Stressed with a side of Panic

Disclaimer: This post is a little whiney but has a hopeful outlook.

If I haven’t lost you yet, welcome to this edition of “Life as a Grad Student: WHY THE HELL AM I DOING THIS?”

Still there?

If you’ve been reading Chocolate & Wine for a while, you probably know that I graduated from Assumption College with a Bachelor’s Degree in 2010, spent a year trying to find a job in my field (Mass Communications, English, Writing – no, I don’t want to teach) with zero luck, and finally decided to apply to grad schools.  My top three choices were Emerson, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Boston University.

FYI: That pretty piece of paper they call a diploma that cost about $160,000.... no, it won't get you the job that you want. Thanks for playing.

Not-So-Spoiler Alert: I chose BU.

Do I hate it? No.  Do I love it? Almost.

The Ups:

– I’m getting my Master’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from one of the most prestigious programs in the country. (Read: There are 11 people in my program. I am the only kid from Massachusetts.)

– My professors all have good real life experience.  Anyone know who R.D. Sahl is?  Well, if you’re my mom’s age or just really like the news, you probably do.  He was the co-anchor of New England Cable News (NECN) for his entire career and still makes appearances on the news regularly.  And he’s my advisor.  Loving it.

– My classmates are awesome.  Everyone is on the same page (for the most part – my friend Sandy has WAY more experience with a camera than I do…) We are all from different states and we mesh pretty well.  And they like to party.  Me too, new friends.

We're a really good time.

– I’m super close to dance.  Always a plus.

– The BU gym.  Seriously… best gym ever.

The Downs:

– Commuting.  Yup – I’m a commuter student.  AKA one of those kids.  Sure, driving only takes about 25 minutes but I’m not driving.  I drive to Wonderland in Revere, pay 5 bucks to park, take the Blue Line all the way to Government Center, wait for a Green Line “B” train and take it 7 stops to BU East.  Sounds easy? It takes about an hour to an hour and a half one way.  Not easy.

– The workload.  I’m not a moron.  I knew signing on for this gig meant that I’d be doing a lot of work.  I guess I forgot how long things like editing take. 

– I’ve had about 3 major breakdowns since classes started a month ago.  This is the PANIC part.  I get stressed somewhat easily so it’s not really much of a surprise that I’ve been in a constant state of wanting to rip my hair out.  Remember how I said I cry not only when I’m sad but when I’m happy or scared too?  I also cry when I’m stressed.  There’s been lots of crying lately.

So my ups outweigh the downs at this point and I’m definitely sticking with this program til the end.  I am also currently looking for an apartment in Boston so hopefully we can cut my commute out of the daily routine and I can start loving my program and actually feel like a college student again.

On that note – anyone know of any friends (or maybe you?) that needs a roomie?  Preferrably on the Green Line, under/around $800 a month with most things included.  I’m really nice and I’ll cook for you!  Consider this an ad.

That's me cooking. Be my roommate!

What Boston Brunchers Means to Me

I have been part of the Boston Brunchers* since April of this year when I went to my first-ever brunch at the Biltmore Bar & Grille courtesy of Megan’s wonderful invite.  Since then, I’ve been hooked.  I have been to many brunches (and one dinner) including Local 149, Lil’ Vin’sBristol Lounge, and The Cottage.

Delicious mussels from Lil' Vin's

The friends that I’ve made and the food I have eaten are all part of the experience that is the Boston Brunchers.  It is unique, fun, and I wouldn’t give it up for all the cannolis in the world (and that’s saying something; I really love cannolis…)

I also really like chocolate malts from Local 149

To really express my love for this group, I decided to write an acrostic poem for it’s 1st Birthday Blogger Brunch giveaway!

Boston.  Our home, and home to some of the best food in the country.
Overeat.  It’s okay – we don’t judge.
Support.  We love each other and each other’s blogs. ‘Nuff said.
Tweeting.  We are good at it. #BostonBrunchers #Nom
Obviously the best blogger group in Boston.
Not realistic.  How much food we think we can eat in one sitting.

Brunch. The best meal of the week. Hands down.
Recipes.  We share them.
Unbelievable. How many courses restaurants set in front of us fo’ free!
Never having to say you’re sorry – for eating too much food.
Coma. The food kind: what happens to members after brunch. Subsides after many hours.
Healthy & Happy. What all of the Boston Brunchers are.
Eater. A requirement for membership.
Renee.  Our fearless leader, boldly bringing us to new places and dealing with all of the paperwork.
Stuffed.  You probably won’t need dinner.  Or maybe even breakfast the next day.

Happy 1st Birthday Boston Brunchers!

*Check us out: !

Run for Ryan’s Cup 5K Race Recap

Second 5K – Boom. Done.


Tough? Yes.  Worth it? Hell yes.

This past weekend was amazing overall.  It included lots of time with Boyfriend, apple picking, the best pre-race dinner ever and a great race ending in a PR!  But more on that a little later.

When I woke up Sunday morning (Race Day), my first thought was “I don’t want to go.”  I’m not very optimistic in the morning.  But after dragging myself out of bed, pulling on my new Refuel with Chocolate Milk tech t-shirt courtesy of a giveaway I won a few months back, and lacing up my new Asics, I felt much better.

My new favorite shirt!

When Boyfriend and I got to the race, I was already pre-registered like a good little nerd.  I got my number, a swag bag complete with free water bottles, a t-shirt and two tickets for free beer post-race.  Free beer for running? Sweet.

I meandered around, used the portapotty (which had no line and was the cleanest portable restroom I’ve ever seen), stretched and took a warm-up jog around the parking lot.  I felt good, I looked legit and I was ready for the race to start.

Soon enough, I was moving with the masses to the starting line.  There were no designated corrals because of the small size of the race so I picked a spot towards the middle-back, chatted with some first time 5K-ers and set my music to blare some Nikki Minaj.  When the gun went off, I clicked the timer on my watch to have an idea of how I was doing.  A makeshift Garmin, if you will.

So, how did I do?

Place        Name        No. Div/Tot Div   Age S   City    St    Time    Pace
108    Marie Torto   26   2/4       F2029  23  F Lynn  MA  32:46  10:33

My official time clocked in at 32:46 with a 10:33 min/mile pace.  I was thrilled!  Going into the race, I had a goal to run it under 33 minutes, taking time off of my first 5K time, 33:38.  Originally, I believed that my first time was 34:something, taking a full 2 minutes off but I’ll take the 58 second PR, thank you very much!  Plus, my pace improved from 10:50 to 10:33.  Woo!

The Highs:

The weather: It was nice and chilly when Stephen and I got to the race which is how I kept from getting (too) overheated during the run.

Water stops: There were a bunch along the course.  Friendly people holding out full cups of water so I only had to slow down a tad to grab one.  I then proceeded to take a sip and dump the rest over my head. Felt good.

The event: Everything was so organized and I got lots of fun things for pre-registering.  A free t-shirt, multiple water bottles (I can’t say no to free stuff) and a variety of granola bars, apples and a chocolate chip cookie!

My legs: I gotta say, having a dance background definitely helps the running process.  My legs, large and in-charge, are stocked with keep-going muscles that don’t tire easily.  Not one time during the race did my legs hurt.  Love it.

Mmm... free Bud Light

 The Lows:

My stomach: Once again nausea took over.  Right around that 1.5 mile mark, my insides did a flip flop, threatening gruesome consequences.  I powered through thinking of everything from crossing the finish line, hugging my boyfriend,  showering… anything to keep my mind off of the circus show that was going on in my abdomen.

The inclines: Yes, I said inclines, not hills.  There were a couple of bigger ones in there, reminding me once again that I need to train outside and on more difficult terrain more.  Because “flat” does not always mean flat.. and that’s okay.

Post Race:

The second I crossed that finish line, there was a small child holding a water bottle out for me.  I’m sure I looked like a crazy person, bright red, tears in my eyes from sheer pride.  Oh well, I was happy.  Small child will live.

I shared my 2 beer tickets with Boyfriend because I’m so nice.  (Honestly, I got down half of one before I remembered that 2 pieces of toast + alcohol does not a sober Marie make.)  We got Qdoba for lunch and I proceeded to be 100% lazy the rest of the day.

So what now?

I had a goal during the summer to run a race every month until the end of the year so here’s what I’m looking forward to:

Witch City 5K, 10/23/11, Salem, MA (already registered)

9th Annual Marcia Lemkin Foundation Race to Conquer Lung Cancer, 11/20/11, Lowell, MA (not yet registered)

YMCA Reindeer Run, 12/3/11, Beverly, MA (not yet registered)

I want to know: How do you feel as you cross that finish line?  Elated? Sick? Emotional? Happy to be DONE?  Ready to run another? What’s your favorite part of any race?

New Kicks and a 10K Update

I am happy to say that I got one of the biggest “To-Do’s” off of my list.

Can you guess what I bought? I hope so since the title of the post practically gave it away!

I have been running for a little over 6 months now, have a 5K under my belt and am signed up for two more, one of them this weekend!  But I was running in the crappiest sneakers known to man.  Seriously, I’m pretty sure I bought them during my junior year of college.  3 years ago.  Not acceptable by any means.

Yikes. Those pink Champs were so far gone.

So last weekend, I dragged my mom to the New England Running Company in Beverly, practically jumping up and down at the thought of finally getting legitimate running sneaks.

When I walked in, I was completely overwhelmed (in a good way) by all of the gear in the store.  I’ll admit it – I felt cool.  I felt like a runner who needs new sneakers in order to run correctly and safely and power through those races with a smile on my face.

So many sneakers, so little time..

The saleswoman was incredible.  She had me walk back and forth through the store so she could see how I carry myself.  When I first got there, I for sure thought I wanted Nike Frees because I’ve heard some good things about them.  She told me that being a new runner and for working up to longer distances, that type of shoe wasn’t the way to go.  She had me try on a couple different types but the first pair I tried, the Asics Gel Cumulus, were the perfect match.

Seriously, it’s like running on a cloud in these things. 

Pretty sneakers, hideous floor!

So where does that leave me?  I’m sorry to say that my 10K training has been postponed.  I want to concentrate on the few 5Ks I have coming up without the added pressure to have to run more than the 3.1 miles.  And to be honest, I’m scared.

Somewhere between the accident and now, I’ve put up a mental roadblock.  Even running the 3 miles is daunting at times and I can’t imagine myself going further than that.  Luckily, I did not end up registering right away for the 10K so no money lost but I am bummed.  It’s still on my running bucket list for sure, along with even longer races, but for now, 5Ks are my thing.

I want to know… How do you get over mental roadblocks when it comes to running?  Have you ever hit one?  How do you just get through the toughest long runs without wanting to quit?  Oh – and what are your favorite running sneaks?

And the winner is…..

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway!!  I was so excited to see everyone’s comments and some of your favorite foods sound amazing.  Using a random generator, I have selected a winner!  (I would post the picture of the True Number Generator that I used but I’m embarrassed to say I can’t figure out how.  Do you know?  Shoot me a comment or an e-mail and help me!)

aubreylaine | September 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm | ReplyEdit
Fave food is anything with artichoke hearts :)


I will be sending you an e-mail at some point today and we can discuss your care package!

Everyone else, thank you again for all of your support and love over the past year.  I plan to make the second year of this little blog even better!


Boston Brunchers Dine at Local 149

A mere three days after stuffing myself at Lil’ Vin’s and getting a bit jumbled, I headed into South Boston (lovingly known as “Southie”) to meet up with the Boston Brunchers yet again.  This time, brunch was held at the eclectic Local 149 restaurant located on P Street.

I immediately ran into Kathy and Renee , snapped a picture of the place and headed inside where the manager greeted us with open arms.  The indoor decor was welcoming and fun; even an old school Gulf sign hung on the bar, welcoming each and every patron.

Local 149

But it wasn’t just the decor that made me excited to be there; it was the promise of multiple courses, each more glamourous than the next.  And the company wasn’t half bad either.

Look at that awesome Gulf sign

The first course was a lovely spread of toasted bread, blue and monchego cheeses, two different types of ham and a type of homemade duck sausage.  It was served with bowl of fresh fruit.  We cleaned each platter.

I could've eaten an entire block of that Manchego cheese

Next up, a remade classic that I had for the first time at the Biltmore: Chicken and Waffles.  But these were not ordinary chicken and waffles.  Blueberry waffles with a blueberry compote and lightly breaded chicken made for a sweet and savory Southern dish that I couldn’t stop eating.  If you haven’t tried this combo, you’re missing out.

Mmm.. blueberry

Next up…breakfast pizza, complete with teenie tiny quail eggs on the top.  I have never had a thinner crust in my whole life.  I had to refrain from each multiple pieces.

I'll have one large quail egg pizza to go please...

And no brunch would be complete with a version of French Toast.  This is, by far, one of the best french toast dishes I have ever had.  Brioche bread soaked in an expresso martini, covered in Life cereal, garnished with a chocolate cigarette, Grand Marnier whipped cream, a single M&M and a sliced strawberry.  At this point, I was unable to eat more than a few bites but this is what I’m ordering when I go back there.

French Toast...who wouldn't want that?

Thankfully, the next two dishes that came out were served family-style.  First, a plate featuring Yorkshire Pudding with 2 perfectly poached eggs, cinnamon-raisin toast, spiced hash and a popover.  I don’t particularly love Yorkshire Pudding but the popover was divine.

Yorkshire Pudding plate

The other dish held the fanciest Egg McMuffin I’ve ever seen: Lobster in a large, puffed egg cylinder with potatoes on the side.  Unreal.

This thing was as large as my face..

Finally, when it seemed like my stomach could hold no more, dessert arrived.  A small glass full of a malted chocolate shake with a garnish of coconut and a chocolate cigarette.  I can’t think of anything better to end an incredible meal.

Malt-y deliciousness

Oh – did I mention they also gave us free drinks?  Four of them. FOUR.  And not the tiny sample sized ones either.  A house bloody mary (which I gave to Katy), a delicious mimosa, a coconut rum concoction served in a fresh coconut and my favorite – peach sangria.  I didn’t drive home, no worries.

Why yes, I will have a beverage with brunch, thank you.

I would also like a pretty glass, please.

Mmm.. sangria

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Local 149 and would highly recommend it for a brunch.  Go for something a little different and definitely order a signature drink with your meal!

NOTE:  Brunch was provided to me free of charge by the restaurant but all of these opinions are my own.  Neither the restaurant or the Boston Brunchers asked me to write a review.  This does not portray a typical dining experience.

PS – There is still time to enter my 1st Blogiversary Giveaway!  The contest closes Monday night, 9/12/11, at 11:59pm EST.  Get your entries in ASAP!

1st Blogiversary & 1st Giveaway!

Happy 1st Blogiversary Chocolate & Wine!

Is it rude to wish yourself a Happy Blogiversary?  Maybe… sorry about that.

One year ago today, I was sitting at my desk at work, searching the Internet for something to make for dinner when I decided to start this blog.  At first, it was to document recipes and photos of the food I make.  From there, it spiraled into a cornucopia of food, fitness and fun.  And I thank all of you for helping it (and me) get to where it is now.  I am more than grateful for how much support I have gotten for this blog over the last year.

For my 1st Blogiversary, I also want to do my first ever giveaway!

I love giveaways.  I follow lots of blogs that are lucky enough (and popular enough) to have companies sponsor them and send them gifts to give away to their readers.  I may not be at that point just yet (it’s coming though… any day now!), I still want to host a giveaway all my own.

So what will be included in this fabulous giveaway?  Some of my favorite things that I’m sure you will enjoy!

1) My favorite pastime.  Baking is one of my favorite things to do so I want to bake for YOU! (You see how I even made up that little rhyme? I’m good like that.)  The winner will have a choice of peanut butter blossom cookies, sugar cookies or multi-chip cookies that I will send to them.

2) My favorite peanut butter.  If you haven’t tried Better ‘n Peanut Butter, this is your chance to get a whole jar for yourself.  Warning: If you like said PB and eat the whole jar, I am not responsible. (Note: Allergic to nuts? Enter anyway and we’ll figure out an alternative together!)

3) A Favorite Book.  Let Me Eat Cake by Leslie F. Miller.  A must-read for food lovers!

4) My Favorite Chocolate.  I mean, it’s only fitting to include this.  It’ll be a surprise to the winner which chocolate I choose.

5) My Favorite Wine….Glass.  Apparently it’s frowned upon by the law to mail actual wine.  However, you will receive a pretty cool wine glass that you can pour your own wine in.  And I’ll tell you what my favorite wine is so you can go find it!

There will also be a few surprises in there that I’ll keep secret for the winner.

Who Can Enter?  Anybody!  As long as you enjoy fun, free gifts, I’d love for you to win!

PLEASE REMEMBER to include an e-mail address that you check on a regular basis in all of your comments!  It would be shame to not be able to contact the person who wins!

Ways to Win:

1) Mandatory Entry: Leave a comment telling me what your all-time favorite food and/or pastime is!

Extra Entries:

1) Follow me on Twitter (@ChocoAndWine) and tweet “I want to win @ChocoAndWine ‘s 1st Blogiversary Giveaway!” Then leave a separate comment telling me you did.

2) “Like” my page on Facebook and write me a separate comment telling me you did.

3) Sign up for Chocolate & Wine e-mails using the link on the sidebar “CRAVING MORE CHOCOLATE AND WINE?”.  Leave a separate comment telling me you did!

Good luck to everyone!  Entries can be submitted until Sunday, September 11th, 11:59pm EST. I will select the winner using a random generator and will announce who won on Monday, September 12th!

Lil Vinny’s Ristorante

Last week, I got an e-mail from Boston Bruncher creator, Renee, with an exciting event: Dinner at Lil Vinny’s Ristorante in Somerville, MA.  She opened it up to the first 8 bloggers who registered.  Luckily, I check my e-mail approximately 126 times a day (rough estimate) and jumped on the chance to have a delicious dinner with fellow foodies.

After a not-so-wonderful 2-mile run per my 10K Training Plan (I skipped that day’s strength since I did it the day before plus with 2 hours of dance), I headed out to Somerville.  Note to self: Run outside more. You suck at it.

What should have been a short 28-minute drive turned into a 1(+) hour nightmare.  With no GPS, I ended up in every city around Somerville except Somerville.  I was aggitated to say the least.

When I finally found the restaurant, I walked in to a dimly-lit atmosphere, immediately greeted by the comforting aroma of Italian food.  A few steps in and I recognized my fellow bloggers enjoying each other company.  I instantly felt much better.

I was especially excited to go tonight to meet some of these bloggers in person.  It’s one thing to follow a blog and converse on Twitter but there is something even more meaningful to me when I connect with someone through actual human interaction.  I spent the majority of the dinner conversing with: KatyRachelAudreyKathy and Amanda.

Dinner itself was served family-style but no one could’ve guessed how much food Lil Vin’s would provide for us.  Six courses. SIX.  Seven if you include the bread basket and herb olive oil before the meal.  And the food was as scrumptious as it was beautiful.

I should’ve worn stretchy pants.

Delicious Caesar Salad

The salad course was a larger portion of caesar salad complete with homemade anchovy dressing and crisp croutons.  I didn’t even know the anchovy was present until one of the servers told us.  It gave a nice salty bite to the dish.

Don't those look incredible?

Next up, a little seafood for my palate.  Served family style, we were given perfectly steamed mussels in a spicy, yet delicate sauce.  Then they brought out extra bread so none of the broth was wasted.  They already knew us so well… a mere 2 courses in.

At this point, I was starting to get full...

Our first pasta dish (yes, I did say first) consisted of tortellinis in a yummy pesto sauce.  They were perfectly al dente and I could’ve eaten the cheese filling alone.  With a spoon.  Out of a large bowl.  What?  I like cheese.

A very large helping of eggplant parm.

See that little beauty right there?  It actually wasn’t so little.  In fact, it was a huge slab of eggplant parm.  Lightly breaded and fried, it was covered in cheese and not the least bit oily.  I must admit, I’m partial to Boyfriend’s mom’s baked eggplant parm but this is the best restaurant version I’ve ever eaten.

You had me at "Homemade Pasta"

My family makes homemade pasta.  It’s incredible.  Lil Vin’s also makes homemade pasta – fusilli with bolognese sauce – it is also quite incredible.  At this point, I couldn’t eat more than a few bites so I asked for it to be wrapped up.  Unfortunately, because of jumbling circumstances , it never made it home.  Sad.

The dessert gods must've been smiling down on me.

Finally, after much debate on whether or not I could take another bite of food, this plate arrived in front of me.  If you’ve been reading C&W for more than a day, you know that I can’t say no to sweet stuff.  Vanilla bean panna cotta with candied lemon peel and homemade caramel was the cherry on top of a very large, multi-course, Italian cake.

And I ate every bite.

A big thanks to Lil’ Vinny’s for hosting us and providing us amazing food and wonderful service (and lights for our photos!)  It is the perfect place to go for a romantic date night out or to simply catch up with a good group of friends, like the Boston Brunchers, and enjoy an Italian meal with a tasty twist.  Highly recommended would be an understatement.

Sign of a good dinner, I think...

NOTE: This dinner was provided to me free of charge by Lil Vinny’s Ristorante.  All of the opinions expressed here are mine.  Neither Lil Vinny’s or the Boston Brunchers asked me to write a review of my experience there.


I’ve been getting lots of questions from my Facebook friends and Twitter followers about some statuses and tweets I’ve had over the past 2 days.  To put worries to rest, here is what happened…

On Thursday night, after a wonderful blogger event that I will write a stellar review about on a later date, I got into a car accident on Route 93 North in Medford, MA.  Details aside, no one was seriously injured.

After a chest x-ray and a cervical spine cat scan, I found out I have a chest contusion (with no bruising, thankfully), severe whiplash and a minor concussion.  (The airbag didn’t go off, resulting in my chest and my head hitting the steering wheel at full force).  Aside from a constant headache, some obscured memories and a bit of confusion, I am healthy and well.

While I am still a bit jumbled about the experience, I want to thank my friends and family for the kind words, phone calls, e-mails, tweets and comments.  It is always comforting to know that people care about me and it is one of the best medicines I could ask for.

Coming up soon, I’ll have a fabulous review from the blogger dinner I attended, a second review of a blogger brunch I will be going to tomorrow (thanks to my parents for offering to drive me…) and a recap of my first few days of grad school.  I mean, who doesn’t want to start their Master’s program with a concussion?

Oh — there will also be a lovely little giveaway I hope you will all fight over!