January Restaurant Review: Border Cafe

So at the beginning of the year, I set some goals for myself.  One of which is trying a different restaurant every month and writing a review for it.  Welcome to my newest series here at Chocolate & Wine, my monthly Restaurant Review!

On Saturday night, Stephen and I had every intention on going to a new place on Rt. 1 in Saugus called Jalapeños.  Since I’ve seen the sign for months, I assumed it was up and running.  I was mistaken.  Damn.  I hate being wrong.

Hungry, and still in the mood for Mexican, Stephen quickly suggested a place I had only been to once or twice pre-blog.. aka, a long time ago.  Our new destination? The Border Cafe, located on Rt. 1 North in Saugus, Massachusetts.

The Border Cafe... perhaps you have one near you?

I could tell from the parking lot that we were in for a wait.  When we got inside, the hostess handed us one of those remote control-looking things that buzz and light up when your table is ready.  Stephen suggested a drink and we headed over to the bar.  I noticed a couple about halfway through their drinks with the same buzzy control thing in hand.  I knew that if I hovered long enough, I’d have a prime seat at the bar while we waited for our table.  5 minutes later, the couple’s buzzer went off, they left, and I got a front row seat to salsa heaven for our 50 minute wait.

2 drinks, chips and salsa and our buzzy remote. I like the way this dinner is turning out.

For our wait, I ordered a spicy glass of Cabernet and Stephen got a Tradition Margarita.  Both were delicious but I will almost always choose wine over tequila.

Sooner rather than later, we were seated at our table, ordered ice waters (with lemon) and perused the menu.  After debating between things like tacos, grilled fish and a burrito that was a bit too big for my liking, I noticed the vegetarian options on the last page of the menu.  Now, I’m not vegetarian but I can always go for a dish loaded with veggies.  One thing stood out to me instantly: Vegetarian Jambalaya.

A little rice, a lot of veggies. Nice and spicy, just how I like it!

It was pretty much a no-brainer and for $6.97, this huge plate of food could not have been any better.  Stephen got steak tacos that were also yummy but my heart was set on devouring the veggie dish in front of me.  It has sauteed tomatoes, broccoli, onions, carrots (that I picked out because I don’t like cooked carrots… go figure), summer squash, mushrooms, zucchini, black beans, corn and cilantro with other herbs and spices, drizzled with a spicy ranchero sauce and served over seasoned rice with a slice of cornbread.  I got a side of sour cream just in case the sauce had a little too much heat but I didn’t end up needing much of it and Stephen ate the cornbread.  He’s such a good dinner buddy.

Overall Rating?  9 out of 10.

The service was excellent, the food and drinks were delicious and our final bill was a steal.  For two more drinks (I got the sangria and Stephen, a Corona) and 2 huge plates of food, plus another basket of chips with salsa that we didn’t touch, came to $28.00 even.  Not bad for a Friday night dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day.

We’ll definitely go back, but next month, it’s off to a different place and another review.

I want to know: Have you been to the Border Cafe?  What did you order?  Did you have an enjoyable experience?  What restaurants should I review in upcoming months? (I’ll credit you in my post if I try it out!) 

Virtual Bake Sale!

Attention Chocolate & Wine Readers!

I want/need/must tell you about an amazing opportunity to make a huge difference.  A difference to a first-time marathon runner and an incredible charity.  And an opportunity to get some delicious goodies!

My good friend/fellow Boston blogger and bruncher, Amanda, is running the Boston Marathon for the first time.  She is running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is attempting to raise $4,000.  Right now, you can attend her blog’s virtual bake sale and bid on a variety of baked goods by some of her favorite bloggers (myself included!!!!)

These are my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls. You should probably go bid on them.

Simply visit her website between now and January 28th to bid on the items.  All of the proceeds go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and will help her reach her goal.  Amanda is a kind, passionate person who wants nothing more than to run 26.2 miles successfully and have an impact on this charity.  YOU can help her make it happen.

Questions?  Shoot me an e-mail!  And please let me know via comment if you bid on anything/win anything, especially if you bid on/bid on my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls!


For every Chocolate & Wine reader who bids on a baked good from Amanda’s bake sale and leaves me a comment here telling me you did, I will donate $1 to Amanda’s charity.  For every baked good a Chocolate & Wine reader bids on AND WINS, I will donate $5 to Amanda’s charity.  And if a Chocolate & Wine reader wins MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, I will donate $15 to Amanda’s charity site!!  Either way, this is a win-win-win situation to help people in need!

(PS – these are based on the honor system.  If you say you bid on something, please make sure you do…)

1.  Bid on an item on Amanda’s bake sale and leave me a comment telling me you did.  Include what you bid on and how much you bid.

2.  If you win an item, leave me a comment telling me what you won and how much you paid for it.

3.  If you win MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, leave me a comment telling me you did and how much you paid for it.  Then enjoy them immensely when I send them to you!

I mean... yum.

I’ll keep a pledge tally and tell you how much I will personally be donating at the end of the bake sale.

Good Luck and Happy Bidding!!

Still lookin’ for a February race

I got a book for Christmas called Women Who Run by Shanti Sosienski and it is one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read… and I’m only on page 49.

Go buy this book! It is a much better read than the two embassy/diplomacy books underneath it.

When it comes to running, I am not an every.single.day runner.  In fact, I don’t even really consider myself a “runner.”  I run when I want to.  I run for fun.  I run for fitness.  But most importantly, I run for me.  I honestly cannot say I love it.. yet.  And I’m not yet disciplined enough to lace up my sneakers each day because I know I should.  But I do enjoy it enough to register for races and spend money to do something I could do for free.  I feel that the bragging rights (more like I-Ran-A-Race-So-I’m-Cool rights) and t-shirt are worth it.

So back to this book.  It is full of stories of incredible women runners.  Marathon-running mothers, adventure racers, 50-somethings who can run a sub-seven-minute mile.  And as different as each of them are from one another, they all have the same message – they run because they love it.

So I get to page 49, right at the beginning of a new chapter and I decide that it would be a good idea to look for more races between the end of January and April.  So far, I’ve come up with 3 definites and a big empty calendar for the month of February:

February: HELP.

March: Hibernian 5K in my hometown (Lynn, MA).  Woo hoo!  Finally a race in the city I grew up in!

April: Energize the Earth 10K (Beverly, MA).  My first 10K.  Gah.  Who’s got a rockin’ training plan for this one?  Anyone?  E-mail me and we’ll be best friends.

May: Beach to Beach 5K (Marblehead, MA).  This will be the anniversary race of my first race ever back in May 2011.  I can’t wait to crush the crap out of last year’s time.

So, who out there has a fantastic race (5K, 4M or 5M.. ya know, since I run those now..) for February that they are dying to tell me about? (2 catches: It cannot be for Saturday, February 11th… I take the Foreign Service Exam that day(!) or any Sunday morning because I dance.)

On Moving.

I moved out.

That sounds so dramatic, right?  Conjures up all sorts of story lines and skepticism of family issues.  But in reality, I’m just a 23-year-old grad student who was sick of her hour and a half commute to school 4 days a week.  I love my parents and living with them is wonderful most of the time, but I needed a change in a big way.  So I made one.

You might remember when I panicked last semester and had a meltdown, but eventually came around to the idea that I actually kind of enjoy getting my Master’s Degree.  But the commute had to go, friends.  I know there are people out there who have much longer commutes than I do, and they are very strong people.  I am simply not one of them.

Back at the beginning of October, I began searching BU’s website for possible apartments close to my college.  The only one that fell into my price range (AKA cheap) and desired location was a 4-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom, 3rd floor walk-up a little less than a mile away from BU’s College of Communications.  I went to check it out, fell in love with it, and found myself signing a lease for my first big-girl place a few months later.

Now, I am unpacked (for the most part) and already loving life outside of Lynn, MA.  I have 3 roommates, a good-sized room, still plenty of space to cook and a 3-minute walk to the gym.

I heart my new kitchen. That's my new crockpot already taking up space on the counter.

And while I’m only in here until the end of May, when I have to gear up for my summer in London (still more details to come!), I find it very cool to say that “my apartment in Boston” is the best loan money I’ve spent so far.

No, sadly, Boyfriend is not my roommate.. yet. But the ribbon/clothespin photo idea is courtesy of my cousin Ali.

Not sure what that says about the actual degree I’m working so hard for, but it’s the little things, like my very large schedule board, that make me happy.

What? You mean everyone doesn't have a huge bulletin board dedicated to their daily routine? I don't understand. And yes, the shiny black and silver things on my bookcase ARE pom-poms. Don't judge.

I want to know: Did you love your first real home-away-from-home?  Was it super expensive or was the price just right? How do you feel about my crazy bulletin board?  What craft on Pinterest can I add to my room decor?

Logging the Miles

When I started running last March, I never expected that I would continue with it.  I did the Couch to 5K plan to prove to myself that I could complete something that was completely out of my comfort zone.

Back then, I ran in ancient (AKA gross) sneakers with no knowledge of pace or technique.  I just got on a treadmill three days a week and followed the plan.  When my first 5K race  rolled around, I did it and enjoyed it but not enough to keep track of how many miles I was running.

Now, 10 months later, I have 5 races under my belt and my cardio of choice is running.  Though I’m not exactly speedy or particularly great at it, I have come to (mostly) enjoy it.  Do I get up at 5 am and pound out 7 miles every morning?  Well, no, not yet.  But maybe someday.

This year I am adding a resolution to my list.  I want to log my miles and maybe even have a goal mileage in mind.  But since dance will take over my life once again very soon, I don’t need to resolve to run any crazy number… just enough for me.

I want to know:  Do you log your miles?  What’s your mileage goal for 2012?

Run Your Hangover Off 5-Miler Recap

Hello 2012!  It’s nice to meet you.  My name is Marie and sometimes I do silly things.  Like take 3 hour-long workout classes at the gym back to back to back and expect to walk to the next day, or register for a 5-miler instead of a 5K for the first day of the new year when I’ve never run more than 3.1 miles in my whole life.

I’m sure we’ll be great friends.

On Friday night, I was sitting in front of the TV with my parent, laptop open, researching the my first race of the year.  I was naively looking for the starting line address when I noticed that the January 1, 2011 race was 5 miles and the accompanying walk was 3.  In a panic, I searched for the January 1, 2012 race and there it was: 5 MILE run.  Not a 5K, a 5-miler.


I immediately panicked.  Things like “I can’t run 5 miles!” to “How could I be so STUPID?” came out of my mouth more than once.  But the fee had already been paid so instead of throwing 23 precious racing dollars out the window, I opted for my only other choice: run the 5 miles.

And to my utter surprise, relief and joy… it was great.

Hi, I'm Marie.. I don't always pay attention when I register for races..

The Highs:

Inexpensive, local race.  A $20 race fee for a 5-miler is great, especially when you get a shiny PR and some bright green running gloves.  Plus, Woburn is only 20 minutes away so I got to sleep in, eat my toast with peanut butter, and warm up without having to rush.

First race with the Garmin.  I’m hooked.  I knew when to slow down after I went out way too fast (seriously, seeing a 8:10 on the watch within the first .25 miles was SCARY!!) It also let me see how much longer I had to go which made it less daunting.

Friendly, helpful volunteers.  Because the course went between Woburn and Winchester, there were volunteers stationed at the various streets to point runners in the right direction.  And at the halfway mark, a nice man shouted your time too you.  And every clapped and waved.  It was reassuring to hear “you’re doing great!” on practically every corner.

My cheering squad.  Both of my parents came to see my race.  It was the first time my dad has been to one and only a second for my mom.  It was so great seeing them as I rounded the corner after that last hill and I almost knocked my mom over when I hugged her.

The weather.  Partly sunny, 50 degrees with a nice, cool breeze.  A-mazing.

Automatic PR.  First 5-miler equals 5-miler PR.  55:23 on the Garmin.  Not too shabby!

Distance = 5 miles. My longest run ever!

The Lows:

Only 1 water stop.  I really didn’t need water during the race because I never felt dehydrated but having some to splash in my face, especially towards the end would’ve been nice.

So. Many. Hills.  I’m happy to report that I made it up most of them without having to walk but the last hill right before the finish line was a BITCH!

Overall, I am a happy happy girl.  I keep thinking, “I can’t believe I ran 5 miles today.”  And I realized that I’d rather run longer distances at a slower pace rather than wanting to die from going to fast after half a mile.  Great lessons, great race.

Great way to kick of 2012!