Monday, March 31, 2014

Maine Monday: Play Ball!

It's hard to believe today is the opening day of baseball season when this is what it looked like around town this morning. I'll bet the Red Sox are very happy they're playing in Baltimore this afternoon instead of at Fenway, their uniforms probably don't fit over snow pants and ski jackets. Boston has a wintery mix today and you can see we're not doing much better a few hours north.

Both little C&Gs can't wait for school to be over today so they can watch their World Champion Red Sox take the field at 3:00. Opening day at Fenway is this Friday at 2:00 and I've got to make some room on the DVR (time to erase back episodes of Downton) so they won't miss the big return to the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park.

Thank goodness the Portland Sea Dogs still have another ten days before their home opener against the New Britain Rock Cats. I'm almost positive there will be no snow left on the baseball diamond, but this is Maine and you never know.

Our Portland Sea Dogs are the farm team for the Boston Red Sox and plenty of big names have run the bases at Hadlock Field. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Felix Dubront, and Kevin Youkilis have all worn the Sea Dogs uniform. Even Big Papi and Dice K have come to Portland as part of their rehab assignment. Which makes for some very exciting minor league games and you never know who will be next to get the call to wear the red jersey.

Slugger the Sea Dog mascot keeps the crowds entertained with favorites like the YMCA (how he doesn't fall off the players box I still can't figure out), and kids compete in musical chairs and the hot dog toss for prizes between innings. Young fans (and their parents) get a chance to run the bases after some games (Sunday, April 13th is the first for the 2014 season) and there's always a fun promotion or giveaway going on. Even if you're not a baseball superfan (like the 3 boys in my house) the games are always a good time.

Portland has a well deserved microbrew reputation and there are lots of local beer choices at the concessions stand. Shipyard Brewery has its own stand near the 3rd base line with burgers, sausage sandwiches, and other food favorites to go with your Export or Summer Ale. To the right of the entrance is the microbrew stand with Geary's, Sebago, and Boston fave Sam Adams just to name a few.    

The first home game is Thursday, April 10th at 6:00 (plenty of time to get homework done beforehand) and games go through Labor Day weekend. An afternoon or evening game is a great family adventure and tickets are a very family friendly price. Adult general admission is $10 and kids (16 and under) are only $5 (you can't even get a beer at Fenway for that), and that leaves you plenty of money for Sea Dog biscuits. The chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches are the reason why I always jump at the chance to join the baseball loving C&Gs at Hadlock Field.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cocktail du jour: The Bitter American

I can promise every cocktail on this blog is something I've had and loved. Mr. C&G and I have very different tastes but I always try whatever he's made in order to write about it (tough job, I know) and there are very few cocktails I won't drink. This one, however, is not my kind of beverage but I think it's incredibly interesting and given the right mood I could enjoy it.

Campari is not my thing, I prefer the sweeter tasting Aperol over the more bitter Italian apéritif. But mix it with bourbon and the citrusy Cocchi Americano and the bite mellows a bit, making it something I might drink if someone put it in front of me. It's been a harsh and bitter winter for most of us so I think I'll have Mr. C&G make one up for me and it will be a fitting way to toast the end of miserable March.

The Bitter American

1 oz bourbon (Bulleit)
1 oz Campari
1 oz Cocchi Americano

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice
Strain into a rocks glass and serve up or over ice

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Münchkins in Mürren at Hotel Edelweiss

Spring is my favorite season, and not just because it holds the promise that I will eventually see green grass on my lawn again. Everybody starts thinking about summer travel plans and I love it when friends come to me asking for ideas.

One friend is headed to Switzerland and was asking me for some kid-friendly fun in the Swiss Alps. There's no shortage of mountain adventures in the Swiss Alps but very few places to go when half your party has short little legs and you have no desire to scale the Matterhorn. The town of Mürren in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland is the perfect place for pint sized adventurers.

After lots of research, Mürren won out over the other towns in the shadows of Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau for its car-free streets, a playground in the clouds at 6,250 ft., and cable car ride to 9,744 ft. for James Bond martinis. You can read about our adventures in previous posts here and here. The little Swiss village high above the Lauterbrunnen valley is an ideal home base for a few days of relaxation and fresh mountain air for travelers of any age.

Hotel Edelweiss with dinner and a view
We spent three nights at the lovely and cozy Hotel Edelweiss right on the cliff overlooking the scenic Alps in one of their family suites. The new building has the nicer rooms and I used the "reservation request" form on their site to ask for a kid friendly room with a view for the four of us.

When charming owner Daniel showed us to our room, I quickly realized the view of the towering Alps and the 5,413 ft. drop down to the valley wasn't what I wanted to see out the window. I'm afraid of heights (but a good mom for planning a trip to the Alps) and he graciously switched us to the street side of the hotel. A room with a view sounds lovely when you're surfing the internet from your comfy couch at ground level but I was much happier sitting on the balcony watching the hikers walk by with their giant backpacks than looking out over the valley abyss.

Our corner junior suite came with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, giving us all plenty of space to spread out and relax. The design was totally Swiss, with clean and simple decor combined with blonde wood furniture. The boys each got their own bunk and our bathroom came with a huge tub, which is a rarity in European hotel rooms. The street side is a little noisier and you'll want to sleep with a window open for some fresh, cool, clean mountain air. But noisy just means you'll hear the tourists trekking back and forth along the main street. There are no cars allowed in Mürren, other than the occasional pint-sized delivery truck.

Hotel Edelweiss has one of the biggest outdoor terraces in town and when the sun is shining you'll want to join the crowds (hotel guest or not) for a hearty Swiss meal of rösti (hash brown potatoes smothered in cheese and topped with a fried egg, amazing) or wild game and a few glasses of German bier or weiswein.

Menus come in French, German, and English and there's a special children's menu with schweinrahmschnitzels and the more friendly sounding kinderpizza. The little C&Gs discovered ice cream is on the menu all day and made it their job to collect all the prizes that came with the novelty "surprise cups".

In my next Mürren post I'll share the other kid friendly restaurants around this tiny town, along with ideas for what to do between hearty breakfast buffets (the Swiss take their food as fuel for adventure very seriously) and afternoon cocktails.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Maine Monday: Paris in Portland

Paris in the springtime is always at the very top of my travel list. Actually Paris anytime of year holds the first spot on my wish list. We haven't been yet with the little C&Gs and I'm campaigning very hard for a trip in the not too distant future. Until then I've got the little C&Gs in "training" with occasional visits to one of our favorite French bistros, Petite Jacqueline.

Last night was the perfect excuse to have them don their collared shirts (un-ironed, because I'm still in vacation mode) for some frites, crème brulée and a showing of the movie A Monster in Paris. Petite Jacqueline has Sunday night movie nights a few times a year (not in the summer) with French themed (not always French) movies and last night was a special offering for les enfants.

Showtime started at 5:30 (for grown up movies showtime is at 8:00) and we arrived ahead of time to find their places decorated with little monster puppets, stickers, glow in the dark bracelets, bags of popcorn and a wine glass filled with marshmallows. How fabulous is that? It was so incredibly charming and Mr. C&G and I sat back with a cocktail (French 75 for me, bien sûr) and toasted to a fun evening ahead.

Petite Jacqueline put together a special kids menu with favorites like fromage grille (grilled cheese), poulet roti (grilled chicken), burger, or gnocchi and nothing was over $12 (the movie screening is free). The glass of marshmallows was emptied long before their chocolat chauds arrived but our adorable waitress brought out another cup along with some dessert menus.

We had the most delightful and super French evening and I can't recommend the Petite Jacqueline movie nights highly enough. Keep an eye out for announcements on their website or sign up for their newsletter (also on their website) and I'm hoping they do another kids night very soon. Even if they don't you should still give it a try with your kiddos, we took them last spring and they loved it. The movie is just a bonus because it keeps them occupied while you pretend you've traveled to Paris for a romantic weekend. A votre santé!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cocktail du jour: Margarita Madness

Palm trees and a swim up bar, what more does one need?
We are just home from a week in Cancun and it's been a very long travel day. But I couldn't let a Friday go by without a cocktail post. The drink of the week was anejo tequila and pineapple juice for Mr. C&G and margaritas, pina coladas, and mojitos for me. Somehow the tropical breezes distract me from my usual dislike of rum and tequila. Plus if you add enough coconut to anything I'll drink it. So cheers to the weekend! And unpacking. And laundry. And maybe a trip to the liquor store for some new additions to the bar.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cocktails, darling!

I did a little spring organizing over the weekend and you might notice a new tab above, Cocktail Hour. Mr. C&G was starting to lose patience with me when I'd ask him to make me something at cocktail hour. "You know, that drink you made a few weeks ago. I took a picture of it, hang on while I try to find it. It had vodka. And Grand Marnier. Or no, maybe it was the other one . . . " as you can imagine that's how most evenings go around here.

Now that I've been blogging for more than a year there have been over 50 cocktail du jour Fridays. That's a lot of searching, so I organized the cocktail recipes on their own page. You'll find them in chronological order and categorized by their predominant liquor. Rum and tequila drinks seem to be entirely lacking here at C&G, and while I can't stand the smell of either I'm sure I could find some willing research assistants to help me out. I've got a few friends in mind for the job, but if you've got something you love definitely let me know in the comments and I'll get Mr. C&G to try them out. Only after he's made me my cocktail, of course.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Maine Monday: David's Restaurant

Back when we first moved to Portland, people referred to bars and restaurants by what they used to be. Turnover was pretty frequent in the early eating days of our foodie town. "Meet us at the old Raoul's" or "date night at Gabriel's" would mean nothing to the restaurant groupies wandering the Old Port these days. But there are a few old timers still around, like the award winning Fore Street and the classic David's Restaurant in Monument Square.

David's is one of those places that's always consistently very good but we don't go to nearly enough. So last week we told the boys to put on their collared shirts and join us for a fancy night out. Of course fancy in Portland, Maine just means you've tucked in your plaid shirt but we wanted them to think it was a special treat and they would need to be well behaved.

There are eight seats in front of the kitchen at David's and we lucked out by grabbing four of them. The boys love to watch all the action and mayhem in the kitchen, and Mr. C&G and I love that they're so busy we don't need to keep them entertained. Orders are being barked out, flames are shooting up, garlic knots are getting tossed with olive oil and parmesan cheese. It's mesmerizing, as is their long list of cocktails and wines by the glass.

You might not think of David's as a kid friendly restaurant but we were very pleasantly surprised when the boys were presented with their own menus. Pastas and pizzas are there, as you'd expect, and you'll also find grilled steak, salmon, chicken, or shrimp and scallops on a skewer.

Even though the little C&Gs don't stray too far from their usuals it's always nice to have some different options. French fries and fresh fruit round out their plates, dessert is included and nothing is over $12. It's a total bargain and cheaper than hiring a babysitter. Plus they'll be so involved in what's happening behind the counter that you can pretend they don't belong to you and actually have your own conversation.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cocktail du jour: The Orange Trio 'Tini

This cocktail is summer in a glass. With the lovely scent of orange essence from the Grey Goose L'Orange (so much chicer when you add in the French accent) it's easy to pretend you're on a balcony in the South of France, surrounded by citrus trees and butlers named Jacques or Jean-Luc. Instead of bundled up against the returning polar vortex and piles of snow that just won't seem to go anywhere.

Vodka and sweet vermouth are an unusual combination, but in this case they work perfectly together. The Orange Trio 'Tini was inspired by all the Dubliners we've been drinking lately, substitute the orange vodka for the Irish whiskey and you've got something a little sunnier and lighter. You could call it a sunny Dubliner, but wouldn't that be an oxymoron?

Orange Trio 'Tini
2 oz orange vodka (Grey Goose)
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino)
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
Dash of orange bitters

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Surf's Up in Munich

We have some friends heading to Munich soon and I'm thinking of offering travel advice in exchange for a few souvenirs from the Sport Münzinger Munich on Marienplatz in downtown Munich. This football (soccer) superstore has three floors of everything you need to support your team, with a huge section dedicated to the reigning German champions and obsession of Little C&G, Bayern Munich. They're steamrolling their way through Europe and Little C&G might grow out of his jersey before the UEFA Champions League game in May.

I've already advised our friends to take Neuschwanstein Castle off their list. They had been planning on making the two hour drive from Munich to check it out, but after describing the whole experience (read my review here) they agreed a castle completed in 1884 wasn't the historic adventure they were looking for.

For a truly amazing and actual historic palace you don't need to leave Munich. Somehow the Residenz Museum didn't come up in their planning, but that's what I'm here for and now they're looking forward to touring the opulent home of Bavaria's last royal ruling family. You can check out our visit here and here, and I've also given them the name of the wine restaurant just outside the doors of the Residenz. There's only so much beer one can drink, even in the center of Munich.

One must-see attraction in Munich doesn't show up in most guidebooks and you certainly wouldn't know to Google "surfing" and "Munich" if you didn't read C&G. But hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean waves you'll find daredevils in wetsuits carrying their surfboards to ride the waves in the center of Munich and it's a sight you don't want to miss.

Water flows through the Eisbach canal into the Englisher Garden and the calm waters attract mostly naked (and sometimes totally naked, because you're in Europe) swimmers on warm days. At the southern tip of the garden the water rushes in just under the bridge on Prinzregentenstrasse and creates some incredible standing waves. It's purely experts only as they take turns leaping onto a wave and staying upright for as long as they can. When they tumble the current carries them down the stream into the calmer waters where they'll climb out and queue up for another run.

The Nationalmuseum/Haus der Kunst tram will drop you nearest the bridge and you can't miss the crowds watching the surfers. Blend in with the locals and bring picnic supplies and beverages to enjoy alongside the man-made canal. Or continue into the garden for something from one of the many biergartens. There aren't too many spots in the world where you can have schnitzel and raise your stein while watching the natives catching a few waves. Cheers to that, and now I'm headed to the bank to get some Euros for my Bayern Munich order.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Maine Monday: Practice Makes Perfect at the PSO

Open dress rehearsal for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
I am incredibly thankful for the extra hour of sunlight, but man I could use a nap! It was a tough morning and judging by the empty queue at school drop off I wasn't the only one struggling. I'm looking on the bright side now that the day is almost over and I'm ready to spring forward to cocktail hour.

Last Spring we attended an open rehearsal for a performance at the Portland Symphony Orchestra and the little C&Gs really enjoyed it. Of course we paired it with cocktails and dinner before at The Corner Room, which could explain why they've been asking when we'll do it again.

Waiting for Wynton Marsalis to take the stage
The Portland Symphony Orchestra at the Merrill Auditorium puts together some wonderful shows and Musical Director Robert Moody is very involved in bringing music to the community. KinderKonzerts and special Youth and Discovery Concerts are perfect for school age children and are timed to end just before the wiggles set in.

If you aren't quite ready to spend the money on show tickets (student admission is always discounted) a great option is to visit open dress rehearsals. You must register ahead of time (go here for directions) to attend but admission is free. They are recommended for kids grades 5 and up, but Little C&G still enjoyed it as a 2nd grader. Watching the musicians hard at work and in their jeans and tee shirts is a little more low key. Plus you won't feel bad leaving during intermission.

Bernstein by Bernstein (Leonard Bernstein was the composer of West Side Story) is the show this Saturday, open rehearsals start at 2:00 and in place of admission they are collecting non-perishable food items for the Good Shepard Food Bank. The next two upcoming open rehearsals appeal to my love of travel, with Spanish favorite Don Quixote May 19th and An American in Paris on June 16th. The Corner Room is walking distance from Merrill Auditorium and their pastas and pizzas always work as a bribe to get the little C&Gs to the symphony. Their long list of cocktails and vino do an equally good job for the adults.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cocktail du jour: A Tale of Two Classics

Here's a his and hers shot of cocktail hour the other night. I've been drinking Dubliners ever since we met the most charming Irish couple at a dinner last week. How we have lived in the same town and never crossed paths I really don't know. But they were so lovely and I could listen to their lilting voices over cocktails forever. Cheers to you, R and L!

Mr. C&G countered my Irish whiskey with a Scottish whisky, and Scotland has been all over the news lately with their bid for independence. Debates are raging over the pound, membership in the European Union, and North Sea oil but one thing I haven't heard mentioned is their biggest export. Whisky. Judging by the number of bottles Mr. C&G has collected I feel like we should be given an absentee ballot to vote on September 18th.

2 oz Irish whiskey
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino)
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
Dash orange bitters

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice
Stir and strain into an old fashioned glass or a martini glass
Garnish with a Luxardo cherry

Rob Roy
2 oz blended Scotch (Pinch)
1 oz sweet vermouth (Antica Formula Carpano)
Dash Peychaud bitters

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice
Stir and strain into an old fashioned glass or a martini glass
Garnish with a Luxardo cherry

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Culture & Cocktails, the Edinburgh Version

The only piece of furniture I could look at 
What do you get when you cross a colorful Italian knitwear designer with the very fashion forward Scots? Crazy Missoni print kilts at the luxury five star Hotel Missoni on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I was so excited for cocktails at this super chic lobby bar that I completely forgot Missoni's famous zig zag patterns totally trigger my migraines.

So I will tell you that there wasn't much lounging, just a quick guzzle and then we had to leave, but if you're a fan of Missoni you won't want to miss cocktail hour at this glittery and energetic bar. Hotel Missoni holds court at the prime crossroads of the Royal Mile and George IV Bridge, and the cocktails and people watching don't get any better in the center of the Old Town. Both little C&Gs were very sad when I dragged them out of their super comfortable and over designed Italian chairs after just one drink (and no snacks).

Hotel Missoni is the perfect destination after spending the day at the incredible (and free) National Museum of Scotland. Just a five minute walk from each other down the George IV Bridge, you'll get in quite a bit of sightseeing on your way between the two. Stop and rub the nose of the infamous Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier known for guarding his owners grave in 19th century Edinburgh.

There's a small storefront selling gelato next to a little cafe called The Elephant House. You may not recognize the name right away but chances are your avid readers will. It's the "birthplace" of Harry Potter and the coffee house where single mom J.K. Rowling would sit and write all those years ago.

For amazing burgers, milkshakes, and cocktails (without the brain scrambling Missoni prints) make Bar Kohl your destination for lunch, drinks, or dinner. The cocktail menu is longer than the food menu (my kind of place) but the cozy bar serves up delicious in-house made Aberdeen Angus burgers and there's a special menu for the kiddos. Big C&G loved his kid sized burger and ordered his chocolate milkshake with extra oreos.

Don't miss the chance to perfect your catapult
You'll want to keep track of all these food and cocktail options near the National Museum of Scotland because the museum is huge, it's free, and after an hour or two you're going to need a some fresh air. It's easy to get overwhelmed so be sure to stop by the information desk (in the lobby) to pick up a map for highlights of the collections. Up on the seventh floor is an outdoor terrace with an incredible view across Edinburgh and it's a great place to take a quick break.

As you enter the building, the right side covers five floors showcasing the history of Scotland, early people, land, kingdoms, the rise of industry, and life in the 20th and 21st centuries. Swords, shields, bloodied flags, and precious jewels are all on display and illustrate the complicated history of Scotland. We all thought this was the more interesting part of the museum and there are plenty of hands on activities for the kiddos to try.

The one and only Dolly. Yes, that Dolly. The cloned sheep.
On the left when you walk in is the soaring grand gallery and three floors of displays showing objects from world cultures, the animal kingdom, and science and technology. This is where you'll find the infamous cloned sheep, Dolly. Neither of the little C&Gs could understand what made this particular sheep so interesting and deserving of a custom taxidermy job. I'm sure my fuzzy memory of the big 1996 event didn't help either.

The National Museum of Scotland is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 (17:00) pm. Admission is always free and their website has some great resources for visiting with children. If your kiddos have their own iPhones, iPods, or iPads (or you don't mind them borrowing yours) you can download the Museum Explorer app for a special scavenger hunt. They have to find nine mystery objects around the museum and it's a great way to keep them entertained and engaged until you're ready to head out for cocktails.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Maine Monday: Art & Gelato

Chic hotel lobby? Nope, art museum stairs . . . 
Gelato has been the furthest thing from everyones mind this winter, but special flavors at Gelato Fiasco are always the perfect bribe for tempting the kiddos out of the house, no matter what the thermometer says. On my list of adventures for our staycation last month was a trip up to Brunswick for a change of scenery, some art, and some crazy Valentine's flavors at the Gelato Fiasco flagship store.

Bowdoin College Museum of Art is on Maine Street in Brunswick and has a nice variety of art, drawings, sculptures and objects to explore. If your kids aren't enthusiastic museum-goers, you can check out my creative ideas here for games to play and for ways of keeping them engaged. The museum is the perfect size and you can see everything in under an hour, which is just about the little C&Gs limit. Any more time and they start asking where we're heading for snacks and cocktails.

The Vogel Collection (which I wrote about here) won't be up on display until the summer but The Object Show: Discoveries in Bowdoin Collections (now through June 1st) has something for everyone to appreciate. Random and unrelated objects have been assembled by the school's faculty, students, curators and librarians.

Check out the watercolor box belonging to Winslow Homer, a shark tooth (and human hair, um, gross) sword, and an intricately carved Easter Island chess set. Don't miss the crayfish displayed in the case to your left as you walk in to the first gallery. I won't divulge the secret, but be sure to have your kiddos look very carefully before reading the description card. You'll be stunned.

Gelato Fiasco is a 15 minute walk from the museum and there's plenty of parking on that end of town if you don't feel like braving the cold and slushy sidewalks. Valentine's Day is tailor made for the creative minds at Gelato Fiasco. We had a hard time choosing between conversation hearts gelato, Professor Slughorn's love potion sorbetto, and the brilliantly named vanilla "Hey There Delilah by the Plain White V's" gelato.

My faves were the champagne sorbetto and the red wine sorbetto (of course). Big C&G fell in love with the box of chocolates gelato, which is exactly what it sounds like. They went to CVS, bought out the aisle of boxed chocolates, and then put it all through the gelato maker. Amazing! But the award for best gelato name has to be "red flannel cuddle blanket", with pieces of red velvet cake lovingly mixed in.

If you missed all the fun last month, don't worry, we've got St. Patrick's Day coming up (Guinness flavored gelato maybe? Please?) and Easter to look forward to in April. They list all their flavors daily on their website so be sure to check out what's in the cases. Right now they're honoring the very talented Harold Ramis (aka Egon Spengler) with "Cosmic Twinkie" gelato. That's sounds delicious, but I'm anxiously awaiting Easter for my favorite flavor. One word. Peeps!