National Wine Day with 90+ Cellars and Lila Wines

Did you know that May 25th is National Wine Day? It’s practically Christmas in May if you ask me.

This year, I celebrated National Wine Day a few days early. When my good friend Emily from Shell Chic’d asked if I wanted to team up and throw a Rosé Soiree with 90+ Cellars, there was no way I could turn it down. Emmy and I have been dance friends for years; she’s a super cute and talented fashion blogger in Boston and we knew our dance friends would love a chance to get together, catch up, and celebrate.

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90+ Cellars sent a variety of their Rosé, Cote De Provence, and Sancerre along with Lila Wines which if you’ve never tried these before, go out and buy yourself a 4-pack. Yup, these babies come in cans! I’d actually never had any of the 90+ Cellars Rosé collection and was really excited to try them all. They are excellent summertime wines and for their price points (between $11.99-$20.99) they are also perfect for taking to all of those barbecues and pool parties.

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Emily took care of the cocktails while I planned an easy and light party menu. I went with my tried-and-true charcuterie board and a Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Flatbread (recipes below!) Our friend Lauren is a really talented baker and came with beautiful cupcakes meticulously hand-piped with frosting to look like hydrangeas (!!) We admired them for the majority of the party because they were almost too pretty too eat! But then we ate them because duh, cupcakes.

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Seriously LP, just open a bakery already…

Em also created this refreshing cocktail using the Lila Wines Vino Frizzante Sparking Wine. It’s definitely a contender for “Best Drink of the Summer”. Check out her recipe and party planning tips here.

A big thank you to 90+ Cellars for sponsoring a great party and to Emily for asking me to partner on such a fun get together!

Cheers!

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Tried & True Charcuterie Board

My formula for quick and easy: 2 cheeses + 2 carbs + 1 meat + 2-3 extras

Cheese: I chose a sharp cheddar and a pepper jack cheese for contrasting textures and heat levels. (Cabot Cheese is my go-to.)

Carbs: Plain reduced-fat Triscuits are my cracker of choice because they are simple, delicious and don’t interfere with the rest of the platter taste-wise. For the second, I make my own pita chips by cutting 4 pitas (I love Joseph’s) into 16ths and baking them at 400 degrees with a little non-stick spray and salt until they get crispy- that’s it! (These go particularly well with hummus!)

Meat: I almost always go with prosciutto because it’s a familiar antipasto, super salty and extra delicious.

Extras: Spanish Manzanilla olives, roasted red pepper hummus and Lindt LINDOR Fudge Swirl Truffles to keep things interesting.

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Flatbread

  • 2 prepared pizza crusts or flatbreads (I used an Italian herb variety – so delicious)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, caramelized (see instructions below)
  • 6 ounces Goat Cheese

Brush a thin layer of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on each of the flatbreads. Top evenly with caramelized onions and goat cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crust is golden and crispy around the edges and cheese has slightly softened. Slice and serve warm.

For the Caramelized Onions:

  • 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally for 20-25 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar and toss to coat. Continue to cook for 1 hour, stirring often, until the onions are a rich dark brown color. (Do not let them burn!) Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

This post is was created in partnership with 90+ Cellars, but all opinions and images are my own. Thank you for supporting brands who support Chocolate & Wine!

Boston Wine Expo 2017 (+ GIVEAWAY)

I can’t believe that’s already the middle of January. Where is all of this time going?

On Sunday I got back from 12 days in California. It was pretty incredible to say the least, and I will have a full recap of my trip coming soon. But now, I’m already looking ahead to February which, despite the freezing cold winters and all of the snow here, is one of my favorite times of the year. Sean’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, a day off for President’s Day, and of course, the Boston Wine Expo, all make for one jam-packed, super fun month.

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A very small part of the giant Boston Wine Expo floor. Also known as the calm before the storm…

I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Boston Wine Expo as a brand ambassador for the past few years. I always say it’s one of my favorite events of the year and one of the best that Boston puts on. It’s no secret that I love wine. Love love. And in the past 2 or so years I’ve really branched out. I no longer only drink Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t shy away from a crisp Sauv Blanc or a sweet Port. And while I do still gravitate towards red wine more often than not, try to stop me from enjoying a cold glass of Chardonnay on a hot summer day.

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Keeper of the Bubbly.

This year, attending the Boston Wine Expo as a seasoned Expo vet has some definite perks. We have a pretty good idea how to navigate the expo floor (which is gigantic) and we know that snack time is about every 20-30 minutes when you’re drinking wine for 4-6 hours straight. Also, you don’t have to drink every single sip of every single wine you try. (I learned that the hard way in year 1.) Find a pace that is right for you and instead of frantically bouncing from table to table trying to fit everything in in one day (it’s impossible…), spend some time in the regions you love or the regions you may have been hesitant to try in the past.

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So many wines, so little time.

There’s also a variety of other things you can do at the Expo besides stay on the main floor. Treat yourself to VIP tickets to the Vintner’s Reserve Lounge where there are even more wines to try (some very rare, others very expensive). Get tickets to one of the many seminars where you can hone your focus on one particular subject (the Cheese & Wine one looks like it would be right up my alley), or grab a free seat at a live cooking demonstration as different ones are held throughout the day.

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Wine flights at the 2014 Rioja seminar.

 

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The good life in the 2015 Vintner’s Reserve Lounge.
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My favorite wine from the 2016 Vintner’s Lounge (about $50/bottle in New Hampshire)

This year’s Expo is being held the weekend after Valentine’s Day on Saturday and Sunday, February 18th and 19th. Fun fact, this is also President’s Day Weekend so if you’re lucky enough to have Monday off, there are so many good things about this: A) You get a super fun and unique Valentine’s Day date with someone special, and B) you can sleep off all that wine on Monday. Win-win!

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The best BWE date year after year.

I’m giving away a pair of tickets to Sunday’s Expo hours! To enter, leave a comment below telling me which type of wine you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t been able to yet. For bonus entries, follow me on Instagram and Twitter and leave me individual comments letting me know that you did!

BONUS OFF-BLOG ENTRY: Follow the instructions on THIS Instagram post and you’ll have another chance to win!

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Cody!

There’s still time to purchase tickets to the Expo. Use code WINEDERFUL17 at checkout for 15% OFF Grand Tasting tickets, weekend passes, VIP Vintner’s Lounge and select seminars. (Offer expires 2/14 at 11:59 PM)

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!

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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.

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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.

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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…)

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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!

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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.

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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.

Recapping 2012… A Year I Never Expected

I had much of this post written before December 17th. I am going to leave what was written originally as is but add a little something up here first to give a little more context to my 2012…. I feel this post is better late than never.

On December 17th, my grandmother passed away. It was sudden, unexpected, and devastating. Mere days before Christmas, a fatal heart attack that no one saw coming was ultimately to blame. Surprisingly, I managed to keep myself together for most of what followed, only breaking down in the hardest moments, trying with everything I had in me to keep my tears hidden.

My Nuna was the most generous person I’ve ever known. Anything I ever wanted, she was willing to supply. She was the reason our Christmas tree had unnecessary but always welcome mounds of presents under it on Christmas Day, why I always had an “emergency $20” in my wallet (that was almost ALWAYS spent on non-emergent things) and why I had a life-size princess Barbie doll (remember those things?!)

She was also stubborn, but in the kind of way that made you thankful for traditional things, like the exact right way to make a turkey on Thanksgiving and why, to this day, I sit closer to my steering wheel in the car than is really necessary because “it’ll protect me.” No, it will probably make things worse, but things stick when you’re a little kid.

I miss my Nuna more than I can possibly say. I am thankful that I had her for almost all of 2012, but 2013 and on will not be the same without her.

My little sister, Nuna and me... Little kid fro and all.
My little sister, Nuna and me… Little kid fro and all.

Now, onto what I had written before. Happy New Years everyone!

Remember when I wrote the post, “2012 Will be Great?”  Well, it was.

But not before it was absolutely horrible.

2012 became a year that I never expected. Last December, I had my whole life planned out. A special relationship to me ended and I thought things would never be the same.  They aren’t – they’re better. Things change, people change, and everything happens for a reason. I think I’ve finally grasped that concept.

But 2012 had many great things. Many amazing things. Allow me to tell you about them.

– I ran my first 5-miler.

First 5-miler on New Years Day 2012.
First 5-miler on New Years Day 2012.

– I ran my first 10K.

First 10K, March 2012.
First 10K, March 2012.

– I spent my summer at the London Olympics.

London2012... The best summer of my whole life.
London2012… The best summer of my whole life.

– I turned 24 on the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Happy 24th Birthday to me!
Happy 24th Birthday to me!

– I watched two of my childhood friends get married.

Photo courtesy of the Groom's Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of the Groom’s Facebook page.

– I met a guy I would get to know while I was away for 7 weeks… and fall for him… hard.

This is my boyfriend, Sean. I suppose its time for all of you to be introduced.
This is my boyfriend, Sean. I suppose its time for all of you to be introduced.

– I was in 2 DanceWorks Boston shows and choreographed 2 routines for it.

My routine, "Deadly", featuring the 7 Deadly Sins.
My routine, “Deadly”, featuring the 7 Deadly Sins.

– I finished my Master’s Degree. (FINALLY!!!!!! Master Torto has a great ring to it.)

The face of a Master.
The face of a Master. You know you’re impressed.

– I got a part-time, paid internship as a Sports Web Producer at Boston.com.

I changed in a lot of ways.

When I look back on 2012, I realized how much my life has changed and I honestly don’t think I’d change a single second of it. Even though parts of it were incredibly difficult and there were times when I wanted to give everything up and just live in my own misery, I pulled through it. I am happier than I have been in a long time.

Here’s to 2013 and everything it brings. I haven’t really made any New Year’s resolutions but here’s one: blog more. Good plan.

Marblehead Beach-to-Beach 5K Recap: One Year Later

If you asked me exactly 1 year ago where I think I’d be today, some of my answers probably would’ve included: “Hopefully engaged,” “hopelessly in love with the same guy I am now” and “planning my wedding.”

Silly 22-year-old me.

A year ago, I thought my life was perfect.  I was exactly where I wanted to be, with exactly who I wanted to be with, and I thought I was done changing, done growing.  My life was set: engaged at 23, career take-off at 24, married at 25, kids by 29.  It was what I wanted and I remember thinking “Thank God my life is not complicated.”

How quickly things change.

A year ago, I was incredible naive.  I lived in (what I thought was) a very safe and secure bubble and very little could deter me from (what I thought) I wanted.  I had a great boyfriend, I was about to start graduate school and despite the loans I was accumulating, I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be with my life.

Wrong again…. Anyone sensing a pattern here?

In March 2011, I decided that I needed a new challenge in my life and I started running.  I took on the Couch to 5K plan full force and though running was and is never something that is easy for me, I stuck with it.  On Saturday, March 15, 2011, I ran my first ever road race, the Marblehead Beach-to-Beach 5K with a time of 33:38.  It was incredibly difficult but one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Marblehead 2011!

So, let’s talk about this year’s run, shall we?

I didn’t sleep well Friday night.  After deciding against going out with my friends, I went to bed later than I probably should have and proceeded to toss and turn all night from nightmares.  Those are always fun.  I woke up late and my head not anywhere in the game (not even in the arena…)  I ate my 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter and headed to Marblehead a little after 8am.

I was nervous.  I didn’t have my Garmin and knew I’d have to run the whole race by feel alone, something I’ve never done.  (Side note: it was kind of awesome to not to be glancing at my wrist every 5 seconds…)  I knew I wanted another PR.  After last month’s race, I could feel my fiesty competitive side fired up for anything better than 31:44.

Lucky number 258!

It was a lot warmer than it was last year but the beginning of the course is pretty shady as it winds through a beautiful neighborhood right on the water.  It wasn’t until I hit the Marblehead Neck Causeway just after the first mile marker that the sun was more intense and I was thankful for the water stop that was set up at the end of the road.

I don’t remember the race being this fast last year, but all of a sudden, I was past mile 2, rounding the neck neighborhood and coming back up the causeway towards the finish line.  Right at the end, I pushed, hard.  I finished in 31:20, a 24 second PR from last month’s 5K as well as beating my previous time for this race by 2 minutes and 38 seconds.  If I hadn’t been so tired at the end, I would’ve done cartwheels from the sheer joy of it all.

Marblehead 2012! (Usual pre-race fake smile..)

If you had told me a year ago that today my whole life would be different, I definitely would not have believed you.  If you told me there is an terrifyingly exciting life outside of my bubble, I would’ve thought you were crazy.  Am I the same person I was when I ran Marblehead the first time?  Absolutely not.  Will I ever be that person again?  Absolutely not.  Am I okay with that?  Yes.

Am I happy?  I’m getting there.

Chase the Gorilla Down Argilla 5K Race Recap

Sooooo, hi.  It’s nice to see you around here again… so sorry I’ve been neglecting my little corner of the internet.  I’ll try to get out of the bad habit of starting a post and not finishing it til weeks later… like this one.

I ran this race on Saturday, April 14th and I’m just getting this recap up now.  I don’t think I’ve ever waited this long after a race to post a recap, but I’m a busy college kid with a lot on her mind, what can I say?

Let’s just start off this post with the best news of this race: I came away from it with a shiny new 5K PR!!!

It was definitely not easy and parts of me were definitely not cooperating but I pulled it off.  I was aiming for anything under 32:00 because my previous PR from last September was 32:46.  A new PR was long overdue at this point.

 According to my Garmin, I came in at 32:01 but when I saw the official race results, I saw a pleasantly surprising 31:44 with a 10:19 pace on the list.  Saying I was thrilled would be a huge understatement.  I could’ve done cartwheels.

6:31… that’s my surge at the finish line. Never thought I’d see those numbers on my Garmin!

I signed up for the Chase the Gorilla 5K just a few days before the race.  It was one of those “I really need a race this weekend” moments and since this one ran through Ipswich, I knew it’d be great.  I convinced my mom to come with me so we were up at the lovely hour of 7am (on a Saturday morning mind you) for some pre-race festivities.  And by festivities I mean I ate two pieces of light wheat toast with peanut butter, drank some (but not enough) water and got to the race to pick up my number and a bright blue technical t-shirt a mere 5 minutes before the gun went off.

Timing has never been a strong suit.

I knew I wanted a PR and after running my 10K without stopping and getting in a few solid runs since then, I figured I had it in the bag.  Still, I was nervous.  And sore.  The day before, I decided that doing a full gym workout followed by a 90-minute Vinyasa yoga session and a 2-hour dance rehearsal was a good way to prepare for the race.  My bum was very very sore.

It was a small race of 400 or so runners and of course, a gorilla.  Races nowadays are a little bittersweet for me.  As much as I love having my mom there to take pictures of me and hug me at the finish line, there was always a special someone there who I could literally collapse into.  It was one of those things that kept me going I guess.

But I digress.

For the first time since I started running/racing over a year ago, my legs felt like lead.  I only have myself to blame for not taking a rest day on Friday, but after the first mile, they loosened up.  It was warmer than I’ve been used to running in but managed to make it to mile 2 to the water station without wanting to die too bad.   I took a few sips, dumped the rest over my head and kept going. 

By the end of mile 2, I was ready to be done.  My breathing was really heavy, my face was on fire and my right shoulder had developed a strange twinge-y feeling that I couldn’t shake.  I kept saying “32 minutes, 32 minutes” over and over as I rounded the corner to the finish line.

With Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” blasting in my ears,  I surged to the finish line, and I-Kid-You-Not did a full on leap to the timing chip platform thing to stop my timer.  Embarrassed?  Nope.

I glanced down at my garmin, saw 32:01 and had to use what little energy I had left not to burst into tears.  My mom came over with water and hugged me and even though I don’t think she fully gets the whole “running thing”, I could tell she was proud.

I feel like my body looks really strange in this picture. I need smaller pants for sure. And a non-fake-I’m-gunna-puke-before-this-race smile.

Overall, despite being a little overheated and having dead legs for the first mile, walking away a new 5K PR felt incredible and I really enjoyed this race.  It’s always fun to beat your personal time and leave what you have out there on the course, even if it’s only 3.1 miles. 

The calorie burn doesn’t hurt either.

So, what’s next?  I’m signed up for one more race before the summer kicks off.  This Saturday, I’ll be running the Marblehead Beach to Beach 5K.  For those of you just joining us, this was the first race I ever ran, exactly a year ago.  I plan on being very nostalgic.  Of course you’ve probably figured out that I’d love to PR this race too but I’ll be content of beating my time from last year, 33:38.

I want to know!  Do you run the same races every year to kick your old PR to the curb?  What is your 5K PR and what is your secret to beating your time?  What mantras do you use to get you through a tough or not-so-tough race?

Life Lately

Hello!

I haven’t written a post in a while.  Life has been crazy lately.  Between school, dance, personal/emotional crap and just trying to get through each day, I haven’t had much free time for blogging.

But I do have lots of things to talk about… my most recent race (recap coming soon!), finishing my first year of grad school (done in 6 days!), dance (duh), plans for the summer (London), how I’m getting through each day (I’m sure you’re all dying to know the sad details of that part of my life…) So multiple posts are currently in the works.  I may even have a recipe or two up my sleeve.  (BTW – if you’re looking for an amazing hummus recipe, try this.  You’ll never want store-bought hummus again.)

And for a sweet sentiment that has everything to do with my life right now…

Happy Thursday!  It’s almost the weekend.. what are you doing to celebrate?