Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An Adventure in Sculpture with Picasso

I've had a thing for Picasso since I was a 9-year-old nerd with a red French beret, trying to become an artist and a dolphin trainer at the same time. I try to see as much of Picasso's work as possible, so it's helpful to live in New York City. 

Here, I've seen Picasso Guitars at the MoMAPicasso: Black and White at the Guggenheim, and the Cubism exhibit at the Met earlier this year, focused mostly on Pablo and his bud Georges Braque. This year, I've also been lucky enough to visit the Picasso museum in Barcelona, experience Guernica in Madrid, and visit the Rosengart's extensive Picasso collection in Lucerne, Switzerland. I also made it a point to see the giant Picasso sculpture when I was visiting Chicago this fall. In typing all this up, I'm suddenly wondering if I have a problem. Is this normal?

Last week, I popped into the Museum of Modern Art to experience Picasso Sculpture, an exhibition that opened in September and closes February 7. It's well worth the visit, especially if you live in the city. The exhibit is displayed chronologically and shows Picasso's work from 1902, before he even started exploring Cubism, to 1964, with his sheet metal painted sculptures. 

There are about 140 pieces in the exhibit, but not one of them is much like the next. Even Picasso's six "Glass of Absinthe" sculptures from 1914 vary from each other. There are pieces as small as engraved pebbles and pieces way larger than I am. It always impresses me how Picasso, like so many before him, delivered masterpieces seamlessly in such a wide variety of mediums. Because I'm not an artist, I have trouble imagining that the same skills are needed with a paintbrush as a chisel or with scissors, but I'm okay with this bewilderment. It's probably what I like best about art. 

Below are some of my favorite pieces from the exhibition, including a guitar made of paper and a baboon with a head of Picasso's son's toy car:

It's one thing to look at pictures and appreciate Picasso's work and creativity, but it's a whole other experience to see it in person and walk around it in circles. The below video, {via MoMA} will help, but get over there and see this exhibit yourself before February!


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Driving out of the City, Away from the Crowds

"...Let's get out of this town, drive out of the city, away from the crowds..."
- Taylor Swift

New York City in the fall is basically the best. The skies are my absolute favorite shade of blue, the crowds leave the streets and head to the bars for football games, and I get the parks to myself, with my chai tea and Kindle. But it's always worth heading out of the city as well. Earlier this season, Ryan and I got out of town and drove a Zip Car upstate to explore.

Our first intended destination was a classic hot dog stand an old friend told me about years ago. According to Apple Maps, this was on the way to the second destination, but when we got "there," we were in a neighborhood. This is why you don't use Apple Maps. Turns out the eatery was on the opposite side of the Hudson than where we wanted to be for the rest of the day, so it was a good thing we were not brought there. We contemplated eating McNuggets because we were so hungry and wanted to get back on the road quickly, but we found Savannah's Southern House and "settled" on chicken & waffles and buffalo chicken sliders. It was a much better choice for the rest of the day.

We switched to Google Maps and typed in Walkway over the Hudson, a mile-long bridge across the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie. The walkway, an old railroad bridge, opened in 1888, making it the longest bridge in the world at that time. During World War II, the bridge was crossed by troops who were heading overseas, and at times throughout history, the bridge carried up to 3,500 train cars a day. I'd been wanting to visit for a number of years, since I first heard about it. I almost got a chance to walk across on my trip last year hosted by Dutchess County Tourism but it was ridiculously cold that day, so the schedule changed. I was glad to have waited for a beautiful day instead.

Instead of taking us to the walkway itself, Google Maps decided to take us to the river underneath the bridge. This is why you don't use Google Maps. Granted, it wasn't *completely* wrong, like Apple Maps had been, but we didn't have our jetpacks with us and we couldn't see another way to get up from where we were. It wasn't too far to drive to the correct place where the walkway actually starts and park.

Walkway over the Hudson sure was beautiful. The colors in the trees were just starting to change and you could see for miles, which is something I appreciate greatly when I'm not in the city. Unless you're on top of the Empire State Building or the like, you can only see ahead a few avenues or so due to the skyscrapers. It was windy and chilly on the day we chose to go, but the view and the company was magnificent and there were TONS of puppies to lust over.

After about an hour of walking around above the Hudson, we got back in the car and searched for an apple orchard. Apple picking is *the* fall activity for the social media generation. I'd never gone, and given the fact that I only eat two apples a year, it was fine, but Ryan and I had this crazy craving to make apple pies that week. My dad's apple pie recipe is world-famous family-famous. I was willing to eat more than two apples this year in exchange for the experience.

We ended up at Wilklow Orchards where we ate apple cider doughnuts and talked to goats before heading out to the apple trees to make our selections. Although we'd visited a little late into the season, there were plenty of perfect apples to choose from. We picked about 1,000 different varieties to make our pies taste amazing - including Macintosh, Winesap, Golden Delicious, and Gala. We also may or may not have eaten a few small guys while out in the orchards which may or may not have been the best apples I've ever tasted.

The only thing that's bad about taking a car out of the city is that at some point, you have to come back and you inevitably sit in a ridiculous amount of traffic, which delays your pie making and you have to set an alarm for 3 am to get the pies out of the oven so your apartment doesn't burn down. But oh my, that pie.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Too Much Light in the City that Never Sleeps

The options for nightlife in New York City are practically endless, but they can get repetitive. A $9 Bud Light here, a late night order of cheese fries there, and sometimes you can't identify one weekend from the next. If you want a unique night out, give New York Neo-Futurists a shot.

New York Neo-Futurists perform Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (TMLMTBGB) on Friday and Saturday nights. The concept of the show is 30 plays in 60 minutes - you can do the math. The theater group performs an extremely diverse variety of short-form plays. It moves quickly, and for a good reason - if the timer buzzes and the performers have not gone through all 30 plays, the night sadly ends anyway.

Before Ryan and I went to the show one night last month, I looked up the Yelp reviews and found that people either love it (4 or 5 stars) or hate it (1 star). What I took from this scattering of ratings, being a former AP Statistics student, is that the show is intelligent, and some people just aren't going to get it and might want to stick to those Bud Light nights.

TMLMTBGB is at the Kraine Theatre, underneath KGB bar, in the East Village. If you do not obtain tickets in advance, you can get into the show for free during the month of your birthday (awesome!) and if it's not your birthday month, a die is rolled and you pay $13 plus whatever the die roll is (still awesome). When you go through the curtain, you're handed a "Hello, my name is" nametag to wear for the evening. My name was "Ladder Hands" and Ryan was "Gym." We sat in the second row of the small theatre to make sure we were close but not the first row of defense in case of unsolicited audience participation. The cast was pinning the numbers 1-30 on a clothesline on top of the stage to represent the different plays in our program. When the show began, we were encouraged to yell out the number of what play we wanted to see. For some reason, Ryan's choices kept getting chosen over mine.

I found the show incredibly engaging and creative, though as would be expected, some plays were better than others. There were a few that I didn't appreciate, but as a whole, color me impressed. As some of the plays return for future shows, I won't give away too much, but I will call out a few plays that stood out for me.

14. Pro bono Therapy: In which a member of the Neo-Futurists laid down on a box in a faux psychiatrist situation and admitted something they would normally not want to admit in front of an audience of strangers. The psychiatrist player reacted, and then a random audience member was pulled on stage and also had to admit to something, and the psychiatrist reacted again. During that skit, I determined that if I'd been pulled up on stage, I would have had to admit that my pants were unbuttoned because they were fresh out of the dryer and too tight.

27. Moo Doy Layster May Frek Dage Nye Pamperbast Croy: In which performers sit on stage speaking absolute gibberish while the audience is handed a translation guide. Turns out they are discussing how sad it is how someday, no one will be reading books anymore, and discuss particular classics and how important they are while always including the caveat "which I have never read," showing that we may already be approaching the demise of written literature.

7. YOU can be the star of your very own MANIPULATED VIDEO (for Planned Parenthood): Where an audience member was brought on stage and interviewed about his job and life. The performer on stage with the audience member tried to get him to say certain words that could be incriminating. The video was uploaded later that week and is available here, if interested (sorry, Chad).

The show also featured a watermelon, the voice of the "rat" in Kraine Theatre, the performers imitating bison in Yellowstone, and much, much, more. Our show unfortunately ended with a handful of plays still undone. I'd definitely like to return to the show, perhaps during my birthday month of April, though it would also be fun to roll the die and take a chance on the ticket price.

Further proof that the show was worth seeing was that as soon as the show started, I was able to forget that 10 minutes before leaving I had accidentally spilled an entire candle's hot wax all over my floor, wall, books, and one of my most prized possessions, my banjo. I had a small meltdown (pun intended) and was very mad at myself. Don't worry, Dad, I've since cleaned the banjo and it's sparkling clean again. The wall still could use some work. Too much candle light makes the wax go everywhere.


Thank you, New York Neo-Futurists for the tickets. Opinions are always my own.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bern without da Bears

What do you do in a town when the main reason you went in the first place isn't there? Kater and I experienced this dilemma when we went to Bern in the middle of our week in Switzerland. From our standpoint, the most exciting part about Bern was going to be seeing the bears that live in the middle of town. The bear has been the symbol of Bern for over 800 years and bears have been kept in town as a tourist attraction since 1857, with improving living conditions over the ages. But alas, when Kater and I were out our one night in Bern, we learned that the bears were not being housed in their normal area due to construction. This might have ruined our day in Bern, but we found plenty more to make this city worth the visit.

As I wrote about in Rösti la Vista, Baby, our dinner at La Mazot was cheese and potatoes of the absolute best kind. After dinner, we started the evening off at Turnhalle, a huge beer hall with a great outdoor space, but were finding it difficult to strike up conversations with anyone. Talking to strangers is typically easy for us, especially when we are together. One of the best things about traveling (and being out in general) is getting to know locals and other travelers and we almost gave up, but decided to try an Irish pub that we'd seen in our research. If you can't meet people at an Irish pub, then *you're* the problem.

Sure enough, at Mr. Pickwicks, we met a fun group of locals by bonding over the avoidance of another individual - "Talking to that man was like talking to a Neanderthal," per one of our new friends. They made us feel better about not Turnhalle because they told us most people in Bern have lived there their whole lives and typically aren't into making new friends. Even though this group had known each other since kindergarten, they took us under their wing and we traveled with them to two other bars, one where I found Super Bock, one of my favorite beers from Portugal, and a bar called Cowboys, where we experienced Swiss rap music for the first time. We also wandered around town while the locals showed us the Federal Building and played giant chess in a plaza, before heading back to our hotel, pretty late into the next morning.

The next day, as Kater and I jokingly planned out my future life being married to one of the gentlemen we met the night before, we walked around town trying to determine what Bern was all about without the bears. The majority of the buildings in the areas we saw were the same shade of greystone. I appreciated the consistency and comradery. Another thing I liked about Bern was that it was basically a car-free city. Almost every street felt like a pedestrian plaza, and plazas are the best part about walking around European cities. Bern is proud to have been the home of Albert Einstein back in the day, and there is a museum in Einstein's former home, where the Theory of Relativity came to thought.

Something else Bern is definitely all about is fountains. Along with more modern fountains, there are 11 from the 16th century, and we tried to find them all. According to my buddy, Rick, the fountains were commissioned by the city to brighten up the town, show off wealth, and as a way to remember local events. I'm a little concerned about this last reason, because some of the fountains are super creepy, for example, this one where an ogre is clearly eating children. I'm hoping this fountain is not a representation of something that happened back in the day:

Thankfully, not all of the fountains are creepy, and some of them are even fun, like this much more modern fountain in front of Parliment. Kater and I watched while 26 spouts in the ground surprised kids and dogs alike, time and time again - but better water than a child-eating ogre.

Bern is also about the Aare river, which I found absolutely gorgeous, mostly because of the color. The current of the river is so swift that locals often hike up the river, jump in, and float back down to the city - as long as you're quick enough to grab a pole on your way back to help you get out. If you miss the poles, who knows what happens to you. We preferred to enjoy the river from above than engulfed in it.

While I would have liked to see the bears, I'm glad we stayed in Bern to experience those cheesy potatoes and a local night out, even if we weren't quite local enough to float down that river.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Spare Pair for the Air

I started to wear glasses in second grade and wore them until I was in high school, when I was finally able to put contacts in my eyes without passing out from the fear of it. Today, I use my glasses a lot more while traveling than I do when I'm not. In case I fall asleep unexpectedly from a day of aggressive sightseeing, I take my contacts out earlier than normal when I'm away. I also wear my glasses on overnight flights so that I don't arrive in a destination with dry eyes and a headache.

I don't have the best track record with glasses, breaking them in soccer games as a kid when the ball would inevitably hit me straight in the face, or in January, when I dropped a brand-new pair of glasses behind the dresser in the hotel room in Charleston. I have also had bad luck with sunglasses over the last few months while traveling - leaving a pair in a bathroom in Switzerland, losing a pair in Philly, and breaking a pair while kayaking on the East River.

RIP $5 Sunglasses from Hong Kong
I was recently contacted by Firmoo, asking me to try their "global optical online store" and thought it would be a great opportunity to get myself a pair of glasses I could travel with, without risking my "good" pair that I get each year from insurance. The site has prescription and non-prescription glasses as well as a variety of sunglasses, with most frames in the $20-$40 range. I picked a hipster-like pair in black, which now appears as only available in purple and tortoise. I typed in my prescription as last received from my optometrist in April. What I didn't know was my PD, Pupillary Distance, or the distance between my pupils in millimeters. Firmoo recommended having a friend measure the distance with a ruler. Ryan determined, while at a bar, me with a ruler against the bridge of my nose, that my PD was 56. If you don't have a Ryan, you can measure it yourself in a mirror, but I highly recommend getting a Ryan.

My favorite feature on Firmoo was that I could upload my photo and see what the frames would look like on my face. Since you can't return prescription lenses after they're created, this is a very important feature for an online glasses store. My custom-ordered glasses came out to a total of $40, including shipping.

I received the glasses about two weeks after ordering and was tickled that they came in a glasses case printed with maps on the outside. It's as if Firmoo knew. The glasses I received work great, which means that Ryan did a good job on measuring my PD, but also that Firmoo did a good job making my lenses to the right specifications. The frames I chose are extremely light and don't appear to be as sturdy as my other glasses, but for a spare pair, they'll do just fine. Plus, this means my luggage won't exceed the weight limit. 


Thank you, Firmoo, for sending me a pair of glasses for this review. This link will show you Firmoo's daily new arrivals, and this link will show you all frames that are on sale. Opinions are always my own.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?

If you've been on the internet this week, you have probably heard the newest, most important debate since "What color is this dress?!" The question these days a hot dog a sandwich? As I eat my Pastry Pups pigs-in-a-blanket from Trader Joe's that I bought for entertaining purposes but am eating for dinner purposes, I am choosing not to take sides, but instead to feature some of the best hot dogs I've been lucky enough to try - one as recently as yesterday...

Crif Dogs, New York City

Crif Dogs is an East Village staple, on the storied St. Mark's Place. It may be just as well known for being the "secret" entrance to the speakeasy, Please Don't Tell, as it is for its hot dogs. Everyone has already told, and the speakeasy is *the* spot for first dates if you are 23, but I always preferred the dogs. At Crif Dogs, you can order a hot dog with cream cheese, styled like a Philadelphia cheesesteak, over a fried egg, or a dozen other options with a variety of toppings. My favorite, pictured above, is the Chihuahua - a hot dog wrapped in bacon with avocado and sour cream. I've wrapped up many a night out with a trip to Crif Dogs, a Chihuahua, an order of cheese fries, and me asking people if they've made reservations there as they walk in. Hilarity always sometimes ensues.

Portillo's, Chicago

When I visited Kristyn in Chicago earlier this fall, one of the top things on my to-do list was to try a Chicago-style hot dog. In our quick research after our Chicago Food Planet tour, we decided Portillo's was the dog to go for. I loved how the place was decorated, as it reminded me a little of a Disney World ride, with fake exteriors of houses and creepy fake townspeople doing their thing in the rafters. I loved Portillo's. One, because I got a full meal - a hot dog, fries, and a soda - for around $5. Two, because that full meal was awesome. The Portillo hot dog is topped with what feels like a full salad - mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle, and sport peppers - all on a soft steamed poppy seed bun.

Copenhagen Street Dog, New York City and online

Copenhagen Street Dog is quick to point out, as their motto says, "It's not a hot dog. It's a pølse," but I'm including them in this post because their dog is delicious and I do what I want. I was just introduced to this dish this week when I attended an Edible Brooklyn event at Brooklyn Brewery called, "How to Prepare a Nordic Feast." The folks from Revolving Dansk brought the Copenhagen Street Dog to Brooklyn and were at the event with their story and samples of their pølsePølse is a smoked sausage housed in a bun just like the American hot dog, but the edges of the sausage hang out of the bun like it's a smile. Toppings are: ketchup mixed with applesauce, spicy mustard, a remoulade sauce made of cauliflower, celery, carrots, and curry, raw *and* fried onions, and pickles. What I liked best about this presentation aside from the taste of that dog was that the folks from Revolving Dansk held up the microphone to the pølse as they snapped it in half so we could hear it. The snap is very important in the pølse, which is all-natural and all-locally-sourced-pig. Copenhagen Street Dogs are currently on the menu at Park Luncheonette in Brooklyn, at Scandinavian Butik in Connecticut, at events around NYC, and available online. I need to get myself to Copenhagen to try this street food on the proper street.

Is a hot dog a sandwich? The world may never know, but does the world really care? Let's just continue to create different versions of this dish. I think we will all be fine. After all, a hot dog by any other name would taste as juicy.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Trick or Treats? Treats. Definitely Treats.

Sometimes you can't travel as much as you want due to time or money limitations. This becomes increasingly difficult when everyone you know on Instagram is in Vancouver at the same time and when the people on The Amazing Race are walking with lions in Zambia while you sit on your couch and type out a blogpost.

But one of the things I've learned over the years is that there's a way to travel in between trips, and that's through food! I often travel in my own zip code in between traveling outside of it by finding a great restaurant with cuisine from a place I've never been in my Global Bites without the Flights series. And now, I can also experience snacks from a different country each month with my Treats subscription box! I waited to open the Treats box until I was with my sampling partner, Ryan, and I'll tell you, those few hours before I knew what country we received were rough. Ryan guessed the snacks would be from Malaysia while I went with South Korea. We were both wrong, but on the same continent, for when we (finally) opened the box, we discovered snacks from Japan.

Treats offers two sizes of boxes. A Standard Box costs $12.95 a month and includes 4-5 snacks while a Premium Box costs $24.95 a month and comes with 8-10 snacks. My premium box actually came with a variety of 11 snacks. This would come out to about $2.30 a snack, some full-sized and some single serving packages. The price point is not bad in comparison with NatureBox and Graze, as both those plans come out to about $5 for a shareable bag, with Graze also having individual servings for about $1.75 each.

Now, on to the snacks themselves!

The best-smelling snack was the Fruit Gummy Assortment from Kasugai with individually-wrapped lychee, mango, and strawberry gummies. I'm a big fan of gummies and these were pretty good - way denser than both gummy bears and fruit snack gummies. To go along with the best-smelling snack, the worst smelling was definitely the Baked Shrimp Chips from Calbee. They were tasty and we ate them in one sitting during an episode of The Wire, but it's not advised to stick your nose in the bag and inhale.

Cutest snack? This one was a tie. First are the Pocky Tsubu Tsubu Ichigo from Glico, which are long cookie biscuits shaped like hearts on the ends, dipped in strawberry. I've had the chocolate Pocky before, but this was my first time with the strawberry and it was one of my favorite treats. The other cutest snack was the Kinder Happy Hippo, which looked like the hippos from the Hungry Hungry Hippos game. This was a cookie filled with different layers of chocolate in different sections. It was the only snack that I didn't share with Ryan because I ate it too quickly.

The Moringa Milk Caramels were the least exciting snack of the group. They were definitely delicious and it was a good sized box, but nothing about them aside the packaging screamed "this is international," and you could find something similar at any grocery store. 

The rice-iest snacks were the Himemaru rice crackers from Amanoya and the Kaki-no-tane rice crackers from Uegaki. Though both are rice crackers, they do not taste the same so I did not feel shorted. The Kaki-no-tane have quite a spicy kick if you eat enough of them at once. Both of these snacks came in decent sized bags for sharing, if you choose to do so.

The Jagabee Butter Soy Sauce Crisps were basically dried french fries in a bag, but tasted more like McDonald's fries than American versions of potato crisps I've had - probably from all of the salt. These were also eaten during an episode of the Wire.

The Giant Caplico Strawberry from Glico was the most oddly shaped snack. It was like a Drumstick Ice Cream Cone but clearly wasn't frozen. When we unwrapped this one, I half expected melted ice cream to run down my fingers, but instead of ice cream in a cone, it was what tasted like the yogurt-like coating on yogurt-covered raisins on top of a regular cone. It was kind of strange because the main snack was what we would normally take in small doses as just a coating, but I can't say I hated it.

The snack we were most apprehensive about trying was the Watapachi Melon Soda from Meiji. It had the craziest cartoon design of exploding sodas with faces and no words we could identify. I was expecting a Pixie Stick situation, but it turned out to be a sour apple cotton candy with something resembling Pop Rocks at the bottom of the bag. I'm sure you were supposed to mix it up, but I kept getting mouthfuls that were one or the other.

There's one snack that arrived in my apartment a month ago that still remains mostly uneaten and that is the Cola Puccho package from Uha. It's supposed to resemble the taste and feeling of drinking a soda but it's a gummy with a seltzer-ish center that froths up when you bite into it. It's not a great taste or a great feeling. Ryan had tried these before and basically refused to try them again, but I caught him with his mouth open during a yawn and tricked him into eating one. Thankfully he does not hold a grudge.

What I like about Treats that's different than other snack boxes is that it's a surprise as to what country you'll receive and what snacks you'll get. Because you rate snacks on NatureBox and Graze, you end up being sent some of the same snacks over and over. And even if some of these Treats snacks are Cola Pucchos, the majority of what I had from Japan are awesome and foods I wouldn't have experienced without this subscription box service.


Arigatou to Treats for sending me a box to review. Opinions are always my own. Readers will receive 15% off your first box with the promo code: HELLLOVEATOWN 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Favorite Ghost Stories

I don't love Halloween. Growing up, I was scared by *everything* and I didn't like wearing a turtleneck underneath all my costumes due to the temperature. Nowadays, I *almost* enjoy being scared, though I still hate turtlenecks and when adults go to the store and buy a full costume instead of being creative and making one.

This year, I'm dressing up for the first time in ages, something I've been able to avoid in recent years. It just so happens that I have a party to attend and someone who wants to do a "couples costume" with me, and I'm actually pretty excited about it. In "spirit" of this new attitude, I've collected my favorite blogposts about things that go bump in the night...
  • Marie's Crisis, You're the Top: The West Village bar wherein Thomas Paine died, footprints are heard when no one is around, and a woman may still haunt the basement ladies' room.
  • New Orleans Beyond Bourbon Street: Many New Orleans bars boost about their ghosts, but the scariest one has to be at the oldest bar in the country, where sometimes red eyes, glowing with blood (!), are seen in the fireplace.
  • Something Evil's Lurking in the Dark: My second, and most recent, time watching the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, featuring an appearance by a Transformers taxi cab man and Pauly D. This year's parade is on Halloween night at 7 pm.
Have you ever been somewhere that's said to be haunted? What was your experience like?


Sunday, October 18, 2015

An ExBEERience in Chicago

Not only was I lucky enough to participate in a food tour when I was in Chicago last month, I also had the opportunity to do a beer tour, which is something I'd never done before while traveling. I am definitely a beer girl over any other type of alcohol (read about my Struggle with Port Wine), but I also am now in my 30s and (very) unable to drink as much as I did in my college glory days, so I was curious how the day would go.

Kristyn and I prepped for our Chicago Beer Experience tour of Lakeview & Lincoln Park by lining our bellies with carbs at Elly's Pancake House. All geared up for a day of drinking, we met our tour guide, Phil, and the rest of the group at Harrigan's Pub. I loved the place immediately because of the Irish coins decorating the bar, underneath the glass. I learned the most at this first stop because as the day went on, I became more affected by the intake of beer and stopped being such a good listener, which I imagine was also the case for the rest of our group.

It was at Harrigan's where we learned how to taste beer, which strangely enough is not by chugging it down quickly after the opposing team sinks a shot during beer pong, or via a funnel. First, you look at it to see the color and cloudiness, then you smell it, then you sip it and "chew" it. I wouldn't recommend using the chewing beer method on a date, but it allows you to experience the flavor way better than just sipping. Phil also told us a fun story, which may or may not be an urban legend, about a man who, for Lent, gave up eating and drinking everything, except for beer. After the 40 days, he went to his doctor for tests, and he was in great health and had even lost 15 pounds. The only thing he was at risk of was scurvy, which theoretically, could be helped if the man had eaten some sliced oranges on the edges of his beer glasses, like those served with Blue Moon & Hoegaarden.

The bartender at Harrigan's served us four beer samples, all of which I enjoyed. The first was a mystery "Award-Winning Chicago Beer," which I won't reveal the name of, in case you are going on this tour as well. The name or reputation of something as a cheap, college beer can cloud your impression of it, so making this a blind tasting was a good idea. The second beer was a "properly-poured Guinness." I've certainly had Guinness a few times, but typically in carbombs or sips from others' glasses at dive bars, and it's quite possible I haven't had one that is properly poured. I always thought I didn't like Guinness, which made me feel like a bad Irish person. Instead, it turns out I do like it, which is awesome and makes me feel like a *good* Irish person, although I still am iffy on Jameson. Our third tasting would have been a 312 Urban Wheat Ale from Goose Island, but the keg ran out, so it was replaced with a Green Line American Pale. I had ordered the 312 Urban Wheat the night before, so I was happy to be trying something new, although I liked the 312 a lot. Our last beer was an Elliot Ness Amber Lager - named, cheekily, after the famous Prohibition agent.

The next stop on the tour was Paddy Long's, where we sampled not only three beers, but also three types of bacon. We had a Krankshaft Kolsch paired with Irish thick slab bacon, a Dark Horse Pale Ale with peppercrusted Bacon, and an Old Chub Scotch Ale Nitro, with jowl bacon. At this point in the day, my pancakes were just a memory, so I may have been more focused on the bacon-tasting than the beer-tasting. The peppercrusted was my favorite, but I wouldn't have been upset to have another serving of any of them.

We then walked to Bodega Ramos, our only stop on the tour which was not a bar. It is a specialty store offering craft beer, wine from smaller vineyards, and creative spirits. It was here where we learned more about the ingredients of beer and how beer is actually made, but it was also here where things became a little blurry for me. Three more beer samples were provided to us: Oktoberfest Revolution, Domaine DuPage, and Cain and Ebel, the last two from Two Brothers. We also received a snack pairing here - though sadly, not more bacon - some spicy peanuts from Bee's Knees Food Company.

During the last two stops, I got a little caught up talking with our other tour group members, most of whom were from the Midwest and the South and had way cooler accents than I do. But I think this is part of the joy of the tour. Everyone loosens up a little and has a great time, with folks you wouldn't necessarily meet otherwise. At Atlas Brewing Company we had three more beers from the brewing company themselves - Oktoberfest Marzen, Diversey Pale Ale, and Glasgow Kiss Scotch Ale - and learned all about the history of Prohibition in Chicago.

We ended our tour at Delilah's, where a bar has been in the building since the 1800s, and a speakeasy for a few years during Prohibition. We wrapped up with a Stevens Point Oktoberfest while the bar went wild over the Buffalo Bills game.

{via @chicagobeerexp}

Despite our pancakes, the bacon, and the peanuts, Kristyn and I needed to fill up on food desperately after drinking as much as we did on the tour. Luckily, the day before, we had gone to one of the 12 famous Garrett Popcorn shops and each purchased a bag of half caramel, half cheese popcorn. When we got back to Kristyn's place, I went to town on my bag and everything was wonderful.


Thank you, Chicago Beer Experience, for hosting us on this tour. At the time of this post, tours are $59.90 per person, $39.90 if attending without the beer tastings. Chicago Beer Experience also offers a tour of the Bucktown & Winter Park areas of Chicago. Opinions are always my own.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Out, Out, Damn...Shot Shot Shot Shot Shot

"O god, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains. 
That we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!"
- Cassio, Othello by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare was no stranger to drinking. According to the interwebs, there are over 350 references to alcohol in his writings. One wonders, then, if he would approve of Drunk Shakespeare, the live show that I recently attended in Times Square, where cast members get wasted before the performance. If he's into organizing as much as I am, Shakespeare would have at least approved of the event space, decorated with as many books as Belle had in her library, but all grouped by color.

There was a VIP experience up for bid for the performance, which started at $15 and was won with $40. The highest bidder and a friend had the opportunity to sit in the throne on stage, becoming the King and Queen and therefore part of the show. They also received a bottle of champagne with cool horn goblets, fine chocolates, and hand massages (!). On another night, I might have thrown my name in the hat, but Ryan and I were seated on the floor right next to the throne and I felt like we were going to be part of the action already.

The cast introduced themselves and let us know we were going to be seeing a performance of Macbeth. Not having read Macbeth in school - let's be honest, who among us has read Shakespeare past Senior year - I thought it might be difficult for me to follow. I had forgotten, of course, that I was at Drunk Shakespeare and not Sleep No More, which I experienced a few years ago. We learned that our cast member who was going to get drunk was the woman playing Lady Macbeth, Monique. She was served five shots of Fireball Whisky, and although someone from the audience took one to confirm it was Fireball, I'd venture to say it might have been switched with something less alcoholic after the first shot. Lady Macbeth drank throughout the show as well, and those drinks seemed to be authentic.

The show started out normally, with the witches in the woods, but somewhere along the way, hilarious things began to happen. There was definitely some improv involved, but it seemed like some of the bits had been done before, and will be again, so I won't give away too much of the actual show. But please know that people were laughing the entire time. One of the things I'll give away is that Lady Macbeth demanded that one of the actors perform as different Muppet characters. There was also a dance battle and a hula hoop. Another hilarious (and disgusting) moment was when the cast took audience members' drinks to pour into a cup on stage for the potion. It was like the end of a game of Kings in college, but Macbeth actually drank it instead of everyone just staring at it.

Sure enough, Ryan and I did become part of the show. The actor playing Macbeth asked us to kill Banquo and his son for him. Macbeth asked Ryan, "Did you kill Banquo?" and he answered affirmatively. I was then asked, "Did you kill Banquo's son?" and I also answered affirmatively. Macbeth then asked me, "Have you read the play?" to which I was forced to admit, "I have not..." and everyone laughed. Macbeth said, "Okay, you didn't kill Banquo's son," and asked me again, and I gave the right answer this time. I was a little embarrassed but was provided with a new beer for being put on blast so I felt good about that.

Even with the silliness, the show was as good as any representation of the play. These actors, though able to joke around, are no joke themselves. There were plenty of serious moments that made you forget for a second that Dr. Bunson Honeydew, the scientist from the Muppets, had just been on stage a minute prior. Lady Macbeth's famous monologue was especially poignant, considering how much the actress had imbibed.

In the end, I'd say Willy would approve of Drunk Shakespeare for sure, at least to the level that he approves other interpretations of his works like West Side Story, She's the Man, and 10 Things I Hate About You. I'd recommend looking on Groupon and other sites for discount tickets as there are many deals available. And you should know that you don't have to pay extra for the VIP treatment to get your picture on the throne, like the royalty you are:


Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Charming Turn in Swiss Lucerne

Lucerne is known as the tourism capital of Switzerland and it's easy to see why. It's right out of a fairy tale. I only had a few hours to spend in all its charm, but I think I made the most of it. If you find yourself in Lucerne, make sure you check out the following:

Chapel Bridge

I've seen a few bridges in my day, but Chapel Bridge has to be the absolute cutest. Chapel Bridge is one of four to connect the new town and the old town across Ruess River, but it's the only one that has been around since the 14th century. OH OKAY, no big deal. As if that wasn't enough to make me love it, the bridge is wooden, covered, and has an awesome tower and huge paintings in the rooftop every few feet from the 17th century. Sadly, many of the paintings were destroyed in a fire in 1993, though some were safe in storage at the time and some have since been restored. I am a little bewildered at how, aside from the fire, the paintings survived for this long out in the elements, but that just adds to the fairy tale feeling of this city.

The Lion

"The lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, 
but nowhere so impressive as where he is."
Mark Twain

Another Lucerne icon reminiscent of fairy tales, and one Disney movie in particular with a terribly depressing scene of a lion dying, is *the* lion. I'd only heard of Lucerne's lion when I started researching my trip, but I knew it would be one of my favorite things I saw while in Switzerland. The memorial to over 600 Swiss Guards lost during the French Revolution was carved directly into a cliff in 1820. The lion is suffering a slow death after being attacked with a spear, a part of which remains lodged in its back. The lines in the stone in the cliff seem to mirror the spear to indicate hundreds more spears heading its way. The carving itself is huge, spanning over thirty wide and twenty feet tall. It's a powerful monument, made even more powerful by its secluded area in front of a reflecting pond. So secluded that I walked by it several times before eventually asking someone how to find it. I'm glad I spent time with the lion. Mark was right.

Lake Lucerne

It felt like everywhere we went in Switzerland, we were by a lake, but Lake Lucerne was one of the prettiest. This was partially due to the manmade aspects of the town - the charming architecture lining the water, the adorable bridges, and the extendable dam that controls the waterflow for all the lakeside villages. I sat watching the powerful waterflow for quite some time. It's an intricate system to control the snow melting from the mountains nearby, which is the main source of water for the lake. The mountains in the background of the lake enhance its beauty, as do the swans, said to be a gift from French King Louis XIV, the Sun King, as a token of thanks for his Swiss Guards.  

Lucerne is an extremely easy and relaxing daytrip from the hustle and bustle of Zurich. I've already mentioned the town is a fairy tale, and work with me here on this last line...

Damsel in distress? Try damsel in DEstress. (Sorry.)

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