Friday, December 2, 2016

Holiday Ale Fest 2016- Picks & Pans

Our resident beer expert, Doug (aka Katie's husband) is once again sharing his picks and pans for this year's Holiday Ale Fest. Cheers! 

There is literally nothing that gets me into more of a cheerful spirit than the Holiday Ale Festival. The smell of chestnuts, seasonal ales, the random crowd ‘woos’ - it's what I look forward to most when December rolls around. 


Picks:

Deschutes Ginger Cookie Imperial Porter – Usually the festival is full of beers with really promising ideas and descriptions that don’t live up to their potential when actually tasted. This beer is exactly what it says: a porter that tastes like a ginger cookie. Cookie in a glass. Yes please.

Fort George All Seeing Eye – Similar to the Deschutes Ginger Cookie, this tastes like a pie in a glass and smells like fresh-roasted apples. It also is very sneaky in its 12% ABV, as we didn’t realize this until consulting the program later in the night.

Fremont Brewing S’mores Bonfire Ale – Katie and I love Fremont Brewing, especially its beer fresh from the tasting room in north Seattle- and this beer did not disappoint. It's infused with Theo Chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows, the latter you can really smell during the taste.

Pans:

No-Li #WhiteRazzMocha – Okay, I’ll never fault a beer for a dumb name (hashtagging a name is silly), but this beer is way too sweet. It's possible that if you’re into syrupy malty beers, this one is for you. But it's not balanced and we weren’t pleased.

Lagunitas Barrel Aged Imperial Pils with Ginger and Quenepa – This one was… strange. I get that it was supposed to be ‘sake-like’, but I found it just odd.

But, don’t take my word for it. Go out and grab some tastes yourself this weekend! Have a happy Holidays!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Slovenia/Croatia/Bosnia Trip 2016: Overview

August seems like forever ago now, but once upon a time, Doug and I traveled to Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia for two adventure-filled weeks.


We chose The Balkans because we wanted to go somewhere in Europe that neither of us had been to before, which left most of Western Europe out of contention. Doug had been trying to convince me to go to Croatia for awhile ("It's where all the Europeans vacation!") and it turns out that my mom's side of the family is most likely part Slovenian, so former Yugoslavia for the win!




As usual, Doug took the reins when it came to planning, and he did a great job. Our full itinerary is at the end of this post, but here's some general observations and information about favorite cities/stops too: 

General Observations:

Language Barrier
We had absolutely no problem communicating with locals in Slovenia and Croatia as most people spoke English. As our good buddy Rick Steves pointed out in our trusty travel guide, Slovene and Croatian are spoken by a very small number of people, so Yugoslavians understand that it's very unlikely that you'll know their language as tourists. We did not have the same luck with English-speakers in Bosnia, but we were only there for one day and we made it work.


Food
Our last two big trips were to Spain and Thailand, two countries that made it very easy to indulge in our food-loving tendencies. Before we left, we had read that The Balkans are not necessarily known for their food culture, but I would say we ate pretty darn well during our trip. Slovenian and Croatian cuisines both have an Italian influence so yes, I did eat gelato everyday. In the north, truffles are very popular, so I had a lot of very good truffled pastas, and in the coastal towns we ate some delicious seafood. Bosnia offered a taste of Middle Eastern fare with kebabs and burek. 


Drinks
Slovenia and Croatia are hopping on the micro-brew train with varying degrees of success, but at least Doug had plenty of beer to drink. We also loved that we were back in a place were drinking radlers at all hours of the day is quite acceptable. The Balkans actually have a big wine region too so I had quite a few good reds and rosés during our trip. Our biggest fail drinking-wise actually came in Sarajevo, where the nightlife consists of drinking Bosnian coffee and smoking hookah rather than gathering over beer and wine. That night we really needed a drink (you'll see why shortly), so the lack of bars was not appreciated.


Transportation
This trip was our first time renting a car and aside from an incident on the steep, twisty streets of Sarajevo, it worked out great. We weren't bound by train schedules and it was so nice to be able to just throw our luggage in the trunk and head out to our next destination.


Lodging 
We've had issues connecting with AirBnB hosts abroad before, but on this trip, problems getting into our apartments were the rule, not the exception. The main issue is that we were only using WiFi, so if our hosts contacted us with a change of plans while we were en route, we didn't get that message until after we had arrived in the city, realized something was wrong, and eventually found a cafe to check the app. Not the most efficient or calming method of arriving in a new place! Apparently AT&T offers a good overseas plan, so we will definitely look into that next time so we don't do things like driving around Sarajevo for four hours (hence the need for a drink referenced above).   

History
I'll admit that prior to this trip, I knew very little about this part of the world other than that there were devastating wars there in the 90s. After this trip, I feel like I've learned a lot, but also that I've only started to break the surface of the history of The Balkans in general and the wars of the 90s specifically.


Most of the cities and towns that we visited have rebuilt in the last three decades, with the exception of Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia. While it's wonderful to see beautiful Ljubljana and stunning Dubrovnik, I'm glad we also experienced the less-polished side of this part of the world. It's easy to forget how many lost their lives so recently, and seeing bombed out buildings and walls speckled with bullet holes in Bosnia really drove home the recent tragedy that The Balkans endured.

Cultural Disparities 
At this point, Doug and I have traveled enough that you'd think we would know we can't expect the same level of service in restaurants abroad as we do in Portland. Regardless, Slovenia and Croatia were kind of brutal for us when it came to ordering and asking for the check. We hate having to aggressively flag servers down- especially servers that seem to be going out of their way to ignore you- but that's exactly what we had to do everywhere we went. It became exhausting after awhile but there's not much we could do about it!

Favorites Cities/Spots 

Lake Bled (Slovenia)
Visiting Lake Bled is like entering into a real life fairy-tale. A stunningly blue lake surrounds a beautiful church on an island with the Alps in the background. We hiked around the lake, enjoyed a delicious lunch of pasta, went for a swim, rode summer toboggans, and took way too many pictures. Highly, highly recommend this spot. 


Julian Alps (Slovenia)
A close second to our day at Lake Bled was our day trip through the Julian Alps. We hiked to the beautiful Peričnik Waterfalls, visited Vršič Pass, and got a little dizzy on the 51-switchback road through the scenic Soča Valley.


Ljubljana (Slovenia) 
Ljubljana served as our jumping off point for our trips to Lake Bled and Julian Alps and it was the perfect place to come back to every night as Old Town has a seemingly endless amount of cute cafes up and down the The Ljubljanica River.

Split (Croatia) 
I knew the Croatian coast was going to be touristy, but I think I had convinced myself that Eastern European-touristy is not as bad as Western European-touristy. Wrong. The old towns in Dubrovnik and Rovinj, though both beautiful and not without many of their own merits, were also crawling with tourists. That's why Doug and I liked Split so much. Old Town Split is situated in Roman Emperor Diocletian's crumbling palace, which has resulted in narrow, winding streets that reveal a fun bar, boutique, or cafe at every turn. The locals seem to hang out in this Old Town more too, which made the city seem more authentic than Dubrovnik and Rovinj.


Zagreb (Croatia)
We didn't mean to spend so much time in Zagreb, but thanks to a faulty airplane engine (Doug: "My last social media post was about you so I can die without worry."), we were granted an extra day to explore Croatia's capital city. We especially enjoyed Tkalciceva street, which is lined with stores and restaurants and was a great place for people watching day and night.



Itinerary:
Day 1- PDX to Zagreb
Day 2 - Ljubljana 
Day 3 - Lake Bled
Day 4 - Julian Alps Drive
Day 5 - Ljubljana
Day 6 - Trieste & Rovinj
Day 7 - Split
Day 8 - Spilt
Day 9 - Mostar & Sarajevo
Day 10 - Dubrovnik
Day 11- Dubrovnik
Day 12 - Zagreb (bonus day due to grounded flight)
Day 13 - Zagreb to PDX

Friday, October 28, 2016

2016 Pumpkin Beer Night/Fall Party

Last weekend marked our 5th annual Pumpkin Beer Night and, much as I hate to say it, I think I'm officially pumpkin beered out. Like forever.


We switched up our format this year to freshen things up since the night was feeling a bit stale going into it.


I went with a fall theme versus Halloween theme and instead of passing out rounds of tastings to everyone at the same time and making complex rating sheets, we just put out all the beers for people to try at their own pace and then asked everyone to vote for their favorite at the end of the night.  


Our new approach worked well. The evening was much more leisurely and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. But while the night was supposed to be about the pumpkin beer (Elysian Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale and Uinta Funk'n Patch Brett Ale tied for first, in case you were wondering), Doug and I both had a lot more fun with the other details of the party. So I'm going to focus on those instead. Sorry, pumpkin beer lovers!

Food



In the past, we've just had crackers and cheese and asked our guests to fill in with other snacks and desserts, but since we were going for a more elegant feel this time around, Doug decided on three appetizers to round out our usual cheese spread.


We love the Green Bean Sandwich from Meat Cheese Bread, so Doug made mini appetizer versions.


Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Mushrooms from Smitten Kitchen fit right in with our cozy fall theme.


These Scallion Meatballs with Soy Ginger Glaze, also from Smitten Kitchen, are one of my favorite things that Doug makes. 

Cocktail

Not all of our guests like beer and I've been slightly obsessed with kegged cocktails since the kegged Tom Collins worked so well at my 30th birthday party, so I used this usually beer-only patty to try out a new recipe.


I didn't get my act together soon enough to actually keg this one, but we served it out of Doug's uKeg growler, which worked well. This festive cocktail was maybe a little too drinkable... as evidenced by the fact that Kel and I didn't get around to trying many pumpkin beers since we were drinking cocktails all night.

Lion's Tail Remix- Batch Cocktail (adapted from Imbibe)
Makes about 24 servings  
  • 1 bottle bourbon 
  • 12 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 8 oz honey syrup
  • 5 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • 30 dashes orange bitters

Decor
I decided my "colors" for the party would be white and metallics. I spray-painted orange mini pumpkins gold and rose gold, added some metallic stickers to spiffy up white mini pumpkins, and used our copper mugs for vases.


The plates, napkins, and tablecloth were all from Target (no surprise there).

 

A quick trip to the St. Johns farmers market for fresh flowers rounded out the decor.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Brooklyn Restaurant: Emmy Squared

Good news: Doug and I got a puppy!


Bad news: The puppy is ruining our lives.

I mean, not really... but he is seriously messing with our sleep schedules, our cat, and our ability to ever get out of the house without going somewhere dog-friendly.

I think that's why our one night out in Brooklyn last month was especially fun. It also could have been because we were introduced to a glorious new style of pizza.

But let's backtrack a bit first. Doug and I were flying into JFK for Sarah and Chris's wedding in Connecticut and since it would also be our anniversary weekend, Doug had the foresight to suggest going a day early and spending the night in Brooklyn. Best idea ever!

Our main goal was to hit up Torst, which Doug had really, really wanted to visit during our New York trip last Christmas but which ended up being a bit too out of the way during our East Village-focused trip.

We did end up making it to Torst this trip, but the highlight of our night was definitely our impromptu dinner at Emmy Squared.

What: Emmy Squared
Where: 364 Grand St., Brooklyn  (Williamsburg)
Honeys Heart: Detroit-style pizza!!!

Emmy Squared is the little sister restaurant to the much-acclaimed Emily but while Emily focuses on Neapolitan wood-fired pizza, Emmy Squared is all about Detroit-style pizza. (If you want to read the super cute story of Emily/Emmy Squared's pizza-obsessed husband and wife team, you can do that here).

Here are the hallmarks of Detroit-style pizza:
  • Baked in a rectangular pan
  • Cheesy, frico crust (similar to focaccia) with crisp, crunchy corners
  • Sauce over the other toppings (this seems optional)
It's really the crust that makes this pizza. The dough is baked with the cheese resulting in a delicious, crispy, caramelized, cheesy crust. So good.


We opted for the Roni Supreme ($19) during our visit, made with lots of pepperoni (the good, thick kind that curls up around the edges) and Calabrian chili.

We also split the Caesar Salad ($12) and I had a Moscow Mule ($12), which were decent, but who cares about lettuce and pedestrian cocktails when there's pizza to be had? Okay, here's some photos anyway:



Later that night, over beers at Torst, Doug and I desperately Googled "detroit-style pizza Portland" with no luck. From our research, unless you're actually in Detroit, the only well-regarded, dedicated Detroit-style pizzas joints are Via 313 in Austin, Blue Pan Pizza in Denver, Loui Loui's in Louisville, Pizza Squared in Tampa, and Emmy Squared.

Hey Portland, can you get on this ASAP?

Seriously though. We'd come to a Detroit-style pizza place even if you don't allow dogs.

Want to learn more about Detroit-style pizza? These articles from Eater and Food Republic were the most informative.