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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24 hours in a day – and we saw them all

Day one for USA 2015 and it was a long one. Started well with excellent service from West Taxis, then smooth check-in, through customs – okay not all smooth as they have new baggage scanning systems and we were the guinea pigs. I didn’t mind the system as they allocate you to a spot, only problem the line we were in it was rejecting everyone’s carry-on except for mine 🙂 And then breakfast at the Qantas lounge – lots of free stuff in there. And one young guy was making the most of it packing his bag with stubbies. Lucky there was free stuff as our flight was delayed.

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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

No Longer Highway 101: Day 4

Monday and we are well away from Highway 101, in fact we probably won’t be hitting Highway 101 again so this could be the last time you see that in the title but as I like consistency, I will probably leave it … or I could change it.

Doesn’t really matter, Day 4 of our drive, which is no longer on the coast, started in Redding, travelling down the I5 (a major north/south freeway) then turning off towards Napa Valley before settling in Sonoma for the night.

Being mostly on the freeway this was a pretty unexciting drive and then we hit Napa Valley, which was pretty much under road repair everywhere. Better mention there were no breakfast incidents, no kids touching all the biscuits and coughing over the scrambled eggs or old people cutting into the toaster line.

This part of the I5 was easy driving, passing orchard after orchard after orchard, until we hit olive grove after olive grove then more orchards. We stopped at Napa for lunch at the Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ. A BBQ wine bar that matched wine with the BBQ. The food was okay, I actually enjoyed my shrimp and clam chowder but the ribs were nothing special. Then we went for a bit of a walk. This place was quiet and full of botox blondes – there was a table at the bar that could have come straight from the Real Housewives of Napa, with their husbands who were kind of like construction workers or maybe they were the ones who sold trailers to those who would not fit in Napa, i.e. drink their wine from a cask. Another funny thing here, in a town that is wine Caroline had a lovely red from New Zealand – go figure? (she made up for it over dinner with a Sonoma wine)

We walked around the area known as Riverfront, that was pretty much deserted, many vacant shops and empty restaurants and resembling a Disneyland kind of wonder world. No doubt, it is buzzing at other times than a Monday afternoon. However, the weather was excellent – beautiful sunshine, about 23 with no fog. Had a look at the weather reports and snow is expected in Spokane where the dog conference was – would we hit snow on Day 5 – you will have to keep checking in.

However, we then arrived in Sonoma, which reminded us of a lovely country town in Victoria. The character was so different and we nestled into our very nice B&B with such a cute (?) name – the Cinnamon Bear. We went for a drive around the valley (and not being a wine drinker and being a dedicated driver and there is not much point in buying wine unless you ship it back) we never hit a winery but we did go to the Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma (about half an hour from Sonoma and through multiple four-way Stop signs, which when you get used to them work quite well) just to buy some stuff (I have had this beer in Melbourne and love their dog logo … and their beer is pretty good too).

Excellent pizza at The Red Grape followed by very pretty chocolate cake. And we would definitely return to this area to hit the wineries – just needs more than an overnighter.

Day 5 and we head off to Yosemite – and wait until you hear the stories of that drive. Also, more pictures for this post will come later as up here in Yosemite the internet is like Commodore 64 speed, so check back again.

Along the I5 between Redding & Napa

Along the I5 between Redding & Napa

 

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.

 

That gum you like is going to come back in style

A lot of catching up to do. The dog conference is like going to school everyday and as you know, early nights on school days. I still have a few days of conference to post but I also have a few more photos and tales from our travels. And first off, is some shots from Seattle.

I mentioned earlier that Seattle is built on one hell of a hill, so there was no using the bikes on offer at the hotel, and when walking, we eventually found a way that avoided most of the hill. The bonus, all this hill climbing meant more beer and food drinking.

Did I say beer drinking – some blogs coming on that – just hang in there, for instance up to date I have had in excess of 20 different beers and out of that 20 have disliked none. And the best, tap beers come in pints and only once (from a faded memory) have we paid over $5 – the best was in Spokane (which I will get to later) where Sunday was happy hour all day and we paid $2.50 a pint – yes, $2.50 a pint. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – woo-hoo!

Anyways, back to Seattle. We ventured down to the famous Pike Market, which was kind of over about four different levels due to being built on the side of a hill (it was that much of a hill that in one area not far from the market, and we are talking about downtown, someone was keeping a herd of mountain goats that you could hire out -those crazy Americans).

There were the same arty stalls that you’d find at any market and food, which was so colourful and fresh but our Melbourne Market is much, much bigger in size. But this Pike Market is full of character, I liked the age of the building and the downstairs areas that were a bit like walking into history (no photos down there, sorry).

There were plenty of buskers, plenty of locals, plenty of tourists and it really is worth walking around and buying some cheap food. And if you like, some great looking seafood – we didn’t buy a whole salmon and neither did anyone else so we never saw the salmon catching.

I mentioned before about the first Starbucks being at Pike Market and you should had have seen the queues outside and the people (like us) taking photos. Seattle is the home of Starbucks and we went on a ferry cruise where the guide mentioned that within a 5 mile radius of the ferry terminal there are 136 Starbucks stores (and more than half of that 5 mile is water).

The harbour area has a world renowned aquarium but we gave that one a miss, as we also gave the famous Crab Pot a miss too, as we had already eaten our seafood feast (and the Crab Post is very, very touristy).

We liked Seattle, not as much as Vancouver, but it was worth the trip and there is so much more to do – for instance, it was so damn foggy we never went up the space needle or went into the blown-glass gardens. Actually the fog, never really lifted except on our first day. Oh well, even though it was cold, it wasn’t really cold, except on that ferry.

For your delight, here are some pictures from the ferry ride and another album of shots around the market (there are more shots coming of the EMP Museum – music-sci fi-horror). And like my other posts, I haven’t bothered to title the photos so if you want to know what anything is, shoot me a message or comment.

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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.

Hope You Had a Good One … Mate!

Thursday January 26 2012 – Happy Australia Day 😀

So, did you get up to the traditional Aussie stuff – wear some thongs, drape an Australian flag out the window or on the car, wear some green and gold, watch the cricket, have your own game on the road out the front, fire up the barbie (as in BBQ and not the doll), kill off a few stubbies of VB, eat a baby lamb or one of our national animals, get excited because you have a day off and start to feel ill for the Friday sickie so you can have an extra long weekend, go to the beach or the park, go to some local celebration or even better a citizenship ceremony, or just kick back and do naff all wondering why you have a day off?

Well, I tried to cram in as much as I could – pity there was only a sprinkling of Australiana involved. Started on the Wednesday night when we went to the Espy in St Kilda (gets a tick) to see one of our friends in a local band (another tick) – Faith and Gasoline (check them out on youtube), this was after some very nice Asian at Chinta Blues and Asahi beer (no ticks there). A few after show beers at the Prince of Wales (another tick), drank Carlton draught (tick) in a pint (no tick) and finished with a Jack Daniels and dry (if it was with coke could almost have scored a tick as at the distillery they told us Australia is the third largest consumer of Jack Daniels).

Did the right thing and caught a cab home. Very friendly driver- has been driving cabs for about five years and settled here as a refugee from Ethiopea many years ago. Spent three years in a refugee camp before coming to Australia – some of his family went to USA, others Norway, but he loves Australia and finds it so safe and friendly (ticks all round).

Australia day very tired, walked the dogs, went back to bed, crumpets for breakfast (not really a tick) with the vegemite still in the cupboard (bad, bad) but I did have honey (okay, not as Aussie as vegemite but at least it’s traditional and you know what is in it). Lunch we headed to Pollywoodside (tick) but didn’t go on board (close to a tick) and ate at the Boatbuilders (tick) with a burger and fish and chips (two ticks there) but had a Pepsi (doesn’t count as a tick). Followed up by a look around DFO (they would love to give it a tick but I don’t think DFO earns a tick).

Home and went to the park with the dogs (tick) and a throw of the American football (no ticks there) but we did listen to the cricket in the car (tick – needs more Kerry O’Keefe and less Geoff Lawson). Still on the sport theme flicked on the Foxtel for a bit of ESPN USA sport (no ticks – can’t help it if I’m not really that enthused by tennis) and sat down to some very nice risotto (no ticks) and a catch-up on Deadwood (if Gus Mercurio was still alive he’d fit in well like he did in Cash & Co and Tandarra – look those up young-uns, these were about Australian Deadwoods so would have earnt a tick but because Deadwood is American there are no ticks).

And that was about it, excited to be Australian and knowing that I have the Friday off without taking a sickie – ready to put to use my new rotary hammer from Bunnings (tick).