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.’

 

Embarrassing Moment, Makeup Mishap, or Too Many Tannins?

It’s that time you’ve been waiting for all day…HAPPY HOUR!  You rush to the bar, wait impatiently for the bartender, order that drink at the better-than-normal price and ahhh…relax.  But then, something happens that was unexpected.  No, all you wanted was wine and mindless conversations with friends.

Scenario 1:  You get to the bar, order the best glass of red you can get based on the happy hour special, sip and ahhh…happiness.  Conversation begins and a friend brings up that story from when you were in college and…WHOA!  We’re not going past that point.  Not acceptable for a G-rated piece.  All you know is you turn bright red, that glass of wine is gone because you drank it so fast, even though everybody else around you seemed to love the story and continues to sip their drink.  Next step, ‘bartender — another round, ASAP, on them!’

Scenario 2:  Getting ready for happy hour, freshening up the makeup.  Doh, forgot to put on the blush.  You quickly grab it and put it on without relying on your friend, aka Mirror.  You get to the bar and order your favorite red that’s on special.  People sort of look at you, but you know it’s because they are just glad to see you.  You eventually go to the bathroom. OMG!  Did I really do that?  Let’s go to Makeup 101 and learn how to put blush on properly or not use it at all.  You look like a clown or 5-year old playing with makeup, with beyond red cheeks.

Scenario 3:  Happy Hour!  Wine!  Finally!  You’re chatting with friends, having a wonderful time and couldn’t ask for anything more.  Perfect way to end the workday.  You get home and your cheeks are bright red.  Why?  You didn’t paint your face with the wine.  That would be a crime!  And, you didn’t have that much so as to attempt such a task.  You still can’t determine what the cause is.

As such, though Scenarios 1 and 2 are totally possible, many of us are most likely to face (no pun intended) Scenario 3 because of the tannins in red wine.  That amazing fluid that we enjoy doesn’t complete agree with us in more ways that one.

There are some reds that have more tannins than others that cause this frustrating problem.  So of course, the more prepared we are, the better.  Some background info on the culprit for your (continued) reading pleasure — grab a glass while you’re reading this, or pretend you have one:

TANNINS

Tannins are the flavonoids in wine that give its degree of mouth-drying bitterness. The taste is the same as when you bite into a grape skin. Tannin is a chemical substance that comes from grape skins, stems, and seeds. The skins also impart color to wine, which is why red wines typically have a lot more tannin than whites. Red wines are fermented while in contact with the skins and seeds. Modern winemakers take care to minimize undesirable tannins from seeds by crushing grapes gently when extracting their juice.

Wines can also take on tannins from the oak or other woods used in wine barrels for storage. Different woods in different countries affect the type of tannins in the wine.

Tannins help prevent oxidation, an important role in a wine’s aging potential. As age-worthy red wines mature, tannin molecules gradually accumulate and precipitate out of the wine in the sediment.

Certain wine styles have much less tannin content than others, due to reduced maceration time (grape juice contact with the grape pulp, including sources of tannin such as stems, seeds). Grape varieties like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Gamay (Beaujolais), Tempranillo, and the Italian grapes Dolcetto and Barbera, are less tannic. Also, grapes grown in certain wine regions are less tannic, like French reds from Burgundy, and Spanish wine regions like Spanish Riojas.

French reds from Bordeaux, and Italian reds like Barolo and Barbaresco, are particularly tannic. Vintage port is also very tannic when young, as are wines made from the syrah (shiraz) and cabernet sauvignon grapes.

A quick way to identify these lower tannic wine bottles on a store shelf is to look for the sloped shoulder “Burgundy bottle”. This is specially true for European wines, but several new world wineries have also adopted traditional bottle shapes to help consumers distinguish their wines.

The tannins that are extracted from grapes found in red wine are primarily condensed tannins which are polymers of procyanidin monomers. Hydrolysable tannins are extracted from the oak wood the wine is aged in. Hydrolysable tannins are more easily oxidised than condensed tannins.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_wine_headache — half way down via the link

WHOA…that was some info and wine for thought.

As I continued to research, I wanted to provide a quick bulleted list of what I/we should drink in public vs. only consume at home.  Here is a nice idea of tannin levels, from lightest to boldest.  Print this out, make a cheat sheet, put it in your purse or wallet to take with you so you’re ready when you hit Happy Hour, go on that blind date, have a business meeting or simply want to impress friends with all your wine knowledge:

Beaujolais (low tannin)
Tempranillo (low tannin)
Pinot Noir, from the US (low to medium tannin)
Burgundy (low to medium tannin)
Chianti Classico (low to medium tannin)
Barbaresco (low to medium tannin)
Bordeaux (low to medium tannin)
Merlot, from the United States (low tannin)
Zinfandel (medium to high tannin)
Cabernet Sauvignon, from the US or Australia (high tannin)
Rhône, Syrah, Shiraz (high tannin)

(Well, Syrah/Shiraz is one of my favorites which explains a lot…)

Some other nice articles:

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-tannin-affects-red-wines-taste.seriesId-325340.html

http://www.finewineandgoodspirits.com/webapp/wcs/stores/WineandSpirits/learnentertain/entertain/wine_sensitivities.html

To summarize, your cheeks might only be red because you are enjoying wonderful grapes, spending time with friends and living life to its fullest. From Beaujolais to Shiraz lovers, and everybody in between, pop those cork and drink on…

Varietals

Tasting…7,8,9…Cheers

As the food fun progresses (we know it will never end), I was able to check out another new place the other night (it’s been my true week of fun!).  After DC and Pizza Pi, I went to downtown Annapolis and per a friend’s suggestion checked out Red Red Wine Bar.  Hmmm, the name had me sold and when I knew what I was about to write, I had to pour myself a glass of such liquid to set the recap scene.

You walk in and see both beer AND WINE on tap…that’s one you don’t spot all that often.  Happy hour runs until 7 and includes a tap wine, ‘regular’ white & red (as in from bottles with corks or screws tops), beer and a unique sangria.  The atmosphere and decor are very nice and there are wine bottles for sale.

Wine menu-wise, you can get wine by the glass, flight or bottle.  They also have a full bar.

I sampled the sangria — super sweet, they had to add soda water to make it drinkable, had a flight of Pinot (CA, OR and NZ tastes) then had a wine on tap — interesting — a little too chilled, but worth the taste.

We had dinner and the food was good — I opted for seared scallops with couscous as did another at the table, while another opted for shrimp creole.  We then had a cheese plate for dessert.  Did you know even lactards (or those who are lactose intolerant) can eat, or should be able to eat, Manchego?  It’s from sheep milk!  I found this out last year…happiness.  Amazing Manchego plate with apples, dried cranberries, pecans and honey.

In the end, great overall evening, would definitely go back.  This is a great place to go when you have a variety of palettes, from drinkers to eaters.

Cheers.

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