Monday, December 22, 2014

Surviving The City, The Big Escape

With tourists five deep in front of the windows along Fifth Avenue the holidays are a perfect excuse to leave the city behind and venture off the island. I've got four great adventures to share, all just a MetroCard or MetroNorth ride away.

Take the 7 train out to Flushing, Queens for a little science and mini golf amongst the Cold War era missiles at the New York Hall of Science. Located in Flushing Meadow Corona Park (home to the 1964 World's Fair) the Hall of Science is the perfect place for your budding space explorers.

Search for life on Mars with the Mars Rover, climb aboard the Friendship 7 (a replica, of course), or play nine holes in Rocket Park. Sports fans can test their speed, agility, and learn about physics at the Sports Challenge exhibit. Step into the batting cage and throw your best fastball to a waiting Met (they play just a few blocks away) while the speed gun catches your game-winning pitch. Or build the day away in the new Design Lab, a totally hands-on space where the kiddos can make a creative mess all while learning to solve design challenges.    

What kid doesn't dream of adding in their own sound effects to their favorite television shows? Spend an afternoon at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens re-dubbing The Simpsons or doing your best Audrey Hepburn "the rain in Spain" dialog. I wrote about our adventure last spring (read it here) and it's just a M/R or Q/N train ride away. Time things right for cocktails at The Astor Room next door in the world famous Kaufman Studios and you just might see Big Bird on a break from The Street.

A ride on MetroNorth to Yonkers (get off at the Glenwood station) will bring you to the Hudson River Museum where you can explore the local ecosystem, reach for the stars in in the planetarium, or go back in time at the restored 19th century Glenview Mansion. The exhibits are small but the scenery is beautiful and it's just a little over 30 minutes from Grand Central. The planetarium has a good selection of shows throughout the day and it's cheap, just $4 for adults and $2 for kids.

For some swanky suburban strolling take the MetroNorth New Haven line to Greenwich and get a little culture in at the small but impressive (and kid friendly) Bruce Museum and lunch with the ladies at the Belgian chain Le Pain Quotidian. Across the street from the Bruce is a great playground, perfect as a bargaining tool if you want to get a little shopping done on Greenwich Avenue.

Exhibits change frequently at the Bruce Museum but they have an extensive collection of rocks and minerals that the little C&Gs love. If the security guard isn't busy ask him to poke around at the hermit crabs in the touch tank. He took a few slimy snails out so we could all get a closer look. Um, none for me thanks, I'd hate to ruin my appetite for the do-it-yourself hot chocolate and pain perdu up the street at Le Pain Quotidian.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Surviving The City, Holiday Edition

For the past three years we've headed to NYC for the winter break, staying at the very budget friendly Hotel Grandparents. They have the best cocktail bar in town and the most charming silver haired bartender. Mr. C&G definitely inherited his skills from his father (along with a full head of thick hair) and Papa C&G makes the best vodka martinis.

We just spent a week in Aruba with the C&G Grandparents and I think we'll give them a break this year. But I've learned a lot by visiting the city at the busiest time of the year and I'm going to share some tips and ideas for fun activities all while keeping your sanity. And finding cocktails.

High on your list of sights might be the Museum of Natural History, but with the Night At The Museum sequel coming out I would save this for another time. We had membership admission a few years ago and were able to skip the line that snaked down the stairs, up Central Park West and over West 81st Street (no exaggeration). Once inside the crowds made it impossible to see anything so we beelined for the Columbus Avenue exit and made it to Sarabeth's (Amsterdam between 80th & 81st) for food and Bloody Marys.

If you're up for braving the Metropolitan Museum of Art read my review from our visit last spring, the museum is so big (and admission price is only a suggestion, a little known fact) that it's easy to pick out a few things and then head out for snacks. The Temple of Dendur is a favorite and with the light streaming in from the wall of windows it never feels overwhelming. Plus there's plenty of spots to rest tired little legs (or yours) after some hieroglyphics deciphering.

Overlooking Madison Square Park (and convenient to Eataly) is the incredibly interactive Museum of Mathematics. Check out the past posts here and here for reasons why you need to spend a day amongst the polygons and tessellations (plus you'll sound extra smart). The boys love MoMath and with so many stations to check out it never really feels claustrophobic. Eataly can get just as crowded as the Natural History Museum so either stop there first and carb up or go after the lunch crowd for pizza and a glass or two of vino. La Pizza & La Pasta (a kid favorite) opens at 11:00 and it's at the opposite end from the 5th Avenue entrance. (fyi Shake Shack in the park is closed for renovations)

If your brood insists on checking out the lights and insanity of Times Square know that some calm and cocktails are only an elevator ride away. Just maybe not on December 31st. The Renaissance Hotel (48th St. at 7th Ave) has a 2nd floor lounge with cozy couches and floor to ceiling windows. Yes the cocktails start at $15, but I promise you ten minutes in Times Square and you'll be ready to pay double that for a quiet place to sit down. Order some pretzels and chips for the kiddos and everybody will be happy.

No trip to the city is complete (according to Big & Little C&G) without a trip to FAO Schwartz. I'm not sure why because the boys rarely buy anything (I guess it's the equivalent of my window shopping along Madison Avenue) but I don't argue because the bar at the Four Seasons is only two blocks away.

The line in front of FAO Schwartz moves fast and soon you'll be surrounded by life-sized stuffed animals. Lego fans should head right for the escalator to the 2nd floor and keep walking to the north eastern most corner. I always give the kiddos a 15 minute limit and a $10 budget before we escape to the bar at the Four Seasons. They'll stay occupied in the cushy banquets (sneak in the 58th St. entrance) with whatever cheap trinket they've bought while you enjoy the free snacks and overpriced (but always delicious and they leave you the shaker) cocktails.

Stay tuned for part two of Surviving The City, with four great adventures just a train ride away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weatherproofing Your Cocktails

Warm your cockles with Cognac and Chambord
Yes, the weather outside is frightful but even a fire inside can't make it delightful. Normally I love a good heavy Scottish style rain, if only it weren't sitting on the several inches of ice covering our driveway.

I came back from Aruba fully intending to take a break after all those frozen cocktails one must drink when one is in the Caribbean. No more drinks for me, at least until the weekend (save the detoxing for January). My plan lasted only 20 minutes, coming home from the airport we found our driveway unplowed and our heat not working. Mr. C&G silently handed me a wee dram of whisky after the boys were tucked into bed (buried under mountains of down blankets) and hasn't mentioned my lack of willpower since.

The forecast calls for a Nor'Easter
We're still having some ongoing heat issues but at the moment all is warm and toasty Chez C&G, if a bit stormy outside. I've got four cocktail recipes to post tonight, all with weather related titles, to ward off any chill as we swing into the holiday season. With a nor'easter howling outside it's only fitting that my cocktail glass is filled with Irish whisky, some Cherry Heering, and a splash of ginger beer, also known as The Nor'Easter.

I'm also researching a possible trip in the near future to France (for C&G or a friend, I won't divulge) so next up in the brandy snifter will be the Chilly Parisian. For something a little more tropical grab the Grand Marnier (flavored with oranges from the Caribbean) and mix it with coconut vodka for a Stormy Coconut. Or if you're more in the mood for a taste of the Highlands add some blended whisky to the Grand Marnier for a Stormy Scot.

Nor'easter: 1 1/2 oz Irish whisky, 1/2 oz cherry Heering, splash of fresh lime juice, ginger beer. Mix the first three in a glass filled with ice, stir and top with ginger beer.

Chilly Parisian: 2 1/2 oz brandy, 1/2 oz Chambord, mix in a glass filled with ice and strain into a brandy glass.

Stormy Coconut: 2 oz coconut vodka, 2 oz Grand Marnier, 1/2 oz pineapple juice, 1/4 oz fresh lime juice. Add all to a cocktail glass filled with ice, stir and enjoy.

Stormy Scot: 2 oz blended whisky, 1/2 oz Grand Marnier, 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino), dash of orange bitters. Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Feeling Thankful

We have just returned from a week away in Aruba and I'm having
a very hard time adjusting to the sudden arrival of winter. No more
dinners on the beach with our toes in the sand or frosty cocktails
delivered just in time to watch the sun set over the ocean. It's back
to reality, shoveling, and making dinner. I'll be posting some great 
getaways and tasty cocktails in the upcoming weeks, so cheers
and all the best to you and your family this holiday season! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

On Sunday I Ran the City

With the howling winds and the deafening cheers from thousands of spectators and volunteers I finished my second New York City Marathon on Sunday. My three boys and their grandparents deserve their own medals for covering more miles than I did as they zipped around the city to hand off power bars, gels, and give much needed hugs and high-fives.

Runners from all over the globe descended on NYC last weekend in their matching tracksuits (yes, you Italians) and their crazy costumes (super heroes and a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup) to run the world's largest marathon. 50,564 of us crossed the finish line in Central Park, powered through the five boroughs by the energy and enthusiasm of total strangers shouting our names and encouraging us from the sidelines.

Volunteers braved the cold and blustery conditions (without the benefit of running to stay warm) to hand out countless little green cups of water and gatorade, bananas, and power bars all with the biggest smiles on their faces. New York's Bravest and Finest were in full force ensuring the safety of the 26.2 mile long street party from Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island to the grandstands of Central Park.

From the gospel choirs in Brooklyn to the crowds five deep along Fifth Avenue there is truly nothing like running through the streets of New York City. My deepest gratitude goes out to all the volunteers and support crew, they are the reason why more than 150,000 people apply every year to be one of the lucky few.

In the past 14 weeks I've run more than 500 miles, gone through three pairs of my beloved Saucony Kinvaras, and declined countless cocktails all in preparation for running NYC. Now that it's over I'm happily re-hydrating properly, martini glass in hand with my still sore marathon feet propped up on the couch. We have some very big trips coming up in the next year and Mr. C&G has reminded me I can't use the "gone running" or "gone napping" excuse anymore. It's time to get back to research, planning, blogging, and cocktailing. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cocktail du jour: The Royal Apple

Chances are this time of year you've got baskets full of apples and a fridge stocked with a jug or two of apple cider. So why not make a cocktail out of your fall bounty? I always get caught up in my enthusiasm for fall and forget I'm the only one in the house who likes to drink apple cider. Mr. C&G is tired of finding the ballooned-out jugs in the back of the fridge so this is a great way to use up your cider before it turns to vinegar.

Apple cider syrup is easy to make, just boil a cup of cider until its reduced by half (or cheat and stop by local favorite Vena's Fizz House for a bottle of their house made syrup). Store it in the fridge until cocktail hour and then use it to add some fall flavor and sweetness to your favorite blended whisky.

Royal Apple 
1 oz blended Canadian Whisky
1 oz apple cider syrup
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
dash orange bitters

Add all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice
Shake and strain into a martini or coupe glass
Garnish with an apple slice

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cocktails at 9,744ft.*

James Bond is the current Halloween costume of choice for Big C&G, and as I was doing my 007 research (martini in hand, of course) I was reminded of our trip to the top of the Alps for a drink in Blofelds hideaway. Enjoy this past post while I figure out how to make Big C&G look like 007 in his tuxedo and not just a character from Men in Black. Cheers!

Yes, those are real clouds out the window
* But who's counting . . .
Notorious playboy spy and serial cocktailer James Bond may have enjoyed martinis all over the globe but there's only one place in the world you can order yours "shaken and not stirred" in the lair of an evil villain.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed at the top of Schilthorn, the mountain a few thousand feet above the alpine village of Mürren. Bad guy Blofeld and his lovely lady killers used the newly constructed (1968) restaurant Piz Gloria as their secret hideaway high up in the Alps. Spectacular chase scenes have George Lazenbys' James Bond skiing full speed down the mountain, with avalanches and snipers nipping at his heels. The movie was filmed on location around the Lauterbrunnen Valley and Piz Gloria remains a favorite tourist attraction of Bond fans from around the world.

The tiny little dots above the blonde head? Murren.
Once you've conquered your fear of heights (or not, as in my case), what's a few thousand more feet in the interest of cocktails? Piz Gloria is open to the public year round with food and drinks for tourists and brave hikers, from 8:00 to 5:00. For the truly insane, Schilthorn is open to daredevil skiers during the winter months and it's the finish line of the grueling Inferno Triathlon in early August.

It takes two additional cable car rides from Mürren (elev. 5,413 ft.) to get to 9,744 ft. The little C&Gs were so excited about the ride up into the clouds and their enthusiasm is the only thing that got me into the cable car. That and the promise of a very large martini glass filled with vodka at the top. Honestly they should set up a drinks cart at the ticket booth, I would have handed over thousands of euros just for a little liquid courage.

Little C&G not liking the sudden drop in temp
We watched On Her Majesty's Secret Service with the boys before we left home (it's pretty harmless, just long) and they loved seeing the movie location in real life. There's no Joanna Lumley hanging around the lounge but the interior is still pretty groovy. A new interactive Bond exhibit opened last summer and a 360º theater shows Bond clips and aerial shots of the mountain, just in case you kept your eyes closed when you got out of the cable car.

The restaurant rotates (thankfully very slowly) so no matter where you're sitting you'll get a spectacular view. The cocktail menu is filled with Bond references, so it's no surprise Mr. C&G went with a classic martini. I had to order the Bond Girl, a bubbly Prosecco tribute to the lovely Diana Rigg and the only Mrs. Bond in fictional history. The little C&Gs ordered ridiculously expensive orange sodas to go with their fancy Swiss desserts, and after a swing through the Bond themed gift shop we were ready to head back down the mountain.

The name's Gelato. Cocktails and Gelato.
The cable car station is located right in the center of Mürren and you'll want to check the weather forecast and the webcam at the ticket booth before your ascent. If you're going to be up that high you'll want to have clear skies, and wear as many layers as possible. It's cold.

Once the clouds clear you really can see forever, and it's absolutely beautiful. Had we been a little braver we could have walked out on the ridge of the summit. The little C&Gs loved their trip to the top of the world and begged us to go back up again the next day. I am massively acrophobic, so I certainly was not up for a repeat performance. As the cable car descended to Mürren I started feeling much better and 6,000 ft didn't seem so scary. Or possibly my cocktails were finally kicking in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

On The Road To Peace In Oslo

We are just back from a trip to Charlotte, NC where we celebrated the wedding of a very dear friend and his lovely bride. Congrats A&W! Over the weekend the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize were announced and I was so excited to hear Malala Yousufzai and Kailash Satyarthi will be heading to Oslo to collect their awards in December. I'm rerunning this post from last October, where I had my fingers crossed for the incredible Malala. I'm so thankful this young lady has been recognized for her courage and for the work of Mr. Satyarthi in protecting the rights of children in India. Cheers to them both.   

Oslo City Hall
Tomorrow the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Norway, and I hope with all my heart that it goes to the amazing and courageous Malala Yousufzai. She would be the youngest winner in the 112 year history of the award, and her message of peace and education is inspiring to us all.

The award ceremony will take place on December 10th, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death, in Oslo City Hall. It's a very austere building, built in the first half of the 20th century. From the outside it looks like an abandoned brick power station from the 1930s, but inside the elaborate and colorful murals brighten up what could otherwise be a very serious and dour government building.

Oslo City Hall is open to the public at no charge and worth a stop for its vibrant Socialist style murals and cavernous rooms. Let the kids stand in the awe inspiring main hall and tell them who has been there before them. Barak Obama in 2009 and Nelson Mandela in 1993 are just a few recipients to have accepted their Nobel Peace Prize here.

The upstairs rooms are also open to the public and the kiddos will love climbing the long staircase and poking their heads through the window openings to wave at you down below. Follow them up and check out the display of dinner menus and place settings from past Nobel Peace Prize award banquets.

The colorful murals everywhere depict the struggles and triumphs of the Norwegian people. Norway is virtually a classless society, and the paintings all illustrate the glory of the working people. Agriculture is also a big part of Norwegian life, and there are many murals showing the struggle against the harsh land. We certainly were not up on our Norwegian history, so we kept the boys entertained by making up stories to go along with the pictures.

The murals in the great hall are a bit more serious in nature. They tell the story of World War II in Scandinavia, and some of the images are very powerful (but not scary). Certainly a fitting decor for the room where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony takes place. Free guided tours in English are available daily, check the schedule at the information desk.

Perfect couches for cocktails with a view
When you get hungry head out of City Hall towards the trendy waterfront neighborhood Aker Brygge (go towards the water and bear right). We took advantage of the gorgeous summer day and ate lunch on the floating tugboat restaurant Lekter'n.

The food wasn't great, but the view was spectacular. Most of the crowd was practically horizontal on the comfy lounge chairs around the bar, but we had two hungry kiddos so we opted for a traditional table and four chairs. After lunch stroll along the waterfront, and you can't get too far without bumping into a busy Mövenpick ice cream truck. I'm sure they do a good business year round, Norwegians seem to love their ice cream.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Birds, Beetles, Botanicals & Blast Off in Montreal

Would you call that Spanish Canadian Moss?
With four of Montreal's biggest attractions centered around Olympic Parc you've got to do a little planning ahead to avoid some major meltdowns. The little C&Gs (ages 9 & 12) are usually good for up to two hours on any of our adventures before we need to move on for a change of scenery, some snacks, and cocktails (for us) & gelato. So you'll be happy to know that your tickets for the Biodome, Insectarium, Botanical Gardens, and Planetarium are good for up to 31 days, making it easy to stay flexible as the weather and your kiddos' moods change.

The Biodome and Botanical Gardens are located in Maisonneuve Park (get off at the Pie-X Metro stop) and the Biodome, Planetarium, and Olympic Tower are a twenty minute walk away in nearby Olympic Parc (get off at the Station Viau Metro stop). Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and this eyesore of 70's concrete architecture is now a prime destination for sports, music, and culture.

In this residential neighborhood a 25 minute Metro ride from downtown Montreal (on the green line) there aren't many options when your crew gets hungry. The Botanical Gardens has a cafe serving sandwiches, salads, pastries and coffee and it's your best bet before making the ten minute walk over to the Insectarium (just in case you lose your appetite after seeing all those bugs).

Les grilled-cheese and a glass of wine, in the Metro
The Biodome and the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium are next to each other and the cafe at the Planetarium serves sandwiches, salads, and pastries in the bright and modern lobby. But an even better option awaits you in the nearby Olympic Stadium (a five minute walk down the main avenue towards Metro Pie-X) at Station In Vivo.

This European style cafe serves breakfast pastries, grilled sandwiches and salads, all made from local ingredients. There's a full menu of espresso drinks and if you're ready for something a little stronger they also serve wine and beer. Long cushioned benches line the windows and your kiddos will love watching the commuters come and go from the underground entrance to the Metro stop.

Exploring the Canadian Rainforest
If you have the time you should split your visit across two days because it's easy to get overwhelmed with all four sights to take in. The Botanical Gardens and Insectarium can be done together and we spent most of a day there. The Biodome and the Planetarium could be done in half a day if you aren't interested in adding in the two shows at the Planetarium. Exhibits and hands on activities are free inside the ultra modern Planetarium building and you only need a ticket to go into the theater.

Tickets and packages for any of the four attractions can be bought at the admissions desks in all of the locations so there's no need to buy them online ahead of time. My next Montreal post will share the must-see highlights from all four destinations around Olympic Parc. But by far my best piece of travel advice is a glass of wine and some chocolate chaud at Station In Vivo. Wine in a Metro station. I love Canada!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Portland Hunt & Alpine Gets Our Vote

Portland Hunt & Alpine celebrated their first birthday earlier this month by throwing themselves one very fun cocktail party. Expertly crafted punch cocktails and Nordic inspired nibbles made up the special celebratory menu and we ended the evening with a champagne toast and platters of Holy Donuts. Now that's how you throw a birthday party!

We aren't the only fans of this cocktail hot spot, Bon Appètit magazine named Portland Hunt & Alpine one of the 5 Best New Cocktail Bars in America. That's very high praise for this newcomer and certainly well deserved. The lads behind the bar are expert mixologists and they're always very happy to help you navigate the menu of cocktail classics and creative libations. Just tell them what you like and they'll find you a perfect match. Their barrel aged Negroni is one of Mr. C&Gs favorites and I love the Gin Gin Mule.

Don & Little C&G give their vote
Food & Wine magazine has recently nominated Portland Hunt & Alpine for their People's Best New Bars: Northeast list and you can cast your vote at the Food & Wine website until Thursday, October 2nd. Click here now and go give them a vote, they're up against some tough big city competition, and it would be great to see Maine at the top of the list.

Even Little C&G gives Hunt & Alpine his two thumbs up and he's a tough and experienced critic. Check out my past post and see how this cocktail hot spot isn't off limits if your kids are tagging along. The bartenders make a mean Shirley Temple and be sure to order up some pretzels and popcorn (ask for it light on the green chile). Good luck Portland Hunt & Alpine! Vote here

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cocktail du jour: Rusty Nail

Well the Scots didn't win independence, the seasons have officially changed, the bottles of Aperol have been put away until spring, and I haven't been blogging. Many apologies but I'm at the peak of my marathon training program. Which means if I'm not out running twenty miles at a time then I'm either eating or sleeping. And by eating I mean making my daily trip into Portland for gluten free donuts at Holy Donut (seriously, their dark chocolate sea salt donut would turn you into a runner too).

As Scotland went to the polls last Thursday we had to raise a toast with a thoroughly Scottish cocktail. Cocktails in Scotland usually come as a dram or two of single malt in a glass (they don't mess around) but the Rusty Nail is a true classic combining a blended whisky with the honey sweetened malt Drambuie.  Mr. C&G made a his and hers version, he likes his whisky on the smokier side (with The Peat Monster from Compass Box) but I'm a fan of the smoother Dimple Pinch. If you're not a huge lover of whisky this is a great drink for the colder weather, Drambuie mellows out the usual bite and makes it a very drinkable cocktail.

I bet he voted yes for independence
Rusty Nail
2 oz blended Scotch whisky
1/2 oz Drambuie

Add ingredients into a cocktail glass filled with ice
Stir and enjoy

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

Friday, August 8, 2014

Our 1,320 Mile Roadtrip

With the last few weeks of summer ahead of us I have a bunch of friends trying to squeeze in some quick and easy road trips before the madness of sports and school takes over our lives again. Cooperstown and Canada are at the top of their lists so I thought I'd do a short post on our recent itinerary and how we worked it all in. 

Next week I'll get the important stuff up on the blog, like where to eat and drink with your kiddos on all those stops. But right now I would totally jump in the car and head back to Montreal for the dreamy, flaky, perfect croissants at Maison Christian Fauer in Old Montreal. Monsieur Chef Fauer holds the prestigious title of M.O.F. (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) from the French government for his pastry skills and you can't get more authentic than that. So there's just a taste (sorry, pun intended) of what I have for you in the weeks to come.

Ithaca and Toronto were our big destinations for this trip, all of the other stops were convenient and scenic ways to break up some long drives. We started out visiting family in Albany and made a stop in Cooperstown on our way to Ithaca. A few families are trying to fit a visit in to the Baseball Hall of Fame before September so I'll get that post up early next week.

Ithaca is gorges, as they say, and we spent a week doing family adventure camp with Cornell University. You don't have to be an alumni, we found it because Mr. C&G wanted to take their famed wine course. It was sold out by the time I tried to register in early spring and somehow convinced him to do the "Thrills and Skills" Outward Bound style course instead. I did conquer my fear of heights by climbing out a window and rappelling down the Cornell football stadium, but that's a post for another time.

Once you're in that part of New York State you might as well continue driving three hours north to see the natural wonder of Niagara Falls. We stopped halfway to spend the weekend with my BFF in Rochester for some post adventure camp chilling out and to do laundry. Niagara Falls is like the Vegas of the north and I've got some great sight seeing tips to share that will help you avoid the crowds and the chain restaurants. 

Another hour and a half in the car and you can be in the bustling steel and glass metropolis of Toronto. We were there for a week with the C&G grandparents so you know there was a lot of cocktailing going on. Grandma C&G tracked down a sleek rooftop bar in the shadows of all those tall bank headquarters, perfect for people watching and very kid friendly. Toronto is a great city for families and we did a lot of very thorough research to keep everyone happy and well-fed.

You could do the five hour drive from Toronto to Montreal in a day but we stopped halfway in Kingston, Ontario for two nights. It's the gateway to the Thousand Islands region and the waterfront town was very reminiscent of our own Portland, Maine. Sailing on Lake Ontario is a big thing in Kingston, our hotel was filled with Canadian teens competing in sailboat races. 

Montreal was the big finale to our road trip and it's always one of my favorite places to visit. I didn't do much planning ahead (big mistake on my part) so I learned a lot from our random wanderings. My best discovery (other than the croissants of Maison Christian Fauer) was a chic sandwich shop that served wine and was housed in a Métro stop a short walk from four of Montreal's biggest attractions. Cocktails & Gelato will be sharing it all with you in the weeks to come, so grab a cocktail (new recipe tomorrow) and stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Best Boozy Gift Or Maine Souvenir

If you don't have a beach or a lake house it's not too late to find a friend with one and invite yourself over in these last few weeks of summer. Just don't arrive empty handed. You know if we're coming (KC, I'm looking at you girl!) we'll bring the booze and the bar tending skills, but I also like to wrap up a few nice gifts for the host and hostess.

As the writer of a cocktail and travel blog I always feel a bit of pressure to up my gifting game, and thanks to our local Vina's Fizz House I've got the perfect present. Vena's Moonshine in a Mason Jar, prepped with dried fruits and spices and just waiting for you to add vodka, gin, rum, or tequila. Include a bottle of local booze (something from Cold River Vodka or Maine Craft Distilling) in your little gift bag and you're practically guaranteed a return invite for a weekend (or a week) next summer.

There are lots of flavors to choose from and at $12.50 a jar you can include more than one. Pirate's Punch would be a great gift for a rum lover (PW, all for you!) and the Blueberry Smash brings a taste of Maine to your host's bar. Chile peppers, cocoa powder, and habanero sugar heat up the South of the Border blend for awesome margaritas and if you can get past the arctic chill of the water you just might think you're on a beach in Mexico.

If you're here on vacation in our beautiful state or picking up your kiddos at summer camp be sure to stop in at Vena's Fizz House on Fore Street (read about our past visit here). Their do-it-yourself infusions make the perfect Maine souvenir, and with no liquids involved they're easy to pack in your carry-on and won't slow you down in the airport security line. Vena's also has their own Etsy shop where you can order online, just in case you need to restock when you get home. Cheers!