Sip Trips #208: Vegas Bound

To end March, Mrs. Sip and I entered the U.S. for the first time in over two years, which is a gap I thought I would never experience, unless I moved to another continent. We selected Las Vegas as the perfect place to celebrate our 20th dating anniversary and it was a journey full of good food, drinks and an adventure or two.

All the fun started at the Vancouver Airport, where we had a relaxed breakfast/lunch at the Canucks Bar & Grill. Their All-Dressed Poutine was one of the best poutines I’ve ever enjoyed and went really well with my mid-morning Stanley Park Wheels Up IPA.

Airport Drinking

In Vegas, we stayed at The Palazzo. Mrs. Sip booked us a Prestige Club room, which gave us access to the Prestige Lounge. We arrived just in time for happy hour on our first day, which featured free drinks from 4-7, along with delicious appies starting at 5. The staff at check-in and in the lounge were all fantastic and we would definitely recommend the Prestige experience.

For dinner that night, we had a reservation at Mon Ami Gabi. Mrs. Sip and I have enjoyed many meals over the years there, but our usual order of the Chilled Seafood Platter was sadly no longer on the menu. We adjusted and went with the Small Seafood Platter, along with the Escargot. All paired with a bottle of wine, we were even given a free dessert for our anniversary celebration.

The next day, we made the journey to the off-strip Ellis Island Hotel & Casino, home to Ellis Island Brewing. At The Front Yard restaurant, we enjoyed a couple $3 beers in the Amber Ale for me and Hefeweizen for Mrs. Sip. I also had a Bonfire Rauchbier for $5, while Mrs. Sip did a flight of the Hefeweizen, Wit, Belgian Tripel and Dubbel Trouble. To eat, we had an amazing CBR Flatbread, comprised of citrus garlic sauce, bacon, shredded chicken, pico de gallo and jalapeño cream.

Flatbread

Returning to The Venetian, we hit up happy hour at Trustworthy Brewing, which was my 200th brewery visited! There, I had the A Year in the Making American Amber Ale, while Mrs. Sip switched things up and drank a Southern Peach Smash (bourbon, peach nectar, ginger syrup, mint, ginger ale), as she is getting more into whiskey and bourbon cocktails of late.

Given we could also access The Venetian Prestige Lounge, we had happy hour there, allowing us to compare the two options. After another set of cocktails, we returned to The Palazzo side, where I squeaked in two more beverages for the road, enjoyed as we got ready for another night out.

While at The Paris the night before, Vanderpump à Paris caught Mrs. Sip’s eye, so we made that our destination for dinner. The restaurant had only been open for a couple weeks when we tried it and we had a fantastic experience. We ordered Bouef Wellington Sliders, Mini Monsieurs and Baked Brie En Croute to share, while Mrs. Sip had a glass of wine and I tried the Louvre At First Sight cocktail, which came in its own smoker shaped like the infamous Louvre Museum glass pyramid. The drink is called ‘A Smoked Work of Art’ and includes Gracias a Dios Mezcal, prickly pear, lemon, jalapeño honey, orange bitters, aquafaba and hickory smoke.

Cocktails

Our main event of the evening was supposed to be checking out the Omega Mart immersive art exhibit by Meow Wolf, which had caught the eye of both myself and Mrs. Sip. Sadly, once we got out to the Area 15 location, we learned the facility had been evacuated due to a fire alarm and the Omega Mart had been cancelled for the night. We still checked the Area 15 building out and had overly expensive drinks at its bar – seriously, $15 for an off-strip Spiced Rum and Coke??? – but the air had kind of come out of my sails with the Omega Mart debacle.

For our anniversary day, we did what good couples do best and went our separate ways for the day. While Mrs. Sip enjoyed some rest and relaxation poolside, I had a need to walk the strip and explore, since I hadn’t been to Vegas since March 2018. Along the way, I grabbed a few road beers, had a very good lunch from Dave’s Hot Chicken (which is apparently opening a couple locations in the Lower Mainland soon) and took care of buying some snacks and souvenirs for the family, along with our booze to bring home, in the form of bottles of Jameson Orange Whiskey and Bacardi Dragonberry Rum.

We reconvened to unfortunately have to race out and take care of our COVID antigen tests, which needed to be done as we returned on March 31, and the whole need to get this done in Canada was being eliminated on April 1. While Mrs. Sip inquired about changing our trip to avoid this, Air Canada (after many hours on hold to speak to an agent), said we couldn’t change anything because we had booked a vacation package. #BoycottAirCanada

Air Canada

Following our negative tests, we enjoyed a final Prestige Lounge happy hour at The Palazzo, toasting our 20 years together. We weren’t able to go too crazy on the hors d’oeuvres, though, as we had a big night out planned. That began with dinner at Picasso, my first Michelin Star restaurant experience. In fact, Picasso is ranked at two Michelin Stars and is thought to be one of the best restaurants in the U.S.

So, what did I think of the meal. Overall, I was a little disappointed, to be honest. Nothing really blew my mind and I’ve had $14 burgers make me lose all my bodily functions. The price of this meal was absurd… like, I won’t even print it absurd. I did leave overly stuffed, which Mrs. Sip says is rare for Michelin Star restaurants, since portions are usually doled out to perfection, so eaters get just enough and are comfortably full by the time the feast is finished.

Upon arrival, I ordered the Greyscale cocktail (Earl Grey-infused gin, orange oleo saccharum, fresh lemon juice and a splash of soda). I went with the Menu Dégustation (Tasting Menu), which included four courses plus dessert (Maine Lobster Salad, Pan Seared U-10 Day Boat Scallop, Sautéed Steak of “A” Foie Gras, Prime Petit Filet Mignon). Mrs. Sip did the Prix Fixe Menu (Warm Quail Salad, Sautéed Crispy Gnocchi and Sautéed Medallion of Fallow Deer) with wine pairings. The desserts were fantastic, but Mrs. Sip didn’t even get a wine pairing with hers. Part of the draw of the restaurant is the many Picasso paintings that adorn its walls. Since I’m not an art guy, I preferred to watch the Bellagio fountains from our table, but the music accompanying the fountains was hard to hear, so that detracted a little from the shows. As we left, we were given boxed chocolate, which Mrs. Sip and I still have to eat.

Michelin Restaurant

To end the evening, we attended the Absinthe show at Caesar’s Palace, which was as wild and raunchy as advertised. Going into the performance, Mrs. Sip and I shared an Absinthe Hallucinator cocktail (vodka, pomegranate, blood orange, lemon, absinthe), which helped get us into the spirit.

The next day, with mere hours before we had to checkout and head to the airport, we tried to get to The Chocolate Bar at New York New York, but it was closed when we arrived, despite online sources saying it was supposed to be open. Dejected, we hurried back to The Palazzo to check out and finally enjoy the welcome bubbly we didn’t have at arrival, since happy hour was afoot.

It was amazing being back in Las Vegas, especially after what the world has gone through the last couple years. I will say, though, I was feeling my age a little on this getaway, as I was in bed each night by about 1 a.m. and my feet were done long before that each evening. Maybe I just need to “train” better in advance of the next trip!

Sip Trips #206: Mexico Musings

February has come and gone and when you spend close to half the month on vacation, that can never be a bad thing. How did the Sip Family’s first international travel in over two years go? Let’s find out:

To begin the month, we finalized the purchase of our first ever new vehicle. After picking it up, we went for a late dinner at Montana’s in Langley. There, I took advantage of their $4.99 Rickard’s Red  special, pairing it with a Southern-Fried Chicken Sandwich. We also had a coupon for a free appy, using it on their Loaded Garlic and Cheese Pull-Apart Bread. The beer hit the spot, while all the food was tasty. This was my first time to Montana’s for some time and I hope we can return soon for more comfort food goodness.

Comfort Food

Next up, was our long-awaited family trip to Cancun, Mexico. We had booked this vacation all the way back in January 2021, thinking the world would be back to normal by February 2022. Well, it isn’t quite back to normal yet, but we weighed all the pros and cons and decided to still go ahead with the trip, despite pandemic concerns, having to take tests to return home, having to quarantine once we returned, and some of our fellow travel group deciding against travelling.

First, a couple quick notes about Vancouver International Airport and our flight to Mexico. Prior to our flight boarding, I noticed a Whistler Brewing Lodge was coming soon. I greatly look forward to this dining/drinking option at the airport and hope I get to enjoy it at some point. As for our flight, while we were saving our drinking for the all-inclusive resort, I was dismayed to hear flight attendants turn down drink orders and end drink service early because they didn’t have enough stock for the return trip. I mean, come on, people are starting their vacation and may want to get into the festive spirit or make their trip more relaxed. How could they not stock up properly for the round trip or why can’t they restock once in Mexico?

Upon arriving in Cancun, we boarded our private transport to the resort, with our drvier providing us with some of the most satisfying Coronas I’ve ever enjoyed. After a 1.5-hour journey, our long travel day was finally complete and we could begin relaxing and enjoying. Here are my notes about out resort, the Grand Palladium Riviera Maya:

All-Inclusive

Our bar set up was supposed to included two bottles of our choice, but we were thrilled to hear upon arrival that we would now get to select five bottles. In a bit of a panic, I quickly chose Stolichnaya Vodka, Havana Club 7 Rum, Jim Beam Bourbon, Bombay Sapphire Gin, and Don Julio Reposado Tequila. When looking into my selections, our bottles would have cost me close to $300 if purchased at a BC Liquor Store, so I was very satisfied with that. With free drinks across the resort, we planned to bring three of the bottles home and only opened two in the room.

Speaking of those drinks around the resort, my orders largely consisted of Margaritas, Palomas, Dos Equis Amber beers, Rum and Cokes, Gin & Tonics (using the delightful Tanqueray Rangpur whenever possible), and Jameson & Ginger Ale with lime juice. I also enjoyed the many “make your own” drink stations. There was ones for Mojitos, G&Ts, Bloody Marys and Mimosas.

As for food, it was mostly very good. I can’t say we had a single bad meal at any of the dinner restaurants and we enjoyed the various themes, including steakhouse, Thai, Japanese teppanyaki, family barbecue, Mexican, etc. We didn’t get a chance to hit them all, though, and particularly would have like to have tried their beach-set seafood and Spanish tapas options.

Resort Food

Okay, now for some negatives and areas where the resort can improve. I felt the resort was too big, comparing it to my opinions of rather being at Disneyland than Disney World, for manageability. Next, their computer system was atrocious with communication between different departments being almost non-existent. Add in some typical language barrier issues and there was a few problems we had to unfortunately work through, when we should have been relaxing without a care in the world. Lastly, I never got to try any of the resort craft beers, as they were only free in one part of the place, although they were on display everywhere. That said, I wasn’t thrilled with the varieties offered anyway.

My Top 5 experiences at the resort were:

  1. Playing with the Sipplings at the water slides
  2. Watching the kids dance at a couple of the parties
  3. Seeing Girl Sip perform live on stage for first time, through the Kid’s Club
  4. My night out with Mrs. Sip to watch the Chic Cabaret performance
  5. Our infinity pool getaways at the adult-only portion of the resort

We left the resort twice, once to see a friend’s mother in Puerto Venturas and a couple days later to Playa del Carmen to visit that same friend’s sister and her family. In Puerto Venturas, we had a late lunch at Café Ole International. There, I tried a Chamoy Michelada and scarfed down a delicious Baconnator Burger. The Chicken Strips for the Sipplings were also quite good, as I just had to try one. We also had a drink at the Beach Club & Hotel, where I had a Mai Tai.

Mexico

In Playa del Carmen, we ate at the Sonora Prime steakhouse, where I ordered the Skull Rabbit cocktail. For food, we shared a number of menu items, including the Calimari and Cheese Dip and Chips. For a main course, Mrs. Sip and I shared the Wellington Burger, which was injected with hot cheese. The burger was spectacular, but sadly, Girl Sip was dealing with a bout of heat/sun stroke and that put a damper on this outing, as we were concerned with her illness and recovery.

On our return trip home, at the Cancun Airport, we wanted to eat at Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen Bar, but it inexplicably closed at 6. This, during a dinner rush with many weary travellers looking for a good meal before boarding their long flights home or to their own vacation destinations. We ended up getting some eats in the food court area, but I was disappointed with not getting to try Guy Fieri’s.

That wraps the shortest month of the year. In the end, I’m glad we took the risk and went on this vacation. It provided a chance to have some wonderful family time together and experience some new things. March will be fun, as we have a number of Canucks games, other events and we celebrate my and Mrs. Sip’s 20-year dating anniversary!

Sip Trips #203: November Nostalgia

Another month is in the books and with two trips to Whistler and the celebration of two friends turning 40, there was a fair bit going on. Here’s what the Sip Family got up to throughout November:

The month began with me and a friend meeting up for a Vancouver Canucks game. Our night started at Original Joe’s, where we took advantage of their Tuesday 49-cent Wings special. I enjoyed servings of their Teriyaki and Salt & Vinegar varieties, paired with a couple of their own Red Ales. I liked that the wings at Original Joe’s were quite meaty, which you sometimes don’t get, especially when the item is on special.

Wings

As for the game, the Canucks pushed the Anaheim Ducks to overtime, but eventually lost. Over the course of the contest, I enjoyed a large Parkside Dreamboat IPA upon arrival, followed by a Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Coke picked up during each intermission.

Not content to head home just yet – and happy to let the Skytrain rush dissipate – my evening finished with a visit to Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House. Here, I ordered a guest tap pint of Container Three Legged Mare English Brown Ale, which was very good.

Our first trip to Whistler of the month was a family expedition. Our adventure started with having a late lunch at Howe Sound Brewpub in Squamish. I paired my delicious Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich with a pint of Howe Sound’s Habanero Fudge Robust Porter. I would have welcomed a little more heat with this beer, but I understand not going overboard on the spice makes the brew easier for some to handle.

Hot Chicken

Once in Whistler, we had one meal each day in the village. First up, was the infamous Longhorn Saloon, where despite a DJ being on site and blasting loud music, Boy Sip managed to sleep through the visit. I ordered The Cowboy Brisket Wrap and a Deep Cove Hazy IPA, which provided a good meal. That said, I was disappointed by Longhorn’s beer and cocktail offerings and their prices are a little tough to swallow, seemingly inflated so people will buy a membership to the Gibbons network of restaurants there, allowing them discounts on food and drink purchases.

The next day, we enjoyed dinner at High Mountain Brewhouse. I began the feast with a tasty (and fragrant) Pomegranate Basil Smash cocktail. For food, I went with the Wild Sockeye Salmon Burger, which was very good. I had originally glossed right over the menu item, but a second look revealed a number of components that piqued my interest: spicy teriyaki glaze, tempura vegetables and wasabi mayo. I was very satisfied with the order, which went quite well with my 5 Rings IPA.

The following weekend was highlighted by a friend’s 40th birthday bash, which he planned more extravagantly than some weddings I’ve attended. Before we get to that, though, Mrs. Sip and I decided to stay overnight at Downtown Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront for the night. We began our stay with cocktails at the hotel’s Arc Restaurant. There, Mrs. Sip and I split a trio of cocktails, including the Rum & Winter Spice (winter spice-infused Bacardi 8, Grand Marnier, orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup); Blackberry Mule (Grey Goose Vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, simple syrup, blackberries) and Rosemary Gimlet (Wayward/Waterfront Gin, Green Chartreuse, honey syrup, lime juice, sprig of rosemary).

Mini Bar

Those built a good base buzz for the events of the evening, which included ordering room service from Arc. For this dinner, I had a delicious Char-Grilled Angus Cheeseburger and Caesar Salad. Their fries were also very good, which Mrs. Sip had with her enormous Smoked Turkey Sandwich serving (like seriously, there was two full sandwiches part of this platter).

The birthday was held at the Croatian Cultural Centre, with about 160 guests in attendance. Along with an open bar, entertainment included dueling pianos, followed by karaoke. Mrs. Sip and I had a fantastic night, returning to our accommodation at 3am. Thank god for the Fairmont’s late checkout!

The month wrapped with another visit to Whistler. After settling into our Airbnb condo, we ventured to Joe Fortes for après hour. Mrs. Sip and I split the Joe’s Chilled Seafood Platter, along with an order of Truffle Parmesan Fries. The fries were scrumptious and consuming the platter (filled with oysters, mussels, clams, prawns, two types of tuna, and scallop ceviche) felt decadent. To drink, I had a pair of Coast Mountain Hope You’re Happy IPAs.

Seafood

As we paid the bill, our server suggested checking out The Raven Room cocktail bar. That advice did not disappoint, as we split a trio of libations, comprised of: the Paper Crane (gin, sake, Aperol, lemon juice, yuzu, sesame oil); Mom Wants the Pool Boy (sugar snap pea-infused tequila, cucumber liqueur, lime juice, agave syrup); and I Want S’more (graham cracker-infused bourbon, Frangelico, Crème de Cacao, espresso, salted chocolate). Of the three, I liked the Mom Wants the Pool Boy best, thanks to the cucumber liqueur.

Later that night, we met up with the rest of our group, including the birthday girl, at Tapley’s Pub. There, we shared a few pitchers of beer, but Mrs. Sip and I weren’t up to eating anything, following our indulgence at Joe Fortes earlier.

The next afternoon, we all finally reconvened at Caramba!, taking advantage of their happy hour. Mrs. Sip got the Jumbo Caesar, which came with two sliders and some other goodies mixed in, while I had two Strange Fellows Pale Ales.

Caesar

Up next, was El Furniture Warehouse across the way, for their Power Hour. This gives customers one hour to buy 8-ounce beers for $1.95. Over the hour, I downed six Dam Amber beers, while we also partook in a round of shots, with Mrs. Sip and I choosing to do Burt Reynolds (Spiced Rum and Butterscotch Schnapps) shooters. For eats, I went with the Fingers & Fries, which while tasty, was more fries than fingers. What can you expect, though, for the low price of $5.95? All menu items here are between $5.95-$7.95, thus making it a very popular place.

That was it for the month. December promises to be its usual insane sprint to the finish. The calendar is already filled with outings – both adult and family-friendly alike – with Mrs. Sip always finding space to shoehorn in another activity!

Sip Trips #201: September Celebrations

Well, September was a busy month, as it usually is, filled with numerous birthdays and other activities as the summer comes to a close and we try to eke out the last bits of outdoor fun. Let’s see what the Sip Family did to wrap up the season:

September began with a visit to the Great Canadian Brewhouse in Abbotsford, as we returned home from a day with the kids at Cultus Lake Adventure Park. We may have been pushing our luck after a really good but long day, as both young’uns were in no mood for us to enjoy a restaurant meal. We tried to make the best of it, but the restaurant was also out of a few of the Feature Menu items Mrs. Sip wanted to try and a beer I had hoped to have. Mrs. Sip did join their app/rewards club, which gave us access to a free order of Golden Garlic Fingers, which were very good. She also ordered the Triple Eh! Peppered Angus Steak Bites, along with a Same Team Soda, while I paired the Brewhouse Hoser Club with a Stanley Park Windstorm Pale Ale. Despite any of the issues, we returned to their Richmond location later in the month to try more of their menu.

Club Sandwich

The next week, we popped into Steel & Oak Brewing, since they had food and drink Mrs. Sip was interested in trying. While I enjoyed my Turned Out Spruce Tip Ale, Mrs. Sip finally got to try the Berliner Weisse flight with three different syrups (orange and saffron, ginger and turmeric, and spruce tip) she had been curious about for much of the summer. The Mr. Arancino food truck was also on site, so we grabbed a set of Risotto Balls from it, Arancini being one of Mrs. Sip’s favourite appetizers.

En route to visit some friends in Langley, I popped into the Clayton Liquor Store and picked up tall can four-packs of Vancouver Island Watermelon Hibiscus Blonde (Tidal Series) and Russell Strawberry & Kiwi Milkshake IPA. Both beers were perfect for a late summer outing. I had originally stopped at the store, hoping to track down the Phillips Twenty Point Buck (Barrel-Aged Blue Buck) 20th Anniversary Gift Set with commemorative glass. I was unlucky here, but did eventually find the product at the Central City Bridgeview Liquor Store.

The next day, after taking advantage of advanced voting in the Canadian federal election, we celebrated with dinner at Brown’s Social House in Sapperton. We took advantage of a few Social Hour deals, including Parmesan Garlic Fries, Crispy Cauliflower and beverages including the Social Palmer for me and Summer Social Soda for Mrs. Sip. For my meal, I went with the Florida Special (crispy chicken, avocado, bacon, Swiss cheese, tomato, and coleslaw on a toasted baguette) with Caesar Salad. For Girl Sip, we ordered a Kids Dragon Bowl, the leftovers of which became my yummy lunch the next day.

Leftovers

That weekend, The Bakery Brewing was advertising Nitro Pumpkin Spice Porter Floats, which caught the attention of Mrs. Sip. Since we were gathering with friends at a park in the area anyway, we decided to pop in for the float. We also ordered taster glasses of their Amber Ale, Strawberry Farmhouse Ale and Bavarian Hefeweizen. Once again, though, the kids were not into the prospect of hanging out at a brewery… at least until we bribed them with some ice cream!

To celebrate my birthday, we started with lunch at Kelly O’Bryan’s, taking advantage of their free birthday meal offer. I went with the Chicken Lips N’ Fries, with a Black Currant Mojito and Fernie Hit the Deck Hazy IPA to wash the food down. It was a great start to the celebrations, which would also include a Chinese dinner feast with family in the evening.

I received a number of alcohol-based gifts for my birthday, including four-can tall packs of Camp Fall Camp Smoked Amber Ale and Lazy River Watermelon Gose from Cousin Sip; the Central City Summer Weekender 24 Pack from Ma and Pa Sip; a bottle Havana Club Añejo Rum from the Sip-in-Laws; and a bomber of Barnside Heavy Horse Blueberry Milkshake IPA from Mrs. Sip and the Sipplings.

Birthday Gifts

The next day was Girl Sip’s birthday and with a My Little Pony theme, I compiled a cocktail menu for the occasion (for the adults, of course). Drinks included: Twilight Sparkle (Crème de Violette, Bubbly); Pinkie Pie (White Rum, Peach Schnapps, Pink Lemonade, Whip Cream, Garnished with Sprinkles); Applejack (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniel’s Winter Apple, Iced Tea); and Rainbow Dash (Arctic Grape Rum, Blue Curacao, Club Soda).

We continued my birthday celebrations on the weekend, getting together with a group of friends for an evening out. The expedition started with gathering at ABC Brewing for some bevvies. Between Mrs. Sip and myself, I tried their Festbier, Water Frolic Small IPA, Fest IPA and Imperial Stout. Next up, was a couple hours at the Industry Arcade next door. Here, we could play a host of pinball and arcade games, as well as Skee Ball. It was a lot of fun, with highlights for me being playing The Simpsons and Bubble Bobble arcade games.

From there, we moved onto the Sapperton District Taphouse, where I had a pair of beers, consisting of the Parkside Dreamboat IPA and Tin House High Knoll Hazy IPA. I also took the time to refuel a little, with an order of the Chicken Sliders. My night gets a little foggy here, as one would expect after drinking all afternoon, but I remember having fun with what was left of our group.

Arcade Games

With our friends all done for the evening, returning to their respective kids, but with Mrs. Sip and I free of such obligations, thanks to Ma and Pa Sip, we decided to try to take in a movie at the New West Landmark Cinemas. I say try, because the Sip Advisor ended up crashing and sleeping throughout our viewing of Free Guy. What can I say, dark theatres are my kryptonite. Thankfully, the movie has since made its way onto Disney+, allowing my to absolve the guilt I felt for missing out.

The next morning, after picking up the Sipplings, we ventured out to Richmond and the Great Canadian Brewhouse there for our aforementioned return to the chain. Meeting up with a friend, we shared an order of the Birthday Nachos we were offered through their app. I paired the giant order with a tankard of Central City Super Solar IPA, which my friend picked up the tab for, so all in all, it was a pretty inexpensive meal.

The following weekend, we travelled to the Sunshine Coast to spend four nights at a beautiful Airbnb home in Gibsons. On our first day, we had lunch at Tapworks Brewing, where Mrs. Sip and I split servings of the One Sailing Wait IPA and Backwoods Hazy Pale Ale. To eat, I selected the Crispy Chicken Bao, which was overflowing with delicious hoisin-drizzled fried chicken.

Nachos

Our next outing was a late lunch at The 101 Brewhouse & Distillery. We had a nice outdoor table, which allowed the kids to roam a little bit, as we ate and drank and supervised… well, mostly supervised! Split between our trio of parents, we ordered the Poutine, Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich and Chicken Quesadillas, which provided quite the spread. To drink, I had the Tall Faller Hazy IPA. As The 101 is also a distillery, Mrs. Sip made a point of trying one of their cocktails, selecting the 101 Coast Sour (gin, bourbon, lemon juice, mint, simple syrup, bitters, topped with Brickers Cider).

Afterwards, we hit the Persephone Brewing farm where Mrs. Sip and I had servings of the Brett Saison and Oktoberfest Lager. If not for our collection of kids, I could have stayed at the location longer, enjoying another pint or two. Even the occasional whiff of typical farm smells wouldn’t have deterred us!

For our last full day, we journeyed to Sechelt, to visit Batch 44 Brewery & Kitchen. Mrs. Sip put together a flight of their Lonely Giant IPA, The Village Altbier, Happy Wanderer Hefeweizen and an Earl Grey Cider, so I elected to go with a brew she didn’t choose, in the Frosty Morning Scottish Ale. My only complaint about the beer is it came in at a 4% ABV and I would have liked that a little higher.

Farm

The only Sunshine Coast brewery we weren’t able to visit was Powell River’s Townsite Brewing, so I picked up a tall can four-pack of their Savary Beaches Wheat Ale (Shoreline Series) from a BC Liquor Store. It helped me complete the Brewers Coast collection.

That was a wrap on a wild and eventful month. October has already started out busy and with a trip to Osoyoos in the cards, along with a number of Halloween events on the calendar, there will surely be much to write about!

Sip Trips #188: Sea to Sky

Taking the last week of August off to celebrate my and Mrs. Sip’s wedding anniversary and make a short getaway to Whistler with the Sip Family, was a perfect way to end the summer. We crammed a lot of stuff into a limited time, so let’s get right to the action:

Prior to our little vacation, we had a bit of activity that should be documented. A couple recent purchases included a six-pack of Spectrum Strawberry Ice Cream Pale Ale, which may be the best beer I’ve had all summer. It’s not too strong on the strawberry flavour, but just enough that you can enjoy it. I also picked up the Nude Vodka Soda Pride Pack for Mrs. Sip to try. It included six flavous (Cran Raspberry, Raspberry Lemon, Lime, Black Cherry, Mango, Peach), giving her a chance to sample a good variety of the brand’s offerings and decide if she wants to do more vodka soda products in the future.

Vodka Soda

We also dropped into Steamworks Brewing in Burnaby one evening. There, I had a delicious Imperial Red Ale, while Mrs. Sip ordered a flight, which included their Refresh Raspberry and Lemon Ale, Killer Cucumber Ale, Hazy Pale Ale and Black Angel IPA. We both particularly liked the Cucumber Ale, which I’ve had before, but never on tap.

The first portion of my week off was a night without kids, enjoying an overnight stay in Downtown Vancouver. We began with some happy hour snacks at 131 Water Kitchen & Bar. Our food included Crispy Chicken Bites and Veggie Spring Roll, which I paired with a 131 Lager. The beer went down like juice, while the food was good and enough to tide me over for our upcoming dinner.

To stock our hotel room, we picked up a tall can four-pack of Barkerville Sluice Juice Hazy Pale Ale, a bomber of Fuggles & Warlock Valkyrie Belgian Vineyard Ale and a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, our room’s fridge wasn’t really much of a cooling device, so we didn’t get to enjoy our treats as we had originally hoped.

Hotel Fridge

For dinner, we went to Lift Bar Grill View in Coal Harbour. Arriving just in time for a quick happy hour order, we each got a glass of house rosé, an appetizer of Humboldt Squid and an Oyster each (for aphrodisiacal reasons!). Mrs. Sip then went with the Halibut for dinner, while I elected to have the Burger. With my meal, I had a pint of Parkside Dusk Pale Ale. The restaurant also kindly gave us each a glass of dessert wines on the house, as a little anniversary delight.

The next morning, we had brunch at Bellaggio Cafe, where Mrs. Sip had Eggs Benedict and I went with the Chicken & Brussels Waffle. I also enjoyed a 3-ounce Caesar, which got the day off to a good start. Our activities while in the area, included the Dimensions Art Gallery, where visitors can become part of the art installations and solving a cold murder case with Vancouver Mysteries. I would recommend both to anyone looking for something to do in Vancouver.

After a brief respite, we were on the road to Whistler, which I hadn’t visited since New Year’s 2012-2013. On our way up, we stopped at the Howe Sound Brewpub in Squamish for lunch. There, I ordered the Hopraiser West Coast IPA, while Mrs. Sip went with the Alpine Traverse New World Tripel. To eat, we shared the Brewer’s Select Pizza, topped with pepperoni, bacon, and chorizo. We also received a taster of the Pamplemousse Pale Ale and grabbed tall cans of King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen and Jam Session Raspberry Cream Ale to go.

Summer Vacation

Before leaving Squamish, we also went to A-Frame Brewing, which only had a few of their own beers on tap. We put together a flight of their Okanagan Lake Cream Ale, Sproat Lake Pale Ale, Shuswap Lake West Coast IPA and finished the set with guest tap House of Funk Atomic Jam. The brewery had a food truck onsite, which allowed us to get Toddler Sip a Churro treat for dessert.

Our dinner that night was at The Keg, since we desired a slice of Billy Miner Pie. Our food selections included Prime Rib Sliders for me and a Lobster Tail for Mrs. Sip. I paired my meal with a Chili Mango Margarita that really hit the spot. Of course, that decadent Billy Miner Pie capped the meal, which the restaurant generously comped since it was our anniversary.

Our main event for the night was checking out the Vallea Lumina Light Walk. Words and photos can’t really describe how neat of an attraction this is. Set on a dark mountainous trail, you travel through some amazing light and sound experiences that make you feel connected to the surrounding nature. I’d love to revisit in the winter, if possible.

The next day, we left the village to explore a couple nearby breweries. First up, was Whistler Brewing, where we put together a flight of their The Blonde Spruce Goose, Wayside Apricot Wit, Chestnut Ale and Black Tusk Ale. It was a solidly built flight, if I don’t say so myself. The Sunny Daze Yuzu IPA, which I had wanted to try, wasn’t on tap, so I grabbed a tall can of it for the road and really enjoyed as a breakfast beer the next day.

Coast Mountain Brewing was our second stop and we ordered two flights to be able to try eight of their 11 brews. Our boards consisted of the Day Dream IPA, The Surveyor IPA, Forecast Pale Ale, Green Run Session IPA, Vanilla Bean Stout, Woodnutt Brown Ale, Sunbreak Saison, and Drink the Rainbow (made with Skittles). I feel like doing flights is a great way to try as much as possible, but a full serving is the best way to truly appreciate a beer, as palate fatigue seems to set in when we go the flight route.

Day three was my negotiated “don’t have to drive anywhere day”, so we spent the day exploring the village. For lunch, we ate at the High Mountain BrewHouse, where between Mrs. Sip and I, we had pints of their Belgian Tripel, Belgian Wit, Alta Lake Ale and Grizzly Brown Ale. Food seemed like a good idea with all those drinks, so we ordered the Four Cheese Pizza.

Pizza

Sadly, our stay in Whistler came to an end, but we weren’t ready to go home yet. We journeyed to Pemberton to hit a couple breweries there, starting with The Beer Farmers. Following our flight, made up of the Locals Only Lager, Farmers Daughter Biere de Table, Cover Crop Hazy IPA and Dunkelweizen, we completed the farm’s sunflower maze, which was a lot of fun, particularly for Toddler Sip.

Next up, was Pemberton Brewing, for a quick flight (U-Pick Strawberry Pale Ale, Cream Puff NE Pale Ale, Upside Down Brut IPA, Barb’s Nice Pear Rhubarb Pear Sour). We also brought home a bomber of Cream Puff NE Pale Ale, which will be a nice way to bring up memories of the journey, when we finally get around to enjoy it.

Road Trip

On our drive home, we stopped in Squamish again, to hit Backcountry Brewing. There, we had a fantastic Fig & Prosciutto Pizza (as well as an appetizer of Hushpuppies), to go along with a flight of beers. The flight included the Go Get Yourself Some Cheap Sunglasses IPA, Living in a Van Down By the River ISA, I’ll Take You to the Candy Shop Peach Sour and Patches O’Houlihan Porter. To go, Mrs. Sip grabbed a tall can four-pack of I’ll Take You to the Candy Shop Peach Sour and single tall can of Case of the Mondays Peach-Pineapple-Guava Sour.

Eight breweries over four days, completes to checklist for Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton. The expedition brought Toddler Sip’s number up to 96 breweries visited and Baby Sip up to 27. Parenting done right!

Sip Trips #178: Aloha Hawaii

Last week, the Sip Family enjoyed some rest and relaxation in the Waikiki area of Honolulu, Hawaii. We didn’t just laze poolside or at the beach, though. Here’s what we got up to while on the island:

Upon arriving at our hotel late last Sunday, I ran across the street to pick up a six-pack of Waikiki Hana Hou Hefe. Then I poured a couple back on our balcony, enjoying the late night humidity and wondering what time Toddler Sip would have us up in the morning, affected by the three-hour time change, including the daylight savings time adjustment from that morning. The answer: six-freaking-a.m. We all managed to survive, though, and it could have been worse.

During Toddler Sip’s first nap of the vacation, I spent my free time at Yard House for their excellent happy hour, which includes $2 off draft beers and half price appies, among other deals. My brews for this occasion were the Koholo Red Sand and Kona Koko Brown. Both were paired with a serving of Korean Boneless Wings, which were tremendous. The only thing that sucks whenever I’m at a place that has a large tap list (Yard House, Craft Beer Market, etc.) and I finally decide and order something, they’re always out of my first choice and I have to scramble to make a second pick. Also, drinking on your own when the urge to pee hits can cause some tough decisions.

cute cats

That evening, we walked down to Waikiki Brewing, where I satisfied my thirst for a spicy beer with their Jalapeno Mouth Amber Ale. I really liked this brew, as it featured more spice and flavour than some similar beers I’ve tried. For eats, we ordered their Prime Sliders and Giant Pretzel, which was impressively big. The meal was very good and set us up for the long walk to the nearest Walmart for some grocery shopping.

The next day, we returned to Yard House for happy hour again, this time with Mrs. Sip and a napping Toddler Sip tagging along. On this visit, I drank the Aloha Waimanalo Farmhouse Ale, completing a trifecta of good beers served up at the restaurant. Our appies were the Fried Chicken Tenders and Chicken Nachos, which we managed to complete right before Toddler Sip woke up and threw her one and only massive tantrum of the vacay. That’s the last time Mrs. Sip offers her water after a nap!

Finally, it was time to do some booze shopping for our room after some serious price comparison work throughout the area. On the cheap, I picked up a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum to use with Cherry Coke and later Tonic Water as mixers. Spiced Rum has become my favourite go-to elixir when travelling, thanks to its versatility with a number of drinks, from sodas to hot chocolate.

captain morgan

Day three happy hour was spent at The Street Food Hall within the International Market Place. I began at Beer & Be Merry, capitalizing on their $2 Kirin all day deal with a pair of servings. Before leaving the place, I also popped over to The Myna Bird Tiki Bar for a cocktail, ordering the El Diablo (mezcal, creme de cassis, lime, ginger, soda).

With Toddler and Mrs. Sip up from their naps, we ventured over to the O Bar, where my beverage of choice was the Karai Thai (tequila, pineapple, guava, Thai chili pepper syrup, lime). While the drink was very refreshing, it was not as spicy as I would have liked. We also tried to feed Toddler Sip dinner here, but she was too interested in the fish tanks and live music.

The next day, we returned to The Street Food Hall as a family to share some pepperoni pizza from Nana Lu Pizzeria. I also went back to the Beer & Be Merry bar for a pint of Aloha Red Zeppelin, which had caught my eye the previous day. When you bought a craft beer from this bar, the serving size was bigger than the $2 Kirins, while the price was cheaper than other locations, even while not a special deal.

cheap beer

Up next, was a visit to Maui Brewing, where I put together a flight of beer, including Pineapple Mana Wheat, Anada Hemp Brown Ale, Coconut Hiwa Porter, Imperial Dolce Porter (w/ Caramel and Salt). Once again, a place was out of my top choice beer, in this case, the Fully Pitted Habanero Milkshake IPA. For food, we shared a Pork Belly Bao, which we both liked. To wrap the stay, I ordered the Street Fighter (tequila, watermelon, sour mix, Hawaiian chili salt rim) cocktail, which packed the heat I was looking for.

Following this stop, we walked a little further to the Top of Waikiki rotating restaurant. Sitting in their lounge area for happy hour, I had the Kona Winds (tequila, mezcal, hibiscus, mole bitters) cocktail. To restock my beers, I grabbed a six-pack of Kona Wailua Wheat from a nearby store, before we returned to our room for our evening tradition of Netflix and falling asleep with Toddler Sip. No more Netflix and chill for us!

On Friday, we enjoyed happy hour at our hotel’s Splash Bar (at the Sheraton PK), ordering a round of Kalua Pork Nachos, as well as their Homemade Potato Chips to scoop up all the nacho toppings. I finally ordered a Mai Tai for the occasion, as well as a pint of Kona Castaway IPA. With Toddler Sip napping, we were able to pull out the Sushi Go cards and play a few rounds following the meal.

mai tai.jpg

For dinner, we ate at The Cheesecake Factory, sharing some Roadside Sliders and a slice of the spectacular Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake. To quench my thirst, I had the Kona Gold Cliff IPA, which complimented the food nicely.

Saturday saw us do another long walk to the Ala Moana Center mall, then over to Dave & Busters for dinner and some arcade games. Our server here was nice enough, but did not provide the usual service we get when at the chain (didn’t explain how things work with the games, etc. and never asked if we wanted dessert, just brought the bill). Another complaint from me is that their drink menu doesn’t include prices… Cheesecake Factory does the same and I’ve decided I will no longer enjoy a beverage at places that hide the cost. What we did enjoy was our food, including Pretzel Dogs, Philly Cheesesteak Sliders and Goldfingers. It was also neat to see Toddler Sip play some of the games, as her last visit to D&Bs occurred when she was only four months old.

Sadly, all great vacations must come to an end. After a morning swim, I took care of my liquor buying business by grabbing bottles of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey and Kula Toasted Coconut Rum. I also picked up a couple massive cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for the day because I just can’t help myself when it comes to PBR!

choose fun.jpg

Our final meal of the trip was enjoyed at Duke’s Waikiki, where we enjoyed an epic feast. My fish entrée was prepared in a mouthwatering Spicy Gochujang-Ginger Roasted sauce, while I sipped away at a Hawaiian Time (strawberry basil lemonade with Absolut Mandarin and Kai Lemongrass Ginger Shochu) cocktail. For dessert, we shared the Specialty Hula Pie (Oreo crust, peanut butter cup ice cream), which was truly decadent and we all overate prior to our redeye flight home.

We hope to return to Hawaii soon and wish our stay there was longer than a week. For now, it’s back to cold weather, but at least the Christmas season is ramping up and that will provide much festive joy!

Sip Trips #175: Coastal Cruising

The September birthday blitz has come and gone for another year and it was fairly busy. It began with Sis-In-Law Sip’s birthday, where I concocted four relatively easy drinks to go along with the treats of autumn/fall theme. These cocktails utilized spirits such as Pumpkin Pie Vodka, Roasted Pecan Whiskey, Cranberry Liqueur, Apple-Cinnamon Vodka, and Cinnamon Whiskey. Mixers included Ginger Beer, Hibiscus Iced Tea and Chocolate Milk. Overall, the beverages went over very well with guests in attendance.

The next evening, we ventured to Maple Ridge for a meal at the Billy Miner Pub. While enjoying a pint of R&B Brewing’s delicious Orange Negroni Saison, I partook in an order of Teriyaki Fries, while also stealing a few nibbles of Mrs. Sip’s Cornbread. The meal was very good and the pub has become our go-to option when out that way.

To celebrate my birthday, as well as Baby Sip’s (we are one day apart), we booked a Princess Cruises itinerary from Vancouver to Los Angeles, with one day at Disneyland scheduled as well. The cruise featured its typical level of booziness, but I didn’t expect some of the treats that came my way (bucket of beers pre-ordered by Ma and Pa Sip and a pair of complimentary cocktails from the ship) and given I was drinking solo, I think I made quite an effort. That’s right folks, Mrs. Sip is pregnant with our second child – a boy this time – so Baby Sip will from this post forward be referred to as Toddler Sip.

second child

My goal for this cruise, was to not buy a single drink. After all, I had a bottle each of red and white wine, a couple mini bottles and the previously mentioned bucket of beers and cocktails to go through on my own. I used my two cocktail vouchers on Long Island Iced Tea variations, including the Georgia Tea (vodka, gin, rum, peach schnapps, Cranberry Juice, sour mix) and Italian Tea (vodka, gin, rum, amaretto, cola, sour mix). Both were strong and tasty, just the way I prefer libations to be.

I did crack on my “don’t buy a drink” credo, as we celebrated my birthday dinner at the ship’s Salty Dog Gastropub, where I ordered the Salty Dog Smash (whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice, mint). The drink paired well with our food, as each diner gets to pick two main courses. We went with the Grilled Cheese, Lobster Mac & Cheese, Calamari Frites, and Ernesto Burger. The meal was quite decadent and was finished with desserts of Strawberries & Cream and Bourbon Chocolate Pot de Crème.

Our day at Disneyland was a lot of fun, with Toddler Sip getting to meet her hero Minnie Mouse and experience attractions such as the Enchanted Tiki Room, King Arthur Carrousel and the Mad Tea Party. We also tried a bunch of the specialty Halloween treats around the park, including the Toasted Salsa Roja Chicken Sandwich with Tortilla Soup, Blackberry Midnight Julep and Frozen Abuelita Horchata (mixing Mexican hot chocolate and horchata). Toddler Sip really liked the horchata.

tired disneyland

Admittedly, the day was exhausting and a bit of a bust, as far as my drinking goals were concerned. We were unable to secure a reservation at Oga’s Cantina (the only place to get a boozy drink in the park) in the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area and were too drained at the end of the night to journey to Ballast Point’s new location in Downtown Disney. These will both have to be saved for next year’s return to the resort.

After flying back to Seattle and being picked up by Ma and Pa Sip, we went for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. There, I ordered the Crispy Fried Chicken Sandwich and a pint of Mac & Jack’s Brewing African Amber Ale. We also took home a slice of Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake, which was so damn good when we finally got around to eating it the next night.

It should also be noted that I was gifted from the Sip-In-Laws a bottle of Swear Jar Whiskey, which can be used as a swear jar/piggy bank after being consumed. On the horizon is Oktoberfest, which we will be indulging in to celebrate Cousin Sip’s birthday. Time to get the lederhosen ready!

Sip Trips #174: Island Exploring

While the last couple of weeks have been quieter, coinciding with the end of summer, the Sip Family has still kept up a fairly busy schedule of events and activities. Here’s what we’ve been up to, of late:

Following the Labour Day long weekend, Mrs. Sip and I both took an extra day off work to take Baby Sip to the Vancouver Aquarium. While in that neck of the woods, we visited the new Stanley Park Brewing Restaurant & Brewpub. They have set up quite a facility there and we wish our visit wasn’t so brief. I ordered a pint of the Grapefruit & Juniper Red ISA, which was already on tap, despite being on their “Up Next” menu. I’m so glad it was because it paired quite well with the Pretzel Mrs. Sip asked for, accompanied by a very tasty mustard sauce. I’d say the only drawback is that a trip to Stanley Park takes us quite a bit out of the way nowadays, so popping into the brewpub will likely be a rare treat.

mustard

Later that week, to celebrate Pa Sip’s birthday, we had dinner at the Moby Dick Seafood Restaurant in White Rock. While splitting a platter of delicious Fish & Chips, I enjoyed a pint of Steamworks Lager. In my opinion, you just can’t have fish and chips without a frosty beverage and although the restaurant only had this one craft option, I’m thankful they at least had that.

This past weekend, we travelled to Victoria to visit family. While on the island, I was able to hit a couple of the many craft breweries our capital city has to offer. We began our limited crawl at Phillips Brewing, which has expanded greatly since my last visit a handful of years ago. I went with a flight of beers, selecting their Fresa Fresca Strawberry Cream Wit, The Ramanga Blood Orange Witbier, Au Currant Black Currant Wheat Ale, and Death Metal Norwegian Black IPA. I also picked up a bomber of Villager Hazy Kolsch, the official beer of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, for the road.

Up next was Vancouver Island Brewing, where I put together another flight, consisting of their Twisted Stalk Blackberry Helles, Magic Hour Grapefruit Gose, Faller Northwest Pale Ale and Just Desserts Porter. If it wasn’t so expensive to take a vehicle round trip via BC Ferries, we would probably be able to explore Victoria even more. There are many locations over there that I’d love to stop at in the future.

ferries

We wrapped our most recent adventures by trying Burger Heaven in New West. The burgers here don’t come cheap, with the basic option starting at $15 and fancier items closer to $20 or more, but they are very good quality. I went with the Teriyaki, Mozzarella, Bacon & Mushroom Burger and it was fantastic. Our meal ended on a bit of a sour note, though, as we were charged for extra drinks we didn’t order and it wasn’t realized until after we paid. We were refunded for the drinks, but our tip was based on an incorrectly inflated charge. Not to mention, while this could have been an accident, you’re always left wondering whether the server was hoping it wouldn’t be noticed.

Coming up for the Sip Advisor is the September birthday blitz, which sees myself, Baby Sip, Sis-in-Law Sip and a couple friends all celebrate another year on this earth within a week of each other. Should make for quite a bit of fun!

Sip Trips #165: European Escape (Part 2)

After stops in London and Sicily to start our European vacation, we made our way to Malta for the final leg of the getaway. Promptly upon arriving in the country, we collected our rental vehicles and drove to the ferry, transporting ourselves to the sub-island of Gozo. After boarding the ferry, Mrs. Sip retrieved a can of Hopleaf Pale Ale for me, as I waited with a sleeping Baby Sip.

For dinner that evening, we went to the Zebbug Rovers Bar & Grill. Here, I enjoyed the Zebbug Rovers Special pizza (topped with chicken, bacon, ground beef, pepperoni, sausage and BBQ sauce drizzle) with a large serving of Paulaner Weissbier.

The next day, after checking out some of the sites around Gozo, we stopped for lunch at the seaside Churchill Restaurant. For our meal, I enjoyed a Grilled Angus Burger, along with a glass of House Rose. Afterwards, upon being challenged, I performed a near-perfect cannonball into the adjacent Xlendi Bay!

cannonball

Our big stop the following afternoon was a visit to Lord Chambray Brewery. Thanks to a group effort, we all got to try everything they had on tap, with my pint selection being the Sun Blas English IPA. Other favourites included the Fungus Rock Stout and Blue Lagoon Belgian Wheat.

That evening, we managed to finally get our hands on the final two episodes of Game of Thrones – as well as a TV we could view them on – and sat back to enjoy the spectacle. My enjoyment was enhanced by the addition of beers such as the 8.6 Original Intense Blonde Beer, which I became a big fan of during the Maltese portion of our trip.

The next day, we were off to the main island of Malta, staying in the marina area. On our first night, we had a late dinner at the nearby Mamma Mia, known for their Chicken Dippers meal, which was very, very good and really hit the spot after another long day of driving and sightseeing. A pitcher of Cisk Lager was a nice, if not underwhelming, accompaniment to the feast.

pitcher longer

Our next attraction was the walled city of Mdina, where we had lunch at the Palazzo de Piro Café. My Clubhouse Sandwich was unique in that it included boiled egg, but that didn’t detract from the meal. We also split a bottle of Medina Sauvignon Blanc to wash down our food.

Next up, was a visit to Meridiana Winery, where for 12 Euros, we received a four-glass tasting, including the vineyard’s Isis Chardonnay, Fenici Rose, Nexus Merlot, Melqart Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot. With a bottle of the rose coming home with us, we can recreate the serene experience anytime we want.

To celebrate the return of our rental cars and no longer having to drive, we had another late dinner at Uncle Matt’s Kitchen. There, I had another meaty pizza with the Chicken Farm option. A tall can of Blue Label Amber Ale and glass of house rose completed the feast.

car rental.jpg

We next explored Valletta, the capital of Malta. Our day of exploring ended with drinks at the 200-year-old Caffe Cordina, where I drank a bottle of Farsons Double Red Ale. Baby Sip liked the stop, as she got to chase birds in the small square, as well as receive numerous packs of cookies from the servers.

On our last day, we bought tickets for Malta’s hop-on, hop-off bus. Our main stop was the Marsaxlokk Fishing Village, where we explored and dined at Carrubia, along the waterfront. Mrs. Sip and I weren’t very hungry, but shared a really good breaded cod and chips plate. The restaurant also offered free bruschetta for the table. A bottle of Green Label Delicata made the picturesque spot a perfect ending to the journey.

As mentioned earlier, Alaska is up next, a cruise I’ve been wanting to do for some time. I’m hoping to get some breweries in while there and the typical cruise ship shenanigans are bound to occur. I’ve made it my goal to hit at least one saloon in each port, so that should make things interesting!

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.