Cahoots: Cocktails in London

Cahoots LondonI really think I would have loved Prohibition. Why? Not because I think alcohol is evil – that would probably be the opposite of the truth. No, it’s because I am obsessed with speakeasy themed bars (or actual speakeasy bars) and Cahoots in London is quite possibly one of my favorite bars in the world.

How to Find CAHOOTS and Getting In

Set in an abandoned tube station just off Carnaby Street in Kingly Court (a great area anyway for eating and drinking in the evening), Cahoots is hidden away. A sign simply saying “To the Trains –>” with a small, bricked alcove and a nondescript door is the only indication that it’s nearby.  The door is manned by a gentleman dressed oddly like it’s 1945, in suspenders.

Cahoots London

In Cahoots.

You can only get in if you know the password – or, in this case – who to ask for. (It’s the Captain.) The doorman is in on the whole thing, and plays along in character completely.  The Captain may not be taking any more visitors that evening, or is the Captain expecting you? Do you have an appointment to see the Captain this evening?

Cahoots London

Reservations are for two-hour blocks, since it’s usually quite busy. Definitely book ahead if you want to be sure you get in during your trip!

TRAVEL BACK IN TIME

Cahoots London

Propaganda Posters and subway tiles

Walking down the narrow steps after the Captain agrees to see you, you’re transported to London during WWII’s Blitz. The staff are all dressed in gear from the era, the music is jazz and swing, the only things on the menu are things that existed back then.  There’s no wifi (“What’s wifi?” replies the waitress, “This is 1945!”) or Continue reading

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.

IMG_0203

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

Anyway, Wolffer Estate Wine Stand. Continue reading

A Visit to the Heineken Experience (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Heineken Experience

The “Heineken Brouwery”, aka the home of the Heineken Experience

One of my favorite stops during a trip to Amsterdam, the Heineken Experience does the whole interactive museum thing right – brilliant design and a fun “ride” make this destination a must-see for beer lovers and friends alike.

Heineken Experience

Replicas of scenes of the past are quaint and imaginative.

You can do a self-guided tour through this experience and stop at interesting stuff along the way, where staff are on hand to explain things. The tour takes about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on how much you want to learn.

The place itself is a lot like another favorite destination of mine – the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. It combines education with a bit of fun and, of course, alcohol at the end.

Don’t miss the bottle “ride” Continue reading

Top 15 Reasons to Love Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland is one of my favorite cities in the world. There are several reasons for this. And, without further ado – here are my…

top 15 reasons to love Dublin, Ireland

  1. Its Size

    Population-wise, Dublin has about 527,000 inhabitants, and covers an area of about 44.4 square miles. Much of what a tourist wants to see and do is packed into only a few square miles in the city center and this results in a very accessible, walkable town.

     

    Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin, Ireland

    View of the Millennium Spire through the Samuel Beckett Bridge

    I’ve spent a day walking one end to the other – starting around the Grand Canal Dock at Samuel Beckett Bridge and strolling along the Liffey all the way to Phoenix Park and Kilmainham Gaol. It takes a few hours if you stop here and there to see the sights, and it may not be great if you have older folks in your group, but it’s a definite plus that you can see most of the sights on foot if you want.

  2. Ease of public transportation

    You can take public transport all around the city and skip taxi cabs all together if you like. Take the DART from the outer neighborhoods to Tara Street and you’re smack in the middle of Temple Bar, for example. Or, take the DART out of the city to Malahide or Howth and take in the beautiful sea views.

    The Luas, a relatively newer light rail system, hits the city’s shopping streets north of the river, but it doesn’t go many other places that a tourist would want to visit.  Nevertheless, DART and Luas tickets are cheap and are a great option for travelers who are solo or are in small groups (when splitting a taxi doesn’t make sense).

  3. Direct flights to Dublin from many cities

    Dublin’s status as the capitol of Ireland and a tourist destination means that it’s easy to get to from many world cities. There are direct flights daily from the U.S. cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Orlando, for example.  The best airlines to get you there would be Ireland’s own Aer Lingus, or the other major carriers like Delta, American Airlines/US  Air, and even Emirates. I love Aer Lingus personally because you start getting the hospitality and flavor of Ireland the minute you step foot on the airplane.
    Continue reading