Tag Archives: Westfield

Race Recap: Greta’s Run 5k

I remember September 11th, 2002 just as clearly as I remember September 11th, 2001. The days were eerily similar – beautiful blue skies, light winds, and a perfect late summer/early fall day… and tragic. After a moment of silence outside on our high school’s front lawn for the first anniversary of September 11th, I went off to lunch. Our high school offered four lunch periods, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th… and I was lucky enough to have 5th (yes, I was hungry by 10:54am for lunch). After that I can’t remember what class I had, but I remember being in math class 7th period. That’s when our principal came over the loud speaker to let us know there had been an accident in the front of the school, and that everyone needed to stay put. Naturally we all began to panic. My classroom was towards the back of the school near some fields, and we just watched as police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances went racing by. It seemed like hours passed… and they did. Our teacher would get a phone call every so often with information, but she wouldn’t share much. Eventually though, we saw a helicopter land on the field out back, and a few stretchers go racing by.

I’d later learn that during 7th period, as students were sitting out front eating lunch, a gust of wind came along that was strong enough to knock a very large (dead) tree branch from it’s trunk. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been an issue, as students wouldn’t have been in the front of the school at that time. However, construction prevented them from sitting in the courtyard, so the tables had been moved to the front. Unfortunately the giant tree branch fell on a group of students (mostly freshmen) eating lunch. Everyone recovered, except for Greta. Her injuries were too severe, and three days later she passed away. Our school was rocked to the core by this tragedy – how could a student, simply sitting outside eating her lunch during the first week of school, be killed? It just didn’t make sense. I had known the family from YMCA swimming, and was completely heartbroken for them. There were vigils, wakes, and the funeral that almost the entire student body attended. I know that I will vividly remember those days for the rest of my life.

But as it happens so often, out of tragedy comes something positive. Last year, one of my friends (and former CCD students) organized a 5k run in Westfield to raise funds for a program to serve adults with special needs, who typically age-out of programs as they get older. So while I wasn’t able to run last year, I made sure to mark it on my calendar early and register right away for this year. I knew that regardless of the outcome of my actual race that it was a cause I wanted to help support! But onto the actual race report…

The race didn’t start until 11am, so I had plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep and have my pre-race breakfast. My mom came with me to the race, and we were there with plenty of time to spare. I went for a quick warm-up, and lined myself up towards the front of the race. I started chatting with a fellow runner, who it turns out knows quite a few people I went to high school with! After some songs from the choir (that’s right, choir), it was time to run. Per the usual, I nearly tripped over a little boy who started in front of me and decided to stop about 50 yards past the start. Thankfully I didn’t fall (and I don’t think he did either). The first mile came relatively quickly (6:38) and I felt decent. I knew that if I could hold on to that pace, I’d PR. Of course by 1.5 miles I wanted to quit, but I knew I had to keep going. By the time I was halfway, I had picked off quite a few runners, including a handful of females. No one was saying anything, but based on what I could see ahead of me I knew I was either second or third. I slowed down a little during the second mile (6:45), but this portion also had the most “rolling hills.”

New PR! And 2nd Overall Female

New PR! And 2nd Overall Female

I told myself just to hang on the best I could for the third mile, and it was here that I heard someone yell “alright! Second female!” I had no idea how close the third place woman was, so I tried my hardest not to slow down. The course had a lot of turns but I think I managed to cut them all really well (Garmin actually read 3.1!). Once I turned by the middle school I knew we were almost done, so I tried my best to kick it up to “puke pace” … which turned out to be the same pace I ran the first mile in – go figure (6:38). I crossed the finish and saw that the girl I had been chatting with earlier, Erin, was the overall female winner! We grabbed some water and decided to do a cool-down together before heading back over the the finish area for the awards. It didn’t hit me until after I had finished that I ran a 20:35, which is actually just over a minute faster than the PR I set in July. Icing on the cake was my 2nd place female finish!

Kennedy approves of the medal

Kennedy approves of the medal

After the race my mom and I got Starbucks and a sandwich from my favorite bagel shop, and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s before heading home. It was really great to run a race that supported an important cause and was in honor of a really great girl. It was also fun to see a lot of familiar hometown faces and catch up with some people! This is definitely a race I’m going to keep on my calendar for every year.

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Race Recap: Downtown Westfield Pizza 5k

Running a 5k at the end of July on a Wednesday night takes strategy. You have to know what to eat throughout the day and when, how much water to drink so you’re well hydrated but not bursting, and you have to be able to mentally push yourself while also knowing when you need to take it easy because of the heat. Those three things seem easy enough, but as race day progresses it becomes more important… and annoying.

Going in to Wednesday night’s run, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My runs at home had been feeling less than stellar thanks to the heat and humidity, but while I was up in Rochester visiting my sister over the weekend, my runs felt great in the cooler and less humid temperatures. I talked with Jason, and he said I really had two options: run hard and maybe feel like crap at the end, or take it a little easier knowing that I am faster than my finish time. I figured I would play it by ear, since I really didn’t know how it would feel until I started running, and making a decision while sitting on my couch in air conditioning seemed silly.

Since the race started at 7pm, I arrived in Westfield at around 5:30pm. This gave me enough time to grab my bib and t-shirt (and snazzy bright red hat since I was one of the first pre-registered runners) and get in a warm-up. I was supposed to do a 3 mile warm-up, but felt lethargic and was covered in sweat within a mile, so I called it at 2. Being the smart cookie I am, I brought three different shirts: one for warm-up, one for the race, and one for afterwards. After making a pit-stop at the port-o-potties they have set up by the train station, I made my way over to the starting line. Since the race starts right in the middle of downtown, they leave the traffic open until the very last minute. Being the good citizen that I am, I waited patiently on the sidewalk, while I watched runners haphazardly walk in the street. At one point a cop yelled “GET OUT OF MY STREET!” to which I laughed. Isn’t it the tax payer’s street? But anyway…

After waiting for a few minutes (finally in the street), it was go time. As usual, it was a crowded and bunched up start. So much so, that at one point someone must have tripped over someone else’s feet and a whole slew of people were almost taken down. I don’t think anyone actually fell, but I was pushed and slammed into quite a few people. I’m not sure how I didn’t get taken down, but I managed to stay upright and get away from the mess. The first half mile felt decent, but the second half is all uphill. That’s when I realized the race wouldn’t be anywhere near what I had hoped it would be back when I signed up, so I resolved to just try my best, but not push it too much because of the weather.

The second mile has a  lot of turns and a few more hills and, by this point the heat was starting to get to me. I wound up slowing down a lot in the second mile, but I still felt like I was working hard. It’s amazing how deceiving hot weather and humidity can be while running! There were plenty of residents outside cheering, a lot with hoses spraying out into the street and I made sure to take advantage of any cool drops of water coming my way. Despite slowing down, I was able to pass a lot of people during the second mile. I knew that if I could just save a little energy I would be able to pick it up for the last mile, especially because the majority of it is downhill.

As we started the third mile, I tried to dig down as best as I could to finish strong. I reminded myself what Jason had said to me when we were making a race plan – it’s just a mile. I picked it up as best as I could in the first half, and then let the final hill carry me down the last half. I usually pick it up too early on the home stretch and wind up getting re-passed by people I’ve passed on the downhill, but I managed to hold my ground and even pass a few more people in the final quarter. I got myself across the finish line in 21:38, which turned out to be a 19 second PR from my last 5k in December. Considering the weather, I’m quite pleased. Originally I was bummed, knowing that I have a much faster 5k in me (my 4 miler’s average pace was 9 seconds per mile faster), but then came to my senses and realized that even the slightest PR in the heat and humidity would have been impressive.

After I finished, I immediately grabbed two water bottles and made my way back towards the finish so I could watch other runners. Unfortunately, I made it back just in time to see a girl start to really struggle, and then almost collapse about 200 feet from the finish. Thankfully a spectator ran out into the street and eventually a cop and race official grabbed her too. Understanding the drive and determination of a runner, the cop actually picked her up and hurried across the finish with her in his arms. I cheered for a few more minutes, and then made my way over to get some pizza!

PIZZA!

PIZZA!

After enjoying a slice, I figured I would check the posted results to see if I placed. The race is pretty big for a local week night 5k, and it attracts a lot of fast runners (especially high school and college runners getting ready to start XC season). Assuming I didn’t place, I quickly scanned the results. WRONG. I wound up coming in 3rd in my age group! So I took some time to grab another water and wander around the different vendor tables. As I was waiting for the awards, I noticed the sky getting darker and darker, and the deep gray clouds moving at a rapid speed. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before a serious storm started. Since the race started at 7pm, they wanted to wait until 8pm to do the awards. Under normal circumstances this would have been fine, but by 8pm the lightening had arrived, and I was watching it flash across the sky as I stood in the middle of the street hoping not to get struck. They got through about 5 age groups before they called it, because the lightening had moved to being right over us, and rain drops were starting to fall. I ran up to the table to grab my medal and just like that, the sky opened. It started to torrential downpour, so hard and fast that I couldn’t see in front of me. I laughed that I had finally dried off, knowing that a cool-down wasn’t going to happen. So instead, I sprinted (probably just as fast as during the race, if not faster) to my car, which was just under a mile away. I let that count as my cool-down.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

I made it back to the car safely, tried to towel off as best I could, and made a beeline to Chipotle to pick up dinner.  While eating dinner at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night isn’t ideal, it was a fun evening. I whine about the race every year and swear I won’t sign up the following year, but do anyway. I used to be envious of everyone in my hometown that could run, so when I finally started running this was a race I knew I had to do. I mean, it was my first 5k back in 2009! Even though I missed the last two years due to injury, I’m probably going to keep doing this race for as long as I can. And I’ll probably keep complaining about it, too.

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Race Recap: Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot

On Saturday, I ran the Westfield Turkey Trot 5-miler for the third time, managed to not freeze, and scored a PR!

Since I wasn’t a runner growing up, even though my hometown puts on quite a few road races, I didn’t start participating in them until I was 23. I remember being envious of the people that did run, but I was busy doing lap after lap in a pool with a coach who could somehow build you up, knock you down, make you laugh, and make you cry all in one fell swoop. But I digress…

Even though this is a “turkey trot” it doesn’t take place until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Thankfully the weather was slightly warmer than it was on Thursday, and with a start time of 11:15am I was in much better shape than anyone who ran a turkey trot on Thanksgiving. But don’t be fooled – I was still freezing before the race. I left my parent’s house about an hour before the start, and stayed in the car until 15 minutes before gun time. My mom was kind enough to walk with me to the starting line, so I was able to shed my extra layers (a pair of pants, a track jacket, and my dad’s fleece) right before starting.

First lap in the park!

First lap in the park!

While there aren’t any corrals or pace groups, they did have signs for approximate paces by the start line, so people could (in theory) line up accordingly. I happened to be standing right where they marked 7 minute miles, and decided not to move. An older gentleman jokingly said, “I don’t think all of these people in front of us are going to run 6 minute miles…” to which I replied, “they won’t.” I used to get annoyed at the people who just wanted to be up front, but I’ve learned to just not care. Most people that don’t belong up front are out of the way quickly enough, and 5 miles is plenty of time to not have to worry about weaving much. The race starts with a loop in the park to get you just over a mile before heading out onto residential roads (that I know like the back of my hand) for 3-ish miles before coming back into the park for the last half mile. It’s a pretty flat course (except for a slight incline in the park), and the roads are wide enough that it never really feels crowded. Basically, it’s a very PR friendly course.

I'm always the one calling out to people cheering for me. Am I that hard to spot?

I’m always the one calling out to people cheering for me. Am I that hard to spot?

I didn’t really have a plan going into the race, and my only goal was to beat last years’ time (37:34). I figured if I was able to throw down a 7:20 for my first mile and hang on, that would be good enough. My first mile was a 7:20 (by miracle more than by perfect execution), but it felt too easy. I didn’t want to push the pace too much, but knew I was capable of a lot more. So the next mile, I clocked a 7:16. During the third mile I saw my good friend’s boyfriend who was running, and we chatted and ran together for about a quarter mile before I decided it was time to try and pick up the pace a little more. I ran the third mile in 7:13, and in the process, beat my current 5k PR. I couldn’t help but laugh, since the exact same thing happened to me when I ran the race last year. I know I’m capable of a lot more as a runner, but seem to never be able to get my shit together long enough to actually make it happen. By this point I knew unless I had an accident, a PR was likely; I just had to fight through the last 2 miles. Mile 4 came quickly in 7:07, and I passed a few high school girls who looked like they were moments from tripping one another in an effort to make it to the finish first. The last quarter mile of the race is downhill, so I knew to push it enough the first three quarters and the hill would carry me home. I don’t know how, but I managed to clock a 6:56 for the last mile, and get passed by those two high school girls throwing elbows in the process. My official finish time was 35:58, a 7:11 average. Miraculously my watch had me only one second slower and one tenth of a mile further – talk about exceptional tangent work!

With all this Vitamin C I better not get sick.

With all this Vitamin C I better not get sick.

As it turns out, my time was good enough for second place in my age group (22nd female overall). This was by far the highest I’ve ever finished at this particular race (Westfield seems to have a lot of graduates that come back to race that are speedy), and I got a cute little scarecrow and a box of Emergen-C (?!) for my efforts. My cat has already tried to eat the scarecrow multiple times.

Buds since '98 (at least)

Buds since ’97 (with my dad creeping in the background)

After I finished I met up with my good friend Kir, who is so speedy she could run laps around me. She doesn’t like to brag, but let’s just say that her marathon pace is significantly faster than the pace I ran the 5 miler. We’ve known each other since middle school when we were both avid swimmers. It never ceases to amaze me that I somehow went from being a swimmer (a sprinter, no less) to a distance runner. The thought of racing for more than a minute in the pool used to elicit whines and eye rolls from me; yet here I am running for hours at a time. Go figure.

This was an awesome way to finish up 2013 in terms of running – I managed to somehow PR every distance I raced except for the 4 mile and marathon distances… But I’ll be coming for them (big time) in 2014!

Did you Turkey Trot this past week/weekend? 
Do you like Holiday-themed races?

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Hometown Trotting

When I was sitting down to write up my race recap of Saturday’s Turkey Trot, looking back on the last few races I’ve run, I realized something interesting. In the last 49-ish days I’ve run four races (Chicago marathon, Beerfest 5k, Giralda Farms 10k, and this 5 miler), and somehow I’ve managed to PR each of them. I think I’m finally at a point in my running career where I’m comfortable racing more frequently, and my training is consistent. I’m really excited for what this could potentially mean for my marathon time… assuming I keep myself healthy!

But back to the race! On Saturday I ran my second 5 miler, the Westfield Turkey Trot. I ran this race back in 2010 in 39:40, right before I was sidelined with shin splits when I was just starting to get serious about running; and then I didn’t run last year since the race fell only a week after the Philly marathon and I was still hobbling. My goals for the race were simple – beat my 2010 time. To be more specific, I was hoping to keep a 7:40 average since I ran a 10k two weeks ago  on a challenging course with a  7:47 pace.

The weather all week was great – sunny and low 50’s is my kind of running weather. Of course when I woke up on Saturday, it was overcast and windy. While the forecast had predicted cooler temperatures and some wind, it left out one very important detail… snow flurries! As we lined up to start the race so did the flurries, but thankfully it never started to snow. After some detailed instructions from the race coordinators, we were off! Since I didn’t forget my watch this time, I was able to keep my pace much slower than what my body wanted to run. My favorite part about this race is that not only is it a pretty flat course, but I know every single street we run down, and we actually pass some of my friend’s parent’s houses on the way.

The entire first mile is run within the park, and once you’re in the neighborhood there are a lot of turns which help keep you distracted. By the time we hit the 3 mile mark, I was still pretty comfortable (unlike my last 10k), and decided it was time to steadily pick up the pace. Since I was keeping track of my pace pretty consistently, I knew that a PR was definite, and if I pushed it, I’d be able to come in with a low 38. As we turned into the park for our final lap (which I welcomed as a downhill, since most races seem to finish uphill), I gave it all I could and finished in 37:34! That works out to a 7:30 average, which I couldn’t be happier with. It was good enough for 7th in my age group (25-29), and as I looked at the results, I realized it would have been good enough for 7th in the 20-24, 30-34, and 35-39 age groups too. Talk about consistency!

After the race I enjoyed some Starbucks, a trip to Trader Joe’s, and a giant Chipotle burrito bowl for dinner. You didn’t think I would skip out on any of those being within blocks of each other in my hometown, did you?! The day ended with Christmas decorating, as it’s now socially acceptable to talk about the Holidays. As we were decorating, I pulled out an ornament I was given at my company’s Holiday party back in 2009 that boasted “most likely to run an Olympic marathon.”

I remember laughing when they gave it to me – I hadn’t even run my first half marathon yet! Little did I know a mere two years later I’d have three marathons under my belt, and be getting ready for my fourth. While the Olympic part is still pretty funny, it is a confidence boost to think about how far I’ve come in such a short period. Now if only I could get my marathon under 4 hours… hopefully 2013 can bring me that! I have my eye on quite a few races in early 2013, but haven’t committed to anything except for 2 half marathons (a week apart, oops) so far. I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ve ended the 2012 racing season on a high note!

Do you have any races left in 2012?
Any big racing plans for 2013? 

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Sweat Fest

On Wednesday evening, for the third year in a row I ran Downtown Westfield’s 5k & Pizza Extravaganza race. And every year, it’s unbearably hot – somehow being just a bit hotter than the previous year. As you can guess from the title of the post, by the time the race was over, I looked like I went for a swim. I really think they should consider changing the name of the race to Sweat Fest. I can’t imagine anyone walked away from that race not needing a cold shower or two.

I’m not really complaining (much), rather stating the facts. I love the race for a few reasons, the biggest being that it’s right through the center of my hometown. Even though it doesn’t start until 7pm and it’s in the middle of the week, it’s still fun. I prepare myself the same each year, by guzzling as much water as I can at work, and reminding myself “it’s okay that it’s hot, it’s only 3.1 miles. It’ll be over before you know it.”

The race started as most do – me standing towards the front but not too far forward, yawning the entire time. When I was swimming, my parents always used to tell me it looked completely ridiculous as I stood behind the block waiting for my race, and I’d be jumping up and down, stretching, and yawning. Turns out that’s just your body’s way of trying to get more oxygen, so I always appreciated the extra yawning – plus it helped to psych out the competition, since they probably thought I was tired! We were of course all squeezed in and I had already started to sweat before the horn even sounded. Once it did, though, I was off and thankfully didn’t find myself needing to weave as much as I had during the Firecracker 4-miler.

Since this is the third year I’ve run the race and it’s in my hometown, I like to think I know the course pretty well. The first mile is pretty much uphill, the second is pretty level, and a large portion of the third is downhill. Since it’s all on residential streets, there are families out with water guns, hoses, and open fire hydrants, which I tried to take advantage of. I didn’t, however, stop for any water. This was somewhat strategic as I didn’t want to waste time, and I also already felt like I had to pee – I didn’t want to make it worse. My hip has been feeling less than stellar the past week (super tight and achy), so I wasn’t really sure how it would hold up during the race. I made sure to foam roll it the best I could beforehand, and I think that helped. I also wore a hat (I am so not a hat person) in hopes that it would keep the burning sweat out of my eyes, and it did!

Per the ususal as I was coming down the home stretch I was hoping no one would be in my way once I stopped just in case my almond butter sandwich decided to pay a visit. I tried to kick it up as much as I could, especially when I rounded the corner and could see the clock slowly ticking away at 23:50. Turns out my gun time was 24:00.01 (go figure), and my chip time was 23:50! I didn’t wear a watch, so I have no idea exactly what my splits were – but I remember my first mile was about a 7:35, and that made me nervous for the rest of the race. However, with my overall average pace of 7:40, it seems like I held on to it pretty well! That time was also good enough to land me 8th in my age group, and 306 overall out of over 2500 runners! I couldn’t be happier considering the injury prone winter and spring I’ve had!

Once it was over, I scored myself some free goodies (they have some pretty sweet sponsors – Shop Rite, Stop ‘n Shop, Balance Bar, etc.), and watched my fiance devour some pizza. It’s called the “Pizza Extravaganza,” so they always have boxes and boxes of pizza for the runners post-race. I have yet to enjoy a slice of pizza after the race, since the last thing I usually want to do is eat (at least for about 30 minutes). We were hot sweaty messes, but I think it’s safe to say it was worth it!

With temperatures rising as the week continues (we’re slated for a high of 102 on Friday!) I have a feeling the rest of the week in terms of running will be done very slowly and/or super early. I also have grand plans of spending Friday in and around the pool in our development, exclusively.

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Running and food are a perfect combination

Downtown Westfield is doing something right. At first, you might think to yourself – why on earth would I want to run a 5k at 7pm at the end of July? That’s just asking for torture. Well, perhaps because you’ll get to eat all the pizza you want as soon as you cross the finish line. Yes, as soon as you cross that finish line the first thing on your mind is water and to continue walking, but once the nausea passes and you realize it’s over, hunger sets in.

For the past few years (I believe about 9) Downtown Westfield in New Jersey (my home town!) has been doing a 5k pizza run extravaganza. If you’re unfamiliar with Westfield, it’s a pretty nice town; it’s won the Main Street USA award a few years, the television show Ed was filmed here as well as tid bits of quite a few commercials and movies. It was also called home by the creator of The Addams Family, Langston Hughes, Dave Brown (Giants), Zora Neale Hurston, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe… you get the drift.

This is my second year running the race, and last year it was actually my first 5k, and second road race. It started to drizzle and there was some serious wind and lightning before the start, but I was hopeful it’d hold out until we were done – and it did! I decided to rock my newly acquired No Meat Athlete shirt, which is adorable! Even though I’m not 100% veggie and my fiancé joked it was false advertising, I think the idea behind the shirt, and the fact that I’m at least conscious and mindful about what I eat is what counts!

Happily rockin' my shirt pre-race

I had a little trouble starting MapMyFitness on my iPhone once the race started, so people were pushing me out of the way (rude!). It was honestly one of the rudest races I’ve ever run – people were cutting me off left and right, zig zagging so I couldn’t get in front of them, and elbowing me and invading my personal space! I had a cramp within the first half mile till the end, and my side is actually a little sore from it. But in the end I finished in 25:21, almost a minute faster than my previous PR, set last October. Hoorah! With the heat and humidity, and it being at 7p after a full day of work, I was very pleased.

Down the home stretch... I have no idea how both feet are planted

Once the race was over, my fiancé had a slice of pizza while I guzzled a ton of water, and we focused on trying to cool off. Since the race was in my home town, my parents so graciously offered for us to come over to enjoy dinner from one of my favorite Thai restaurants, Thailand. Being a creature of habit, both my fiancé and I ordered our ususals; I got Pad Kee Mao, and he got the Chicken Pad Thai (nice and spicy, of course). We also all shared an order of spring rolls, and some salad. I’m a huge fan of the salad because it comes with some fried tofu and a delicious peanut dressing. After relaxing a bit more, we shared a caramel pretzel Klondike bar, which are my newest obession. I’ve always been a huge fan of Klondikes, but these are amazing! Crunchy, sweet, and salty are the perfect combination. I highly recommend them.

I’m looking forward to some more deliciousness this weekend, including a trip to the beach tomorrow for our half day with a stop at WaWa, and some type of BBQ on Saturday. Oh yeah, and some running.

Happy healthy nomzing!

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Rita’s Tour – The 2010 Edition

This past Saturday was the first day of Spring. So, as they do every year, Rita’s gave out free 10oz servings of their famed ice all day. Being a bunch of gluttonous children, my fiancé (you can read his tour round-up here) and a group of friends and I decided upon the ultimate task – 10 Rita’s in one day, a new flavor at each location.

Last year, the group made it to about five locations in only a few hours (it was a Friday so needed to be done after work). Knowing that this year it fell on a Saturday with a gorgeous forecast, we got cocky. About a week prior to the event, a few different e-mails were exchanged with maps of potential stops. It included a trip to Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick for ‘bolis, and a detour to look at a potential wedding venue. We also stumbled upon a Cupcake joint, Sugar Mommy’s Cupcakes, that I’ll detail in a separate blog entry.

After starting our trip at about 12:30pm and devouring our ices at about 1, we then spent the next 8 hours driving to various Rita’s Ice locations in New Jersey. We made stops in Bridgewater, Somerville, Flanders, Denville, Berkeley Heights, Westfield, Plainfield, and finally Edison. We searched for a Rita’s in Morristown that no longer exists, and ran out of time before heading to Milltown. But at any rate, I sampled eight different ice flavors, preparing me for the season ahead. They included Alex’s Lemonade, Green Apple, Florida Orange, Sugar Free Cherry, Wild Black Cherry, Coconut, Pistachio, and their newest edition – Peeps. Oh yes, you read correctly – Peeps flavored ice! As in the little bird shaped marshmallows that are covered in sugar, usually found in Easter baskets. It tasted nothing like Peeps, but more like birthday cake, which I was more than okay with. It’s neon yellow color was another selling point.

I really liked all of the flavors. But, I think Alex’s Lemonade and the Coconut were my favorites. I think the only ice I wouldn’t order again would have been the Wild Black Cherry. That was definitely sub-par, and had more of a grape flavor than anything else. The Peeps was also super-sweet, so that would have to be consumed sparingly.

By about stop 5, we were all looking for food. The mere thought of devouring ‘bolis at Stuff Yer Face is what I think kept us going. So, we decided to head there after our 7th stop. When we finally got to the restaurant, we made no qualms about our purpose. We didn’t get drink wristbands, and ordered water and an appetizer almost as soon as we sat. After surviving on water ice for almost 7 hours, we needed solid food, quickly. We all dug in to our hot wings and onion rings as soon as they were brought out, and anxiously awaited the arrival of our stromboli. The restaurant has a lot to offer; there are pre-suggested combinations, and also a “create your own.” My fiancé always orders the same create your own, and after trying it, follow suit. It has mozzarella cheese, chicken, buffalo sauce, onions, and broccoli. It is absolutely amazing.

After realizing the time, we knew we’d only have time for one more Rita’s, since they close at 9pm. We headed to the one nearest to where we live, and waited in one last line. By the time we got our ice it was 9:15, and the line showed no chance of stopping.

I woke up today feeling great. Sure, I might have been a little sugar hungover, but I managed to run 7.5 miles (longest single run logged yet!) and I could absolutely eat another Rita’s Ice right now, preferably a Gelati. I’m so excited that ice and ice cream season is finally here. I’m looking forward to more outdoors frozen treat devouring, and saying goodbye to eating it while hiding under a blanket indoors.

All in all, our group (4 people) went to 8 locations, and sampled 20 flavors. Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself! I hope Rita’s is ready for next year, because we’ll be back – bigger and badder than ever!

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Filed under Cupcakes, Food Review

Deliciousness in Downtown Westfield: Xocolatz

To celebrate my Mom’s birthday, and also our engagement, my fiance (I’m so excited to get to say that now!) and I joined my family in Westfield for brunch this past Sunday. We went to my family’s favorite restaurant, Xocolatz.

Most restaurants can be classified into different categories; based on food, overall vibe, type of restaurant, or other factors. Every so often, however, there are restaurants that don’t fit a particular mold. Xocolatz in is one of those places.

The restaurant itself is adorned with historic pictures of Westfield as well as other cute and spunky décor, like a placard letting patrons know that if their children run rampant, they’ll be served espresso and promised a pony.

Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch on Sundays, the restaurant is always crowded. Reservations are recommended, but despite the crowd, you never wait long. Because it’s such a local favorite, it isn’t quiet and intimate; it’s bustling and bright.

The waiters and waitresses all wear black and don’t write down your orders. Although they don’t have a paper and pen crutch, the waiters and waitresses seem to be spot-on. Your orders are served in a timely manner and are always correct, and they’re quick to make sure your beverages are at a comfortable level.

The ambiance is great, but the stand-outs are their dishes, as the menu is expansive for a small to mid sized restaurant. Often times restaurants that boast larger menus have mediocre food; a jack of all trades but a master of none, if you will. This isn’t the case with Xocolatz. While their menu isn’t pages long, the different types of food that are offered really do have something for everyone. The dishes often combine a Spanish flair (fried plantains, chili, etc.) but they also have other favorites including daily quiches, quesadillas, chicken parmigana sandwiches, tropical hamburgers, seafood dishes, and daily specials. The specials rarely repeat, and you can count on something new and exciting every time.

The food itself is extremely fresh; the salsa tastes like the tomatoes and onions were just cut and combined, the bread tastes freshly baked, and seafood dishes are far from “fishy.” The combinations are different, so don’t be afraid to try something new!

They serve a special brunch menu on Sundays, and while they’re BYOB, if you bring the champagne, they’ll provide the orange juice for mimosas. And though you might be dining at the restaurant during their specified brunch hours (11am to 3pm), you can always order off of their lunch menu if brunch isn’t your thing. Since they are open Monday thru Sunday, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try everything!

While we were there, I went for the Oaxaca breakfast burrito, filled with chili, onions, peppers, cheese and eggs. It was served with a simple green salad and avocado. It was absolutely delicious! My fiance, also an avid Mexican/Spanish food lover, went with the Tex-Mex omlette, so we could share. The omlette was stuffed with onions and peppers, cheese, and jalepenos.  The omlette was served with breakfast potatoes and toast. Each of the dishes were served with some sliced fresh fruit as well. The other notable dish ordered by our group was my mom’s dish. She ordered savory crepes that were stuffed with onions, goat cheese, and spinach with eggs served over them.

Everything we ordered was absolutely delicious. I’ve had brunch, lunch, and dinner at Xocolatz and have been extremely impressed every time.

Check out the delicious nomz below, and head over to their site to look at the menu and their daily specials. If you’re in the area, definitely go!!

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Filed under Restaurant, Spanish Food