Category Archives: Travel

Almost Goofy

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I didn’t complete the Goofy Challenge this year. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Just like last year, we planned to arrive early on Friday morning to give ourselves enough time to head to the Expo and relax before getting to bed early. By the time I was in bed on Friday night (well, let’s be honest, Friday evening), my feet were a little sore. I figured it was just from all the walking we had done, and went to bed. I woke up on Saturday morning and noticed my foot was a little sore, but continued to get ready. As time went on, though, I started to realize things weren’t looking good for my foot – it wasn’t just tired from the moderate walking we did the day before, but instead there was a dull pain very similar to the pain I had ignored when my foot first started bothering me. After walking back and forth to my room multiple times while asking my husband what he would do, I realized it wouldn’t be smart for me to run the 13.1 miles that morning. As tears welled up in my eyes, I told my husband to go on without me. At the time, nothing could have been worse – I hobbled back to the hotel room at 3:30am, alone, with the hopes of getting that coveted Goofy Challenge medal gone. I iced my foot, and prayed to the running Gods it would be okay for Sunday’s 26.2.

Before the no running decision

Before the no running decision

The decision not to run on Saturday was hard, but I think in the end proved to be the right one. I figured between the two races, I would much prefer completing another 26.2 to another 13.1, and knew if my foot wasn’t well on Saturday, there would be no chance for a run on Sunday. I took it easy on Saturday (with a trip to EPCOT I’ll recap in a food related post later), and stopped by the KT Tape booth at the Expo to get taped (I figured it couldn’t hurt). When I woke up on Sunday morning, my foot was still a little sore, but in much better shape than it had been the day before. I told my husband that I didn’t care how long it took us, we were going to finish and I was going to get at least one medal out of the weekend!

All taped up!

All taped up!

Because the race starts so early it means I have to wake up super early, which causes problems for my oh-so-temperamental GI system. I have a pretty decent routine on days when I have to wake up at a normal time (typically anytime after 6am), but when I have to wake up super early, I run into issues, despite being diligent with my pill taking in the days leading up to the race. Since I didn’t get to empty the tank before the race (just like last year), I knew we’d be stopping along the way… I just didn’t know it would be 3 times! Because I didn’t know how my foot was going to be feeling, I wasn’t worried about the stops and it slowing us down; I assumed the race would be more of a hobble than anything else.

marathonstart-5-2

The start!

As the race started, the first few miles were interesting – some steps were pain-free, while others were a little worrisome. After about 5 miles and an energy pumping run through Magic Kingdom, my foot pain was no longer a concern, and I took my first bathroom break. Unlike last year, the race took us to MK early, but instead of taking us on a long trek to Animal Kingdom, we ran to the Speedway and around the track there, where I took another bathroom break. Once we were out of the Speedway and en route to Animal Kingdom, we were already halfway, which we crossed in about 2:18. At this point I was feeling pretty good, despite the rising temperature and nearly 100% humidity. I’m SO glad I decided to wear a hat!

After the halfway point I decided to break up the remaining miles based on what I knew was left – 4 miles to Animal Kingdom, 3 miles to and in ESPN Wide World of Sports (and hitting mile 20!), 3 miles to Hollywood Studios, and then just 3 within HS and EPCOT to the finish. I knew that I wanted to save a little energy for those last few miles in the parks, because they really are electrifying and fun to speed through! As we made our way into Animal Kingdom, I realized that at that point, I was feeling the best I had ever felt during a marathon… even with all the drama from the day before. With just about 8 miles to go, I knew I’d be able to finish and started to slowly pick up the pace.

Damn watermark!

Damn watermark!

By this point the sun was beating down on us, and I was soaked. I’m talking to the point where my shorts were dripping on the back of my legs – so delicious. We made sure to stop at every single station, oftentimes taking Powerade and water, so I knew I was at least hydrated and the cold sponges they handed out around mile 18 were glorious. I took my third and final bathroom break before leaving ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, and enjoyed a lap around their track and all their fields. By this point it was the home stretch, so I started to pick it up, realizing I could *almost* PR if I kept going. By this point we realized that if I hadn’t taken THREE bathroom breaks (!!) I would have definitely PRed, which helped hammer home that I made the right decision the day before. I ran into Krissy at this point and we chatted for a bit before I continued on my way. She was in such great spirits and having a great time just running and stopping to take pictures with the characters – her attitude was infectious and helped me get through those last miles! I soaked up the miles in Hollywood Studios, down past the Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk Hotels, and finally into EPCOT. I skipped the last two water stations and powered through, crossing in 4:27:06 with the announcers reading off my name!

oiselle4

Number 4 done!

Of course as soon as I finished my quads started to scream, but I had no foot pain at all… go figure! I was able to spend the rest of the day in Magic Kingdom and enjoy dinner at the new Be Our Guest restaurant. The rest of the week included zero running (but LOTS of walking!), and I’m really looking forward to getting back to it this week. I’m in the process of figuring out what fall marathon I want to run since I went with the refund for the 2012 NYCM, and I’m focusing on some Spring half marathons in the meantime. So tell me…

Any fall marathon suggestions for me?
What are you currently training for? 

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Filed under Running, Travel

Chicago Marathon Recap: The Food

You didn’t think I was going to give you a Chicago Marathon recap without talking about food, did you?! I wish that I had a glowing food post for you like I did last time I was in Chicago, but unfortunately this trip was more about the race than it was the food, and I didn’t get to visit everywhere I wanted. At least that just means it’s an excuse to go back!

As I mentioned in my race recap, we were up early and off to the expo on Saturday morning, so breakfast was a stop at Starbucks next to our hotel. After the expo, though, we headed to Native Foods Café for lunch, which happened to be just around the corner from our hotel. It’s actually a chain, but only has a few locations; mostly in Chicago, California, and Colorado (guess they like C states!). I had searched for vegetarian restaurants prior to the trip, and since this was around the corner and had good reviews, I knew we had to check it out. After quickly browsing the menu, Andy ordered their Portobello “Sausage” burger with a side of seasoned fries, while I opted for the Twister Wrap [salad greens, fresh avocado and cucumber salsa, creamy chipotle sauce and your choice of crispy, blackened, or grilled Native “chicken” in an organic whole wheat wrap] with a side of kale, and we split their lavender lemonade.

The food was awesome. The Native “chicken” looked, felt, and tasted like chicken (I opted for it blackened), and they didn’t skimp on the avocado which I always appreciate. And Andy, not a vegetarian (but woefully eats as one most of the time) really enjoyed his burger, too. I would have loved to try everything on their menu, but unfortunately our trip only allowed us to visit once. I would love to have a vegetarian restaurant like that around me!

After a trip to Target and relaxing our legs for a bit, we headed off to dinner at Rosebud Theater District. Our main goal for dinner on Saturday night was very simple: pasta. So, the obvious choice was to search for a nearby Italian restaurant. Despite staying in the financial district of the city, we had a lot of options that were open on Saturday night (though there were equally as many that were closed). The restaurant had the best reviews out of every walkable place I researched, so we made a reservation prior to our trip in order to secure a spot. We started off sharing a house salad and bruschetta, which was delicious. They topped their bruschetta with fresh mozzarella, which I really enjoyed. Of course I had my fair share of the table’s bread, which they served with olive oil and parmesan cheese. I’ve never thought to mix parmesan cheese into olive oil for dipping, but you better believe I’m going to do it now! By the time we were finishing up our appetizers, dinner arrived and we dug in. I ordered the penne alla vodka and while it may not have been the safest option, it was vegetarian and I had a pretty good feeling it wouldn’t upset my stomach (thankfully I was right). I would love to go back on an evening where I could enjoy some wine!

Our final meal in the city was at Giordano’s for deep dish Chicago style pizza. I know there are a lot of different restaurants that offer deep dish pizza in the city, but we actually visited this restaurant four years ago on my first trip to Chicago. As we were being walked to our seat, we both looked at each other and at the same time echoed; “seriously? This is exactly where we sat four years ago!” I mean, what are the chances of that?! Since the pizza is made to order and we were finally gaining our hunger back post-marathon, we ordered some parmesan fries to share while waiting for our pizza. We ordered our pizza with onions, peppers, and jalapenos, and it was awesome. We even made sure to get a pizza big enough to bring some back to the hotel, since we both knew our hunger would rage late into the night; and it did. I’m a New York style pizza girl all the way, but sometimes it’s nice to change it up and do what I like to call ‘knife and forking it.’

Now, I wouldn’t typically make note of airport food. I purposely didn’t mention the food we ate at Newark Airport because it was awful. I do, however, feel the need to mention the food I had at Chicago O’Hare. Since we were flying United, we were stationed in Terminal B right next to the most delicious airport food I’ve ever experienced – Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera. If you are even remotely into food, and more specifically Mexican and Southwestern food, then you know the name Rick Bayless. As you all know I am obsessed with both food, and more specifically, Mexican/Southwestern food. So as soon as I saw that name attached to a sign hanging next to our gate, I insisted on getting something. I double checked Yelp an FourSquare reviews, and it was no surprise to see phenomenal reviews. After quickly doing a once-over of the menu, I ordered the rosted garlic mushroom torta which had crimini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, chipotle garlic mojo, goat cheese, black beans, and arugula. It was heaven between two pieces of crusty bread.

Just like I can’t wait to run my next marathon, I can’t wait to head back to Chicago to enjoy the city more. Hopefully, I won’t be waiting another four years to make my return!

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Filed under Food Review, Pizza, Restaurant, Running, Travel, Vegetarian/Vegan

EuroTrip 2012 Food: Stockholm

Our train pulled into the Stockholm station at about 6:15a. Thankfully we had the foresight to set our alarms for 5:30a to make sure we were up and ready to hop off the train when we arrived at the station. Since we were so early the hotel didn’t have any rooms ready for us, so we dropped off our bags and headed out to find some coffee and get started on sight seeing.

Since it was so early not a lot was open, but we did stumble upon a coffee shop, Espresso House, that I would later learn to be the equivalent to our Starbucks (looks like I’m finding those everywhere). I ordered my new favorite drink, a vanilla latte, and we sat and enjoyed our drinks surrounded by cozy decor. After finalizing our plan for the day and wasting about an hour and a half, we set out to knock a few sights off of our list.

We headed to Stockholm’s city hall building, where we took an informative tour (they won’t allow you to trapse through the building on your own, since it is an active building with people working), and then we took a stop for lunch. The temperature was warmer than Copenhagen, but still not as hot as home, so we enjoyed our lunch al fresco; I enjoyed some fish and chips while the hubs ordered a lunch special of grilled chicken with chorizo and mashed sweet potatoes.

After lunch we took a short stroll up to the royal palace, where we were able to walk through the treasury, royal apartments, gallery, and a mini-museum. As I was traipsing through the halls, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like to actually live there. I mean, to have your “bedroom” be smattering of 5+ rooms, to have marbled staircases, and beautiful gardens and rooms full of sculptures. Every time I would look in one of the less than shiny mirrors, I couldn’t help but think about all the other people that have also looked in those same mirrors. It’s pretty cool if you stop and think about it! We also stumbled upon the changing of the guards, which included a little concert from the royal band – it was perfect timing!

For dinner, we headed to Herman’s, a vegetarian buffet, which was like my heaven. They had a grill out back where they were grilling tofu and all kinds of veggies, and then both hot and cold food inside. I loaded my plate with as many grilled vegetables as I could fit and a ton of their salads as well. Everything was delicious, and I had said that I would have been totally fine eating all of my meals there. It was a nice change of pace from all the rich and heavy foods we had been eating for the majority of our trip. I also had some grilled eggplant slathered in BBQ sauce that I fell in love with and recreated as soon as we got home.

Our go-to dessert was ice cream, or as it’s called over there, glass. They had tons of shops throughout the city, and the majority of them had homemade waffle cones. So on our way back to the hotel most evenings we stopped to get some – my favorite flavor was the maple walnut.

For dinner on our second day, we headed to a traditional Swedish restaurant, Pelikan. It was my goal to have Swedish meatballs while in Sweden, so I knew this restaurant was going to be my best chance at that. I read reviews about their food, and knew that the food would be good – they only have 8 main dishes, so it was easy for me to make my decision; Swedish meatballs with gherkin pickles, lingonberries, and mashed potatoes. The meatballs were huge and so full of flavor, and it made for an excellent meal paired with the sweet berries and salty pickles.

After starting our third day at my beloved Espresso House and taking a look at their photography museum, we worked up an appetite. Since we were heading over to to another island (Stockholm is a bunch of little islands, for all you non geographers), we stopped at a little stand that seemed to be bustling for lunch. Turns out we stumbled upon one of the weirdest, but delicious combinations ever. It was a wrap filled with mashed potatoes, and a hot dog with all the fixin’s (relish, mustard, and ketchup). It sounds totally bizarre, but it was really tasty – you could even get one with seafood salad if you wanted. Who would have thought that would be a delicious combo (obviously the Swedes)?!

Dinner that night was at Garlic & Shots, a restaurant my husband had actually visited while he was in England a few years ago. I ordered a huge black bean burger and garlic fries, while the hubs ordered a spicy beef chili skillet. And of course, we had to try their garlic beer. That’s right, the beer actually has little pieces of garlic floating in it! It sounds weird, but I promise it’s actually quite delicious. They also have an impressive shots list (hence the name), and while I didn’t order any, there were definitely a few I would try.

Our last day started with a buffet brunch cruise around Stockholm’s archipelago islands. It’s here that I tried the fried pickled herring that I actually enjoyed. I also had some grilled vegetables, smoked salmon, some cold salads, bread, and some breakfast sausage and ham. They also had a phenomenal dessert buffet that I forgot to snap a picture of, but trust me it was delicious.

One thing that I enjoyed in both Copenhagen and Stockholm was the elusive chocolate ball, known as the chokoladboll. It’s a little chocolate ball that is covered in shredded coconut, and is absolutely delicious. I found a few recipes online, and definitely plan on recreating them myself. My mouth is watering just at the thought of them! So of course I ended the trip with one at the airport.

It was  a great 12 days away, but it was certainly nice to get back home into a normal routine, and to of course spend time with the kitties. It was definitely an experience I’m so glad I got to have, and can’t wait for my next vacation (Disney in January)!

Olympic podium at the photography museum… I’m a winner!

Have you ever been to Sweden? 

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Filed under Food Review, Restaurant, Travel

Eurotrip 2012 Food: Copenhagen

We arrived in Copenhagen at around 10pm after a late flight from Berlin. It was actually the first time I had to walk out on the tarmac in order to board my plane; my mom has a thing about flying on big jets only, so growing up that was the only type of plane we would take – a big ‘ole jet. While this plane wasn’t small, I couldn’t help but giggle on my way out, thinking about my mom.

Since we arrived so late, we snacked on some of the chocolate I procured earlier in the day, and got to bed early in order to take full advantage of our time in Copenhagen. We started the day with breakfast at the hotel, which for me included a veggie sandwich and a pastry. I was happy to see that it was completely acceptable to eat a sandwich for breakfast – something I love doing. We then headed to Tivoli Gardens, which is a big amusement park with gardens, and tons of restaurants in the heart of the city. Once we had done our fair share of rides, we settled on lunch at a bier garten, because we apparently weren’t done with Germany just yet. After lunch, we headed to check out my very favorite Disney princess – Ariel!

For those of you that don’t know, Hans Christian Andersen was Danish, and actually wrote the famed Little Mermaid, that was then made into my favorite Disney movie of all time. So of course it was necessary to visit the statue of her while in the city. By the time we finished the treck from Tivoli to the water, we had worked up quite an appetite for dinner. So, upon the recommendation of Yelp, we headed to a Thai restaurant right on the water, that allowed us to watch evening runners while we enjoyed our dinners. We both wound up getting the same dish, and it was delicious!

While I was spending time scouring the internet to not only learn the dining customs (we didn’t want a Berlin repeat) but to also find restaurants, it became apparent that there wasn’t a lot of Danish food around. The places that did exist, were unfortunately very upscale and required very far in advance reservations (I’m talking months). So, I made sure to find and try “traditional” Danish food for lunch on our second day. There were restaurants lining the water in Nyhavn, making our decision tricky. Eventually we settled on Nyhavn 37, and while the hubs ordered some steamed blue mussels, I went with their “Traditional Danish Lunch Platter,” which included the infamous pickled herring.

I’m willing to try pretty much anything, and I can now say that I do not like pickled herring. Fried pickled herring is okay (I had that in Stockholm, we’ll get there eventually), but I am not a fan. So while my meal was only okay (based solely on my own tastes – my husband’s was delicious!), I had a beautiful view. The weather in Copenhagen was significantly colder than Berlin and by extension home, so I enjoyed the meal outside by heating lamps with a blanket. Since it’s cooler there but everyone enjoys eating outside, most restaurants provide fleece blankets for their patrons – it’s so cool!

While my lunch on our second day was a little lackluster, dinner certainly made up for it. We stumbled upon Halifax, where I enjoyed what may have been the best burger I’ve ever tasted. The concept is neat – you pick the style of burger, what type of patty (size and if you want beef, chickpea, or celery), what type of side you want (fries, salad, etc.), and what dipping sauce you want (chipotle, aoli, remoulade, salsa, or straight up mayo). I decided to go with their Zurich burger, which had rösti as the top bun (it’s basically like a potato pancake). The whole not having a full bun thing worked out, since they eat their burgers with knives and forks! Of course, my husband and I washed our burgers down with beer.

We spent each day in museums and wandering the streets, so caffeine pick-me-ups were required here and there. While Copenhagen didn’t have Starbucks, I found a Baresso on almost ever corner. I fell in love with their vanilla cappuccino, and ordered one every time we visited the shop. The fact that they served it in a glass cup and topped it with a heart made it all the more enjoyable.

We only spent three days in Copenhagen, so our last full day started with some Barreso to fuel a stroll around Stroget, their shopping district. Our last meal was at an Italian/Mexican fusion restaurant, Momma Rosa’s where I did something my husband just couldn’t get behind – I ate pizza with a  fork. I didn’t mind it so much (I used to start eating pizza that was too hot that way when I was little), but my husband just couldn’t justify eating pizza that way.

We had a late train from Copenhagen to Lund in Sweden, where we then took a sleeper train to Stockholm. We stopped at a 7-Eleven in Lund to grab some drinks, and while making small talk with the cashier, she asked where we were from. We mentioned the U.S, specifically New Jersey… where she informed us she’d heard of NJ thanks to Jersey Shore. Fabulous.

While our time in Copenhagen was short, we absolutely loved the culture – they bike everywhere, and would love to return. Next up is our final stop, Sweden!

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Eurotrip 2012 Food: Berlin

The first stop on our 12-day European adventure was Berlin.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the trip there was off to a rough start, but we made it eventually. If we want to get technical, my first meal of the trip was a shared black bean Smash Burger before boarding the plane (for the first time – we had to deplane for a bit before finally taking off).

Since it was an evening/overnight flight, we were served dinner, and I opted for the vegetarian selection. I assumed it was either going to be a bunch of bland steamed vegetables or a variation of pasta primavera, but I’m happy to report I was pleasantly surprised; it included some chana masala, basmati rice, and palak paneer. While it wasn’t the prettiest of meals, it was much more than I expected for in-flight food – I’m used to just a bag of mixed nuts and my choice of soda. It was surprisingly flavorful, and despite it’s own questionable appearance, looked a lot better than the chicken or beef options.

Once we arrived in Berlin, (even though it was the middle of the night at home) we got down to business and set out on foot to do some sightseeing. We checked out the Berliner Dom, and just wandered around for a bit to try and get a baring of where we were. Our first meal in the city was at Maximilian’s, where we learned the hard way that you seat yourself in Germany. We walked into the restaurant and stood there like deer in headlights as waiters and waitresses walked past us as though we didn’t exist. After realizing we were supposed to seat ourselves, I cursed myself for not looking up dining etiquette prior to the trip. I quickly Googled the information (thanks to my husband buying a cheap data plan once we landed), and learned that in addition to seating yourself, ordering a glass of “still water” is frowned upon. I usually drink water with my meals, so this was a bit of a disappointment. I supplemented the water with a liter of weissbeir, as any logical person would.

Knowing a little bit about the food culture of each city prior to visiting, I knew right away what I was going to order – currywurst! It’s a big deal in Berlin, and they have little shops and street vendors selling it everywhere. I like curry, and I like wurst, so I had no doubt I’d enjoy the concoction. It was served with pomme frites, and I ate it like a true European – knife in my right hand and fork in my left! My husband ordered their version of meatloaf which is nothing like what your mother makes – it tasted more like a delicious ham steak to me, and he devoured every last bite.

For breakfast on our first full day, we went to Chipps at the recommendation of a friend who had visited Berlin a few months earlier. They have a lot of really delicious vegetarian and vegan options, which in a city that loves their meat is appreciated by someone like me. Everything on the menu sounded delicious, but I eventually settled for some scrambled eggs with baked beans, veggie bacon, toast, and a mixed salad.

It was the perfect fuel for a day full of sightseeing, including an amazing walking tour that highlighted all the notables in the city. We actually got really lucky and had a tour guide that was a history Ph.D student at Humboldt University; I learned SO much, and the tour was completely free! As a side note to all the food, I would definitely recommend checking out these tours if you are thinking about traveling abroad. But back to the food…

While our dinner the second night was far from traditional (I wound up ordering a burger and my husband had sliders), it was enjoyed at a table that provided us our very own beer tap at The Pub. That’s right – Paulaner weissbeer was right at our fingertips; we had glasses, could fill them up on our own, and paid per liter. The even cooler part was that the ordering of food and getting the waiter/waitress’ attention was also done through the computer attached to the tap. I’m all for the “experience” of dining out, but sometimes it’s nice to not be asked how I’m doing right as I take a giant bite of food, or equally as annoying be unable to get the waiter or waitress’ attention when you need them.

The rest of our mornings were spent at Starbucks for a few reasons – there was one on every corner (no different from around here!) and they had free wi-fi, which allowed us to plot out our day’s plan of attack. While it isn’t a glamorous sidewalk café, one of those Starbucks does happen to be right across the street from the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby out a window, a mere stones throw away from the US and French embassies. Go figure.

For dinner on our last night, we headed to Jedermann where I enjoyed some super creamy and delicious spätzle while the hubs had weinerschnitzel; I figured it was necessary to end the trip with a more traditional dinner.

We had an evening flight from Berlin to Copenhagen, so we had a pretty full last day. I made sure to take a trip to Fassbender & Rausch for some much needed German chocolate, and some really delicious Indian food at Amrit. It was the perfect end to an awesome four days.

By the time we were ready to part ways with Berlin, I felt as though I was really getting a handle on the city. I was able to differentiate between East and West Germany, I could generally navigate to the larger landmarks, and I was getting the hang of pronouncing different things (like the ß letter is pronounced as a double S, so straße is strasse – the word for street!), and it felt like a city I could live in.

There is no way I could do any of the sights we saw justice in a recap – there is just SO much history in the city – it’s a pretty great place, so that’s why I decided to just stick to the food. You’ll have to go check it out for yourself to see all the amazing sites and learn the history!

Have you ever been to Berlin? 

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Filed under Beer, Restaurant, Travel

Euro Success

I know you’ve all been chomping at the bit to see another post from me – and you need not wait any longer (do you feel the sarcasm oozing on you screen?)! We returned from our European adventure late yesterday morning, and I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what time it was, doing laundry, and playing with our extremely needy, but angry for leaving them, cats.

Aside from our yearly Disney World trips, my husband and I wanted to do something different as well this year, and figured a trip outside the US would do the trick. So, after scouring the Internet and trying to come up with all the places we want to visit (pretty much everywhere), the most affordable and doable trip for us this time around was to spend a few days each in Berlin, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. While I plan on doing a full foodie recap of each city, I figured I would break the radio silence to give you a few fun tidbits from the trip.

We left on 4th of July after rocking our 4 mile race, and were met with an oh-so-fun delay thanks to a mechanical issue on our United flight. This wound up putting us behind hours, almost  completely losing a day in Berlin. Thankfully we were able to make up for lost time, and really only missed out on a few stops that were planned originally. Initially we were supposed to fly from Newark to Geneva, and then to Berlin. In order to get us there as soon as possible, though, we wound up taking a detour to Zurich first, and then made our way to Berlin. So we took three planes just to get to Germany! But we made it safe and sound, and that’s all that really matters. Another plane took us from Berlin to Copenhagen, and a sleeper train the size of my closet took us from there to Stockholm. Good ‘ole United took us straight back to Newark yesterday.

While I didn’t get in nearly as much running as planned (a measly 15 miles over 12 days), we walked at least 5 miles every day, which I like to think counts for something. I also scored myself plenty of extra poundage, thanks to phenomenal food, liters of beer, and everything being served with pomme frites. I’m bummed to be back home because that means things like work, responsibility, and traffic, but it also means things I like – running, cooking, being a crazy cat lady… and so on. So stay tuned for the city recaps – Berlin is up first!

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Mexican flavors in Epcot

It’s no secret that I love Mexican food, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that every time I go to Disney World, I have to eat dinner in Epcot’s Mexico. This has been a tradition my family has followed since the very first time we went to Disney World when I was 5. Whenever I go to make reservations for our trip, the Mexico reservation is the very first one I make. A few years ago they opened a second Mexican restaurant, so I decided this year was finally the year to try it.

La Hacienda de San Angel is located right on the World Showcase lagoon, and is a perfect spot to watch their nightly fireworks, Illuminations. I didn’t think of it when I made the reservations, but seeing the sun set over the water was a nice consolation prize. We started our meal with tortilla chips and salsa (a spicy chipotle sauce and a green tomatillo sauce) as we perused the menu. Since we were on the Dining Plan, we were able to select an entreé and dessert. They have a tequila bar on-site, so naturally my husband and I started off with a margarita. I had the avocado margarita (super creamy and flavorful), and he had the blueberry pomegranate (nice and refreshing). My sister settled for an iced tea since she’s only 19.

When it came to making our dinner selection, we were all stumped. Everything sounded delicious, and we wanted to try everything. Eventually my husband and sister settled on the Puerco en Salsa de Mole Negro, which is roasted pork tenderloin with mole negro sauce, served with esquites (roasted corn), sweet potato mash, beans and vegetables. For myself, I went with the Arrachera, which is top sirloin served with spring onions, tamal with rajas, cactus leaves, and beans. Our table also had two big bowls of rice and beans, as well as some corn tortillas to make our own little tacos. The flavors of everything tasted truly authentic, and my favorite may have been the black beans and tamal that came with mine.

So much food!

You may be thinking to yourself, “Danielle, you said no meat in January! You’re a cheater!.” Why yes, yes I am. I knew going into the Disney trip finding vegetarian options at every turn would be difficult – and it was. There wasn’t one vegetarian option on La Hacienda’s menu, and while I know I could have gone out of my way to request something, because I’m not truly a vegetarian, I ordered off the menu. Disney does have plenty of veggie friendly options and I took advantage of them whenever possible, but I didn’t limit myself – I mean, it was vacation after all. I’ve found the main reason why I haven’t become a full-time vegetarian is the sometimes hassle of eating out, or eating at a friend’s – I especially don’t like to make a fuss when someone else is preparing a meal for me. That may seem like a cop-out, but it’s how I approach the situation. I’m planning to go an extra week into February to make it a truly vegetarian month.

But I digress – back to La Hacienda. We can’t forget about dessert! I decided to go with an apple empanada with caramel ice cream even though I was stuffed and couldn’t bare the thought of eating more. My sister had the same, and my husband ordered a fresh fruit tamale. Even though I only had a few bites, it was delicious and reminded me of an apple turn-over. The ice cream was the star, though, with ribbons of caramel throughout the rich ice cream. Yum.

The atmosphere is warm and inviting, and they certainly don’t rush you. At every restaurant we had a reservation for we arrived a few minutes early, and they were always ready to seat us. It was such a nice change of pace from restaurants around here where despite a reservation, you still wind up waiting. I’m definitely glad we decided to take a bit of a risk and book our traditional Mexico dinner at their new restaurant – it was a delicious change of pace.

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A Collegiate Weekend

This past weekend, I took a trip up to The University of Rochester with my mom and dad to visit my younger sister, who is a sophomore at the university for their Meloria weekend. Even though this is her second year, it was my first trip up and I was excited to see her – I haven’t seen her since the summer! I was also excited knowing there was some delicious food to be eaten – including BBQ and a trip to the original Wegmans.

First up was a trip to one of the university’s cafeterias that had ready to eat cookie dough! We needed a snack before dinner having been in the car for 6 hours, so it was just what I needed. I opted for the rocky road version, and it was awesome.

During my sister’s rendition of a campus tour, we of course had to stop at the full-sized Starbucks they have on campus. The University of Scranton had a Starbucks added to their new cafeteria my senior year, but it wasn’t much more than a countertop in the quick service section. At The University of Rochester, though, it’s a fully operating store which blew my mind. My sister’s boyfriend works there, and they operate regular (late) store hours as well, which I think is genius for a college campus. I also got my first glimpse of the trenta – I love coffee, but I don’t think I could drink that much!

Dinner on Friday night was at Benucci’s which my parents and sister had been to before. I had a really hard time deciding on what to get, but I ultimately went with their spicy penne vodka, and of course shared some fried calamari appetizer with the table. The pasta was delicious – it was at the perfect spice level for me, which was nice and spicy.

Saturday started early with a trip to the hotel’s gym, and unfortunately my run ended sooner than I had originally anticipated. The gym was 80 degrees (I wish I was exaggerating, but I checked the locked up thermostat) so I could only muster up 5 miles. Of course, when I was done it felt like I ran at least double that. We then headed to the university, first stopping at Starbucks (I scored a free sample of their pumpkin white mocha – yum!) and then continuing on to watch Bill Clinton deliver the keynote address.
Having heard only delicious things about Rochester’s BBQ, so we decided to check out Sticky Lips BBQ for lunch. Adam Richman’s Man vs. Food actually visited there and took on the atomic challenge, so we knew it had to be good. While no one at our table attempted the challenge, we all got a ton of food. I decided to go with the veggie sticky icky plate, because I’m not a big fan of ribs, pork, etc. It was so delicious. It had french fries, black beans, macaroni salad, and was smothered with vegetable etouffe and of course came with a slab of cornbread. I tackled about half, and saved the other half for dinner.

Our final stop of the day was the original Wegmans, where I discovered Maine Root’s Pumpkin Pie Soda!
 Despite the 6 hour trip, it was great to spend the weekend with my parents (who celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary on Sunday – wow!), and get to see my sister and her boyfriend. The next time we’ll all be reunited is Thanksgiving, which we’ll be hosting for the third year in a row. This weekend reaffirmed my beliefs that my love and obsession with food is thanks to my family. The four of us have food on the brain, all the time.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway – you have until Thursday at 9pm EDT! 

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Dinner at Disney’s Yacht Club – Beaches and Cream

On the second night of our trip, we decided to tackle the infamous Kitchen Sink ice cream sundae at the Yacht Club’s Beaches and Cream restaurant. The restaurant is a typical burger and ice cream joint. Since we hadn’t yet eaten dinner, we decided to first all order burgers. Their burgers are great, perfectly cooked with a generous amount of toppings (yes, I like a lot of lettuce, tomato, and onion on my burger!) and they come with yummy fries. While I enjoyed my dinner, I immediately regretted it upon diving into the Kitchen Sink.

We weren’t the only people in the small restaurant (no more than 12 tables, and a few counter service seats) to order the Kitchen Sink. There were a few families, and a group of 5 women next to us that also ordered it. The group next to us was smart; they only had a few sides to hold them over (french fries, onion rings, and chili) before getting started on dessert. Not wanting to miss out, we each had a regular full meal first. The menu says it serves 4, but let me tell you, it’s more like 6-8 people that are really interested in eating a lot of ice cream. Multiple scoops of ice cream, an entire can of whipped cream, brownies, angel food cake, and more. The mere thought of it is making my stomach hurt.

We got to work right away, after the fun announcement that we’d ordered one. We really enjoyed it for those first few bites, spinning it around so everyone could sample the different ice creams. Eventually (and rather quickly), we realized we had bitten off way more than we could chew. My fiancé tried to power through, but as the ice cream melted and it became soupy, it was all too much for us. Since we were to run a half marathon in two days, we figured it was best not to force ourselves into an ice cream coma.

It was A LOT of ice cream. There were 4 of us, and we all love ice cream. But it was way too much for us. However, being on vacation sometimes makes you do crazy things. And if you’re in the mood to get your ice cream on and enjoy the magic of Disney, go for it! It’ll set you back $28, but it’s a fun experience, as long as you know when to stop. If you aren’t interested in stuffing yourself to the gills with ice cream, I definitely recommend any of their other ice cream treats – everything looked amazing.

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Dinner at Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy

Our flight down to Orlando was super early – we were up at 3:45a to head to the Philadelphia airport after staying the night at our friend’s. Our flight was at 7a, and we were in sunny Orlando by 9a. We headed right to our hotel, Port Orleans Riverside, via Disney’s Magical Express bus. This seamless process allowed us to check in then head right to Epcot, instead of needing to wait for our bags (they deliver them right to your room!), or find transportation.

We spent our day exploring all of the countries, and riding Test Track, Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, and all the other fun rides Epcot has to offer. We also spent some time trying to figure out the race route for Saturday’s Half Marathon. After a full day of exploration, we ended with dinner at Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy.

Our meal plan offered one quick service meal (meaning counter service similar to a cafeteria with trays) that included a drink, meal, and dessert, a table service meal that also included a drink, meal, and dessert, and one snack per day of your reservation. Let me tell you – it’s A LOT of food! I didn’t ever feel like I didn’t have enough food – it was more than enough!

Dinner was quick – three of us ordered pasta, and our one friend ordered a personal pizza. They noted that the food would be brought out at different times just due to the cooking times, but it was literally a two minute difference – we barely noticed! Our whole meal was complete in about 45 minutes; they weren’t messing around. Even though it was quick, the quality of the food as well as the service, didn’t suffer.

I ordered the eggplant parmigana, which came with a side of spagetti that was essentially a spagetti cake – it was pretty awesome!

For dessert, we all ordered the zeppolis with melted chocolate and whipped cream. They were served in a neat cone, and it felt like they were never ending! Even though I was stuffed from the eggplant and pasta, I couldn’t help myself and eat every single one. They were delicious! I think these cones are awesome, as does my fiancé, and I really want to buy some, but I don’t know where they’re sold – any ideas?

We were all quite full after dinner, and resolved ourselves to one more round of the World Showcase before heading back to our hotel. Our next day was to be jam packed with a trip to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex to grab our race bibs and goodies, as well as a day at Hollywood Studios.

It’s safe to say I was fed very well this trip, and didn’t spend a second hungry!

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Filed under Food Review, Restaurant, Travel, Vegetarian/Vegan