Belgian beers

Brother Thelonious.  (February 26, 2017) This is the second time we’ve had this.  Recognizably Belgian.  I think we just don’t care for this style (beyond the very best).  9.4% ABV.1

Chimay Grand Reserve. (October 3, 2016) Seems similar to the providential trader joes. Not that memorable. $6.49 for 11oz / 9% ABV

De Garre Tripel. (September 24, 2016) Excellent. We had the Rochefort 10 recently. This might be better. 11% ABV

Duvel. (September 12, 2016) We felt about this one like we felt about the trader joes ones – good, but we don’t crave. Tastes like a Belgian. $11.99 for 25oz / 8.5% ABV

Rochefort 10. (Originally had in Spain November, 2015) Both Amy and I thought it was yummy. (September 3, 2016) 2nd time at home and it was great.  Totally hides the 11% alcohol. $7.99 for 11oz bottle / 11.3% ABV

La Fin Du Monde. (August 17, 2016) We liked it but we aren’t dying for another (smooth alcohol burn). $9.79 for a 12oz bottle / 9% ABV

Trader Joe’s Providential. (August 1, 2016) We liked. test against others. (2nd test – seems refreshing. It isn’t particularly memorable but…) 7.50% ABV

Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. (July 15, 2016) Meh. was ok, but don’t need to have it again. 9.00% ABV (November 4, 2016)

The Bruery Trade Winds Tripel. (June, 2016) Had on tap at the brewery. Very good tripel. $8.99 for 25oz bottle / 8.1% ABV

Deschutes Pinot Suave. (Belgian Strong Ale) Loved it on tap in California (June, 2016). We had a bottle at home and it was just OK for me. Interesting flavor, but on tap it was wine forward, this was less distinct maybe. $16.99 for 22oz / 11.2% ABV (November 4, 2016)

Pauwel Kwak. (May 30, 2016) Very good. 8.4% ABV 

Old Ales

I read an article in a local paper that recommended some Old Ales to try.  I wasn’t familiar with the style, so I decided to pick up a few and explore.

AleSmith Olde Ale / Private Stock Ale.  This reminded me of the Cascadian Dark Ale.  Perhaps they would seem similar at all when tasted side by side, but it was the first thought that came to mind.  A lot of flavor.  It is like a porter with pronounced caramel / toffee.  A little sweet, no bitter.  We both liked it a lot. $13.99 / 25oz bottle / 11%

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16yr.  It was good when first poured, but it improved with a little warming as a bit of smokiness emerged.  Amy enjoys the flavors that come with aging in whisky barrels.  We both thought it was very nice but we wouldn’t likely pay the premium price for it.  $9.99 / 11oz bottle / 8% ABV. (November 19, 2016)

North Coast Old Stock Ale. We had this the night after trying Ola Dubh.  The smokiness from the barrels is replaced with the warming effect of some additional alcohol.  It’s strong.  I can’t normally pick out describable flavors, but with this one I do get dried fruits.  Amy and I would take this one over Ola Dubh simply because of the crazy price difference. $11.99 / 4-pack of 12oz bottles / 11.5% ABV (November 20, 2016)

Traquair Jacobite We first had this one a couple weeks after our first tasting of the other two.  It was the perfect beer for our mood.  It is very smooth and to me seemed similar to a porter.  I need to have my long time favorite,  Deschutes Black Butte Porter, again to test my theory.  Amy’s nose was a little better than mine this time around – she picked up a very pleasant aroma (hints of coffee and spice).  Despite enjoying Traquair Jacobite, it is probably not going to become a regular thing – it didn’t distinguish itself enough to warrant the relatively high price. $8.50 / 17oz bottle / 8% ABV  (November 22, 2016)

Edit: A second tasting of Old Stock Ale came the day after we had Traquair Jacobite.  They share many characteristics, but where Traquair is all smoothness, the Old Stock Ale has a distinct alcohol edge.  While enjoy both experiences at different times.

Mexico City Pre-Trip Research

Original Trip idea

Find a place that’ll provide a break from the Seattle chill but isn’t too far a flight away.  We considered Austin, Texas and Charleston, South Carolina.  We’ll do those later.  We also considered going hiking on Kauai, but I’ve been to Hawaii a lot (not that island) and I wanted some kind of interesting food to look forward to.  We’ve heard good things about Mexico City, so we settled on that.  In a break from prior travels, we are going to stay in one place for a whole week and slow things down.  I want a little taste of what it would feel like to be based in a foreign city for a longer period (month).

Food Tours

We previously had an excellent experience with a food tour in Madrid.  It added a lot of color to the city and country.  We want to repeat in Mexico City.  I’m having a little trouble picking a tour.  I’d like to take in the street food and also perhaps a little of the drinking scene (pulque, mezcal,…).  However, I think we might just limit our attention to the food since there are few great options that combine the two.

There are a number I looked at but I think I’ve narrowed it to:

Eat Like a Local. Small (1-person?) tour company.

  • (My pick) Mexican Food 101: 9:30-2:30 (5 hours)  $95. Street food. Fusion. Merced market. 1 beer. Witchcraft market.  (Emailed the owner and I was impressed by her flexibility.  Sounds like a great tour for curious people like us.)
  • Tacos, Salsas, Mezcals: 4pm-7pm $95. 5 tacos, 3 beers, 5 mezcals. Learn about salsas. (+ mix food&drink / – just tacos) Note: description is different on website.  Probably NOT street food.
  • Private tours starting at $120.  This could be a good option.  I could also just reach out and ask.

Eat Mexico.  One of their guides Anais

  • Street Food Tour. 9:30-1:30 (3.5-4 hours) $85.
  • Taco Crawl of Roma and Condessa (1pm-4 or 4:30).  NOT street food.  Includes a market stop. (Skip)
  • Late Night Tacos and Mezcal.  $145. Skip.  Don’t like the driving.

Club Tengo Hambre.  Mentioned in an article (adventurous).  But only one review.

Restaurants

We love to eat out.

Here is a list of my priorities roughly ranked by my level of interest.  I’m booking a bunch of reservations before I leave.  I talked with the food guide we will use, Rocío Vazquez of Eat Like a Local.  Her comments are in blue italics).

Breakfast

  • El Cardenal.  This seems like a must. Get reservation.  Highly RecommendedAWESOME, they have huge lines, but you can make a reservation before 9 am, and it will make your life better. Order concha with nata as a starter.  (Booked breakfast in San Angel)
  • El Hidalguense.  (Fri/Sat/Sun 7am-6pm or run out?) Rick Bayless highly recommends lamb barbacoa.  Others say breakfast is awesome. El Hidalguense is one of my favorites barbacoas, they only open from Friday to Sunday and they usually packed, arrive early, it’s a good breakfast.
  • Fonda Margarita.  Traditional breakfast of Chiapas.  Probably more appealing than fancier places below. Daily changes in what is available.  Sample Chica portions. – look online.  Rocio says go early morning like at 7:00 or 7:30.  (open 5:30 – 11:30am. closed Monday)
  • Lalo.  Same chef/owner as Maximo.  Big communal table.  Recommended.
  • Pasillo de Humo.  I’m a big fan of Oaxacan food and since they aren’t open for dinner, I feel the need to have breakfast at this place which was highly recommended by Mexico Cooks.

Probably won’t make it to these places, but they are options.

  • Lardo.  Upscale.  Nearby. Not all Mexican.  Cereals, black rice… Recommended
  • Maque. Bakery + restaurant.  Best pan dulce. Great breakfast. Mole tamales. Outside sitting. Knocked for being expensive (but doesn’t seem so).   Recommended.
  • Fonda Mayora.  Is near your Airbnb and it’s good, however if you have time, go to Nicos the original restaurant from this chef, is far away but is better
  • Nicos.  A city favorite. Opens at 7:30 (8 on Saturday, closed Sunday).  Recommended.  This place has super traditional Mexican food, its delicious, and for us the best mexican place when we eat home made food, but perhaps, you want to try the new cuisines, and also is far away, so, go only if you want like the traditional traditional.  Mexico Cooks thinks they’ve gotten to big for their britches.
  • Cafe El Polular.  24hr diner.  Inexpensive. Traditional. Popular.

Comida/Dinner

  • Maximo Bistrot.  Anthony Bourdain reportedly called this the best restaurant in Mexico City.  French/Mexican fusion.  Recommended.  Well loved.
  • Contramar.  Seafood (almost only).  Sister of Merotoro. Recommended.   Well loved.
  • Merotoro.  Seafood. Great reviews.  Being a seafood place, I might have been inclined to skip.  But the reviews are crazy.  Recommended Well loved.
  • Pasillo de Humo.  Comida. I’m a big fan of Oaxacan food and this place which was highly recommended by Mexico Cooks.
  • El Turix. (11am-10pm everyday)  Chochinita Pibil.  Recommended.
  • El Tizoncito Tamaulipas.  (12pm-3am everyday) Candidate for night of arrival. Near Airbnb.  Tizoncito is on my taco tour, personally I think that they have the best pastor. Ask for Fermin at night and Santiago in the afternoon. They are taqueros and make the best pastor tacos.
  • El Pescadito.  Best fish tacos.  El Pescadito closes at 6:00 and it’s AWESOME
  • Dulce Patria.  Food as art.  seems a love or hate it place, but a unique experience regardless.  highly recommended by Mexico Cooks.
  • Fonda Fina.  Widely liked.  Recommended. Highly recommended by Mexico Cooks
  • Quintonil.  Highly recommended by Mexico Cooks and I feel like I should go to one of the restaurants considered in the tippy top, but it isn’t that I don’t have concerns.  I’m curious.  As a first time visitor to the city I may find that my street food experiences have more impact than the high end places.
  • Sud 777.  its romantic and cool and can be a great option.
  • Raiz. Raiz seems well liked – the chefs are amazing, they grow their own products and the food is delicious, the place is a little far from the cool area of Polanco, but the tasting menu is good, i can call the chefs and let them know you are going.
  • Nexo (One blogger said perhaps the best food in the city) –  Nexo is amazing, near Polanco also and good if you want something more sophisticated
  • Amaya. International with Baja influence.  Wood fire. New place by Merotoro chef. Lots of (biodynamic) wines.  “Baja Californian Jaír Téllez offers honest market-driven fare at his new Juarez venue” Recommended.  i love this place, is not super mexican, but they have great wines and sea food, the place is cool and casual.

Probably won’t make it to these places, but they are options.

  • Pujol.  Famous.  I’d go just for the mole. (update: I need to credit pictures of the food at Pujol as being the initial inspiration for this trip destination, but I’ve opted not to eat there because (1) I received a few suggestions that it just wasn’t as good as the hype, (2) my expectations are too high, and (3) I think I looked at way too many reviews – some of the often-photographed dishes no longer hold my interest.
  • Limosneros. Interior looks really cool.  Food looks interesting.  Very good reviews. It’s amazing, I like to go there when I am at the historical center, food is great, inventive, you can taste some insects if you want, and the restaurant is beautiful. Make reservation.
  • Yuban.  Zapotec/Oaxacan. Awesome, the chef just open a new place called Seneri with very interesting food. You can try both.
  • Seneri.  Opportunity to try a place that has been open just a few months.  Good/bad? Probably empty. “which features the Michoacán cooking of chef Fernando Martínez”  Recommended. Good option for kind of different food, i ate frog legs with amazing flavor an great presentation, but i will prefer visiting others instead of this one, you have limited time and stomach.
  • Guzina Oaxaca.  It’s amazing!
  • Nicos.  A city favorite.  Apparently gets busy at 2pm.  Family style.  Interior/exterior humble.  Recommended.  This place has super traditional Mexican food, its delicious, and for us the best mexican place when we eat home made food, but perhaps, you want to try the new cuisines, and also is far away, so, go only if you want like the traditional traditional.  Mexico Cooks thinks they’ve gotten to big for their britches.
  • GARUM is chef Vicente Torres venue for quietly refined, accessible Hispano-Mex cooking
  • Jacinta Comedor.  Fancy traditional Mexican.  Not widely reviewed, but it gets good marks. .  Recommended. Great location if you are visiting museums near Polanco + its casual and relaxed and you can sit at the sidewalk and drink margaritas.
  • Eno. Rocío prefers others for breakfast.
  • Azul.  Candidate for night of arrival.  Near Airbnb. Azul, the chef is well recognized but I really think you can have better food.  With that said, Mexico Cooks highly recommended Azul Historico.

Other Lunch/Dinner

  • Alipus Endémico. Oaxacan food.  (copied from below – I love this place, they have a very cool mezcal tasting called Vuelo, you will taste 5 mezcales for a very reasonable price, the tacos Oaxaqueños are awesome and they have mezcal cocktails if you don’t want straight mezcal. They usually have table and they open every day.)
  • La Abuela. Street tacos.  Veal (ternera) is most popular.  Seen on multiple tours.
  • Tacos Hola.  Favorite tacos of Contramar owner.
  • La Barraca Valenciana.  Tortas. Favorite of Contramar owner.
  • (Coyoacán) La Casa de los Tacos***.  Prehispanic food.  A challenge!
  • Conchita (Cocina Conchita). Casual Ceviches. Reviews are mixed. Recommended
  • Cantina Fina.  Relaxed pub like place.  This cantina is, as its name states, ‘fina’ – pretention is not on offer here.
  • Pasillo de Humo (hall of smoke) an extraordinary Oaxacan ‘antojería’ under the baton of chef Alam Méndez
  • Parian Condesa who needs yet another ‘mercado gourmet’ I would have thought, but the design is great and there’s a lot of good eating here
  • NEXO (casual – not posh, but…) “opened its doors in 2015 but really came into its own this year; it may be the finest restaurant in the city”

Coffee

  • Café Passmar
  • Chiquitito Café
  • Café Villarías
  • Panadería Rosetta – bakery, but coffee and bollos de romero?

Bars & Desserts

  • Hanky Panky.  Speakeasy. I’d need to see if we can get a reservation.
  • Jules basement.  Speakeasy, but I don’t think you need advance reservations.  Live music.
  • Parker & Lenox.  Jazz bar.
  • La Clandestina Mezcaleria. Open 6pm-2 (closed Sunday)  It’s a very cool place for mezcales. But they almost never have table, if you arrive early maybe you will find one. The secret here is order “puntas” it’s the mezcal with more percentage of alcohol 70% they only give this to clients it’s not on the menu.
  • Alipus Endémico. Oaxacan food.  12pm-1 (closed Sunday) Mezcal.  I love this place, they have a very cool mezcal tasting called Vuelo, you will taste 5 mezcales for a very reasonable price, the tacos Oaxaqueños are awesome and they have mezcal cocktails if you don’t want straight mezcal. They usually have table and they open every day.
  • Licorera Limantour.  Roma.  Supposed to be one of the best bars in th world.  Cocktails.  “The margarita al pastor plays with ingredients found in the classic al pastor (shepherd-style) tacos. The result is a tequila-based drink with pineapple, coriander and a touch of serrano chilli.”  Not cheap.
  • Milagrito.  6pm-2.  (Closed Sunday Monday)  Mezcal
  • Romita Comedor.  Gin & tonic recommended.  Mezcal and sangrita.  Skip food.
  • Café Villarías.  Ultra hip mezcal bar. (Eater.com experience)
  • Los Insurgentes Pulqueria.  Pulque. Well pulque it’s a complicated drink, try it, but don’t plan to stay a long time there.
  • Qué Bo.  Rick Bayless mentioned this chocolate shop.  Various chocolate drinks.  Cool chocolates they have amazing flavors but the best part that most people ignore are the beverages they hate pre-hispanic chocolate drinks that are awesome.
  • Cantina La Mascota.  Old time cantina with gratis food.  rush comes at 2pm at lunch places? (Eater.com experience)
  • Churrería El Moro.  Churros and chocolate.  (Eater.com experience)
  • Panadería Rosetta – bakery. bollos de romero. very popular on weekends.
  • Dolcenero.  A designer chocolate store inspired on Dali with amazing flavors an a cool concept, really neat your Airbnb 
  • Dulcería de Celaya. (skip) Candies.  worth visiting because is very old and traditional, Mexican candies are crazy sweet, be careful, I recommend you to try Glorias are made with milk caramel and pecans my favorite Mexican candy.

Lodging

After looking at the hotel options, Airbnb seemed like the way to go.  After reading discussions on TripAdvisor, Reddit, and Fodor’s we focused our attention on the Condesa or Roma Norte neighborhoods.  We are very food-centered travelers.   We opted to spend a little more to get a place with a view of the city.  Lots of great reviews and no sign of the concerns I might have (e.g., noise).  The second choice also looked very nice, but it didn’t seem to have a comparable view, and the reviews were two years old (perhaps it was just off the market, but it left me concerned about the apartment’s current condition – had pictures been updated?).  I was going to email the owner with questions, but we decided the view (and a hammock) were worth $20/night more.

Flights

We opted to pay a little more for our flights in order to get them under 9 hours (from Seattle) and make them work for schedule.  I wanted to arrive in time for dinner.  $500 per person seemed ok.

Wine

White

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier (January 27, 2017). We like blends like this one.  Almost a little effervescence but definitely a little of the character you expect from a champagne.  I read a description that mentioned honeysuckle and its one of the few times where I picked it up.  A really nice inexpensive wine. $10 at Trader Joes.

Results of Blind Tasting (January 17, 2017).  I think any would do.  The Wente was probably on the bottom.  The Meridian is sweeter, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing (I was good with pizza).  Toasted Head stood up the best to being in the refrigerator for a little while.  None of the wines maintained their aroma, but the Tasted Head was still distinguished.

Blind Tasting Chardonnays. (tasted January 7, 2017).  Eden Ridge, La Crema, and Toasted Head.  No aromas (so perhaps it is that the bottles have been open too long).  They were pretty much indistinguishable for us.  We liked all three.

Blind Tasting Chardonnays. (tasted January 7, 2017). Eden Ridge Chardonnay, Wente Morning Fog, La Crema.  Cold. Amy got an off note from the Wente and I didn’t like it as much as the others.  The Eden Ridge had a little yeast aroma and so I mistook it for the La Crema.  I think the La Crema lost it’s aroma since its been open a couple days.  In the tasting it came out just behind the Eden ridge.

Blind tasting Chardonnays. (tasted January 6, 2017 (later)). Toasted Head 2014, La Crema, 2014, and Meridian 2014.  These had warmed a little.  I could pick out all three from aroma alone (I knew which three we were tasting, but not which glass they were in).  La Crema (yeast), Toasted Head (faint smoke), Meridian (neither).  We both agreed that Meridian had rough edges the other two did not.  We’d buy Toasted Head or La Crema again.  La Crema came out slightly ahead.  Again, we were surprised that Meridian didn’t come out better since we liked it previously (as compared to Toasted Head).  I’m starting to suspect there a a lot of variables.  Wine temperature, food, which is tasted first,…

Blind tasting Chardonnays (tasted January 6. 2017). Toasted Head 2014 and La Crema 2014. Cold. Le Crema had some yeast in the nose which I enjoyed. Both good but we enjoyed the La Crema a bit more.

Blind tasting Chardonnays (tasted January 5, 2017).  Toasted Head 2014,  Meridian 2014, and Harkin 2015.  These were served cold.  We learned later that we both started with the Meridian.  We immediately liked it.  We got a little smoke from the Toasted Head. The Harken seemed most similar to the Toasted head in quality, but a little watery. Amy liked the Toasted Head and the Harken more than I did, but we agreed that the Meridian was noticeably better than the other two. I described the Meridian (still blind) as something I’d take to a party while the other two would be fine everyday table wines.  Great outcome since Meridian is only $4.  We were surprised that the Harkin came out at the bottom since we liked the previous bottle just a few days ago.

Harkin Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (2015).  (tasted December 19, 2016) Amy likes “buttery” whites.  I took a look on Reverse Wine Snob (I’m hoping to find a reviewer that we can go to reliably).  I frankly don’t taste the buttery.  She seemed to like this wine a lot.  For me it was tasty and smooth, but I’ll probably keep looking in hopes of finding something I can pick up locally.  $12.99

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier (tasted November 2016).  I liked this one quite a lot.  Amy, not so much.  She said she likes something “buttery”.  I went on the hunt and found the Harkin above.  To me the two are of similar quality but different.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (tasted October 2016) – Amy and I both liked it a lot.  It had a distinct flavor that I don’t think I’ve tasted before.

Chateau Ste Michelle Pinot Gris (tasted September 2016).  Amy said she liked it, but it was not a standout for me.  Pass.

Red

The Fugitive Red Dry Creek Valley.  (tasted January 25, 2017) we both liked this one.  Amy commented that it had some sweetness and she noticed a lack of tannins.  I guess I just thought of it as a smooth medium bodies red blend.  While it was good we’d not pay the $30 normal price.  I doubt we liked it more than the H3.  $19.99 on sale normally $29.99.

Septima Obra Malbec (2013).  (tasted January 2, 2017)  When we bought the Harkin Chardonnay on CorkExclusive.com, I needed a 3rd bottle to qualify for for shipping.  I poked around and found this one.  It did not amaze Amy on the first sip, but she loved it afterwards.  For me it was a good wine I’d welcome again.  It did not, however, compel me to immediately go buy more. I’ll keep trying.  Perhaps I prefer a more full bodied red (blend).  $15.99

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon(tasted October 2016) The first taste was a little weird, but after that I decided that I really liked it.

Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux.  (tasted September 2016)  Amy, Rachelle, and I all liked this one.  Buy again.

 

Stouts, Porters, and Browns

Stouts

Fremont Brewing Dark Star Bourbon Barrel Oatmeal Stout. (tasted January 19, 2017)  Lots of chocolate/coffee aroma.  Tastes like a coffee truffle.  It’s another smooth but really big and rich bourbon barrel stout.  Very smooth but I was overwhelmed by the time I reached the end.  Compares to the Velvet Merkin and the Yeti (to the best of my memory). Alcohol is very high, but I don’t think we noticed it as compared to the others.  $16.99 / 22oz bottle / 14.5%

Founders Breakfast Stout. (tasted December 22, 2016) This beer has been on my wish list for a while.  My first opportunity to try it was while traveling to Santa Fe.  It is very coffee forward – yes, I could drink this with breakfast.  The alcohol is almost completely hidden.  As a stout I didn’t think it quite lived up to its reputation.  It is smooth and tasty but perhaps not as complex as I would have hoped.  The mouthfeel was thinner than I remember Alesmith’s Speedway being (maybe not a fair comparison since Speedway is 50% more alcohol).  The Founders beer is maybe not as interesting as Modern Times’s Black House, but Black House was the first coffee infused stout I ever had and it has been some time.  I’d drink Founders Breakfast Stout again sometime, but it wasn’t the amazing brew I had hoped.  I’d still love to try their Kentucky Breakfast stout. (update – No, this doesn’t work for me as a breakfast beverage)  4-pack of bottles. 8.3% ABV

Black Raven Grandfather Raven Imperial Stout. (tasted December 16, 2016) Tasty. Amy didn’t pick up any aroma, but my first whiff was all dark chocolate. Nice mouth feel. Taste is all unsweetened chocolate to me.  Pleasant bitterness but very drinkable.  Not particularly complex but that wouldn’t stop me from having it again.  This is a very different experience than drinking the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (2016) which I found complex but unpleasantly sweet. $8.99 / 22oz. / 9.5% ABV

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. (tasted December 15, 2016) To try again. Amy loved it, I thought it was too sweet. Smelled like grape juice to Amy…just fruity sweet to me. The taste (cold) sweet almost sour up front. Then it was all dark chocolate – fudgy. Thick and nice. Some bourbon smokiness but definitely not the most bourbon forward we’ve had. Full but not heavy like the Yeti etc. Amy really liked it. She likes the alcohol warming. Unlike the vast majority of reviewers on beeradvocate and ratebeer, I thought it was too sweet or maybe a little off.” $9.99 / 16oz. / 13.8% ABV

Alesmith Speedway Stout. (tasted November 17, 2016) Very very good. A big and burly imperial stout.  We didn’t do a side by side tasting but I think is likely very similar to the Great divide Yeti.  It was so rich that I had a hard time finishing my half.  $12.99 / 25oz. / 12% ABV

Bells Kalamazoo Stout. Tasty. (tasted October 10, 2016) We had on tap in New York City.  6% ABV

Alaskan Pilot Srs Perseverance. (tasted October 1, 2016) I thought the first taste was weird. Amy didn’t notice anything. Not a standout for her. sips were better, but… $8.99 / 22oz. / 9% ABV

Elysian Dark O’ The Moon Pumpkin Stout. Unique and tasty. Another you wouldn’t want all the time, but… I had a little residual and I kept smelling it from feet away and I thought it was fresh baked dessert. 22oz. / 6.5% ABV (tasted September 28, 2016)

Base Camp S’more Stout. (tasted September 17, 2016) We had this on tap at burger place in Leavenworth, WA. Pretty good. Chocolate. Perhaps a little watery (hard to remember).  $5.49 / 22oz. / 7.7% ABV

Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin. (tasted September 11, 2016)  Super yummy. Both of us thought it had a lot more character than the Yeti. $16.99 / 22oz. / 8.6% ABV

Sierra Nevada. Stout of the Union. (tasted August 28, 2016)Had at Quinn’s. Not memorable. Did not stand up to the food we had. Amy liked it better than I did. $8.99 / 22oz. / 9% ABV

North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. (tasted July 24, 2016) nice stout. I’m not sure how it falls with others. Perhaps still prefer the bourbon barrel. $6.99 / 22oz. / 9% ABV

Great Divide Barrel Aged Yeti.  (tasted July 9, 2016) Almost Vegemite in the nose. Definite bourbon forward. Nice. Amy says she loves it. $23.99 / 25oz. / 10.4% ABV

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti. (tasted June 11, 2016) Big Chocolate is noticeable. Amy was purring after. I like it. You have to be in the mood for something big. $9.49 / 22oz. / 9.5% ABV

Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout . (1st time) yummy  Very good. Not boozy.  (2nd time) pretty good. ­ it seemed good but less interesting. I missed the bourbon warmth you get in the bigger stouts… perhaps it’s all about expectations. 6.9% ABV

Porters

Black Raven Coco Jones Coconut Porter. (tasted December 19, 2016) Again, we felt we could drink this every day.  We don’t get any toasted coconut flavor.  We’ve had it before and Amy liked it (more than I did).  In comparison to the Black Butte we had last night, it was a split decision.  I thought the Coco Jones might be slightly better, while Amy thought the reverse.  We both agreed that our tastes are influenced by what we are eating and a bunch of other things.  No reason to pay a premium for Coco Jones.  (tasted May 16, 2016) Black Raven coconut porter. Amy liked it, I thought it was only decent. $4.99 / 22oz. / 13.8% ABV

Deschutes Black Butte Porter. (tasted on December 18, 2016) Tasty and full. No faults.  This is an everyday easy drinking beer.  Inexpensive.  It does leave us wondering if anything would make a Porter memorable.  The big Stouts have strong flavors.  Same with seasonal beers.  You don’t want them all the time.  $7.99 / 6 pack of 12oz / 5.20% ABV

Stone Encore 6th Anniversary Porter. (tasted September 24, 2016) More bitter than typical porter but it is impossible to pick out individual flavors. It’s working for Amy, but I’d rather have a flavorful stout %. $8.99 / 22oz. / 8% ABV

Deschutes Black Butte XXVIII – Imperial Porter. (tasted September 21, 2016) Very Good. Great aroma and complex. 11.5% ABV

Rogue Mocha Porter. (tasted July 8, 2016) Amy and I both like it a lot. Nice burnt/bitter. $6.49 / 22oz. / 10% ABV

Georgetown Porter (9 LB Hammer). (tasted July 4, 2016) Tasty. Chocolate and coffee. 22oz. / 6.4% ABV

Wild Ride Nut Crusher Peanut Butter Porter. (tasted May 31, 2016) Yum! Second tasting at Brouwers. It’s nitro. Did not stand up to yeti. I think i lose something with the nitro. Weakens the finish. 22oz. / 6% ABV

Hi-Fi Woofer Porter – Whiskey Vanilla. (tasted May 16, 2016) Good (maybe not great?) Could not taste either vanilla or whiskey. 22oz. / 6.9% ABV

Other Brown & Darks

Rogue Hazelnut Brown. (September 16, 2016) Light but not watery.  Hazelnut flavor plus some of a porter’s character.  Trailing bitterness. We both liked. $6.79  / 22oz Btl / 6% ABV

Mac and Jacks Cascadian Dark Ale.  (tasted January 22,2017) Nice bourbon aroma and taste.  It comes across like a porter.  It’s a fully rounded and delicious beer.  I checked RateBeer and the scores are not that great but people seem to like it.  Apparently a Cascadian Dark Ale is supossed to be more bitter.  I don’t care–it tastes very good and its nice to have a lighter bourbon barrel dark beer, but with all the stuff I like.   7%ABV

Smoked Beer

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen (tasted January 1, 2017) Smelled like the smoked tea Lapsang souchong to me (wood smoke).  I didn’t tell Amy what we were drinking – she thought it smelled like bandaids 🙂  we both ended up liking it quite a bit.  Taste follows smell.  We both thought it had a lot of similarities to a stout.  Light to medium bodied.  I think sharing one of these bottles is a good idea because the smoke might become overwhelming.  $5.49 / 17oz bottle / 6.6%

Productivity App (Rough Notes)

Motivation / New Ideas. I don’t like to think of myself as a Tony Robbins kind of guy, but his video (What to do when you’ve hit a plateau?) helped me.  I hit, what feel like, plateaus fairly frequently.  I’ll work feverishly on an idea and then find myself stuck – not knowing whether to proceed, or how to proceed, or how to break away from a bad idea.  That last condition, I think, is because I get concerned that I might not have another great idea.  He suggests feeding your mind (reading every day).  His goal seems different (he suggests reading biographies) but I realize if I look into recent tweets, posts, or books on topics that I have an interest in (e.g., psychology, design, lean startups, and investing) then I often do find new motivation.

App Design.  This article, The Scientists Who Make Apps Addictive, profiles the work of BJ Fogg and his colleagues.  I found his (free) Tiny Habits program very useful, and the book titled Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products looks promising.  (Key for me from the article: it’s possible to exploit motivation by making it easier to continue than it is to stop).

Experimenting with Cocktails

Bourbon Thyme.  (January 5, 2017).  Recipe from Salted Plains.  We had some left over thyme simple syrup so we gave this recipe a go.  Tasty.  It’s sweeter than the other bourbon/whisky cocktails we’ve tried.  I couldn’t really pick out the thyme or the lemon as distinct flavors but I wouldn’t mind having this again (with a bit less of the simple syrup).

Oaxaca Old Fashioned.  (December 2016) Recipe from Make Me a Cocktail.  We didn’t have mezcal so we used two types of tequila (randomly from the cupboard).  This was very nice.  Tequila plus bitter (just the tiniest hint of chocolate).  If we do this again, I want to use a recipe with a flamed orange peel (Serious Eats).  Given our experiences so far, I don’t imagine we’d be able to tell the difference if we used Mezcal as directed.  Maybe once we work down the stock of tequila we have.

Cynar Negroni.  (December 2016).  Chowhound recipe.  Tasty.  Slow sipper.  I’m not at all sure I taste a difference between this and a regular Negroni.  I’ll probably never have them side by side so it probably doesn’t matter.

Wild Flower (December 2016) Recipe from Kindred Cocktails.  It’s all in the nose.  We served the drink in a sifter and I think that was a good idea.  You get the gin and the Elderflower.  I thought it was less bitter than the (modified) Colonel Corpano and not as sweet (or as easy drinking) as the 23 Skidoo. Amy thought it less bitter than the 23 Skidoo and not as sweet as the Manhatten.

23 Skiddoo.  (December 2016)  Recipe from Kindred Cocktails.  And now for something completely different.  This was very easy drinking, like a Margarita, but a lot more interesting.  We could definitely do these again.

Colonel Carpano. (November, 2016) Amy made the drinks using a recipe found on Kindred Cocktails. I requested one with more vermouth because my experience was the Manhattan, Negroni, and Boulevardier was that they were all a bit too bitter. A reviewer on Kindred Cocktails had suggested this change.  I did prefer it with equal parts bourbon (Buffalo Trace), Cynar, and vermouth (Antica Formula).  Still a sipper, but we both licked it quite a bit.  I’m not sure I can distinguish a Colonel Carpano from Boulevardier or a Manhatten (minus the cherry).

Manhattan.  (November 2016)  This was the first cocktail we made at home.  I investigated the ingredients (see huff post tasting for instance) and we made our first big liquor purchase.  We used Rittenhouse Rye, Carpano Antica formula, and angostura bitters – not because they led to the best Manhattan’s in the tests, but because I like vermouth straight and I had a plan to use the best stuff for other things.  We added the classic maraschino cherry because that’s what Amy remembers from sipping her parent’s drinks.  After consuming most of her cocktail, Amy offered this: “You need to mention that I like to think of you as Mr. Google” before giving me a peck on the cheek and a giggle.  She was referring to my penchant for online research.  My take on the Manhattan was that it was bitter in a way that I would need to continue to get used to.  I liked it, but it was another slow sipper for me.  The cherry provided a little relief.  Amy thought it tasted as she remembered – tasty – and she liked the cherry.

Negroni & Boulevardier. (October 2016) A Negroni is made with gin and a Boulevardier is made with bourbon.   I had the Negroni the first night we ate at La Buvette Scott in Quebec City (Eat there! It’s awesome).  This was all bitterness to me.  Not unenjoyable, but it was a slow sipper for sure.  We ate at the same place the next night and I had a Boulevardier. I suppose that I noticed the lack of gin, but on my first tasting, it was pretty darn similar to a Negroni.  Bitterness rules on my novice palate.

Mood Indigo. (September 2016) My first cocktail (other than margaritas or mojitos).  I ordered it at Herb & Bitter – a fantastic place in Seattle.   Listed ingredients: rum, whey, black tea, nardini amaro, benedictine, maraschino, orange, and lemon.  It was complex and tasty.

 

Pales, lagers, and other lighter beers

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier. (September 19, 2016) Tastes like water. Don’t get this style. I suppose I appreciated it more the 2nd time around but still too subtle for me. $3.99 for 16oz bottle / 5.40% ABV

Trader Jose Dark. (June 30, 2016) I like to drink a Negra Modelo when I’m out eating Mexican food.  It is generally the best of the available options.  This Trader Joe’s beer might be similar (haven’t tasted side by side) but I don’t think it works for me at home.  Not interesting. $6 / 6-pack of 12oz bottles / 5.30% (June 30, 2016)

 

Seasonal Beers

Elysian Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale. Maybe we weren’t in the mood, but neither of us that this was that great. Amy mentioned it was good on the first sip but then watery. I didn’t get watery, but I thought it was only “good.” $8.99 for 22oz /  (November 12, 2016)

Anderson Valley Pinchy Jeek Barl.  Good. Aroma is yeasty, taste is a bit bourbon and a bit spice. I want to try the Elysian again, but I think I might prefer it as a seasonal. $9.99 / 22oz Btl / 8.50% ABV (October 17, 2016)

Elysian Great Pumpkin. Smell and taste as expected (pumpkin pie ish). Interesting. Worth getting once a year. $8.99 for 22oz / 8.1% ABV (October 9, 2016)