Monday, September 15, 2014

Sleek, Chic, & Cheap in Montreal

Montreal is a chic family friendly getaway and the perfect destination for one of my friends who is looking for a Columbus Day weekend adventure. I sent her a quick email with tons of stuff to do but I realized her husband might need a little more motivation than butterflies at the Insectarium or croissants in Old Montreal. I'm thinking a brand new hotel with an ideal location, an indoor pool with a skyline view, and a wallet friendly price tag will do the trick and soon she'll be packing up their bags.

Hotels in Montreal can be old, small, and trés cher but the Courtyard Marriott Downtown Montreal is refreshingly sleek, modern, and rooms can be found for under $200CAD ($180US). The hotel opened in September of 2013 in the first twelve floors of a newly built luxury apartment building and it's more boutique hotel than international chain. We spent a few nights here last month at the end of our whirlwind road trip and the rooftop pool with a sun deck was just what we all wanted after three weeks on the go.

Rooms are generously sized and they all come with city views. Double rooms have queen beds (better than the typical two fulls) and we could have fit a cot in if needed for Little C&G. Usually he doesn't like sharing a bed with his restless big brother but they each had plenty of space to spread out and nobody got a knee to the belly in the middle of the night.

The bathroom was the most luxurious I've ever encountered in a Courtyard Marriott. The glass walk-in shower (some rooms have tubs, ours didn't) was lined in marble tiles and the fluffy white towels and Aveda products made me feel like I left the boys behind and escaped for a few hours to the spa. Pool towels are provided for you in the armoire so don't bother packing yours. Keep that extra space for souvenirs and all the fabulous French things you'll find in the corner drug stores (KC, I've got a shopping list for you!).

Location is key when you're in a big city with kids and the Courtyard Marriott sits conveniently between the attractions of Old Montreal and the bustling shopping and arts districts in the center of the city. After you've wandered the neighborhoods and had your fill of croissants and poutine, head back to this chic hotel to grab your towels (and maybe a cocktail in a to-go cup from the bar in the lobby) and relax with a rooftop swim in la piscine.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cocktail du jour: Stormy Scot

Arthur's Seat and a stormy Scottish sky
With Scotland grabbing the headlines this week, the sudden chill in the air, and a dear friend trading in her Scots citizenship for a USA passport (I'm devastated, we could have worked out a trade!) I've been dreaming of something dark and malty in a cocktail glass.

One of my favorite fall drinks from the blog is the Stormy Scot, a delicious and cockle warming mix of blended whisky, orange flavored Grand Marnier, and sweet vermouth. When Mr. C&G looked up the recipe (Cocktail Hour is one of my most used pages on the blog) he had to laugh when he noticed the Stormy Scot debuted exactly one year ago today. Clearly I am a creature of cocktail habit.

The Stormy Scot
2 oz blended Scotch Whisky
(Dewar's or Johnnie Walker work well, we like Dimple Pinch)
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino)

Add all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake, strain and serve up or on the rocks. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry. Slàinte and cheers to you CW!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cleaning Up Cocktail Style

This is clearly a sign that there are too many days between cocktails for me, because I am in love with my new dish soap. Method's Lime + Sea Salt dish soap smells like a gin & tonic. Or a vodka tonic. Or a big martini with lots of olives. You can stock up at your local Target, as long as your local Target isn't the same as mine. I took one whiff and swept the entire shelf into my cart. Maybe I should just say enough with this no drinking while training for a marathon nonsense and have Mr. C&G pour me a drink. Or maybe I should put him and the kiddos on dish duty until November. . .

Monday, September 8, 2014

Shopping & Sand Dollars in Kittery

Right about now is when I realize we've made it to the start of school without any back to school clothes shopping. The little C&Gs entire wardrobe consists of sporty shorts and Bayern Munich or Red Sox jerseys with one or two collared shirts thrown in for good C&G measure. As soon at the weather cools down (any day now) they'll be left with nothing to cover their knees or elbows.

Getting the boys in the car to go clothes shopping is a nearly impossible task and I've only been able to whisk them down to the outlets in Kittery with the promise of a trip to Adidas and lunch at the drive thru McDonalds. But next time I've got a much better bribe to offer up, a trip to Fort Foster in Kittery Point where the warm(ish) beaches are filled with tide pools and old ruins to explore after I've forced them to try on clothes for an hour or two.

Fort Foster is a town owned park with three lovely beaches and views out into the Atlantic Ocean. Old military concrete bunkers and crab filled tide pools will keep your adventurers busy for hours and they'll totally forget the whole point of the road trip was to do a little back to school shopping. Fall might be on its way but September and October can have some truly beautiful days so don't write off a trip to the beach just because the kiddos have returned to their classrooms.

The shallow waters along the Piscataqua River are perfect for treasure hunting, we found lots of sea glass and amazingly intact sand dollars. Hermit crabs scuttle in and around the rocks doing a little house hunting, trying on new shells in search of a perfect fit. There are virtually no waves along the shore so the calm waters make it easy to see what's hiding on the bottom of the ocean.

The town charges $10 per car for entry to the park and you'll find well maintained bathrooms just above the middle parking lot. One beach is dog-friendly (as you go in it's the one to the right) so we headed to the left and found a spot on the rocks to lay down our towels. The boys were so busy in the water that we never made it to the many walking trails that trace the shoreline or to explore the battery where cannons kept watch in defense of the nearby Naval Shipyard. I'm sure they'll be eager to check it all out on our next visit.

Of course no C&G outing is complete until there is ice cream involved, and cocktails. At Stella's Sweet Cafe in nearby Kittery Foreside you can have them both. This adorable little shop near Wallingford Square serves food but we were there for their homemade gelato and ice cream. They've also got a liquor license so you can add a little prosecco to your dish of blood orange sorbetto or a scoop of vanilla to go with your Guinness. Combining cocktails and gelato is such a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) and it's the perfect way to end your shopping and beach adventure. Cheers!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cocktail du jour: Aperol Negroni

Cheers to an amazing summer! We have been out and about as much as possible these past few weeks, enjoying the beach, the lake, and eating way too much ice cream. Maine summers are short (I posted a photo of a red and orange leaf to Facebook on August 7th, yikes!) and we've been very lucky with some absolutely glorious weather. The little C&Gs haven't had any camps so it's been up to Mama C&G to keep everyone busy. Which means no time for blogging but all those past Maine posts have certainly come in handy!

I'm sad to report that there hasn't been a lot of cocktailing going on Chez C&G since we got back from our vacation. I'm training for a fall marathon, and if there's one thing I've learned from past experience (this will be my fourth) it's that drinking and running don't mix. It's too easy to hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off for my early morning run after a glass or two the night before. Of course I can't give it up totally (it is prime rosé season after all) so I've been sticking to just a cocktail or two on Saturday as a reward for completing my long, double-digit runs.    

With all week to think about what to order I'm uncharacteristically decisive when Mr. C&G poses the question around 4:00 on a Saturday. Aperol, and at that point I'd be happy with the orange flavored aperitif in a glass with a straw. Mr. C&G certainly wouldn't stand for that (and honestly it's not very good on its own), instead he's made me an Aperol version of the Negroni he's been drinking all summer long. It's light, tasty, and "Aperol Negroni" makes an excellent mantra when the running gets tough. Cheers!

Aperol Negroni
1 oz Aperol
1 oz vermouth (Cocchi)
1 oz Hendrick's Gin

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice
Stir and serve in a cocktail glass, either straight up or on the rocks

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Play Ball Or Drink Coffee In Cooperstown

If you have baseball fans in your house then chances are you will find yourself making a pilgrimage to Cooperstown at some point on your summer vacation. Families come from all over the country (as evidenced by the license plates up and down Main Street) to play on the Field of Dreams and visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Baseball is not my thing, unless it's a local Sea Dogs game and then I'm only there for the Sea Dog biscuits. But all three of my C&G boys are huge Red Sox fans so we made a second visit to Cooperstown a few weeks ago at the start of our summer road trip. They were beyond excited to see the new exhibit for the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox and I was more than happy to drop them off at the front door because I had a plan B thanks to my friend J.W.

Inside the museum be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt for the kiddos from the ticket desk. They have to follow the exhibits carefully (not a worry if they love baseball) and answer all the questions to win a prize from the gift shop. The boys loved the replica locker rooms and checking out all the old uniforms and memorabilia. The Babe's original Red Sox contract is there and "the curse" had to be explained to the little C&Gs who have seen three World Series titles in their lifetimes.

If, like me, you aren't so interested in obscure baseball trivia, stats, and old muddy cleats then leave the fans at the museum entrance (no worries about finding a parking spot) and drive over to the grand Otesaga Resort just a few streets away (plenty of free parking).

My friend and former local resident J.W. told me about the beautiful hotel and grounds and said it was the perfect place to spend a few baseball-free hours. Pull up a rocking chair on the Otesaga Resort's sweeping porch overlooking Lake Otsego and you'll quickly forget you are in the baseball capital of America. I sat there with my coffee (free and self serve in the lobby) for a few hours catching up on my vacation reading and watching sailboats drift by on the lake.

The Hawkeye Bar & Grill serves breakfast and lunch out on the porch and I'm going to keep this in mind for our next visit. I met the boys back in town for lunch on Main Street and it's always crowded with masses of hungry baseball players and their families in between games on Dreams Field.

Squeeze into a table at the Doubleday Cafe, their menu has something for everyone. Or if you're in a rush or on a budget walk over to Sal's Pizzeria and grab a few New York style slices to go. They have more seating out back on their covered patio and don't be afraid of the line, it moves very quickly.

The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open every day (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's) from 9:00 to 5:00 (open until 9:00 in the summer). Admission is $19.50 for adults and kids 13 and up, ages 7-12 are $7, and under 6 are free. We've never stayed in Cooperstown but I do know many hotels offer packages that include museum admission. The cozy fire pit and outdoor bar put the Otesaga Resort at the top of my list, if the boys can ever convince me to return for a third visit to Cooperstown.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cocktail du jour: Pink Pineapple Martini

We came across this drink on one of the many cocktail menus we saw on our recent travels and Mr. C&G and I both had a Homer Simpson "D'oh!" moment. How have we not made one of these at home? Usually I'm on a big pineapple and coconut kick (my new favorite is my last post, the St. Tropez Spritzer)  and it never occurred to me to add (or ask Mr. C&G to add) the raspberry flavor of Chambord. So you get one guess as to what I ordered on our first night back at home. Cheers!

Pink Pineapple Martini
2 oz vodka
1/2 oz Chambord
2 oz pineapple juice

Add all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice
Shake will and strain into a martini glass