Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Allston's Hidden Slice of Texas

You wouldn't guess it by the dark, unmarked exterior, but Lone Star Taco Bar is a vibrant, cozy place to warm up with gourmet tacos and Mexican beer. Everything about it echoes Deep Ellum - they're both owned by the same people - to the point that if feels like you're in some kind of Texan parallel universe next to its sister bar. And I have just as many good things to say about Lone Star as Deep Ellum.

It barely seems possible, but Lone Star is a little smaller than Deep Ellum, but in a cozy way. The old cowboy westerns playing on a TV above the bar, mounted bison head, and dim lighting (at least when we went around 9PM last Thursday) made you feel like you may have just stepped into Texas. Not a cheesy Hollywood version of Texas, but a cool, slightly upscale version where hipsters go for conversation and delicious food. There must be hipsters in Texas, right?

Lone Star was crowded when we got there, so we grabbed the last two seats at the bar, but by 10 it had nearly emptied out and we could hear the music again. The music was chill, but probably the only piece of the puzzle that didn't fit the authentic Texas feeling.

I couldn't resist trying the Chelado - the Pacifico on draft mixed with lime juice over ice with a salted rim. It managed to taste refreshing but not watered down at all. Brittany tried the Chica Facil (haha), a delicious blend of tequila, aperol, lime, agave, and orange bitters.

Baja Fish and Carnitas Pork Tacos
Then we moved on to the difficult food decision - everything on the taco menu looked great, but we could only eat so much (especially since I had already technically had dinner). I got the Baja Fish of the Day while Brittany chose the Carnitas Pork and the Grilled Avocado with Griddled Queso. She had been to Lone Star before so she prepared me for how great they would be, but I was still in awe. The balance of hot/cold, sweet/savory in my fish taco was exactly right.

Brittany and I followed up our first drinks with Pacifico on tap - only $4 for a pint of a decent Mexican beer.

It was a great place to catch up and adventure into some unique TexMex flavors. The Lone Star bartenders were great, too - attentive and clearly skilled at their job.

Although the tacos were gourmet, we were a little disappointed to learn after eating from one of our bartenders that the real deal at Lone Star are the tostadas: only $5 for a heaping pile of delicious ingredients. Not as gourmet or as meticulously made as the tacos, which are in a class of their own, but still delicious and at a great price.

I feel like I say this about most bars I visit... but I'll definitely be going back.

P.S. For those keeping track, no, we didn't go to jm Curley like we promised in our last blog post. By the time Brittany was done with classes and work on her long-day Thursday, we went for something closer to home. But jm Curley is still on the to-do list!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tapped in Allston: Drinking (at Home) on a Budget

This week, due to lack of funds and high stress, Alicia and I decided to give our readers a new take on our Tapped in Allston lifestyle. We approached the night with two major goals: put together our trifecta of a kitchen cart turned counter space and dining area, and make a strongly worded phone call to Comcast due to our lack of internet. What better way to accept this challenge than with a much-needed Sangria buzz? The best part about this stay-at-home adventure is that it barely cost a thing and we could stay in our sweatpants as it happened.

Alicia and I are personally huge fans of making our own Sangria, so all we needed was to pick up a bottle of wine from our all-too-convenient Brookline Liquor Mart and add the rest. Having an awesome liquor store, where the staff can quickly lead you to a bottle of wine you've never tasted, as well as supply you with the classics (Sam Adams Harvest Collection/Blue Moon) has made quality drinking at home that much more affordable.

Our next door neighbors: Brookline Liquor Mart

Every Sangria recipe is completely different, which is perfect since we wanted to keep it simple and use most of what we already had. We used a $5 bottle of Headbutt red wine, sugar, rum, and Sprite (unfortunately we had no fruit to add). Before we could set out to take care of our kitchen cart, we cooked a quick dinner and enjoyed it where we spend most of our dinners - on the living room floor. This feels like an important detail to mention, since this project stopped us from going out this week.

The many pieces of our kitchen cart had been sitting in our hallway for about a week, and with our two chairs completed (shout out to Sam Ratner), we were ready to commit to the project. I've never considered us a handy pair, but it did feel pretty good to build it ourselves in a little over an hour.

The Final Product!

As to not disappoint ourselves and our readers (specifically our family) we promise to follow this post up with a MUCH more exciting one when we head to jm Curley later this week! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beers at The Avenue

Sorry readers and drinkers, we've waited far too long to blog about our antics in the city. Moving, traveling, work, and starting up school and a new internship have added up to not enough free time and free energy for our beloved blog. But don't worry! We've been going out plenty in the past month.

At long last, this past Thursday we chose The Avenue to grab a few drinks and catch up. It's surprising how even as roommates we can end up seeing each other so infrequently. The Avenue was the perfect choice: not too bright or too dark, not too loud even with some games on, just a couple blocks from home, and enough good beer options to keep us drinking.

The Avenue's beer board from July

Despite being located so close to some less-desirable college bars like White Horse and Tavern in the Square (commonly known as TITS - does that tell you anything?), The Avenue has a great vibe. The wall of taps and a giant chalkboard over the bar show off how many options there are to drink at good prices - most beers on tap are $5, some heavier options are a little more, and bud light is always $3.50. The bar is pretty small but has a lot of seating and I've only ever waited for a table on Mondays when burgers cost a dollar (that's right - $1 and totally worth it).

Not only was the beer selection great, but so was the service. I've had decent enough service when I've been at The Avenue in the past, but last week we had an exceptional server, Kyle. He was always checking up on us, never let our glasses empty, and offered his advice on beer based on our tastes. Without asking, I even got a small glass to taste Shipyard Pumpkinhead when he realized I didn't like the Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale I had tried first. I found the Smuttynose too bitter and hoppy with not enough pumpkin flavor. Although I already knew what Shipyard Pumpkinhead tastes like, I certainly didn't turn down his offer for a free taste!

Probably laughing at how ridiclous
we always feel taking pictures with
our beer
As I told Brittany at The Avenue, I have a scale of pumpkin beers, and Smuttynose fell on the far end of too bitter. However, Shipyard is too sweet, like drinking a liquified pumpkin pie. But Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin? Just right.

For a second beer I ended up trying the Jack's Abby Jabby Brau, which I had heard of through Boston craft beer circles, and was a little disappointed. It was completely drinkable, but not much more, and I like a little more flavor and excitement to my beer. I finished with Avery Ellie's Brown Ale, which I really enjoyed. It reminded me I should try brown ales more often. They'll probably be a better option once we work our way through the fall beers filling our fridge and need some heavier options for winter!

Meanwhile, Brittany started with one of her favorites, Sam Adams Octoberfest. I think I'm the only beer drinker I know that doesn't like Octoberfest. I preferred her second beer, the Brooklyn Oktoberfest, but Brittany definitely did not and switched right back to Sam Adams.

We didn't eat at The Avenue this week, but I've been plenty of times in the past with friends for dollar burgers. Don't let the price fool you: these burgers are always a good choice, even for the regular prices (nothing over $10, most under $5, including some amazing sweet potato tots).

I'm ready to go back already.

Monday, August 27, 2012

We Love Restaurant Week

After a three week hiatus from Tapped in Boston we realized that the only way to remain in our readers' good graces was by going BIG, and what better time than one of the four weeks a year that all of the fanciest and completely unaffordable (to our broke selves) restaurants create fixed menus where you can get a three course meal for $33.12. Last year, for our first Restaurant Week as roommates, we went to The Beehive and loved it so much that we decided to go back for more this year.

The Beehive is located in the South End, fittingly not too far from the SoWa Vintage Market. The Beehive is one of my favorite places for a few reasons. Though it's an upscale restaurant, it features nightly music including jazz and funk newcomers, as well as a collection of art scaling the high walls from seemingly unknown artists. This year we had front row seats to the musical stylings of Baron Brown & Bruce Bartlett with the AB's, an ensemble consisting of four musicians playing freestyle funk, cues based purely on exchanged glances. The Beehive wants you to enjoy your $12 martini in a place that surrounds you with hipster/bohemian culture, making it feel a little more like home.

When we walked into The Beehive we could not have been more excited to be seated about ten feet away from the small stage. Unfortunately for our server, our expectations from last year were set too high to accept his unenthusiastic personality that lasted from when he first approached us until the moment that we left the restaurant. Luckily for us, The Beehive has enough personality to make up for his.

For our first drinks I went with the Valentino Martini (vodka, blood orange, passion fruit, $11) while Alicia went with one of the many "bubbly cocktails," Persian Kitty (champagne, pomegranate, ginger liquor, $11.50). It took a lot of deliberating to decide our three courses, I ultimately went with Lobster Bisque, Chicken Piccata, and Bread Pudding as dessert. Three choices I have no regrets about, especially the Bread Pudding - it was topped with a thick cream and maple syrup that made the dessert taste like thick and chewy pancakes - possibly the best dessert I've ever had. Never one to leave without a second round Alicia went with the Hemingway Daiquiri (pretty much the same recipe as the drink of the same name at Deep Ellum) and I went for the Queen Bee. We weren't disappointed.

Once our bank accounts recover from the hit they took from restaurant week, we will absolutely be returning to this perfectly mood-lit bar.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

National Tequila Day at Sunset Cantina

I'm the first to admit I'm addicted to Twitter. I don't miss many tweets during the week and have met a few people through Twitter but never in real life. I'm not entirely sure what that says about me, but I know one thing: it's told me about news and events I wouldn't have known about so quickly, if at all, without Twitter -- including Drink Craft Beer Summerfest and free tickets to the Odyssey Cruise on the Boston Harbor. What did I learn today? It's National Tequila Day.

Brittany and I originally planned to check out The Lower Depths in Kenmore Square last night, but decided to postpone that trip in favor of a classic tequila spot just down the road: Sunset Cantina. There were a lot of tempting tequila menus elsewhere in the city, but not with similar prices. And of course by the end of the night we realized it's still nothing in comparison to Border Cafe. (If this blog teaches you anything about getting good, cheap Mexican food in Boston, it should be to go to Border Cafe.)

I happen to be very familiar with the margarita list and over 100 tequilas at Sunset Cantina - for the past few months, it's been home to biweekly "Pay Day Margaritas Fridays" with my coworkers. Between that and several past visits to Sunset Grill and Tap, their mirror restaurant with a staggering beer selection, I knew we'd be in for some delicious drinks and Mexican food. Thankfully Brittany and I came with growling stomachs and were ready to make the most of the tequila holiday.

By the end of the night, we had just about demolished two large plates of vegetable quesadilla and blackened swordfish tacos along with four margaritas. It was a delicious way to spend National Tequila Day. The four margaritas, all on the rocks with a salt or sugar rim, were:
  • Lime and coconut margarita (Margaritaville Lime and Coconut Tequila, sour mix, coconut): my favorite - strong coconut flavor and light alcohol taste
  • Melon Rita (Margaritaville Tangerine, Midori, triple sec, sour mix, lime wedge): sweet and strong
  • Horny Margarita (Sauza Hornitos Plata, Sour Mix, a splash of pineapple with sugared rim): insert "horny" joke here... love the drink, hate the name
  • Perfecto Margarita (Sauza Hornitos, fresh lime and lemonade with agave nectar): strong and a great taste of lime
For $8 or $9 each, these weren't the cheapest drinks in the city but far from the most expensive - in the end, not a bad price to pay for tasty margaritas with good company, even if it's not affordable for every night. It was certainly a good way to spend one of my new favorite holidays, National Tequila Day!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Drink Craft Beer Summerfest

Last weekend I had an amazing time volunteering at the Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale. Unfortunately Brittany didn't make the volunteer cut, but we'll both be marking our calendars for the next one. The event was held at the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville and I can't say enough good things. Devon and Jeff, the founders of the awesome Drink Craft Beer website - and community - hosted dozens of local brewers and a few local food vendors (Quinn Vermont maple and sea salt popcorn? Yes please!) for a fun night with chill music and company.

An event that supports good, local beer is certainly a worthy cause for any beer lover and beer blogger, so I was particularly excited for the opportunity to volunteer at Summerfest and give a little bit back to the community I've been learning more and more about since launching this blog.

The event didn't disappoint: as volunteers we spent the night carrying ice, keeping the water flowing, cutting up temporary tattoos (we're pro kindergartners), and checking on the brewers - while also getting to taste some delicious beers. Everyone involved was great company and I even got to meet some Twitter friends in real life. I only regret not staying to help out at the evening session and chill with the brewers at the end of the night!

I can't possibly list all the beers on tap at the Summerfest (luckily Drink Craft Beer already did that for me), but my favorites:
  • Peak Organic Brewing Company: Pomegranate Wheat (5.9%) - so sweet and light
  • John Harvard's Brewery: The British East India Company’s Tonic - Sour Mashed Saison with Lime and Juniper (5.7%) - like a margarita in a beer glass, sour and delicious
  • Downeast Cider House: Downeast Cider Original Blend (5.1%) - you could taste the natural ingredients, so refreshing and probably the best cider I've ever tried
Here's to the next beer festival!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perks of Bloggin', The Odyssey Life

As a server and a young professional, there are just not enough times that we can get away with wearing dresses and heels, let alone drink martinis in those dresses and heels. Now that is class. Keeping our love for a fancy occasion in mind, how could we not jump on the opportunity for a Boston Skyline Dining Cruise aboard the Odyssey?

\We first found out about free tickets through Rachel Leah Blumenthal of Boston Food Bloggers, knowing it meant a three-course meal on a boat with a beautiful view of the Boston skyline, and the opportunity to meet some fellow bloggers.

We went into the night with about $20 for each of us for drinks, enough to enjoy some drinks while being responsible attendees. Only once we were aboard did we find out there would be an OPEN BAR in addition to our glass of free champagne. Not just any old limited-option open bar either; we're talking full menu, VIP-status open bar. A newly 21-year-old's dream. And everyone else seemed just as excited.

We were immediately blown away by the attentive service of our man Drew, who not only informed us of the open bar but saw to it that we had a drink in front of us throughout the entire night. The three-course meal was spaced over the few hours we were on board and allowed us time to enjoy the view. live music, and the firing of the USS Constitution's cannon at sunset.

Surrounded by fellow food bloggers we learned a lot about what the blogger life is like; as it turns out, it's a good time and involves other foodie events like "The Bacon Takedown." No need for further explanation. Shout out to Oh Cake's Jessica Hose, Food Writer Cristin Nelson, and their husbands for excellent dinner company and insider knowledge.  

But back to the open bar. After a long look at the extensive drink menu, for my first drink I decided on something on the sweeter side, the Key Lime Martini, complete with graham cracker rim, while Alicia went with "The Perfect Storm," a amped up Dark N' Stormy. Both great choices.

After our perfectly paced bread-drink-salad - we didn't want to be those girls - we were ready for our second drink, which is where we found our favorites. For Alicia, it was the Maui Sunrise (Absolut, Dekupyer Amaretto, Soco, OJ, sweet and sour, and grenadine) and for me the St. Germain Cocktail (Grey goose vodka, St Germain, champagne, and an edible orchid), which might actually be my favorite martini to date. I don't recommend eating the orchid, it tastes like what you think a flower would taste like. 

The Perfect Storm, Key Lime Maritini, and Champagne
Maui Sunrise and St. Germain Cocktail
Not only did we love the drinks, but we were blown away by the size of our entrees, Alicia got the salmon and I got roasted vegetables, my first experience with ratatouille. We loved both, and I only regretted not getting the ribs after trying a piece off of Jessica's plate. I ate as much as my dress would allow before we decided to head up to the three decks to get a view of the city before the sun went down. 

The Odyssey has three decks, one that's level with the dining room, one in the middle with a bar and dining tables, as well as a deck on top where you can sit and enjoy the breeze. When the majority of our table had retreated back to the dining room, we were brought our desserts: mine a red velvet cake and Alicia's the New York style cheesecake. One of the many joys of having a sister is that you can never be judged for eating off of her plate. I counted my blessings more than once last night. 

The live music of the evening was an amazing trio of musicians on board, including one of the most soothing singing voices I've ever heard. The music set the vibe just right for the evening, more for the 20 couples celebrating their anniversaries than for diners like Alicia and I, but I was down with it. 

I'd recommend a dinner cruise for anyone looking for a classy night out - as long as you can afford it or find free tickets! Bring your friends or your honey and prepare to be wined and dined. Especially if an open bar is involved.

Monday, July 9, 2012

French Fries and Hemingway

The combination of french fries and Hemingway can only mean one thing, if you're familiar with Boston bars: Deep Ellum.  An early Thursday night at this small spot in Allston ended up being much more indulgent visit than we expected.

Awkwardly laughing at the flash in the dimly lit bar
After starting with a couple bottles of Blue Moon and Leffe Blonde at home  (and after a lot of debate about where to go), we made our way to nearby Allston for a drink or two. Those familiar with the center of Harvard Ave in Allston may not have heard of Deep Ellum - it's tucked a little farther down Brighton Ave, past Silhouette, in the small corner of Union Square. The exterior is fairly nondescript and blends in with the surrounding Allston drab, but the menu is something else entirely.

From what I had read, I knew Deep Ellum would have a good list of craft beers, bottled and on tap. I had been here once before and also remembered the bitters-filled mixed drink offerings. The restaurant has a comfortable atmosphere, feeling like a dive with class thanks to the dim lighting, dark wood and brick walls, and classic martini menu that made me feel like I was time traveling in Midnight in Paris - all the while balanced out with the tattooed servers, young crowd, and rock music that let you know you're definitely still in present-day Allston. The added touch of a longhorn bull skull above the bar speaks to (surprise!) their inspiration from the original Deep Ellum, a cultural hub in Dallas.

The menu wasn't too long or complex but had such diverse and unique offerings that it took us some time to decide. Wanting to try both a beer and martini, we were immediately drawn to the Hemingway Daiquiri (Santa Teresa Rum, grapefruit, Luxardo Maraschino, lime) because it looked great and just seemed to fit with the atmosphere. We also agreed that the Clown Shoes Clementine (Belgian Style White Ale - 5%) sounded delicious - and it's local to Mass!

Luckily for us, both of our choices were good ones. The martini had a muddled look with lemon twist right in the drink. It managed to be sweet, tart, and bitter at the same time - a delicious balance to sip on. The Clementine was a great choice as well; the smell of clementine (or orange, how can you tell the difference?) was strong, as was the taste. It had a bolder flavor than Blue Moon and went down smooth.

The food menu also looked pretty good, and a recent Boston Magazine article had pointed us in the direction of truffled gorgonzola fries. When we asked our waitress for advice, she didn't hesitate to recommend them as well, so we went for it. We weren't expecting the massive plate of unbelievably delicious fries that came out, crispy and doused in a white truffle sauce with chunks of gorgonzola. We couldn't stop shaking our heads in disbelief at how tasty they were. It was a little heavy for us to finish after dinner, but we did, and it was so worth it. And worth every penny (and more) for $6!

With my 6:30 wake-up time, we decided to head home early. Our stomachs were full, but we could have explored Deep Ellum's drink menu more. And we were disappointed when we realized we missed out on the cute outdoor patio in back. It's definitely a place to go back to again (and again).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Just Tryin' to Beat the Heat

Waking up in my sun-room-turned-bedroom is always an adventure. If I leave the windows open, bugs find their way in pretty easily; if I leave the windows closed, I reach the verge of suffocation from the lack of airflow. On a normal day, these crises are easy enough to handle. On a day where the temperature has already reached 91 degrees by 10:30 AM, these conditions are too much for my cranky morning self.

Luckily for me, my big sister the working woman is already safe and comfortable in her AC'ed office by the time I wake up, and yesterday morning she had already sent me an email to say we would be going to Clover that night for a $3 limited edition Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project beer called "Magnifico." She is always saving the day.

The Clover Food Lab is in Inman Square, relatively unexplored territory for Alicia and me. As most Bostonians know, just because something is only a five minute drive away, doesn't mean it won't take hours by MBTA. Unfortunately Inman Square is one of these lost treasures, but two buses and a short walk later we found ourselves in front of Clover in a longer line than we anticipated. Clover itself is a cozy little cafe that serves up seasonal fast-food with healthy ingredients, many of them organic. Sandwiches like eggplant and egg would be enough to drive in Cambridge residents - beer is just a bonus.

Last night's event wasn't only a beer launch. Clover clearly knows how to cater to its mainly hipster, 20-something crowd and also offered free cupcakes and live music. There was even paper and crayons to keep us busy and relive a small piece of childhood. While "Magnifico" by Pretty Things was a little hoppier than we like, a beer in hand and an hour inside and away from the heat was the perfect way to end a hot day in Boston. Also, it helped us get a closer look at the owners of Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Dann & Martha Paquette - I've never had more friendly faces pouring and handing me a beer.

To make a long (hot) story short, if you're burning up in Boston in the next few days like we are, keep your eyes open for events like these that are constantly serving up beer and all kinds of deals in Boston. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Sil

Don't let the name - Silhouette Cocktail Lounge - fool you. The Sil, as we've affectionately begun calling it as we've gotten to know Allston/Brighton better, is a dive bar. Although it may be losing its dive cred with all us twenty-somethings taking over. Last year, Silhouette was unseated from Boston Magazine's Best of Boston Dive Bar. But thankfully, plenty of cheap drinks and free popcorn can still be had.

Silhouette is well-known for a good night out, and deservedly so. Brittany and I have both been before. After our failed night at Jose McIntyre's last week, we decided to stick with a guaranteed fun (and cheap) night this weekend. Narragansett (Lager, 5%) pitchers are only $8.50 each and add up to four cups of beer. A classic popcorn machine runs all night long - and you can grab a basket (or two or three...) for free. Darts are available to play at four boards in a back room - also for free.

This Saturday, we got to Silhouette around 10PM to find a line of twenty-somethings at the door. Surprisingly, a group of them were looking good in some cute dresses, stripy sandals, and button-down shirts. Looking too good for the Sil. At the same time, they weren't unsurprising - the Silhouette clientele seems to have become much more well-dressed and more consistently in their twenties.

The line wasn't ideal, but we weren't ready for the even divier but line-free Model Cafe down the road (we'll eventually make it there), so stuck it out, and luckily we moved inside pretty quickly. 

Silhouette provides a great night of people-watching. We admired (read: scoffed at) the hipster outfits of tangled hair, skinny jeans, and bizarre cut-off jean jackets with giant, tacky images emblazoned on the back. Let's be honest, we avoided eye contact with the older clientele sitting along the bar. We met one barely-twenty-one-year-old who enthusiastically told us he had just turned twenty-one at midnight and a stranger was buying him a shot. Then he asked, "Is it okay that I just came and talked to you and now I'm going to go back with my friends? Is that okay at bars?" I hope he had a great night that he can sort of remember. We repeatedly checked the back room for a free dart board, but sadly didn't get a chance to play this Saturday with so many groups taking advantage of the free game.

The decor at the Sil is also something to be admired: old beer signs and posters, falling-apart decorations from holidays long past, and the tackiest and most nostalgic word-art signage asking patrons to smoke out back. Ah, the days of PowerPoint and Word Art. I'm glad Silhouette is keeping that lost art alive.

The popcorn was flowing that night - our first attempt to get a basket was rebuked because all the baskets were taken - and Brittany happily pointed out that the bartender was using a shot glass to add more popcorn kernels. It fit well with her practical, no-nonsense attitude. Any night of the week, the Sil has the same bartender, and she knows exactly what she's doing. She fills pitchers of Narragansett and PBR all night, moves quickly between the bar and the back window to the dart room, and keeps the popcorn coming. All with the help, on the weekends, of a friendly and fast-moving server. All-in-all the entire staff is friendly: the waitress, the bouncers, and even the bartender, on the rare occasion she cracks a smile.

Since I had training early the next day, we shared just one pitcher and one Gansett can ($3) between us - enough for a little buzz - and chatted about the past week. Our conflicting schedules (mine the 9-5 desk job schedule, Brittany's the constantly-changing server schedule) mean nights out require a little more catch up than most roommates might need.

All-in-all, it was a nice and relaxing night. I've never had a bad time at the Sil, whether it's chatting with Brittany over a few glasses of beer or playing drinking games with a group of friends. (Yes, it's the perfect bar to bring your own deck of cards and play drinking games all night.)

Cheap beer brings everyone together.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Our First & Last Time at Jose McIntyre's

What was originally supposed to be a night filled with $2.50 pitchers of Miller Lite and $1 apps at the Mexican-Irish restaurant Jose Mcintyre's turned into a life lesson that you should never eat Mexican when 1) One of you works at a Tex-Mex that never disappoints or 2) You're both too hungover to actually enjoy Miller Lite. 

When we both found ourselves too exhausted/hungover after a long Pride weekend in Boston we decided to veto the beer we're too snobby to enjoy anyway and drink something that would go down a little smoother. We probably should have known as soon as we saw the confused-puppy-dog-eyes of the waiter who greeted us that we should have skipped Jose's all together.

As a server, I (Brittany) give the benefit of the doubt and all of the sympathy that I have to waiters no matter how long it takes for us to get our drinks (about 25 minutes in this case - not an exaggeration) or the amount of times they fail at witty banter. Luckily, there were only about seven drink options so it didn't take long for Alicia to decide on the Caribbean Chill Margarita, and as someone who typically loves all things Brazilian, I went for the Caipirinha. 

Alicia's margarita had 1800 coconut tequila, coconut rum, Triple Sec, lime juice, sour mix, and OJ. The exotic Caipirinha ended up being 2/3 Leblon Cachac topped with a barely existent amount of lime and sugar. If I had know I ordered a Brazilian blackout in a glass, I would have gone with the sangria that was all I really wanted. But while still waiting for our dinners, after watching the table that had sat down after us finish up their fajitas, and after a lot of internal conflict, I had about two sips of my drink before I had no choice but to send it back. Our waiter was quick to let us know that it was the first time the bartender had made the drink and that I of course could trade it in for a sangria. I can really only blame myself for this mistake, but there are very few Monday nights where I'm ready for that kind of alcohol at 7:30 PM. 

The sangria and margaritas were over-priced but delicious and lucky for us the bartender sent over a free margarita that had clearly been a mistake by our flustered (but sweet) lil server. Our trip to Jose's wasn't a total waste: it brought us back to our Irish roots with a little bit of Mexican flavor. Alicia ate a monstrous dish of chili topped with mashed potatoes (Mexican Shepherd's Pie) til the bowl was empty and I had a Chicken Avocado Salad that mostly acted as a chaser for my Caipirinha. 

Let this be a lesson to everyone: if you're craving Mexican or tequila, Border Cafe in Harvard Square can offer you $5 margaritas within minutes and all the chips and salsa you can fit into your stomach. And I don't just say that because I work there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Good Beer, Good People

Brittany and I are no experts on beer - a lot of people at American Craft Beer Fest clearly knew much more about hops, IPAs, local breweries, and everything else having to do with craft beer. But ACBF was the perfect way to welcome Brittany back to Boston and launch our blog. And it was certainly a success.

To be fair, I'm not at the very beginning of my beer learning curve - summer 2011 included many nights drinking beer by a bonfire and watching every Stanley Cup game at Joshua Tree (except the final game, which we watched, amazingly/hilariously enough, at my favorite gay dance club, Machine). Friends have encouraged me to try new beers and learn more about my tastes. This winter I learned about the brewing process at the Sam Adams Brewery in JP. And most importantly, last fall I attended Boston Beer Summit, an event smaller than but similar to ACBF.

At Boston Beer Summit, you could feasibly try every brewery (there were far to many at ACBF for that), could see them all at once (the World Trade Center was much too large), and there was more of a variety beyond American craft beers. ACBF bills itself as "the east coast's largest celebration of American beer," and they're not kidding. Boston Beer Summit was baby size compared to this. I discovered my love of hard cider and mead at the Beer Summit. But ACBF had their priority: BEER.

There were some things I knew going in that I had reaffirmed at ACBF: I don't like a lot of hops or very dark beers and I do like fruit. Luckily there were fruit flavors galore. Off the top of my head, I remember blueberry, apricot, watermelon, and passionfruit. One thing I learned at ACBF: American ales tend to be more hoppy, which made my tasting experience a little difficult. I now can say 100% I don't like IPAs because ACBF had a lot of IPAs.

There were over 500 different beers to try, so we knew we'd have to move fast, and even then we couldn't try it all. A fun-looking booth and short lines were key to getting us to try your beer. Unfortunately we lost track of our tasting checklist, but we remember the stand outs. And I definitely remember my favorite brewery: Kona Brewing Company. They set the record for farthest distance traveled to ACBF (5,069 miles) and I'm so glad they made the trek.

With a booth near the entrance, Kona was one of the first places we tried - and was the last one on our way out the door. Brittany and I tried to go for a different beer at every brewery so that we tried as many as possible. At Kona, Brittany went for the "Wailua Wheat," which they described as a "wheat beer with a little bit of passionfruit in it," and I tried the Koko Brown, a "toasted coconut brown ale."

The Wailua Wheat (American Pale Wheat Ale 5.4%) was light and actually had a strong taste of passionfruit, which I loved. I can definitely imagine laying out in the sun with a book and some of this beer. The Koko Brown (American Brown Ale 5.5%) was equally delicious in a totally different way. It was described as having a coconut flavor, which it definitely did. But it struck me as very similar to the coffee and mocha style beers I had tried in the past. Delicious.

There were plenty of other beers worth writing about, of course. Beer Works' Godzilla (American Strong Ale 15%) sounded intimidating, and for good reason. Brittany tried it first and wasn't a fan, but I actually quite enjoyed it. It had a lot of flavor and you could definitely feel the higher alcohol content as it went down. Pretty Things was great and was Brittany's favorite brewery.

Beyond the beer, we quickly learned that the people are one of ACBF's greatest assets. Whether it's observing some interesting folks, learning about the beer from an enthusiastic brewer, or chatting with some of our fellow buzzed beer-drinkers, we were entertained all night. We saw someone with a lot of tassels, some neon yellow pants, a bachelor party, and friends, family, and couples of all ages. Three Heads Brewing was one of Brittany's favorite breweries...because she liked the guys at the booth. A guy named Sumir wanted to make sure we got his name spelled accurately in our blog. (Hey, Sumir!) On the T home, we met a couple guys who were the friendliest people we met all night.

This post really doesn't cover the enormity that was ACBF. Visit their website to learn more about the festival itself. And ask us if you want to see the videos that didn't make the video cut.

American Craft Beer Fest: 5 Rules (VIDEO)

American Craft Beer Fest was everything we imagined: too many options to keep track of, busy crowds, and a lot to learn about beer. Before we even made it to the event, we realized we were two of the youngest people headed to ACBF and we had a lot to learn.

About halfway through ACBF we started to take note some of the lessons learned, and made a video about the event along with some tips and tricks to help get us through the next beer festival.

  1. Don't make eye contact unless you want to talk. Don't get us wrong, we met some interesting people at ACBF and we're not anti-social. But we learned that if you don't want to make conversation with someone, don't make eye contact - some people are happy to stop and chat and keep you from moving on to the next brewery.
  2. Wear a pretzel necklace. We can't tell you how many times we regretted not having a pretzel necklace. It was at least every time we tried a new beer and every time we saw one of the dozens of more well-prepared beer drinkers wearing their own necklaces. We were prepared with food - some granola bars and cookies - and even bought some (mediocre) fried dough, but it just didn't compare to the pretzel necklaces. Some really ambitious people had full-size soft pretzels around their necks and one guy had a duct tape belt of various snacks. We were impressed.
  3. Wear stretchy pants. 3.5 hours of beer drinking. Enough said.
  4. Hydrate. Key to ACBF's motto: Respect Beer. There's no way we weren't leaving ACBF sloshed, but drinking water kept us on our feet and feeling fine the next morning. And thankfully, ACBF provided plenty of water throughout the event.
  5. Pee before you need to. Do not wait to pee until you can't wait any longer - anticipate the line and go early. We even used the bathroom at the start of the event, when there was no line at all, just to be safe.
These five tips can probably help get you through a lot in life, but we definitely think they'll help you survive your next beer festival. 

Stay Pretty & Drink Real Beer

I just want to prelude this post by saying that we will stay true to our beer on a budget promise as the summer goes on, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to launch our blog and my first night back to this beautiful city with the American Craft Beer Fest at Seaport World Trade Center. 5,000 people, 550+ types of beer, and fried dough in one room... impossible to pass up. We went into the night prepared for all conditions after a warning from a friend that he had no recollection of his return home. Snacks, umbrella, camera, and flip cam in tow, we patiently awaited 6:00 as it poured down rain on the 5,000 beer lovers (some prepared with ponchos, others refusing to let the rain slow down their skirt lovin' selves).

As soon as I caught the scent rising up from the basement of the convention center, I knew this would be worth the wait and $48.47 ticket price. We made some executive decisions as the festival began, mostly that we would keep track of which beers were our favorite in the provided pamphlet and we would videotape as much of the event as possible. Looking back at these objectives, they seemed reasonable until you've spent about an hour in a room with the challenge of trying every beer in it. Long story short, we lost track with about an hour left, the pamphlet didn't make it back to Brighton, and some of the video may act as a future PSA for the effects of too much beer. One rule that did pan out - don't wait in line if there's a shorter one next to it. Never ever choose to wait five minutes for Sam Adams when Ass Kisser volunteers have the tap ready for you.

ACBF was not only a tutorial on beer drinking, but beer vocabulary as well. Lucky for us, the pamphlet included a long list of terms we had probably heard countless times, but never learned like "Hops" or "Lager".  Walking from vendor to vendor never failed to be entertaining with the number of booty shorts for sale reading "I Heart Hops" on said booty, as well as my personal favorite slogan for Pretty Things Beer: "Stay Pretty & Drink Real Beer" - Words to live by. I was also seriously impressed by Three Heads Brewing - their beers were a lot smokier than the beer I'm used to drinking, but their personality in advertising and general vibe had my attention. I'd much rather drink a beer knowing it came from three guys with character than from a cardboard cut out of Sam Adams.

I'm not a woman with many regrets, but I will never go to a beer festival without a necklace made of pretzels ever again, all that gives you is food envy that results in the consumption of fried dough doused in cinnamon and sugar (I don't hate it).

I can't end this post without noting the absurd people you will inevitably meet at a beer festival. Bachelors, soldiers, people flying solo, and people in groups, either way, you'll never feel alone, and that's the glory of beer-lovin' Bostonians.

Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project: American Darling
Three Heads Brewing: The Kind IPA (American IPA / 6.8%)
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery: You can't go wrong with anything Dogfish