Monday, July 30, 2012

Pumphouse Pub & Beerthirst July Long Table

We missed the last Pumphouse long table in June as we were in New York, so a pretty good excuse, but it was the bacon inspired dinner! Bacon. We missed you, bacon.  But the lovely chef, Daniela Iaci, saved us some of the chocolate bacon ice cream, much to our delighted surprise, that we consumed the following week.

If you’re not familiar with the Pumphouse Pub on Blundell Road in Richmond, I believe they have the largest number of taps in Richmond (24 taps), most of which are craft beer. They also maintain an extensive bottle list and update both lists weekly to add all the new goodies that come in.

They have great pub food along with a few specialty items like the butter chicken, perogies and deep sea pesto linguine. The portions are all generous, including the appetizers. Unless your name is Len, you won’t be able to crush a plate of nachos on your own.

So what was the theme for this long table? Summer. Yes, it’s finally arrived so start singing ♪♪ Summer summer summer summertime…. ♪♪  The dinner was paired with four different breweries’ lighter beers, all of which are great sessionable ales for those hot summer days.

Course One
Panzanella Salad with Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes and Zucchini
Paired with: Gordon Biersch Kolsch (4.6% ABV)

The salad was accompanied with large croutons and balsamic vinegar and paired well with the Kolsch. The Kolsch is a light amber beer with aromas of citrus and grains. It has a slight sweetness to it and a crisp, clean taste. Great summer beer.

Course Two
Plantain Pancake with Crispy Thai Sweet & Sour Pork
Paired with: Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen (5.5% ABV)

The pancake and sweet and sour pork was nicely presented and accompanied the Hefeweizen very well. The banana aromas and flavours in the heffy complimented the pork. The ale pours a hazy honey colour and apart from the strong banana taste, there are traces of cloves and spices. I’m not a heffy fan, but this one was pretty good.

Course Three
Nori-wrapped Tuna (Tataki style) with a Citrus Aloli & Wasabi Cream
Paired with: Elysian Yuzu Belgian Style Golden Ale (4.8% ABV)

The tuna was the highlight of the meal for me. Sashimi grade tuna, seared, and with a light crusting on the perimeter. My non-seafood-eating husband also enjoyed the tuna, which is a great compliment to Daniela. Perfectly prepared! The Yuzu Belgian pours a hazy golden hue and has aromas of spicy fruit, floral and malt. It has a bitter tang to it with a dry finish. Very drinkable, but not your typical Belgian.

Course Four
Moules et Frites: Curry Apple Mussels with French Fries
Paired with: Two Beers Panorama Wheat Ale (4.6% ABV)

The mussels were perfectly prepared and complimented the light, summer menu. I would have chosen skinny fries, but potato, potahto. The Panorama Wheat pours yellow/orange amber and has aromas of grain, pineapple, lemon and a hint of banana. The taste is very similar with maybe a grassy overtone.

Course Five
Seasonal Berry Cobbler
Paired with: Alameda Huckleberry Hound IPA (6.5% ABV)

The cobbler wasn’t too sweet and was loaded with fruit. Mine got polished off by none other than nacho-crusher Len (that should be his new nickname…) as I was already full from the last four courses. The Huckleberry Hound was a solid choice for this pairing, as obvious as the name implies (the berry part, not the dog). Another golden ale with a sweet, fruity aroma. Atypical of an IPA as the sweetness and surprizinginly subtle hops were the most distinctive characteristic. This beer and the Yuzu were my two favourites of the night.

Another solid food and beer pairing by Daniela and great service, as always, from the Pumphouse staff. Beerthirst gave away numerous bottles of the dinner brews and made a many patrons happy with their take home prizes (we won a bottle!). If you’re not already following Beerthirst on twitter (@Beerthirst), you should. Why? Because they’re obsessed with craft beer of course! They host many fun events and expose us to some great new beers. Check out their weekly fresh sheet and subscribe to their newsletters. What are you waiting for? Do it now you big procrastinator.

It was great to see a number of new faces at the event as we try to convert Bud drinkers one at a time… wahahahaha


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Smiley’s Public House Beer Drinker’s Dinner with Sierra Nevada

My husband Kelly and I enjoy attending longtables to experience new beers and to see how the chefs pair the various styles of beer to food. Thus, when I heard that one of my lunch haunts, Smiley’s Public House, was hosting a beer drinker’s dinner with Sierra Nevada, we decided to check it out.

We’ve had the classic Pale Ale and the Torpedo IPA before, but the other three beers listed on the menu were new to us: Summerfest (pilsner-style lager), Kellerweis (American hefeweizen) and Bigfoot Ale (barleywine). Chris from Sierra Nevada stopped at Elizabeth Station in Bellingham on his way up and picked up some Southern Hemisphere (which we tried in NYC recently). Too bad Chris didn’t grab a few Hoptimum Double IPA – at 100 IBU, this beer should give you a good punch in the taste buds. We’ll have to source that one next time we’re in the USA.

Throughout the evening, Chris came around to the tables to describe the beers and provide more history on Sierra Nevada. We spent a considerable amount of time chatting with him and it was great to hear some of his stories as he’s been in the industry for quite some time.

On to the dinner and pairings…

Upon arrival, we were served the Summerfest and an amuse bouche – a fresh herb crusted prawn fried in meyer lemon butter. I found the meyer lemon to be an excellent choice as it gave a nice citrus tang to the prawn. It paired well with the Summerfest (5%) which was crisp and had a clean finish. The lager has a bit of a grassy aroma and subtle citrus hops.

First Course
Smoked Duck Breast & Watercress Salad – roasted shallots, sorrel, blood orange.
Kellerweis Hefeweizen (4.8%)

The duck was flavourful and as the chef had just picked up the watercress from the market that morning, the salad was exceptionally fresh. With a subtle amount of citrus dressing drizzled on top, this was a light salad and an excellent pairing to the Kellerweis. The Hefeweizen had strong banana odours, spices and maybe a hint of honey. The flavour of banana was even more prominent on the palate with a hint of cloves, but I didn’t experience the spice until the finish.

Second Course
Locally Made Charcuterie & Cheese
Pale Ale (5.6%)

A well-endowed platter of four cheeses, green olives, cherries, paté and cold cuts was shared amongst four people. The cheeses were beautiful! They oozed of flavour and the strong cheeses paired well with the Pale Ale. The same can be said for the meats – all had different flavours and textures and the spiciness of the cold cuts was a welcome addition. The Pale Ale is one that most of us have probably had, and it will likely always remain a classic beer for Sierra Nevada. With aromas of piney hops and caramel notes, these flavours carry through to the palate, along with citrus hops and slight bitterness. A fine representation of an American Pale Ale.

Main Course
Slow Roasted Organic Pork Loin, swiss chard, kale, cauliflower puree, carmelized apple jus
Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2%)

This little piggy came home - all juicy and succulent and now, in my belly. The pork was appropriately cooked to release the juices and enhance this well prepared meat. The cauliflower puree was a superb side dish and a pleasant substitute for potatoes. But considering I heard chef Alvin comment that there may be a bit of butter in the dish (maybe a lot?), perhaps it wasn’t intended to be a healthier substitute. As my Dad would attest, it’s always better with butter. The Torpedo Extra IPA is a bold IPA and offers complex citrus, grapefruit, pine and herbal notes. The expected malt is evident, as are caramel flavours, and this brew leaves nice lacing. This is one of our favourite Sierra Nevada beers.

Palate Cleanser?
Thanks to Chris’ detour to Elizabeth Station, we had another beer unexpectedly added to the menu. The Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale (6.7%). This beer is made with New Zealand fresh hops and has an essence of earthy hops, citrus and pepper. On the palate, it leaves with prominent bitterness. A well balanced beer.

Local Cherry & Nectarine Cobbler
Bigfoot Ale Barleywine (9.6%)

The cobbler had just the right amount of sweetness to it as you wouldn’t want to pair a very sweet dessert with the barleywine. We’ve tried various barleywines but hadn’t experienced Bigfoot until now. And by experienced, I mean a tasting, not an encounter in the woods with Bigfoot… This ale has a dense malty aroma, caramel, toasted grains and hops. Although this is a big beer at 9.6%, somehow the usual alcohol taste was less evident in this barleywine. A very nice example of a barleywine indeed!

The evening concluded with a draw for prizes and as the last number was drawn, bingo! My ticket. I scored the last prize and luckily it was a women’s t-shirt – all the other winners were guys (the dinner crowd had only a handful of women, sadly).

I believe this was Smiley’s first beer dinner and they did a great job serving about forty people in a timely fashion. The chef did a fabulous job appropriately pairing the beers to the food and we found the food portions were generous, served alongside a 4 oz pour. The dinner and pairing cost $40, including tax and tip, and was a good value. If Smiley’s continues with their beer dinners, check one out as this one certainly didn’t disappoint.

(apologies for the crappy pictures – iPhone and too much crowding on the table makes for poor food/beer pictures)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Howe Sound Brewing Visit - Time for a 4 Way Right from the Source

We’ve made trips this year to Seattle and Portland to visit breweries and partake in a couple of beer festivals, but we haven’t spent time discovering what’s in our own backyard. Howe Sound Brewing is situated in picturesque Squamish, BC. The backdrop is the Stawamus Chief, which is a popular hiking destination, mountains and water – truly a beautiful location to visit. Us locals refer to Squamish as Squish (probably to their chagrin)...

Howe Sound also has an inn and two restaurants at the brewery so we packed up the dogs (yes, you can reserve a pet room!) and headed up to Squish for the night.

The Chief

Before checking out the tasty beers, we took the dogs for a walk around town. Turns out, you can get from one end of downtown to the other in about 10 minutes. Hmm. Plan B. Along our journey, we encountered three kids playing in the driveway. All came running over to pet the dogs (I’m so happy to have friendly dogs) and the best part was when the little boy asked if he could pet Murphy’s teeth. Que? Uh, no, probably not. Mom, Dad, take note. Your kid should be a dentist. Or a lion tamer. Eventually, we tired out the dogs and made our way to the restaurant for a late lunch and beers.

I started with the Baldwin & Cooper Best Bitter and next up, the High Tide Hemp Ale. The owner also graciously sent us over a paddle when she saw my tweet that we were enjoying their brews. So kind! The paddle consisted of the 4 Way Fruit Ale, Devil’s Elbow India Pale Ale, King Heffy and the Rail Ale Nut Brown. Later that night, I tried the Diamond Head Oatmeal Stout. Here are my tasting notes:

Baldwin & Cooper Best Bitter – ABV: 5.5%; Colour: Dark copper; Aroma: plum, toffee, raisins; Taste: sweet turns to medium bitter taste, malt, hops - well balanced

High Tide Hemp Ale – ABV: 5.5%; Colour: Red/amber; Aroma: caramel, light fruity hops; Taste: malty, slightly sour, bitter finish – nice English-style bitter

4 Way Fruit Ale – ABV 4.4%; Colour: Cloudy golden hue; Aroma: fruity! (surprise) mango, passion fruit, raspberry and pomegranate; Taste: mango and passion fruit were the most predominant – dry and refreshing summer beer. You could definitely drink this one on a hot summer day – cider drinkers would probably also enjoy this ale. This keg was the best I've had on tap and I've drank it at a few establishments this summer.

Devil’s Elbow India Pale Ale – ABV:  5.7%; Colour: Deep, hazy amber; Aroma: Malty, caramel, citrus; Taste: Citrus, malt, not a heavy hop taste, smooth finish

King Heffy – ABV: 7.7%; Colour: cloudy/golden; Aroma: banana, cloves, orange peel, spices; Taste: banana, cloves, hides alcohol content. I’m not a huge hefeweizen fan, but this was a pleasant wheat beer.

Rail Ale Nut Brown – ABV: 5.0%; Colour: dark brown; Aroma: roasted nuts/grains, malts, coffee; Taste: Similar to aroma with caramel notes and maybe a hint of chocolate

Diamond Head Oatmeal Stout – ABV: 5.0%; Colour: Dark brown; Aroma: roasted grains, coffee, chocolate, light smoke; Taste: Similar to aroma slight bitter chocolate finish, nutty

All of the beers on tap were sessionable and other than the Heffy, none were high alcohol content. Some of their seasonal beers have higher ABV (Total Eclipse of the Hop 8%, Pothole Filler Imperial Stout 9%, Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout 10%) and are great beers so grab them when they’re released!
Awards Case

The food at the hotel was good, service was attentive and they had a blues band on Saturday night. From the flyers we saw, it looks like they often have live entertainment on the weekend.

The only downside to the visit was the non-air conditioned hotel room. The rest of the hotel/restaurants are fully equipped, but not the rooms and it was unbearably muggy to endure. The small fan in the room helps a bit but we won’t be back in the summer unless the rooms get an upgrade. Our poor dogs were suffering!

Off to the Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria, BC in September so we hope to visit a few more local breweries on that trip. Until next time, enjoy great beers!

My kind of souvenirs

Monday, July 23, 2012

New York - Neon Hell, Craft Beer and Dino Bits

We’ve had a trip to New York planned since October – when you’re using Aeroplan points, you have to plan ahead. So it was a long wait from October until June but it finally arrived. Vancouver was unseasonably wet and rainy for June and we were looking forward to a bit of sun.

Chicago O'Hare Airport
Off we went on a glorious 6am flight, Saturday morning. Getting up at 3:30 is awesome. Ahem. Ok, not really but I’m trying to stay positive about it. We flew through Chicago and had an uneventful trip. O’Hare has a pretty cool walkway between the terminals. Lots of neon lights overhead.

We landed in La Guardia and got our bags quickly. I didn’t realize that it was a smaller airport and that the baggage area would be so easy and quick to maneuver. I had booked a car service so we had about 40 minutes to wait. We received the text saying the car was on its way, so I thought it was fruitless to call and say, We’re HERE! We waited patiently as the text also said the driver would text when he arrived. So, what do you get when you buy a car service Groupon? That’s right, you get what you pay for. Ten minutes after our pick up time, I called the driver. He’d been sitting about 10 feet from us for the last 20 minutes. Nope, he didn’t text. Nope, the car number on the text did not match he number he was holding. When we got in he asked why we didn’t just ask him if he was our driver. Silly me, I thought the information we were given actually had merit. No matter, we hop in and then he asks where we’re going. Really? The car company didn’t give you any information? Let me repeat, you get what you pay for.

Times Square – Neon Hell
We checked in and after a quick WiFi fix, we headed out to Times Square. We’ve all seen images of Times Square but it wasn’t what I was imagining. I thought it would be more open space and less body checking. Times Square will herein be referred to as Neon Hell in this post. I couldn’t stand it. Sorry New York tourist board, but what’s the appeal? Way too many people, jostling tourists, some naked cowboy dude, Spiderman with a fanny pack and cartoon characters in ill-fitting costumes that are grimy and rather creepy. Get me the hell out of here. Kelly saw (and yes, heard) my appeal to depart so we went east and found Heartland Brewery and Chophouse for dinner. We both had their seasonal voyage paddle with our dinner and found their beers decent and definitely better than the crap in Neon Hell. The Farmer John’s Oatmeal Stout was my favourite and Kelly liked the Buffalo Bock.  

After dinner, it was still early and being on PST, we still had some fuel left in us. We ventured to Hell’s Kitchen to The Pony Bar. We’d heard about the Pony Bar before we left so it was on our list of craft beer places to try. They had about 20 taps and two casks that night. I had Chelsea’s Hop Angel IPA and Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale. We sat at the bar and had a great night chatting with the friendly bartender as well as the two native New Yorkers next to us. I confessed my dislike for Neon Hell and they, of course, agreed. These guys were drinking some shots and told us we had to have one – called a pickle back. A what? A pickle back. We gave the, “uh, we’ll pass” but he insisted and put it on his tab. It’s a shot of whiskey followed up by a shot of, yes you guessed it, pickle juice. Sounds rather vile, but was actually pretty good. The Pony Bar makes their own pickle juice and according to our new pal, it’s the best in town. The Pony Bar is a small place but well worth the visit. All beers are $5 but they give you 8oz for the high alcohol content and 14oz for the others. They had some cool t-shirts and a hoodie but in order to get the hoodie, you have to drink 420 pints. Let’s do the math, 420 pints divided by 7 days = 60 per day. Yeah, not going to happen and so, that’s the story of how Kelly got a t-shirt instead of a hoodie

Yankees/Mets Game
We didn’t do much pre-planning for the trip as I dislike having to be somewhere at a specific time while on holidays. I don’t mind a few planned events but please, not every second mapped out. Luckily, Kelly’s the same way so it works for us. One thing we did do, the day tickets were released, was get tickets to the Yankees/Mets game at Yankee Stadium. So on Sunday, we grabbed a week-long Metro card and headed uptown to the Bronx. We had no chance of getting lost as we followed the sea of Yankees’ jerseys on the train. We felt the need to Yankee ourselves up and thus, grabbed a hat for Kelly and a t-shirt for me. Who’s a local now? That’s right. We are. Go Yanks. See, I even have the lingo down. National anthem time and I expected them to belt it out like we do at Canucks games but it wasn’t to be. Only a handful of people sang the National Anthem. Come to Canada, people, we’ll teach you patriotism. In the second inning, the Mets scored three runs and we were wondering if this was going to get ugly, but the Yankees rallied back and won 5 – 4. The winning run was scored in the bottom of the ninth – a walk off home run, baby. Needless to say, the Yankees fans were ecstatic, although there were a number of disappointed Mets fans at the game. Now, we need to discuss food, American baseball loving people. Some wise person must have legislated that the caloric count is to be posted next to the menu item. And holy mother of God, there are a lot of calories in the buckets of food. That’s right, buckets. Buckets of wings, sliders, chicken fingers – all served with fries, of course. We’re talking 1,500 – 2,500 calories. And it appeared that this wasn’t sharing food – get your hand out of my bucket…  So I did what any reasonable Vancouverite does and kept circling the stadium until I found over-priced sushi.

Meat Hook Lights at Five Napkin Burger
Dinner choice that night was Kelly’s pick and it consisted of one of his four food groups – that’s right, burgers.  Five Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen was the destination. However, as Kelly pointed out, you only get one napkin so it’s a bit of false advertising. He could have used at least two napkins as the bacon cheddar burger juices dripped down his arm a few times. Damn tasty, though. I had a veggie burger and it was awesome as well. The place was packed and we were pleased to see craft beer on their menu. The lights are adorned with meat hooks – pretty cool décor. Five Napkin is a block from the Pony Bar so we headed over there for beer après dinner. Tonight’s bartender outed Kelly as a Canadian from his accent.  Huh? We have an accent? Well maybe Kelly does. He did live on the east coast for a while. We had a couple of pints at the bar and guess what was on the TV? The Tony Awards. Not sports, the Tony’s. Only in New York would you see Tony groupies watching the TV and cheering. As it turns out, one of the guys who won for Newsies was the dad of a girl at the bar. Ok, not so odd then. I had the Southern Tier 2xIPA and the Great Divide Yeti Imperial Double Stout.

In Remembrance
One thing we definitely wanted to do was see the 9/11 Memorial. It still chokes me up while writing this that 2,977 people died on that horrible day. The oldest victim, 85 years old and the youngest, two.  I remember waking up on September 11, 2001 and hearing on the news that a plane had crashed into Tower One. At that point, it had just happened and no one knew why. When I got to work, coworkers and I converged in the boardroom and watched the newscast and saw the second plane crash into Tower Two. Like many, I’ll never forget that day. I truly believe I’ve become more emotional since that day. What tragic, senseless death and destruction. A friend of mine worked near the twin towers and saw people jump from the towers. How does one ever erase that from their mind. The memorial is beautifully laid out and includes the names of all that perished that day at the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and Flight 93, as well as the terrorist attack on February 26, 1993. If you recall, the World Trade Centre was the target of that terrorist attack when explosives were detonated in the garage killing six and injuring thousands. All 2,983 names are inscribed on bronze parapets that enclose two pools. The pools are set in the footprints of the original Twin Towers. Thirty foot waterfalls cascade into the pools, each descending into a centre void. I was surprised that it wasn’t open to the public but rather, you have to get tickets (without producing ID or payment) and then go through an airport-like security check. I can understand wanting to ensure that no one damages the memorial in an act of vengeance, but then why not look at our ID as well? The ticket process was a waste of time, in my opinion.

FDNY Memorial
9/11 Memorial Pool

Survivor Tree

There is a roped off tree known as the “survivor tree”. Originally planted in the 1970’s, this eight foot stump was the only remaining foliage from the site. It was nursed back to health and is now a vibrant 30+ foot Callery pear tree.

9/11 Memorial Pool
Beer Authority
After the memorial, we wandered back uptown through China Town, Little Italy, Tribeca, SOHO and headed to Birreria for a bite to eat, and a beer. We hopped on a train and just so you know, when Kelly’s eyes go really, really wide on a train and he’s staring at the map, we’re going the wrong way. I felt like we were on an episode of Planes Trains and Automobiles. YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY! Mapquest Burbidge, recalculating.  We hopped off, got on the uptown train and headed to Birreria. Sadly, they were closed for a private event that apparently, we weren’t invited to. Huh. Plan B time – head to Beer Authority for dinner.  By the way, if you’re sensing a theme here with the beer, it’s merely a coincidence. Hehe. I knew you wouldn’t believe me. Beer Authority is located at the Port Authority, right across from the New York Times, and was a fine choice.  The beer list was amazing – 90 taps and 100 bottles. Stick a pin in me, cuz I’m done. This may be heaven. I had Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian IPA and Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (and no, there isn’t a theme on the beer choices/names so don’t jump to conclusions). Food wise, Kelly ordered the mac and cheese with Portobello mushrooms, garlic, goat cheese and fresh herbs. O. M. G. It was ah-maze-ing. Beer Authority also has a page in their menu solely devoted to beer/food pairings. I’m really surprised that more beer-loving venues don’t do this. While we dined, we saw the video of eye brow threading over and over and over again at the place across the street. We also had a bird’s eye view of the Peep Show door and watched to see who entered, but no one did. Sad. Poor peep show people. Guess they have to wait until the wee early hours to get their clientele to show up. New to Beer Authority as of July 3rd is the rooftop bar/restaurant. Too bad it wasn’t open while we were there but it’s definitely on our list of places to return to one day!

Although we’re not the typical museum people, we wanted to see the American Museum of Natural History and mostly, for the dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs, well, at least the one from Toy Story – Rex is soooo cute and so stupid. Love him and his little 2 inch arms. I digress.  Back to the dino bones. The museum was pretty cool and there were lots of bones from Alberta. It’s amazing how they’ve uncovered so many bones and reconstructed them. And the size of these buggers – I would NOT want to be running from one of them. Crush you like a bug, a small bug, they would. These dudes were huge. And if you think cleaning up after your dog is bad, just imagine the presents these suckers would leave.

When we left the museum, it was raining. We had planned on hitting the Guggenheim as well, but we spent too much time playing with the dinosaurs so we headed back towards the hotel. It was coming down in buckets by the time we got to our station. Dumb tourists – no jacket, no umbrella. Super. C’est la vie, we’ll run the block to the pub across from the hotel. You wouldn’t want us to run two whole blocks, in the rain, would you? We sat in Rosie O’Grady’s watching the rain come down over a glass of wine and espresso martini then headed the final, wet, block to the hotel and got ready for dinner.
June 12, 2010

Anniversary Dinner
Today was also our second anniversary and we had reservations at Marea, a lovely Italian restaurant by Central Park.  This two Michelin star restaurant was a perfect choice for dinner. The restaurant was packed and vibrant, but the noise wasn’t overwhelming. We could still carry on a conversation (and hear the blowhard beside us who should probably ditch the long pony tail, earring and attitude). Twit. The service was attentive but not overdone. We were served a lovely cucumber and caviar amuse bouche while we let our bottle of Brunello di Montalcino breath. Kelly started with the Rigatoni – genovese ragu, celery & parmigiano. The house-made pasta was perfectly cooked and flavourful. For our mains, I had the Capesante – seared sea scallops, English peas, green apple, oilo di cenere, smoked pork broth. The scallops were beautifully done and the accompaniments, perfect. Kelly had the Bistecca – grilled creekstone 50-day dry aged sirloin, braised romaine, bone marrow panzanella.  The steak – perfecto. When I made the reservation, I asked for a quiet corner being that it was our anniversary. The restaurant obviously made note of this as they brought us a complimentary dessert, which was their Bomboloni – deep fried doughnuts, zabaglione crema, espresso crumble chocolate sauce with white espresso gelato. Oh my. Yes, it was that good. But that wasn’t the end of it – they brought us a selection of house-made chocolates. The dark chocolate was one of the finest chocolates I’ve ever had. We had an amazing meal at Marea and would highly recommend it.

Walking back to the hotel, we stopped at The Irish Pub for a night cap and the bar was hopping with Miami Heat fans cheering on the boys. Which colour jersey are they? I’m a big fan, you can tell. We packed it in after one beer so I can’t give you the highlights of the game. Get over it.

Getting My Culture On
Another day of rain in the forecast so off to the Guggenheim. I can’t say that I’m much of an art affectionado, but it is the Guggenheim after all. The interior of the building is a unique spiral with art lining the outer walls. We did a hot lap through the various pieces of art and special exhibits. I wish I appreciated art more but I’m one of those people that artists hate by saying “I could do that”. But seriously, there were two painted canvases side-by-side. One was green, the other red.  All one tone, nothing else that my untrained eyes could see was unique. I’m a whiz with a roller, just saying….

After the Gugg, we took a jaunt through Central Park on our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kelly especially wanted to see the Arms and Armour exhibit. There were some wee little men in armour back then. Clearly, they didn’t have growth hormones in their chicken. Interesting how some of the armour protected the family jewels while others omitted that piece. Huh. I’d think the little fighter dudes would vote to save their twig and berries and give up a finger or two, if material coverage was an issue.

I should point out that every school in the greater New York district decided to send all the little screamers on a field trip this week. We dodged sample people at both museums and I’m pretty sure I saw one riding on the back of the armoured horse. Bad kiddie.

Book of Mormon
That evening, we saw the Book of Mormon. We bought tickets months ago as we’d heard the production was hilarious, and it didn’t disappoint. We, and the entire audience (including the non-English speaking pair next to me), laughed from the opening scene to the end. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s written by the same guys that created South Park so that should properly set the stage for the type of humour. The story revolves around two Elders who go on their mission to a remote village in Northern Uganda. Ding dong… Hello!! My name is Elder Price… Elder Price is the top student whereas Elder Cunningham didn’t bother to read the teachings of Joseph Smith. I won’t put in a spoiler alert, but the writing and acting is superb. If you don’t get offended by a story poking at religion, see this show! Check out the 2012 Tony Awards for the opening song. The only shock of the night didn’t come from the script, it was their drink prices. I ordered a vodka soda and Kelly had a rum and coke. $34 please. Whaaaa? I didn’t order the bottle! The drinks came in these adult sippy cups and apparently you got a discount if you refilled. Yeah, no thanks, fool me once…

After the show, we went to John’s Pizzeria for dinner. One of my work colleagues recommended the place and it was worthy of a visit. The two-level restaurant was packed and served the usual pizza and pasta menu items. One of the pizza chefs was busy tossing dough and making pie right in the restaurant area. Good service, good food and reasonably priced.

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
We booked online to make sure we didn’t waste the day in a line-up for the ferry and at 11am, we were off to the Statue of Liberty. My assistant had told me we had to photo bomb someone on the trip. I’d been trying to get Kelly to pose beside someone else’s picture but thus far, he wouldn’t do it. I’m pleased to report that Kelly posed with some Chinese tourists at the Statue. Stacey will be so proud. The Statue is a site to see but unfortunately, the observation areas within her big skull are closed for renovations. A lobotomy of sorts, perhaps?

The lovely lady
Photo bomb! Booya!

Ellis Island

Ellis Island was of particular interest to me as I knew that my Grandma’s sisters had emigrated from Ireland, whereas my Grandma went through Halifax. I found the names of my great-aunts as well as what is likely my Dad’s paternal Irish relatives and maybe my Mom’s from Austria.

Area where emmigrants lined up to be processed

Birreria Rooftop Restaurant
Stairs to Birreria
We made a return trip to Birreria, which is kitty corner from the Flatiron building. Birreria is the rooftop restaurant at the back of Eataly – take the elevator up to be closer to beer heaven! Eataly is pretty amazing looking as well with tons of food options and a pretty good beer selection in their fridge. However, we skipped through Eataly (perhaps literally) and headed up to Birreria. After a short wait at the bar, while consuming one of their tasty beers Sofia (withier) and Gina (thyme pale ale), we were seated. Today was the first sunny day we’d had in New York and they put the Canary in the sun. This wasn’t going to end well so we asked to be moved before my pasty white skin rebelled. Shade, all the better to drink beer, my pretty. Our lunch was tasty – I dined on a mushroom dish while Kelly enjoyed a house made sausage plate. I sensed our server wanted to turn the table over as he didn’t return to get us another beer. We had to wave him down to order a bomber to share of Southern Tier Unearthly Double IPA.  Returning to Birreria was well worth it and a highly recommended spot for lunch and/or beers.

East Coast Beer Crawl
You fellow beer nerds will appreciate that since we were going to be in NYC, we had to get our East Coast Beer Crawl Untappd badge! So today we made a point of visiting two more of the venues on the list (Pony Bar was already visited) as you need to check in at three locations. Next stop, Rattle N Hum. Their beer list is constantly changing, as taps will, but the selection was great. About 40 taps to choose from so we each had a paddle. I had the Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA, Climax Nutbrown Ale, Bear Republic Barrel Aged Nectarine Grizz and the Wander Star Bert’s Disqualified Imperial Stout. The winner in my paddle was the stout. Kelly had the Mission shipwrecked Imperial IPA, Coney Island Geektoberfest American Strong Ale, Magic Hat Elder Betsy Wheat Ale and the Southern Tier 2X Stout. There weren’t any outstanding ones to report on, sadly. We shared an order of IPA fries which are spiced in IPA brine, fried twice then finished with house made HOP salt. Oh yum. When we left around 6pm, the place was packed.

Rattle n Hum

It’s a great neighbourhood find just a few blocks from the Empire State Building. Speaking of which, that was our next touristy thing on the list. Up we went. Up, up, up. The view from the 86th floor is obviously great but the pictures didn’t turn out that well as the sky was hazy. Oh well, memories last longer than Instagram, right? I hot lapped it while Kelly did a slow saunter and he eventually caught up to me in the lobby, ready to escape the masses. By the way, I’m pretty disappointed that King Kong wasn’t hanging off the side of the building. Work on that, will you New York? (two strikes, Neon Hell and no King Kong)

Post King Kong #fail, we went to another bar on the list, the Ginger Man but the after work crowd had already taken over and it was going to be challenging to get a beer at the bar. Ciao, lovely beer, perhaps we’ll be back. We walked back towards our hotel and stopped at the Halal Cart at 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. This was recommended to us by a Vancouver foodie - $6 for the chicken and rice. You’re probably thinking it was just a small container for $6. Nope, it was one of those round pasta sized take out containers. Thankfully we shared this and we’re doubly thankful we were warned about the red/hot sauce prior to dousing the chicken. I’d have to do the DNA on it, but I’m pretty sure this hot sauce comes from fire breathing dragons. So go easy on the red and heavier on the yummy white sauce unless you want to burn a hole in your esophagus.

Shot from the Empire State Building

Final Day in NYC
Friday has arrived, all too quickly, and we did more walking around hitting the NHL store (dismal failure for Canucks fans – it’s all east coast centric) and FAO Schwartz. We’d gone into the Toy’s ‘R Us in Times Square earlier in the week and saw some cool 8’ high Lego figures. The Hulk was about 8 feet high and wide (he’s a muscular guy, you know). Hulk, SMASH! They also had Lego buildings and the Statue of Liberty in Lego – I can’t imagine how long those must take to construct. My favourites from FAO were Batman and Captain Jack Sparrow. I wonder how I can get those in my carry on… Of course we had to visit the keyboard on the floor and watched some pretty talented employees pound out a song with their feet. Next stop, perusing the candy aisles. Holy crap, there’s a lot of large candy here. More than supersized, it looked like Dino snacks. The coolest part, though, was that at the back they had the Muppet Whatnot Workshop where you can custom build your own Muppet! $100 for this privilege, which we didn’t do, but it looked pretty cool.

We hit our third bar, Blind Tiger, to get our Untappd badge. We had a late lunch and a couple of pints in this great bar. It’s small, but in a cool little neighbourhood. I counted about 30 taps as well as a comprehensive bottle list with a vintage selection. The bartender was super friendly and knowledgeable about his beers. I’m sure we’ve all encountered bar staff/servers who didn’t know a Corona from a Wit, and thankfully, this isn’t the case at Blind Tiger. It’s the type of place I could see myself frequenting if I lived in NYC. I had the Greenport Big TIPA IPA and the Founders Cerise – a great sour.

Blind Tiger

Nice Work if You Can Get It
Nope, I’m not talking about being a beer taster (although I’m game for that if someone wants to employ me), I’m referring to the play with Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara. We bought some last minute cheap tickets for this play and laughed the entire time. Every once in a while, you saw the Ferris Bueller quizzical eyebrow lift just to add that extra humour to the scene. All of the actors were fabulous! Catch this show if you’re in NYC.

Farewell, NYC
Most mornings, we had a quick, but tasty, egg wrap at the 810 Deli by our hotel so we thought we’d try something different on our last day. Well, different it was. I’m not sure how we missed the sign that said SINGING WAIT STAFF, but we did. Imagine my unpleasant surprise when one of the servers was belting out a show tune while walking on top of the booth we were in. Please don’t step on my hair… Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a unique experience, to say the least. You’re jammed into the tables like sardines, the service was slow since the servers take time to sing, and it’s damn loud in there for breakfast hours. The old ladies from Oklahoma thought it was the best thing they’d witnessed since throwing their panties at Tom Jones, but me, not so much. Needless to say you couldn’t carry on a conversation in there so if you want to ignore your breakfast companion, this is the place to go!

We had a great time exploring NYC but I think I need to find a better balance between seeing the “mandatory” touristy sites and just exploring the city. I felt like we didn’t really experience New York, if that makes any sense. Maybe if I’d seen Spider Man swooping down Broadway, I’d think differently.