starting to squirm over what to lavish upon your valentine, relax. Whether it’s a friend, sweetheart, or family member, most people’s hearts are warmed more by a thoughtful tidbit than by an outlandishly expensive trinket. And you can make your offering that much more meaningful by taking the few minutes to whip it up yourself.
Don’t worry. I haven’t chosen something complicated or time-consuming. We’re going with classic chocolate truffles. Sound boring? Not when you taste them. And here’s the best part: they only require four ingredients, unless you get crazy with the toppings. And you may want to, because it’s pretty fun. Chopped nuts offer a savory balance, or for a pop of color and unexpected flavor, try pink Himalayan sea salt or pomegranate seeds. With any luck, your amour will be as smitten as Rita Dove. Assuming you don’t eat them all yourself first.
1 pound dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of bourbon or liqueur (I used Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream liqueur)
Coatings: Chopped almonds or hazelnuts; cocoa powder; pomegranate seeds; pink sea salt
- Melt chocolate in top of a double boiler over simmering water.
- Gradually stir in cream.
- Gradually add bourbon, stirring gently to blend.
- Cover and chill overnight.
- Once chilled, shape the mixture into balls, and roll them in your chosen topping.
(adapted from Bounty of Biltmore Cookbook by Whitney Wheeler Pickering)