A look back at 2013

I know I’m not the only person who said this, but 2013 flew by. It was an incredible year for me and I’m a little sad to say goodbye to it. To honor it, I’m looking back on all of the amazing (and sometimes sad) things that happened during it, complete with lots of photos!

2013 started with this guy. At the time, we had been together a whopping 5 months, but I already knew he was a different kind of special.

The first moments of 2013!
The first moments of 2013!

I continued to work for Boston.com as a sports production intern, covering everything from football to hockey, including the Bruins playoff run. Watching games from the TD Garden 9th floor Press Loge is something I will never forget.

I miss these passes.
I miss these passes.
I also miss this view...
I also miss this view…

I went to my first Muse concert and loved every second of it.

May or may not have had many beers at this concert.
May or may not have had many beers at this concert.

covered the Boston Marathon and left the finish line minutes before the bombings. Thinking about that day still shakes me to the core.

Boston Strong

I ran 1 single road race: the Beach-to-Beach 5K in Marblehead for my third year in a row. Not my best, not my worst, but my only. Running and I weren’t close this year apparently.

Nice bright red face there.
Nice bright red face there.

I danced in my 5th DanceWorks Boston show and choreographed my 5th piece, “World Spins Madly On“.

My beautiful dancers.
My beautiful dancers.

I ended the internship I loved on a high note and accepted my first full-time “big girl” job offer a few weeks later with premium chocolate company, Lindt & Sprungli, working in their USA headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire. Yes, there is chocolate around me all day, every day.

Lindt USA.. where it always smells like chocolate.
Lindt USA.. where it always smells like chocolate.

BUT I managed to not gain weight in the 6+ months I’ve worked here. Happy dance.

We knew each other a whole year… and that same weekend, I shot a gun for the first time. Irony?

Nice knowing ya for a whole year!
Pretty cool even though I didn't hit anything.
Pretty cool even though I didn’t hit a single disk thingy.

4th of July was complete with this awesome ‘Merica flag cake.

I can't wait to make this again!
I can’t wait to make this again!

I turned 25 in true 25-year-old fashion. On a party bus with my friends.

Party bus!
Party bus!

I moved to a different state (New Hampshire) and in with this guy.

Putting in contact paper like a pro on our first night!
Putting in contact paper like a pro on our first night!
So cute & crafty. Salt dough!
So cute & crafty. Salt dough with help from Sean’s mom!

And celebrated being together a whole year.

Roses. My fave.
Roses. My fave.
He’s my fave too. #mush

We road-tripped to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to visit Sean’s sister Chelsea and her boyfriend Scott. And had an unbelievable time.

Only 4 more hours to go ...
Only 4 more hours to go …

I went on my first real business trip to Savannah, Georgia.

View from my hotel room.
View from my hotel room.

I dressed as a shark to Sean’s Sharknado for Halloween.

"You are the shark to my Sharknado."
“You are the shark to my Sharknado.”

We went to the MSPCA at Nevin Farms’ “Cat Adopt-a-thon”, rescued a beautiful 3-year old tiger-striped tabby, named her Sophie, and fell in love with her.

How could you not love that little face?
How could you not love that little face?

My family went to my cousins’ new house in Maine to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time. Many hours of football and eating commenced.

My cooking and baking marathon for Thanksgiving! 2 pumpkin pies & honey oat loaf later...
My cooking and baking marathon for Thanksgiving! 2 pumpkin pies & honey oat loaf later…

I got into the Christmas spirit early with twinkle lights and an American Girl doll Christmas tree. Next year, it’ll be much bigger.

Twinkle lights & snow
Twinkle lights & snow

I had a wonderful Christmas.

Traditional Christmas Eve photo!
Traditional Christmas Eve photo! Also – I’m short.

And finally, we dressed up for New Years Eve (another big shout out to Sean’s mom for costuming us!) and attended a Gatsby-themed party. (And suffered no hangover the next day!)

Circa 1920s for NYE!
Circa 1920s for NYE! Hair courtesy of my new hair wand curling toy.

2013 was fast and fun for me, with so many memories, I probably missed a few. I danced, I laughed, I cried, I loved. I could not be more thankful or happy in the place I am in right now.

Cheers to you, 2014. You have some big shoes to fill.

The Perfect Winning Moment

Today’s Chocolate & Wine post is a guest contribution.

Photo Courtesy of Lindt Chocolate USA
Photo Courtesy of Lindt Chocolate USA

Chocolate and wine make a lot of sense together. Both items are certainly luxurious, but they can also lend themselves to a touch of whimsy and fun. Casinos are also getting in on this whimsical aspect; their online counterparts continue to attract a younger fan base through colorful gimmicks, enhanced interactivity and a faster-paced style of game play. What’s more, online casinos can be accessed through the latest smartphones and tablet devices, including the iPhone and Android phones. This means anybody can have their fix of mobile slots games from the comfort of their own home (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Sometimes, chocolate and online casinos can also make an interesting combination. In celebration of this year’s Easter Day, pocket fruity rewarded its loyal players with a generous batch of creamy chocolate eggs every week; one lucky player even won a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 as a special Easter gift. Perhaps the only thing that’s better than winning a huge jackpot (or a brand new gadget) from an online casino is to splurge that money on the finest chocolates and wine.

However, pairing chocolate and wine isn’t easy. It’s a delicate process that requires deliberate experimentation and an assured palate. But when the right chocolate is paired with the right wine, the results can be quite pleasant.

The general rule of thumb in chocolate and wine pairing is to match elegant-flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; similarly, darker chocolates tend to go very well with full-bodied wines. For example, an intense, refined chocolate like the Lindt EXCELLENCE 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate bar goes splendidly with an equally intense and fruity Cabernet Sauvignon.

Much like the pairing (and tasting) of high-quality chocolates and wines, there’s no rush in playing mobile slots games in an online casino. Both activities are meant to be enjoyed and appreciated at one’s own pace. Indeed, tasting a small piece of Lindt EXCELLENCE A Touch of Sea Salt – embedded with hand-harvested Fleur de Sel sea salt crystals for a distinctly flavorful crunch – paired with a glass of earthy, smoky Pinot Noir is already a sublime experience on its own. But when it’s done to celebrate a substantial jackpot win from a particularly lucky mobile slots game? Now that’s a perfect winning moment.

Working 9 to 5… (and a CHOCOLATE GIVEAWAY!)

Ok, technically I work 8:30 until whenever I feel like I’ve done enough work for the day that constitutes leaving. Usually it’s around 5 or 6.

In my last post (a month ago… where did summer go?!), I mentioned my new job as the Social Media Specialist at Lindt & Sprüngli Chocolate USA, more commonly known as “Lindt.” In a nutshell, I develop the social and digital content and marketing campaigns for Lindt’s chocolate products, ranging from the well-known LINDOR Truffles to EXCELLENCE chocolate bars and everything in between. I’m also in charge of community management for our social channels and read every comment or post from Lindt fans.

I can’t lie.. for the most part, it’s a pretty sweet job. Sweet job… because I work in a chocolate factory. See what I did there? Moving on…


So anyway… this Giveaway situation.

Since I work for what I think is the best chocolate company in the world, I want to share it with you! The winner will get a homemade Lindt Chocolate gift box complete with all of my favorites and yours too! (And maybe a fun surprise.. who knows?!)


All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me what your absolute favorite Lindt Chocolate is. (Just click on the “comments” below to leave your own!) That’s it!  It could be anything from the Milk Chocolate truffles, to the EXCELLENCE Dark Chocolate with a Touch of Sea Salt bar to our hollow Gold Bunny that you get in your Easter basket every year.

And if you’re feeling lucky and want 1 more entry, follow Lindt Chocolate USA on Facebook and leave a comment telling me you did.

Good luck all! The contest will run from now until I decide to close it so get those entries in and get some chocolate from me!*

So much chocolate...so little time.
So much chocolate…so little time.

*Disclaimer: While I do work for Lindt Chocolate USA, this is not a sponsored giveaway. Any and all chocolate will be paid for and come directly from me. All opinions expressed are my own!

**Contest valid only to residents in the continental USA. (Sorry, I can’t ship internationally or to Alaska or Hawaii.)  Also, if you live somewhere hot, I will do my best to see that your chocolate does not melt, but please be advised that chocolate and heat are not friends. 

Brunching at Back Deck

As I walked into the Back Deck Restaurant on West Street in Boston on Sunday, I couldn’t believe that it had been over a year since I last attended a Boston Brunchers‘ event. It was also the first brunch where I got to use my new fancy camera!


Since the Patriots were playing in the AFC Championship game later that day, I knew I had to work at 3pm, so when Renee sent a contest around to win a seat at this brunch from 12pm-2pm, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to enter. When I was selected, I was beyond excited.

When I sat down, I was greeted by a few familiar faces, like Erika, Meghan, Liz and Jess.  I wasted no time choosing a signature drink from their menu: an Orange Cooler, complete with OJ, orange vodka, Cointreau and lime juice. I loved it. If it was acceptable to have one of those every morning, I would. The alcohol was subtle, but present and the juice was fresh. Perfect start to brunch.


Each bruncher got to choose an item off of the menu to try and we decided to start with some appetizers to share at the table: grilled zucchini with a garlic mayo, eggplant spread on pita, squash soup, chicken livers, hot wings with dipping sauce, and a honey-drizzled grilled grapefruit.  I wasn’t particularly fond of the chicken livers, and the grapefruit was difficult to eat, but everything else was delicious.


As I perused the menu trying to decide what to order, I felt the brunch menu leaned more towards lunch than breakfast. Maybe I’m just strange, but even during “brunch”, I almost always choose a breakfast item. So that’s what I did, settling on Eggs Diablo. I must’ve been feeling a little adventurous since a) I almost never order egg-y breakfast items and b) this dish came complete with a habenero sauce (which I asked for on the side just in case…)


I would say that the dish was good, but not mind-blowing. The eggs were perfectly cooked: fluffy, light and just runny enough, but I didn’t taste much spice on the “spicy” pork. The black beans and tortillas tasted as they should. I think I would’ve preferred toast to the tortillas under the beans. I didn’t really eat much of it. The crispy tortilla strips on top, however, were a textural element that I enjoyed. When I took taste of the habenero sauce, I was instantly thankful that I asked for it on the side. While tasty, even the smallest amount warmed my mouth and throat and any more would’ve overpowered the whole dish. When I was able to get everything on my fork all at once, I must say it was quite delicious. Separately, however, the elements on the plate were good, but not great.

The other menu item I was eyeing was the Challah French Toast, which the bruncher sitting next to me happened to order. The moment I took a bite, I knew it would’ve been more my style. It was crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and had a bourbon and caramelized banana sauce… Heaven. And, it was huge!


But we weren’t done yet. Our server came over with a dessert menu and, like our appetizers, we got a few to share. The “Drunken 3 Musketeer” ice cream was by far my favorite.


Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this brunch and would recommend Back Deck for any Sunday. Heads up – they have a kiddie menu too so don’t be afraid to bring the kiddos along!  If you’re looking for a reasonably priced good time, try it out!

*The Back Deck provided brunch free of charge to the Boston Brunchers and I was asked to write a review of the meal and experience I had. ALL opinions stated here are my own.

It’s Almost Christmas!!!

To start this post today, I’d like to say a very Happy Birthday to my cousin Sam!

Sam's 21st Birthday... 22 will be much calmer.

I can’t believe how fast this year flew by.  It’s crazy to me that Christmas is a mere 2 days away.  Am I ready?  YES YES YES!

Our Christmas Tree... It takes up the better half of the living room.

First, I want to give a special shout-out and thank you to to Boston.com for featuring my Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti recipe the other day.  Because of you, I reached a record number of page views for one day at Chocolate & Wine!  What a great early Christmas present for my little corner of the Internet.

You should really make these for Christmas..

Lots of people ask me what I cook this time of year for Christmas and the various holiday parties I go to.  To be honest, the list is endless.  I try not to bring the same thing to the same place so it’s always a never-ending search for new recipes to try.

This year, I narrowed it down to a few winners.

For my best friend’s ugly sweater party, I made kale chips.  The recipe could not be simpler.  Take a bunch of fresh kale and wash thoroughly (they can be gritty so really let ’em soak).  Then rip the leaves away from the stems and place on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray.  Top with more cooking spray (instead of oil to save some cals!), a little salt and a little black pepper and pop into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  They become crisp and golden and melt in your mouth.  A really great snack or appetizer for hungry girls watching their waistlines!

Check out those sweaters. We don't play around.

For a Christmas Eve appetizer, I pinterest-ed a recipe (did I mention I’m on Pinterest now?  And obsessed with Pinterest?  Well, I am.) And I found mini toothpick caprese salads.  So easy, so healthy, so beautiful!  I’m even going to make a balsamic glaze to drizzle over the top.

Christmas Day is my favorite.  Because I come from a large Italian family, we do things in a traditional way.  And by tradition, I mean we eat and drink for approximately 6-8 hours and pass out in food comas at the end of the night.

Food Coma 101... Christmas 2007!

Christmas is a time for family and the Torto family’s ancient recipe for homemade raviolis.  These are no joke, my friends.  We already made them (in November) and they are sitting in plastic baggies in my aunt’s basement freezer waiting for their bath in from-scratch, simmered-for-hours tomato sauce.

Christmas day is served in multiple courses.  Antipasti, then escarole soup, then the ravs with meatballs, sausages and pork, then salad, then dessert.  Not to mention the finger foods we munch on before sitting down to the table or the bottles and bottles of Asti Spumonti and 2-Buck-Chuck red wine we go through.

This is Asti and it will be gone.

And that’s only with my family.  I mentioned that Stephen is Italian too, didn’t I?  That’s a whole ‘nother story (and food coma..)

I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends, and great food.  And maybe a surprise or two!

Beautiful pillows of ravioli perfection. Photo courtesy of Miss Ali Reed.

A Life Update

Okay, it’s been approximately 3 or so weeks since I panicked about school and I haven’t written since.  I hope you are still out there listening to me ramble in my now dust-covered corner of the Internet.

So it’s time to tidy up a bit.

In the past three weeks, I’ve calmed down and gotten through my first few projects for my grad classes.  I survived.  And did pretty well.  Maybe I overreacted a bit at the beginning.  Maybe.

A lot has been going on here at Chocolate & Wine.  Here are some highlights:

2 weekends ago, I attended 2 weddings: my cousin George married his beautiful fiancé (of 4 years!) Julie, and my friend Raechel married the love of her life, Steve.  Both weddings were gorgeous and I cried a lot. Of course I did.  I realized how much I can’t wait to plan a wedding of my own!

George & Julie's Wedding with the family

And wedding #2..

Raechel and Steve

This past weekend, I spent Friday in the North End with Stephen and we FINALLY got to go out for his birthday surprise.  I took him to Riccardo’s Ristorante where they put on a “Mystery Cafe” show every Friday night and serve a three-course meal.  The show was hilarious, if not a bit cheesy, and the food was as genuinely Italian as you’d expect from the North End.  Highly recommended for good food and a good time.

We capped our night with beers at a bar called The Point and goodies from my favorite North End bakery.

Heart You.

Saturday was party marathon day.  Together, my two best friends and I tackled a “I’m Pretty Good at Drinking Beer” party (where we consumed no beer or any beverage other than iced coffee), taco night hosted by Alyse (which were de-lish!), a Halloween party and finally, my sister’s 21st birthday celebration at Tequila Rain in Boston.

Swy, Jeff, Alyse... That's nice.

Did you know Halloween is one of my favorite holidays? 

So freaky, so cool, so legit. Cat costumes are the way to go.

And it wouldn’t be a 21st birthday without a 16-ounce beer in each hand.

Happy 21st! Here's 2 Coors Lights.

Sunday brought another 3 events: the Boston Bruncher’s 1st Birthday Brunch at the Island Creek Oyster Bar on Comm Ave. in Boston, my good friend Miriah’s daughter’s Christening (that little baby is nothing short of an angel) and a 4-hour dance rehearsal with DanceWorks Boston (always a fun time!)

A sneak peak into Birthday Brunch!

Then on to the Christening…

You can't tell me she isn't the cutest baby in the world..

I made favors… Oreo ball truffles with a piped pink A on each one, individually wrapped with a pink ribbon and a tag.

Not bad considering I usually stink at piping.

They came out pretty freakin’ cute.

Everybody loved them. Makes me happy when people like what I make!

Along with my jam-packed weekends and filming/editing-laden school schedule, I managed to get in a couple of quick training runs for my 3rd 5K coming up this weekend!  I, along with my friend Kim, will run the Witch City 5K in Salem, maybe even dressed up a bit.

This upcoming weekend also brings pumpkin carving with my BU friends and a huge DanceWorks Boston Halloween costume party on Saturday night.  I will, unfortunately, have to keep my drinking to a minimum because of the race on Sunday morning, but that won’t stop me from wearing those cat eyes!

I promise not to wait another 3 weeks to post.  I have finally pulled myself out of a slight rut I had fallen into, but I’m back and excited.

And I had delicious Bon Me truck food for dinner the other night: a brown rice bowl with tofu, shitaki mushrooms, cilantro, pickled veggies, bean sprouts and mesclun greens.  YUM.

Healthy and filling.

I wanna know: What’s new in your life?  What would your dream wedding consist of?  And what are you being for Halloween this year?

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!