Friday, December 23, 2011

The Fridge is Full of Holiday Cheer!

As much as we hug trees and conserve energy in this household, we keep a second fridge/freezer in the garage to host the beer collection, Gatorade (to aid us after too much beer) and various awesome vodkas are on a wine rack in the freezer (seriously). In the past six months, my husband Kelly and I have become craft beer nerds and have loved every minute of it. We were already fans of Kelowna’s Tree Brewing, Aldergrove’s Dead Frog and Fernie Brewing amongst other local brew houses, but we weren’t very knowledgeable about the many delicious varieties of beer and how big craft beer is in Canada. We’ve never liked anything with “lite” or, god forbid, “lime” in the title but our beer-virgin taste buds were about to be woken up.

We have to give street cred to Allan at Hog Shack Cook House in Steveston. We stumbled upon this Kansas City inspired BBQ shack in the spring and were hooked immediately on their amazing food and craft beer list. When they advertised a Craft Beer 101 course, we signed up. It was just us and another couple, but Allan treated us to a vast array of beers as well as a massive plate of yummy BBQ.

We had samples from all of these bottles, as well as a few they had on tap. We quickly gained an appreciation for beers other than pale ale and heard about the local beer society, CAMRA. Soon thereafter, we got our CAMRA memberships and attended Too Hop to Handle, Oktoberfest and the Tour de Richmond pub crawl. Wow – amazing limited release beers were consumed and new favourites formed. Not to mention a fun bunch of people!

So now the holidays are here and our beer fridge is stocked. Some of our favourites are from Driftwood, Elysian, Lagunitas, Red Racer, Phillips, NorthCoast and many, many others. We've been a big fan of the limited release bombers and purchase most of our beers at specialty liquor stores like O'Hare's Pub and Central City.

We attended a long table at the Pumphouse Pub in October and are going back for an amazing menu and beer pairing on New Year’s Eve. They tweeted, looking for someone to blog about the long table, so I offered to write something for them. Blogging about food and beer is new to me, so hopefully I do it justice! Stay tuned for my post on January 1st, well, maybe on January 2nd J

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

San Jose Game 4 Road Trip!

May 13, 2011 Let’s see, it’s been 17 years since the Canucks have been in Round 3 (that’s about 2,000 game-day beers ago). 1994 was such a roller coaster and emotional series – my BF Trevor was still captain, Captain Kirk was standing on his head and we entered the playoffs as the seventh seed in the newly renamed Western Conference. But alas, those pesky NY Rangers beat us in game 7 with a score of 3-2. Let’s not talk about the riot that ensued post-game, I was too busy crying in my beer (literally).

So here we were, entering Round 3 again in 2011 and once the schedule was released, we decided that we were going to San Jose to see game 4! Why not? You only live once and what a blast to go cheer on your home team in another city. Game 4 landed on Sunday, May 22nd and it was the long weekend to boot. Perfect. We’ll fly out Saturday and return Monday. In typical fashion, the Aeroplan website was down all morning so I was forced to purchase our tickets. Ouch. Well, I guess we didn’t think this journey was going to be free. Alaska Airlines it is – 6:15am flights. Super.

Now to get tickets to the game. My friend Darcia was going down for Friday’s game as well and managed to purchase Friday’s tickets through Ticketmaster. We weren’t so lucky for the Sunday game, but ended up getting broker tickets centre ice, row 22 right behind the Canuck’s bench. Yahoo!

Hmm, guess I’d better call Mom and see about looking after the dogs. I gave Mom a call and told her we were going to San Jose for the game and could they dog sit? She laughed at me and asked what if we couldn’t look after them? Yeah, guess I should have checked that first but it was a bit of a whirlwind trying to book a flight before those jerks at Expedia changed their prices yet again (and not for the cheaper). Sorry doggies, I promise I wouldn’t have left you to fend for yourselves. In usual awesome parental fashion, Mom and Dad were looking after Frick and Frack for the weekend while we went to support the boys.

May 21st…4:00am came damn early. Especially since I set the alarm for 4:15 but someone who will remain nameless, thought 4:00 was a better time and set his alarm accordingly. Ahem. Quick shower, toss the remaining stuff in the luggage, don our Canuck jerseys and make sure Canuck Spud is in my purse. We’re off to the airport! Needless to say traffic was pretty light at 4:45 and we were at the customs line up in no time. I love Nexus. Let me say it again, I LOVE NEXUS! You have my retinas, my finger prints and probably my DNA but I don’t care, I didn’t have to wait in line. At all. Ha ha all you people sleepily moving like sheep in the line-up. I’m surprised we weren’t served a mimosa at the booth.

Next, security. The machine beeped for both of us so we both got the 5am frisking and they didn’t even buy us a drink first. Clearly they think we’re easy. I wonder if having Spud in my purse had anything to do with that. He probably looks like a small rodent with rigamortis, holding a hockey stick. Anyway, after getting felt up (and down) they let us go and off to Starbucks we went.

Flew to Seattle on a little Dash 8 and had a two hour layover before our flight to San Jose. It’s 7:30am. That’s right, time for a breakfast beer. We ended up at Wolfgang Pucks and had a yummy breakfast. They make the bread products right there in their clay oven. And to wash down my ciabatta egg sandwich (Kelly had a breakfast pizza), Blue Moon pale ale. After breakfast, we went to our gate and low and behold, another bar. Still another half hour until boarding so we did what any respectable Canadian would do, hit the bar. Kelly had another beer whereas I switched it up and had a lime margarita. Nothing says hello Seattle like tequila in the morning. Ran into a pair of Canuck fans at the bar and another 30 or so at the gate. Amazing! I didn’t think there would be this many Canuck fans going to San Jose!

We arrived in San Jose just after noon and headed to the Fairmont. Beautiful, sunny day! After check-in, time for a quick nap before we hit the town. We were back on the street, in our Canuck t-shirts this time, by 2:00 but we couldn’t find a patio to go have a drink. The downtown area is not terribly busy on the weekend and most of the stores and restaurants were closed. After walking north, south, east and west and not finding what we were looking for, we headed back to the Fairmont for some lunch as it was about 4pm now. We sat in the bar area and watched some golf as well as the traffic in the hotel – Canuck fans, a large Indian wedding and a prom. Ah, which dinner should we crash? Me thinks we wouldn’t blend in well in our Canuck gear, but I guess it depends on how much the guests are drinking. Don’t you remember me? I’m cousin Lynn from the northern side of town, we’re a bit lighter there. During our lounge lollygagging, we were eavesdropping on the table of NHL guys next to us. We finally figured out they were media, and likely NBC. Nothing terribly interesting to report but one of the guys stopped to talk to us on the way out. He saw that we were Canuck fans so he was interested in talking hockey for a few minutes. Nice guy.

After refueling, we headed out again and this time found Gordon Biersch Brewery. Excellent. Sign me up for a beer sampling. We both had a sampling of six beers and they were ok, but nothing really stuck out for either of us. We sampled the Golden Export, Hefeweizen, Czech Pilsner, Märzen, Schwarzbier and a seasonal ale that was a cross between the Hefeweizen and the Pilsner. 7/10 at best for most of them.

Back to the hotel to meet Darcia for a drink and get our game tickets. Ran into more media in the elevator – this time a Team 1040 guy and Kelly recognized his voice. I think this impressed the guy. I wouldn’t have had a clue who he was if he didn’t sound like Jim Robson, Shorty, Garrett or Larscheid.

Around 8:45pm, Kelly and I headed over to Mortons for their Bar Bites menu. Awesome snacks for $6/$7 – we ended up getting the blue cheese fries and the prime rib mini sandwiches. The manager dude told us that we just missed the whole team – the Canucks had been there for dinner and left about ½ hour ago. D’oh! C’est la vie. We were both falling asleep in our fries and as they had been under the grill to melt the cheese, not a good idea. Having a french fry burn on my forehead would be hard to explain. Or not. Crazy Canuck fans. Off to bed to get ready for game day tomorrow!

May 22nd … Good morning Canucks fans, it’s GAME DAY!! Game starts at noon so we got our Canuck butts out of bed and down in the lobby by 10:00am. We figured that we’d head over towards the arena for breakfast. It’s about a 20 minute walk from the hotel and there were hundreds of Canuck fans coming from all directions. What an amazing sight! Unfortunately, we didn’t see a breakfast place so beer and hotdogs for breakfast, I guess. Ah, the sacrifices we make for our boys. We got to the HP Pavilion and all that we could see were Canuck fans. In the plaza, in the park, on the street (then the police blocked it off for us). Freakin’ amazing! And we were there to join in with the cheering, hooting and hollering. Lots of camera rolling and getting footage of the crazy fans. Once the doors opened, we went in and walked around the lower concourse to check out the beer choices. We were pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t a Bud-centric arena. Lots of choices and after the tour, we settled on a Lagunitas India Pale Ale and a Fat Tire Amber Ale. Next, the greasiest little pizza I’ve ever had. Blah. Had to wash that down with my beer and replenish. The two people that were pouring our beers were quite nice and as we were getting ale #2, the Shark came by kicking a blown up killer whale. The beer chick took our picture whilst Kelly’s head was eaten by the shark. Mmmm Canadian ham. We hit the same beer stand a few more times during the game to the point where the guy had my beers ready and the women knew I wanted my receipt. Excellent service!

Off to our seats – section 101, row 22. We were right at centre ice and behind the Canuck bench. We were super early so we converged with hundreds of Canuck fans right by the Canuck bench. We waited for the team to come out for warm-up. To occupy ourselves, many renditions of Go Canucks Go! and Oh Canada ensued. I love Canadians. The team finally came out, did some skating, shooting and stretching. You could see the suppressed grins on some of the guy’s faces – and they should be impressed that thousands of their fans made the trip to San Jose. Off for another beer then GAME ON! We met Darcia and her friend Selam at the seats and soon, the game was to begin. The national anthem singer, once again, slowed it down to a snail’s pace. Oh my – please speed it up, our anthem isn’t the death march, buddy. The people around us were nice (well, most of them). The woman next to me started chatting the moment she sat down. She says “what, you don’t have a sign? Why don’t you have a sign? My sister lives in North Vancouver and I want to get on TV!” The guy behind Kelly, though, was miffed at me for leaning forward in my seat. We’re talking a slight bend just to get into the game, not standing, not sitting on top of my seat, LEANING into the play. Kelly pulls my shoulder back, gets the “look” from me and tells me not to lean forward. Me – why not? Dude behind him, “Don’t lean forward!!” Screw that, I paid probably 3x what he did for a ticket and if I don’t want to sit up and balance fruit on my head, I’m not going to. I told him too bad, so sad, and that was the last of it (ok, there might have been a bad word uttered too, but I’ve paid off the witnesses). Anyway, I barely leaned into the play and he didn’t say another word.

Some guys a few rows in front of us didn’t have it so lucky, though. They got booted out of the game and for no apparent reason. We didn’t see an altercation or anything. We ran into them later at the bar and they said that, by accident, a little bit of beer was spilled on one of the Shark fans. He apologized, many times, offered to buy him a beer – seemed sincere – but since they could, they had them kicked out. Unbeknownst to the Shark grouches, the building people relocated the Canuck fans to Club Seats, row 4. Not such a bad deal. So apparently, they believed the Canuck’s fans, who, I might add, never even made a scene as they were being escorted out.

If you watched the game, and if you’re reading this blog I assume you did, we won 4 – 2!! Three straight two-man advantage chances and we capitalized on all three! Three goals in a span of 1:55 – which was also a record as the first team in NHL history to score three goals with a two-man advantage in the playoffs. Always nice to make history when it’s for good reasons! After the game, we staying in the stands for a few minutes to let the Shark fans pile out. Once we got into the concourse, we were told that all Canuck fans were meeting in Section 224 so off we went, telling as many Canuck fans as we could while enroute. And it was a zoo in Section 224. Jam packed full of jersey-wearing, happy (make that very happy) fans. I ran into Graeme from work and we cheered some more. Again, we sang Oh Canada and topped it off with a few renditions of na-na na-na, na-na na-na, hey-hey, goodbye and chants of WE WANT THE CUP! Things got a little harry for a minute when a Shark fan stole the blow-up Stanley Cup from a Canuck fan – the chase ensued and the fan got it back. But that wasn’t without a toe-to-toe face off. Some angry words were exchanged and it looked like a fight was brewing. I told our foursome that we should head out – I wasn’t sticking around for a brawl. But within a few seconds, tension alleviated and they didn’t duke it out. Eventually, we piled out of the concourse and headed down the stairs to the front of the HP Pavilion. There must have been at least 1,000 fans there cheering and waving their towels. What an awesome experience! Even the cops were nice to us – three of them posed with us three chicks.

It took awhile for us to yell ourselves hoarse and we needed to lubricate our poor little throats. What’s that, a beer you say? OK! En mass, the fans all started to head to the pub area of town (where we clearly couldn’t locate on our own the day before). I’m not sure if they pre-arranged to allow us in, as some pubs were refusing service to Canuck fans (no joke), but we filled the Old Wagon Saloon with Canuck fans. We were standing in line when one of the owners, Francesco Aquilini, showed up with his buddy. Everyone cheered (but that still didn’t get us a free round of shooters – cheap ass). In typical Darcia fashion, she greased the palm of the doorman and in we went. She’s a good travel companion! We had an awesome afternoon/night of drinking beer and making new friends. It included me putting the rest of my tattoos on strangers (all in respectable locations), Spud giving little high-fives to everyone and posing for photo ops, hugging it out with the six Sharks fans (who were all cool) and we learned a new song. The table next to us started it and it goes…. We’re blue! We’re white! We’re fucking dynamite! Van-cou-ver, Van-cou-ver. Round two, we joined in. Round three, the whole bar was singing and Aquilini was grinning ear to ear. Catchy tune, don’t you think? I’m still singing it. At some point, we left the bar and headed to Santana Row for some Asian food. Don’t ask me what time that was – all I know is that it was still Sunday. It was tasty and post-dinner, time to head back to the Fairmont for a few hours of sleep. Kelly and I were flying out at 6:15am again (what’s with this flight schedule!) so a 4:15am alarm again. Blah.

May 22nd … We both had a restless sleep – I think I was afraid we’d sleep in –so I got up without the assistance of my alarm at 4am. We tossed everything in the bag and headed downstairs to meet Selam. Ten minutes passes. No Selam. I don’t know her last name but I have the front desk guy look her up by first name. Nothing comes up. Well we can’t miss our flight so we grab a cab and I text Darcia, not really expecting her to hear her phone at 4:45 but miraculously she does and calls Selam. Here’s the kicker, though. We stand in a stupid line-up at Alaska because none of the machine we went to allowed check-in, just reprinting of boarding cards and I didn’t check in online this time. And they’re training. Can you say SLOW? About 10 people in line in front of us and half an hour later, we have boarding passes. Off to security and who do we see about 30 people in front of us? Yup, Selam. She found a check-in machine. Those machines must be where the bars in San Jose are hiding. We made it through security in time to grab a Vitamin Water and head to board our flight to Portland. I really wanted a Gatorade, but vitamins will have to do. After all, our bodies are our temples and we were so kind to them all weekend (hence why I’m scheduling my liver transplant for the week after the Stanley Cup Parade marches down Robson Street).

Another hour layover in Portland and had breakfast (and beer) then on a little Beaver for the flight home. More media sitting behind us and chatting away to me about the game and the Canucks going all the way.

The only casualty of the weekend, besides the credit card, was my jersey. There’s a mystery party stain on the sleeve. It looks suspiciously like Shark blood, some may say it’s ketchup, but they weren’t there…. Well I can’t wash it now. Maybe after we win the cup!

What a weekend! We’re so glad we were fiscally irresponsible and planned this whirlwind weekend. That’s an experience we’ll remember for a very long time. And now that we’re in the Stanley Cup Finals, we may have to plan a Round 4 road trip.

Go Canucks Go!