24 February, 2011

Race Recap: Cherry Tree 10 Miler

This past weekend my friend Tony and I bundled up for the frigid weather and headed to Brooklyn for the Cherry Tree 10 Miler in Prospect Park.  Tony's wife and our two other friends decided to join in the fun and were our cheerleaders for the race.

We arrived in Brooklyn pretty quickly and had over an hour to kill before the race started.  Headed into the high school where packet pickup was to relax and stay warm.  Tony and his wife arrived a few minutes later and we started to get ready for the race.

Ignore the alien look we have going on.  We were making fun of Tony's head sock all morning!

The goody bags consisted of hand warmers (like the ones you use for skiing), which were perfect for the 20 degree temperature outside, and a pretty cool ear warmer that had both the race and the running associations logo on it.  Definitely will be using it in the next month!

The start was a few blocks from the school in Prospect Park so we all started walking over.  It was FREEZING so we kinda left our cheerleaders in the dust as we jogged to the start to warm up. 

The race itself was pretty much three loops of the park.  I hadn't been there before so I didn't mind the loops too much.  I knew there was one decent sized hill thrown in there that we'd have to do 3 times but it wasn't as horrible as I had imagined.

Cherry Tree 10 Miler 2/20/11

We started out at an awesome pace, first mile in 9:11.  We were frozen so just assumed the speed was due to us trying to warm up.  When mile 3 was also 9:10 we decided to see how long we could keep the speed.  We would start to warm up and sweat and then a huge gust of wind would come and freeze us to the bone again.  Right around the lake was the worst but then we had that fabulous hill to look forward to!

Our first loop around...why do I always give the cheesy wave?!
When we hit mile 4 and saw we ran it in 8:47...we seriously just looked at each other and laughed.  Neither of us could believe the pace and joked that both our watches had to be off.  The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful.  2 water stops around the loop so we had plenty of spots to hydrate.  

Looping around
I was feeling awesome throughout the whole race and was thrilled with our pace.....Then we got to around mile 8 and I felt my IT band start to twinge.  Hmm... tried to ignore it and kept up the pace.  After it got worse I finally started to slow down just a tad.  But then when we hit mile 9, I just wanted to finish strong and for the race to be over.  I picked up the pace and tried to ignore my knee but had to finally tell Tony to run ahead of me the last half mile or so cause I could tell he still had extra energy. 

When I crossed the finish line, I was thrilled with my time...1:32:39!  Crushed my 10 mile record by about 8 minutes!  Yayyyy!!  But I was seriously pissed off about my IT Band.  I haven't had problems with it in over a year and it crushed me that it hindered my run.  Ugh!  To make it even worse, the second I stopped running, the pain went away.  Frustrated beyond belief!

Cherry Tree 10 Miler 2/20/11There was a water and Gatorade table set up for runners but it was slightly chaotic.  Grabbed a sip of Gatorade and then we headed back to the high school for the remainder of the food.  There were bagels, apples and oranges for runners, as well as free samples of Cheribundi and FRS energy drink and energy chews.  Kinda fell in love with Cheribundi...reminds me a lot of cranberry juice.  They say it's supposed to help inflammation but all I know is that I liked the taste.  The FRS on the other hand?  The smell alone made me slightly gag but I had to try it anyways.  After 2 sips, I tossed the whole can.  Meh.  The energy chews were slightly better but I didn't love them. They're still sitting on my dresser. 

Overall I enjoyed the race!  It was pretty well organized and everyone knew where to go.  There was also a 3 person relay going on at the same time so they did a good job making sure the relayers and the 10 milers knew which way to go at the exchange points.  Hopefully next year it's slightly warmer!  It was a great group of runners, many of them who were insanely fast.  Even with my 'fast' (for me) time, I placed 48 in my age division.  The fastest woman in my division finished a full 30 minutes before me!

Some fun freebies

To celebrate and reload on the lost calories, we headed to one of my favorite places in the NYC... S'Mac!  All they serve is macaroni and cheese...with some awesome combination of ingredients.  We definitely stuffed ourselves silly.  We all split a sampler and then each ordered a small individual pan of a different item on the menu.  Pure heaven!

The sampler...Alpine was my winner!

My all time favorite...the Mediterranean (goat cheese, kalamata olives, spinach, & garlic)

Then..just in case we hadn't consumed enough calories, we headed over to Rice to Riches for some amazing rice pudding. That's all they serve. A dozen different flavors of rice pudding, and a dozen different toppings you can top it with. Heaven, Part 2!! (sorry no pics of the pudding....we ate it too quickly)

So minus my IT Band annoyance, I'd say that Race #2 of the year and the Run for the Bling of It challenge was a success! :)

23 February, 2011

Who's Joining Me?!

I knew from the second I crossed the finish line at Disney that it won't be my last marathon...even though I swore it up until the start of the race.


Who's running with me?!

Who's running with me? :) 

Definitely just as nervous for this one though as I was in January.  The stomach was in knots registering!

Already have my hotel booked (staying in the Rosslyn area) and will probably be driving down with a friend or two in tow.

The only thing left to say?  Ooh-Rah!!! :)

17 February, 2011

Hitting the Pavement Again...

I know I haven't posted any work-out/running related stuff since the marathon.  I was able to get out for long-ish runs twice since mid-January.  Plus a few miles here and there at the gym.  But since school started up again, I definitely haven't been doing as much as I would like.  Hopefully after my trip to India in March things will calm down a little.

For my long runs, I've only done two 6 milers.  My friend Tony joined me for my first about a month ago and we decided to go out and see how far we could keep a decent pace.  Happy to say that I missed my 6 mi PR by 3 seconds!  For not running much, I'm happy.  And I'm thrilled to say that I actually was pacing Tony for the first time EVER.  Granted he hadn't ran in awhile and had just done some kickboxing at the gym he owns but...still.  We've had a friendly competition going for awhile now so I'll take a 'win' any way I can get.

I did another 6 miles solo a few weeks ago and it wasn't as fun, but I got it done.  Treadmill work at the gym has been either speed intervals or hill intervals, each of about 3 miles.  Yesterday's hill workout was surprisingly fun and I can't wait to try to bump up the incline again next week.  

As for the gym, SO happy to be lifting weights again.  I seriously slacked off about two months before the full and haven't touched a weight until I got back.  WOW was I sore!!! I've since slacked off AGAIN but hoping to get in an arm work out tomorrow. 

On the race front...I realized I had to drop out of the Cupid 5k that I registered for this past weekend.  I'm an idiot and didn't realize that I also had a trip planned to VT for some snowboarding!  Snowboarding was a great time so I didn't miss running too much.  :)

On the schedule for this weekend?  Tony and I found a 10-miler in Brooklyn that we'll be running this Sunday.  Sounds like a semi-challenging course but I'm excited to test out the legs.  They say it's a 'Race for the Hardcore'...we'll see how hardcore we really are!

Alrighty...hopefully I'll have a fun race recap to post early next week!  In the mean time, I'll be trying to add more posts about my Disney trip.  :)

16 February, 2011

Dinner at Le Cellier Review...What's the Hype?

To celebrate Christina's half marathon finish, we decided to make the dinner reservation in between both our races at the one and only Le Cellier in the Canada Pavilion.  One of the hardest ADR's (Advance Dining Reservations) to get, this place books up on the day reservations open....180 days prior to your dining experience.  Crazy, right?!  Being the Disney dorks that we are, Stina and I had a pow wow at her house on the 180 day mark and booked all of our ADRs at the same time.  Nothing like trying to figure out where you want to eat 6 months in advance!

After wandering Epcot for a bit, we headed down to Le Cellier and were a little early for our ADR.  While waiting for our table, we saw a couple get the cheddar cheese soup and pretzel bread delivered outside to them on the bench by the entrance.  I thought I heard that Le Cellier didn't do this?  Does anyone know if they do it all the time, or just during off peak hours (it was slightly before 5pm)?  If so, I would totally do it!  The soup is by far the best thing on the menu!

We were seated fairly quickly and the server took our drink order and brought us some of the fabulous bread that they're known for.  I totally forgot to take a picture, probably because Christina and I attacked the bread and both tried to grab the pretzel bread first.  The three breads they bring you are more like thick bread sticks...one is sourdough, another one is multigrain, and then the infamous pretzel bread.  I liked all three so was willing to share the pretzel bread...plus we asked for more later in the meal.  

We were both pretty hungry but I didn't want anything too heavy since I had my race the next day.

I decided to order the Tomato Stack, without the blue cheese.  I LOVE cheese but I just can NOT like blue cheese, gorgonzola, any of that 'moldy' cheese.  When it came to the table, it was almost too pretty to eat!  The tomato was perfectly marinated, the onions were delicious (I have a thing for caramelized onions) and the cucumbers gave the dish a nice crisp flavor.  The yuzu vinaigrette was delicious.  It's like a very thick and very sweet balsamic.  There's a restaurant by me that drizzles it on grilled romaine hearts and it's divine.  But anyways...back to Le Cellier.  I definitely enjoyed the tomato stack but realized all I was really eating was just a tomato and a little cucumber and onions.  Without the cheese, not sure I would spend $9 on it again. 

Tomato Stack, minus blue cheese
Tomato Stack - with Carmelized Onions, Cucumbers, Crumbled Blue Cheese, and Yuzu Vinaigrette $8.99

Christina went with the always delicious Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup.  Cheese, beer, bacon, and cream...how could you go wrong???  Dip some pretzel bread into this and it's a little bit of heaven.  I snuck a few bites (ok...maybe more than a few bites) and thought it was slightly too salty.  Not overly salty, but definitely more than I'm used to.  Didn't hold me back from practically licking the cup clean...

Moosehead Cheddar Cheese Soup, Le Cellier
Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup - Made with Moosehead Beer and Smoked Bacon, Cup $5.49

My favorite side dish at Le Cellier is definitely the cream cheese mashed potatoes.  Since I had the race though, I wasn't sure something that creamy would be good for me.  Apparently I didn't think of that when I was devouring Christina's soup though!  The filet at Le Cellier hasn't ever disappointed so I decided to go with that again but asked them to hold the mushrooms, butter sauce, and risotto.  I asked to swap the risotto out with their seasoned roasted potatoes.  Was hoping they would have a baked potato but the closest thing to it was the roasted ones.

When it came to the table, I noticed the 'no mushrooms' request was forgotten somehow.  Not a problem though, I could just push those off to the side.  Cut into the filet right away to make sure it was cooked correctly (I asked for medium) and it was perfect.  The steak was amazingly tender but instantly I noticed that it was amazingly salty.  Almost inedible salty.  I did end up eating all of the steak but towards the end I carefully shaved off the outside grilled part hoping to get rid of some of the salt, which worked.

As for the potatoes?  Another item in the 'wayyyy too salty' category.  They were cooked well, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside but, again, almost inedible due to the amount of salt on them.  Usually I can handle salty things so this meal had to be extreme for me to notice.  I ate most of them though but had to stop towards the end when I realized I was on my 4th or 5th glass of water. 

Plain Filet at Le Cellier
Le Cellier Mushroom Filet Mignon - with seasoned roasted potatoes wild mushroom risotto, white truffle and herb butter sauce $34.99

Christina decided to order the filet as well but asked for it completely plain and subbed the cream cheese mashed potatoes after a little convincing from me.  When her meal came out, we realized hers was wrong as well since they added the butter sauce to it.  She didn't want to send it back and just scraped the sauce off onto the side of the dish.  Her steak was also cooked perfectly when she cut into it.  Unfortunately though, she wasn't a fan of the mashed potatoes!  I felt bad since I was raving about them and pretty much forced her to order them.  They were a little too creamy for her liking.  I tried some though and loved them.  Unlike the soup, I held myself back and didn't eat them all. 

Filet at Le Cellier
Le Cellier Mushroom Filet Mignon - with wild mushroom risotto cream cheese mashed potatoes, white truffle and herb butter sauce $34.99
We again opted out of dessert but I really wanted the chocolate 'moose' that they always serve the kids. 

Overall, Le Cellier was just OK.  I've still yet to have an amazing meal here over the past 5 years so I'm not sure what everyone keeps raving about or why this place has such a cult following.  The service was very good, minus the incorrect items on both of our entrees.  The soup was delicious like always, albeit slightly salty.  Both filet's were perfectly cooked and tender but there's no way I can look past how salty everything was seasoned.  I've been reading other reviews that mention the amount of salt too so I know I'm not the only one. I'll definitely go back but will ask for no salt next time. 

I'm honestly looking forward to Le Cellier turning into a signature restaurant for dinner.  The menu will have to change (I hope) to be worth the extra price.  Hoping for the better!  And with a lot less salt!! :)

Marathon Week Day 3 Recap: Epcot!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

After cheering on Christina and the rest of the ROTE gang during the half, we headed back to Pop so Christina can shower and get ready for the rest of the day. Our park of choice? Epcot!!

We got all of the big stuff that we wanted to do done in our condensed day, which we're happy with.  We didn't want to go too crazy because I had the full marathon the next day and Christina was definitely feeling the effects of running 13.1 miles earlier that morning. 

Spaceship Earth

First stop was The Land to grab Fast Passes for Soarin.  Just ran in and came right out.  Next up was a trip to see our favorite fishies, Nemo!  I had wanted to test out my new camera a bit since it's supposedly better in low light than my previous.  Happy to report that I love it!  I've been trying to get a clear shot of those stupid jellyfish for the longest time and finally...voila!!  I love how you can tell they're made of some meshy fabric, never noticed it before!




The Captain EO show had just closed their doors so we had to decide what to do.  Even though I can't stand the current version of Journey Into Imagination, I had to go visit Figment.  Can they please please please change this ride?  Where's my cute purple dinosaur that we all grew up with?  The annoying version of him is just...annoying!


Seeing Captain EO and Michael Jackson in his 1980's 3-D glory though made up for it.  Yes, it's the cheesiest movie EVER but seriously... how can you not love Hooter and Fuzzball?  I went to the stand outside the ride after we got out and they had ONE of each Hooter and Fuzzball stuffed animals.   I was SO tempted to buy one but figured I'd come back another day.  Sadly, both those stuffed animals sold out so I never got a chance to get one.

On our way to Mission: Space we stopped in to Innoventions to get our free Disney Visa character photos.  For those that don't know, if you have a Disney Visa, go into Innoventions (I don't remember East or West, ask a Cast Member) and you can have a private photo session with some characters.  Then you can go to the photo store at the park entrance, and get a free 4x6 photo.  Not too shabby considering these photos usually cost about $15 each.  The characters this time around were Goofy and Minnie I believe. 

Heading to Mission: Space, I had to stop and get some real coffee at the coffee stand that's next to the ride.  I can smell the coffee from a mile away.  Gave us some time to relax and rest our feet.  Grabbed our Orange tickets for Mission: Space and got on the non-existent line.  I don't understand how this ride NEVER has a line any more.  It's by far my favorite ride in Epcot and love love love it.  Are people scared of it since so many things have happened on the ride?  Makes me bummed that more people aren't enjoying it as much as we do.

While in line inside, I see a VIP tour guide walk up with a group of guys and young boys.  Didn't think anything of it really but then a few minutes later I realized that it's probably someone famous so I started looking at the group.  I kept looking at one of the guys in the group and honestly had NO idea who he was.  In my head, he just seemed like he would be the 'famous' one for some reason.  Took a look at the kids and had never seen them before.  Hmm....then I decided to look at the rest of the guys and...it's Tony Hawk!  I quietly got Christina's attention and she noticed him too.  Later found out that he was on vacation with his family and had been tweeting about his trip the whole time.  They were all having a great time and it was fun to see them actually being real people.  Don't think anyone else on our line recognized them.  Pretty cool!

We didn't ride in the same capsule as them but we all exited the ride at the same time and I had to be a mini-paparazzi and snap this pic. 

Tony Hawk

Venturing into World Showcase via Mexico, we took a quick ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour.  Germany and Karamell Kuche was next, where obviously I had to get a milk chocolate and caramel covered strawberry.  They're amazing, and totally worth the $4 (or is it $5?)!

Since we were getting close to dinner time, we skipped over everything else and headed right to the UK Pavillion so that Christina could get her celebratory Strongbow Cider.  It was slight torture watching her drink it but I did manage to sneak a sip in.  Definitely one of my favorite drinks in the world, delicious!  Made a promise to myself that I'll drink at least a few of those after finishing my race.

Celebratory Strongbow!
We headed down to Le Cellier and were a little early for our ADR.  While waiting for our table, we saw a couple get the cheddar cheese soup and pretzel bread delivered outside to them on the bench by the entrance.  I thought Le Cellier didn't do this?  Does anyone know if they do it all the time, or just during off peak hours?  If so, I would totally do it!  The soup is by far the best thing on the menu!

Our Le Cellier review will come in my next post but I will say I wasn't wowed.  :(  Everything was WAY too salty for me.  When I was telling Joey this the day of the marathon, he joked that it might have actually been a good thing for all the salt and running 26.2.  Kept my electolytes balanced, ha!

After dinner we headed over to Soarin to use our Fast Passes and then waited on the longest line ever to pick up our Disney Visa pics.  Geez!  One quick ride on Spaceship Earth and we called it a night and headed back to the room.  I had a race to run the next day!! :)

Still trying to decipher what he's saying in Greek, Judi Dench is too loud!

15 February, 2011

Marathon Week Day 3 Recap: Spectating at the Half Marathon!

I really hope I'm able to start getting these recaps out sooner. Like Melie said, I'll be finishing Goofy next year and still typing 2011's recaps up! Yikes!!

So anyways! Let's get on with the show!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

This morning was the day of the half marathon!  Christina was running so we set our alrams for 2:10am the night before and tried to get some sleep.  I, unfortunately, hardly got any and kept on waking up every few hours for some reason.  Pre-race jitters maybe?  Even though my race was still 24 hours away? Who knows!

We groggily woke up and stumbled to get ready.  Headed into the food court so Stina can have some breakfast and were soon on the bus heading to the family reunion tents.  I noticed this year though that there were hardly ANY people at Pop Century for the race.  Last year the food court was jam packed with people and the lines for the buses were obscene.  This year though you could pretty much hear a pin drop in the food court.  There were a handful of people eating and when we got outside to the buses, there was no one there!  The one or two lone buses waiting for us looked lonely. 

Arrived at the starting area without any problems and made our way to the 'H' tent where the rest of the Running of the Ears gang was meeting up.  Got to catch up with a few familiar faces and meet a bunch more.  One of the ROTErs is an army chaplain so he lead the group in a prayer and then all of the runners started getting ready to head over to the start line.  Luckily I got a chance to run into my friend Sarah too, who was also running her first half marathon!  I wished her and Christina good luck and the two of them headed out. 



Before the trip, Karen (who was running her first full too!) and I planned to cheer on our friends together since they were both running roughly the same pace.  Problem was, I couldn't find Karen!  After a few text messages back and forth, it turns out that she was stuck on a bus trying to get to the reunion tents.  Since they closed off all the streets already, the bus was on a wild goose chase trying to figure out where to drop everyone off.  A few of us started heading over to the monorail to head to the TTC (roughly Mile 4) and luckily Karen was dropped off only a few minutes before we got there.  Perfect timing!

A little before the race started, Karen and I saw a girl with a race bib wandering around trying to figure out how to get to the start line.  I'm not sure if she woke up late or got on a late bus or something but I felt so bad for her.  It was already almost 5:15 or so and the race started at 5:30!! We also saw another guy a few minutes later running around trying to find the start line as well.  That's one of my BIGGEST fears on race day.  I can't even imagine how stressed out they were!  I'd probably just sit and cry.  

As the start of the race came and went, we knew that the first runners would be flying by any minute.  Sure enough we heard the faint cheers and cowbells and as they got louder, we saw the first wheelchair athletes zoom by.  These guys were amazing!  Definitely got a little teary eyed and joked that we're going to be a MESS the next day for our race!


Karen and I were trying to find the best settings to take pictures with both our cameras.  We kept joking that we had these huge professional looking cameras but were having problems figuring out how to take pics in this lighting.  Wasn't so easy when it was pitch black outside and we only had a few florescent light bulbs overhead.  Eventually we both got the hang of it and I think our pics came out pretty decent!  Until it started getting light out...then it was back to the drawing board!

A few minutes after the wheelchair athletes came the elite runners.  These runners were BOOKING!  It was near impossible to get any decent photos of them. 


After all of the elites, it was then time for some of the entertaining costumes along the course.  Loved seeing what everyone decided to dress up as.  Also wondered how half of these people can run in these HUGE costumes.  Very impressed!  (Yes, many of my costumed pics are of guys.  There's only so many girls in traditional princess outfits that you can take photos of.  haha!)

even Stitch ran the half marathon
Can't imagine how hot it got in this outfit when the sun came up!

Is this the runner who runs all his races as Minnie?

Tinkerbell like you've never seen her before!

I found Waldo!!

I got the text message that Christina had reached the 5k mark so I tried to pay closer attention to the oncoming runners.  I had told her that I'd be on the left side of the course so was hoping that she remembered so we can see each other.  Also didn't realize how dizzy and disoriented it makes you trying to focus on so many moving people at once, yikes!   Luckily I didn't have to struggle too long and Stina came running by looking great!!


After Stina ran by, we waited for Karen's friend, Alexis, to come through.  Alexis found us and ran over to say hello.  Stupid cameras were distracting us again! :)

After Alexis passed by, the two of us headed over to the Polynesian Resort where Mile 8 of the course ran through.  I hadn't really eaten at 3:30am at Pop so I was starving.  We made our way upstairs to the coffee stand next to Kona Cafe and was so excited to finally get my Kona coffee and a blueberry muffin.  Sadly the coffee was slightly watered down for some reason so I wasn't a huge fan.  Still drank every last drop though!

We made our way outside and walked down the road until the crowds thinned out a bit.  Perfect area to cheer on some runners and look for our friends!  Throughout the whole course I kept seeing ROTE runners fly by.  Tried to cheer on every last one but it was hard to do!  Many of them saw me first and gave a loud hello as they ran by.  

Yay Tricia!! :) (We ran the Jeff Galloway run together in October)

And now time for some more fun costumes!




Cruella and a pup!

All of the running 'pairs' were great and we had a fun time trying to decipher what some of them were trying to be.  I think the one that was most memorable for Karen and I was a father/daughter combo.  The father had a shirt that said "Proud Dad" and the daughter had a shirt that said "Daddy's Little Girl".  Tears instantly welled up in both of us and we started to cry.  It's such an awesome experience to share with your parents!  I wish I could do something like this with my dad but he still thinks I'm insane for running down the block let alone half marathons.  *sigh*

Christina ran by at some point in between all of the fun costumes and was still chugging along like a champ.  It had definitely gotten much warmer since the start so when she saw me she threw all of her extra clothing at me, complained that it was hot, and kept on running, haha!  Both of us don't do great in warm weather runs so I could feel her pain but she sill looked good!  She was almost done!

Fabulous cheerleaders! (Stole the picture from Karen's facebook!)

Alexis ran by a few minutes later and she looked great as well.  After we were done cheering, I'm pretty sure this is where Karen and I headed our separate ways.  Hopped back on the monorail and took it ALL the way around to the TTC.  I figured I had time to waste and really just wanted to stay off my feet as much as possible before my race.  Major snag in the plans though when I got to the TTC.  I tried getting on line for the monorail to Epcot and it was complete CHAOS.  Not sure if the monorail was down or what but there were easily a hundred, if not more, people trying to get on the Epcot line.  Three or four Cast Members had NO clue what to do and were telling people to go in every direction, which only irritated the guests even more.  Cast Members weren't talking to each other, they weren't helping to form a structured line, nothing.  I was trying not to get irritated but my nerves were wearing thin.  A good 20 minutes later, I was FINALLY on my way to Epcot.  Unfortunately, I got the text message that Christina finished just as I was walking off the monorail.  Fabulous.  :(

I knew it would take a little while for Christina to make her way back to the reunion tents so I tried to get there as fast as I could without running.  By the time I got there, there was already a ton of ROTE members there congratulating everyone as they walked over.  Christina made her way over a few minutes later and I got to finally officially congratulate her on Half Marathon #2!!!  We hung around for a bit but Christina just really wanted to go back and shower so we said our byes to the gang and headed back to Pop.  Luckily the lines for the buses weren't bad at ALL and we were on the first bus back.  

Lots of red and black at the 'H' tent!

With my crazy running friend Jeff from Hawaii (he's ran Goofy every single year)

I had a great time cheering on people during the whole entire race.  Chasing after Christina and Alexis definitely helped pass the time away and it didn't seem like we were running around for 3 hours at all.  Having a fabulous cheering partner helped too (thanks Karen!!)!   Congrats to all of the half marathon runners!!! :)

Next up on the trip recap agenda is the remainder of our day at Epcot and dinner at Le Cellier!

11 February, 2011

Mamma Mia!! Dinner at Mama Melrose

As Christina's Pre-Half Marathon dinner and my 2-Days Before the Marathon dinner, we decided on heading to Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios to carb up just a bit.

I was definitely a little skeptical coming here.  When I came with my mom a few years back, there was only ONE dish that we actually liked...the pipette pasta with the cream sauce.  Not something I really wanted to eat before a huge race though, ya know?  Everything else we had back then was sub-par 'fake' Italian food that you can find better at Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill, etc.  Before you go yelling at me that you like those places, I do too!  It's just not what I grew up with as real Italian food! :)


We checked in a little earlier than our reservation and were seated within 10 minutes or so.  While waiting we were watching the cooks make the flatbreads and I realized I was STARVING!

Our waiter was pretty friendly and kept joking about the marathon (who would do such a thing?!).  He kept our water filled throughout the whole night, which I'm sure was a challenge!  We were trying to hydrate and I was ridiculously thirsty on top of that so I easily drank a whole pitcher of water myself.  :)

Bread was brought to the table and when asked if we wanted butter, I asked for olive oil instead.  Our waiter came back with a delicious dish of spices & seasonings and proceeded to add olive oil on top of the concoction to mix together.  Pretty tasty! 

We started off with the Mozzarella and Tomatoes as an appetizer.  The tomatoes were fresh and the mozzarella was perfectly creamy.  The caramelized onions (behind the tomatoes, hard to see them in the pic) were fabulous and not 'oniony' at all.  Kinda glad that Christina thought they were just ok, it meant more for me!

Tomato & Mozzarella

Mozzarella and Tomatoes - with marinated sweet onions, balsamic drizzle, extra virgin olive oil and fresh sweet basil $7.99
For entrees, Christina and I both tweaked items on the menu a little bit.  Both requests were easily granted and we didn't have a problem ordering at all.

Christina wanted the Penne alla Vodka but asked to throw a little extra protein in there by adding some grilled chicken.  We both enjoyed this!  It was definitely heavier than my dish but had a nice flavor.  Didn't have a strong tomato flavor but wasn't overly creamy.  The vodka was the right hint and was cooked through enough.  I think the chicken gave it a nice touch.  I'd order it this same way from now on!

Penne Vodka w/Grilled Chicken
Penne alla Vodka (w/grilled chicken) - with pancetta and sweet onion finished with tomato-basil sauce, cream, vodka, and pecorino romano $21.99 ($16.99 + $5 for chicken)

For my meal I ordered the chicken parmigiana but asked them to use grilled chicken instead of the breaded and baked/fried version.  Even with my overly critical taste buds?  I enjoyed it!  Wasn't the best I've had but acceptable.  The chicken was slightly over-charred but I didn't mind it.  The sauce wasn't my favorite either but it's definitely improved since the last trip.  It was the perfect amount of food and I wasn't overly stuffed when I finished.  Even was able to swipe a few bites of the penne alla vodka.  :)

Grilled Chicken Parm
Oven Baked Grilled Chicken alla Parmigiana - over spaghetti $16.99

At one point while waiting for our entrees to come, our server came by and apologized.  Apparently the cook didn't see the request for the grilled chicken on my order so they had to make it over again.  We were offered another appetizer on the house while we waited but declined and just asked for a little more bread and olive oil.  :)

We bypassed dessert since we were trying to eat pretty well before the races.  There's always next time!

So Mama Melrose was a success.  Definitely much better than last time I was here so I'm happy.  I definitely enjoyed the penne better than the chicken parm.  The caramelized onions might have been the winner though, even if they were just a condiment with the app.  Is it my favorite restaurant?  Nope, but I won't hesitate to come here again.  The service was good and our server did everything to make sure we were happy.  As for my messed up order?  Things happen and it didn't bother me at all.  Next time I'll definitely try something else on the menu!

10 February, 2011

Marathon Week Day 2: Hollywood Studios

Hope everyone likes pictures! :)

Friday, January 7, 2011
So after spending a small fortune at the expo and making a quick pit stop back at the room, Christina and I headed over to Hollywood Studios while Nicole met up with some of her other friends in the area.  After renewing my Tables in Wonderland card at Guest Services, we ventured into the park and started  heading towards the obvious first choice.. Toy Story!  Ran into some of the Streetmosphere Cast Members though so had to stick around to enjoy a card trick. 


Hollywood Studios

Got a few card tricks...

Still decked out for the holidays

After a few Photopass photos, we finally made our way to the Toy Story entrance.  It was 1pm and  the Fast Passes were gone for the day.  We saw it was a 60 minute wait and decided to suck it up and sit in line.  Since Christina had to shorten her trip, we knew we wouldn't be back to Hollywood Studios at all and this was one ride that we knew we couldn't miss!  We both love it!  It was actually pretty cool going through the whole queue though because I was able to see a bunch of the tiny details that we always miss while running through the Fast Pass queue. 

Toy Story

Everyone always talks about how cool Mr. Potato Head is in the queue but he doesn't do it for me.  My new favorite?  Looking at all of the tiny slides in the huge View Finder wheels!

View Finder

The queue ended up being around 45 mins, which was a bonus.  Thank you to the girls behind us though that pointed out that the Cast Member in the Fast Pass area was calling us over to spread out the line a bit.  Definitely saved us those extra 15 mins!  After we got comfy and donned our fabulous yellow 3-D glasses, the competition was ON!!  Proud to say that I came out victorious!! (Sorry Christina...I had to post the picture....)


After all that waiting in line and 3-D competition, it was time for me to get some real coffee.  If anyone here knows me, you KNOW I love my coffee. And you KNOW I HATE the gross vile Nescafe syrup crapola that Disney tries to sell off as coffee at many of their counter service locations.  Disney coffee drinkers in the know, though, know that there are a few secret hidden gems when it comes to finding real fresh brewed coffee in the World.  As far as I know, 95% of all sit down restaurants serve the real stuff so no need to worry but I usually ask to make sure.  Also, a few of the coffee shops and kiosks in the parks serve the good stuff too.  One of those places at Hollywood Studios is the Starring Rolls Cafe.

I had a slight brain fart though and went to Starring Rolls thinking that they also served the carrot cake sandwich that everyone loves.  After getting there I realized that we should have went to Writers Stop instead (they also serve real coffee I believe).  Not wanting to walk any further though, Christina and I split a HUGE rice krispie treat that was fabulous! We sat and savored our treats and then knew we had to keep on chugging along if we were going to get the big rides out of the way.

And I apologize for no pics of Starring Rolls.  Apparently my brain wasn't functioning without my coffee yet.  

Wanting to do the other two big rides in the park, we headed down Sunset Boulevard.  Grabbed Fast Passes for Tower of Terror and then jumped on the single rider line for Rock N Roller Coaster.  Got our Aerosmith fix in under 30 minutes!

Another fun 'tradition' that Christina and I have is testing out our drawing skills at the Magic of Animation.  This time we all tried drawing Flynn Rider from Tangled.  TOTALLY think that drawing 'real' people is much harder than drawing animal cartoons.  Let's just say my version of Flynn didn't look like the picture below, which is what the animator running the session drew.  If I get up the nerve, I might post my horrific version. 

Flynn drawing

Since our dinner reservation at Mama Melrose was in an hour, we started heading towards the back of the park and along the way decided to go through One Man's Dream and the Muppet Vision 3-D show. 

One of my favorites of Walt

One Man's Dream

One of the original Figments...*sigh*
Usually I take my time and walk through and take it all in but since we were a little pressed for time, I just wanted to see what changes they made since last time I went.  Some of the stuff was cool (yayyy for Figment & the Horizons dude!) but much of it was still the same from what I could tell.  We skipped the movie at the end and continued on our way. 

My new buddy

Walking through Pixar place we ran into one of the green army guys (do they have a real name?) from Toy Story.  Obviously I had to take a picture.  (And please ignore the gross hat head I have from wearing my hat and Minnie ears all morning at the expo...blah!)

When we got to MuppetVision 3-D, I told Christina about the 'key' that's hidden.  I had never found it before though so we originally walked right past it and into the main waiting room.   After back tracking a little bit, we found the security window and sure enough...found the key under the mat! 

Found the key


The Cast Member that was greeting guests started talking to us about the key and explained how they had to actually nail the key to the floor since so many people were stealing it.  Kinda took the fun away from it a little bit but still cool!  The movie was cute like always, wouldn't hurt for a tiny little upgrade though!

After we got our Muppet fix, it was time to head over to Mama Melrose for dinner!  I'm going to write a separate post for that right after this one but I will say we really enjoyed it.  I was pleasantly surprised because I really wasn't a fan the last time we came a few years ago.

Dinner has us thoroughly full and prepped for our upcoming races so we headed out with the intention of doing the Great Movie Ride, Tower of Terror, and then heading home early.  

Muppet fountain


Little did we know though that the Great Movie Ride closed down at 6pm (it was now around 6:30pm) for a private party.  Turns out it was actually a runDisney party...where was my invite people?!?! :) We also didn't realize that Hollywood Studios closed at 7 that day! So we high tailed it down to Tower of Terror and had a fabulously freaky elevator ride at the Tower Hotel.

On the way out I loved how the park looked at night so I tried to take a few pics by making a makeshift tripod out of the garbage cans (accidentally left the Gorillapod in the room).  We got stopped by a Cast Member right by the exit asking us to fill out a survey so I gladly said yes.  He brought us to a little alcove on the side of the street where a few laptops were setup.  The survey took about 10 or 15 minutes and in no time we were heading to the busses to head back to Pop for our early sleep.  Christina had a half marathon to run the next morning! :)

Looking down the blvd

Disney & Co
My favorite shot of the night


Overall a fun day in the Studios. It's never been my favorite park but there are a few things here that I love doing every trip. I ended up coming back on my last day so I'll talk about that in a later post! Next up?  Mama Melrose review!

(I'm totally impressed with myself that I've had 3 blog posts in 3 days. I'll leave out the part that I'm totally slacking on school work though.  This is just so much more entertaining for me...shhhhhh)