Hyppo Pops: The perfect summer treat

 

Blackberry goat cheese, cantaloupe black pepper, and chipotle peach are just a few of the unique and incredible flavors that appear on the long menu at The Hyppo gourmet ice pop shop. Since opening its doors in St. Augustine, Florida back in 2010, The Hyppo has expanded to nine shops across Florida in St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Gainesville, St. Petersburg, and Tampa. The Hyppo also has ‘pop peddlers’ that make appearances at events with ice pop carts and a few ice pop freezers in select stores.IMG_7218

A Hyppo pop makes the perfect treat for those hot 90 degree Florida summer days. The best part is the pops are 100 percent all natural containing only fresh non-GMO fruit, fruit juices, rBST free dairy, and fresh herbs and spices. The flavor combinations are unlike any other. Fear not – they still have traditional pop flavors for those less adventurous eaters. My personal pops preference on a hot summer day is the key lime hand-dipped in dark chocolate! I have never had a pop I didn’t find refreshing and delicious.

The Hyppo locations vary greatly in closing time so be sure to check their website for your nearest store’s closing hours. Also, be sure to ask for a reward stamp card at the checkout counter! Trust me, it won’t take you long to fill up that card for a special reward!

 

Sunspot Shines with New Menu

Located next to the University of Tennessee’s campus on Cumberland Avenue, also known by the local residents as “The Strip,” Sunspot restaurant offers a unique menu with healthy options that boast bold flavors. Recently, the restaurant went through a menu update that, like the previous menu, offers a variety of delicious options for all types of diets. The new menu offers more of a Caribbean and Latin American flare from start to finish with dishes like the mojo pork, adobo salmon, and sweet potato tofu empanadas. The famous mix and match Sunspot tacos stayed on the menu with a new options added like the pulled chicken tinga and fried avocado with queso fresco.

The dessert options also offer a unique take on traditional tropical flavors with dishes like raspberry tres leeches cake, coconut mango flan, and a chocolate chili brownie to finish off a flavorful meal.

If you haven’t been to the bright yellow restaurant, it offers a great outdoor seating area on the rooftop porch and a fun ‘Wine Wednesday’ half price bottle special. The new menu offers a delicious take on Caribbean and Latin American flavors that are perfect for a refreshing summer meal with friends or family while enjoying half price wine as the sun sets over the rooftop porch.

For more on Sunspots’ hours and menu options visit

Brunch and Broadway: A Weekend in Nashville

My list for restaurants to try in Nashville, Tenn. gets longer and longer every year. Luckily, the two hour drive makes it fairly easy to try out some delicious treats every so often. The hardest part? Deciding whether to try somewhere new or go back to an old favorite.

Recently, my girlfriend Callie and I decided to spend a weekend in Nashville to celebrate our upcoming birthdays. I bribed her with tickets to the hockey game, but it quickly became a food centered trip as soon as we parked in the city.

This trip I decided to try new places (with the exception of one) in an effort to make a dent in my long list of restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops that I had compiled from magazine articles, television shows, and research over the past few years. I had already tried famed restaurants such as Husk for dinner, so this trip I decided to take a brunch approach when planning our stops.

After reading about the brûléed latte at Steadfast Coffee, I knew this would be stop number one after our early morning arrival.dsc_0090

We drove straight to the Germantown district to try it out. Steadfast was beautiful and inviting with a grassy lawn outside for locals to gather and sip on. Placed next to a CrossFit gym, this coffee shop seemed like a local hidden gem where regulars were treated like family but always given exceptional service as if they were trying it for the first time. The shop, which offers specialty coffee beverages as well as adult beverages, had a walk-up bar concept where you ordered directly with the barista that would prepare your drink. You then pay for your drinks (as you eye the unique items in the pastry case) and sit to wait for your coffee to be brought to your table.img_1969

I ordered the brûléed latte made of charred milk, burnt orange, and rested espresso. The hints of orange brightened up the sweet milk and deep espresso tastefully, and the latte was a warm treat perfect for the gloomy morning. The overall feel of the shop transported me back to Portland, Ore. with the views of bright greenery outside and its clean, warm, and industrial styled decor inside (the gloomy day probably helped create that atmosphere too).

Callie and I sat for a few minutes enjoying the atmosphere then decided to take our drinks to go as we headed to our next stop: the Nashville Farmers’ Market.

Rain or shine, weekend or week day, the Nashville Farmers’ Market is a great place to stop anytime you venture to the city. The market features a traditional covered outdoor space where vendors set up tables of produce, fresh flowers, lines of colorful pumpkins in the fall, and  nursery space. There is also an indoor permanent market featuring small shops and wonderful food stands of all types and tastes.

We picked up two pumpkins and some ice cream at Jeni’s Ice Cream (disclaimer: this was not my first time at Jeni’s, but every time is like a first time since the flavor line up is always different – and amazing). We grabbed a late morning ice cream snack that included flavors like sweet potato eclair, sweet corn blackberry, and of course, chocolate. Jeni’s flavor line up never fails, and with around 20 flavors to choose from there is always something for the picky eater and the adventurous one.

We packed up our pumpkins and made our way to our brunch reservation at Le Sel.

Located adjacent to Vanderbilt University, Le Sel serves traditional French cuisine in a modern setting. The beautiful interiors like the marble raw bar, elegant pink furniture, and large wall displays rivaled artistic creations in any modern art museum.

img_2038

After the beautiful interiors left me in awe, I hoped that the food would have the same effect. The restaurant is known for their weekend brunch which includes punch bowls, savory or sweet treats, and light or heavy meal options for all of your brunching desires.

We began with the beignets with peach preserve and followed with our savory main course, which solved the dilemma of savory or sweet for brunch. Why choose one when you can have both? The beignets were sweet and petite, perfect for a starter. It is hard to mess up fried dough, so the special treat in this dish is the fresh peach preserve. The preserve was not too sweet and brought the punch of fresh flavorful peaches laced with a hint of cinnamon. It was delicious atop warm fried beignets.

For my main, I ordered the croque madame and my girlfriend ordered the cheeseburger. The best brunch I have ever had included a croque madame, so I had very high expectations for this meal. It came warm with a mornay cheese sauce that covered the brioche bread and a side of crispy fried potatoes. It was delicious topped with a perfectly fried egg, filled with savory ham, and doused with decadent cheese sauce. The perfect brunch meal that fills you for the day. Although it was hard to find room to eat the side of crisps potatoes, I managed to taste a few and they were just as delicious. My friend’s cheeseburger included patties atop a fresh bun, which was also sinfully good.

Later that evening we strolled Broadway and then headed to Bridgestone Arena to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Nashville Predators. In true sporting event fashion, we enjoyed a nice hot dog at the game.

We stayed the evening after the game in the city so that we could, of course, enjoy another brunch the next day. This adventure led us to the 12 South district on the edge of the city near Belmont University.

A slower side of Nashville that still exudes Southern hospitality and Nashville’s unique flare, 12 South is filled with locally owned farm to table restaurant and coffee shops. Locals stroll the neighborhoods on weekend mornings and wait in line to meet friends for brunch. The beautiful 75 degree weather made way for the perfect Sunday morning before our drive home.

I had seen several picture of Five Daughters Bakery, that recently opened its second location due to popularity, and knew I wanted to try it before I left. Although, I still had one more brunch spot in mind while I was in the city. The solution: donuts to go and brunch to stay.

We parked and made our way to Five Daughters to find ourselves in a line out the door of a small house-turned donut shop. The donuts come at a cost of four and a half dollars, but are combinations and donuts like you have never seen before. They pride themselves on their unique 100-layer donut concept that combines the unique fluffy layers of a perfect croissant with the delicious sweetness of a donut. Now, I have had several “cronuts” and none have been as good as the Five Daughters’ 100-layer donuts. Some of their donuts are injected with icing, topped with preserves, or even sprinkled with toppings. As an added bonus, they even offer paleo and gluten free options for those with dietary restrictions. I picked up three for the road including the chocolate coffee crunch, traditional vanilla bean (topped and injected with fresh vanilla icing), and the chocolate sea salt (also injected and topped with chocolate icing). The delicious donuts were a great take home souvenir that left me in a food coma for the following three days.

After grabbing 16 dollars worth of donuts for the road (it was a first time experience after months of Insta-drooling over donuts, I had to) we grabbed our final brunch at The Flipside.

A short walk across the street led us to The Flipside, a crisp white building with open walls that gave way to the beautiful fall breeze outside. We sat down in the vintage industrial style dining room to skim the menu.

The Flipside is best known for their thin pan-fried chicken which is what almost every menu item is centered around with various toppings. I opted for the ultra-Southern chicken and waffles while Callie enjoyed the  appropriately named “Brunch chicken.”

My chicken was perfectly seasoned and pan-fried to perfection. The waffles and syrup made a nice compliment to the savory and sweet dish. My friend’s meal was equally as good, covered with a fried egg, bacon, and cheese. The famous chicken did not disappoint and the open breeze dining area was the best way to end our weekend in Nashville.

The restaurants on this trip were all wonderful in their own unique way. If visiting Nashville, I would highly recommend a stop in 12 South on your way out to walk around and experience the hidden gem.

Until next time, Nashville… I already have several more spots on the list to try.

CycleBar: Not the Average Spin Class

Let me preface this article by saying I HATE running for my cardio. Somehow I survived three years of the cross country team, and now ask myself what I was ever thinking? Anyway, cardio is pretty hard to come by in my workout routine. A few years ago I went to one spin class to try out the new hip cardio workout everyone was going crazy over, and I hated that too. I have this rule in life though, never dismiss something until you have given it two chances.

Years later I find myself in the summer of 2016 trying to avoid the heat and my worst enemy, running. At the beginning of summer I decided to give spin class that second try before totally dissing it… Of course, I fell in love with it. If you have been to a spin class you did not enjoy I highly recommend you try a different instructor, every class is very different and you often find instructors you love and others you can pass on. The music, cool temperature, energetic teachers, and team work feeling hooked me and became my new cardio go-to. After taking classes at my local gym and sticking with it, I became curious as to what the newest upscale spin destination in Tampa may be like. I had heard of boutique spin locations in NYC, and that same concept spread to my city in the form of CycleBar.

I signed myself up for a Saturday 9:30am class with Lauren B. and prepared for the CycleBar experience. The typical local gym spin class is pretty simple, you walk in choose a bike and start peddling. The CycleBar spin experience is different before you even walk in the door. You have to sign up online and reserve the class best for your schedule, then select a seat so there is no guessing if the class will fill up before you get there. You then select if you need spin shoes (one of my favorite features of the CycleBar experience) and mark your size. Once you walk in the door you sign in on the iPads and grab your shoes. A locker area allows seats to change into your spin shoes, store your belongings in a locker, and grab a bottle with fresh water (that you can keep, woohoo). Some of these features are what create the top of the line experience, but none of them mean much if the class is not special too.

When you enter the spin room you can automatically tell that it will be different. The lights are low and the bikes are backlit, making you feel like you are about to be in for the ride of your life. The bikes are equipped with top of the line tracking devices that show your RPMs and gear selection, as well as other stats. They also come with a four pound bar weight for arm exercises.

Once going to my selected bike I clicked in and prepared for the 50 minute ride. The music playlist is selected by the instructor and also available to listen to on their website. The class I chose was filled with pop and house hits, some CB classes boast mashups and throwback themes to motivate your ride. Lauren, the cycle instructor, was well experienced and very friendly to everyone. She personally introduced herself before the class and knew the regulars by name, making the experience feel more like a weekly team ride than a random spin class. She was extremely energetic during the class and motivated every person to do their best and think about progress, not competition. Her motivation made the class feel like a fun experience, not a grueling exercise. The class consisted of sprints and climbs, and about 30 minutes in you pick up your weight and do some arms while maintaining a steady spin speed. This was something I had never experienced in a spin class, but I loved incorporating arms, which can often be forgotten about. Throughout the class Lauren turned the overhead monitors on to display the rankings for everyone in the class (this is optional, a choice when signing up online). Again, she stressed the importance of letting the rankings motivate you.

One of my favorite features of the experience was that they emailed me my personal results at the end of the class, that way I can track my progress for the day and over time. Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 5.57.23 PMCycleStats are sent to you after each class so you can track your progress. My only dislikes about the experience were that I rode less than half the amount of miles as I usually do, and I did not burn as many calories as normal. However, I blame that on the fact that this was my first class in a very different setting and with a different teaching style. Trust me, I still got one heck of a work out and am returning for my second class this week!

So, my final review: CycleBar is a great place for a spin class and is an experience like no other. You cannot find this at your local gym, and the statistics tracking and upscale details will keep you motivated and coming back for more. This is the place for you if you are looking for the top of the line experience with upscale amenities. You can find all of their information on their website: https://southtampa.cyclebar.com. A free 30 minute introductory class is offered Saturday mornings for first time riders. Classes are cheaper in bulk quantities and offered various times every day for any skill level. Make sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page for promotions and free class deals! Maybe I’ll see you in the next class…

Special thanks to Alie and CycleBar instructor Lauren for sponsoring this post with my free ride.