Goodbye Chicago – on to St Louis

Finally moved on from Chicago – well a week ago, and drove on to St Louis where I attended a dog trainers conference with International Association of Canine Professionals. More about St Louis but I better finish up with a Chicago summary and a few more pictures.

Really nice city to visit and easy to get around as it is a grid with a river and lakes. Saw no trouble but plenty of shopping and things to do. We made the visit up to the 103rd floor of the tallest building in the world – the Willis Tower – great views although Jim was not a fan of standing on nothing.

We stayed in a good area close to great food and shopping. Everyone was friendly and helpful and food was pretty good too. Chicago is an airport hub so if you travel to the States and you are wondering what else to do apart from New York and the West Coast, then go that little bit inland to Chicago. Our only issues were dumb-ass taxi drivers from the airport that don’t know how to or don’t want to use credit card (take cash if catching a taxi), and unfortunately our car was not ready but not really their fault at Avis as people were taking the cars to get home from the hurricanes (there was a lot of sport in town our weekend and people needed to get home).

Loved our trip to Wrigley Field and we went for a walk to an area where there is reclaimed railroad now known as the 606 walk – there’s a few pictures from that area. Subway was very simple, fast and not crowded. Our trip to the theatre to see Hamilton was a great night, and a definite highlight (although not planned to be as long as it was) was a tour and several beers at Lagunita Brewery – we have now visited both their breweries. Some photos of that trip included.

 

Jim’s shopping highlight was at North Face where you can buy a jacket for less than $200 that costs almost $500 in Australia (I checked) – even with exchange rate it’s still a bargain.

Another part of our visit was down at Navy Pier – go there because you should, do anything there if you feel like it – we just went for the walk. And talking about walking I do like that you don’t need to press the traffic light, they work automatically for pedestrians, who didn’t seem to care much anyway about waiting for the walk. No pictures of this one but the quick way they fix roads was amazing, there was an intersection just up from our hotel that required some work, like I’m talking major re-pavement. Was everything blocked, reduced lanes, low speed limit, take months to do – no, traffic kept going by someone just moving a couple of watches hats around to block a lane as needed and work was done in three days. I’d like to see that in Melbourne.

And after picking up our car we were off – just remember which door to get in and to stay on the right, and indicators are on the left stem. A nice Kia Optima which so far has been very good – filled it once – $30.

Predators

Another four nights in Nashville, this time we stayed around the corner from our first Nashville stop (Aloft) at Embassy Suites. If you’re ever looking for hotels, Embassy Suites have larger rooms (suites, i.e. a bedroom and lounge), this one had microwave and fridge but best of all they have complimentary breakfast and cooked to order omelettes (and fried eggs and waffles) plus heaps of other breakfast goodies. I enjoy breakfast in America but having complimentary can be a money and time saver (most of our hotels on the down-leg had this option). The other thing you should look for is parking as this can be quite expensive (here was a cheaper option of $18 a night to self-park).

breakfast breakfast 2
However, this time around this hotel was also very busy. It is at the Vanderbilt University end of town (about half hour walk from Broadway and other such stuff) and they were playing football that weekend, there was also ice hockey (we went), the Titans were playing (American football) and conferences and it was weekend and Nashville is mad on a weekend. But the location for this hotel is a winner, they also have a free shuttle that will take you downtown or other places and we made use of that to get to the ice hockey.

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Asheville

Our next destination was one of our longer drives – east to Asheville NC, via Lexington so we could have some BBQ (worth the side track). Asheville was another of those foody choice destinations. We spoke to someone earlier (someone in the Steel String bar in Corrboro – good beer) and they described Asheville as a place known for food, beer and music – and that’s a pretty good trio.

It kind of reminded us of an inner Melbourne suburb with the hipsters and arty folk with the country feel of say a Daylesford or Katoomba in the blue mountains. It was really a surprise and we enjoyed all our time here, even if we we were out of town on a bit of a hotel strip (and it must have been a hotel strip for a while as there were some classic hotels out there). I did some driving downtown but another we caught Uber – we have found this great in America – fast, cheap, friendly, clean and they know where they are going. Big thumbs up Uber.

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Charleston – mmmmmm

Left Savannah and headed north towards Charleston. Things I remember, not too much apart from fireworks – fireworks super stores, oh the memories. Anyways, we had four nights booked in downtown Charleston, right amongst the action. And while there was some good eating in Savannah, Charleston is known for good eating. There used to be a culinary school and when that closed the local chefs got together and created an identity aside from a culinary school identity.

Because the food needs its own blog, this is it – if you want to know more about Charleston (well, not really because that’s what Wikipedia is for) but maybe see some photos and my short thoughts, then that will arrive when I get around to it. We were in Charleston a week ago as I write this so my memory fades quite quickly.

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Goodbye Fort Worth – Hello Austin

About a week back as I type this we left Fort Worth and picked up a rental to take us down the highway to Austin. No surprises there really as we have ventured to Austin previously and really enjoy it. But before we got to Austin we had to drive on by to visit a bucket list – the Salt Lick BBQ. This place always rates highly as far as Texas BBQ goes and this visit we made it a priority (well, it was quite easy with a car as we could cruise on past Austin, visit the Salt Lick for a BBQ feast, then back to Austin.

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More beer … More beer

Sitting here in the Qantas lounge drinking a complimentary Allagash White out of Portland, Maine, and I think it is about time I tell you about the beers from the Portland we visited in Oregon.

brewvanaAs previously mentioned, Portland is known by many names one if which is Brewvana. Here’s a note from inside our lift.

I wondered how many of those 154 brewing companies I could sample the wares of over three days. Well, as it turned out, not too many. We did have to do other things in Portland as well. As earlier mentioned, Oregon is tax-free and there’s some pretty good shopping to do, even bought myself this and they shipped home to Australia for me.

But I thought I’d have to try a few beers. What I have not included in this list is the six-pack of mixed stubbies from Whole Foods – $1.99 a stubby if interested. So, I only had time for beers from six different breweries but a total of 20 different beers.

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More Beer

Change of subject … beer from Seattle. And what a good subject too. Seattle is moving into beer territory so to keep up with the tasting, I tried a few different and we even picked up a couple of six packs.

Audible AleI’ll start with the first of the six-packs – can’t remember how much it was but much cheaper than here (less than $2 a stubby). But the beer was okay. Most beer is okay, but this one was an Audible Ale from RedHook Brewery out of brooklyn. I went for this one as it was described as the ultimate craft beer for watching sports: plenty of flavor and aroma, and crushable enough to make you want another — without making you sloppy by halftime. Now, isn’t that enough to say “drink me”.

So, that was not even from Seattle but what was from Seattle. Well, there were a few special beers on offer due to the end of Octoberfest and the impending Halloween, which meant pumpkin flavoured beer. What! You might say, pumpkin flavoured beer. Well, let me tell you there is nothing wrong with it, in fact it’s a pity we don’t have pumpkin flavoured beer. There’s kind of a hint of spice and the flavour of sweet pumpkin, like a pumpkin pie. On offer at the Steelhead Diner (there was a steelhead diner everywhere we went, not a chain, just all named after the fish) they had several specials on the board so I settled on a Flyers Proctoberfest and followed up with a Laurelwood Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale. I had to have the two beers, remember from an earlier blog this was the place where Caroline enjoyed a bowl of brussel sprouts.

CrocodileI think I mentioned before we went to a gig at the Crocodile Club where I tried the Local 360 Lager which I think comes from the Local 360 cafe but I could be wrong – this was a good gig beer, out of a plastic cup and at about a third the price you’d pay in Melbourne. We went back there for pizza as the Crocodile bar is known for its wood fired pizza and we weren’t let down. My pepperoni was complemented very nicely with a Rainier.

The Pike flight

The Pike flight

And to finish Seattle, how could I not have the flight at the Pike Place Brewery. Well, I could have said no but flights are a great way to sample many of the beers. Some you will like, some you will not. But a small glass of something not to your fancy is so much better than a pint. I was going to write down what the beers were but I took a photo instead – cheers!Pike Flight

And before we leave Seattle, we made a visit to Whole Foods and picked up a mixed six pack that would last us a while. More to come of these as we go. But on the first night this is what I tried, and for all those back at work have a look at what I ate with it – it was getting close to Halloween and I was feeling like a member of PCU – cheers, again!

Dinner Vaporizer

Beer

Slowly catching up with things but more importantly here is the first post on the promised beer lovers guide to the USA – or, what Jim has drank and enjoyed so far …

Last trip was music, BBQ and beer based; this time around it is food, beer tasting and seeing the sights. I haven’t been keeping a score system of what is the best – as it is very hard to find a bad beer. But what I have been doing is trying to write down all the types and from which brewery. I’ve mentioned before the price of beer – and it is value for money – so the price makes it more enjoyable when sampling as many different beers. I have included most beers on my list and the only one to leave off is a Singha we had with a Thai dinner in Spokane (and an excellent dinner it was too).

Before I get into the first blog, we have left Portland (Friday over here) and started our meandering drive down the Oregon/California coastline. This is supposed to be one of the world’s best drives and from what we have seen so far the scenery is breathtaking (not everywhere but the bits that you do see are worth seeing). More on this later, so back to the beer …

I’ll do this by cities. First up is Vancouver B.C. (have to put on the British Columbia bit as there is another Vancouver in Washington that confuses the locals).

Not bad but nothing outstanding. First up was a Steamworks Cascadia Golden Ale  which we had on our first night so any beer was a good beer. This was followed with a Molson Canadian with our seafood feast at the Fish Shack (see the earlier blog on this). Now this is something I would definitely buy if I found it back home – nothing great but very drinkable.

Fugly Ale

Fugly Aly – mmmm!

Next cab off the rank was a novelty beer at the Cactus Club restaurant. This is a bit of a chain renowned for waitresses in tight skirts, TVs on the wall and good food. And on the night we went they had a special beer, which Jim just had to try. It was called the Fugly – which was an Ugly Ale (house brew) topped with a splash of frozen bellini (peach schnapps). This beer was unique and actually quite nice. And the food was pretty good too. Here’s a shot of the beer and my creole steak and prawns (or surf n turf if you prefer).
 

Creole Steak and Prawns - yumm!

Creole Steak and Prawns – yumm!

We also ventured to the Yaletown Brewing Company restaurant (think big bar) where I went for the flight, which if you are unaware of the technicalities of beer tasting is a sample of several of the tap beers. I went for the IPA, Pale Ale and Lager and must have been too excited because I can’t find what happened to the photo of the beer, unless I just drank that and only took a picture of my food – deep-fried pickles and a BBQ chicken pizza (the beer is in the background). This was a good place but we were in an area booked out for what looked like an after training work function (which made for interesting people watching – e.g. the party guys, the nerds, the guy who sucked-up to the boss, the guy who thought he was on a thing with the younger office girl until their table got crashed by maybe some of the tutors) and the waitress did not change the TV from Modern Family to the NFL.

Deep fried picklesBBQ chicken and beer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to finish off Vancouver we went for a few stubbies of local brews at the Hotel – a Stanley Park lager and pilsner and an Eastside Bitter.

Stanley ParkEast side bitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing was disappointing – and the tally so far is 9. I thought about rating and tasting notes and blah, blah, blah but that just gets in the way of drinking.

 

And the Footy Season is Gone

Last weekend and the Hawks came through and won their eleventh AFL premiership, beating the first-timers Fremantle Dockers. Not an overly exciting game but it was football – or actually there was some excitement or maybe some groan moments. Freo just couldn’t kick a goal and the footballer voted as the one that most others want to hit – Haydn Ballantyne – just couldn’t do anything.

I was most disappointed as I had tipped Fremantle and Nick Fyfe for the Norm Smith. If Feo had won, Fyfe might have been a chance to bring home some bacon for me. But alas, the only pork I has that day was some excellent ribs. Pulled out the BGE and tried out a rib rack I scored for my birthday RibRackand it worked a treat. The ribs were excellent, and so were the dogs and so would have been the chillie but Sophia and Dano left that at home – another day, maybe. But something that doesn’t wait for another day was the Mountain Goat I chose from Dan Murphy’s. I went there to pick up a six pack and extras but came back with a six pack, carton, extras and key-ring. They had a tasting night with some specials – and I am a sucker for a special. I went for the IPA, after trying the Hightail Ale, Steam Ale, Summer Ale (bit sweet for me), and a special brew in conjunction with Brooklyn Brewery (fine establishment and great beer – visited there on our first trip to USA) Hopfweizenbock – not a quaffing beer for watching the footy, maybe with a nice meal (not that the ribs and dogs weren’t nice, just you didn’t need a knife and fork).

But the footy is now over – draft and exchange period to look forward to and will Carlton make the finals on their own in 2014 – Go Blues. I can now cheer for the Ravens, but I doubt they will go back-to-back. And we’re off to the States again with tickets booked for the 49ers – should be good, so will the food, beer and sites – if they are open as I hear USA is closing down.

It’s been a long time … but it’s been a good time

So over twelve months since I last put pen to paper, or should I say finger to keyboard. And there’s been a lot happening over that time. Well kind of. I have ventured a couple of years closer to getting a seniors card and the discounts that come with it, changed jobs, learnt how to play a few chords on the guitar, wrote a few songs (but haven’t learnt how to sing them – remember that post on the most irritating noises), walked the dogs about a thousand times, booked another trip to USA, cooked some Q, ate some ribs, been to the footy a few times (go Blues), watched some TV, seen some great concerts (Bruce Springsteen twice), trained a few dogs, delivered a few lectures, eaten some great food, and maybe that’s about all. I’m pretty lazy so here are few photos:

Jims 50th birthday cake cooked by Caroline

Jims 50th birthday cake cooked by Caroline

No, I did not eat it ...

No, I did not eat it …

Feed me ...

Feed me …

Caroline's home cooked Indian dinner ... feed me ...

Caroline’s home cooked Indian dinner … feed me …

Feed me ... again ...

Feed me … again …

Bruce Springsteen at Hanging Rock

Bruce Springsteen at Hanging Rock

Feed me too ...

Feed me too …

And when I'm fed ...

And when I’m fed …

Winners are Grinners

Winners are Grinners