Apr 20, 2015

Ladies at the Beach: Southern California

It is Monday and I am back at work after a wonderful week away from Chicago in Southern California (Oceanside, to be exact).  Between Orange County and San Diego lay a bunch of small, cute, charming beachside towns, and I was lucky enough to get to stay on the beach for the entire week.  Besides the beautiful beaches, charming shops, palm trees and plentiful pools, this area is FULL of microbreweries!  This was great news for my family and me as we all enjoy trying new beers and supporting local breweries.

the view from Oceanside's pier
Right in Oceanside are several breweries, but we only visited one: Bagby Beer Company.  It is off of the main road in Oceanside and I thought it was HUMONGOUS for a micro brew pub.  There were several areas for seating: the inside bar, a tasting room, a large back patio, a large upstairs deck and an upstairs bar.  We went for lunch one afternoon (I highly recommend the burger) and another night for a post-dinner beer.  Their best beer that I tasted was "Pesky Neighbor" an IPA but I also liked "Struggle Bus", a nitro IPA.  They have 25 (!) of their own beers on tap, as well as many other local brews and a few bottles.  All of the servers definitely knew their stuff and it sounded like most of them homebrewed as well.

so many taps!
Bagby is definitely a place I'd recommend for food, as well as for spending an afternoon tasting as many of their beers as possible!  It also seems like it would be a great place for a party, especially on that upstairs deck.  And considering that weather in Oceanside seems beautiful 85% of the time, you probably wouldn't have to worry much about rain outs.

view of the back patio from the upstairs deck
In Solana Beach, another cute little beach town, is Culture Brewing.  My parents stumbled upon this brewery (they have knack for that) on the first day it was open.  It is MUCH smaller than Bagby and consists of the main bar area (with no seating, I guess because of licensing laws?) and the back patio.  I only tried one beer here, their Mosaic IPA, and it was VERY good and "low gluten" (meaning it has 10ppm of gluten or less).  Half of the beers on their list were low gluten, so if you're sensitive to gluten but not celiac, I'd recommend this place to fill up your growler.  Hopefully one day they will have more seating to encourage people to hang around and drink for a while.

you can see the brewing equipment from the patio!
Finally, there is a small chain of pizza/brewpubs in the area called Pizza Port.  We went to the one in Carlsbad on Friday night and it was BUSY!  Luckily we snagged a spot at the bar; it is kind of first come, first serve seating, with no hosts/servers (you order at the counter and they call your name when your food is ready).  The pizza was DELICIOUS and I would tell you to order the beer buddies (basically garlic pizza crust with dipping sauces) for an appetizer while you wait for your pizzas to be done.  

image via
Since this is a pizza place as well as a brewpub the crowd was more mixed with lots of families, little kids, teenagers, etc.  I had the "Off the Chain" double IPA which reminded me of some of my favorite double IPAs and the "Grapefruit Puncher" IPA which had just the teeniest hint of grapefruit.  They had a LOT of their owns beers on tap (also available in pitchers) and many others as well.  Pizza Port offers cans and kegs of their beers to go, and we saw their beer cans in the grocery stores we went to while in the area.

If you're ever visiting the area, definitely research the local microbreweries!  Hopefully I'll get to back again and check out the ones I didn't have a chance to see.  There is more to Oceanside than the beaches!

Apr 17, 2015

Hell or High Watermelon Review

Over the weekend, I discovered the beer that I didn't know my life was missing. I was on my way to a housewarming party, and knowing I shouldn't show up empty handed (I'm always a thoughtful guest), I stopped by a liquor store. With my boyfriend in tow, who was pathetically hungover, I decided not to go with my usual choice of an IPA. Not only because I was thinking he might improve and want a lighter beer to drink, but also because I took his condition as a warning sign and didn't want to be like him the next day.
As I perused the large selection of wheat and fruit beers, I noticed a watermelon wheat beer. I'm not the biggest fan of watermelon, or watermelon flavored things, but I was feeling adventurous and decided to take a chance -  I'm glad I did. I ended up buying the Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer by 21st Amendment Brewery.

The man at the liquor store checkout (who was probably one of the friendliest liquor store workers - if not humans - that I have ever encountered) told me that the 21st Amendment Brewery, located in San Francisco, just recently started distributing in the Chicago region and they were having a hard time keeping their beers in stock. According to him, they had been told that the watermelon beer would be the most popular and were advised to order more of this as it would fly off the shelves. (Correct advice).

Image via

While, I'm generally a fan of hoppier, more bitter IPAs, I absolutely loved this beer and probably drank most of the six-pack. It wasn't just a beer with a hint of watermelon, but the watermelon taste was very prevalent and fruity without being too sweet. It still tasted like beer, but I think that even non-beer drinkers would find it pleasant. The beer also gets points for its lovely can design. You should definitely check this beer out - if you can find it!
I'm looking forward to trying more 21st Amendment beers. I'll probably spend most of the summer outside drinking Hell or High Watermelon waiting for someone to open a 19th Amendment themed brewery.  

Apr 15, 2015

Revolution Brewery Tour

Last week, a few of my friends and I took a tour of Revolution Brewery through the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Chicago. Not to be confused with the Revolution Brewpub in Logan Square which has delicious food so go there, the actual brewery is located in the Kennedy Planned Manufacturing District (I didn't know this was an actual area, either). 

If you've seen Drinking Buddies, it's filmed here
I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's taken me years to take this tour. After a failed attempt two years ago to both find the location, and then once we found it, to get a spot on one of the coveted tours, I've been trying to make another trip.

Thinking everyone would have romantic dinner plans, I thought it would be a good idea to go during the afternoon this past Valentine's Day. Apparently, I'm not as clever as I think and everyone else in the city had the same idea. It was super crowded and there was a 4 hour wait for the next tour! (Sidenote: parents, if you're going to go to a brewery on Valentine's Day, maybe leave the kids at home?).

I had given up hope of ever going on a tour of Revolution, so when I received an email from the ND Club of Chicago saying that they had spots on a tour for young alumni, I immediately signed up.

Worth the wait

I've probably been on at least a dozen or so brewery tours at this point, but since I drink Revolution beers a lot, I was excited to go on this one. But - spoiler alert - this tour was almost exactly like all the other brewery tours I've been on! Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I know to expect learning about the process through which beer is made (typical) but then we also got to learn about Revolution specific items - such as the history of the brewery, their production/distribution, their designs, etc. I won't get into any specifics - instead go on the tour to learn more.
My favorite parts of the tour: getting 1.5 free samples of beer, free popcorn and getting to see all of the cans stored in the brewery. I also got to try Fist City - a pale ale that tastes really hoppy - for the first time, which might be my new favorite Revolution beer. It's being distributed in cans now, so you can all try it for yourselves - as long as you live in the Chicago region!
so many cans!
and more cans

My least favorite parts of the tour: having to wear safety glasses on the tour (surprisingly not fashion forward) and trying to get to the brewery itself, as it's in a location not convenient to public transport. 

Although it took me almost 3 years of living in Chicago to go on this tour, I would definitely suggest taking a trip. The tour is free and the beer is great - just make sure you plan ahead or get to the brewery early to make sure you get a spot!

Apr 13, 2015

mk The Restaurant

Last week I had the pleasure of dining out with my family for my mom's birthday.  My parents moved into the city a couple of years ago and have definitely taken advantage of the restaurant scene here.  They love trying new places and my mom enjoys researching where they should go next.  For her birthday dinner she did a lot of research and decided she wanted to go to mk in River West, named one of Chicago's 50 best restaurants by Zagat (it was #15!).

I hadn't heard of mk previously, but after we ate there I'm not surprised I hadn't heard of it.  It is in kind of an out of the way neighborhood--just outside of River North, just south of the Gold Coast, not quite in the West Loop.  It is also pretty pricey and since I rarely go out for fancy dinners if I have to pay, this was probably why I didn't know of this place.  Having said that though, I would DEFINITELY like to go back there as soon as I get a sugar daddy, or maybe for my own birthday this year.

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that this place was REAL good.  My mom said it might have been one of the best meals of her life.  I'm no food critic, but I had to agree with her.

My parents and I arrived together and while we waited for my younger brother to show up we sat in the bar area and had a cocktail.  I ordered the "sweet sixteen" and was informed by our very handsome and smooth talking bartender, Nico, that the drink is named that because the restaurant is celebrating its 16th year of being open.  This drink was great and I would definitely order it again (my brother got it as well): Ceres' vodka (shout out to Chicago Distilling!), lavender syrup and elderflower liquer.  It wasn't sweet, but very smooth and delicious.

the Janks enjoy a good cocktail
Once we were seated we decided to start with some appetizers.  We ordered the grilled octopus and the two tartares.  This grilled octopus was my favorite thing (possibly in the world).  It was char-grilled, but the waiter (who has worked there since the beginning!) says that the chef cooks the octopus in wine, vegetables and seasonings and WINE CORKS (which somehow take the rubber-iness out of the octopus? or maybe just for magic?) before grilling.  I'm not a big raw fish person but that the salmon tartar with avocado puree was pretty good (the one bite I was able to steal from my mom).

When it came time to order our entree I was torn between the duck and the chicken.  I chose the duck and I'm VERY glad I did.  It was probably the best duck I've ever had.  My mom had the chicken, my brother the steak (I had a bite and it was great!) and my dad had the white fish and lobster.  Everyone loved their choices.

mk has a very extensive/EXPENSIVE wine list.  I stuck with just the one cocktail but my mom, the family wine expert, ordered a bottle of red for the rest of them.  They were happy with their choice.

the dining room via
For dessert I had the ice cream, which included a scoop of mascarpone ice cream which I will definitely be looking for the next time I'm ice cream shopping...sadly I do this rarely because ice cream is my kryptonite and I'm like a bottomless pit once I start eating it and usually end up eating my boyfriend's too...
My mom had the s'mores dessert and I think she ended up eating most of my dad's chocolate cake because she is a chocolate fiend.

While the decor at mk isn't as fancy/interesting as some of the newer and trendier restaurants in town, it is worth a visit just for the food.  I seriously think it could be one of those dining in the dark places and no one would complain--that's how good it was.  A good place to make a reservation at for when your parents are visiting or you have something special to celebrate!