Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Beer Me: In my glass lately

I am WAY behind on my beer posts. I hope you're finding things to drink without my guidance. Some of these are super old but I still wanted to write about them. You can rest assured that any summer wheat is my jam these days. Summer beers are so refreshing and easy drinking. Not much beats a cold one after a sweaty session of yard work or while grilling out on the patio. I promise to do a summer post soon.

Leinenkugel pretty much has the market cornered on Summer Shandy (although the orange one is disgustingly medicinal). Here is one from Hoppin' Frog that I think is worth trying though. Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale is a mix between beer and almost a limoncello quality. The lemon is not subtle here but I think that's what sets it apart. It only retails in the larger 22 oz. bottles for about $7.

From the site: "Born from European tradition, our shandy is a refreshing combination of lemon and light malt flavors.  Unlike traditional shandy’s, Turbo Shandy revs it up a couple notches with a high test, full flavored approach as only Hoppin’ Frog can do!"

Only 7 IBU's here, guys. My kind of bitterness level.

P.S. Hoppin' Frog is located in Akron, just on the other side of the state from me. We are gearing up to try a couple new local Ohio breweries. Maybe this one gets added to the tour.....

I'm throwing this one in because it was interesting. This is Tweason'ale from Dogfish Head and it's a gluten free beer. I would be the saddest girl in the world if I ever had to go gluten free but at least you could still have a beer, right? The main flavor here is strawberry. Yes, you read that right.

From the site: "For our first new 12-ounce 4-packs in nearly half a decade, we replaced the classic barley foundation of beer with a mild sorghum base. The hints of molasses and pit-fruit are balanced by vibrant strawberry notes and a unique complexity that comes with the addition of a malty buckwheat honey.

Now, I liked it but I also like fruity beers. The others around me at the tasting were not so fond of its flavor or lack of gluten. It's pricey, like all Dogfish Head, at about $12/four-pack. But, if you found it on a menu or in a single bottle, you should give it a try.

Last but not least, the other night at our beer shop they were tasting all the available releases from New Holland Brewing Co. located in Michigan. I'm not sure why we even went to this tasting because they were all IPA's of some sort. We must have needed something from Sam's Club and it happens to be right across the street.

From left to right below (and my apologies for the small picture):

Oak Aged Hatter: This is their Mad Hatter IPA aged in Kentucky oak barrels. Sweet and smooth

Michigan Hatter: This was my least favorite in the bunch due to its citrusy hops.

Farmhouse Hatter: Belgian-style pale ale with flavors including green apple, pepper and (supposedly) hay

Black Hatter: Another IPA but a black one this time. Just barely drinkable with roasted malt flavors.

Rye Hatter: The addition of rye made this one more tolerable with a new spicy flavor.

So, can you guess which one was my favorite?

The oak-aged of course! It was the sweetest one with just the right amount of flavor imparted  from the oak aging. I'll drink pretty much anything aged in an oak barrel. Yes, even an oaky chardonnay which most people eschew. These all retail at $6.99/bottle.

After this tasting, John declared that he was maybe jumping on the IPA bandwagon. I almost divorced him right then and there. He said some of them are tolerable but most are still nasty. If I come home to an IPA in the fridge it is OVER.

Happy Beering, y'all!

Monday, June 24, 2013


You guys. The fourth of July is right around the corner and I have only just yesterday made it to the pool for the first time. Tragic. I feel like the 4th is an unofficial demarcation of summer's halfway point and it's all downhill from there. This is a sad theory because I haven't really had a chance to enjoy summer yet. We don't typically take a summer vacation because we have the flexibility to travel in the cheaper, less crowded seasons but I am jonesing for a beach trip. Fully aware that I just took the trip of the lifetime, mind you. But, there's no better relaxation than catching some rays near (or on) a body of water. Nothing is booked but that doesn't mean I haven't been sniffing out the deals.

Here's something summery I did do recently.

It's homemade watermelon sorbet! I got an ice cream make for Christmas but hadn't pressed it into action. Hotter temps mean frozen treats are a necessity. In addition to the watermelon sorbet, I also made plain chocolate (Delicious!) and vanilla with white chocolate M&M's mixed in. I even lightened them up and made both of those fat free. Hooray!!! Now, if only all the sugar I added didn't have any calories...... Rest assured, if you come to my house in the next few months, you'll be served homemade ice cream. Now accepting requests of flavors! I also discovered you can make your own wine slushies in said ice cream maker. Watch out!

I hope you fine people are enjoying your summer more than I've had the opportunity to enjoy mine. From here on out, I promise to focus on doing summery things. The next several weekends are booked with fun family times so maybe that will help me spring into summer.

P.S. Today is my dad's birthday! He doesn't read my blog because he's too cool for that but.....HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day Six: Last full day in Paris

We awoke (to more sun!) and took the metro to Sacre Coeur. This is a church in the Montmarte area which offered breathtaking views of Paris from atop a hill. 

When you get to the bottom of the hill, you can use a metro ticket to take the funicular (like an incline car) up the steps and save your feet a bit. Wanting to conserve our tickets, we climbed more steps to see the cathedral. No pictures allowed inside here. 

But what did I tell you about those views?!

We then began a walk downhill past Place du Tertre where many "artists" wanted to paint our portrait. Continuing on through Montmarte which was the inspiration for many famous artists who lived in France including Picasso, Matisse and Cezanne. This was also the dirtiest part of Paris, with scammers and litter all around. We saw the Moulin Rouge. The can-can girls still perform nightly but the tickets are $$$$.

We made our way back to the hotel for a pit stop before taking the metro to Les Invalides again this time to see Musee de l'Armee that had been closed the other day. This was one of John's highlights.

Les Invalides

You guys! My dad collects antiques and he has one of those yellow handled Nazi daggers!

We also saw a ceremony with French military cadets. 

They were singing La Marseillaise!

After the museum, we went back to see the Eiffel Tower in the sun and got pictures with blue sky. 

This is our only picture together in France. We need to work on asking people to take them for us.

We headed in the direction of the next (and last) two museums on our itinerary but first we needed sustenance. I wanted to write down every restaurant, what we ate and how much our meals were but sadly, I did not. I don't recall the name of the place we ate but it was most likely a tourist trap, due to the proximity to the museums. I ordered a hamburger but it arrived, inexplicably with no bun. I didn't bother trying to inquire for one. I'll talk about this later in a wrap-up post but as a whole, we were completely underwhelmed by most meals in Paris.

Then, we headed over to Musee de l'Orangerie. This was on the Museum Pass (duh) but we would have gone anyway just to see Monet's Waterlilies. Holy cow! I have seen other prints of this in other art museums but there is nothing like the original. The colors were so vivid and it's HUGE! There are 8 (I think) gigantic panels on the walls all around the oval shaped room that houses it. No pictures here, sadly. But I will never forget what it looks like.

Relatively nearby is the Musee d'Orsay.

No photos allowed in here either but we saw a lot of people breaking that rule. Including John, who took this photo on the sly. If you saw the movie Hugo (highly recommend!) you'll recognize the clock. Musee d'Orsay used to be a train station before it became home to masterpieces.

LOTS of Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Cezanne and more. I love impressionism so both of these museums were awesome for me. d'Orsay is also on the Museum Pass. I didn't add it all up but I know we got more than our money's worth, especially with saving time not standing in line.

Looking a little tired here
There is a sizeable cafe in Musee d'Orsay where we had a delightful treat of wine (I forget what I had but John's Gewurtztraminer was outstanding!) and a pistachio mille feuille. Oui, I even ordered in French.

Delicious! We stopped back at that outdoor market near the Louvre, bought a few more things and made our way home. A few drinks at the Cricketer (yes, we went back -- it was Ladies Night!), dinner at Cafe Marco Polo and back to the hotel to pack. The last night of a trip is always the saddest.

We ate some dessert and drank wine while we packed and went to bed thinking everything to be all right for our flight the next day. Boy, were we wrong!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Beer Me: Blue Moon Summer Sampler

Hello, beer friends! Did you miss me? I've been busy recapping our European adventure but I haven't stopped trying out the summer's malty offerings. Never fear!

This is the summer sampler pack from Blue Moon. It retails for about $15 for 12, not bad. Of course, the original Blue Moon is included. A refreshing summer brew to be sure. And also the Agave Nectar, which I've talked about before, and I like. However, the brewmasters have also brought us several new varieties to taste. Let's dive in, shall we?

The first one is called Short Straw and it's their farmhouse red. From the site: "Farmhouse Ales were brewed for the diligent farmhands who drew the short straw and had to work the arduous harvest. Our brewmaster’s expression blends the spiciness of a Farmhouse Ale with the tartness of a Fland'ers Red for a remarkably refreshing finish.

The site calls out white pepper with a caramel maltiness and ends pleasantly tart. This is a great description and is spot on. John and I both liked this one a lot! Sounds funky, I know, but give it a try.

Here is the Blackberry Tart, which was my favorite in the bunch! I just like when they put fruit in beer, especially in the summertime. A lot of purist would turn their nose up at this but I'm not a purist so I can say whatever I want.

Let's hear what the site says: "Crafted with the help of our fans, this limited release fills your summer days (and glass) with the taste of rich blackberries, a smooth malty sweetness, and a hint of refreshing tartness."

This was medium-bodied but really smooth because it's wheat based. Not overly sweet and a true blackberry flavor, not just syrup. Easy drinking at only 9 IBU's, just the way I like it.

Rounder is a Belgian style pale ale and this was a standout for me too. From the site: "In the 1940's, Belgian-Style Pale Ales grew in popularity and were ordered by the round due to their balanced taste. Rounder, our expression of this sessionable style, is crafted with hibiscus and orange peel for a hint of spiciness and touch of wheat for a smoother, rounder taste."

This was surprisingly citrus/floral with the addition of orange peel and hibiscus. I am seeing hibiscus all over the place in beer. It must be the hot flower to add in these days! 30 IBU's so still very drinkable but a nice departure from the typical summer wheat beers.

Suffice it to say, this multi-pack is definitely worth your beer money. I, of course, liked them all because there wasn't an IPA in the bunch. But, there are enough differences that you're sure to find at least a couple crowd pleasers. Pop that cap and pour!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day Six: Versailles and the Louvre and sunshine, mon dieu!

Wednesday, May 22nd

All week we had been watching the forecasts praying for a reprieve from the rain. We knew Wednesday was our Versailles day and in order to truly enjoy the grounds, we were really hoping for some sun. We awoke to.....SUN!!! Rise and shine! Amen and hallelujah!

You can take the RER or the SNCF to Versailles. We opted for the SNCF because it was a direct shot from St. Lazare and we wouldn't have to Metro to pick up the RER and change trains. Very cost effective at $21 USD for two round trip tickets. You should buy your return tickets (aller retour) when you purchase the outgoing ones. That way you already have them and can just board when you're ready to leave.

The train ride was about 25 minutes and after disembarking, we walked up the main street of the town of Versailles to get to the castle. You can't miss it because there are plenty of signs that say 'CHATEAU' to point your way and it was only about 2 turns.

Gilded Gate

Much of France screams opulence and is richly decorated with many monuments, museums and places of worship. If we thought some of Paris was over the top, Versailles quickly corrected us. 

Versailles is included on the Museum Pass (didn't I tell you it was a great deal?) so we got to skip the LONG ticket lines. We didn't get to skip the security line but that's okay. If you are carrying a larger backpack, they'll make you check it. Ours wasn't but, just so you know. Friends of ours visited in the summer previously and waited in extremely long lines for tickets and security so, leave yourself time. Also, there is no cover from the sun so keep that in mind if you're spending an hour or more waiting to get in.

I'm squinting because I forgot what to do in the sun.

The palace gates gleam in the sun, once entering the halls, it is room upon room of amazement. After seeing several living quarters, we made it to the Hall of Mirrors. 

Quite literally it was a hallway used to navigate between rooms, specifically the ministers rooms and the king's chamber. The bedrooms were gorgeous and still in marvelous shape. 

After touring, we were hungry! There are several eateries around the grounds but in the chateau, there is a sit-down Angelina's and a take away counter. We sat down, looked at the menu, saw nothing to our liking, and left. One thing to note about France, the tables at restaurants are often on top of each other. A little too cozy for us.

Instead, we got two delicious sandwiches and a little wine. John indulged in their famous hot chocolate. Basically imagine taking the most decadent piece of chocolate you can find, melting and adding heavy cream, and this was 10 oz of glory. After lunch, we began to walk the grounds.

Back of the Palace

 If Paris takes the cake for ornate buildings, Versailles takes the cake for immaculate grounds and outdoor features. I have never seen more striking landscaping in my life. 

On certain days, you can pay extra to watch the fountains dance to music. You are not free to walk the grounds on those days unless you pay extra (I think it's 5 euro). So, if you aren't interested in that but want to see the grounds (and you do want to see the grounds) check the schedule. 

After passing by lots of perfectly groomed hedges and fountains, we began making our way to Mario Antoinette's Petit and Grand Trianon. A word of warning, it took 45 minutes to walk from the chateau to the Trianon and hamlet. NOT AN EXAGGERATION! You do have a couple options if you don't want to hoof it. You can rent a bike in 30 minute increments. I wanted to do this but by the time we found the rental place, we didn't feel like we needed them. It's located in the middle of the grounds, sort of. More expensive but less work is renting a golf cart. Or, you can take Le Petit Train, which is an open-air tram that people cram onto. This is the cheapest option other than your feet. Les pieds sont gratuits!

Marie Antoinette's home

I liked the yellow

After this, we went back to the Queen's hamlet. I particularly enjoyed the gardens in this area. It reminded me of the village from Beauty and the Beast. John made me stop singing the opening song. There goes the baker with his tray like always..... I am tres embarrassing.


Just to prove John was there too!

After touring the grounds some more, and not being able to talk John into renting a row boat we had a little ice cream and rested our feet. Having seen enough there for one day, we left Versailles and returned to Paris.  

That symbol is to advertise their Pistoletto exhibit.

After a brief respite at the hotel we made our way to the Louvre. Wednesday is the late night at the Louvre so if you think you don't have time to squeeze it in, tonight it's open until 9:00 pm. Skip the lines at the pyramid entrance and do find the Carousel entrance (not an actual carousel, mind) on rue de Rivoli. We had the Museum Pass of course but even if you didn't, the lines here are always much shorter. 

Never have I ever been to a museum more massive than the Louvre. It is absolutely true when they say you could spend weeks in there and still not see everything. The museum is divided into three wings, Denon, Sully and Richelieu and of course, the most popular acquisitions are spread throughout. We had time only for the highlights. My favorite was the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Because we had to, here is the Mona Lisa. It's small, under glass, and surrounded by people taking pictures. Pretty underwhelming in person but, what can you do?

John's favorite was the Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David (who is actually one of my favorite painters as well). It was huge.

Also quite popular, Venus de Milo......

We wandered some more and toured through the Napoleonic apartments. Did you know Napoleon III lived at the Louvre? Me neither!

Under the Pyramid

We eventually escaped the Louvre (after getting lost several times) and went to a market across the street where I bought some handmade soap. I LOVE hitting up street markets on vacation. You can usually find the best, most unique souvenirs at them. Unfortunately, they were closing up and it was really starting to pour while we shopped so, not much time there, sadly. In fact, I did a really lousy job of shopping on this trip. Super disappointed in myself. I intended to buy things at the airport since most of the popular stores have locations there (including the famed macarons of Laduree) but we ran out of time (ominous foreshadowing). Heading back in the direction of the hotel, we ate dinner at a little Italian dive but the food was pretty good.

Wine? Bien sur!

We went home (read: back to the hotel) and enjoyed some more wine, French TV, and off to dreamland. Bonne nuit, Paris!