Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 9

It’s Week 9 of Food Blogger vs. Fat, and in this week’s update, I take my bike for a couple spins and eat a little too much at a wedding.

Successes

This was the week where I finally took my bicycle out for a spin.

Six miles of the SRT is complete heading north from Hamburg.

On Sunday afternoon, I met my brother in Hamburg for a ride on the Schulykill River Trail. A six-mile stretch of the SRT leads north from Hamburg, mostly paralleling Route 61 into Schuylkill County.

The 12-mile round-trip takes me about an hour. The grade is slight – uphill heading out and downhill coming back (a lot better than trying to do it the other way around).

This historic bridge now carries riders and walkers along the Schuylkill River Trail.

Less than a half-mile into the ride, the trail crosses a historic trestle, carrying riders over the Reading and Northern rail line.

The trail and rail continue along the same route through Port Clinton, where the railroad’s passenger cars sit idle at the station.

At one time, this bridge led railroad tracks over the railroad tracks.

Shortly beyond Port Clinton, the trail slips out of Berks and into Schuylkill County for the rest of the ride.

After six miles, the trail comes to a sudden stop. A pair of picinic benches and a chain link fence mark the northern-most point of the trail.

I don’t think I’ll be crossing this bridge anytime soon.

On the other side of the fence, a long-abandoned railroad bridge lays in disrepair. It stands as a reminder, both of the trail’s railroad heritage and of the signficant work that still remains to make the completed Schuylkill River Trail a reality.

I had a second opportunity to bring the bike out on Friday afternoon.

The Tulpehocken Creek was flowing well on Friday afternoon.

After closing the office early, I had a few hours to myself before Julie arrived home so I decided to go for a quick ride along the Union Canal Trail.

Starting off at the Berks Leisure Area (the small picnic area near the Country Meadows retirement community and the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead), it’s a roughly 7.5-mile round-trip to Reber’s Bridge and back.

Not bad for an unexpected afternoon ride.

I averaged 12 miles per hour along the ride – a steady five-minute mile pace, though it was much faster on the downhill return trip.

As far as calories, the two rides were worth 489 and 326, respectively, setting me in excellent shape for the week.

The Challenges

As mentioned in last week’s blog, Saturday was spent attending a wedding. Weddings are hit-and-miss on the food. This one was a hit.

The buffet – always dangerous – included chicken francaise, eggplant rollatini, penne pasta and several more entree options. There was also a desert buffet, and of course, wedding cake.

Portion control is very difficult at wedding buffets, but I think I managed.

Based on my calculations, I ate about 1,100 calories. It was one of my heaviest meals since beginning my diet.

But it was all worth it. Especially for the eggplant rollatini, an amazing vegetarian friendly dish of fried eggplant stuffed with ricotta.

After that, the week went according to plan and I have been under my calorie count ever since.

The Results

Current Weight: 175.0
Weekly Weight Loss: -2.0
Weight Loss Since Start: 14.4

It was a fantastic result, and one that I needed going into this week.

The Week Ahead

This is the craziest week of my year. Memorial Day and picnicking is just the start. Tuesday is my birthday, and I am going to celebrate the only way I know how: with a trip to Shady Maple.

If that weren’t enough, I have Fightins tickets for Wednesday night. And Thursday night, I leave for my twice-a-year trip to Dover International Speedway for NASCAR weekend.

That means three days of walking but also three days of eating less-than-healthy. This week’s weigh-in will have to wait until Monday. That’s when we’ll see how much damage was done.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Zhuang’s Garden

If you drive through West Lawn regularly, you may have noticed the recent facelift for Zhuang’s Garden.

The restaurant along Penn Avenue has a brand new entrance and new signage above the door. It’s a more inviting look, one that looked inviting enough to go for dinner.

I had never been to Zhuang’s Garden. The first thing I noticed was that there was much more parking than I had expected along the side of the building. And upon arriving for an early dinner (just after 5 p.m.) I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of those spaces were taken.

We were seated right away in a four-person booth. Those booths made up most of the seating in the restaurant. The building looks narrow from the outside, but there is plenty of seating, mostly booths with a few tables.

The meal started with an unexpected appetizer of fried noodles and duck sauce.

I say unexpected because none of the other Asian restaurants we have visited on Berks County Eats has offered them to us.

And it was a pleasant surprise. We both love the addicting fried bites but never order them. It was certainly nice to have something to munch on until the food arrived.

Julie had her mind set before we arrived that she was going to have egg drop soup. It arrived in short order.

I have never been an egg drop soup fan, but it’s something that Julie has always liked. And she was a fan of this one – brothy with plenty of egg drops.

I skipped the appetizers and prepared myself for my main entree: banana chicken.

The banana chicken is one of the best Asian dishes that I have tried anywhere. The chicken was fried like a sweet-and-sour chicken would be. It was tossed with bananas, bell peppers, water chestnuts, snow peas and bamboo shoots in what was described on the menu as a “delicious brown sauce.”

I don’t know what constitutes brown sauce, but it was delicious. One thing the sauce did pick up was the flavor of the bananas. Every bite had that distinct sweetness. And unlike a standard orange chicken that is all glaze, this was true flavor.

I have zero complaints about the dish, but I have to say that it was such a complete dish that I mostly forgot about the cup of rice that was served on the side. And though I do enjoy rice with my stir-fry meals, I didn’t miss it at all.

Julie’s meal was more traditional – shrimp lo mein.

That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. It was. The lo mein noodles were cooked well and there were plenty of shrimp pieces to create a hearty dish.

It was too hearty to finish in one meal. About half of it came home with us for later.

Zhuang’s Garden was also a great value. With a $25 price tag, we both felt like we had more than our money’s worth.

It was a very good meal with great food and quick service.

And all it took to get me through the door was a little remodeling.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Very Reasonable

Zhuang’s Garden
2834 Penn Ave
West Lawn, PA 19609

Zhuang's Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 8

Seven weeks and 11 pounds are behind me as we reach the eighth installment of Food Blogger vs. Fat, my journey to better health through better eating and exercise. Here’s a look at the week that was May 13 – 19.

Successes

Recently, I wrote about Graze and how healthy snacking has helped me achieve my goals.

This week, I want to talk about another subscription service that has helped both Julie and me: Home Chef.

Home Chef is meal-in-a-box delivery service similar to the more popular Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. As a subscriber, we choose our menus for the week, and on Wednesday, a box arrives with the ingredients for three full meals, including meats, sides and garnish.

We had experimented with all three aforementioned delivery services in the past and found Home Chef to have the best food – more inspired dishes that were closer to restaurant quality.

Each meal comes with a recipe card that includes illustrated instructions and nutritional information. But most importantly for me, they’re perfectly portioned for two. There’s no waste and no temptation to overindulge.

Last week’s menu was a reminder of why we love the service so much.

Our first meal was veggie sloppy Joes with sweet potato rounds. In place of ground beef, the sloppy Joe was made with button mushrooms (Georgio brand) that were mixed with shallots, walnuts, taco seasoning, crushed tomatoes, ketchup and honey.

It was served between two slices of Texas Toast and it was amazing, one of the best vegetarian meals that I have eaten at home or elsewhere. The sweet potatoes on the side were the perfect compliment. Best of all, it filled me up just as much as a “real” sloppy Joe.

Thursday night was our first repeat meal with Home Chef: chicken with basil-pecorino cream sauce and roasted vegetables.

A note on our menu card from the first time simply reads, “excellent!” And it is.

The cream sauce is incredible – a mix of heavy cream, pecorino cheese, basil pesto and butter. It serves as the bed for the chicken, which is already coated in pecorino and pesto. It’s sweet, rich and creamy, and pairs perfectly with the chicken. Of course, I sop up whatever is left with the red potato and bell pepper.

The final component of last week’s box was steak Wellington with roasted carrots and mushroom demi-glace.

Georgio mushrooms were again featured, both in the sauce and in the pastry wrap with the steak. The carrots were well-seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme. And the demi-glace was delicious, giving a salty-sweet flavor to the steak.

As far as calorie-counting, it was three meals and three victories. The meals clocked in at 652, 830 and 800 total calories, respectively. Each one fit perfectly into my daily goal of 2000 calories.

The Challenges

Monday was the rough day. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, it was the day of the Montco Golf Classic, an event produced by my office that included lunch, dinner and on-course snacks.

I came in 427 calories over my daily budget (I would have been fine if I hadn’t indulged in the rigatoni sample from Maggiano’s or the vanilla soft serve at the end of the day).

The rest of the week was routine. With me hitting my budget every day, I was able to make up for my Monday and finish the week within 17 calories of my budgeted allowance.

The Results

This Week’s Weight: 177.0
Weekly Weight Loss: -1.0
Total: Weight Loss: -12.4

The plan worked exactly as it was supposed to. I had calories budgeted to lose one pound. I made it through the week on budget, and I lost one pound. I couldn’t have asked for a better week.

The Week Ahead

As always, I’m writing this on Saturday so by the time you read this, most of these things will have already happened.

This evening is the wedding of my college roommate and his best friend. Julie and I will be celebrating the wedding of Brian Ziller and Gina Biagiotti with our friends and trying to not overindulge on wedding cake.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I have a bike ride scheduled with my brother – 12 miles, here goes nothing – to hopefully offset any damage done at the wedding.

Other than the persistent rain that has marked this month, it’s a normal week and shouldn’t present too many challenges.

That means  a week of no excuses.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Cheers American Bistro

There are many great reasons to visit downtown Reading, but none are as high profile as the 18-month old DoubleTree Hotel.

The DoubleTree is a big deal. The hotel brings meetings, conventions and visitors that would otherwise be staying outside the city. And it also brought a highly regarded restaurant.

I have eaten in a lot of hotel restaurants, very few of them offering anything remarkable, but Cheers American Bistro gets high marks across all of the major review sites (4.5 stars out of 5 on both Yelp and TripAdvisor).

While I have wanted to go in for dinner, my first opportunity to try Cheers was a Sunday brunch with Julie and 10 members of our church congregation.

Because of our large numbers, we were seated in the Boscov Executive Board Room, a private space normally reserved for small meetings.

It was a different experience from the dining room – private and quiet with desk chairs around a boardroom table.

The brunch buffet was on the other side of two small sets of stairs. On my two trips to the buffet, I peeked into the dining room – lots of tables for two, a combination of booths and tables (and some seats that were a mix of both). If not for our large numbers, we wouldn’t have needed reservations as there were plenty of seats available.

The buffet was fairly standard. It was dominated by breakfast foods, the lone exception was the tray of meatballs in marinara sauce. After surveying the landscape, I went to the made-to-order omelet station.

Mine was stuffed with onions, red bell peppers, spinach, tomato and cheese. On the side, I had a dollop of fresh made tomatillo salsa (the three salsas were labeled – hot, hot and very hot).

The omelet was very good. The ingredients were fresh and vibrant. But the hot salsa made it memorable. It had heat but also a great flavor that accentuated the vegetables instead of hiding them.

On my second trip, I loaded up on breakfast buffet staples: French toast, home fries and a biscuit with cream chipped beef.

The French toast was just a small piece, but it was rich and tasty, if a little crispy from sitting in the warming dish. The home fries were well-seasoned and enjoyable.

But the most remarkable item on the plate was the cream chipped beef. It was very rich with a buttery note. On the buffet, it seemed runny, but it thickened up nicely atop the biscuit and I found myself really enjoying it. The biscuit, like the French toast, had been on the hot bar for a little while, but it wasn’t bad.

If I have one regret, it’s that I did not have room to indulge in any of the dessert pastries. The strudel bites, cinnamon rolls, Danishes, muffins and assorted breads all looked delicious.

Overall, everyone was very happy with the experience and food at Cheers. It wasn’t the variety that Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery offers, but it was enough to please everyone at the table.

And the $14 per person price tag was in line with what I would expect to pay for a good breakfast buffet. (And you don’t have to pay to park because the restaurant will validate the parking for you, as long as you use the DoubleTree’s lot).

The DoubleTree Hotel will continue to bring thousands of people to downtown Reading year after year. Those people will come to stay, to explore and to eat.

And it will bring me back to try dinner.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Cheers American Bistro
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
701 Penn Street
Reading, PA 19601

Cheers American Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brunch Buffets Finer Dining Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 7

It’s Week 7 in my journey to better health. Following up an exciting mini-vacation, things return to normal for me and my diet. What did that mean for my weight loss?

The Successes

For blog purposes, it was a short week (my last weigh-in was Monday and I’m writing this on Saturday). I had a couple opportunities for walks, including one evening walk with Julie and a few quick lunch break walks at work.

My office, and the start of my midday walking loop.

At my office, there is actually a walking loop marked in the parking lot and along the access roads.

It’s not a trail, just a series of signs that mark each .1 mile around the building. Most of the walk is through the parking lots, but for an office park in King of Prussia, the scenery isn’t bad.

Not bad scenery for King of Prussia.

The delivery road that goes behind the building follows a (usually) dry creek bed. It’s one of a few green spots in KOP that hasn’t been touched by development.

My usual walk takes me along the entire .8 mile loop. Some days I have to do a quicker loop and cut it down to 10 minutes. Other days, I can take my time and make a few laps. My lunch break record is two miles.

Mile Marker .5

In addition to the walks, I spent my Tuesday evening mowing the grass. According to my Lose It app, my 1:15 spent mowing burned more than 400 calories.

As much as I hate mowing, I love being able to eat a little bit more on mowing days.

The Challenges

My biggest challenge came Thursday night while attending the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 awards at the Sugar House Casino (congratulations again to my boss, Ed Harris, for making this year’s list!).

The food at events like this are hit or miss. This was a miss.

For entrees, selection was limited to vegetable pasta, seafood pasta, a carving station and some cheese and crackers.

I hate seafood and I am not a fan of rare meat from carving stations so I settled on the vegetable pasta. My coworker Taylor rated it a 0 out of 5. I’ll be generous and give it a 1 out of 5, only because it stayed down.

The water at Sugarhouse Casino was the best part of the meal, and it came all the way from Muhlenberg Township.

So what happens when dinner is no good? You load up on dessert.

The dessert bar was much more appetizing than hot food. The chocolate mousse cake looked exceptional and I couldn’t pass on the miniature crème brûlée.

Believe me, it looks better than it tastes.

Dessert had essentially become dinner. While both looked better than they actually tasted (the cake was dry, the crème brûlée was runny), they still tasted better than dinner, but with way more calories.

The Results

Current Weight: 178.0
Weekly Weight Loss: -1.1
Total Weight Loss:  -11.4

Another week, another pound. My weight loss was right in line where it should be based on my net calories on the Lose It app.

The Week Ahead

It should be a fairly routine week ahead. The only major hiccup could come on Monday. That’s when the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (my day job) hosts its annual Montco Golf Classic.

I won’t be playing in the event. Instead, I will be greeting groups on the course, stationed at one of the tees all day. Unfortunately, that tee will also have food samples from Maggiano’s Little Italy. Last year it was meatballs and chocolate truffles. Four hours on a golf course with Maggiano’s an arm’s length away? It’s going to take a lot of will power to get me through the day.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Snuzzles

Every time that I think I have seen all of Berks County, this blog takes me somewhere new.

One place that I had never thrown into my GPS before this week is Mertztown. It’s a small “census-designated place” in eastern Berks County near Topton, almost at the Lehigh County border.

And I would never have a reason to go if not for one restaurant: Snuzzles.

Snuzzles’ address is Mertztown, but it’s much closer to Lyons, Bowers and Dryville. If you have no idea where those places are, just throw it in the GPS like I did.

I knew we had arrived when I saw the crowded parking lot along Lyons Road. There is no sign because, as the website says, “if you’re here, this was your destination, its not like you were driving by.”

Valid point.

The dining room is one of the largest in Berks County. There are dozens of tables and booths spread out on the tile floor. Oh, and there’s a second level with even more seating.

And there was still a wait for a table when we arrived. We were lucky though, grabbing the only table for two that was left, jumping the line of parties of three, four or more that were sitting in the waiting area.

The decor is minimalistic, leaving customers to admire the wooden tables, wooden booths and wood paneled walls.

It’s a stark contrast to the colorful menu – a veritable rainbow of fonts and clip art that is both enduring and cheesy.

Cheesy isn’t a bad way to go for a restaurant that specializes in pizza, Stromboli and sandwiches.

And that’s really the entirety of the menu, but it doesn’t begin to describe it. There are croissant sandwiches (including shrimp salad, a creation I have not come across before). Stromboli stuffings include the South of the Border with refried beans, salsa and cheddar. Oh, and there’s a clams casino pizza.

We went for a Stromboli and an order of fries (as an appetizer).

The fries are thick, steak-cut fries. And for fifty cents, you can add a dipping sauce. That’s good because the fries aren’t much on their own. Really, they don’t taste much different than the Ore-Ida steak fries you would find in the freezer section.

Julie was extremely glad to have her cheese sauce for dipping.

We were also very glad to have ordered the fries as an appetizer because dinner took a long time to arrive. We had been seated at about 6 p.m. Our Stromboli arrived around 7. (It seemed to only be Strombolis that were taking so long as sandwiches were brought to other tables much faster).

I don’t know if this is a normal wait time, but on this busy Saturday evening, an appetizer was necessary.

That said, the Stromboli was worth the wait. We went with the chick-otta: chicken, mozzarella, provolone, tomato sauce and ricotta with an extra sauce for dipping.

First, it’s huge. I’ve never seen a Stromboli so puffed in the center. It was hard to cut into because it was so hot from the oven, but once we got in, the cheese just started oozing out.

What really brings it all together is Snuzzles’ super pizza sauce (their name, not mine). It’s sweet with a bright herby flavor that brings out the best in the remaining ingredients. The chicken, especially, came to life with a bath in the red sauce.

Half of it came home with us. For curiosity’s sake, I weighed the bag with the Stromboli half and extra sauce inside: two pounds of food still remained.

And we only paid $25 for everything. That’s $25 cash because Snuzzles does not accept credit cards. Judging by the crowd during our visit, they clearly don’t have to.

Snuzzles is what you would call destination dining. Because if you’re going to the Mertztown area, you are probably going to Snuzzles.

A lot of people are already going there. And now I understand why.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Good
Price: Very Reasonable

Snuzzles
145 Lyons Road
Mertztown, PA 19539

Snuzzle's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 6

Evening walks, health-conscious snacking and a weekend getaway to Alexandria, Va. That’s the story of Week 6 of Food Blogger vs. Fat.

The Successes

Most weeks I start off by talking about all the great exercising that I did during the past week. But this time, I want to talk about all the snacks that I’ve been eating.

One of the best decisions that I have made this year was to start a subscription to Graze.

My last Graze box arrived on May 1 and everything from popcorn to miso soup.

Every two weeks, I get a care package in the mail with eight assorted, well-portioned snacks. They range from single servings of popcorn to assorted nuts to sweets to mixes of all of the above.

The Cinnamon Pretzel mix included poppyseed pretzels and cinnamon honey almonds – and just 120 calories.

My favorites are the kern pops – half-popped popcorn that defies explanation – and the themed nut and fruit mixes. I eat one snack every day at 10 a.m. and it helps get me through until 1 p.m. when I take my lunch.

Another favorite – the chocolate pretzel dippers – are a sweet and salty snack with just 140 calories.

I would recommend anyone who likes to snack (and who doesn’t) and needs help with portion control. It’s $11.99 for my box of eight snacks, that includes shipping and handling. I’m not getting paid to write this, but like anyone else who has a Graze subscription, I can earn a free box with a referral. So if you do sign up, use code “ZACHB769P” and help a blogger out.

Now for the exercise: I recorded 5.2 miles of walking between Tuesday and Thursday. Then Julie and I went off to our weekend getaway in Alexandria, Va.

Alexandria, Virginia, is a gorgeous city with historic architecture.

Alexandria is a beautiful, historic suburb of Washington, D.C. located along the Potomac River. It’s a town filled with colonial architecture with a walkable downtown and beautiful riverfront parks.

Captain’s Row is one of two cobblestone streets still in use in Alexandria.

It’s also just a short drive – or in our case, boat ride – from George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

A day trip to Mount Vernon was a highlight of our weekend.

We took a riverboat to the historic estate on Saturday during Mount Vernon’s annual Revolutionary War weekend.

General Washington addressing his troops.

It included a historic encampment of more than 100 men and women, a battle reenactment (not based on any actual battle), presentations on Colonial life and, of course, an appearance by General George Washington.

The Battle of Mount Vernon – OK that’s not real, but this reenactment was still a sight to see.

I did not have my tracker on to count the miles that we walked over the course of the weekend, but I did track the time. Between Friday and Sunday, we spent 7.5 hours walking. Walking from store to store. Walking around the encampment. Walking to and from our hotel. Just walking.

The Challenges

We also spent a lot of time walking to restaurants. Alexandria, like all great downtowns, is loaded with amazing restaurants and sweet shops.

One of our first stops on Friday was to Alexandria Cupcake for an afternoon snack. The cupcakes were phenomenal.

These cupcakes from Alexandria Cupcake look innocent enough, but they are sinful.

I had the vanilla bean and chocolate – a vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing and a raspberry on top. It was nearly perfect. The icing was so rich and so chocolatey. And it was such a simple thing, but the raspberry was a brilliant touch.

Our dinners weren’t any lighter. On Friday, I followed up my rich treat with an even richer dinner at Virtue Feed & Grain.

Virtue Feed & Grain is a modern gastropub in a historic city.

It was a modern gastropub in the historic waterfront with an eclectic menu that included my duck meatloaf with tomato marmalade, vanilla sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Duck meatloaf with Brussels sprouts and vanilla sweet potatoes. I need this on a Berks County menu yesterday.

I absolutely loved the meatloaf. The tomato marmalade on top gave it that perfect balance of sweet and savory. And duck is always flavorful, a darker meat than chicken or turkey with the right amount of fat to work in a meatloaf.

On Saturday, we visited RedRocks Old Town, a craft pizza restaurant in the style of Nonno Alby’s or Rocco’s here in Berks County.

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing…yes I can.

It would have been a good idea to share my spicy chorizo pizza with Julie (or my friend Josh, a resident of nearby Arlington, Va., who joined us for dinner). But I didn’t. I had just spent the day trudging through the rain at Mount Vernon. So I ate the whole thing.

The Results

My normal weigh-in day is Saturday. Obviously, I wasn’t at my scale Saturday morning so instead, I weighed in on Friday morning before I left and again on Monday morning, after the weekend away. Here’s the average of the two:

Current Weight: 179.1
Weekly Weight Loss: -0.5 lbs.
Weight Loss Since Start: -10.3

There was a full one-pound swing between the two weigh-ins, but I’ll consider it a success. And I fully expect to normalize my weight loss at my next weigh-in on Saturday.

The Week Ahead

It’s a routine week for me, hopefully filled with evening and lunchtime walks, less dining out (minus a the weekly blog post, of course) and much-improved weather.

I’m looking forward to it.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Nirvana Indian Bistro

I have a general rule of thumb about visiting new restaurants: wait at least two months for your first visit.

On more than one occasion, I have paid a visit too soon – when the service couldn’t match the demand – and left with a bad taste in my mouth (figuratively speaking).

It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, and I’m glad it’s not. Otherwise, I’d still be waiting another six weeks to visit the new Nirvana Indian Bistro.

Nirvana opened two weeks ago in the Wal-Mart shopping center in Wyomissing. It’s the restaurant’s second location (the original is in Lafayette Hill, Montgomery County).

What was formerly East Wok, a Chinese take-out restaurant, has been completely renovated into a sit-down dining room. At lunch, guests can help themselves to a full Indian buffet.

The dining room had a decent crowd, but it wasn’t full during our visit last week. I hadn’t seen any advertising around the restaurant (I stumbled upon it while browsing Delivery Dudes) but we clearly weren’t the only people who knew about it.

We were seated at a booth on the left side of the dining room. The right side is filled with tables for four with an additional row of seats down the middle of the room.

My big caution about going to a new restaurant is the service, but Nirvana was already on top of their game, at least on our visit. There was plenty of wait staff, all of them attentive, and we had our appetizer of samosas in a timely fashion.

Samosas, for the uninitiated, are fried pastries filled with potatoes and vegetables. These were served with a variety of chutneys – onion, mint and tamarind.

The samosas were fine on their own, but really came alive with chutney. The tamarind looks like a soy sauce or a very dark barbecue sauce and has a sweet flavor. The mint is bright and refreshing. But my favorite is the onion.

It has a bright red color, a very mild spice and hints of sweet. I tried all three, but kept coming back to the onion chutney with my samosa.

The main event arrived shortly after our empty appetizer plates were cleared. My choice for dinner was the chicken vindaloo (though I chickened out when offered the choice of mild or hot).

I was glad that I did because the mild was still kicking, but it was pleasant. The vindaloo was reddish brown with chunks of chicken and potatoes throughout. The potatoes really soaked up the sauce, turning a shade of red themselves.

The communal pot of rice was plenty for Julie and I to share with our dinners. It made a great bed for my vindaloo and also helped tone down the spice, which seemed to build with every bite.

Normally, Julie is a chicken tikka masala kind of girl. But she expanded her horizons (a little) by ordering the chicken kabobs.

The chicken was not served on skewers but was instead served with onions and peppers on a sizzling skillet as you would expect for fajitas with sauce on the side.

The sauce was what made the dish. It was a creamy sauce, not hot at all, but with a nice mix of herbs and spices that brought the chicken to life. And she brought home quite a bit of the chicken, unable to finish it at dinner.

Julie washed her meal down with a mango lassi, her favorite part about any meal at an Indian restaurant.

For our entrees, samosas, mango lassi and my iced tea (a can of Brisk with a glass of ice), our total was just under $40. It was a very good price for a lot of food.

Nirvana is located just a few blocks away from Laxmi’s Indian Grille, which we visited in a previous blog. Both were very impressive and I would be hard-pressed to choose between the two.

But there’s plenty of room for two, especially in the restaurant-rich suburbs where there are never enough tables to go around.

I was glad to have Laxmi’s. I’m glad to have Nirvana.

And I’m definitely glad that I didn’t wait.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Nirvana Indian Bistro
1137 Berkshire Blvd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Nirvana Indian Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 5

It’s Week 5 of Food Blogger vs. Fat, and my journey to better health continues. Here’s a look at the week that was.

The Successes

Last week, I was bemoaning the weather as I watched the raindrops fall outside, ruining my plans for a bike ride.

Instead, Julie convinced me that a walk around the Berkshire Mall was just as good.

The Pretzel City Rod & Custom Car Club was set up inside the Berkshire Mall when we went in to escape the rain.

Walking in, we stumbled upon the Pretzel City Rod & Custom Car Show. About two dozen hot rods and custom classics were on display throughout the mall.

A fine Firebird on display at the Berkshire Mall.

It certainly made the walk more interesting. And after a couple brief detours into stores – there are far fewer that we are interested in than when we were teenagers – we recorded 1.5 miles of walking.

Sunday was much better as we did a 3.5 mile walk through Wyomissing Park and beyond.

The entrance to the Pinewoods Trail at Wyomissing Park.

Wyomissing Park is one of our favorite walks and the Pinewoods Trail is a big part of that. There is nothing like the Pinewoods Trail anywhere else in Berks County.

It’s a whole different world inside the pines.

The trail winds through a grove of pines that outlines the park along its border with the Highlands. It’s a different world inside the pines – quiet, dark and eerily enchanting. It’s the perfect springboard for a lengthy walk.

The old mill along the Wyomissing Park walking path.

Thursday night was lawn mowing night and on Friday I squeezed in a walk at work and nine holes of disc golf in the evening.

The Challenges

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I recorded no exercise. It was my longest break from exercise since I started this healthy journey.

And on Wednesday and Thursday my caloric intake came in just over my limit. But Monday and Friday were well under my limit so my net was 500 calories under budget.

The Results

As I have gone through this journey, I have settled into a bizarre pattern of alternating weeks of great results and mediocrity. Last week was mediocre. This week was better.

Current Weight: 179.6
Weekly Weight Loss: -2.8
Weight Loss Since Start: -9.8

Back into the 170s! I’m not quite at 10 pounds lost since I began, but seeing that seven in the middle of my weight feels good.

I still can’t explain it, but the trend continues. Perhaps it’s just a case of timing. I’m sure I didn’t lose 2.8 pounds all in one week, but I did lose three pounds in two weeks, which is a good, consistent weight loss that leaves me nearly five weeks ahead of schedule.

The Week Ahead

It’s another crazy week for me this week, concluding with a weekend away in Alexandria, Va.

While at my conference in Tucson, I won a silent auction for a three-day, two-night getaway in Alexandria so we are making the trip before the sweltering summer hits the Washington, D.C. area.

But that means two things: 1) I can’t weigh in on Saturday as has become my custom – we’ll be leaving on Friday – and 2) I’ll be dining out for all three meals.

Hopefully I can make smart choices that keep on track and not lose the ground I have gained over these first five weeks.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat