February Restaurant Review: The Landing at 7 Central

Happy Valentine’s Day all!!  Welcome to my February edition of Chocolate & Wine’s Restaurant Review.

This month, I wanted to find something completely different than anywhere Stephen and I have been.  Plus, being Valentine’s Day, we decided to go out on Friday for a nice, quiet evening instead of fighting the crowds today.

I’ve gotten lots of restaurant recommendations (Thanks! Keep ’em coming!) but this is a place I found via Google.  I wanted something in the “hidden gem” category and that’s exactly what I found: The Landing at 7 Central in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA.

I made a reservation for two at 8pm (ya know.. just in case) and we found it pretty easily.  It was elegantly lit and very inviting.  The hostess sat us right away, directly across from a cozy fireplace.

The Landing in Manchester-by-the-Sea

Our waitress, who’s name escapes me, was friendly and attentive.  She took our drink orders and returned quickly with ice waters, freshly baked rolls that were still hot and the most delicious olive oil I have ever tasted.  A few minutes later, my Argentinian Malbec and Stephen’s Sam Adams-something-or-other-beer was in front of us.  It was efficient service without the feeling of being too rushed.

The menu itself was ridiculous.  There were so many options and everything sounded incredible.  Things like “Chicken Jessica” and “Pan Roasted Salmon” jumped out at me but in the end, I settled on what I really wanted but rarely get: Seafood Risotto.  Stephen got the Prime Rib special.

Seafood Risotto... Yes, please.

My risotto was flawless.  It had muscles, tender scallops, perfectly cooked shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, all wrapped in a not-overly-cheesy bed of puffed up rice.  I had to stop myself from eating too much of it, knowing that I could devour the whole bowl if given the opportunity.  (Not that it made it until the next day anyway due to a midnight snack craving but that’s besides the point..) Stephen’s prime rib was perfectly medium rare, accompanied by a blue cheese butter (amazing) asparagus and thick, garlicky mashed pototoes – comfort food for a chilly night.

Seafood risotto - sorry the photo is a little blurry, but check out all those beautiful colors!

Tip: Always ask what the special is!

That prime rib was HUGE!

There was only one thing that threw me about The Landing.  The tables were set with white linen tablecloths with a blue overlay, lovely cutlery and a single candle.  And then, resting on the dinner roll plate, under said cutlery was… a paper napkin?  Wait, come again?  A beautiful restaurant with paper napkins?  Again, it’s small.  Tiny even compared to the wonderful time we had but I think a place like that should reconsider the paper and switch to cloth.  Just my two cents.

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10.

Just like January, we had another terrific restaurant experience.  Wonderful, friendly service, gourmet food, good prices and the perfect atmosphere for any romantic date night out.  Be aware that for young adults and students on a budget, it may be a little pricier for you, but still 100% worth it.

But please Landing friends, lose the paper napkins…

I want to know:  Do you have a restaurant you’d like me to review?  Been to The Landing and have a difference experience than I did?  Let me know!

2012 will be BIG.

2012 promises to be a huge year for me.  I have big ideas, big dreams and big goals.

This year will include a lot of milestones.  I’ll turn 24, study abroad in London covering the Summer Olympics, create and present a media thesis project, choreograph for DanceWorks Boston and Kinetic Synergy, work my 4th summer with the National Dance Alliance, finish my last 2 semesters of grad school, run a bazillion more races… the list is endless.

Goals-wise, I am all about the resolutions. I love ’em.  Not the kinds that say “I’m going to drop such-and-such amount of weight” but the ones that make you feel good when you accomplish them and make you want to work harder if they slip away from you.

I feel like this can be referred to in all aspects of life...

2012 Goals

Run 10 5K races.  I know this is attainable.  I just need to buckle down and register.

To go along with my 5K race goal, I want to run the 2012 Marblehead Beach to Beach 5K again this year.  It was my first ever race and I’d love to keep running it every year.

Run a sub 27:00 5K.  That’s about a 9:00 min/mile.  I can do it.

Run 5 longer races this year, 5-milers, 10Ks and one half marathon.  Holy crap, I can’t believe I’m writing that, but there it is, out there for the world to see.

Choreograph 3 more dance pieces.  It took me until 2011 to realize how much I love choreographing and I don’t want to stop!

Try out and review 1 new restaurant a month.  I want to expand my food horizons and experience as much of it as possible… on a budget.

Work 3 NDA camps.  This one might be tough because of London, but I think three is a good compromise since I usually work 9.

Ace my study abroad.  6 weeks, 1 class, 1 internship, 1 chance.  An internship with a huge news networks could lead to a possible job.  I want to kick ass during my time in London; it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and could set me apart from a million other applicants in the real world.

Rock my media thesis.  No specifics just yet but it will include a website where I am happy to say I just buy the domain.  It will come with a lot of physical and mental changes and challenges.  Stay tuned.

Finish graduate school successfully.  Without too many meltdowns would be ideal.

Save money.  This year will be especially difficult since London alone is very expensive, but I have a number in mind and achieving it at least once this year would be great.

Love others more.  Personal goal.  Be nicer also ties in here.

Overall, I hope 2012 will be as successful, productive and eye-opening as 2011 as been.  Thank you to all of you who read Chocolate & Wine and support me through everything I do.

I raise my glass (of Asti) to you.

Last question of 2011: What are your biggest goals for the new year?

 

2011 Recap & Wrap Up

2011.  I feel like it went by so fast.  At this time last year, I was a completely different person and I’m happy to report that I’m a better me than I was at the close of 2010.

This year, I achieved things I never thought I ever could.  I choreographed three group routines, I started running and ran four 5K races, I got into grad school and survived my first semester, I realized what I truly want in my life and I am starting to become the person I have always wanted to be.

I worked my third summer with the National Dance Alliance, I now dance in an amazing company in Boston and BU has opened my eyes to incredible new opportunities, including an acceptance into a 6-week study abroad program to cover the London Olympics next summer.

2011 taught me to not take life too seriously.  To enjoy each day, love whole-heartedly and appreciate myself for who I am.  It’s a great feeling to look back on this year and know that I have grown in so many ways.

Back in July, I set some mid-year goals for myself.  So let’s recap them and see how I did.

1.  Work (at least) 8 NDA summer camps.  Done.  I worked 9!  I traveled everywhere from Kansas to Maryland and loved every minute of it.  

NDA friends take awesome photos.

2.  Run 2 more 5Ks.  Done.  I ran 3 more: Run for Ryan’s Cup 5K in SeptemberWitch City 5K in October and the Lynnfield Turkey Trot 5K in November.  I wanted to run one in December as well but since I didn’t get to, I signed up for the “Run Your Hangover Off 5K” on January 1st.  I think it’s the best way to kick off 2012!

I heart bib numbers.

3.  Host a blog giveaway.  Done. I hosted my first giveaway in September for Chocolate and Wine’s 1st Blogiversary!

4.  Stick to Weight Watchers (not playing a numbers game here. Work out, eat right, follow the points, be healthy and let the body do what it will.)  Kinda done.  I don’t exactly stick to the WW plan but I did manage to drop 12 pounds this year and I am VERY happy about that.

I, I, I, I WORK OUT.

5.  Rock the first semester of my grad program at Boston University (all A’s would be sweet but we like B+s too.)  Kinda done.  1 A-, 1 B+ and 2 Bs.  I am very proud; grad school is hard, man.

Dream job.

6.  Try 1 new recipe a week.  Fail.  Sometimes when I cook, I use the same recipes over and over.  But now that I have a beautiful new crockpot, I might be able to achieve this goal in 2012.

7.  Dance in 4 DanceWorks Boston fall pieces.  Done.  I danced in 5!  6 if you include the finale/Flash Mob!  

Some of my DanceWorks family...

8.  Train for and run a 10K.  Fail.  I chickened out.  2012 will hold at least one 10K and maybe even a half marathon.

9.  Take hot yoga regularly.  Fail.  I probably did it a total of 3 times between the summer and now.

Overall, I think this has been a great year.  I achieved most of my goals and really let myself let go of the rest of the emotional baggage leftover from undergrad.

So long, 2011…On to 2012! Goals and “resolutions” to come!

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.

DanceWorks Boston Winter Show 2011 (and some good news)

Hello all!  I am in the BEST mood today and it’s because of a few things.

Well, it’s Friday and that always puts me in a good mood.  I’m also SO close to being done with my first semester of grad school.  Also school-related, I found out this week that I got into BU’s summer program.  Read: I’m going to LONDON for 6 weeks this summer to cover the Summer Olympics.  NBD.  That’ll be a post to come but I screamed and jumped up and down on the couch when I got my e-mail.

Finally, tonight is opening night for the DanceWorks Boston winter show!

DWB Winter 2011 Choreographers... Yeah buddy!

After 3 months of intense rehearsals and an awesome tech week, DWB could not be more ready to perform tonight and tomorrow night at the Boston University Dance Theater.

I’ve said it before but DanceWorks is one of the reasons why I haven’t lost my sanity this past year.  It’s also where I have met some of my best friends in the entire world, been myself, gotten to choreograph and be choreographed.We really are a family and I am so blessed to be a part of such an incredible group.

Opening night.  Ready, set, WORK.

Weekly Gratitude

It’s been a really long time since I did a Weekly Gratitude post.  Sometimes when I’m stressed out or just really busy, I forget about the things that are really important.

I’m thankful for dance.  This is a frequent flyer on my Weekly Gratitude list but it deserves to be there every single time.  I’ve had the amazing opportunity to choreograph, see my visions come to life, meet some of my best friends, and be a complete goofball (aka be myself).

How'd that get there?

I’m thankful Thanksgiving is next week.  I get 2 Thanksgivings.  Stephen and I start at my house, have some dinner with my family and leave before dessert to get up to his aunt and uncle’s house in New Hampshire for pie.  We chase it down with Christmas movies because with our families, Christmas starts the moment the Thanksgiving turkey is gone.

I’m thankful for my BU friends (and that our semester is over in 3 weeks).  They are fun and I like them.  Plus, they understand why I want to rip my hair out from stress, mainly because we are all in the same boat.

I’m thankful that I chose BU.  Yes, it’s a ton of work and yes, the commute blows but I already know so much more than I did a mere 3 months ago.  I had almost no experience in front of the camera, minimal experience with editing and didn’t even know what a JVC HD was.  Now, I’m shooting, editing and putting together all of my own stuff and it’s incredibly gratifying when other people like the projects you spend hours and hours on.

I’m thankful for my AC friends.  I don’t get to see them everyday, but the occasions we do get to be together are the absolute best.  I’m so excited for Christmas on the Cape and to give my awesome Secret Santa present.  But I digress.

This is Alyse. I do not have her for Secret Santa but she'd appreciate my gift.

I’m thankful for my family.  Even though sometimes they drive me nuts, family is family and I love mine.

I’m thankful that I have someone special who loves me.  Mushy?  Yes.  But it’s true so it’s there.

He's a saint because he puts up with me. Seriously... ask anyone.

I’m thankful for crafts I can do.  I’m not a crafty person.  I can’t draw, paint, build, sculpt.  But once in a while, I’ll come across something that is “so simple, you can do it with your kids.”  Well, if small children can make these Christmas gifts, so can I, damn it.

I’m thankful I have a 5K tomorrow.  Did I really just say that?  I probably won’t feel that way when I wake up tomorrow but it’s still true.  After last month’s rough Witch City race, I’m ready to get back to PR-ing.  Here that stomach? Be cool, okay?

TELL ME!!  What are you thankful for today?  I’ll be thankful you told me!

November

It’s officially the middle of November.. when the hell did that happen?

I only have 3 full weeks left in my first semester of grad school.  That is an amazing sentence.  I could do a cartwheel with that sentence.

The beginning of November included lots of filming, lots of editing, some friend-filled parties, more editing, a trip up the the Tonry Tree Farm in New Hampshire, applying for the London Summer program at BU, dancing, running, and some freaking out.  There is always a little bit of freaking out.  Here’s the first half of my month picture-style:

My best friends from undergrad and I have pulled Secret Santa names and determined a theme (let’s just say it centers around sports).  This is going to be an interesting gift swap!  I already bought my gift and it’s AWESOME.

Best Friends at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grille

This is RD Sahl.  You may know him.  He was an anchor on NECN forever.  He’s now one of my teachers. 

We're his favorites.

This is what we call a Live Shot.  It took a few tries but we got there.

I want to be on TV when I grow up.

And when my DanceWorks friends get together, well, wine and dancing are always the most populat combination.

Is that white wine in my glass? All the red must've been gone.

And we learn dances sometimes.

Check out that pose.

And this is Fred.

He’s a great snuggle buddy.

That’s been my month up til now.  Running has been more of a priority this month and dance has been the top priority in my workout world.  The DanceWorks Boston show is less than a month away (only 2 rehearsals left!) and I’m so excited. 

So what’s coming up?

This weekend:

I’ll be driving up to Hampton Falls, NH again this weekend but this time, it’s to film for my final project for my Visual Media class.  The Tonry Tree Farm (where we get our tree) has agreed to let me capture their beautiful farm and their history on camera.  I think it’s going to be the perfect Christmas ending to my semester.

Family dinner to follow that night… my parents, Stephen’s parents.  They’re best friends, it’s all very cute.  I’ll be going to bed on the early side because I have my fourth 5K race, the Lynnfield Turkey Trot, on Sunday morning.  I’m gunning for that PR and my goal is to run it around 32:00 but anything under 32:30 works for me!

Next week is a 3 day week school/work week!  2 days of class + 1 day of work + 1 amazing holiday + Black Friday = Happy Marie.

Next Thursday is obviously Thanksgiving and I will be creating some healthier versions of my favorite holiday foods.  Example: Hungry Girl’s stuffing with apples and cranberries.  I’ll also be sticking to lots of veggies and some white meat turkey.  And probably a small slice of Boyfriend’s apple pie because it’s just that good.

Black Friday is not a typical shopping day for my family.  I don’t enjoy the 5am rush to the mall.  I don’t enjoy being pushed and shoved for “on sale” items that are still over-priced.  I do enjoy listening to Christmas music and driving an hour to New Hampshire.  We spend the day shopping for something very special: our Christmas Tree!  Together, Stephen’s family and my family go up to the Tonry Tree Farm, find our (very large) trees, make Stephen cut them down, strap them to the hoods of our cars, make a pitstop at Market Basket for some tax-free beverages and then head home to put the trees up  and decorate all. night. long.

Well, I’m certainly not going to do that…

Next Saturday means homemade raviolis and my 5-year high school reunion.  Strange.  5 years.. seriously?  I’m kind of excited though.  I get to see people I haven’t seen in a really long time and I think it’ll be fun.  And Sunday is my friend Sandy’s 24th birthday which we will be celebrating the following Tuesday night.  The rest of the month leaves a couple of paper deadlines, lots of filming and editing and getting ready for the end of the semester/my dance show/Christmas!!

 
I wanna know… what are you looking forward to most this month?  What is your favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving?  Is it too early for you to listen to Christmas music?  (I don’t think it is….)