Daily Fitness: ‘Tauking Health with Monbrewcha

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper


It seems Montauk is just brewing with new ideas lately.

It’s a literal hot spot of innovation. Beer, whiskey, tea, and now kombucha. As much as I’d like to write about beer or whiskey (again), being a fitness column this week I’m putting the spotlight on Monbrewcha.

Molly and Jean Nolan are the sister duo who created a kombucha brand right in their hometown. The four-year age gap, with Jean being the older sister, proved to be a family recipe for success. Flavors range from Tart Cherry, the newest year-round flavor, to Lemon + Ginger + Cayenne + Tumeric, to Elderberry, Hibiscus, and the seasonal Chai Spice.

This #MagicForYourBelly (company motto) fits right in with their life motto of ‘Food is Medicine.’ Let’s get ‘tauking.

Molly, where specifically did you travel that inspired the business?
After I finished my masters, I turned down a job, my boyfriend quit his job, and the two of us traveled to Kauai, Australia, New Zealand (South Island, only), and Thailand. The two of us were drinking Remedy Kombucha (an Australian brand) mid-afternoon when we were feeling zonked after exploring. After a few sips, we felt more energized and ready to keep going.
The ‘bucha struck a nerve and I found myself tinkering with the idea of starting up a kombucha business when I got home. I applied to the Montauk Farmer’s Market, was accepted, and sold Monbrewcha by the bottle along side raw vegan treats (bliss balls) the summer of 2016. Some places in Montauk wanted to carry it, and so we started wholesaling more seriously that fall (that is when Jean joined forces with her).

What are the benefits of kombucha?
Kombucha, although acidic, has an alkalizing effect in the body. It is also packed with probiotics, which is why many people report improved digestion. Kombucha contains B vitamins, B12 included, which is why some experience increased energy levels. It also contains organic acids like glucuronic acid that binds toxins, helping to detoxify the liver. Hence its nickname, the “tea of immortality.”

What’s the process like to make it?
Essentially, tea is steeped, sugar is added and dissolved, and then a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is added to either a one or two-gallon glass vessels for fermentation. The vessels ferment for at least eight days and upwards of 21 days for the two-gallon batches. Once the pH and taste is just right, the kombucha is flavored and then bottled. We don’t force carbonate our bottles, meaning the fizz is au naturel.

How do you make Monbrewcha stand out so with a smoother taste?
We went with simple flavors to cut kombucha’s vinegar-like taste, to ultimately create a smooth drinking experience. To add to that, we don’t force carbonate, making it more tame than other brands.

What’re some of your favorite places to eat healthy and stay fit on the East End?
Happy Bowls, Joni’s, Naturally Good in Montauk, The Squeezery, Organic Krush, Hampton Chutney in Amagansett.

The Market in Greenport, Love Lane Market, Good Food in Mattituck. Saaz in Southampton is Molly’s new favorite restaurant—they have a ton of vegan options. Many of the places we sell our kombucha to are great, healthy spots. We both try to get outside everyday and go for long hikes/walks. Navy and Shadmoor trails are our favorite spots.

Favorite meal to pair the Monbrewcha with?
Molly prefers her bucha on an empty stomach, but if she had to pick a food it would be bliss balls. Jean’s morning routine: coffee, water, kombucha, smoothie

As a fairly recent start-up, it seems your growth is consistently increasing. What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
There’s been many hurdles across all aspects of the business from accounting to labeling rules to inspections to delivery logistics and more. It’s been a learning curve for sure, but has made us stronger as individuals and a business. Our biggest hurdle thus far has been getting new accounts—there’s no business without the accounts.

We have learned the value of forming a relationship with each and every account. For us, the best part of wholesale is getting to be a small piece of each business we sell to.

Sisterly advice you constantly give to each other…
Jean to Molly: Take a deep breath and relax.

Molly to Jean: Step it up, let’s go.  We balance each other out.

Finish the following sentences…
I religiously stick to a health/wellness philosophy of …

Molly: a plant-based diet.
Jean: everything in moderation.

My friends would probably laugh at me if they knew …
Molly: I got colonics.
Jean: the amount I drool in my sleep.

I’m most myself when I’m…
Molly: in a giggly mood.
Jean: with my family.

Mombrewcha is best enjoyed …
Molly: on a hot summer day straight off the tap.
Jean: straight after fermentation.

Check back with their upcoming partnerships with Tote Taxi and Beauty Disclosed, other female-founded brands. Visit their website for a list of where you can purchase their kombucha, follow them on social media @monbrewcha.

Instagram / Facebook 

Daily Fitness: Eco FOODFitness

The article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper


Renee McCormack is a local East Hampton resident who, like myself, prides her lifestyle on the ability to balance fitness and food, inspiring her company, FOODfitness. Upon meeting at a local Starbucks, we instantly connected. Trying samples of peanut butter, Nutella, protein balls was otherworldly. Who knew healthy could taste so good? I recommend them for a post workout dessert. Her granola clusters proved just as delicious when I needed a snack on a recent road trip—savory but sweet, and definitely unlike what I’ve tried thus far.

Where did the brand FOODFitness originate?

The FOODfitness brand was a revelation I had on a “LifeFitness” bike at Railroad Fitness. I felt that name really incorporated the combination of three elements of what it means to be truly fit: awareness of diet, exercise, and spiritual connection. I had the granola recipes set at the time and was awaiting the business name to present itself. It felt like a sign. FOODfitness seemed to be the perfect name for a high energy, health-oriented snack food. I really want to send a message that food is just as important if not more than anything else when it comes to fitness.

How did your having a brain hemorrhage influence your life?

I had a massive brain hemorrhage in 2013. It was a sudden experience that showed me that you can’t control everything in life. It also taught me that the mind is a powerful tool that sets the tone for every experience. I had to separate myself from the physical part of the incident. It was a time of deep meditative practice for me. Aside from childbirth, that experience continues to empower me to be patient, trust the process, and always believe in myself.

When I was cleared to begin rehab, I was under 100 pounds and had to learn to walk and do everyday tasks again. I did everything in my power to rebound and get back to my life as it was before. I could go on and on about that experience; it could be an article in and of itself! Essentially, I learned to recognize that life presents many hurdles and I am strong enough to persevere, overcome, and even conquer my biggest challenges.

Do you follow any dietary restrictions? 

When I was younger, I experimented with every health-oriented lifestyle: fruitarian, vegan, vegetarian, etc.

I now have one guiding rule, balance. Life is too short to deprive myself of the adventures of food. I find restrictions often lead to negative consequences or extreme behaviors.

The founder of my cooking school, Annemarie Colbin, stressed the importance of listening to your cravings, which usually indicate a need within the body. Intuitively, your body has the power to heal itself and will give you signs of how to find the balance it needs. I crave dark chocolate, so apparently, I must need it! So, I listen to that and I’ve made chocolate a daily habit, lucky me! No matter what, every day ends with a cup of herbal tea. It’s my way of winding down and helping my body let go of what it doesn’t need from the day, while preparing it for the new day that awaits.

What’s your relationship with food? 

Food has always been a central part of my life. My grandparents were from Sicily and most childhood memories revolved around food. My mother lived in the kitchen and [she] is my greatest inspiration to feed my family well and share my food with others. Food is healing to eat as well as to make. I love to eat, but I love to feed others even more. So as a chef, it’s a win-win for me!

I never feel bad about what I eat . . . and I don’t always eat a perfect diet. If I’ve eaten too much, I make a mental note to eat less the next day or make an extra lap the next time I go for a run. It’s all about finding balance. I have a sweet tooth and look forward to a treat at the end of the day with my tea . . . it’s a positive motivator for me and a reward I give to myself for the day’s efforts. I think I deserve it!

How’d you come up with the flavor combo in your granola clusters? 

Making healthy dishes tasteful is the exciting challenge of a life in the kitchen. I wanted my granola line to represent a healthy motto and be a snack my kids love to eat, as well as what healthy mainstream eaters enjoy. My kids, family, and friends were the deciding forces that led to the current three flavors offered.

Combining superfoods like bee pollen, cocoa nibs, flax seeds, seaweed, etc. was essential to make it a superior snack and appeal to health-conscious eaters. I’ve added fennel seed to the Cranberry Coconut Cocoa Nib flavor as my own Italian influenced creative twist. The Maple Vanilla Peanut Butter contains the best tasting crunchy peanut butter I’ve ever tasted, finished with a sprinkle of local sea salt. It is truly a small batch, locally made product and virtually all ingredients are sourced from within the U.S.

I only buy from certified organic and gluten free farms.

What’s your favorite way to eat your clusters? 

I top my smoothie bowl with fresh fruit and the Granola “Sprinkles” (the tasty crumbs at the bottom of the bag) for added flavor and crunch. I also eat the Maple Vanilla Peanut Butter Clusters right out of the bag, which I keep on hand in my Jeep. I am never on the road without snacks.

What ages are your kids? How do you incorporate the FOODfitness philosophy at home?

My daughter Stella is 14 and my son, Xavier is 18. They’ve become avid foodies, which I’m proud of. Currently, they are both on school trips outside the country and they each packed protein powders, trail mixes, and of course FOODfitness. I was delighted to see they have their food priorities set.

At home, they make suggestions about different dishes FOODfitness can be added to and they often give me feedback about my social media posts. They tease me about being too organic, which affirms that I’m doing the right thing as their mom. They are my best critics—honest, yet supportive.

What’s next on YOUR fitness journey? 

My original business, Bee Organic, was a juice and smoothie company. It was successful, but too demanding for me as a mother of a newborn. I hesitantly let it go. Now, I am developing a smoothie mix that is a work in progress and has always been a “someday goal” for me. It will be an all organic, high protein, superfood blend in three flavors to start—vanilla, chocolate and berry—with no added sweeteners like Stevia, which seems to be added to most health-oriented products on the market.

It’s going to take time and money. There’s no deadline, so I’m enjoying the creative part of the process, taste testing and packaging design.

What’s your fitness routine like?

I don’t have a regimented routine. Some days I run, other days I just need mental clarity, so I walk my dog or go hiking with my husband and kids. It’s not unusual to catch me lifting 50-lb. bags of oats or boxes of almonds, walnuts, and other supplies. I operate every facet of the business, so I am active every day. My greatest challenge is to slow down and be present, which is a major aspect of overall fitness. Incorporating little bouts of yoga and meditation are disciplines I make time for daily.


Find FOODfitness online. Upcoming will be local sea salt in her granola clusters and expansion to the North Fork.  

Instagram / Facebook

Daily Fitness: Super Bowl Hacks

This article first appeared in the January 31, 2018 issue of The Independent Newspaper 


Sunday marks the second largest food consumption day in America, behind Thanksgiving. Huddle around, it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

From the wings to the beer, here are some (not so) skinny statistics. In 2015, according to Statista, the caloric intake of New York State consumers on game day was over 17 million, fourth in line behind Texas, California, and Florida, averaging out to 2400 per person.

What are American’s spending on food and alcohol? Nielsen reports that in 2016 the our country spent $82 million on chicken wings, $277 million on potato chips, and $1.2 billion on beer.


The facts are hard to swallow, so how can you slash your guilt in half?

Choose wiser. Try a beer that’s under 100 calories. Budweiser Select 55 is, as the name states, 55 calories with a 2.4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), Miller Genuine Draft “64” is 64 calories and a 2.8 percent ABV, Michelob Ultra has 95 calories at 4.2 percent ABV, Miller Lite has 96 calories with 4.2 percent ABV and Yuengling Light Lager is at 99 calories for 3.15 percent ABV.

Or, cut out the calories altogether. Instead of beer or soda try a flavored seltzer, like Canada Dry Lemon Lime, Schweppes Black Cherry, or La Croix Grapefruit — all with zero calories (and zero hangover).

When it comes to food, a few simple replacements can make all the difference. Choose homemade guacamole over the bean or cheese dip. How about Pop Chips instead of potato chips? Likewise, try zucchini fries over traditional ones. Easily decrease caloric intake with sliders by replacing the bread with lettuce instead.

Can’t stop the incessant snacking? Opt for some popcorn or reach for veggie platter.

Sitting down for too long creates sluggish, overindulgent habits. Get up and move it, move it. Here’s an easy, fun way to burn some calories, a “move it” game instead of a “drink it” game.

Successful pass, five jumping jacks.

Fumble, three push-ups.

Touchdown, 30-second dance.

Commercial, get up and walk around the room.

Beer commercial, 15 squats.

Someone gets knocked out on the sidelines, 10 sit-ups.

And continue to make it up as you go!

If the above seem too difficult, increase your traditional workout or watch your fork prior to Sunday and return back to normal come Monday morning. After all, it’s basically America’s second Thanksgiving.

Whether you’re at the bar or the comfort of home, drive safe!


Follow more  on Instagram & Facebook @NikkiOnTheDaily

Tipsy Tastes: Riverhead Ciderhouse

(This article first appeared in the November 29, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper as part of my Tipsy Tastes Series)

with Jon DeKenipp

Since its opening in March, Riverhead Ciderhouse has been the new go-to spot on the North Fork. Taking the place of a former industry warehouse, every inch of this 8000-square-foot space invites you in; from the hot mulled cider brewing in the front to the roasted garlic cooking in the back. Natural light fills the room but that’s no match to the heat coming from the two fireplaces on either side of the room, surrounded by homey couches and quirky reads. In front of the fire are refurbished doors converted to tables and farmhouse tractor seats, a touch indicative of the area.

More than just a cider house, as the name initially implies, this tasting room offers local libations of a different kind as well. Blue Point and Greenport beers, Lieb Cellars and Martha Clara wine, the list goes on and aims to please responsible drinkers of all kinds.

“We offer a really good variety for the different groups walking through the door,” Jon DeKenipp, chef and general manager, explained. “I’d say eight out of the 10 stick to the cider. It’s the newest and fastest growing beverage segment in the industry.”

According to http://www.statista.com, the number of hard cider consumers in the United States has doubled in the last four years alone, from 11.65 million hard cider drinkers in 2013 to 24.88 million in 2017, making such a large cidery the trendiest place to be right now.

Riverhead Ciderhouse doesn’t grow its own apples just yet, that’s expected in 2020. Rather, they source their product in juice form from a New York State orchard. Then the creation process begins.

“As you make your different flavors you have to take some flavors out to add the flavoring in,” said cider master Will Loughlin. “What we have left in our tanks now is 340 gallons — the last of our batch that we can play with.”

So what was it used for? “We put the Apple Annie in. We’re now in the talks of what our next batch will be.” With fresh juice coming by January 2018, and a six-to-eight-week cider-making process, a new batch can be expected by March of 2018 — just in time for the company’s one year milestone.

The Apple Annie is a regular, eight percent ABV (alcohol by volume) apple cider that’s been the latest buzz. Other popular flavors include the Prickly Pear Rose, a rose cider, and, just in time for the holiday season, the Crannie, a cranberry cider. Riverhead Ciderhouse’s website lists all that’s on tap and, thanks to technology powered by DigitalPour, a visual of what’s left.

Going into its first off-season, business is still holding strong. “We’re still trying to roadmap it. It’s a heavy seasonal spot and locality,” DeKenipp emphasized. “In any business the first year, you have to learn as you go. You learn from your mistakes and capitalize on your strengths.”

As you prepare your next round of holiday festivities, stop in to try some cider. Once you’ve found your favorite, take a growler back with you to share with family and friends. Whatever you do, make sure you #DrinkLocal. Cheers!

Riverhead Ciderhouse is located at 2711 Sound Avenue in Calverton. Join them on Thursdays for Dueling Pianos starting at 5:30 PM or live music indoors on other nights, as seen on the calendar. Reach the Ciderhouse at 631-591-0217 or visit http://www.riverheadcider.com.

Lulu Kitchen & Bar Review

(This article first appeared in the November 15, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)



It’s a Thursday night in Sag Harbor and the scent of crisp air and cozy fireplace smoke blankets me — an emblematic combination for fall. Neighborhood fireplaces aren’t the source of the delicious fragrance; it’s the wood-fired oven at Lulu Kitchen & Bar. Since opening in April to a nonstop rush, Lulu’s well underway for the off-season month. The relatively packed room was a sign of good things to come.

“It exceeds expectations. We’re having a very strong off-season so far,” said managing director Steven Jauffrineau. Executive chef Philippe Corbet, native to the French Alps, brings with him training and experience from Michelin-star restaurants.

The front of the restaurant greets with floor to ceiling glass patio doors, opened during the warmer months, flowing to a wall of lofty mirrors and a zinc bar adjacent to the semi open kitchen. Step farther back to the curved tufted banquettes and darkened walls — an ideal place to sit with families, large groups, or that special date night.

Toward the back are bleached brick walls and dim lighting, with live music by local cultural sensation Alfredo Merat — a great way to spend time socializing or for a girls’ night. Since I arrived with my friend Sara, we opted for a livelier experience amid the music.

Décor aside, it’s time to eat. Immediately we were greeted with two “Shades of Autumn” cocktails. The Holly Goose, for those who enjoy the taste of a Cosmo, and the Summer’s End, a twist on a classic Manhattan. As we sipped, we savored wood-grilled flatbread and hummus, topped with seasonal espelette peppers and pumpkin seeds. The hummus surprised with a new flavor in every dip, and I would be remiss had I not eaten every last chickpea of it.

As Merat effortlessly transitioned from English to French to Spanish, our appetizers arrived. Escargot soup (made with local Peconic Escargot snails) offered a creamy, coconut milk base as the tiny escargots burst in my mouth. The richness in flavor almost had me picking up the plate to sip every last drop — almost. For those like Sara who choose to pass on gastropods, the Iacono Farm poached egg and duck confit with parmesan cheese emulsion has a unique texture on the tongue. The roasted figs added a new sensation of flavoring while creamy polenta blended seamlessly with the easy-to-tear duck.

Before moving onto the main courses, two Autumn Thymes arrived. I’m a good, ol’ Old Fashioned girl but the slant with Aperol, grapefruit juice, and thyme made it my official go-to drink at this restaurant.

Thursday night’s special was Lobster Thermidor served on a skillet — lobster with a creamy mix of egg yolks, oven-browned cheese, a hint of mustard, and more. Corbet showcases his French talent in the making of this sauce. (I recall saying aloud, “I want to swim in this sauce.”) For two women splitting it, after some rather heavier starters, it was exemplary in both taste and portion size. For those with a heavier appetite, I advise ordering additional sides or a heftier entrée.

The chimichurri sauce on top of the 10-ounce skirt steak was just the right amount of garlic, vinegar, and oil. The steak comes with some house fries that are worth noting to request as part of any dish.

“I want people to feel like home, very comfortable,” relayed Corbet, who wants others to have the sensation as he did growing up in a French kitchen. “A slow cooking meal on a Sunday, that was the best meal I had.”

Lastly, the dessert. Coffee aficionados, like myself, should indulge in the espresso and hazelnut daquoise — moist yet crumbly at the same time. The real wow factor is the raspberry Eton mess with yuzu chantilly, white chocolate mousse, a macaroon cookie, crème fraiche ice cream, and fresh berries. If you don’t have time to enjoy a full meal stop in for this dessert alone.

Lulu Kitchen & Bar is located at 126 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Call them at 631-725-0900 or visit http://www.lululsagharbor.com.