Snaefellsnes Peninsula with GoEcco Tours

Snaefellsnes, Iceland

The Snaefellsnes (pronounced like: sn-EYE fells ness) peninsula of Iceland is arguably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Mars-like red landscapes, lush green foothills, rushing streams and rivers, little waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, basalt cliffs jutting out like crystals from the sea; it has so much natural beauty.  We checked it out ourselves with GoEcco Tours on a sunny June day last year.

Our tour guide, Yoe, scooped us up bright and early (although a little late) in a Toyota Highlander and our small group consisted of the three of us (me, husband and our friend) and three travelers from Singapore, including a radio DJ. The girls were nice and we all were into the same things, which was great.  They were late because one of the Land Rovers that we were supposed to take had malfunctioned, so they had to arrange for and use a replacement vehicle. We were a little disappointed because I think the Highlander was a bit smaller than what the other vehicle would have been, and we are all over 5’8″tall.

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Caught between taking photos at our first stop.

That being said, Yoe was a great guide. He cracked jokes along the way to the first stop and let us use our Spotify (thanks, unlimited international data plan!) to play music in the car. We (okay, I) asked a ton of questions, ranging from the Icelandic culture to what people do for fun, to what we were going to see that day and other things he’d recommend for us to see while in the country. We got a ton of great information from him that we used later in our trip.

Capri Sun in Iceland

I love roaming around shops in other countries – they even had Capri Sun!

After a brief stop for some coffee and to load up on road snacks, we were off to our first real stop.

Stop #1: Postcard-Perfect Fishing

Snafellsnes, Iceland

No filter.

Our first stop was a secret stream where flyfishing enthusiasts can come and pay a hefty fee to be able to fish for salmon in its rushing waters.  It was virtually Continue reading

Friðheimar: An Icelandic Greenhouse Lunch

An Icelandic Greenhouse Lunch

During our week in Iceland last summer, we stopped off at Friðheimar for an Icelandic greenhouse lunch after driving the Golden Circle for the better part of a morning and early afternoon. Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurantI had read about it in several other blogs and thought it sounded awesome – who doesn’t want to have lunch in a working greenhouse in the middle of Iceland? Exactly.

A little hard to find and off the beaten path, we drove the rental car only partway down the road and ended up in a little parking lot way too far from the door but close to the horses, so we piled in again and drove the dirt road up to the rather large greenhouse complex at the end, where we found Fridheimar, or Friðheimar, if you can make your keyboard do that weird Icelandic “d” thing.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

A working greenhouse, the farmers here grow amazing tomatoes year-round, taking advantage of the farming practice where you can regulate temperature year-round, which is especially important for a place like Iceland, with its long frosts and colder-than-a-witches’-teet winters. Happy bees buzzed around the tall vines as they were misted.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

PRO-TIP #1: Don’t Come Here If You Don’t Like Tomatoes.

Being that you’re in an Icelandic greenhouse that grows mostly tomatoes, it comes as no surprise, then, that the menu consists of tomato soup. Fresh tomato soup.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Fresh tomato soup!

Perhaps the freshest tomato soup I’ve ever had.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Don’t come here if you’re on the Atkins diet…and don’t want to suffer.

And a table of bread that would make even the biggest carb-lover’s heart skip a beat in delight. Asiago-crusted. Focaccia. Plain. Sourdough. In unlimited quantities.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

We might have overdone it on the bread.

The soup was also unlimited.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Butter, sour cream, cucumber

There was fresh cucumber salsa, sour cream, and butter to accompany the main attraction, brought to the table by kind servers.

To drink, there are several types of Iceland’s craft beer – Einstök – on offer. This was before I had ever seen Einstök in the U.S. – but it’s now pretty prevalent, at least in the New York City area in local beer aisles.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Icelandic craft beer

The white ale went nicely with the tomato soup. It made things feel a little bit more summery, considering it was in the 40’s -50’s Fahrenheit outside. Which was easy to forget when we were snug and warm inside the greenhouse!

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

More Icelandic craft beer

The beers were in addition to wine and several options for Bloody Marys and other Bloody Mary-esque cocktails.  The carafes of water at each table also had little cherry tomatoes in the bottom.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

The bar.

Pro-Tip #2: Come for Lunch – They are only open from noon to 4pm.

We really loved the lunch here at Fridheimar. Since the soup and bread are unlimited and you serve yourself, you’re able to eat as much or as little as you want but it’s not too heavy. It’s also not fried, which is a nice plus.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

We didn’t get dessert, but they all also feature tomatoes – cheesecake with tomato chutney, green tomato and apple pie, etc. On your way out of the greenhouse restaurant, you can stop in the little shop and purchase some of the tomato products that the greenhouse makes, to take home with you. We probably should have!

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

How to get to Friðheimar – an Icelandic Greenhouse Restaurant:

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Friðheimar
Bláskógabyggð
IS-801
Selfoss, Iceland
Phone: +354 486-8894
Friðheimar is best visited if you’re driving yourself around the Golden Circle and plan to stop at Kerið crater or Faxi waterfall. We visited after seeing Gulfoss, stopping quickly at the Faxi waterfall, and before we headed to hike down the Kerið crater.  It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re outside of Reykjavik and looking for an alternative lunch spot – eating in an Icelandic greenhouse!

Have you been to Friðheimar? Tell me what you thought about it in the comments? Are you thinking about going? Ask me anything in the comments, too!

Stone Brewing (San Diego, California)

Stone Brewing

I’ll admit that I got really lost on the way to Stone Brewing‘s location in Escondido, California (just north of San Diego) – the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens. I mean “drive around the office park and check Google maps about 10 times, then find it and park in the wrong parking lot, then walk the length of a football field to the front door” lost.  But it was so worth it once I was safely inside.

Stone Brewing

Sitting at the bar in one of the many spaces of this huge complex.

Known for its IPAs (that’s Indian Pale Ales, for the beer novices), Stone Brewing’s iconic gargoyle is synonymous with good American beer and it is generally one of the leaders of the craft beer movement in the United States.  Not just for IPA lovers, Stone also makes some pretty great stouts, porters, and American pale ales, too.

What sets Stone Brewing apart is that they have opened a location in Berlin, Germany, which I believe makes them one of the first breweries from the U.S. to expand to Europe, a trailblazing move. What’s more interesting is that they chose Germany for their first international location – a country whose beer laws and regulations are older than any other law of the land. The Reinheitsgebot, or German beer purity law, is no longer the law in Germany, but many German beer purists still follow it to this day. The law, dating back to 1516, required that beer only be made from hops, barley and water.

Stone Brewing

Seriously? How is this in the middle of a brewery?

Anyway, Stone Brewing has 3 locations in California and Escondido is home to its largest. The World Bistro and Gardens is an expansive space, featuring a large center bar in a square format, a large indoor dining room and extraordinary outdoor space, including patios, decks, winding paths around ponds and streams, grassy lawns and more.

I sidled up to the only empty barstool I could find and was greeted by a friendly bartender, who presented me with the food menu and lengthy beer list. I may or may not have looked like I needed a drink.

The menu is elevated international pub fare, featuring soft pretzels (what good beer establishment doesn’t have pretzels?) – their take on it being Stone hemp-seed soft pretzels – , avocado tater tots and gourmet chicken wings.

Pretzels at Stone Brewing

If you are here by yourself, maybe DON’T order the pretzels and an entrée.

They also offer ceviche, salads, Asian fare, Mexican dishes, South American dishes and more. The menu is surprisingly varied and the food is really well-executed and delicious. If you’re expecting greasy pub food with no flavor, you’ll be sorely disappointed!

I started with the pretzels and the dish comes with three pretzels. For one person, it was way too much food to order that and then a main course, so if you’re on your own you should probably be more strategic in your ordering than me.  Never shying away from a bread basket, I did my duty, though. The stone-ground mustard and roasted poblano jalapeño cheese sauce was too tempting not to finish it all!

When I went last year, I had a deliiiicious barbecue pulled pork sandwich with house-made slaw and house-made barbecue potato chips, but it is no longer on the menu. It was pretty amazing, though.

Stone Brewing

Pulled pork goodness.

I was short on time so I was unable to tackle a tour, but tours are given all day long at the Escondido location and cost a measly $3 each. The schedule is M-F, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm , and Saturday/Sunday 12p-6pm every hour on the hour. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Stone Company Store at the front of the Escondido location. You must be there 15 minutes prior to your tour to check in and collect your physical ticket.

Stone Brewing

Enjoy one of the many beers on tap!

Speaking of the Stone Company Store, it’s a great place to pick up some swag for yourself or the folks at home. Not unlike the Guinness Storehouse store, it has everything, from t-shirts to bottle openers to candles, glassware, and more.

I wish I had more time to spend at Stone Brewing or that at least I had some friends with me to enjoy it, too. That’ll be for next time.  Cheers!

How to get to Stone Brewing in Escondido, California

Stone Brewing Escondido

Stone Brewing, Escondido
1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029
Phone: 760.294.7866
Hours: Daily 11am-10pm; Friday and Saturday open until 11pm

 Have you been to Stone Brewing? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Ballast Point Brewing Company (San Diego, CA)

Ballast Point - Fish Out Of Malbec

Some of the biggest news in the craft brew world this year was the acquisition of Ballast Point Brewing Company by Constellation Brands. You might recognize Ballast Point’s famous, ubiquitous Sculpin IPA or Grapefruit Sculpin from your local grocery store shelf. However, there’s so much more to Ballast Point than what finds its way to your local store.

I had a few hours to kill during a free afternoon just outside San Diego at a conference last June and wanted to hit a few local breweries to maximize my time, sample some brews, and relax a little.

So, I started at Stone Brewing’s location in Escondido, CA and was browsing around the gift shop when I ran into several administrators of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control. I asked what other brewery I should check out in the area, since I only had time for one more, and they recommended that I check out Ballast Point. Those people obviously know their stuff, so who was I to disregard their recommendation?

Ballast Point Brewing Company

Outside the brewery

So, I plugged the address into my GPS and took off directly to Ballast Point Brewing Company in Miramar, which is north of downtown San Diego and northeast from La Jolla. One of Ballast Point’s five locations and home to its newest brewery, it’s in the middle of an office park, ten-plus minutes from the highway and if you think you’re lost, then you’re probably in the right place and are nearly there. There’s not a whole lot of parking for the amount of people who are actually inside.

Pro-Tip #1: Carpool if you’re going to come here with a group, if you can. And always designate a driver if you plan on trying more than just a flight!

Upon arriving, I first noticed that there’s an enormous outdoor patio with games and tables to sit and enjoy the food and brews. But when you enter the front doors, the sheer size of the place finally hits you – it’s huge! Continue reading

Wölffer Estate Wine Stand (The Hamptons)

We found ourselves at the Wölffer Estate Wine Stand last spring on the way home from tasting some mediocre wines on eastern Long Island.  And yes, most of the wines on Long Island are just that – mediocre. Unless you like sweet white wines and the occasional sweet red. But, the Wölffer Estate actually had some quality bottles that made me second-guess my natural inclination to bash LI wines.

wolffer estate wine stand

Look out at the vines while you sip on some wine

Ahh, the Hamptons. New York’s well-heeled elite and the ones who want to be elite flock to the East End of Long Island the second Memorial Day Weekend strikes and the Great Eastern Migration happens beginning Thursday afternoon every summer weekend. While the North Fork’s “having a moment,” as they say, the southern fork – better known as the Hamptons, which is a collection of little towns sprawling for miles and miles – still enjoys a reputation of the place to be for the summer and to enjoy passable wines while people-watching to your heart’s content.

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Bae and I were enjoying the sunshine after a long, cold winter and spring.

Anyway, Wolffer Estate Wine Stand. Continue reading

Reykjavik Hot Dogs: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

Hot dogs in Reykjavik, Iceland

Before even going to Reykjavik, we knew that we’d definitely be eating hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. These iconic Icelandic-style frankfurters have been featured in No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, Forbes magazine and a slew of other travel shows, guides and reviews. As a self-styled hot dog connoisseur (they’re one of my favorite food groups – yes, one can simultaneously love hot dogs and truffles), I just had to see for myself if these Reykjavik hot dogs were as good as their reputation indicated.

The place whose name,

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

translates to “The best hot dogs in town” did not disappoint. Hailing from a city where hot dogs are taken seriously (travelers to NYC always say how they need to get a hot dog from a cart on a street corner – we affectionately call them “dirty water dogs”), I have to say: dang, these Reykjavik hot dogs are legit. Continue reading