Sunday, 19 May 2019

Restaurant review: Vanderlyle

There is a lot going on in the Mill Road area of Cambridge right now. So much so that we were distracted by all the places to eat to notice we'd walked right past Vanderlyle, where we were actually meant to be going. We quickly doubled back and hoped no one noticed we had walked by two minutes earlier.

I'll be upfront about this post: this isn't going to be a full review. There is so much information that I would have noted somewhere if I was going to write this up properly, which means I can't tell you which farm the vegetables came from or the variety of asparagus we ate, or the names of everyone we talked to last night (they were all very lovely, by the way.) What I wanted to do was write down everything that I thought made this place so incredibly special, and a tweet or an Instagram post just wouldn't suffice.

I booked a table at the pass, which would be called the "chef's table" and cost a lot more at London restaurants (it didn't) and I thought might involve a tight squish next to two strangers and awkward small talk until the wine kicked in (it didn't.) What I hoped for was the chance to see how a kitchen runs during service, how food is prepared by people who really know and love what they're doing, and to ask all sorts of banal questions. I got this and so much more. I'm not exaggerating, we asked things like "Where are your extractor fans?" This is the stuff I need to know. I also looked forward to catching up with Alex Rushmer, owner and one of our chefs for the evening. Chefs are normally hidden away in a kitchen and my questions go unanswered or forgotten by the time someone comes back to the table. To be served by our chefs and to be able to talk about the food and many other things with them was, very simply put, a real treat.

Alex Rushmer plating up at the pass
It's a set menu that changes monthly, and if you're like me (I will eat anything, anywhere), this is perfect. It takes away the agony of deciding between ten things that look amazing on the menu, then watching ruefully as something that looks nicer passes by to another table. This is the second menu since Vanderlyle opened last month and both times, the menu has been entirely vegetarian. This wasn't necessarily intentional, Alex told me. It was down to wanting to use local, sustainable ingredients and both months, this happened to be vegetables. Alex said that no one has complained about this or commented negatively about it. It made complete sense to me. How often do you get served a fantastic piece of meat, carefully prepared with a bit of veg thrown on the side as an afterthought? There is nowhere to hide when vegetables are the only ingredients. You can forgive a limp piece of broccoli if the steak is amazing. When it's the main focus of your dish, it has to be the best.

I had the alcoholic pairing (no surprise to anyone there) and Paul/my driver had the non-alcoholic pairing.  The care that went into the non-alcoholic drinks was fantastic. All non-alcoholic drinks for the pairing are made in house, often using ingredients from dishes on the menu, such as the pea pods from the soup. Really bloody clever and economical.

The first three dishes were slices of crunchy bread with a smoked butterbean puree, a warm cauliflower crumpet, and lettuce and pea soup that reminded me of the smell of standing in my veg patch when I'm thinning my tomato plants. There was also homemade rye sourdough bread with yeast butter that I got too excited about to photograph before inhaling.

Then came the asparagus which I could eat again and again. It was sweet, not a trace of fibrous woodiness, and made me realise that I could never, ever eat supermarket asparagus again without feeling deeply sad.  It was cooked on a grill that reminded me of a teppanyaki. "You should do an onion volcano and juggle knives!" I helpfully suggested. The soft boiled egg was perfect (5 minutes, 20 seconds - 10 seconds longer than David Chang's method, Alex pointed out),  I grabbed bread from earlier to wipe up every last bit of the hay mayonnaise, and the polenta made with chickpea flour was crispy and light. 

I can never eat asparagus from Tesco again and this is probably not a bad thing
The wild garlic and parsley risotto was rich and filling, thanks to the generous amount of butter and cheese I watched go into it. Parmesan is added to the risotto and pecorino is grated on top at the pass. An intensely flavoured mushroom reduction is quinelled (did I just make up a verb?) and topped with raw radishes. The fresh, crunchy radishes had none of the harsh pepperiness that you normally find and it cut through the rich risotto. 

A steak-like slice of roasted aubergine was coated in miso and furikake, my go to seasoning for pretty much everything. (I get mine from Ocado, but you can probably find it somewhere on Mill Road.) The most unexpectedly wonderful element of this dish was the roasted onion puree, which was slow roasted under parchment paper for several hours then pureed. How something this simple, albeit time intensive, could taste so complex is some sort of voodoo. The buttery new potatoes were so delicious, we genuinely contemplated drinking the butter out of the bowl when we finished the potatoes. But we are classy and totally didn't do that.

A strawberry and verbena semifreddo with beetroot that didn't taste of beetroot (a plus for us) was exactly what we needed after the risotto and buttery potatoes. The semifreddo was, and I hate to be repetitive, astoundingly simple and delicious. Again, I would happily eat a very large bowl of the semifreddo alone.

But then came the cake. This gorgeously orange-filled cake. I watched as they came out of the oven and I could have eaten five more. 

Finally, sadly, the meal came to an end with a glass of Quady Starboard that was like a tawny port and cookies fresh from the oven and chocolate truffles.

I haven't gone into all the alcoholic pairings because frankly, I know sod all about wine, beer, and fortified wine. I know what I like, and I can say that everything went beautifully with the food. I mentioned that I'm not a beer drinker and Alex was happy to offer me wine instead, but the beer really did go so well with the risotto that it would have been a shame to replace it with something else. The non-alcoholic drinks were also so well done, thoughtfully put together, and not at all what I expected. Most places would give you something sweet and overpowering (elderflower cordial, I'm looking at you), but these drinks were much more complex and interesting. I wish I could be more eloquent about it all, but all I know is that I loved it from start to finish.

Also worth noting is how clean the kitchen was the entire service. I can't even do scrambled eggs without my kitchen looking like something out of "Hoarders" by the end of it. Clean, and quiet. No shouting, no "OUI CHEF!" no "SERVICE!", just calm conversation and laughter.

From a business perspective, this restaurant is ingenious. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that it's all about work/life balance. It's open Tuesdays to Saturdays, tables are prebooked and prepaid, evening service only. No possibility of no shows or a sudden influx of walk-ins, and sociable hours for staff. They know exactly how many covers are coming in, which dishes they're making, and as such, no food is wasted. This was a big problem in other restaurants, Alex said. The amount of food wastage is horrendous. 

Our reservation was for 6:15 and I told our babysitter that we'd probably be back by 8:00. We spent a very, very happy three hours watching the inner workings of a professional kitchen and having a brilliant chat with everyone. Time flew, Alex said we could stay as long as we liked, and I think had we both been on the alcoholic menu, we probably would have stayed longer just to watch the Vanderlyle world go by and ask more questions. 

Oh and to answer the question about the extractor fans, they're actually next to the induction hobs. They suck the steam down, and it's the cleverest thing I've ever seen. 

Some practicalities:

  • The stools at the pass are incredibly comfortable, even for a shorty like me (I'm 5'4".) They are upholstered and slightly cushioned, and were absolutely fine for our three hour stay.
  • We parked at Queen Anne's Terrace car park, which is about a five minute walk from Vanderlyle. We got there at 6:00pm and left at 9:30pm, total cost was £4. Affordable parking is like gold dust in Cambridge. You can certainly take your chances with the side streets off Mill Road, but I can't handle that kind of uncertainty.
  • The restaurant will contact you in advance to ask if you have any food intolerances or allergies.
  • The lighting is not ideal for food photography, if that sort of thing matters to you. I had the advantage of sitting right next to the lights at the pass, so I stuck my plates underneath to take photos. But really, who cares? Put your phone away and just enjoy it. 
Do I need to put a disclaimer here? Oh, what the hell. This is not a sponsored post, nobody paid me to write this, and we paid for our meal in full. Although I've known Alex for a few years and have enjoyed his food and conversation before, this is an unbiased review of our experience at Vanderlyle. 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

for ian

"Look! It's the Boston ducks!" you said to me, as you excitedly pointed at a mug with ducks on it. "The...what?" I looked at my (then) boyfriend and his mum, both shrugging at me. "The ducks! You lived in Boston, right? The Boston ducks! The duck tour? The ducks from the book?" I had absolutely no idea what you were talking about, except that you knew I lived in Boston for 6 months when I was a kid. Even after we eventually got more of an explanation about the Boston ducks, it never really mattered. This would always be our point of reference when we didn't know what you were talking about. We'd all look at each other and say "The Boston ducks!" and you would smile too.

I feel like I need to replay these scenes in my head over and over, recall the sound of your voice, try to remember every single detail of the past 16 years with you as I try to figure out how to do this without you. As I go through each day, I realise that you are everywhere now.

You are your grandson who also has thick, spiky hedgehog hair. You are your granddaughter when she wrinkles her nose at pasta. You are your youngest granddaughter who would happily eat nothing but cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You are your youngest son in a million "it's a Durbin man thing" ways.

Every day when I get my shoes out of the exceptionally clever cupboard you made just for me, you are there.

You are in mind when I look out the window and think about what I'm going to plant this year. I won't have my "toh-may-to" basket from you which, to be honest, was the only thing that ever really thrived in my garden. I will try my best to make something grow out of the advice you gave me. I wish I'd paid more attention.

When I get my morning cereal, I see your big box of Weetabix in my cupboard. I think it's probably out of date now, if such a thing is possible with Weetabix. But I'm not going to get rid of it just yet.

You will be with us in Toronto where you went to summer camp and learned how to swim with a kid called Bobby (or 'baaaah-bee' as you laughed), and you had your first taste of chocolate milk.

I sometimes roll my eyes at how we now only seem to see the world through the lens of a mobile phone, but it means that I don't have to look very hard to find you. You're dotted throughout my camera roll and the folders on my Macbook. Thanks to our online life, a lot of people you never met have been asking about you. I'm proud to introduce you to them.

For as long as these things are around and we remember, you will be here. We will talk about you and smile about you, then our kids will tell their kids, and you will still be here.

And we will always smile about the Boston ducks, even though it still doesn't make any sense to anyone.

Friday, 5 January 2018

i've lost 365 days somewhere

What's been a year since I blogged? The hell, man? Right, let's get down to my annual "not resolutions" list of stuff for 2018.

Last year's list was:
  • Keep up the fitness stuff: I did! Still lifting heavy things three times a week, running, rollerskating, and taking tap classes. Look at me go. 
  • Take control of my yarny projects: Oh well, I definitely didn't do this. I still have a baby blanket to finish (baby was born last May!) and lots of other unfinished projects. I did manage to complete a few things, though. But yeah, the WIPs live on.
  • Work on the house: Nope, didn't really do this either. Added a few bits to "my" lounge and made some small changes but it's still in progress. I was just thinking this morning of putting money aside to do the family bathroom. I want a big, bubble bath worthy tub.
  • Improve my running: Yeah, no.
  • Okay body fat, it's time to go: There's probably less fat and more muscle on me now, but still a work in progress. I'm okay with that.
I can just duplicate this for 2018, can't I? Ah, I'll modify it a bit:
  • Body/gym: I think I've got a lot better at setting mini goals and found lots of things that help me stay on track (journalling, challenges, mindfulness, etc.) I'm now looking at building strength and getting lean. They seem like two opposing goals, but I think I have the right information to do it. I want to SEE the muscles that I'm building!
  • Budget: Like I said, I want to put money aside to do nice things to the house. I really want that big bath. I've been meaning to do a budget for months now, anyway.
  • Running: I do still want to get back into it regularly and work on my pace. I think there's a fine balance between running and lifting, and I need to make sure I don't overdo it and injure myself. I've signed up for two 10k races so far. 
  • Learn new things: piano, crochet and knitting skills, a language. Do all those things I keep saying "I've always wanted to learn how to..." about.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

but i only just got used to writing 2016 on everything

Christ on a bicycle, where did 2016 go? We've heard a lot about what a crappy year it's been, what with a lot of Gen X's favourites dropping dead, Brexit, and the fact that people voted for a Cheeto (with the IQ to match.) End of days. It can only get better, right? In related news, my nuclear bunker is coming along nicely.

So anyway, it's that time of year when I write a blog post about my yearly goal thingies. Here are last year's:
  • Keep the training/healthy eating going. I've managed to do this since April and I'm both shocked and pleased. This is the first time in many, many years that I haven't started out the year fatter than ever and full of regret. I want to be stronger and healthier.
Still at it, still amazed that I'm still at it. I've been doing a small group weight training session three times a week at the same lovely gym since April, and still eating well on the most part. In fact, I am eating a Terry's chocolate orange as I write this. I've started this year a little bit heavier than Jan 1 '16 by four pounds, so no biggie. I think the fact that I kept the weight training and running up all year has helped offset the copious amounts of prosecco and roast dinners I've consumed.
  • Run 10k in under an hour. Or maybe in an hour. I haven't decided yet.
Didn't manage this but I did manage to run three 10k races, a 1.7 mile relay, and several miles over four runs during the RUNGMC 24 hour relay this summer. I haven't been running regularly lately due to injury (runner's knee) so I need to build my speed up again this year.
  • Go to Canada for a visit this summer. I miss home. Lots.
We did! It was a bit (a lot) manic because we crammed in so much in less than two weeks, but we did it! Highlights: seeing family and friends is an obvious one but also seeing the kids having a blast with my parents, taking the kids to their first baseball game, eating all the Canadian things.
  • I really need to finish that wrap thingy I started knitting ages ago. On a similar note, I'd like to get more into the yarny stuff and try out new things. Maybe I'll finally make a pair of socks.
Oh that damn wrap. Still have one sleeve to go. I swear, that yarn is cursed. It was originally used for a blanket I started knitting for Mia when I was pregnant, which I frogged 8 years later to make this wrap. Meh, maybe I'll finish that this week. I never did do any socks, either.

My friend Mark (I got to see him this summer, yay! With tacos! Double yay!) posted a link to this article about not only setting goals, but setting systems for each goal. So, you don't just say "I want to travel more" you determine a system to get to that goal like saving up money for a specific trip. I like this a lot. 

For 2017, I give you my list of systems (hipster-sounding bollocks, but I like it):
  • Keep up the fitness stuff: stick with the gym, GO TO THE GYM (have been finding too many excuses lately and missing one session almost every week), don't skip the HIIT sessions. It's easy to skip those at the last minute without feeling like you've let others down because it's a big class - who will miss me? But in the long run, those classes make a big difference to my fitness. 
  • Take control of my yarny projects: finish or frog! I've got three (I think) on the go but want to get going with a couple of baby projects for my great nephew in March and my friend's little one in May. These long term unfinished projects hang over my head. 
  • Work on the house: Mark (him again) gave me some great feng shui advice via a long Facetime session and I came away with a list of things to tackle in certain rooms. You can visit his site "Sense of Space" here. Little changes that will have a big effect. I will go through that list but also, I want to make the front room truly a space I can call my own. It has furniture but no decor; no sense of comfort. I totally want a faux fur throw. Nobody stop me. The house needs a lot of final, personal touches after our big reno three (!!) years ago. Like the family room - again, it has furniture but that's about it. Couch, chair, TV, footstools, my lighty up twigs (I do love those.) I'm also after a drinks cabinet in the corner of the dining room because I've been far too influenced by "Mad Men." Anyway, this is a very long-winded way of saying "Make house lovely. Make a list. Follow list."
  • Improve my running: I've been making excuses to skip the running, too. Well, that and I've had various legitimate aches and pains. I need to stretch every day, especially with the weight training that I'm doing. I need to have a running plan: get back into running regularly 2-3 times a week then add one interval run per week, eventually building up to one interval run/one shorter run/one longer run. The aim is to run further at Wings for Life (the car chasing run) and faster at Chariots of Fire (team relay.) 
  • Okay body fat, it's time to go: the plan is to follow through with points one and four which should help lead to less of the wobble. I'm pretty good at the food bit but have found myself eating things Because They're There a lot lately. 
All of this will commence as soon as I'm rid of this hangover and I've eaten all the cheese in my fridge. Happy new year!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

review: sticks n sushi cambridge

Right at the start of Meat Street (depending on which direction you're coming from, obviously) is Sticks N Sushi, a Danish chain with restaurants in London and now Cambridge. Yes, Danish. Why the hell not? I'm half Japanese and half Scottish; I'm all for fusion. It's a chain but it's not really a chain. A very short walk down the road leads to two other well known sushi chains, but I wouldn't consider them to be Sticks N Sushi's competitors. I see this as something higher end, a proper restaurant you'd go to for lovely drinks and pretty food.

Sticks N Sushi invited Cambridge area bloggers and writers to come to "preview" lunches and dinners a few days before they officially open on May 7. I took my friend Katie with me, who is my go-to person when I need an opinion on good restaurant food. I think she's eaten at every restaurant on my London wish list.

It was a gloriously sunny Friday, I bypassed the office sausage and bacon rolls that morning in anticipation of a big lunch, and I was in a happy and very hungry mood. We were immediately greeted by several smiling faces and taken to our seats at the bar. Our waiter told us that we would be served a set menu, but gave us the extensive "photo album" menu to look at for future reference. The menu is huge, with photos - 162 of them, to be precise - that helps people like me make food decisions. (I tend to skip over recipes that don't have photos. I'm kind of basic that way.) We started with drinks: a matcha tea for Katie and a lemon and ginger fizz for me. I was pleasantly surprised that the fizz wasn't sweet, and on such a hot day (for England), it was incredibly refreshing.

"Ebi bites" came out first, a sort of tempura prawn dish that was crispy and light. It's actually not at all tempura, I just used that word because it's on the menu. I'm not sure what the coating was, but it was almost like puffed rice. Whatever it was, we ate it in about 15 seconds and it was good.

The sushi was the focus for me, and my expectations were high. Cambridge needs decent sushi. We have Japas Sushi which is the best by far, but you go there to fill a sushi-shaped hole or get takeaway. You don't go there to linger over cocktails. Otherwise, we have chains and one of them is good (fresh, nice variety, not too expensive, great for food on the go) and the other is Yo Sushi. All I will say on the topic is that I only go there when my children clamour for it, and they only go there because food goes by on a conveyor belt and you can push a button to get more food. So when rows and rows of beautiful sushi arrived on two long plates, we both let out a little "Oooooh."

We had a combination of nigiri (fish on rice balls) and rolls. We were given a good variety to try, ranging from the more traditional (shake or salmon nigiri) to the more Westernised versions of rolls (spicy tuna with avocado.) The fish and rice were beautifully fresh, and the rice was seasoned well. Some varieties were more interesting than others, and you need to adjust your excitement levels accordingly. Nothing involving salmon and cream cheese is ever going to be described as "an explosion of flavour" but we liked them anyway. We decided to be sensible (this is a rare thing for me) and take about 1/3 of the sushi home and save room for the sticks.

We had three stick varieties between the two of us, which was good because we were starting to enter Man Vs Food territory with all of the sushi. We had black cod, asparagus in bacon, and as they must have got word about me and my love of bacon ahead of time, scallops in pancetta.  All cooked perfectly and hooray, double bacon!

I don't normally have dessert at Asian restaurants (mostly because we don't tend to do desserts all that well and I've stuffed myself with dumplings and/or rice by that point) but we fit in two small dishes of yuzu sorbet and vanilla ice cream, which were very welcome on a warm day.

The waiter described the provenance of all of the fish on our plates and we had a chat with one of the managers about it after our meal. This is an important factor at this restaurant and it's reflected in the taste - and price. This is the cost of quality, fresh, sushi grade fish. The problem is, Cambridge is used to supermarket and chain sushi that comes cheap. Chewy unseasoned rice topped with a wodge of tasteless fish, but it's all some people know. Even I find it difficult to fathom paying £13 for two pieces of sushi, despite knowing what I'm paying for. If it's a special occasion or we're in a large group (I love meals with lots of sharing dishes), I would be happy to come back here.

Will the people of Cambridge pay a premium for high end food or will this get dismissed as "London prices"? Sticks N Sushi is in an area right next to a large mall and across from a theatre, and many walk-ins will be looking for something quick and cheap. I think as long as you understand what you're in for, you're good to go. Given the demographics of central Cambridge (tourists, students, locals on a lunch break or looking to grab a bite before heading out for the evening), I would like to see some set menu deals, or prix fixe because it sounds a lot nicer in French. There are some nice looking sharing plates and set menus on there already, but the price still may deter some people.

Disclaimer: Look, I've been blogging since 1999 (on a Tripod site that might still exist somewhere in cyberspace) and we never had to do this nonsense back then. You'd just go somewhere and if you liked it, you might write about it on your blog. These days, you've got to put a disclaimer at the end of anything resembling a review or nobody will simply trust that you went somewhere and had a good time. Anyway, Sticks N Sushi picked up the bill and we didn't choose our own dishes. Nobody said "Write a good review or else we'll tell everyone that you're an asshole and make you pay for your meal." We genuinely liked it. Okay? Okay.

Monday, 11 April 2016

bodycoach: cycle three review

So I had this post in draft form and never got around to writing it. Hellooooo. This is what having children and being a certain age does to your brain. To be fair to the Bodycoach programme, this last review will be pretty brief and based on memory, of which I obviously have none.

I actually liked this cycle although it's even crazier low carb than cycle 1. You have refuel meals four times a week (i.e. you get one refuel meal post workout, and you aren't supposed to work out more than four times a week), which isn't a lot. In keeping with inconsistencies in previous cycles, no bread products are in the list of suitable refuel carbs but there is one recipe for a tuna melt that calls for two slices of "high protein bread." So...yeah. I suppose the point of this is to make people think they can only have bread if they make the tuna melt which is probably something they won't want to do four times a week.

Oh god, the side sauces. No. Make them stop. I don't want dairy with every freakin' meal. There are examples of non-dairy side sauces in the plan such as salsa verde, so go for that if you can't cope with cottage cheese or sour cream with every meal.

At the end and after I submitted my final photos and numbers, I got a "graduation report." Like the introductory information, much of it is written like a form letter and I don't know how much of it is personalised. Part of this is a recommended calorie amount and macros for rest and training days, which I suspect are based on the same formulas used by other sites. You also get some (generic) information about training and an advert to join their graduate plan.  I received an email from my coach which again, seemed very generic and auto-generated. There was one reference to something I wrote in my report, but it was brief.

In summary -

End of cycle three stats:
Lost .5kg
No inches lost

End of plan stats:
Lost 2kg
7 inches lost in total

I have had a lot of issues with this plan (The typos! The weird food combinations and measurements to make up macros! The typos! Seriously, how could you not notice all the red squiggly lines underneath so many words?!) but there were definitely positives that I carried on doing after finishing the plan. I like that you take photos each cycle. I never would have thought to do this, especially taking photos from the side and back. I was astonished and very happy to see a big change in my back, of all places. I think the basic premise of this plan is how I need to eat (e.g. getting my carb sources from fruits, vegetables, rice, and potatoes) and although I criticised the lack of information about macros and calories, simply giving people a list of foods and recipes is better than forcing them to do a lot of calculations. It does make eating away from home more challenging to the less experienced macro tracker, but it's a good way to kickstart better eating habits. The exercise is definitely beneficial and it's great to see HIIT and weight training (especially for women) being introduced to a much wider audience.

There is a lot of room for improvement, especially at this cost. I have heard that there is a newer version of the plan out as of January 2017, so perhaps they've listened to the complaints on social media (TYPOS!) and adjusted accordingly. I would be really curious to hear if this is the case. It's not a terrible plan and if you follow it to the letter, it should work.

Having said that, if you can find a macro and calorie calculator online (the IIFYM site has a good one - avoid others like on MyFitnessPal as their estimates are far too low), focus on eating lean protein, don't fear the fats, and get your carbs from "whole" (ugh, sorry) foods and not processed/gluten-free junk, look up some HIIT workouts on YouTube and do one at least three times a week, and look at weight lifting to put on more muscle (you can eat more if you have more muscle and less fat, fact!), you will do just as well. Joe Wicks is good fun to follow on Instagram and I've heard his cookbooks are good, too.

Monday, 14 March 2016

bodycoach: cycle two review

The second cycle arrived and I'm filled with joy. I can pick and choose ingredients and make up my own recipes! Carbs three meals a day on training days! Pasta, tortillas, bread, rice, and potatoes! But...wait...carb day also means low fat day. So it's kedgeree without the egg and tortilla pizza without the cheese. And low carb/rest day is now Super Mega Low Carb Day filled with Excessive Vegetables. Huge, huge portions of the same dozen vegetables three meals a day, on both rest and training days. Soups. I will have lots of soups.

So yes, a change in diet and training this cycle. Weightlifting is introduced, which is great. I do like lifting heavy things. Calories are up by about 300 or so on both training and rest days. Training days aren't as carby as people fret about. For me, it's roughly 200g/day which is the equivalent of about a handful of potatoes, one bagel, and two bananas. An amount easily knocked back in every meal on most diets.

As for the food, well...let's just say I opened up my ten millionth package of chicken and thought I was going to hurl. Weirdly, things I was really looking forward to on this cycle are making me feel sick - like smoked salmon. Two packages of smoked salmon in one sitting? And you can only have it with eggs and/or vegetables? No, no, no, I want my rye bread, smoked salmon, and avocado breakkie back, please. Also, let's talk about the side sauce concept. Why do we have to eat a blob of yoghurt, sour cream, and/or cottage cheese with EVERY MEAL, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK? Seriously, why? Is it to meet macros or is there some magical property in some dairy products that burns fat? And then when you look up swaps, you can trade these for low fat mayo, barbecue sauce, or any other non-dairy substitute...which will give you a completely different macro count. It makes no sense.

It's clear (from social media groups) that people don't really understand how macros work and why we eat how we do. You see people say things like "macros are calculated over the week, so it's fine to go over one day" or "you lose fat because you're in ketosis." (You're not. Really, you're not.) The plan doesn't explain much about how the food is calculated, so it stands to reason why many people don't understand how it works and ask questions like "Can I eat basil, or will it mess up my macros?"

So, cycle 2 in summary:

  • The food still makes no sense. Well, okay. I'm being harsh. Some of it makes sense but the ingredients are still incredibly random.
  • The MASSIVE change in carbs from day to day is awful.
  • I still miss bacon and sausages. And bananas. And who has stolen my cheese?!

My Cycle Two Diary

Day 7: I feel almost as rotten as I did on cycle one, so I guess having carbs back again isn't helping. I've had cramping and diarrhoea off and on since I started this plan in January, so I suspect I'm possibly allergic to something I'm now eating regularly (or whatever it is in large quantities is bothering my digestive system.) I'm not taking any of the supplements and the protein powder is the same one I've been using for about a year, so I think it must be down to one of the foods I'm eating. In terms of the change in training and rest day meals, the higher carb days are fairly high (for me), but the low carb days are at Atkins level. I get that this helps balance things out overall, but the constant change is making me feel ill. At least I'm not hungry so far. In fact, I am not managing to eat all of my food and I'm certainly not eating the hundreds and hundreds of grams of vegetables each day. This isn't really a good thing.

Day 21: I am feeling much better, but I still feel like I'm allergic to something I've been having a lot on this diet. My eczema is awful and it hadn't flared up for about a year before this.
Otherwise, I feel fine. No "bloat", enjoying lifting heavy things, and I'm pretty sure I'm still losing inches.

Day 28: Final tally: I've gained 3lbs and I've lost one inch in total (from my waist.) Oh dear. Let's just say that cycle two was not for me. A friend of mine said this was her best cycle, in terms of results. I think because I carry all of my weight around my middle, higher carb/low fat was never going to work well for me. On to cycle three...