October 2012 Archives

Schooled.

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I tell 'ya, I'm really digging Yelp. Aside from being jam-packed with tons of reviews for every type of business imaginable, they keep wowing me with some great events.

Case-in-point - we had another Yelp event last night, this time courtesy of Steepery Tea, which is located at 430 State Street in Madison.

The purveyors of fine, gourmet tea locked their doors and opened their store to a small group of about 12-15 Yelppers, where they literally schooled us about tea. From white tea (the most delicate and lowest in caffeine) to green tea (rich in EGCG and antioxidants) to oolong tea (the "tea lover's tea") to black tea (robust) to bubble tea (unique!) to chai - we were exposed to all of the ins-and-outs.

Did you know that teas and coffees deliver different types of caffeine? Coffee delivers water-soluble caffeine that results in a quick, intense, short burst of caffeine. It'll get you going, but it'll ramp down fast. Tea's caffeine is fat-soluble, so it's a slower, more consistent caffeine experience. Tea also delivers an average of just 5-20% of the caffeine that coffee does.

It was extremely interesting, because the tea mongers shared with us the proper methods for brewing the perfect cup of tea. White teas, being younger and more delicate, should be brewed at a lower temperature and steeped for a short amount of time - just 3 minutes. Compare that to a black tea, which brews at a higher temperature and steeps for 5-6 minutes. Steep any tea for too long, and you'll get a bitter cup, no matter how high in quality the tea leaves may be.

Steepery is a family business that started in the Twin Cities. They've since expanded to five stores in Minnesota; the Madison store is their first outside of Minnesota. The Madison location is run by Nick and his mother, Diana. Both were fantastically nice; the rest of the staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating as well.

Huge thanks to the Yelp staff for putting together this event, and even bigger thanks to the awesome crew from Steepery. If you enjoy a quality cup of tea (or better yet, if you've never had a great cup of tea), swing on over to Steepery and check them out. The stuff was really smooth, really flavorful, and will definitely be worth your time and expense.

My favorites? Hmmm.... The Taro Chai was unique and super tasty - like an oatmeal cookie - but I'd probably only want to drink a very small cup, and I'd probably treat it like a dessert. The bubble teas were shockingly unique and tasty, although a bit sweet, with their tapioca "bubbles."

In the end, I really enjoyed the oolong varieties along with the Fiji White tea. Yep, I'd say those were my favorites.

Here are a few photos from the event. I didn't take too many because I was so busy learning and enjoying my time there.

The wall of raw tea leaves, in their air-tight, UV-proof containers:

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A bubble tea, with tri-colored jellies. Super tasty, but a bit sweet & check out that straw:

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Mitch, one of the tea mongers, talks to us about herbal & oolong teas. Mini-cupcakes were compliments of Cupcakes-a-go-go:

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Steepery can seal-up your to-go glass so that it won't spill; the cellophane prevents splashes, but will easily open-up when punctured with a straw:

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By the end of the event, I had learned a ton more about the world of tea, and was extremely appreciative of the fine crew of folks working at Steepery. Yelp - another job well done! I can't wait for the next event.

Until then...

A few months back, I crowned a new champion in the fish fry ranks. Back in June, Buck and Honey's in Sun Prairie wowed us with their superb offerings of pan fried walleye and deep fried cod. Fast forward four months and two more visits, and Buck and Honey's is still sitting atop the fish fry fight club - the number one spot is firmly cemented.

Not much has changed from the first visit - expect a long wait, and don't expect to find a seat in the gorgeous bar area... those seats fill-up fast. Despite the lack of adequate seating, the bar tenders are attentive and responsive; even when the bar is backed-up 3-deep, you'll never wait more than a few minutes for a beverage.

Our visits of 10/12 and 10/19 both carried a wait of more than an hour. Once seated, service was excellent - the servers refreshed our drinks, delivered appetizers and food at the perfect intervals, followed-up, and took very good care of us.

The meal won't be cheap... on the 10/19 visit, I bought two appetizers, an entree of lake perch, a slice of pumpkin cheese cake (house made, by the way), and four beverages. The total, pre-tip was $76. But, if it's truly stellar fish you seek, search no further - this is the place to go.

Buck & Honey's = WIN
Food = 4.25 stars
Service = 4.25 stars
Value = 3 stars
MISC = 4 stars

This is still one of the best fish frys you'll find in the area, so if it's a delicious pescatarian meal you desire, give Buck & Honey's a try.

Here are a few pictures from the past two visits.

Deep fried cod with cheesy potatoes, coleslaw and a roll:

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Pan fried tilapia with lemon butter and capers sauce, with bacon wrapped shrimp, cheesy potatoes, and sauteed mushrooms and onions:

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I have the power!

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Well friends, I finally have it - power. Watts, and watts of power! {evil laugh} mwuahahaha, mwuahahaha!!

No, you didn't misread that. And, no, I didn't pick-up Elmer Fudd's accent.

I did, however, pick-up a Saris Cycleops PowerTap SL+ 2.4 wireless power hub for my bike. I've been lusting after one of these for a number of years and finally fell into an unbelievable opportunity to purchase one.

The extremely fine folks from Cronometro made me a deal on a PowerTap that I just couldn't refuse. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but given that I've been after one of these for nearly three years, I guess I can justify the expenditure.

I can also justify it by using it as motivation to get my big 'ole behind off the couch. You're all familiar with my love/hate relationship with diet and fitness. Well, over the past three months, I have run exactly 0.00 miles. That's right - not a single mile has passed by way of running... And man, does it suck trying to restart a fitness program, so I'll say it again - if you're currently active, don't ever quit.

I managed to completely burn myself out on exercise. I could see it coming, starting sometime in the fall of last year. I went from averaging 32-34 miles of running per week down to 15-18 miles. I went from running 6 days per week to just two-or-three times per week.

My bike riding schedule slid as well - I went from riding 100-120 miles a weekend to at best, 40. I rarely rode during the winter months; the idea of hitting the trainer was unbearable. I found every excuse imaginable to avoid expending energy or burning some calories.

I tried mixing-up my routine, and that helped a bit, but the burn-out was still inevitable. According to my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch, I have logged 4,536 miles of running since February of 2008. That's more than the length of the United States.

So, I quit. I said, "who cares?!" I put all of my running gear into a storage container, threw it in the closet and figured I'd ride my bike every so often, and just enjoy myself.

Fast forward three months to September 14...

My Garmin watch shows that I've managed to ride my bike(s) a total of 644.7 miles since June 21. My Tanita scale shows that I've packed on a solid 28-pounds, and have increased my bodyfat by an alarming 8.1%. Wow. My pants are tight. My shirts are tight. My body hurts.

Maybe being lazy isn't so grand.

The thought of getting back out to run was just overwhelming. Try throwing a bag of cat litter on your back and going for a run. That's how I felt.

But, I had to do something. So, while out walking on Williamson Street with my friend Nat (he was in town from Dubuque), we wandered-in to Cronometro and saw they had a massive moving sale. I spied a demo wheel - a gorgeous Velocity-rimmed beaut, fitted to a PowerTap SL+.

I inquired, haggled, haggled some more, and left the store with the wheel in my hand. I also got them to include a cassette (the gears), tires, and tubes. I raced Nat back to my house and installed the wheel on my bike. I eagerly took it for a quick spin, and - wait, what's this? Where were the power readings?

A PowerTap works by measuring several data points as you ride. It measures your power output in watts, your speed, the revolutions per minute for your wheel, and with the correct sensor(s), it will also measure your cadence (pedaling rate) and heartrate. With that data, it can tell you a slew of things. And it does all of this wirelessly - ain't technology cool?!

Unfortunately for me, my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch, while super dependable and awesome, was just too long in the tooth to recognize all of this new-fangled gadgetry. While the hub was transmitting data, my watch couldn't do anything with it - it lacked the proper antenna and processing capabilities to display the data from the PowerTap hub. Sigh.

It was time to upgrade my watch. I did some more research, and $450 later, I had a new Garmin - the Forerunner 910XT.

What a drastic improvement! Aside from being ANT+ compatible (the technology for gathering and reporting data from the PowerTap), it was smaller, lighter, had a better display, better mapping, more accurate heartrate data, and triple the battery life.

Like my old watch, the 910XT is capable of tracking multiple sports activities, including: bicycling, running, swimming, and "other" (skiing, snowshoeing, walking, etc). So, I'll be able to use it for nearly everything.

Here's a shot of my old Garmin 305 (left) next to the new Garmin 910XT (right):

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And here's a shot of the two watches on my wrist, side-by-side:

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It took me a solid evening of working on the new watch to get it set-up and calibrated to my preferences, but after I was finished, I was ready to go. The screen quality and layout options are so much better than the 305. I guess that's what you get with 4 years of advancement...

With the new watch all set to go, I went out for my (nearly) maiden voyage. I was curious to see what type of power I could generate during a normal ride. I threw the Cervelo into my car, drove to my favorite riding area, and got ready to go for a ride. Here's the PowerTap hub - it's the silver/black thing in the center of the wheel, just behind the gears:

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Here's a little better picture/view of it, as seen from the "top" of the wheel:

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I hopped-in the saddle and rode for an enjoyable (and educational) 30-odd miles. It was crazy to see the differences in power when standing versus sitting and pedaling, climbing hills, fighting the wind, and descending. It was neat to watch the information in real-time; now I know why all of the pro athletes have these things - it's incredibly beneficial data.

After 32.33 miles, I called it a ride and headed back to the car to review my averages.

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The only bit of data that is clearly suspect is the heart-rate. I was getting interference from static due to my wool t-shirt. I'm told this is fairly common with the newer heartrate strap... I clearly couldn't have had a maximum heartrate of 250+.

Other than that number, everything else looks great - I was especially shocked by the average power rating. 270-watts is pretty solid. According to what I could find via research, the average pro cyclist generates 300-watts while racing. Granted, that's over a 6+ hour span, so my 2-hour ride only represents 1/3 the overall effort...

So, I'm motivated. Or, at least I'm better motivated. I went for a short jog last night; boy was that difficult. I think I'll be doing some mixed walking-and-jogging for the next few weeks, or at least until I shake off all of the cobwebs.

It is truly shocking how quickly one can lose aerobic capacity. Just three months of downtime caused me to lose every single bit of running endurance I had built-up over 4 years. It's depressing.

So, let me be a lesson to you all - don't ever quit! Stay with it.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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