Sip Trips #164: European Escape (Part 1)

The Sip Family has wrapped our seemingly annual trek to Europe and have a few days to recover and repack for our next adventure aboard an Alaskan cruise. With so little time at hand, let’s get right to the wrap-up of our most recent crossing of the pond. Part one, will look at our stops in London and Sicily:

Our group of three couples, three babies and two grandmas began our travels in London. On our first evening, weary from the journey, we ventured to The Spencer Pub, located near our Airbnb. Despite the rest of the group each ordering Fish & Chips, I was craving a beef burger. It was delicious and a good choice, although no one was complaining about their meal. To pair with the dinner, I ordered a pint of Watney’s Sarcasm Citrus Pale Ale, which was tasty.

proper pub

After a night’s rest, we visited Windsor Castle. Following a self-guided tour of the grounds, we popped into the Tower Tea Room at the Harte and Garter Hotel & Spa, as the ladies wanted to enjoy an afternoon tea. Being the only guy in the group, I didn’t have much choice, but made the best of the situation, ordering a bottle of Windsor & Eton Guardsman Best Bitter.

With all our group finally amassed, including friends living in London, our next endeavour took us to Hampton Court. The day began with a meal at The Bishop Pub, where I enjoyed a Buttermilk Chicken Burger and pint of Meantime London Pale Ale. I always marvel at how low the alcohol percentage is on beers in London with it being rare to see something surpass 5%. Certainly not what I’m used to at home.

With babies in tow and the girls wanting to see a theatre production, the guys spent a night in on the Saturday, while we would get our turn out on Sunday (on Mother’s Day of all days). We took full advantage of our evening though, stocking up on beers to be enjoyed. My brews included Camden Hells Lager, Gipsy Hill & Yeastie Boys Bogan Bogan Double IPA, Drygate Disco Fork Lift Truck Mango Pale Ale, Drygate Gladeye IPA and Vocation Pride & Joy Pale Ale.

babysitting.jpg

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we convened at Ting in the infamous Shard building for their Shangri-La Royal High Tea. To start, Mrs. Sip and I ordered one of each of their cocktails, which included the Little Miss Royal (vodka, ratafia, isake classic and egg white) and The Little Prince (gin, blue curacao, pineapple, lemon and pastis glacial mint). These drinks were very boozy, which turned some of our group off, but that’s just the way I like my libations.

Then, it was time for the guys to take off and watch the end of the English Premier League season. My two comrades are Liverpool supporters and picked The Comedy Pub to watch the games amongst fellow fans. There, we drank quite a bit, remaining at the bar well after the crowds cleared. Over the session, I tried pints of the Camden Pale Ale and Doombar Amber Ale.

Our next stop was Waxy O’Connors, which is a very cool place with multiple levels and nooks buried underneath the city. After a few more rounds, we decided some food was in order and stopped at the nearest Pizza Hut (cause we’re classy like that) for a couple pies and, you guessed it, even more beers!

pizza hut

The next day, we were off to Sicily, Italy for the second leg of our journey. After a day of travel and some settling in to our place, we went for a late dinner at Ristorante Borgo dell’Etna. There, I enjoyed a serving of their Pasta al Ragu, while a few of us split an 8-Euro litre of house white wine. Gotta love Italian vino pricing!

On day two, we visited the city of Taormina. Unfortunately, it rained pretty heavily that day (as it did nearly every day of our Italy stay, despite our friend’s guidebook saying it rarely rained in Sicily), so we took refuge at La Cisterna del Moro. With a great view, I dined on a scrumptious Calzone Saporito (tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichoke), paired with a half-litre Moretti Rossa beer.

Day three in Sicily finally brought mostly good weather, so we partook in wine tastings at both Firriato Winery and Gambino Vini. Both places had their own charms and we very much enjoyed this day, which offered some easier road circumstances for us drivers. Baby Sip also liked running around the ground, collecting corks and pinecones.

wine more room.jpg

On our final day in Sicily, we booked a Godfather Tour, as a number of scenes from the trilogy were filmed around the island. Getting off to a rough start, due to more inclement weather and traffic gridlock, a portion of our tour was altered from an outdoor wine tasting to a meal at Il Padrino Restaurant. There, we were served about 15 different seafood dishes, with my favourites being shrimp in thousand island dressing and breaded mussels. The desserts were also nice, accompanied by homemade Limoncello, Grappa and Amaro, which you could pour as much as you wanted for yourself. The tour wrapped with a stop in the village of Savoca, where we enjoyed a couple beers to end the day.

Taking advantage of our beautiful Airbnb property, we did a few meals in, enjoying a number of Italian beers and wines to unwind after each busy day of sightseeing. My selection included: Cavaliers Birra Speciale Rossa Artigianale; Arcana Golden Ale, Red Ale and White Ale; Patronus Weissbier; Birotti Weissbier; and Briere De Haute Fermentation La Blonde De Ch’nord, which was my favourite of the bunch.

Upon leaving Italy for Malta (part two of this Sip Trips review), I bought a bottle of Fuoco dell’Etna at the airport, lured in by the bottle’s design which looks like a volcano has erupted (complete with a rocky texture), as well as the liqueur’s 50% alcohol percentage. The booze is supposed to include flavours such as strawberry, citrus and Sicilian herbs, so I’m looking forward to experimenting.

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Sip Trips #163: Sudsy Events

The past week in Sip AdvisorLand started with a bang as we attended our much-anticipated Mucha Lucha beer pairing dinner at El Santo in New Westminster. Working with Steel & Oak and Four Winds breweries, El Santo’s chef concocted a delicious six-course meal, featuring grilled rhubarb; chocolate-crusted elk; flaked salmon; bison flank; charred cinnamon ling cod; and lemon cheesecake for dessert. These were paired, respectively, with Four Winds Pequeno Cabo; Steel & Oak Hideaway IPA; Four Winds La Maison Saison; Steel & Oak Marzen; Four Winds IPA; and Steel & Oak Kviek Ale.

I started the evening with the restaurant’s La Condesa cocktail (orange peel-infused Pisco, Amaro Montenegro, lemon, epazote syrup, cascabel chili-sugar rim), which was beautifully presented and quite refreshing. Tickets were $75 (with partial proceeds going to the Canucks Autism Network) and while each beer was only tasting-sized, we left very full and satisfied.

beer pairing

The very next day, we participated in the Craft Cask Clash at One20 Public House in North Delta. For the price of one 12oz serving ticket ($4), participants got a 5oz sample of each cask from six breweries. Vying for a tap line at the bar, the companies brought some interesting casks, including: Russell Lemon Meringue Sour; Fuggles & Warlock Pineapple Destiny IPA; Big Ridge Oatmeal Stout; Old Yale Mango Wheat (with orange peel, lemon, lime, coriander and rum); Parkside Pineapple Jalapeno Pale Ale; and Red Racer Mango Passionfruit ISA.

This event was extremely good value and for all the festivities we attend where we shell out large sums of money, I felt this was one where we leveled that plane out a little bit. Following our beers, we stuck around for dinner at the One20 Public House. I enjoyed a serving of Chicken Strips, while Mrs. Sip went with the Stuffed Yorkies. This was the first time One20 had done an event like this and I hope to see them do similar activities in the future.

beer tap

Over the weekend, I came up with a new concept for my drinking enjoyment. When it comes to BC craft beer cases, I’ve virtually had them all. So, to mix things up, I’m going to do exactly that and create my own mashups. My first attempt came by combining Stanley Park Brewing’s Trail Hopper IPA and Sunsetter Peach Wheat Ale to create what I’m calling the Sunset Hopper. The hybrid was very good, with the bitterness one would expect from an IPA softened by the peach flavours of the wheat ale. I will report on my other developments in the future.

Things will probably be pretty light this coming week, as the Sip Family concentrates on preparing for our vacation to Europe. That said, Cinco de Mayo is around the corner and my collection of various tequilas are itching for some attention. We’ll see if anything occurs that needs to be documented!

Sip Trips #162: Seattle Story

For the Easter long weekend, the Sip Family travelled to Seattle for a few days of good eating and drinking, while also taking in some of the city’s top attractions. Here’s a look back at how we celebrated the break:

Leaving Friday morning, we stopped at Railroad Pub & Pizza in Burlington for lunch. There, Ma Sip and I shared the Reuben Pizza, while I enjoyed a pint of Triplehorn Folkvang Irish Red Ale. I’m really into red ales at the moment, as you’ll see again later and this was one very fine brew. I liked that the restaurant served beer samples in condiment cups, which was a unique twist to the concept.

personal pizza.jpeg

After our meal, Mrs. Sip and I briefly popped into Farmstrong Brewing, where we tried samples of a couple of their beers and purchased a bottle of their Steer You Right Imperial Stout for the road. We have yet to crack the drink open, but look forward to doing so soon.

Next up, was a visit to Walmart to stock up on Easter goodies and other supplies for the hotel. I found a bottle of Caliber Spiced Rum (only $6!!!), which when paired with a case of Dr. Pepper, meant I was drinking all weekend for about $10.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Tukwila and I can’t say enough good stuff about the staff at this hotel, particularly the weekend bartender, who immediately made a connection with us and memorized our favourite drinks. What we love most about the Embassy Suites chain is their amazing manager’s reception happy hour (it’s actually two hours), which allows guests to enjoy free drinks and snacks. The breakfast each morning is also very good and an impressive spread to say the least. Between the two, you don’t really need to eat a whole lot when out and about. During the happy hours, I didn’t want to look like a total lush (although I was capable of this), so I paced myself to four drinks each night, or one per half hour. After all, the Sip Advisor is a man of moderation.

moderation cat

As long time readers know, the Sip Advisor is a potato chip connoisseur and I brought along a few recent finds to be enjoyed on this vacation. Walmart in Canada has released a line of chips that are inspired by countries around the world, including India (Tandoori BBQ), Korea (Red Chili BBQ), Thailand (Red Curry) and Portugal (Charcoal Roasted Chicken). My favourites were definitely the Thai and Portuguese varieties, with the former having a butter chicken flavour and the latter just being straight up delicious.

One of the main reasons for the journey to Seattle was to check out the Woodland Park Zoo, which has some fun Easter events for kids and adults alike. Throughout the day, animals around the park are given Easter treats in the form of snacks they enjoy, while there are also egg hunts for various ages. Baby Sip loved running around and collecting the plastic eggs just about as much as she liked seeing all the animals.

Following the zoo, we grabbed a late lunch at Red Mill Burgers where I had the Red Mill Deluxe, while we shared orders of their fries and onion rings. Mrs. Sip also got a Chocolate-Peanut Butter Milkshake, which was thick and tasty.

cats-with-milkshake

On Sunday, we ventured to Pike Market and the Seattle Waterfront. One of our first stops was Cloudburst Brewing, which had some neat beers, but we weren’t able to stay long, as they don’t allow minors into the tasting room. This is something we have found to be unique to Washington, although it may be an issue in other parts we haven’t visited yet. We did partake in a quick 7oz serving each, with Mrs. Sip ordering the Grandma Take Me Home Coconut Imperial Oatmeal Brown, while I selected the Burst Ultra Pure Platinum Hoppy Session American Wheat. Both were quite good.

Along the Waterfront, we rode the Great Wheel, which we were told did three full revolutions, but we got five. The attraction gives you quite the view of the harbour and other landmarks and provided a safe pod for Baby Sip to roam around in.

For lunch, we visited the iconic Ivar’s Seafood Restaurant, sitting in their lounge, which allowed us Waterfront seating with happy hour prices. Here, we had a fantastic meal, with Mrs. Sip and I sharing the Two-Piece Fish & Chips, as well as the Chowder Sampler. We also ordered a serving of their Bruschetta, which is probably one of the best versions of this appetizer I’ve ever tried. To drink, I had a pint of Silver City Ridgetop Red Ale and it paired really well with the seafood meal.

seafood bad

Sadly, all great trips have to come to an end at some point. On our way home, we stopped at BevMo, which allowed me to pick up a couple treats. I grabbed bottles of Beefeater Pink Strawberry Gin – a product I’d searched for last year in London after seeing ads for it – and Crown Royal Texas Mesquite Whiskey. I love when I can only find Canadian goods in the U.S.

With Easter in the rear view mirror, we make our final push towards returning to Europe in early May. Mrs. Sip and I, along with Sis-in-Law Sip, will be attending a six-course beer pairing dinner tomorrow at El Santo in New Westminster. The brewers on hand will be Steel & Oak and Four Winds and we are greatly looking forward to the occasion.

Sip Trips #161: Crashing and Banging

Last weekend was a busy one, as we had a number of items on the schedule. Without further ado, here’s what we got up to in another tightly-packed set of days:

First up, was the Iron Assassin’s Demolition Derby at the Abbotsford Centre. I have been a big fan of demolition derbies for some time, dating back to when they were a regular attraction at the annual Pacific National Exhibition. If they were doing four shows per day, I would try to catch all four. We enjoyed this event, bringing Baby Sip along, but found it to be a little disorganized. First, after arriving a few minutes late for the noon start time, we found them still setting up the arena. Next, the event simply ran too long. We left after three hours at the place and they still had a handful of events to go. I will always kick myself for missing the minivan derby, but there’s only so much vehicle exhaust and noise (in an indoor setting) I can take before I’m done. While there, we snacked on some very tasty Chicken Strips and Fries, paired with a Sleeman’s beer.

demolition derby

That evening, we attended a friend’s birthday party at the Billy Bishop Legion in Kitsilano. The place was offering karaoke, so Mrs. Sip and I delivered our thought-provoking version of “I Hate Everything About You” by Three Days Grace. We hadn’t performed the song in about 10 years and it showed! Quick note: if you choose to do karaoke, it’s probably best to pick a song where you know ALL the lyrics, and not just the chorus. At least the beer was well-priced and I enjoyed a few pints of Vancouver Island Piper’s Pale Ale over the course of the evening.

On Sunday, we gathered to watch the eagerly-anticipated Game of Thrones season premiere. For the occasion, I concocted a collection of themed cocktails, including: White Walker (Candy Cane Vodka, Hawaiian Punch Berry Blue Blast), King Slayer (PermaFrost Schnapps, Goldschlager, Tabasco), Red Priestess (Fireball Whiskey, Cranberry-Lemonade Juice, Lemon Juice), Mother of Dragons (Orient Apple Vodka, Lychee Liqueur, Club Soda). My favourite was the White Walker, which had this really interesting blend of mint and berry, exactly as I had envisioned it would.

game-of-thrones.jpg

While prepping for the Game of Thrones return, I visited a BC Liquor Store to pick up some beers for guests. My purchase was the Stanley Park Concession Stand Summer Mix Pack, featuring their SunSetter Peach Wheat Ale, Trail Hopper IPA, DayTrip West Coast Lager and small batch Summer Hefeweizen. I also spotted a couple interesting products in Crown Royal Peach and a 99-Can Pabst Blue Ribbon pack, which screams beer pong tournament or century club challenge.

Upcoming, the Sip Family is off to Seattle for the Easter extra-long weekend. There, we’ll explore a few of the breweries and get up to other shenanigans. We’re also hoping to stop in Bellingham at some point to enjoy their 2019 Beer Week. Should be a fantastic time!

Sip Trips #160: Weezer & Wagyu

It’s been a steady few weeks for the Sip Family, full of celebrations and events to attend. Here’s what the crew has been up to since I was last able to put fingers to keyboard:

Mrs. Sip and I celebrated the 17th anniversary of our first date a couple weeks back and boy how times have changed. With Baby Sip now in tow, we like to spend the first portion of the day doing a family activity, leaving our evening to just the two of us. Our day started with checking out the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove. Baby Sip loved seeing all the animals and running around the park. I liked that you could bring your own bike or rollerblades or even rent one of those two-seater carriage bikes to get around the attraction. My only complaint for the place, is unlike our experience at the San Diego Zoo, you couldn’t explore with a beer or other adult libation in hand.

lions-at-zoo

Following the zoo, while Baby Sip napped, we took care of the beverage absence by visiting Old Abbey Ales. Last time we tried to go here, the door was locked following a change in ownership. This time went a lot smoother. We were very impressed by the brewery’s eclectic beer board, deciding we each needed a flight to cover off all the brews we were interested in trying. We sampled the Beets by Steve, Sippy Chai Aye, Call of Ktulu Squid Ink Stout, Gose Cuervo, Jolly Brewer Watermelon Light Lager, Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Quila Grapefruit, and Fizzical Contradiction Brut IPA.

To finish off the busy day, we had a Vancouver Canucks game to attend. To use up the last of our season ticket membership gift cards, I bought a tall serving of Hoyne Dark Matter, which was a nice sipper through the first period. We also tried to go to Devil’s Elbow after the contest, but wouldn’t be able to be seated for about 25 minutes, so elected to return home and relieve our babysitters. We remedied this with a quick stop there a few nights later prior to our last game of the season, each enjoying a serving of the Howe Sound Wee Beastie Scotch Ale.

As an anniversary gift, Mrs. Sip signed us up to be ‘original patrons’ of Another Beer Company (ABC), which should be opening soon in the Sapperton area. Our $250 investment in the brewery is returned to us with a gift card in that amount, as well as other perks such as merchandise and invites to special events. I was already excited for another brewery (no pun intended) to open so close to our home, but now I’m super amped to see this operation take off.

anniversary flaws

This previous weekend, we joined friends to attend the Weezer/Pixies concert at Rogers Arena. Prior to the show, we had dinner at Wildebeest, enjoying their Omakase (Japanese for “trust the chef” or “let us order for you”) menu, which lets diners set a menu price per person and then sit back and enjoy whatever concoctions the kitchen can come up with. Our meal was orgasmic, highlighted by their delicious Bone Marrow (we even did luge shots of sherry out of the used bone), Wagyu Tartare and main event of more Wagyu beef, this time in strip form. As for drinks, I imbibed with their Uppercut cocktail (Calvados, vermouth, Maraschino, orange bitters, peated Scotch), and a pair of Parkside Pale Ales at $5 happy hour pricing.

As for the concert, we had a fantastic time, although we missed the opening act as we wrapped up our meal. The Pixies and Weezer both put on a great show. At the arena, I had a couple Millstreet Tankhouse Ales and when we were invited to join a friend in his private box, a couple more bevvies were enjoyed. All in all, a spectacular way to spend a Sunday night!

Upcoming for the Sip Family is the Iron Assassin’s Demolition Derby in Abbotsford on Saturday and the long-awaited return of Game of Thrones the following day. We are also gearing up for the Easter long weekend, where we’ll be travelling with Ma and Pa Sip to Seattle for what should be a gluttonous holiday!

Sip Trips #159: Free Bird Follies

As winter fades away and spring emerges from the darkness, the Sip Family has been busy. Mrs. Sip was recently in Las Vegas with her girlfriends, providing the Sip Advisor a little time to get reacquainted with loved ones. Those would include new purchases, such as Steel & Oak Talanoa Wheat Ale and Lamb’s Cherry Spiced Rum. The Talanoa (Fijian for sharing stories and ideas to build relationships and understanding) was brewed by the ladies of Steel & Oak Brewing as their second annual Women’s Charity Brew. Proceeds from the beer, made with black currant and rosemary, are going to The Kettle Society, which provides support for people living with mental illness. The Spiced Rum was an interesting find as I perused the aisles of a nearby liquor store. Thanks to an online suggestion, I’ve used the booze in a Mai Tai recipe and look forward to throwing it in a Dark N’ Stormy soon.

rum locations

As for events, Mrs. Sip and I attended the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at the Abbotsford Centre last Friday. Prior to heading out to the valley, we had dinner at Milestones, capitalizing on their afternoon happy hour for servings of Phillip’s Electric Unicorn White IPA and Hoyne Dark Matter. The two Victoria-based brews paired nicely with my Crispy Sweet Chili Chicken Bowl, which I would definitely order again. Mrs. Sip had the Caprese Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which I snagged a bite of, and also enjoyed.

As for the concert, I think my hearing is still slowly coming back. The show was rocking all the way through the night and the band ending their appearance with an encore performance of Free Bird was everything a fan could have asked for. Arriving early, we took advantage of the Vancouver Island Brewing free tasting being offered and also grabbed cans of a couple Foamers’ Folly Brewing selections, including the Hot Box IPA for me and Raspberry Honey Hefeweizen for Mrs. Sip.

freebird nursery rhyme.jpg

After a day of “rest”, where we only had two commitments to make, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at Dead Frog Brewing. They turned their Steel Toe Lager green (with natural ingredients), so we crossed that tradition off the to-do list. Mrs. Sip also ordered a pint of the newly-released Pineapple Midnight Tropical Porter for us to share, which had an interesting blend of summer and winter flavours. For food, we imbibed with Pork Carnitas Street Tacos for moi and some Avocado Toast for the mademoiselle. Both were quite good and recommendable. The Dead Frog staff deserve major kudos for doing their best to make guests comfortable on a very busy day and for providing live music and cupcakes for children young and old at heart.

In the coming weeks, Mrs. Sip and I will celebrate 17 years of being in a relationship. I honestly can’t believe she’s put up with me this long!

Sip Trips #158: Chicken Tender Tenacity

Since returning from our Puerto Vallarta vacation, things haven’t been quiet, but they also haven’t been crazy. I’ll enjoy the relative lull, knowing things always pick up for the Sip Family, especially as the weather improves. Here’s what we’ve got up to recently:

Last week, I was graced with a midday visit from Mrs. Sip at work, so we decided to do lunch at the nearby The Taphouse: Guildford. While we didn’t indulge in any beverages, we very much enjoyed our food selections, with me ordering the Chicken Tenders (with FOUR dipping sauces) and Mrs. Sip going with the Avocado Toast. We liked the look and feel of the place, and look forward to returning to try some other menu items.

dipping sauce

This weekend, I was joining a couple friends for the Vancouver Whitecaps season opener and we decided to start the day with drinks at the Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smokehouse. At the Howe Sound Brewing-affiliated tasting room, I enjoyed pints of the Wee Beastie Scotch Ale and Hazy Daze NE IPA. These were a good setup for the football match ahead, where I also picked up a serving of Stanley Park Trail Hopper IPA, once the stadium’s credit/debit payment system came back online at half-time.

The next day, we were back in Downtown Vancouver for our Vancouver Canucks Road Game Viewing Party. We selected this perk among five options given to season ticket members and had a great time, despite the game itself not being very good. Hosted at Rogers Arena’s SportsBar Live, we were each treated to one free entrée (options including Burger, Chicken Tenders, Half Nachos, Thai Coconut Chicken Curry, and Rigatoni Bolognese) and drink (beer, white wine, red wine, pop). For food, Mrs. Sip picked the Half Nachos, while I went with yet another serving of Chicken Tenders. Both were selected with sharing with Baby Sip, in mind. After our original drinks, we also ordered pints of 33 Acres of Sunshine and Steamworks Flagship IPA.

healthy food.gif

Up next was the Canucks game we’ve been waiting all season for, versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. We had planned to use much (if not all) of our membership gift cards at this contest. The night began with beers, with Mrs. Sip selecting a large serving of Hoegaarden and yours truly picking Postmark Juicy Pale Ale. As we lined up for Mrs. Sip to grab a hotdog, we noticed the stall also had Hoyne Dark Matter on tap, which confirmed what our next beverages would be. Best of all, the Canucks came from behind to win the game 3-2 in overtime!

Mrs. Sip is off to Vegas with the girls this weekend, so I’ll be left to my own devices with Baby Sip. I don’t anticipate a ton of activity in the coming days, but once Mrs. Sip returns, the calendar is loaded with four hockey games and two concerts over the next month, among other events.