Category Archives: Travel

Friday Favorites [& a Giveaway!]

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m hoping to get back into regular blogging again. I’ve been in a bit of a cooking slump – I’ve been preparing meals, but haven’t been creating anything particularly noteworthy but I have high hopes that’ll change soon. Plus, now that I’m back to running I’ll hopefully be able to talk about that more, too! That being said, let’s kick off my attempt at getting back to blogging with some of my current favorite things. I also have a giveaway for you at the bottom of this post!

Kate Spade Saturday + New Balance Collaboration Cross Training Sneakers

When I saw these badboys on Instagram, I knew I had to have them. I run in New Balance 1400s (I currently have three pairs of v1’s stocked in my closet and ready to go) and I absolutely love Kate Spade. Since becoming a runner, I never really spent time to buy myself sneakers other than ones I planned to run in – I’d usually just use older running sneakers when cross training or needing to throw on a pair to go outside for something quick.

KS_NB

Now that I’m trying to be better about cross training (hello Refine) I knew I should have a solid pair of sneakers to wear – not just a pair of old running shoes (that are developing holes in the upper). They had quite a few different prints to choose from, and while I was first drawn to the floral print as well as the all-over stripes, I eventually settled on a pair of black 810’s with stripes on the soles. I figured they were still fun, but in an unassuming kind of way. I’ve worn them twice now since getting them on Tuesday and I absolutely love them. They manage to be both lightweight and supportive, and I love the funky soles!

Hindsight

Hindsight is a new TV show on VH1, and I’m obsessed with it. As soon as I saw the previews for it I was excited to watch, and it hasn’t disappointed me yet. It’s based on a woman that grew up in the 90’s and is suddenly transported back in time right before her second wedding. She’s given the opportunity to live her life again knowing what she does about the future.

source

Getting to relive some of the trends and things that were “cool” when I was growing up is so much fun. And it makes me really glad most 90’s fashions are no longer a thing.

Good Eats in Rochester, NY

This past weekend I had a chance to visit my sister in Rochester, NY thanks to a flash sale from JetBlue for $32 each way tickets. Everyone always says that I’m such a great cook and so creative, but my little sister is seriously impressive. You name, it she can make it… and a lot of times without a recipe! So in addition to her awesome cooking, we made sure to get some good eats out too, because Rochester has a really impressive food scene!

Sticky Icky Plate, Breathe Smoothie, Pasta w. asparagus & mushrooms, and Gouda grilled cheese w. tomato soup!

Sticky Icky Plate, Breathe Smoothie, Pasta w. asparagus & mushrooms, and Gouda grilled cheese w. tomato soup!

When I first visited my sister in Rochester back in 2011, we went to Sticky Lips BBQ. Even though I’m a vegetarian, their fried pickles and vegetarian Sticky Icky Plate were two of my favorites, so I insisted on going back this visit. My sister also discovered a new yoga studio not too far from her apartment that in addition to yoga classes, they have an awesome boutique and juice bar. While my sister doesn’t practice yoga, she does enjoy smoothies and juices, so she took me there for breakfast on Sunday before the Super Bowl. I got a smoothie with peanut butter, dates, bananas, and almond milk, and it was SO delicious. I just wish there was a cute little yoga studio like that near me!

Yoga Challenges

Quite a few people I follow on Instagram are really into yoga and do challenges frequently. So when I saw one for arm balances in January I figured I’d give it a try. I quickly realized that there were a lot of poses that seemed pretty impossible to me that I just couldn’t do. But there were also a lot of poses that seemed pretty impossible to me that I could do!

yoga

I’m trying to get better at having a more well-rounded approach to my fitness and running (hello Refine Method), so doing yoga at least once a week has been on my to-do list. The challenges have helped me try things I wouldn’t normally try, and it’s an extra opportunity to practice patience (which I am not so great at) and perseverance. I definitely want to keep working on my yoga – I know that it’ll help me get my core stronger, which I’m constantly reminded is so important.

SEPO Sauce

I’ll be the first to admit that I love condiments. I’m always looking for something to use as a dip or spread – and I’m not ashamed of it! You can usually find me spreading dijon mustard on my sandwiches, hot sauce on my pizza, dunking my french fries into BBQ sauce, and more. So when I was contacted and asked if I’d be interested in giving SEPO Sauce a try and doing a giveaway with it, I couldn’t resist. The sauce is creamy with a hint of garlic and horseradish, and it reminded me a lot of Caesar dressing, only better. I’ve used it on a bunch of different sandwiches (grilled cheese, egg and avocado, etc.), as a dip for french fries, as well as with salad. My jar is almost empty… and I want more!

sepo

Luckily, I have a jar to give to one of you! All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me something you’re loving lately. I’ll randomly pick a winner by Tuesday 2/10 at 9pm EST!

Update: The giveway is closed! Thanks to random.org the winner of the SEPO Sauce is commenter #7 – EMG!

Winner

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Filed under Food Blogging, Life, Restaurant, Travel, Vegetarian/Vegan

Marathon Spectating: Boston 2014

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of cheering at the 118th Boston Marathon.

Even though I didn’t run and am far from qualifying, it was a truly electric and magical weekend. It took only a few minutes of being in Boston to understand why runners so desperately want to run this race. It’s about more than the prestige of hitting a qualifying time. It’s about banding together with thousands and thousands of people just like you – people that love a sport that can be so uplifting and heartbreaking – and having an entire city there to support you, like you’re a rock star.

My magical weekend started on Saturday with a 4.5 hour drive up to Boston after my last longish run before this weekend’s half marathon. The first event on the list was a Strength Running meet-up in Clarke’s at Faneuil Hall. Since Jason is actually my running coach, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet him in person. Of course, being the awkward turtle that I am, I simply introduced myself as Danielle and just assumed he knew who I was (who do I think I am?!). Since the e-mail I use for running related things is tied to my blog, it would make sense that a lot of people know me as “Foodosaurus Rex.” So it wasn’t until I was leaving that I mentioned my last name, and of course felt like a jerk for not having said something earlier. But at least we got a picture together!

Me & Jason!

Me & Jason!

After the meet-up I went to Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge for dinner and had a phenomenal veggie burger. I always like to search for vegetarian restaurants when I’m traveling since there aren’t a lot in my area. So when I saw this was a vegetarian diner, I was pumped to give it a try. I started with a beer (of course), and ordered their Kendall Square burger (hello beer battered onion rings) with a side of french fries. It was so delicious.

Kendall Square Veggie Burger

Kendall Square Veggie Burger

Since I was in the area for work, I drove back up to Lowell (about 30 minutes north of the city) and crashed hard. And before I knew it my alarm was going off and it was time to head back down to the city – this time for an Oiselle Team meet-up! I got to the city early to make sure I wouldn’t have a problem with parking, and did a quick lap around the expo. After the expo I made my way to our meeting spot and we posed for a picture before heading off towards the Charles.

A gaggle of birds

A gaggle of birds

I had three miles on my schedule that day, so I decided to run with a group that was doing a 4 mile shakeout, including Stephanie, Mollie, Mary, and Sara. I also had a nice mini-reunion with (two out of three) of my favorite North Carolina runners, Allie and Ellen! While on our run we actually passed Desiree Linden, and we got a little head nod and wave from her. Of course I geeked out and tweeted about it, which she favored… which resulted in more geeking out. After our run we took a short walk to Render Coffee, which a teammate’s brother owns. They were kind enough to offer free coffee for all of us, and I thoroughly enjoyed my hazelnut latte. Of course I continued my geek fest when I sat down next to none other than Lauren Fleshman, and wanted to say everything but instead said pretty much nothing. She was (no surprise) super friendly and down to earth, and I wish that I actually had things to talk to her about!

Hanging outside Render Coffee

Hanging outside Render Coffee

After coffee I took the T and wandered around Harvard a bit, had a delicious Easter brunch at Beat Hotel (in running clothes, while everyone else was in their Easter best… whoops), and then got to meet up with one of my college swimming teammates for dinner and drinks!

When my alarm went off Monday morning I was ready to go. I knew that the earlier I made the trip from Lowell to the Boston area, the better. I wanted to cheer around mile 23, figuring it’d be far enough from the massive finish line crowds and at a point where people really start to need encouragement. I made it to Brookline around 8am and stopped in to Eagle’s Deli for a breakfast sandwich to fuel the day of cheering. I walked up a few more blocks and positioned myself a few hundred yards away from the mile 23 marker. I had expertly staked out my spot, and was ready as soon as the first wheelchair competitors came whizzing by.

Rah rah!

Rah rah!

I’d been following the elites on twitter, so I knew what was going down in both the women’s and men’s race. At the beginning of the race I – along with almost everyone else – was completely consumed with the women’s race and Shalane. Unfortunately her race started to unravel a bit by the time she reached me at mile 23, but that didn’t stop me from screaming basically in her face as she ran by. I could see the discomfort and disappointment in her face, but I knew she was doing everything she could, and everyone in Brookline was thrilled to see her and applauded her gutsy race. And then, all of a sudden, we realized that Meb was leading the men. I’ve always been a big Meb fan, but my appreciation for him grew after the 2013 New York City Marathon, where he struggled but ran it in with someone and was so humble about it. To think that at (almost) 39 he was leading the race was such a thrill. He was almost 5 minutes ahead of the chase pack when he flew by, and we all screamed as loud as we could in hopes of propelling him those last 3.2 miles to the finish. Of course I was mesmerized by the thought of Meb winning, and followed along on the live stream… I was ecstatic when I saw him cross the finish line!

After the elites went by, I focused on trying to find all of the people I was tracking either via the app or text messages. It was kind of hard to keep track of everyone – for whatever reason I had a hard time figuring out from the 30k alert how long it would take them to get to me at mile 23. Plus, I was so afraid I’d look down at my phone and miss someone! I saw almost everyone I hoped to cheer for  – Jason, Jess, Jenny, Laura, Mary, Sara, Corey, Lindsey, Dani, Mollie, Julia, Stacey, and a few others I’m probably missing. It was tricky to try and yell loud enough for everyone to hear me and see me, but I was able to pierce the sound of the crowd around me for a few runners. My favorite was Mary, who happened to be running right on the side I was cheering. I basically screamed in her face – I’d like to think it helped propel her to her amazing PR! Unfortunately I missed a few people, and some people didn’t hear me, but I spent four solid hours cowbelling; I have the bruises and raw skin on my hand to prove it!

I was exhausted by the time I got back to my hotel, but it was so worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat – and I hope I can be back up in Boston for Patriot’s Day 2015! Next up on my cheering schedule is this Sunday at the New Jersey Marathon. So if you’re running, let me know… I’ll be sure to cowbell for you! But first, I need to run my own race – Asbury Park Half Marathon tomorrow!

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Filed under Running, Travel, Vegetarian/Vegan

Shamrocked: A Bird-filled Half Marathon

This past weekend, I took a trip down to Virginia Beach to run the Anthem Half Marathon during the Shamrock Marathon weekend. I’d heard wonderful things about the race, and when it became an option for a Spring Oiselle Team meet-up, I penciled the race into my calendar and set my sights on a PR attempt. But when my IT Band started to act up at the end of December (and it lasted through most of January), I readjusted my goals and figured I’d use it as a training run instead. But, running related things don’t often go according to plan when I’m involved.

I woke up bright and early (actually it was still pitch black) on Saturday morning and after a quick stop at Starbucks, I was on my way. The trip down was uneventful (thankfully) and I made it to the expo at the Virginia Beach convention center in just under 6 hours. The expo was pretty empty, so I was able to pick up my bib, grab my t-shirt, and get my beer tent bracelet in a matter of minutes. After the expo, I checked into the hotel and quickly changed so I could get in a shake-out run before our Oiselle team dinner. As soon as  I changed and realized that the beach was right outside the hotel, I had to make a stop to take some no-snow pictures. It was so great to be outside in a tank top and shorts and not freezing!

No snow!

No snow!

My three mile shake-out run was rather uneventful, but I did have a cyclist come up from behind and stop to tell me I made it look easy. I wanted to reply “Maybe now… but wait until mile 12 tomorrow!” Instead I said thank you, chatted about the weather for a bit, and was on my way back to the hotel with just enough time to shower and head over to dinner with the team. The wonderful Mollie organized our team dinner at Bravo! and I had the pleasure of chatting with Allie (my shoe/jacket/birthday twin), Ellen (my favorite Shittens distributor), and Hollie (who has finally accepted the fact that she lives in NJ now) for the majority of the dinner. We butchered the menu they provided (us runners can be such high-maintenance!), but had a ton of fun telling ridiculous stories and getting to know each other better. At some point during dinner gelato was mentioned, and we were lucky to find a place down the street thanks to Yelp! So never being one to turn down dessert, I got myself a cone with salted caramel and chocolate hazelnut crunch gelato. And yes, it was amazing as it sounds!

Shamrock Half

The post-dinner festivities included heading back to the hotel, getting everything together for the morning, and trying to convince my body to go to bed at 9pm. Of course that didn’t work, but I’m pretty sure I was sound asleep by about 10pm. Unfortunately, the walls of the hotel seemed to be paper thin, and the people in the room next door had very loud, deep voices. They were likely in town to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so it was no surprise when I was woken up around 1:30am by the sound of their voices. After laying in bed angry for the first 20 minutes or so, I realized that when the AC unit kicked on, it was loud enough to drown out their voices. So I got up and set the thermostat to about 60 degrees in hopes of it not shutting off, and tried to go back to bed. The next thing I knew, it was 4:45am and my alarm was going off. Woof!

Race morning was the usual routine, and I made my way to the start (a mile from my hotel) at about 6:15am. I had just enough time to take off all my layers and get in the corral before it was time to start. I spent a few minutes looking around for other Oiselle teammates that I knew would be in the first corral, but I didn’t see anyone (they were likely further to the front, since they’re speedsters!). I also tried to look for the 1:45 pacer, but didn’t see them either. My plan was to run with the 1:45 group for the first 8 or so miles, and then pick it up depending on how I felt at that point, since it was just a training run. Before I knew it the clock was at 6:59am, ad we were counting down to the start… and at 7am we were off!

Shamrock Half

The course was pancake flat, so I knew my only struggle would be with the wind. The winds were around 20mph, but they were pretty light during the first few miles. I usually roll my eyes when people say things like, “before I knew it, we were at mile 6!” but I really felt that way on Sunday. At some moments, I’d be begging for the next mile marker, but for the majority of the race I’d look down at my watch and think, “wow! I’ve gone that far already?!” I have to say it was a great feeling! It wasn’t until mile 7 or so when the wind started to really become an issue. We turned into a Naval Base, and we were right up against the water, with nothing shielding us from the wind. I tried to park myself behind and alongside some other runners, but no one seemed to be keeping a consistent enough pace… and it didn’t really help either. I’d say the hardest miles were miles 6 through 9, mostly because of the wind. My first 9 miles were 7:51, 7:53, 7:48, 7:45, 7:54, 7:50, 7:47, 7:51, and 7:52. Talk about consistency! By the time I got to mile 9 and realized I only had 4 miles to go and that I still had a little energy left, I decided to pick it up. It was a mile later than I had originally planned, but my overall pace was about 10-15 seconds faster than I thought I’d be at that point so I didn’t worry much. I ran my 10th mile in 7:36, and realized that if I could just hold on for the last 5k, I would likely PR. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the pace, but I figured I’d give it a shot!

Those last three miles seemed to go on forever, but when I saw Rebecca fly by around mile 11, I got the little push I needed for those last two miles. The wind smacked me in the face right after mile 12 as we turned towards the beach to head onto the boardwalk for the final mile, but I happened to see Paulette running by and cowbelling right as as I made that final turn which was a welcomed distraction and boost of encouragement. As she yelled for me and I lifted my hand to wave, I realized that my fingers and hands were basically frozen. I tried to wave but only mustered up a little t-rex arm movement (which I’ve since decided will be my new race photo pose). Miles 11 and 12 were 7:33 and 7:34 respectively.

Bye, boys!

Bye, boys!

The boardwalk was nice and wide (and cement, not wood, thankfully), and I was pretty  much alone for that last stretch. I was in a group of three guys for the last 2 miles or so that were counting down for each other and saying things like “Alright, just one mile to go. This is nothing! You can do it!” and while I was thinking the same thing in my head at the time, it was nice to finally break from them in that last mile. As soon as I could see the finish line arch, I looked at my watch, realized I’d PR, and decided to book it and hope for the best. I ran mile 13 in 7:21, and crossed the finish line with a final time of 1:41:39… a PR of just under a minute and a half! I grabbed my finisher hat and towel (Virginia races have the best swag – fleece blanket at Richmond, and now this!), medal, and some food, and quickly put on all the layers; I was cold!

Shamrock Half

I made my way to the party tent, got myself a Yuengling beer immediately, and roamed around until I found some of my Oiselle teammates! There were a lot of PRs and strong racing by everyone, and after our celebratory beer, we headed to a local coffee shop for some much needed coffee and food. Before I knew it it was early afternoon, and I headed back to the hotel to foam roll, and most importantly, take a hot shower. By the time I was on my way back to my hotel the wind had really picked up, but I was distracted by all the marathon finishers in their final two miles.

Can you tell we're all freezing? And wearing the same sneakers?

Can you tell we’re all freezing? And wearing the same sneakers?

Overall, I absolutely loved this race. All of the volunteers and spectators seemed to be enjoying themselves, the course was flat and fast, and it was in a great location. Getting to meet up with so many wonderful Oiselle teammates that I felt like I already knew was an added bonus. I’d love to do this race again!

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Filed under Running, Travel

A Trip to Brussels: The Beer!

About halfway through my trip to Brussels, I realized it would be impossible for me to adequately talk about my food and drink experience in one blog post. So, I thought it was only natural to do a beer-specific post about everything I drank in Brussels because, well, it was amazing. If you love beer (at all) and especially if you enjoy trying new beers, you have to visit Brussels. They take their beer seriously – I mean each beer has a specific serving temperature and type of glass it should be served in – and even though I was there for a week (and had at least 3 beers everyday), I didn’t even crack the surface of the Brussels beer culture.

Belgian Beers | FoodosaurusRex.com

One of the very first things I was told when I asked for advice about visiting Brussels and where to go was to hit up Delirium Café. I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with Delirium beer (it’s the bottles with the elephant on them), but this particular bar is so much more than that. The building is actually split into three separate bars known as Delirium Village – Delirium Café in the basement, Delirium Tap House on the main floor, and Delirium Hoppy Loft upstairs. There are also a few other Delirium locations nearby that offer a smaller selection. If you’ve heard anything about this particular place, though, Delirium Café is likely the location that was mentioned. So, what’s so great about this place, you may ask? Well, they offer over 2,000 beers to choose from! That’s right – on any given night (or day) you’re there, you can choose from over 2,000 beers… talk about overwhelming!

The ceiling in Delirium Cafe & their Guinness Book of World Records certificate!

The ceiling in Delirium Cafe & their Guinness Book of World Records certificate!

As I mentioned, I had A LOT of beer while I was in Brussels – one with pretty much every meal, and then another one or two each night when I went out. I found myself a little nervous when ordering since it can be a little nerve-wracking to order something you’ve never had before. Aside from one night where I hated pretty much everything I ordered, I think I was successful! So without further ado, here are the beers I had (and a little review of each)!

Saison Dupont | FoodosaurusRex.com

Saison Dupont – I absolutely love saisons, but they’re newer to me (just started trying them this past summer). They originated in Belgium, so when I saw this on the menu at Houtisplou I knew I had to order it. It was crisp and slightly fruity with just an ever-so-slight sour finish. I would have ordered this over and over again, but I knew I had to branch out and try as much as I could.

Delirium Nocturnum – I’ve had Delirium beers before, initially attracted to them because of the elephant on the bottle. I’m not ashamed to admit that I often gravitate towards different drinks (especially wines) based on their labels and names. What can I say? You get extra points from me if your label is cute and/or clever. And until this trip I haven’t made a bad choice based on the name/label (see below for my least favorite beers). I’ve had Delirium’s Tremmens before, and while I wanted to try new-to-me beers from breweries I hadn’t had before, I had to order a Delirium while I was at Delirium Cafe!

Kriek – I had a few different Krieks while I was in Brussels (one by Brouwerij Lindemans, another by Brasserie Cantillon), which are lambic beers fermented with cherries, and was shocked that I liked them. While you might think to yourself, “ew, fruit beers!” this is so much more than that. They have a slight hint of sweetness, but it’s mostly a tart and sour cherry flavor you taste, which I absolutely loved. Also, they’re pretty carbonated, which I’m a big fan of since I have a slight (okay, big) obsession with Seltzer. The bright reddish color makes it fun to drink, too.

Vedett, Cantillon Kriek, Achel 8 Trappist

Vedett, Cantillon Kriek, Achel 8 Trappist

Achel 8° Blond by Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis – This was my first official Trappist beer of the trip, and let me tell you, those Monks know how to make a good beer! This is a strong pale ale, and is full of flavor since it’s right in the middle of their number rating system in terms of strength (6, 8, or 10). I had this beer at Poechenellekelder, a bar right across from the Mannekin Pis. They have a phenomenal beer list and it’s a perfect place to stop in and enjoy a brew (or a few) after taking in the tourist attraction.

Zinnebir by Brasserie de la Senne – Another Belgian pale ale, another near perfect rating on my Untappd app. This beer is simultaneously hoppy, but also pretty light, fruity, and crisp. I ordered this beer as it was listed as a local special when I was having dinner one night, and it was a perfect light companion to my heavier dinner of stoemp.

Vendett Extra Blond by Duvel Moortgat – This pale lager went perfectly with the fare served at Bia Mara, and I loved the fun pictures and sayings on the back of the bottles (as seen above). It wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was a good light beer… dare I say better than most light lagers found in my neck of the woods.

Moeder Lambic | FoodosaursRex.com

La Chouffe by Brasserie d’Achouffe  – This was a featured beer at Houtisplou on my last night in Brussels, and since I had luck with the Zinnebir, I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s an unfiltered blond that winds up being re-fermented in the bottle or keg, and it’s fruity and spicy (think coriander notes), and light on the hops.

Buffalo Bitter by Brouwerij Van Den Bossche – This was similar to the Dupont Saison, and I’d say is tied for first with my absolute favorite beer of the trip. The brew is actually a Belgian IPA, and I loved it. When I first started drinking beer for taste rather than to get drunk at keg parties in college, I didn’t know how to feel about IPA’s… I think there was actually too much flavor for me (since those college beers were always such high quality, ha), but I’ve since learned to actually love the complexity of a good IPA. And the Buffalo Bitter hits it right on the head.

And now for the three that I didn’t particularly like. I had such good luck the first few times I ordered beer, that I knew it was inevitable I’d happen upon a few that just weren’t my cup of tea. Unfortunately I wound up ordering them all on the same day! I also made the mistake of ordering them based on their names, which I know I said I’ve been successful with before, but these choices made me realize that isn’t necessarily a good way to order beer.

You win some, you lose some.

You win some, you lose some.

Open Mind by Birrificio Montegioco – This was the least offensive of the three that made it to my “yuck” category. It’s actually an Italian beer, but the bar I was at, Moeder Lambic, had a bunch of “visitors” so I decided to try one. It was okay (typical blond ale), but nothing to write home about.

Pink Killer by Brasserie de Silly – Yup, I ordered this because of the name. And when I saw it had a pink hue and came in a glass that had a cute little dog on it, I was pumped… until I took a sip. It reminded me of Mad Dog 20 20 that was mixed with cheap beer and cough syrup. Needless to say I didn’t finish it.

Barbar by Brasserie Lefebvre – Again with the name. But this time it wasn’t because of the actual name, but because it made me think of Babar, the cute little elephant that has adventures! As I type this out, I can’t help but shake my head (so you can too). This was better than Pink Killer, but barely. I’m not sure what it was about the beer, but I just didn’t like it. I managed to finish it, but only because I had ordered the Pink Killer when I was halfway through in hopes of it redeeming this beer, and since it was worse, this one didn’t taste so bad comparatively.

Needless to say I had a lot of beer on the trip. So much that I haven’t had one yet since I’ve been back (though that’ll change this weekend, I’m sure)! I was definitely spoiled by getting to try so many different beers, and on top of all the delicious food I was able to sample while there made it quite the trip. Now I need to figure out where to go next!

Tell me…
Are you a beer drinker? What’s your favorite? (I want to try it!)

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Filed under Beer, Food Review, Travel

A Trip to Brussels: The Food, Part 2

I left off my last post about Brussel’s food with my dinner on Monday evening. I went to work again on Tuesday, and while we didn’t go out for lunch (we ordered sandwiches), my lunch was fabulous; a baguette with brie cheese on it. It doesn’t sound like anything special, and to some might actually sound boring and not enough, but it was hands down the best bread and brie cheese I’ve ever had. Seriously, so good.

Dinner on Tuesday night took me to a more authentic and traditionally Belgian restaurant, Fin de Siécle. The restaurant had mostly rave reviews, but I was a little timid knowing that their only menu was a  giant blackboard in the middle of the restaurant, and it was only in French as it was a “locals” place. I decided to take a chance and go for it, and arrived around 6:30pm. The restaurant was mostly empty, but in a matter of about 40 minutes it was completely packed and people were waiting for seats! The restaurant is actually hall/cafeteria style, so you’ll likely be sharing a table and sitting next to people you don’t know (unless you snag one of the single tables, which are few and far between). While there were a lot of things on the menu that I couldn’t decipher, there were also a lot of things that I did know, which is the beauty of being somewhat familiar with the culinary world (albeit in a very novice sense), since a lot of words aren’t English. While I was deciding on what to get, I noticed one of the waitresses taking the time to talk with two young girls (in English) about their menu and what everything was, and I was impressed that she’d take the time to do so, as customer service isn’t put at such high standards as it is here in the U.S. (service people are paid accordingly so they don’t rely on tips, and they work together). Eventually I decided on the Stoemp, which was essentially fancy mashed potatoes. It was served with two sausage links (that I didn’t eat – but I’m not picky when it comes to that, I don’t care if meat might have touched what I’m eating – I just don’t want to eat it myself) and a phenomenal gravy. I washed everything down with a beer (of course) and loved the entire experience. It’s cash only (they have a bunch of signs) so make sure you stop at an ATM beforehand!

Stoemp | FoodosaurusRex.com

After dinner I decided to take a trip to EXKi, which is a quick service health food restaurant. They serve up pre-made salads and sandwiches, as well as baked goods, coffees and tea, and juices. I had read about a speculoos cheesecake, and knew I had to have it. I grabbed myself a slice of the cake and ordered an espresso machiatto to wash it all down. I should note that they aren’t big on “Americanos” (or what we know to be regular ‘coffee’) so most of the coffee drinks you’ll get are espresso based, and served in miniature cups. The cheesecake and espresso were both delicious, and I wished I had more time to visit the restaurant to try more.

Speculoos crusted cheesecake FTW

Speculoos crusted cheesecake FTW

I worked from my hotel on Wednesday since we were done with our necessary meetings, and made my lunch break a little nontraditional – hot chocolate at Frederic Blondeel! In addition to having a shop full of their delicious chocolates (or as the Belgians call them, confections), they also have a tea room that serves up coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. I settled in to a comfortable seat in the adorable little shop and ordered myself their 100% cacao hot chocolate. Each of their drinks come with a chocolate that compliments your hot chocolate, a biscuit, and a small glass of water to help wash it all down. This was hands down the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, and I didn’t want it to end!

This picture does not do the deliciousness justice!

This picture does not do the deliciousness justice!

For dinner, I decided to try a restaurant literally around the corner from my hotel, that had rave reviews – Bia Mara. A fish and chips restaurant started by two Irishmen is simple, no frills, and seriously delicious. You have the option of choosing the kind of fish and the batter you want, a seasoning for your chips, and also a dipping sauce for it all. They also have a vegetarian option, which is always appreciated! I had walked by the restaurant my first night and noticed people literally waiting in line outside for a seat, so I knew I’d have to get there early (which seemed to be the theme of my trip). And let me tell you, it did not disappoint! The chips were unbelievable (dare I say better than any of the frites I devoured), and the dipping sauce (I went with their lemon truffle aoli) was absolutely amazing. The service was also super quick and really really friendly, and I left wanting more! I wish I had tried Bia Mara earlier in the trip, because I definitely would have made a point to make my way back there at least one more time to try another combination. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the deliciousness – but trust me – it was great!

Despite being pleasantly full and happy with my dinner, I knew that my trip wouldn’t be complete without at least one Belgian waffle. There are tons of stands and stores all around the city that offer up the same thing, so it was really just a matter of picking one. The waffles start at one Euro and go up from there depending on what kind of toppings you go for. Naturally I picked the Nutella waffle, and loved it. They aren’t just any kind of waffle; they have just the right amount of crisp with a hint of caramelized sugar, but are stilly chewy and soft like you’d expect from a waffle. Whatever topping you get melts all over, and there’s really no good way to eat one. I’m pretty sure I had it all over my face by the time I was done, but it was worth it!

Oh yes

Oh yes

Thursday was my last full day in Brussels as I had an early flight out on Friday morning, so I made sure to get in everything I had on my to-do list. First up was “breakfast,” which by the time I got out of the hotel and walked all the way to the restaurant, it was more like lunch. I had read this particular restaurant, La Clef d’Or, was a bit further off the beaten path, but worth the trip. It reminded me a lot of an old school diner, where they offer up a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and it’s no frills. It’s actually right across the street from a flea market which would have been fun to check out, but it was raining and I was already pretty miserable from the cold and wet walk over. I remember reading about their Spaghetti and that it was not only a generous portion that was delicious and covered in cheese, but you could order it any time of day. After looking at the menu and their specials, I went with the giant bowl of spaghetti (for only 8 euros) and a coffee. It was absolutely delicious and filling, and worth the trek there. It’s cash only, though, so keep that in mind!

Nothing fancy, but oh so delicious!

Nothing fancy, but oh so delicious!

After lunch I made sure to stop and get as much chocolate as possible to bring home. This sounds like an easy task, but I was actually a little overwhelmed. I wanted to get “the best” chocolate, and with so many artisan chocolatiers in Brussels, I didn’t know what stores to go to. Eventually I decided on Neuhaus and Galler, and picked up a bunch of different variations of dark chocolate for myself as well as some friends and family. I also read fabulous things about Mary and Pierre Marcolini, and would have stopped in to grab a little something if I had more time. After loading up on chocolates I headed over to Maison Dandoy to get myself some speculoos biscuits. If you know me at all, you know I’m completely obsessed with Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter (which is made up of ground speculoos cookies), so it was only natural that I bought some of the real thing while in Brussels. I wanted to buy everything in the store, but eventually settled on a box of vanilla speculoos biscuits and left before I got myself (and my wallet) in deeper trouble.

It IS a good day when you have speculoos

It IS a good day when you have speculoos

When it came time for my final meal in Brussels, I had one requirement – moules and frites. Despite it being a “must have” meal when you’re visiting, I couldn’t really find any one particular restaurant that had good enough reviews to make me want to venture out somewhere new. Having eaten at Houtisplou on my first day and enjoying it, I decided to head back there since I knew they offered moules and frites. The restaurant is two stories, so I decided to sit upstairs for dinner on my last night, which felt fancier (although it wasn’t really). I ordered the famed moules and frites and of course enjoyed it with a beer. I’m going to be honest here – when I’m traveling abroad I’m not strict with my vegetarian diet. When there are language barriers, and typical traditional cuisine, I like to try and fully experience the city I’m in. That being said, if there are vegetarian options available I will always order it, and if not, I go for a fish dish. So knowing that moules and frites were a must-have in Brussels, I went for it… even though I’ve never been a fan of mussels. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these were probably the best mussels I’ve ever had. While eating them I remembered why I didn’t like them – you almost always get a few that are super gritty, as well as a bunch of shells that haven’t opened from cooking. Well that wasn’t the case with these mussels; they were almost all completely open, and there was no grit. Not to mention the broth they were served in was phenomenal. The meal was well worth veering off of my vegetarian diet for – but I don’t plan on making it a regular occurrence.

Mussles from Brussels (not to be confused w. Jean Claude Van Damme)

Mussles from Brussels (not to be confused w. Jean Claude Van Damme)

Being stuffed from dinner, I didn’t make a stop for one last frites cone or one last waffle. But I did head back to Delirium Café for one more beer! After my farewell beer it was back to the hotel to pack up and get to bed, since I had to be up early for my flight back the next morning. While it isn’t really specific to this trip, I think it’s worth noting that the meals I was served on both of my United flights were actually quite impressive. I selected the vegetarian option, and received an Indian styled dish on both flights, which looked infinitely better than either of the meat options that were available for everyone else. So I suggest to anyone flying that isn’t vegetarian, you should still request the vegetarian option (if available)!

My next post will be all about the beer – so stay tuned!!

Tell me…
Ever traveled somewhere that has a famous or traditional dish? What was it? Did you try it (and like it or hate it)?

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A Trip to Brussels: The Food, Part 1

When I found out about a month ago that I needed to take a trip to my company’s office in Brussels, Belgium to work on documenting a new product, all I could think about was the awesome food and drink I’d get to experience. They didn’t even have to finish the sentence or tell me much about the project in order to get me to say yes! So I took a trip “across the pond” last week, and am back (likely heavier) to talk about the deliciousness.

Whenever I’m planning a trip, I do as much research as I can, and really appreciate when people take the time to review things. I rely heavily on Yelp and FourSquare when it comes to food and drink, and I feel as though it’s only appropriate to pay it back by doing the same. So in addition to the reviews there, I wanted to blog about it too. I’m going to break it into two parts: first the food, then the drink. You can experience most of Brussels and the “sights” in a matter of three days (if you hit up the big attractions and are diligent with your time), but obviously staying longer means you’ll have more of an opportunity to try different restaurants and bars. I was in Brussels for six days; three days of work and three days of sight seeing and being a tourist.

Grand Place / Grote Markt

Grand Place / Grote Markt

I must admit I was a little nervous for my first dining experience in Brussels, as each country seems to have their own social and cultural norms when it comes to dining. I tried to do some research beforehand to see what was common, etc., but didn’t get much information. My timidness only stems from my first night in Berlin two years ago, when we walked into a restaurant and didn’t realize that they go by the “seat yourself” rule, and stood in the doorway for awhile until a surly man ushered us to a table. It seems as though in Brussels, you are acknowledged and directed by waitstaff when you walk in, but you’re able to pick your own seat. And when it comes to the check, they don’t rush you – so you either have to ask for it when they’re clearing your place, or flag them down to request it. Or, in some cases, just go up to the register and they’ll ring you up right there. It’s also worth noting that a lot of places are cash only – so make sure you have plenty of Euros with you! Now onto the food…

My ahead of time research led me to my first meal at Houtsiplou. There seem to be a lot of burger joints in Brussels, but this particular restaurant had the best reviews, and they their food is served up in a kitschy environment (all of their walls are painted with fun scenes and their food is delivered up from the kitchen via dumbwaiter). After perusing the menu for awhile, I ordered a beer (of course – review to come in a separate post) and their veggie burger, “Lola.” The burger had some grilled eggplant, tomato sauce, lettuce, and cheddar cheese served with frites in a cute little flower pot. I absolutely loved everything about the restaurant, and planned to take a trip back (which I did on my last night) before leaving. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good burger and delicious frites just outside of the central tourist area of Brussels.

Lola Burger & frites

Lola Burger & frites

Since my sense of time was out of whack (Left at 6pm EST and arrived at 8am CET, took a little nap before and after lunch), I wasn’t really hungry for dinner that first night. After a trip to Delirium Café (full review on that awesomeness to come in my beer post) for beer, I headed to one of many Friteries just two blocks from my hotel for fries (yes, this was after having them with my burger at lunch). This particular location, Friterie Tabora, offered two different sizes (small or large) and a plethora of sauce options. I decided on the curry sauce, and watched the guy behind the counter smother my piping hot cone of fries thinking to myself, “Um, how am I going to eat this?!” Thankfully they offer those cute little forks for frites consumption, so I had no problem strolling back to my hotel while devouring them.

Frites!

Frites!

On Sunday morning I woke up with two goals in mind: breakfast that included a giant cup of coffee, and a visit to a museum and Mannekin Pis (and more beer, of course). Despite Brussels being a bustling city, there weren’t a lot of coffee shops around. And I quickly learned while trying to find one nearby that a lot of stores, restaurants, and even coffee shops are closed on Sundays. Eventually I settled on The Coffee Company, and ordered myself a blueberry muffin and a cappuccino. It was nice to sit back, relax, and enjoy my breakfast in a familiar environment (well, except for the fact that everyone around me was speaking French). Eventually I made my way to the Magritte Museum to enjoy a little culture. The museum actually made me really tired (it was quiet and dark), so I knew I’d need to walk around outside a bit to wake up.

Brussels | FoodosaurusRex.com

After wandering around for a bit, I decided on my early dinner haphazardly. The hotel I was staying at offered wifi, so I was able to look up the location of things and read reviews, etc., anytime I was in my hotel, but I kept my phone in airplane mode the entire trip so I wouldn’t incur any international data charges. This worked out well, until I was out somewhere without internet and needed it. I had bookmarked one restaurant, Rachel, based on it’s reviews and location, and just as my stomach started to grumble, I walked past the restaurant. This is also a bit of a burger joint, but they offer more than just burgers (apparently their brunch is very good). Even though I had a burger for lunch the day before, I went with their Frankenstein burger (with a veggie patty substituted) which was served on a bagel. That’s right – a burger on a bagel. It was as amazing as it sounds! I also had my first tasted of Kriek, which I really enjoyed (and was shocked I did). The service was quick and friendly, and I didn’t feel out of place at all. After my second burger of the trip, I walked down to the famed Mannekin Pis for a picture. I must admit it’s pretty weird, but funny, and picture worthy.

NSFW?

NSFW?

Monday meant it was time for work, so I took a trip to the office, which was about 20 minutes outside of Brussels in an office park. I must admit I have no idea where we went for lunch which isn’t very helpful, but again, it was outside of Brussels so I’m assuming the average tourist wouldn’t be out that way anyway. By the time I got back to my hotel I couldn’t wait for dinner. And again, I decided to go a few blocks away from the touristy section of the city. I should note that anyone who wants to have a good, non-tourist centered meal should avoid any restaurant near Grand Place, especially Beenhouwersstraat / Rue des Bouchers streets. You have to walk down them to get to the Delirium Café, but you really shouldn’t go down them for any other reason; unless you like having people jump out at you from the restaurant trying to get you to come in and eat. I nearly punched someone in the face after telling him no and saying excuse me (in French) multiple times without him moving. More on that later, though!

Dinner on Monday night was at Publico – a small and intimate Mediterranean restaurant. I was thrown for a loop when I first opened the door, since you need to completely close it before being able to stand inside. When you do, it’s pitch black as there is a big heavy curtain separating the doorway from the actual restaurant (which I’m assuming is to help keep out the cold). Once you realize what’s going on and you open the curtain, you’re faced with a warm and inviting restaurant. I ordered the bruschetta to start followed by one of their specials (orecchiette) and it was phenomenal. They have an extensive wine list, and in addition to serving you bread (as all restaurants in Brussels do) they also had herbed olives that were delicious. My main dish was so big that I couldn’t finish it, and the server asked me if I didn’t like it and that’s why I didn’t finish it (and he seemed insulted). I had to assure him that I was just too full to finish, as they take finishing their food in Brussels seriously. I must admit that was the only meal I didn’t devour!

Wall art in Publico

Wall art in Publico

At the risk of getting too long and too wordy, I’m going to split this post into two parts – I still have three more days worth of food to talk about! And don’t worry, things like Belgian waffles, moules frites, Belgian chocolate, and speculoos are up next.

So in the meantime, tell me…
Have you ever traveled somewhere that had different dining customs? Did you know about them beforehand, or discover them once you were there? 

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Disneyland: The FOOD!

It would be remiss if I didn’t mention the food aspect of Disneyland. I mean, this did start off as a food blog, didn’t it?

Magic on the West Coast

Magic on the West Coast

Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to Disneyland dining. With the introduction of the Disney Dining Plan a few years ago, my return to yearly Disney trips has always included them. When I used to go with my family, there wasn’t a dining plan option. So, we did a variety of quick service and table service meals, while trying not to spend too much money (we would even go to the grocery store and get already cooked chicken and sides for dinner at least one night). The dining plans now really allow you to enjoy all that Disney has to offer when it comes to dining. It’s pretty awesome to know you have X number of meals available to you, to use however you please. At least, that’s the case for Disney World. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure how the Disneyland dining plans work, aside from the fact that they’re different than WDW’s options, and are not worth it (according to multiple people).

That being said, we opted out of a dining plan option while in Disneyland, and just did our own thing. Having never been to Disneyland, I really didn’t know where to start when it came to dining; what restaurants were the best? Who had vegetarian friendly food? Where would we get the most bang for our buck? I did as much research as I could, and decided to book two meals ahead of time: dinner on Saturday night post-10k and pre-half marathon, and breakfast on Sunday morning after the half. I figured those were the two most important meals of the weekend, and I didn’t want to run into any issues by not having reservations.

When we arrived on Friday, we weren’t sure what to have for dinner, after devouring some delicious mini cupcakes at the cupcake meet-up. But as we were walking through Downtown Disney, we spotted Tortilla Jo’s, and knew we had to eat there. When faced with the option to eat Mexican and Southwestern food, we will almost always choose it. There was a bit of a wait, but we were eating so early (we had been up since 2am EDT) we didn’t mind the wait. Once seated, I had no problem enjoying a skinny margarita and guacamole, followed by a delicious veggie burrito. By the time dinner was over we were stuffed to the gills and ready for bed… no dessert necessary.

Does it get any better than this?

Does it get any better than this?

After the race on Saturday morning, by the time we showered and were in the parks and finally hungry, it was around 11am. We headed to Paradise Pier in California Adventure and got ourselves a giant sourdough bread bowl filled with soup. Only after we ordered and started eating did I realize we were enjoying a San Francisco favorite, a city we’d be visiting in just a few days… go figure! The bread was the perfect post-race treat, and the broccoli and cheddar soup that came in it was awesome – just the right amount of cheese and cream to broccoli ratio. Since we had a later meal (we’ll call it brunch?), I opted for ice cream as an early afternoon treat once in Disneyland. I certainly was not a poster child for proper pre and post race fueling on this trip, but hey, you have to live a little.

Rainbow sprinkles. Always.

Rainbow sprinkles. Always.

Dinner reservations on Saturday were at 6pm, which gave us enough time to enjoy the parks before dinner so we could head back to the hotel afterwards for an early bedtime. I had heard wonderful things about the Monte Cristo sandwich served in New Orleans Square, so I knew we had to go. After reading a few reviews and tips, I decided to make a reservation at Cafe Orleans, rather than Blue Bayou (it was noted as slightly cheaper, but pretty much the same). We enjoyed some Parmesan garlic fries to start, and by the time our Monte Cristo’s came out, I was already on my way to being full. As you can see in the picture below, it’s A LOT of (fried) food. I wound up only eating one piece, and brought the rest back to the hotel (we had a fridge and microwave!). It was delicious, but heavy. There were a bunch of tip son FourSquare saying it was big enough to share, and we should have listened. Oh well, next time!

Fried, cheesy deliciousness.

Fried, cheesy deliciousness.

Sunday’s breakfast was planned at Carnation Cafe, another noted favorite by many of the blogs and articles I read while researching. Apparently their head chef has worked in Disneyland for 55+ years! I hadn’t really looked at the menu before (which is rare for me) but I was pleased to see Huevos Rancheros – they are one of my favorite breakfasts! The eggs were perfectly poached and I’m always thrilled to see things like black beans, avocados, and cilantro on my plate. We weren’t rushed at all, and it was nice to sit back and relax after the half marathon.

huevos

Pretty much all of my favorite things.

Being the bad blogger that I am, there were also a lot of other delicious things we had on our trip that I just didn’t take a picture of. Like an awesome jalapeno stuffed pretzel with a Torpedo IPA at Bayside Brews and an epic java explosion sundae from Ghirardelli, both in California Adventure.

Our final meal wasn’t actually in Disneyland, but rather at Buca di Beppo, about a mile down the road with my cousin and his family. My cousin has lived in California all his life (after my Aunt packed up and moved there when she was 18 – my mom always jokes that she moved across the country with garbage bags full of her stuff), and we don’t get to see each other that often because of the distance. Since he only lives about an hour outside of Disneyland, we made sure to meet up with the whole gang (he has three kids, all under the age of 5!). It was a great way to cap off our Disneyland trip.

Since we spent the next 3 1/2 days in San Francisco, you better believe the eating did not stop there! I can’t wait to share that part of the trip with you as well… I fell completely in love with that city.

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Reunited

Two weekends ago, I attended my college’s 5-year reunion! It’s hard for me to believe I graduated 5 years ago from The University of Scranton, because it seems like just yesterday (isn’t that what all old people say?), but so much has changed on the campus since I was there as a student back in 2008. It was a lot of fun to check out the brand new science building, stay in one of the new apartment styled dorms, work-out in the amazingly fancy new gym, and reconnect with people I haven’t seen since the glory days.

The magic in the mountains!

The magic in the mountains!

My friends and I didn’t have much planned aside from the cocktail hour and class dinner on Saturday evening, so I took to the Internets (of course) to see what, if anything, was new in Scranton in terms of food to check out. I figured I might as well get some good eats while I was in the area! My college roommate and I headed to a Mexican restaurant that I had been to once before for dinner on Friday night, and obviously started things off the right way – with a margarita! I got the coconut margarita, which was delicious. It tasted like a lighter version of the typically creamy and heavy pina colada. It was a perfect match for my combination plate of enchilada, chalupa, and burrito.

Coconut Margarita

We were planning to race a cross country 5k on Saturday morning, but thanks to the rain and some flooding on Friday those plans were thwarted. I didn’t really mind too much, though, because we were staying in the dorm apartments, and I forgot just how uncomfortable dorm room beds are… so extra “sleep” was appreciated. We eventually got up and made our way to the new gym on campus – SO amazing! I spent my college years in a gym from the 80’s that definitely needed some updating… though I never complained while I was there because it served its purpose. But man, the new gym is spectacular – rows and rows of treadmills and elipticals, tons of free weights and weight machines, all in a well lit and spacious area. Plus, it’s on the bottom floor of one of the dorms, which is perfect for people that live in the building!

So fancy!

So fancy!

[Source]

After our time at the gym, I convinced my roommate to check out Eden A Vegan Cafe for lunch. I found the restaurant on Yelp, and whenever I have the opportunity to eat at a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, I do it! It’s nice to be able to walk into a place and order anything I want, instead of trying to find what I can have. When we first walked in and looked at the menu, my roommate turned to me and said; “wait, I’m confused…” because everything on the menu seemed to be a meat dish (burger, turkey sandwich, BLT, etc.). It was funny, but at the same time I could understand how it was confusing – so tried to explain it to her the best I could. Eventually she settled on a tuna melt, and I went with a chili cheeseburger and a green refresher smoothie. The restaurant is actually right next door to a tattoo parlor (where I got my very first tattoo – looks like it moved a few blocks), and I was tempted to go and get something… but I didn’t! The food was awesome, and I have every intention of heading back on my next trip to the electric city!

No meat here!

No meat here!

After lunch, we wanted a little something sweet, so we headed to Northern Light Cafe a few blocks away. This was the place to go when you were trying to get your serious study on in college. It was a nice change of pace from the library, and sitting in a coffee shop typing or reading away gave us all a sense of being “grown ups.” I ordered a soy chai latte and a 7-layer cookie bar, and was definitely stuffed by the time we got back to the dorm where we were staying.

Northern Light Chai Latte

By the time we had finished gallivanting around downtown Scranton, we had to get ready for the all-classes cocktail hour and then class dinner. The university does their reunions in 5-year increments (obviously), so since I graduated in 2008, my class was there for their reunion along with any other class that graduated with a ‘3 or ‘8. So we had the opportunity to mingle with other graduating classes during the cocktail hour, and then sat down for a dinner with just our class, which was served by plenty cafeteria workers I recognized! It was fun to catch up with old classmates, but it was clear that being only 5 years out of school, the different groups of friends that hung out while we were in college still exist today. There wasn’t a ton of mingling, but I imagine that will change as the years go by.

After cocktails and dinner we headed to some of the local bars to continue the fun, and before I knew it the weekend was over and I was driving on route 380 and 80 back to good ‘ole Central Jersey. It was great to spend time with people I don’t see too often (and people I get to see all the time!) and check out some new and old favorites. I have every intention of heading back to Eden next time I’m in the electric city, and with all the changes and updates that are happening at the University, I can’t wait to see what’s new next time.

Where did you go to schoool? Do you still visit?
Have you ever been to a high school or college reunion? 

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D.C. Food & A Giveaway Winner!

I had grand plans of posting my Food Should Taste Good giveaway winner early last week, but a bout with a stomach bug kept me quarantined for a bit instead, and then I was just trying to get back to normal life. Rather than talk about how miserable my drive home from Washington D.C. was, followed by the rest of Monday into Tuesday, let’s focus on the second best part of my trip — the food! But first… the giveaway winner is…

Winner

Becky! Who gave a great suggestion for apple styled nachos… sign me up! Shoot me your address to foodosaurusrex [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll have chips on their way to you!

Becky

So now onto the good stuff – the food in D.C.! I didn’t have any set plans when it came to where I wanted to eat or what kind of food I wanted to try while there, except for one thing – Baked & Wired cupcakes! I had asked Krissy for some recommendations, and I remembered her stopping for birthday cupcakes there after the Cherry Blossom 10-miler a few weeks ago. While I’ve always wanted to try Georgetown Cupcakes, the thought of having to wait in a long line for cupcakes that I’ve heard are “just okay” wasn’t appealing. So I headed to Baked & Wired instead, and was thrilled with what I found. The storefront was small, but it was broken into two sections – one for cupcakes and desserts, another for coffee, tea, etc. I didn’t venture over to the coffee line, but from reading reviews online it seems like their coffee is just as good as their cupcakes. I should mention that they call them cake cups, which is appropriate since they are huge!

Chocolate Doom, Dirty Chai, Flapjack, and Tessita [clockwise]

Chocolate Doom, Dirty Chai, Flapjack, and Tessita [clockwise]

We decided to get four cupcakes – one to enjoy right then, and another to save for Sunday. We wound up with the Tessita, Chocolate Doom, Dirty Chai, and Flapjack. These cakes are amazing; some of the best I’ve ever had. The frosting was generous, the cake was moist, and the size for only $3.50 was more than enough… I had trouble finishing one! I can’t recommend Baked & Wired enough. The store is cute, the employees are super friendly, and their treats are delicious. I mean, what more do you need? Plus, if it’s nice enough outside (like it was on Saturday) you can sit right outside their shop and lounge while eating baked goods and sipping coffee or tea. Talk about a perfect afternoon.

Aside from cupcakes on Saturday, we had personal pizzas for lunch at Paper Moon, followed by Santa Fe salads from Chop’t for dinner. This was my first time having Chop’t, and I really wish there was one near me. The salads are huge, and when you get avocado, they give you half of one… that’s a generous portion of avocado! I absolutely loved my salad, and on the way back to the hotel (we got them to go), we noticed the street was completely shut down. So, we stopped for a minute, and low and behold, who drove by? President Obama! I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I’m sure that it gets old for D.C. residents quickly (especially when it means road closures), but it was so cool to see the President drive by us on his way to the White House Correspondent’s dinner.

Oh hai Mr. President!

Oh hai Mr. President!

On Sunday morning after the race, Ashley and I headed to The Mad Hatter for brunch. We walked in and the restaurant was basically empty, but we were told that they really didn’t have any seats for us because they had a lot of reservations that morning. Huh? We were able to score a seat at an upstairs bar, and got to work on the most important thing – booze! I ordered a mimosa followed by a beer, and Ashley hit up their Bloody Mary bar. That’s right… your server gives you a glass of vodka, and the rest is up to you. Just look at all the options!

Hot Sauce, anyone? [Ashley's Picture]

Hot Sauce, anyone? [Ashley’s Picture]

I didn’t take any pictures of my food (post-race haze) but I had a really delicious Tex Mex burrito with home fries. When we left the restaurant was definitely crowded, but they could have seated us in the regular dining room. I mean, shouldn’t restaurants have seats for people with and without reservations? At least the food was good and our waiter was friendly. I would definitely return, but this time with a reservation!

Dinner on Sunday  night was pretty epic. I spent a lot of time looking through Yelp and FourSquare for suggestions, and stumbled upon a true gem – Founding Farmers. As soon as we walked in at about 6:30pm, thinking we’d beat the crowds especially since it was a Sunday, I knew we made a good choice. We were told that the wait would be about an hour and a half, and I quickly learned that once again reservations reigned supreme. We decided to wait based on the reviews we read and the fact that it was so crowded, and I’m really glad we did. The restaurant was founded on the premise of a farm to table concept (my favorite!) and is D.C.’s first green restaurant. They filter their own water, make everything from scratch in the kitchen (down to their condiments), and have a pre-prohibition era styled bar where their bartenders make their own syrups and infuse the alcohol themselves with juices, etc.

After waiting about an hour and a forty-five minutes we were seated, and had the nicest, most informative, and attentive waitresses I’ve ever had. She really was exceptional. Our meal started with their popcorn of the day (how cool is that?!) which was Old Bay seasoned, and fried green tomatoes. They were featuring Rogue beers on tap, so we each had one of those as well. Their menu is expansive, and I was really excited to see a separate vegetarian and vegan menu. Their regular menu denotes vegetarian and vegan (as well as nut allergy) options, but they also create vegetarian and vegan specials that all sound phenomenal. I was actually confused at first when I glanced over it seeing things like “bacon burger,” “shrimp scampi,” and “turkey burger.” Obviously they were all meatless, and it was awesome to know I could choose anything.

Not the best picture... but all those options are veg*n!

Not the best picture… but all those options are veg*n!

I eventually decided on the cauliflower steak with broccolini and risotto… and it was amazing. The cauliflower was nice and crunchy while maintaining it’s buttery flavor, and the fried onion strings that it was topped with added some extra flavor and crunch. For whatever reason I’ve found that people either really enjoy cauliflower or really can’t stand it, and I’m obviously in the enjoying it camp. But I really believe that this dish would convert someone with apathetic feelings towards cauliflower. It was fun using a steak knife to dig into a big hunk of cauliflower! I’d be remiss not to mention the risotto, because it really stole the show for me. It was creamy, cheesy, and everything I could want in a risotto dish… I just wish there had been more.

Not the best picture, but it was delicious!

Not the best picture, but it was delicious!

While we were waiting for our entrees, our waitress brought over their dessert menu, which I thought was absolutely genius on her part (get someone to commit to dessert before filling up on their entree). She pointed out their homemade biegnets, which under normal circumstances I would have been all over… but I knew based on how I felt before our meals even arrived that there was no way dessert could be in my immediate future. So we passed on their delicious sounding desserts, but a couple next to us got the biegnets, and you better believe I plan to order them if I’m ever back in town!

Nice neighborhood, eh?

Nice neighborhood, eh?

And unfortunately, that’s where our eating in D.C. stops. As I mentioned in my Nike Half recap, I woke up feeling okay on Monday morning with plans of coffee, but eventually started feeling sick. By the time I got home (about a 3 1/2 hour drive), it was only a matter of minutes before I was out for the count the rest of the day and into Tuesday. Obviously that was not the way I wanted to end the trip, but I’m thankful it didn’t happen while I was there!

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Eating Through Disney: Character Dining

One of the few times I wish I had children is when I go to a character breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s always such a treat to see the kids light up as a character makes their rounds and arrives at their table (it’s kind of cute to see the little ones that are petrified of the characters, too). Since I don’t have any children and am not planning on having them anytime soon (or ever…), the next best thing is to go with friends. Even though not all of our character meals were spent with others, we still had a blast. And yes, we went to more than one – three to be exact!

Our first character experience was breakfast over at The Beach Club’s Cape May Café, with Krissy the day after the marathon! I had never been, so I was more than game to give it a try. I do remember way back when (I’m talking elementary school) having breakfast at the Yacht Club, and I’ve eaten at Beaches and Cream, but that was it. We took a bus from our hotel (Pop Century) over to Hollywood Studios (which I refuse to recognize as HS, it’ll always be MGM to me), and walked over to the resort, passing the Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin hotels on the way. We even strolled by mile 24 of the marathon, and I made sure to stop and strike a pose.

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The view these resorts (Boardwalk, Beach, and Yacht) have is phenomenal, so I made sure to snap a picture. I wouldn’t mind waking up to that view on vacation! And, being that there is an actual boardwalk and a path that takes you from the resorts to Hollywood Studios, it’s a great place to get in a run… though the last thing on my mind the Monday after a marathon is running!

beachclub_view

Breakfast was delicious – they had your typical breakfast fare including eggs, hot and cold cereals, breakfast meats, pastries, etc. The highlight was of course the visit from Minnie, Goofy, and Donald, who had a little fun with us at our table. The tables are covered in paper (think Macaroni Grill) and when Donald came over he wrote a note to us for doing a good job on running the races over the weekend. Then, after an interaction with our waitress, Donald came back later to write that he was #1, and scribbled out our waitress’s name! Of course, Minnie made her way back around and detailed for us that Mickey was in fact number 1, followed by herself, Daisy, and THEN Donald. We were in hysterics the entire time – I love when the characters interact and joke with you! I even noted how their handwriting was so impressive using just little crayons, and Krissy immediately said “I don’t know what you’re talking about Danielle – that’s Minnie!!” Boy do I love feeling like a kid! We had so much fun, we spent almost 2 hours there and basically closed down their breakfast service. I’d call that a success!

krissy_brunch

Finally meeting online friends is the best!

The next character adventure took us to The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom for breakfast. I’ve eaten here before (at least two other times that I can remember), for both breakfast and dinner. Winnie The Pooh was (and still is!) one of my favorite Disney stories, so I love getting to see him and his friends. I actually remember waiting in a long line to have Eeyore sign my “autograph” book the first time I went to Disney World, and when I finally got up there and handed him my book, the cast member with him informed me he was unable to sign my book due to his “paws” (apparently the character costumes weren’t intuitive back in 1992 and Eeyore’s wasn’t pen-friendly), so I took my picture, and then started to hysterically cry out of embarrassment and not having his signature. As I’ve observed in the years since, I see that Eeyore can in fact now sign autograph books – those lucky kids! But I digress…

Disney-002

Aside from the characters, my second favorite part about the Crystal Palace is the atmosphere. It’s such a bright restaurant, and one that I think feels very “Florida.” In addition to the great atmosphere, I love the kid’s section they have for food, cutely named “Pooh’s Corner.” During breakfast they offer what they called stuffed French toast, but to me is more like a giant zeppoli that’s been covered in a cinnamon and sugar mixture… heavenly! Like I said earlier in the post, sometimes I feel funny without any kids at character meals, but the woman at the table next to us (with two young boys) leaned over after one of the characters had come to visit and exclaimed “you two are so cute! I love it!” That definitely made me feel better about being such a big kid. We even had  visit to our table from an absolutely adorable little girl in a Tinkerbell costume. She came over to us, sat down, and just smiled. Her mom came over and grabbed her while saying “sorry honey, but Tinkerbell isn’t part of this character breakfast!” … it was so cute.

Disney-003

The final character breakfast stop was at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. I stayed at the Contemporary back in 1995 when my dad happened to be on a business trip to Orlando (score!) and the hotel is just as fabulous as I remembered. Of course, the selling point to a 10 year old was the monorail IN the hotel, and I still think it’s the coolest thing ever. Eating at Chef Mickey’s as a child was a ton of fun, and since I’m barely an adult (sure, my age may say so, but my actions say otherwise), I knew it would be just as fun on this trip. This was actually our last meal of the trip; we didn’t have a park ticket for the day since we had to leave at 2p, and getting to the Contemporary was easy – hop on the resort bus to Magic Kingdom, and then walk over. I can say without a doubt that this was by far my favorite breakfast buffet (and I had three on the trip!). There were a ton of vegetarian options (and just a lot of options in general), and everything was really delicious. Besides, how can you not love your meal when you’re visited by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto?!

Disney-004

I’m definitely planning on doing at least one character breakfast while we’re in Disneyland at the end of the summer for the Dumbo Double Dare – I’ve got to experience the characters on both coasts!

Have you ever done character dining? Did you like it?
Where should I eat while I’m in Disneyland (I’ve never been!)?

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