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.

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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.

Sip Trips #132: Celebrations Galore

The Sip Family has been super busy the last couple weeks. So busy, that I’m just now getting a chance to document our recent adventures. Here’s what we’ve been up to since I was last able to write:

A couple weekends’ ago, we celebrated Father-in-Law Sip’s birthday, taking our revelry to Backyard Winery, followed by Township 7 Winery, in Langley. While at Backyard, where we enjoyed a couple bottles of Pinot Gris and charcuterie platters, Mrs. Sip rejoined their wine club now that she’s no longer pregnant and breastfeeding. At Township 7, our group did a wine tasting, while I toured the grounds with Baby Sip, who was visiting the fifth winery of her young life.

Later that week, we enjoyed a meal at EXP Restaurant + Bar. There has been some concern the place will be forced out of business, due to Vancouver’s ridiculous rent prices, so we wanted to visit before anything tragic occured. We ordered a round of Harry Potter-themed cocktails that were all pretty tasty. My favourite was the Gryffindor’s Liquid Courage, thanks to the Jack Daniels Whiskey base. To eat, I ordered the Triforce Burger, which is comprised of a crispy chicken breast, beef burger and bacon. It’s quite the meal, but oh so delicious.

Triforce

Heading into Easter weekend, I picked Mrs. Sip up from work and we enjoyed a drink at Steel & Oak Brewing. The brewery has recently completed renovations to allow for more patrons and the space is much-needed, as the place is often packed. We ordered the Encore collaboration with Yellow Dog Brewing and really enjoyed the beer. That’s really no surprise, as the two breweries are among my favourite in the province.

The next day, Mrs. Sip and I celebrated our 16th dating anniversary. We began the occasion by using the Groupon I had purchased for Big City Hunt, which offers scavenger hunts in a number of big cities. Even though we’re locals, we learned some neat things about downtown Vancouver, as we embarked on the two-hour tour, featuring trivia and photo challenges.

The main event of our anniversary was dining at the Top of Vancouver rotating restaurant. We split a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, along with a starter of Baked French Brie and mains of Duck Duo for me and Baked Whole Lobster for Mrs. Sip. The dinner was not cheap, but you’re partly paying for the view, which we enjoyed for over two hours and three full rotations of the restaurant.

Lobster Immortal.jpg

We wrapped our evening out by stopping at Nero Belgian Waffle Bar, where the alluring smell of fresh waffles forced us to investigate further. We split their set of seven Mini Liège Waffles, which provided the perfect dessert to our earlier feast.

The following day, we journeyed back to Langley to celebrate Mrs. Sip’s grandpa’s 93rd birthday at one of his favourite restaurants, Andreas. This place has an amazing menu and I can’t remember not liking any item that I have ordered. On this visit, I combined their French Onion Soup (which may have been the best serving I’ve ever had of the delicacy) with Chicken Fingers and Fries. The meal was decadent and the prices were all very reasonable.

On Easter Sunday, we met with friends at Big Ridge Brewing in Surrey. Having eaten recently, Mrs. Sip and I split an order of their Beer Battered Garlic Fries. These paired nicely with our beer selections of Viking Funeral Norwegian Ale for me and Vanilla Bean Porter for Mrs. Sip. Next time we’re out that way, I’d like to try something from their Asian Kitchen menu.

Chows Mane

Afterwards, we were off to Baby Sip’s first drive-in movie experience at Twilight Theatre in Aldergrove. Our films included Ready Player One and Game Night, both of which were enjoyable, despite some inclement weather, including a touch of hail during the shows.

Last, but not least, we also attended three Vancouver Canucks games in the last week, including the emotional final home game for the Sedin twins. This magical night will live long in my memory and Daniel and Henrik deserve every bit of praise they have received since announcing their impending retirements. Thank you to both of them for their 18 years of service, both on and off the ice.

The coming week remains loaded with commitments and activities, which you can read all about in next week’s Sip Trips!

Sip Trips #127: San Diego Sipping (Part 3)

Part three of our time spent in San Diego County began with a trip to Temecula. Our first stop of the day was Walmart, where I grabbed the Trouble Brewing A Pack of Trouble Variety Pack. I learned after the fact that this is actually a Walmart brand that has encountered some controversy over whether or not it’s actually craft beer. The case contained the Cats Away IPA, After Party Pale Ale, ‘Round Midnight Belgian White, and Red Flag Amber Ale, all of which I thought were decent brews.

Next up was Garage Brewing for lunch. We tried visiting here the last time we were in San Diego, before tragically discovering the place is closed on Mondays. Redemption is sweet, my little sippers, and this place is so good that we returned for a second meal later in our vacation. They have a fantastic fast-fired pizza idea, where you can build your own pie, similar to a Subway sandwich. On both stopovers, I ordered a pint of Hatch Chile IPA. Mrs. Sip tried tasters of their Mango Hefeweizen, Belgian Triple, Cherry Chocolate Stout, Marshmallow Milk Stout (Nitro), Spiced Coconut Porter, Apple Pie Pale Ale, and Holidation over both occasions. We also bought a bomber of Apricot Wit for the road. As for the pizzas, they were all amazing, with their Red Hot Mustang Pizza being particularly delicious.

Pizza Fitness.jpg

The day wrapped with a quick jaunt into Temecula Valley Wine Country, popping into Wilson Creek Winery, which was recommended to us by a friend, who called the place the Disneyland of wineries. Of particular note were their flavoured champagnes, including Almond and Peach Bellini. Upon leaving, we bought a bottle of Rose Champagne, which nicely priced at only $10.

Our next day trip was to Carlsbad, beginning with a Sip Family favourite: Dave & Busters. With our lunch of Pretzel Dogs and Pepperoni Pretzel Pull-Apart, I enjoyed an upsized pint of Belching Beaver Mango IPA. Mrs. Sip went with the Belching Beaver Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, adding a little dessert to her meal. As we played some of their games, I drank a Firestone Walker 805 Pale Ale to Mrs. Sip’s standard go-to Blue Moon.

Before returning to the resort, we also managed to stop at the Pizza Port chain’s Carlsbad location. Here, I tried their Hakunama Tatas IPA, which came in a colour I never expected. The beer was very good, although it took a bit to reconcile the thought of drinking a pink brew (thanks to the addition of pomegranate juice) with an ABV of 8.5%. We also ordered a serving of their Garlic Beer Buddies, which were quite tasty.

Pink Popular.jpg

Our final stop with Mrs. Sip’s parents was BK Cellars, which we bought Groupons for prior to leaving home. Each Groupon included a tasting for two (five wines each) and bottle of either Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, of which we got one of apiece. My favourites among their offerings were the Fume Blanc and Syrah, which was especially memorable.

Part four will look at the last leg of our journey, as Mrs. Sip and I settle into downtown San Diego to explore the city’s vast and booming craft beer scene, as well as a few local landmarks.

Sip Trips #126: San Diego Sipping (Part 2)

Part two of our month in San Diego County began with an outing to Belle Marie Winery, where Mrs. Sip enjoyed a tasting. As Mrs. Sip sampled a few wines, I changed a Baby Sip poopy diaper. Alas, this is life now! The other reason I didn’t join Mrs. Sip was because I’m still not a fan of the way tastings are done in the San Diego area. Whereas I’m accustomed to typically paying $5 for a tasting at home, which is waived if you buy a bottle, here the price was $10 and bottle purchases don’t lead to a free tasting. To be fair, this is one of the more decent tasting prices we’ve encountered in that region. Don’t even get me started on the Temecula Valley Wine Country.

Following the winery, we visited Plan 9 Alehouse, taking advantage of their progressive keg pricing ($3 pint at 3pm, $4 at 4pm, $5 at 5pm). I selected The Lost Abbey Farmhouse Lager, which went well with our appies of Garlic Fries and Chips & Guac. En route back to our resort, I restocked our beer reserve with Kona Brewing’s Liquid Aloha Variety Pack. This case included the brewery’s Island IPA, Magic Sands Mango Saison and Wailua Wheat.

guacamole good fat

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we decided to spend the occasion doing a bit of a brewery crawl. The journey started at Mother Earth Tap House, where we built two flights of six 6oz beers, allowing us to try much of the tasting room’s extensive lineup. Our favourites were the Xtra Nuts and Cali Creamin’, which seemed to be very popular around the region.

Next up was the Belching Beaver 980 Pub, which we had been advised had fantastic Philly Cheesesteaks. That advice couldn’t have been more accurate. As we scarfed down the delicious sandwiches, I tried the Phantom Bride IPA, while stealing sips of Mrs. Sip’s PB&J Blonde, which was fantastic. We also tried samples of the Peanut Butter Stout, Horchata Imperial Stout, and Mexican Chocolate with Dark Cherries cask option. With good fortune on our side, as we finished our pints, they began stocking the “to go” fridge with a limited release beer, so I implored Mrs. Sip to go investigate. The Belching Beaver/Deftones Good Morning Beautiful Brown Ale (with Coconut, Coffee and Maple Syrup) was the prize and so we snagged a bottle for the road.

Our crawl wrapped with a quick stop at Iron Fist Brewing, where we split another flight, including their Renegade Blonde, Spice of Life, Seven-Seven, and Ken Schmidt’s Pillow Mint. The Pillow Mint was the highlight of the visit, reminding us of a liquefied After Eight chocolate.

After Eight Chocolate

The next day, we got together with friends of ours who live in the area, meeting at their local favourite: Booze Brothers Brewing. While Mrs. Sip ordered a flight made up of their Peachy Monkey, Blackberry Cruiser, Easy Rider Brown, and Honey Bloom, I enjoyed a pint of their Green Eyed Amber, which I had read online was a very popular choice. The place was very neat, with lots of comfy seating and food trucks on hand for munchies.

Following the brewery, we had dinner at Tekila Cocina Mexicana, where Mrs. Sip and I split their Queso Fundido and Carnitas Quesadilla. To quench my thirst, I ordered a Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita, which had a decent level of heat and interesting flavour blend with the addition of Cilantro. Mrs. Sip tried their “Build Your Own Magarita” option, selecting Hibiscus Liqueur and 1800 Reposado Tequila.

No visit to San Diego is complete without seeing the San Diego Zoo. Best of all, folks can drink craft beers throughout the park, with different options on tap at locations spread around the attraction. I started with the Stone Tangerangutan Express IPA and later added the Mike Hess African Leopard IPA. Other animal-themed brews included the Ballast Point Koala Kolsch (which Mrs. Sip tried) and Karl Strauss African Penguin Pale Ale.

lions-at-zoo.jpg

After our day at the Zoo ended, we went for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Here, I paired the Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing IPA with an order of Spaghetti Vesuvius. The IPA worked well to cool the heat from the spicy sauce of my main dish.

Part three of our travels includes journeys to Temecula and Carlsbad, for beer, wine and other shenanigans!

Sip Trips #119 – Feelin’ Festive

After a week filled with three Vancouver Canucks games to start the month, Mrs. Sip and I got a bit of a respite to recharge the hockey batteries (seriously, my voice was shot after yelling at every Toronto player and fan I could) with the team on a brief road trip. With the gap between games, we focused our attention on holiday activities around the Lower Mainland. Here’s what we got up to:

On Friday night, we had a few errands to run in South Vancouver, so decided to mix a little pleasure into the business. Popping into Dogwood Brewing for the first time, we enjoyed a flight of their brews, including the IPA, Barrel-Aged Stout, London Fog, and Winter Spice. The space was nice and cozy and well-decorated for Christmas. This was Baby Sip’s second craft brewery visit and she even woke up long enough to see the place this time around.

Errands

The next day, we ventured to Langley for the Glow Christmas Light Gardens and Market. With food trucks outside and a fantastic visual set-up inside the facility’s greenhouse, we spent over two hours at the attraction. Best of all, beer, wine and a couple cocktails could be had as you explored the winter wonderland. I had servings of Trading Post Brewing’s Smugglers Trail Rye Amber Ale and Three Bears Breakfast Stout, which were both available for only $5. Mrs. Sip started with a glass of white wine and later had a Baileys Irish Cream hot chocolate.

Tickets to Glow start at $20 for adults if ordered online ($25 at the door) and I would definitely recommend the earliest timeslot possible, as the parking lot and facility fill up quickly, causing long lines to get in later in the evening. Mrs. Sip still argues that any true European-based Christmas Market doesn’t cost money to get into, but that logic doesn’t seem to apply in this area of the world.

Following work on Monday, Mrs. Sip and I met at the Vancouver Christmas Market. As I’ve written before, if we didn’t get free tickets each year, thanks to Mrs. Sip’s theatre subscription, I’m not sure I would make the effort to attend. That said, we had a pretty good time, joined by another couple for some of our visit. The move from outside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to Jack Poole Plaze has definitely opened up the place, but going on a weeknight helped too with a lighter crowd.

Santa's Lap

As is the norm for the Market, it didn’t take long to blow through the $50 we had taken out in cash for the event. For drinks, Mrs. Sip had a couple cups of Mulled Wine, while I had glasses of Erdinger Wheat and Dunkel brews. As for food, we split a Cheese Pretzel and Parmesan and Garlic Hurricane Potatoes which were both delicious. A highlight for us was chatting with the Persephone Brewing team, who were offering samples of five different beers (Black Lager, Pale Ale, IPA, Pilsner, and Golden Ale). Joining them was Wild Goose Winery and Okanagan Spirits, where I tasted their Bourbon, Gin, and Pear Brandy.

This weekend, it’s back to the rink for a couple NHL games, while also fitting in as much yuletide cheer as possible. Lather, rinse, repeat!

Mixer Mania #42 – Advent Amazement

Mrs. Sip has long been a tea drinker. The last couple years, she received tea advent calendars, which previously I didn’t know existed. With Christmas right around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to look at other advent calendars that differ from your typical chocolate ones:

Make-Up/Beauty

There are numerous cosmetic advent calendars on the market. Every company you can think of seems to have put a collection together, with varying prices. Some focus on nails, others on the face. Beauty has never really been a concern for the Sip Advisor, as you can’t improve on perfection.

Cheese

The world’s first cheese advent calendar hit store shelves this year, after a blogger created her own in 2016 and the concept went viral. For only 8-pounds, fromage-aholics can find this product at ASDA stores across the UK. Not sure if similar products can be found in other countries.

Cheese Emergency

Jewellery/Charm Bracelet

Ma Sip loves her charm bracelets. So, when I came across an advent calendar version, which gave you the bracelet and then 24 holiday-themed charms over the Christmas season, I was thrilled… and Ma Sip was even more so.

Fly Fishing

A tackle box already kind of looks like an advent calendar, so why not release one for the Christmas season, with a lure for each day. One issue here, is that you’re not likely to head out each day of the calendar for a fishing expedition and to try your new treat.

Cookbook

While I like the concept of this advent calendar, you’re basically saying to the person you give this to: “Hey, why don’t you make me something different every day, through on of the busiest times of the year?” I don’t see that flying at the Sip Advisor headquarters.

Toys

For kids and kidults alike, come advent calendars from Play-Doh, Lego and Playmobil. Parents will just have to be vigilant that the toys aren’t consumed like traditional chocolates.

Eating Play-Doh

Craft Beer

While craft beer advent calendars can be found in most liquor stores, I’ll never forget Mrs. Sip personally making me one, comprised of 24 bomber bottles. Pulling it all together at the last minute – as she’s prone to do – the poor girl had to carry heavy boxes all around Vancouver. Her efforts paid off nicely, though!

Wine/Liquors

Similar to craft beer, there are wine, bubbly a liquor sets out there, typically featuring 24 mini bottles of the preferred subject matter. One particular Scotch advent calendar features rare whiskeys from around the world, setting buyers back 10,000-pounds.

Potato Chips

God bless Pringles. The potato chip company has released their own advent calendar, containing 12 tubes of various flavours. Apparently, the calendar is quite popular and has already sold out, with the products popping up on eBay for double the original retail price.

For Pets

Don’t have any kids or spouses you can spoil with an advent calendar? If you have pets, you can still get into the Christmas spirit with sets that provide toys and treats to your fur baby. The gift of giving is one of the best!

Mixer Mania #42: Irish Tea Party

Irish Tea Party.JPG

  • Absinthe Rinse
  • 1.5 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • Top with Green Tea
  • Garnish with Lime Wheel

The lead up to Christmas is my favourite part of the season, so sometimes I think advent calendars should just replace Christmas gifts… but they’re probably in a good place as a holiday enhancer, rather than as a main event player.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (1 Sip out of 5):
I was totally disappointed by this drink. The ingredients intrigued me, but the end result was a watery, flavourless cocktail. Mrs. Sip wants me to try it again with a different Green Tea – and I will – but it must be pointed out that round one of the beverage was a dud.