Drinking Beer in Portland, Maine

Portland, Oregon may boast popular breweries like Rogue and Deschutes, but Portland, Maine has quite a few breweries of their own.

Maine Beer Company
525 US-1, Freeport, ME 04032
Hours: M-Sat 11-7; Sun 11-5

Located in Freeport, ME near the giant L.L. Bean headquarters, Maine Beer Company boasts what I consider probably the best quality beer of the breweries in the area.  Offering a $10 flight of four or $18 for a flight of eight, this brewery is pretty no-nonsense when it comes to naming their beers (e.g. Four of their beers are called Beer I, Beer II, Beer III, and Beer IV).  While the $18 may seem a little steep, their pours are very generous and the beers are very strong, so you’ll be feeling nice and good by the end of it.

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They have a wonderful seating area outside next to the giant solar panels that power the place and offer pretty good pretzels from a local bakery called When Pigs Fly that would’ve been better if they found a way to serve them hot.

Allagash Brewing Company
50 Industrial Way, Portland, ME 04103
Hours: 11-6

Allagash is probably the most popular company to come out of Maine since most people know of their Allagash White.  It’s located technically in Portland, but resides in an office park outside the city; you’ll think you’re lost until you roll right up to it.  Allagash offers a free tasting of a flight of four that they choose for you.  Their beers are very good, though I could have done without the sour one, and Allagash’s tasting area/patio probably offers the most “fun” since there are games such as Cornhole, playing cards, Jenga, etc. available for the patrons.

Shipyard Brewing Company
86 Newbury St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: M-Sat 11-5; Sun 12-4

Shipyard is the least well known nationally of the Portland breweries we visited, but it is a local New England favorite.  Their brewery is located in the city itself, and their tasting room feels more like a tourist gift shop than a brewery.  That being said, in addition to all the souvenirs you can buy, they offer a free tasting in the back tasting room and unlike Allagash, you can pick which four you’d like to try.  Their beers are unspectacular, but solid.  They could up their glass game a bit though as the tastings were served in dixie cups.  All that being said, the server was the friendliest of the three breweries we visited, and I did come away with an awesome Shipyard beer bucket.

Duckfat
43 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Sun-Thur 11-9; Fri & Sat 11-10

Get this. Just get it.
Get this. Just get it.

On a somewhat related note, Shipyard is a block away from Duckfat, a local Portland favorite eatery.  All I need to say is this:  Get the Poutine fully loaded with duck and egg.  That is all.

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Quick Hits: Malibu Cafe

Malibu Cafe
327 Latigo Canyon Road
Malibu, CA 90265

Monday: Closed; Tuesday-Saturday: 11:30 AM – 10 PM; Sunday: 10 AM – 9 PM

Malibu Cafe is one of the more unique brunch locations I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  Located on the Calamigos Ranch, this venue is a bit off the beaten path so you’ll need to plan a bit to get there unless you live in the Malibu/Thousand Oaks area.   The restaurant is mainly all outdoors and looks very much like an adult playground.  Besides the numerous tables for dining there are activities set up such as a giant chess board, outdoor bowling alley, giant Jenga, Cornhole, paddle boats and rowboats, and of course several bars.

This place is a perfect afternoon spot for big groups if the weather is nice out (and let’s be real, SoCal weather is pretty much always nice).  I’ve been told at night the garden lighting in all the trees light up and make for a really cute bistro feel.  The food overall was pretty good, the Mac and Cheese balls were fantastic, but the service could use a little work.  The waiters were very polite and personable, but they took a long time to get us basic things like napkins, water and our check (in their defense they said the credit card machine was down).  Luckily, we wanted to just hang out outside and enjoy the weather anyways so it wasn’t as much of a bother.

Quick Hits: Chaia

Chaia
3207 Grace Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Hours: M-W 11-8, Sat 10-8, Sun 11-6

When I first heard the idea of a vegetarian taco shop in Georgetown, my immediate reaction was one that any meat eating person would have: That doesn’t sound good.

I was wrong.

Chaia’s tacos are in fact very good.  Using some interesting combinations of hearty vegetables, the tacos have a ton of flavor and you won’t be left feeling hungry afterwards.  There aren’t a whole lot of options, but the three that I tried were all quite good (all with corn tortillas).  I put them in order of my favorite here:

  • Creamy Kale + Potato with pepperjack, poblano crema, green sauce + pickled onions
  • Winter Squash with caramelized onion, ricotta salata, chipotle yogurt + mint
  • Mushroom with feta, red sauce + cilantro

Do I still think tacos with meat are better?  Yes.  However, my view of what typically makes good taco filling has been significantly altered and I can honestly say that I’ll be going back.

Video: Gay Pride Parade, San Francisco

Fresh off the Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage, the annual Pride Parade in San Francisco just so happened to be slated the same weekend that we were there.  Needless to say it was a huge celebration; I really don’t think I’ve been around so many happy people (straight, gay, and whatever the person wearing the giant penis was) in one mass grouping like that before.

Unsurprisingly, the parade was loud, colorful, “fabulous”, hopeful…you name it, and that’s what the parade was.   And it was long too — it started at 10:30 in the morning and wrapped up at 5:00.  We only had so much energy for a few hours of the spectacle, but it was more than enough to get me exhausted.  By the end I was covered in Mardi Gras beads and had about 6 different rainbow colored “Livestrong” wristbands on my arms. It was a sight to see and I’m really glad I got to experience it.

The Pride Parade has to be seen more than told so please enjoy some of the videos and pictures from the event.

Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is an interesting place to visit because unlike most traditional cities in the U.S., you have a pretty lengthy drive on the highway to get from area to area.  No quick hop on the metro or nice walk along the river in this city.

So on my past trip to L.A., I extended my visit a bit to stay with some friends in the area of Silver Lake.  Most tourists probably wouldn’t come to see Silver Lake usually; its much more of a residential area for the more alternative crowd.  However if you do happen upon this area, there is a bit to offer, most of which is on Sunset Blvd.

A couple places for brunch

Millie’s Cafe

Probably my favorite of the two brunch places I went to, Millie’s has a really, really extensive menu.  With a lot of outdoor sidewalk seating, this little cafe is a good place to have some good ol’ comfort food while watching the numerous, sunglasses wearing locals stroll on by.  I had the healthy green burrito (very Southern Californian of me right?) that was made of egg whites, guacamole and spinach and comes with a side of fresh fruit.  It was enormous, and actually quite delicious for the “healthy” option.  I’d recommend it, however if you do need the grease and goodness of bacon, sausage, french toast, pancakes etc., don’t worry, they have all that too.  I’ll probably go back and have that when I’m not on a health kick.

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Sidewalk seating at Millie’s

Local

For a quieter alternative down the street, give Local a try.  The ambiance is a bit calmer, and their menu is not as extensive.  That being said, for a lazy Sunday type place, Local fits the billing.  There isn’t really any sidewalk seating, but their covered patio is large.

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The quieter alternative to Millie’s

Drinks

Thirsty Crow

Silver Lake, from what I saw, doesn’t seem to be a “going out” type of area, but there are a few places to grab drinks and have a good time.  The Thirsty Crow in particular is quite good.  It’s a very divey, dark place with a speakeasy, candlelit vibe.  Despite its darkness, the place is actually quite vibrant with some great Motown music playing the night I was there.  Outside a chef grills up hamburgers to order while listening to Michael Jackson.  And if you like whisky, THIS is your place.  The whisky list is extensive and you should be able to find one to your liking.

Things to do

Griffith Observatory

Not far from Silver Lake is the Griffith Observatory (as seen in numerous movies including Rebel Without a Cause and The Terminator).  Located at the top of a steep mountain, those of you looking to break a little sweat on your trip should try hiking to the top.  You should be in relatively good shape if you want to try the hike, and be sure to bring water, hats, sunscreen, etc. because there is practically no shade on the trail.  I’d say the hike was very similar to hiking up Masada.  When you get to the top, you can enjoy the exhibits inside the Observatory and there’s a $7 planetarium show that is the perfect recipe for the post-climb collapse.

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New Orleans: Quick Hits – Activities

Obviously on a work trip I spent most of the days in a conference room.  However, there was still time to explore some of New Orleans and here are a few of the activities that we partook in.

Swamp Tours: Cajun Encounters vs. Airboat Adventures

A swamp tour to see the alligators of the bayou is pretty much a must-do if you’re in New Orleans.  There are several different tour groups, and I’m here to compare two of them for you.  I would recommend both, but there are differences in the experiences depending on which group you go with.  Both options are about 30-45 minute bus rides away from the French Quarter, and for the options that I took the pricing was around $75 on average.

We’ll begin with Airboat Adventures.  For the thrill-seeking, roller coaster loving types, Airboat Adventures offers a high-octane zip through the swamp.  The unique parts of Airboat Adventures?

  • Obviously racing through the swamp on a tin barge with a giant propeller fan furiously working behind you.
  • Our crazy-ass driver actually jumped into the water with the alligators and fed them while swimming amongst the animals.
  • A baby gator is passed around the boat for some pretty awesome selfies.

One thing to note: if you don’t like loud noise, this may not be for you.  They give you solid headphones to wear, but it’s still pretty loud regardless.

Cajun Encounters is a bit more of a mellow trip through the swamp.  I would recommend paying the $70 because although there are cheaper options, the $70 gets you a ride on a smaller boat fitting 10 people that can go into the smaller canals and river ways.  The unique parts of Cajun Encounters?

  • You do probably see more alligators on Cajun Encounters than you would on Airboat Adventures.
  • As I mentioned, going through the small canals of the swamp offers some fantastic photo opportunities.
  • You do get to see wild boars (see video below).  These animals come right up to the boats for food and are absolutely adorable/enormous.  We just happened to luckily enough (or unlucky to some of the other passengers) almost witness an alligator attack a baby wild boar.  The boat captains intervened and used the boats to shoo away the predatory alligators, but the commotion did get a lot of hearts racing.

You can’t go wrong either way, you just need to decide for yourself what kind of adventure you’d like.

New Orleans School of Cooking

This was one of the highlights of the trip.  Our department head graciously booked us all for a hands-on cooking class as a team builder activity and it was a hell of a lot of fun.  Beer and wine were included, so the libations made it quite an event.  Our chef instructor was young, enthusiastic, and had a contagious passion for cooking southern food.  We were split up into four groups, each group being in charge of one of the menu items (you can change the menu depending on your dietary restrictions): Gumbo, Stuffed Mushrooms, Jambalaya, and Bananas Foster. Obviously being such a big group, not everyone got to do everything, but I would suspect if you visit, you’ll be more hands-on in making each part of the menu.  I was part of the Gumbo team, and specifically helped out in making the roux for the soup.  I had never made gumbo before, let alone roux, so it was a great learning experience.  After the cooking, we all sat and feasted on our creations, and although the food wasn’t super-duper restaurant quality, we loved it because we made it.

The Garden District

An easy cab or trolley ride away from the French Quarter, this is the area to go to if you want to see some ridiculously nice mansions.  The area between Magazine Street and St. Charles Ave holds some of the most impressive houses in such a small area that I’ve ever seen.  Guided tours are available, though just walking around and admiring the architecture was enough for me.  Magazine Street offers some cool little boutique shops and restaurants to meander in and out of as well.  Also located in the Garden District is the Lafayette Cemetery that’s worth strolling into for half an hour to see the traditional tombs and wall vaults made famous in movies and popular culture.  Across from Lafayette Cemetery is the famous Commander’s Palace restaurant, which we didn’t actually eat at, but heard from others in our group that it’s excellent.

New Orleans Ghost Tour

Don’t do this drunk.  I’m serious.  Not because it’s too scary or anything like that.  It’s just that this walking ghost tour doesn’t mix well with inebriated people.  Our tour guide Jack was having an awfully hard time keeping people’s attention and he clearly was getting frustrated by it.  His stories were good, but they were far too long and complicated for a group that had clearly had a few drinks in them.  And you don’t get to go into any of the buildings he was talking about.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t recommend it, but do it earlier in the night and/or on the night off from the bars.

Frenchman Art Market

Located in the heart of the Frenchman Street area, this outdoor market is a great place to find some creative, local art for sale.  Most of the crafts range from jewelry to furniture, and clothing to paintings and have an unsurprisingly hipster look to them.  Nonetheless, it’s a cool place to take a stroll and pick up a souvenir or two.