Sometimes I don’t feel at home at bed and breakfasts. Some spots feel like you’re at someone’s parent’s house while they’re away for the weekend. I’m always worried about breaking something or being too loud. Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough, or I’m not old enough …
Newfoundland’s Baccalieu Trail is full of things to see, and it only took me six years living away to appreciate what it means to be a tourist at home.
Did you know one can actually be afraid of an empty beer glass? Luckily on St. John’s Beer Tours, cenosillicaphobia isn’t a problem. We all know how I’ve been praising taking cooking classes, now I have another regret: not taking a freaking beer tour! I’ve visited beer-boroughs like Munich, London and Chicago and never once did a beer tour — what was I thinking? I haven’t lived! So, when I heard Kayla Walters (I follow her fab account on Instagram) was starting up St. John’s Beer Tours I knew I had to see what it was all about!
Ultimate Townie Brew Tour
There are four different tours to choose from, ranging from a scoff and a sip in Quidi Vidi with Scuff & Scoff in the Village to axe-throwing and beer tasting with the Axes & Ales Tour. The tour I did was the Ultimate Townie Brew Tour. It takes places on Saturday afternoons, the perfect time for day-boiling. All the locations of the Ultimate Townie Beer Tours are in Downtown St. John’s making it easy to walk around and enjoy the scene (and all the beer).
Yellowbelly Brewery beginnings
The first stop for St. John’s Beer Tours’ Ultimate Townie Brew Tour is Yellowbelly Brewery. We all met in the Underbelly, the speakeasy-type bar in the basement of the brewpub, to hear brewmaster Liam Mckenna talk about all things beer. I won’t divulge all the interesting hoppy bits (you’ll have to take the tour), but did you know the main pigment in beer is red? Even those yellow-looking wheat beers and black-as-night stouts are shades of red!
Liam showed us around the brewery — which is housed in a building built in 1740 — explaining the process of making the standard beers at the brewery. There’s a lot of technical talk, but there’s a reward: BEER! We sampled the four regulars — Fighting Irish Red, St. John’s Stout, Wexford Wheat and Yellowbelly Pale Ale, along with a surprise sampling of their cider (bonus).
Brown bottle history
After Yellowbelly we followed Kayla as she led us to some historical points of interest in Downtown St. John’s. You know there was some good beer history in there too (yes, there was a bucket of beer involved with the Great Fire of 1892). Even as a born-and-raised St. John’s resident, I learned a lot and went down some streets I’d never seen before!
Fifth Ticket munchies
The second pitstop on the Ultimate Townie Brew Tour is The Fifth Ticket. This restaurant and lounge offered up samples from two different breweries: Port Rexton Brewing and Quidi Vidi Brewing Company. We also got to choose from a special menu; from polenta fries to chicken wings, there’s a nice selection pairing well with beer (obviously)! I went with the poutine made with fat curds from local cheesemaker Five Brothers.
Mill Street local brews
The third stop brought us to St. John’s Mill Street Brew Pub. I’ve had Mill Street brews before — I basically lived on top of the brewery in Toronto — but I didn’t know they brew their very own beers here in St. John’s. Dan chatted to us about the beer while we sampled two classic hops; the ever-popular Mill Street Organic and the West Coast IPA. I fell in love with the Capelin Hound, the locally-brewed Session IPA, and the Terrazza Italian style lager is perfect for sunny days on the patio.
Screech-In (not) optional
The fun doesn’t stop if you want to keep partying. St. John’s Beer Tours will take you to Christian’s Bar for a Screech-In if you want to become an honourary Newfoundlander (believe me, you want to), or just to keep drinking with all the friends you made along the way!
The Ultimate Townie Brew Tour is a great tour to go on with a bunch of friends (hello awesome bachelorette), or alone if you want to make a bunch of new ones. It’s the perfect crash course in Newfoundland beer, or a revitalizing refresher if you know them well.
*THANK YOU TO ST. JOHN’S BEER TOURS FOR THE COMPLIMENTARY TOUR TICKET. AS ALWAYS, ALL OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS POST ARE MY OWN.
It’s become tradition to visit a wine region on my birthday. Last year we visited Prince Edward County for the big 3-0, and this year we didn’t have to travel far to visit one of the best wine regions in Canada — Niagara. We stayed in …
The dam of craft beer in Newfoundland is about to be tapped. When I left home six years ago, there wasn’t much of a scene here. Besides mass produced beers like India and Dominion (made by Molson) or Quidi Vidi’s small selection, there wasn’t much happening. Storm Brewing opened in 1995 but I’d tried it once and hated it, Yellow Belly Brewery was just getting underway and my taste for local beer was nominal.
Then I moved to Halifax. The craft beer scene has erupted like a beer keg in the past few years. From working at a bar to blogging about beer festivals I dived into a never-ending glass of suds. It was impossible to avoid — there are more than 16 craft breweries in Halifax alone. Now I’m back in Newfoundland with a taste for IPA and my Haligonian friends are jealous I went to opening weekend at Port Rexton Brewing. There are five more breweries opening across Newfoundland soon, so stay tuned for the brewery explosion.
Adam and I have been home in Newfoundland about a week. A week too long to not have visited Port Rexton Brewing, and we had the perfect sunny day for a road trip. It’s May and there were still spots of snow along the way but the road was clear for the three-hour Instagrammable drive. The brewery is not hard to find: coming over the hill into Port Rexton, the white building and large signage are easily spotted.
Sampling the goods
Port Rexton Brewing was opened in 2016 by co-owners Alicia MacDonald and Sonja Mills to an eager beer-drinking crowd. The place was packed when we arrived 30 minutes after the taproom opened on Saturday afternoon. To start, we sampled four different brews (the taproom typically has eight lines flowing). From left to right pictured below: Chasing Sun New England IPA (ABV 5.8%, IBU 45), Clear as Mud Dunkelweisen collaboration with Mill Street (ABV 5.2%, IBU 22), Mixed Opportunity Saison (ABV 6.5%, IBU 23) and Horse Chops IPA (ABV 6.3%, IBU 72). They were all freaking delicious. I was immediately impressed.
Adam was driving so I has another glass of Chasing Sun, my favourite of the day. With hints of citrus, this hazy brew was the perfect mix of IPA and saison for my ideal summer beer. There are two sizes of suds at Port Rexton Brewing: the 500ml Mason jar, or the 250ml Mason jar. In any other place I would have rolled my eyes at the Mason jar, but in outport Newfoundland it works. Like Nan brought them over from her root cellar for the girls to use in their new endeavour.
Oh my cheeses, that’s deadly
Who doesn’t love grilled cheese and a pint? Oh My Cheeses was set up inside the taproom for opening weekend at Port Rexton Brewing. This punny grilled cheese company can be found regularly at St. John’s Farmers Market and other events across the province with sammies like Saucy Brudder with 5 Brothers Secret Gallows, Sriracha mayo, bacon and carmelized onion, or the Kevin McCallister plain grilled cheese. Hello Partridgeberry and Brie grilled cheese — I could eat you everyday.
The bright, sunny taproom overlooks the brewery equipment and bright artwork pairs well with cherry red chairs and stools. Our loot bag for the visit was a growler of Horse Chops IPA to enjoy in our new home when we move this weekend, but I have a feeling I’ll be back often. I already feel at home.
The paella class I took in Valencia made me regret every trip I’ve ever taken. After spending one day at the Escuela de Arroces y Paella Valenciana I wished I’d taken pasta-making class in Italy or cassoulet class in France. I learned so much more than just …
I arrived in Ottawa on a Saturday and it was -20C with the windchill. When I left on Tuesday it was 7C and raining. No, this wasn’t atypical for Canadian travel. It was March. During those shoulder season months (travel-industry jargon for March-June and September-November) it’s …
For our first trip to Chicago, my list of ‘must-eat’ restaurants was a mile long. From cheeseburgers at Au Cheval to cocktails at Longman & Eagle, I had a hundred recommendations. How was I going to choose what to eat in only 72 hours in Chicago?
Trying to get reservations helped decide. The acclaimed Girl and the Goat? Booked solid. 3-Michelin star Alinea? Closed for renovations. I had to be okay with the fact I couldn’t eat everywhere. You just can’t Gabby, you just can’t.
For us, food is such a huge part of travel it didn’t matter how cold it was in Chicago as long as we could eat. Avoiding the windy city in last February wasn’t an option, but winter travel is different; here are some tips.
How to spend 72 hours in Chicago in the winter.
Eat burgers in your bathrobe
We stayed at the Chicago Athletic Association(CAA), located on Michigan Avenue with great views of Millennium Park. The first night we arrived late and there happens to be a Shake Shack inside this hotel. Naturally, we ate burgers in bed.
I won’t lie, we spent a lot of time in the hotel during our time in Chicago. In the summer, hotels are a place to sleep because you can spend the day exploring, but for winter travel, it’s important your hotel is somewhere you actually want to hang out.
CAA had been an athletic club (think big leather chairs and old men smoking cigars) since the 1890s until it was turned into a luxury hotel a couple years ago. It’s ridiculously cool. The hotel has several delicious restaurants and a nice lobby cafe (and a speakeasy, shh), so it didn’t feel like a waste of our trip to spend time there. In fact, we loved it.
Use hop on and hop off as transit
Typically, Adam and I don’t ever take hop-on-hop-off bus tours, but it was so freaking cold we used it as a method of informative transport. It helped us knock off some “must sees” we only sorta cared about, and it was warm! How cold does it look in this photo? F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G.
Warm up with brunch at The Publican
The Publican is located in Fulton Market District where there are dozens of awesome restaurants to enjoy. This restaurant is devoted to fine pork and great beer and their brunch is just as dedicated to delicious porky fare . I devoured the fanciest steak and eggs ever featuring sirloin, grits and mojo de ajo, while Adam’s boudin noir was super tasty. Their mimosas are made with Belgian wheat beer and OJ, and their bacon is off the charts.
Be-an touristy and shopping
Did you know the bean in Millennium Park is actually a work of art entitled Cloud Gate inspired by liquid mercury? Me neither.
We had no shame spending touristy time at the Bean with our new selfie stick. No. Shame.
We also wandered along the Magnificent Mile to do a little shopping, but mostly to look at the architecture. The buildings in the downtown core made it worth it to be outside in frigid temperatures. From the first skyscrapers to the Neo-Classical revival, there’s a lot to look at, and you can take architecture tours of the city (on the list for next time).
Dinner at Boka
There are dozens of Michelin Starred restaurants in Chicago, so knocking that off the bucket list was a must. Boka was relaxed, but had an astoundingly good level of service without feeling stuffy. Along with a never ending breadbasket, Motown music and great cocktails, the food was really good. We ate chestnut ravioli, duck, and calamari just to name a few dishes. My desert of malted crème fraîche ice cream with pistachios looked as impressive as it tasted.
Breakfast in bed
The weekend we visited Chicago was Valentine’s day, so we treated ourselves ordered room service. Hello breakfast poutine with deep fried cheese curds.
Exploring Wicker Park
This meant a stop at Stan’s Donuts, coffee at Buzz Coffee Roasters and browsing trendy local shops along Division Street. There might also have been some imaginary house-hunting — a favourite pastime of Adam and I when we visit a new city.
Cocktails and boardgames at the CAA
It started to snow, like a lot, so we headed back to the hotel. The Game Room at the CAA has pool, bocce, shuffleboard and foosball, along with chess and checkers at every table. Plus there’s great cocktails and free popcorn; why wouldn’t we spend the afternoon here?
Visit the art gallery
On our last morning, we visited the Art Institute of Chicago. It has one of the best Impressionist collections I’ve ever seen.
There were about 100 more places I wanted to eat over the weekend; I could have spent another 72 hours in Chicago eating, but there’s always next time (maybe when it’s warmer).
Eating is the best part about exploring a new place, but figuring out how to find good restaurants while travelling can be tricky. Even defining what a ‘good’ restaurant means to you is tough. Throughout your trip, you’ll have moments when it means something different: …
Walking through the door of BOLD Hotel Munich Giesing, I couldn’t believe our luck. It looked SO COOL — modern, hip and still smelled of fresh paint. During our stay, the hotel had been open for like five minutes (April 2014), and considering we were paying under …
Honestly, I rarely stick to my new year resolutions…who does, really? I’ve made all the stereotypical ones before: go to the gym more (I HATE the gym), eat better, blah blah blah. But after getting married this year, and deciding to go freelance full-time, I know 2017 is going to be more different than any year before, so I’m making a concerted effort to stick to following resolutions.
Cut the cheese
I plan on making my own cheese. I’ve never done it before, but I was given a cookbook so I’m going for it! If I could eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be cheese, so knocking out a few pounds of paneer, gouda and feta from The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher seems like a great way to kick off the new year!
Try more weird things when travelling
Sometimes when you’re tired and travelling, you just want to eat McDonald’s. Even though I’m an adventurous eater, there are times I get lazy, eating what’s comfortable, only to regret it when I get home from my travels. In 2017, I’m heading back to Turkey and visiting Thailand for the first time, so my goal is to push myself to try everything put in front of me! What’s the weirdest thing I can eat in Bangkok? We’ll find out in March.
Around the world in 12 plates
2017 is going to be a wild ride in the kitchen. In 2013, I spent the year completing the Food & Wine Cover Recipe Challenge, cooking the cover recipe from each issue every month. This year I decided to expand my horizons — and the palates of my friends — even further! I’m going to cook a meal from a different country each month, challenging myself to try new dishes, techniques and ingredients. I’m currently creating the calendar, so if you have any dishes you think I should make, let me know!
Stop stressing about the tweets
I spent a lot of 2016 stressing about my social media presence. I’ve grown too concerned about the slow growth of my Instagram following or the likes my carefully curated photos are getting. It’s way too stressful, and so not worth it. In fact, I think it’s been affecting my writing. In 2017, I plan to focus on the quality of my writing, not the quantity of my tweets. I will also be producing more exclusive content for The Food Girl in Town newsletter, so subscribe at the bottom of the page if you want in!
What are some changes your making for 2017?