Cafe Vino, Ft Collins

Need wine? The name Café Vino seems like a good place to go.

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Decided to check it out for Happy Hour one evening. The Happy Hour menu title alone it great – Adult Swim.

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They have wine, beer and food specials. Now the wine is only down to $6 – would hope for something a bit better in Ft. Collins, but I’ll live. After a quick taste of both the red and white from the great bartender I actually opted for the blanco. And, it was a (semi) chard! The wine was Feudo Zirtari, 55% Inzolia/45% Chard. It wasn’t too heavy, no oak on it, and despite the fact that it wasn’t hot out, it was very nice and refreshing and I would have loved to be sitting outside on the deck with it.

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This is another one that I can’t find anywhere in the stores (did much research afterwards). Just not right that I can enjoy it in the restaurant but no further.

So, will have to return here for the wine, if nothing else. Will also have to check out their food menu at some point.

 

Los Tarascos

Got together with some friends to celebrate a birthday (not mine) recently and got to check out another new (to me) place in Ft. Collins. This time it was Los Tarascos.

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Love Mexican food so I was quite excited about this. We were meeting at 6pm, but I was told to get there a little early to make sure to get some Happy Hour specials. Well, I got there at 5:45pm and I happened to be the only one to arrive early. I easily chose a Classic Margarita and dang, that thing was good. Since I knew there would be several more people coming, I ordered a few pitchers of the amazing drink. When the other attendees arrived, they were quite pleased.

At this place, they bring you chip baskets…of course. I surveyed the table and was wondering about salsa. Then I found out they have a salsa bar. You get to pick what you get to dip those addictive pieces of corn in. Dang, talk about trouble. Now, the only problem is, the containers they give you for the salsa are small. But, you can make do. They have many choices and I liked how I saw one person use a menu as a tray to carry several cups of salsa back to their table.

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Somebody at the table ordered some guac and I grabbed a bite — very good. Excellent consistency and nice spice.

As I looked through the menu I found what I love at this type of establishment — ceviche. This one was Ceviche a la Tequila — Shrimp cured in lime juice and tequila mixed with tomato, onion, and jalapeno. And for a few more dollars, you could add Octopus, which I totally went for.

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This stuff was good, with the different texture of the octopus. The only downside was that the jalapenos made it very spicy for me. I don’t have a huge heat tolerance. I picked as many pieces of it out as I could. But, I will totally go back and get more of this.

So, between the delicious margaritas, tons of salsa, good guac and octopus ceviche, this place is definitely one I’m checking out again.

Salud!

Viking and Einstök

Moving across the country in Iceland meant new hotel, new happy hour. Wow, this hotel in Vik actually had a 3-hour Happy Hour – 4pm-7pm. We could stay out late doing tourist stuff!

The two brews on tap we sampled in Vik were Viking Lager and Einstök Pale Ale.

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Viking Lager, per the site: The most popular draught beer in Iceland for some years, it is pleasantly mild with a slightly sweet flavour. Less filling and more refreshing than many other beers, it’s ideal for those who prefer a medium-strength beer with less bitterness. Tasting notes: Light golden, little sweetness, light, limited bitterness, corn, beans. ABV 4.5%.

My notes: A bit on the light side, nonetheless good. I like my beer to have a bit more body.

Einstök Pale Ale, per the site: Brewed 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle, we balance three kinds of hops with pure Icelandic water to create an ale unlike any other. It can only be described as an Arctic Pale Ale and it’s truly one of a kind. Cascade hops give it American character, while Northern Brewer and Hallertau Tradition add just enough bitterness to make this ale refreshingly Icelandic – and to make everything else pale in comparison. Key Ingredients: Pale ale malt, crystal malt, chocolate malt, American and Bavarian hops.  ABV 5.6%

My notes: Good crisp beer, not hoppy, good body and color, perfect to drink after a day on the road.

And, since these were both enjoyed at happy hour, bargain price at 50% off bringing them to about $8/pint. Cheers!

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Boli & Gull

When in Iceland, drink what the Icelandics brew! The first night in Iceland we hit Happy Hour at HVER Restaurant at the hotel. These hours, we found, can vary a lot place to place, and often end early. This bar had it from 4pm-6pm. Jumping way forward, one place had it for 1 hour only, making that hour totally happy, from 9pm-10pm. That’s way too late. Most of the time beers were 50% off during Happy Hour, bringing the price of a pint down to around a ‘reasonable’ $8.

So, back to this one, we opted to try Gull and Boli, both on tap. The Gull was pretty light, nothing too exciting. Better than Bud, but not something I’d get every day. The ABV was 5.0%. The Boli had a bit more weight to it, more color to it, a bit more taste. It was a lager, and came in with 5.6% ABV.

Nonetheless, these were a great kickoff for vacation. They were enjoyed after walking around Hveragerði and seeing hotsprings. These are what the town is known for.

Agua 301

Yards Park, DC.  Visited what is labeled as a ‘modern Mexican’ restaurant.  Don’t know if that’s the middle ground between tex-mex and authentic Mexican, but of course had to give it a try.  So, the place is Agua 301.

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The time of the visit was oh-so-fortunately in the evening which meant happy hour was at hand…margarita, on the rocks, no salt.  I took a sip and sort of jumped back.  Waited, took another.  Took a sip of my friend’s as a comparison.  Then truly confirmed…they don’t skimp on alcohol.  I guess that’s good?  While I appreciate tequila in my drink I very much appreciate the lime in a margarita.  I had to send it back.  I could not drink this. It was straight alcohol.  Some people might love this…anyway.

Of course came to this place for dinner to also check out the food.

Guac was also on happy hour.  Ordered that ASAP.  For $6 you got probably a softball size serving of great guacamole.  Some nice chunks of avocados were in there, too.  Tasty!  Paired nicely with their unique salsa.

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For dinner, I had to get their Ceviche Pescado Blanco.  It was extremely unique.  It was mixed with some salsa and other unknown, good flavors.

 

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My friend went for the Camarones en Crema de Chipotle, which are pan seared shrimp in a chipotle cream sauce over Spanish rice.  Good flavor and nicely cooked.

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Overall, dinner was good.  But, service was marginal.  We were there around 6pm on a Friday and the place wasn’t too busy.  It was tough to attract or find the waiter and it took a long time to get drinks and food.  Considering they don’t take much time to cook, it was odd.

Not Your Average Joe’s

A Not Your Average Joe’s opened up in the past several months in (North) Bethesda.  I have checked it out a couple times for happy hour (which has some decent specials) but haven’t ever eaten there.  I am on their mailing list and got a birthday email worth $15 towards my next visit to the restaurant.  Great.  Maybe I’ll go and actually try their food.

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Decided to go last Friday.  It was very busy but was able to grab a spot at the bar.  Let the bartender know I had a $15 b-day email I was going to use, he was cool with that.  Made it towards the end of happy hour and snagged a margarita for a good price.  Sipped that for a bit while I enjoyed their amazing warm bread that they serve with olive oil, garlic (and normally cheese, but I get it without).  So addictive!   There were some decent menu items to pick from, some a bit restrictive for lactards.  I finally saw a seasonal item that the bartenders recommended — Cider Glazed Chicken Kabobs, which were grilled and glazed with zeigler’s apple cider, served over a warm farro golden raisin salad, roasted spaghetti squash and toasted pumpkin seeds.  Put an order in for that and shouted for a glass of red right before HH was over to have ready for when the food came out.

Eventually (maybe 30 minutes later) my food arrived.

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The chicken was warm and the squash was cold, not even room temp.  I mentioned this to the bartender, he was very apologetic and the manager came and told me they would get me a new dish.  About 15 minutes later a new plate came out with half the chicken and still at lukewarm temps.  I picked at it a bit but was not really hungry.  The manager came to apologize and was kind enough to take it off my bill.

I still had the margarita and wine on my bill.  I presented them with the coupon I had from the email, which I had read VERY carefully prior to going to dinner about what it might or might not cover (aka alcohol).  No where did it say anything.  The ‘fine print’ read “P.S. As much as Joe loves birthdays, we’re obliged to include the usual disclaimers: This offer is nontransferable, not valid with other offers, only one per person and doesn’t apply to take-out.”

The bartender came back to me and told me that even though my coupon was for $15, I would have to pay for my $10 worth of drinks.  The manager made him do that, couldn’t do it himself.  Long story short, it was not pleasant, they eventually let me leave without paying, so I could fortunately leave the bartender a nice tip.  Overall not pleased with the restaurant, except for their great bread.

 

Level

Was in Annapolis recently and visited Level, a small plates lounge for cocktails.

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Of course there were many to choose from, but the bartender helped me decide on the Angels & Demons — essentially a(n amazing) margarita.  The components — el jimador tequila, st. germain, micro cilantro, habanero pepper, lime, agave.

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Deadly!  Could have easily enjoyed several rounds.  Didn’t stay for dinner, but looks like a place worth checking out.

Anejo & Vino

The other night I went out to celebrate a friends 40th birthday at The Lounge at Bourbon Steak in Georgetown, in DC.  Quite the place.  I had never been there and it’s always nice to check out something new.  And, it was amazingly nice for late October so we were able to sit outside, fully aware that they had those huge heaters for when it cooled down.  The lounge had quite the menu and instead of going straight for wine, several cocktails caught my eye and I opted for the Morning Dew to begin.  Not quite a margarita, but close.  It was a perfect blend of anejo (tequila), fresh grapefuit, lemon and ginger on ice.

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When that was done and more people arrived and wine was in full force, I went to California for some great vino.  I found a Zin I’d never heard of, Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel.  Fruity, leathery, very nice.  Looking it up, it can range from $20-$25.  I’m going to grab a couple bottles.

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Eno

Checked out a (new to me) wine bar in Georgetown (DC) last week — Eno.  It’s part of a national chain with other locations in San Francisco, Chicago, and Southern California.

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They have a both a wine and food menu (oh, beer, too, if needed).  They serve wine in flights and by the glass.  Oh, they have wine on tap, too ($5 during Happy Hour).  They had a special on that day for a blind flight.  If you could identify all three wines you received 10% off.  I had to try it.  I got 1 of 3 right — a very earthy Pinot from Oregon.  They only way I guessed it was from how light it was, color and body-wise.  Otherwise the flight had a Bordeaux and another old world wine I could never have placed.

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Food-wise we went for some amazing olives, a variety of meats and some delicious pizza.

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I would definitely recommend giving Eno a try.  Many options from food to wine and great service!

Upper 80s Makes it Beer:Thirty

Washington, DC (April 10, 2013) — Upper 80s, early April…last week we had sub-freezing temps at night and wanted to sit by the fire.  If we have this weather now, what’s it going to be like in July and August?

With the warm temps, it was high time for post-work happy hour, aka beer:thirty, outside.  A great place to take advantage of the beautiful weather is in Cleveland Park at the Cleveland Park Bar & Grill.  Roof top deck, happy hour specials, TVs, good atmosphere and Metro accessible.

They have a great variety of beer on tap (though of course the really good stuff isn’t on special, but there could be worse things in life).  I sacrificed and had some Fat Tire and Magic Hat #9.  On the other side of the table was Blue Moon.  My friend and I just sat there for what felt like ages relaxing and enjoying the perfection of weather.

Figuratively the glass was more than half full, literally –‘Bartender…next round.’