Sip Trips #139: Exploring Europe (Part 4)

The final stop on our European expedition was Belgium, where we visited the cities of Brussels and Bruges, looking to get our fill of what the country is famous for: chocolate, beer, waffles and fries!

First up, was Brussels, where we began by eating at The Purple Rose. While we didn’t love the Croque Monsieur Mrs. Sip and I split, we did enjoy our Belgian Beer Tour of seven 4oz beers, served with a side of fries.

This was merely a warmup, as our big excursion of the day was a Beer & Chocolate Tour, which featured tons of chocolate and six beers. The 4.5-hour tour was very good value, costing 80-Euros per person. I liked being able to pick from a variety of chocolate combos, choosing my sweets based on ingredients I thought worked well in cocktails. Following the chocolate, we were treated to a walking tour of the city, prior to hitting three different bars for the beer portion of the outing.

Belgian Chocolate.jpg

Feeling quite jovial at the conclusion of the tour, we made our way to the Delirium Café for further beverages. I had hoped to drink from one of the bar’s massive fishbowl glasses (which you have to put down a 40-Euros deposit for), but they had sadly ran out of the goblets when we went to order. We still enjoyed a drink, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for.

The next day, we popped into Restaurant du MIM, located on the 10th floor of the Museum of Musical Instruments. There, I had a pint of Ramee Blanche, while we enjoyed the views from the outdoor seating section. I had the same beer at Café Georgette, famous for their fries, which can be eaten at the restaurant or as takeaway in a cone. We ordered our chips with Georgette Sauce, which completed the experience.

We then walked across town for drinks at the Brussels Beer Project, which had been recommended to us the day before by our Beer & Chocolate Tour guide. Mrs. Sip and I went with pints of the Delta IPA (Belgian IPA) and Jungle Joy (Mango and Passionfruit Blond). We had wanted to try the Grosse Bertha (Belgian Hefeweizen), but it was tapped out at the time. Mrs. Sip did get to try it when we had dinner across the street at Café Walvis. There, I paired some beef stew with fries and a bottle of Maredsous Bruin, as was recommended on the bistro’s menu.

belgian-beer

Before moving onto the Bruges portion of our vacation, I must mention that I really enjoyed the Grimbergen brand of beer, which we tried in Blond, Dubbel, and Tripel varieties. I found they worked particularly well with Belgian waffles, making for a fantastic breakfast and start to a day of exploring!

In Bruges (an awesome movie!), we began our activities by exploring the main square, while searching for a place to eat dinner. We landed at Huyze die Maene, where I selected from their 22-Euros set menu. My meal included another round of Flemish beef stew with fries, accompanied by a large serving of Kwak beer, which came in a very interesting glass that looked like something from a chemistry lab.

The next day, we toured the Brewery De Halve Maan, which finished with a glass of their Brugse Zot Blond. The tour cost 10-Euros per person, which may have been money better spent on just ordering a couple pints of beer. Mrs. Sip and I have grown tired of learning the process to make beer and really just want to sample the wares. At least we lucked upon a spot in the brewery’s courtyard to enjoy our beverages.

Missing Beer.jpg

While walking around the city, we stepped into one of the beer stores that Belgium is known for. These shops typically carry hundreds of different beers. Mrs. Sip wanted to try a couple from the Mongozo brand, including their coconut and banana-flavoured options. These brews were lighter on the alcohol percentage, but very tasty.

Before heading back to London and flying home the next day, we needed to return to Brussels to catch our Eurostar train. With time to kill, we walked to the nearby Cantillon Brewery, which specializes in sour beers. We ordered a glass of each of the four available brews, including the Gueuze, Kriek, Rose de Gambrinus, and Lambic.

That wraps our adventures from across the pond. Travelling such a long distance with Baby Sip went better than I expected, but it still had its fair share of hiccups, which I hope to delve into in a future Love & Hate article. Until then, at least we have the fuzzy memories!

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Sip Trips #138: Exploring Europe (Part 3)

Our arrival in Porto, Portugal, unfortunately occurred on a Sunday afternoon, meaning all stores and most restaurants were closed. We didn’t let that deter us though, finding Bao’s Taiwanese Burger. I had the Pulled Pork Bao, while splitting an order of Fries 101 with Mrs. Sip. To drink, I had a bottle of Opo Gyroscope IPA and we both finished our meal with a Happy Ending Shot, made with Licor 43.

As we ate, our laundry was going through a wash cycle at a nearby laundromat. So, as we waited for the load to dry, we popped into Café Candelabro for a beverage. There, I had a bottle of Cristal Preta, while Mrs. Sip enjoyed a glass of wine and Baby Sip gnawed on a drink coaster!

Laundry.jpg

The next day, we went on an excellent Food & Wine Tour. The trek began with traditional egg tarts at Manteigaria, before cod cakes and veal pockets with a generous serving of wine at Imperio. Next, we were off to O Pretinho Do Japao for a charcuterie platter and more wine, followed by Port tasting (white, red and tawny) at Pouriga. The main event was a fantastic bifana em pao sandwich, paired with a Super Bock Lager at Conga. This sandwich, with meat marinated in a mix of beer and peri-peri sauce, was the highlight of the tour, as far as Mrs. Sip and I were concerned. McDonald’s actually has their own version, which I also tried, but obviously it was just not the same.

Following the tour, we made our way to the city’s riverside area, where we joined an English tour of the Calem Port Museum. The tour and five tastings cost us 27€ for me and Mrs. Sip. Unfortunately, Baby Sip was being really fussy during this tour, so we didn’t get to fully enjoy it, but the tastings kind of made the difficult experience a little more tolerable.

Looking to get back on track, we continued along the riverside, ending up at Sandeman Cellars outdoor patio area for some Port cocktails. Mrs. Sip had their Vau Nilla (Sandeman Branco Port, apple, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, bitters), while I went with the Club Ruby (Sandeman Ruby Port, red fruit puree, pepper, lemon juice, mint). The drinks were delicious and the setting spectacular.

Wine Flu

Sadly, our short stay in Porto was over and we were onto the capital city of Lisbon via train. Upon arriving, we ventured to LisBeer, home to a variety of Portuguese craft beers. En route, we passed a Napoleao wine and spirits shop, so decided to have a looksee. There, we found a bottle of Sharish Blue Magic Gin to bring home. While I have yet to use the liquor, it apparently turns pink when you add ice, tonic water or another mix to it. When we finally made it to LisBeer, we selected a pair of 8a Colina Brewing products in the Urraca Vendaval IPA and Ze’ Arnaldo Porter. This bar had a very relaxed atmosphere and we enjoyed our brief visit.

For dinner, we made our way to Lisbon’s Hard Rock Café. The busy restaurant provides priority seating for guests with babies and young children, which was a nice bonus. I ordered the Original Legendary Burger, with a pint of Sagres Bohemia Beer, while Mrs. Sip had the Tupelo Chicken Tenders and a bottle of Sagres Bohemia Wheat Beer. Our food was very good and the staff at the eatery were top notch in our books.

We wrapped the long day with some cherry liqueur tasting at Ginginha do Carmo. While I enjoyed the booze straight up, Mrs. Sip had hers out of a chocolate cup, adding a whole new element to the experience. While these venues are very small, patrons are able to enjoy their drink outside the establishment. Our next morning also began with cherry liqueur, this time from A Ginjinha Registada, the oldest of these hole-in-the-wall shops.

Pace Yourself

Our main tourist activity on this day was a two-hour walking tour of the city. Afterwards, we joined the guide and a few fellow tourists for a drink at Noobai Café. Upon entering the place, I spotted what looked like a beer tasting opportunity, so promptly ordered that menu item. My flight was comprised of four Super Bock Seleccao 1927 varieties, including a Munich Dunkel, Bavaria Weiss, Bengal Amber IPA, and Thames Porter.

We wrapped our second day by visiting a marketplace in the center of the town, sitting down to a plate of various sausages and glasses of red and white sangria. We also picked up a bottle of Rose Wine, which the vendor opened up for us right there, allowing us to walk the stalls of the market with glasses of vino.

Before travelling to Belgium, the final stop of our expedition, we visited Sintra, Portugal, a beautiful little town, highlighted by Pena Palace and a Moorish Castle. Given all the pushing of Baby Sip’s stroller I was doing up and down cobble stone streets, I enjoyed a couple Super Bock cans to reward my efforts.

Sip Trips #137: Exploring Europe (Part 2)

Lyon, France was the second stop on our European expedition. Upon arriving, our group of six (seven if you count Baby Sip… and you better!) settled into our Airbnb, before heading out to explore the city. As we wandered through the Old Town area, we stopped at Les Banana’s for some French cuisine. I went with a Napolitaine Crepe, which was very good and hit the spot, washing the meal down with a pair of Stella pints.

Our next stop was one of my favourites from the entire vacation: Les Fleurs du Malt. This bar, specializing in craft beer from around the world, had an amazing happy hour concept, where if you correctly guessed the flip of a coin, you got your choice of beer for half price. I guessed correctly twice (always opting for tails!) for my orders of Piggy Brewing Paradise Peppers and Coursendonk Rousse. The location had really funky art throughout and I really enjoyed our experience there.

Heads or Tails.jpg

The next day, our crew travelled to the Beaujolais wine region via a private tour provided by Tasty Lyon. The trek stopped at Chateau de Corcelles and Domaine de la Madone, where we sampled a total of about 10 wines. At our second stop, we bought bottles of Viogner and Domaine du Niagara, which we enjoyed at a park along the Rhone River later that afternoon.

Our dinner that evening was a McDonald’s feast of burgers, fries and chicken nuggets. To make the meal a little more French, I drank some of the craft beers I had picked up the day prior, including Licorne Blonde Bio and Ninkasi (the French company) Tripel and French IPA.

McNuggets Feast.jpg

On our last day, we returned to the old town for a long walk. We stopped at La Mouss’tache for lunch, where we just got our orders into the kitchen before their afternoon break. My Bacon Burger was quite good, paired with a pint of Paulaner Salvator Ambree. This place was neat, with beer taps at each table, but we never figured out how the system worked. We returned later that day to watch the FA Cup Final and enjoy 5-Euro per pint happy hour, where I drank servings of Paulaner Weissbier and La Chouffe.

That wrapped our stay in Lyon and next up we were off to Portugal. Our time there started in Porto and ended in Lisbon, but there was much fun to be had as we journeyed through the country for the first time.

Sip Trips #136: Exploring Europe (Part 1)

The Sip Family’s four-country, six-city European expedition has come and gone. Travelling with Baby Sip added a whole new element to traversing the continent and while she was very well-behaved, we were lucky to have a pit crew of friends helping us out along the way. Here’s part one of our journey:

Starting in London, where we have good friends living in the east end of the metropolis, our first full day happened to fall on Mrs. Sip’s inaugural Mother’s Day. With that event in mind, I worked with our friends to book an Afternoon Tea at the Hilton Hotel Park Lane. We opted for the bottomless prosecco option and enjoyed drinking for two and a half hours. As for tea, I went with the Black Currant and Hibiscus variety, while enjoying the collection of sandwiches and desserts before me. The service from staff at the Podium Restaurant & Bar was fantastic and made for a special celebration for Mrs. Sip.

To wrap up our excursion, we stopped into the East London Liquor Company for Baby Sip’s very first distillery visit. The cocktail I selected was the Black Garlic Matters, comprised of the company’s own Demerara Rum, along with maraschino, cold brew coffee, black garlic, cola, and orange. The drink was delicious and I savoured every sip.

modern-art

The next day, we took a long walk around London, visiting Tower Bridge and dropping into the Tate Modern. I hate this art gallery, but was bribed by Mrs. Sip’s promise of having a beer in their cafeteria, if I behaved myself. I didn’t, but she still let me have a drink anyway! The cafeteria provides a beautiful view of the city, which I enjoyed with a pint of Beavertown Neck Oil Session IPA.

From there, we met our friends for dinner at Wagamama. I had a very good order of Chicken & Prawn Yaki Soba, paired with a pint of Asahi. For her beverage, Mrs. Sip ordered a can of Nix And Kix Mango & Ginger Soda (with a touch of Cayenne Pepper), which was very tasty and I tried to track down another can to bring home for the purpose of making a cocktail with it, but came up empty handed.

On our final night in London, we met for dinner at Bubble Dogs, which combines hotdogs with champagne. The concept seems odd, but kind of works. Over a couple bottles of Rose bubbly, I had their Fourth of July Hotdog (barbecue sauce, coleslaw, crispy bacon), while we also split a number of the restaurant’s side dishes, including sweet potato fries, Horny Devils (corn and jalapeño fritters) and tater tots.

Cat with Hotdogs

Having Baby Sip with us limited some of our drinking activities, as some bars were unable to accommodate a little one, sometimes due to their liquor licence and sometimes to do with available space and us using a stroller. For example, I really wanted to do the Beefeater Gin Distillery Tour, but we weren’t able to with Baby Sip in tow.

As for craft beer, London has a bit of a bizarre scene, where most locations are only open for a few hours… and that’s not per day, but each week. We wanted to do the Bermondsey Beer Mile (10 breweries within a mile-long stretch), but it’s only an option on Saturdays. Regardless, I did pick up a number of bottled beers to enjoy, including Sharp’s Doom Bar Amber Ale, Adnam’s Ghost Ship Pale Ale, Young’s Special London Ale, and St. Austell Proper Job Cornish IPA.

Next up, we were off to Lyon, France to meet up with another set of friends. Part two will look at that brief stay, which included a tour into the Beaujolais wine region.

January 3 – Pink Starburst

It’s Gonna Be Great

Each new year, provides time for reflection and an opportunity to plan for the future. With that in mind, here are the Top 5 things the Sip Advisor is looking forward to in 2015:

#5: New Opportunities

I have a feeling that 2015 will bring about some new adventures in the Sip Advisor’s life… all for the better, of course. Then again, I feel that way every time the calendar turns and while some years don’t hold the developments that others do, I refuse to not look at things with a positive and hopeful outlook. Not to steal a line from the Christmas season, but I hope every little sipper out there gets everything they want out of 2015.

Optimism Glasses

#4: Movies

There are some great theatrical releases in the 2015 pipeline. Regardless of what you’re into, there seems to be something out there for everyone. The films the Sip Advisor is looking forward to most, include The Avengers: Age of Ultron; Minions; Ted 2; and Deadpool. While I have absolutely no interest in it, it should be noted that Fifty Shades of Grey will finally hit theatres, so one can expect a spike in vibrator sales across the globe, following its debut!

#3: TV Shows

Returning to the small screen early this year are a host of great comedies, including Archer; Parks and Recreation (for its seventh and final season); and Community, the show that keeps on kicking. It’s hard to pick one out of those three that I’m anticipating the most, but I think the edge would have to go to Archer. Better Call Saul will also debut in 2015, for those looking to fill their Breaking Bad void!

Archer Astronaut

#2: Vacations

Already on the travel calendar for 2015 are jaunts to Disneyland, perhaps twice (once for a Sip Alliance member’s birthday scavenger hunt and later for the resort’s 60th anniversary); Portland for the Spring Beer and Wine Festival; and a likely trip to Las Vegas sometime during the summer. Mrs. Sip also has the wild idea of us going to South Africa in September, where the Sip Advisor will have to deal with his fear of snakes, Ebola, and hostile tribes, all at once!

#1: Flavour Revolution

Of course, one of the most enjoyable elements of the upcoming year will be the Sip Advisor’s Flavour Revolution Project, which will be rocking the world throughout 2015. I’m also really excited about adding some more personal coverage to the site with the “Out and About with the Sip Advisor” feature… it’s about time I combine all the fun I’m having with this wonderful site!

Super Saturday Shot Day: Pink Starburst

Pink Starburst Shot

  • 0.5 oz Vanilla Vodka
  • 0.25 oz Watermelon Pucker
  • Splash of Sour Mix
  • Garnish with a Pink Starburst

We need to enjoy 2015 to the max because 2016 will be inundated with a nearly full year of political coverage in the U.S., as they approach their presidential election. That’s one thing the Sip Advisor certainly isn’t looking forward to in the future.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
The recipe for this shooter seems incredibly out of proportion, asking the maker to combine four ounces of liquid… that’s enough to fill at least three shot glasses. I’ve tried my best to bring the measurements down to an acceptable number, but that may throw the taste out of whack. In fact, the Vanilla Vodka provides a different aftertaste than you are used to from the actual candy, but it’s still relatively tasty.

January 4 – Lemon Drop

Around the Bend

Today marks a new beginning for the Super Saturday Shot Day page. After much pestering, I promised Mrs. Sip that each Shot Day post would include rankings rather than just lists. She thinks this will engage the reader more and we have a little bet running on that. Let’s see if I’ll end up owing her a Coke (her least favourite beverage!). Anyway, here are the top five things to look forward to in 2014, according to the Sip Advisor!

#5: Box Office Smash

2014 will see the release of a myriad of highly-anticipated films. Among the ones I’m looking forward to seeing are: X-Men: Days of Future Past; Dumb and Dumber To; How to Train Your Dragon 2; and The LEGO Movie. Sure, there are others that may eventually catch my attention, but there are also others I have no intention of checking out, such as Robo Cop (I was never a fan of the franchise) and Godzilla (I never got the appeal of all these monsters).

dumb-and-dumber

#4: Small Screen Gems

The TV schedule gets a boost of rejuvenation with the return of some great series early in the New Year. Archer, Community (premiered two days ago), and Sherlock all return within the first couple weeks of 2014, proving that shows with a one-word title are most appreciated. Add in all the other programming coming off their Christmas hiatus and your DVR player better have a ton of free space available.

#3: Blog-O-Sphere

I’m really looking forward to the new Sip Advisor project I’m starting on Jan. 6, as we traverse the globe and learn about a different nation’s top imports and celebrated alcohol each week. It will give me a great opportunity to delve into the collection of spirits I’ve built from around the world and share with all you little sippers a more international flavour than ever before.

Drinking Around the World

#2: Travel Tips

It looks like Mrs. Sip and I already have some crazy travel plans on the horizon, including tentative vacations to New York, the Dominican Republic, Iceland, Germany, and the U.K. already in the pipeline. On top of that, we’re sure to end up in Disneyland and Las Vegas at some point, as we do every year. With each journey, I’ll be checking out unique libations and visiting fine establishments all in the name a liquor education… can I claim a tax refund on that!?

#1: Milestones

Speaking of Mrs. Sip, the gorgeous goddess will celebrate her 30th birthday this year and you better believe we’ll be partying in style. 2014 will also see us enjoy our 12th dating anniversary and 2nd wedding anniversary. As for this natural wonder of a website, we’re rapidly approaching our 50,000th view. Sadly, I won’t be able to know exactly who that person is and award them a lifetime supply of free blog articles!

Super Saturday Shot Day: Lemon Drop

Lemon Drop Shooter

  • 0.75 oz Vodka (I used Smirnoff Blueberry)
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • 1 Sugar Cube
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

What are you looking forward to in 2014? Perhaps you’ll give me other ideas of what I should be keeping an eye on in the next calendar year!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I can’t believe it took so long to get around to doing this shot, but it’s a great way to ring in 2014. The shooter is simple and delicious. You could probably achieve different tastes depending on which Vodka you choose to use. I thought the Smirnoff Blueberry and Lemon Juice blended together quite well. I left the Sugar Cube to dissolve on it’s own, rather than stir it into the recipe.

May 29 – Red Lotus

Land of Cherry Blossoms

Today we continue part two of our epic tour of Japan… for part one, head to our Japanese Slipper post.

Buy a High-Tech Gadget You Don’t Understand

Japan is a haven for electronic gadgets nobody really needs. Think about those Tamagotchi Pets and other junk. I’m not sure what I’d be searching for at the stores and stands hawking these treasures, but if I could find some kind of device that makes Mrs. Sip a little less late and a little more on time, I’d scoop it up in a heartbeat!

Japan Weird

Go to Tokyo Disney Resort

I have made it a bucket list goal to visit every Disney theme park and this holiday would cross another stop off the register. Comprised of two parks – Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea – there are a ton of old classics and new favourites to check out. I just think it would be a psychedelic trip to go through the usual Disney fare, but have everything voiced in Japanese.

See “The Cove”

Whether you’re pro- or anti-dolphin hunting (not really sure who out there is actually in favour of slaughtering Flipper and his mates), if you’re looking for some adventure, you should visit “The Cove”, aka Taiji, Wakayama, Japan. Perhaps you can get into a fight with hunters or protestors or both. I say, why not swing wildly and let God sort ‘em out.

Sing Karaoke

These people invented the drunken entertainment, so we might as well drop a few sake bombs and sing our hearts out with the Yakuza. Perhaps we can find an arcade where visitors can take a spin at Dance Dance Revolution, while belting out a Neil Diamond classic!

Karaoke

Woo a Geisha

Although we’re only there for a few weeks, I think I have the ‘moves like Jagger’ to make a Geisha smitten with me. While I can’t provide all the usual financial support associated with the normal patrons of these ladies, I can offer wonderful drink recipes and regale them with stories of my triumphs.

Ride a Bullet Train

While the case would have to be solved quickly, given we’re aboard a Bullet Train, it would be neat to be aboard a choo-choo where a murder has occurred (ala The Orient Express)… and EVERYONE is a suspect! If the victim is anyone I work with, then I’ll likely turn out to be the killer. I won’t even make it a difficult case for investigators… full on confession: I did it and I’d do it again.

Wear a Kimono

Of course I’d be donning this traditional wardrobe at a public bath house, where I would then proceed to bathe rich Japanese businessmen, in exchange for yen and customary noodle dishes. It is a good life if you can get it!

Drink #149: Red Lotus

May 29

  • 2 oz Vodka
  • Top with Lychee Juice
  • Splash of Cranberry Juice

Well, that about wraps up our Japanese adventures. Have I missed anything? Rhetorical question, my little sippers… I’m kind of awesome that way!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
This is a very light drink that would probably get you drunk quickly without even noticing your buzz rising. It’s the first time I’ve ever had Lychee Juice and I’m looking forward to future play dates!