Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cocktail du jour: The Lilac

After my recent run of St. Germain cocktails we had just a few drops left in the trés French fluted glass bottle but not quite enough for another round. Mr. C&G found this recipe on one of his favorite (and indispensable) cocktail websites, Kindred Cocktails and it calls for just a teaspoon of the elderflower liqueur. The Lilac is very light and ladylike and makes for a nice counterbalance to all the manly World Cup action I've been sitting in front of every day. Not that I'm complaining, of course. . .

The Lilac
1 oz gin
2/3 oz Cocchi Americano (or Lillet Blanc)
1 t St. Germain
Dash of orange bitters

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice
Stir and strain into a coupe (or martini) glass

Thursday, June 26, 2014

World Cup Media Lockdown

Little C&G opted to go to soccer camp today instead of staying home to watch the World Cup at noon. Of course he wouldn't give up a day on the pitch for anything, but it means I've got the impossible task of trying to avoid any mention of the big game and the results. We'll watch as soon as we get home so in the meantime I'm turning off my laptop, not looking at my iPhone, and I'll be plugging my ears as I wait at pick up. 

Little C&G, my hard core Bayern München fan, is hoping for a tie today so he doesn't have to feel too guilty about picking sides. I thought that was very diplomatic of him, but you know which team he'll be cheering for this afternoon. Game on! #miasanmia

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer: Sports, Cocktails, Repeat

I hope they washed the whites first
Honestly, between the World Cup and Wimbledon, how am I ever going to get off my couch in the next few weeks? I'm kind of not joking. . .

Little C&G and I may have a full week of World Cup elimination games to keep up with but Big C&G is demanding equal screen time to watch his favorite players battle it out on the tennis courts. It's only fair that I spend quality time with each of my little C&Gs and their favorite sports, even if it means I never see the light of day.

When we saw Centre Court at the All England Lawn & Tennis Club last summer there wasn't a single blade of green grass left in the stadium. It was just over a week after Andy Murray had his historic win and the the grounds crew had already ripped up the court in preparation for 2014. It's nice to see they managed to grow the grass back in time for Andy to win his first match today.

Big C&G has high hopes that his favorite, Roger Federer, will make it to the final spot on the big board and oust Andy Murray's tennis whites in the Wimbledon Museum trophy case. Check out our visit to Wimbledon and the museum from this past post with lots of fun activities to keep even a non-tennis fan (like Little C&G) happy. Plus I've got a great place to go for lunch after you've toured the famous grounds, but you might want to wait until July 7th to make your visit.

With the start of summer, the start of Wimbledon, and the end of the England team at the World Cup it's only fitting to be drinking a gin and tonic these days. Really it doesn't get any simpler, tonic, 2(ish) ounces of gin, a squeeze of lime and stir. Plus I can make it myself between commercial breaks or at half time. I'd hate to disturb Mr. C&G during the day with a drink request, he might discover we're all still in our pajamas and dialing for delivery pizzas.

Friday, June 20, 2014

World Cup Cocktails: France

As excited as I am for my dear Costa Rican friends (and our neighbors J&C), their victory means my boys from England are headed to the airport for the next flight home. Although with all the pressure suddenly off their shoulders I'm sure they'll be happy to stay and play in Brazil for a few more days.

My other disappointment of the day was the Swiss and their dramatic loss to the French. Little C&G sat next to me cheering on France even though his Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribery is out with a back injury. My cocktail may have been trés French but I was rooting for Switzerland to win.

Both teams still have a chance to move to the next round even though the Swiss were clearly outplayed by Les Bleus. I figured with this cocktail I was ready to toast a French speaking winner, and my fingers are crossed they both make it to the next round.

St-Germain Cocktail
2 oz Prosecco (or champagne)
1 1/2 oz St. Germain
Club soda

Fill a cocktail glass with ice, add prosecco
Add St. Germain and top with club soda
Stir and à votre santé

Thursday, June 19, 2014

World Cup Cocktails: England

A Pimm's Cup is more suited to Royal Ascot than the World Cup but it was my cocktail du jour as we settled in to watch the England vs. Uruguay game this evening (yes, we recorded it and successfully avoided finding out the score). With only two ingredients it's the perfect cocktail to mix up in a flash and not miss any of the action. It's not looking good for my Three Lions but Little C&G tells me they still have a slight possibility of moving forward. He's in charge of all things World Cup so I'm going to defer to him on this one. In the meantime I'll keep toasting my boys with a British bevie or two.

Pimm's Cup
2 oz. Pimm's No. 1
Ginger ale

Pour Pimm's into a cocktail glass filled with ice
Top off with ginger ale and a squeeze of lime
Stir and garnish with a cucumber stick


Monday, June 16, 2014

Let The Summer Begin

Summer vacation has officially started. The boys got out of school last week and our crazy nightly sports schedule came to a very sudden and screeching halt. We all woke up on Saturday with no particular place to be, no frantic dash to the laundry room for clean uniforms (usually to zero success), and no reason to pick up a pizza to eat in the back of the car between games and practices.

Summer is starting off on the couch for us here at C&G HQ, thanks to World Cup fever which started Thursday night with the kickoff in Brazil. Little C&G is tracking every team's progress and we're watching as many games as we can to see who will make it to the next round. Today was the first of many big ones, with Germany and six players from Little C&Gs beloved FC Bayern Munich up against the golden boy Christiano Ronaldo and his Portugal team. There was no contest, Ronaldo's amazing abs were useless against the German squad and for once he didn't bother taking his shirt off.

In between games today Little C&G and I took advantage of the beautiful Mackworth Island Trail just a short drive outside of Portland. It's an easy 1.25 mile loop with spectacular views and a favorite of local families. The trail is mostly flat with a few steep sets of stairs down to the water where you can search for sea glass and shells.

Benches line the trail and offer perfect spots to take in the view with an Oreo or two (Little C&Gs preferred hiking snack). I reminded Little C&G to not eat too many of his provisions, he packed enough snacks to last us a few days should we get stranded on the "island". Mackworth Island is connected by a short bridge to the mainland and is just a few minutes drive from the best ice cream served in a gas station (not as weird as it sounds, I promise!).

Drive north along Route 1 to Waldo's Gas Station and you'll find Super Scoops serving up a long list of fun flavors like moose tracks and Maine blueberry. It's a popular spot all season long and if you're visiting Portland you might not know about our two local favorites, Mackworth Island and Super Scoops. Add them to your list and if there isn't a game on we'll venture out for some fresh air, a quick sugar boost, and to say hi.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ferraris For Father's Day

Many hair colors ago . . . I drove a Ferrari
In another lifetime I'd be a race car driver. Or a luxury sports car designer. I love cars. When I was little I had a huge collection of Matchbox race cars instead of dolls. I had my red Ferrari 328GTS all picked out for my sweet 16 and was devastated when I woke up that morning and there was no shiny new Italian sports car in the driveway (shocking, I know). Instead there was an extra set of keys to the powder blue Nissan Stanza wagon on the kitchen table. Devastated, I tell you.

A few years ago Mr. C&G bought me the most perfectly amazing Mother's Day present, an afternoon of driving my dream cars down long winding country roads in rural New York and New Jersey. Gotham Dream Cars runs half day tours, exotic car rentals, and white knuckle laps around a race track in locations throughout the country. If your father or the father of your kiddos is a car fanatic this is one awesome gift, with a bonus for you because you get to ride along in the passenger seat. Just don't forget a stylish head scarf and Jackie O style sunglasses.

Switching drivers in our super car convoy
Book the Dream Car Tour and six of the world's most expensive cars will be yours for a morning or afternoon. The selection changes depending on their inventory but on my drive I was behind the wheel of a Ferrari F430, Mercedes Benz SL65 AMG, Lamborghini Murciélago, Lamborghini Gallardo, Bentley Continental GT, and the Porsche 911 GT3. I would trade in my Volvo for any one of them in a heartbeat, without a care as to where the rest of my family (or any groceries) would fit.

Rarely do you get a chance to sit in any one of those (much less six) without winning the lottery, selling your start up (or travel blog, cough, cough), or shacking up with a superstar athlete. When you arrive at the Gotham Dream Cars HQ you'll be given an in depth orientation on the cars and the rules of the road and the importance of safety. They are all incredibly powerful machines with costly maintenance and repairs so you'll want to pay close attention. A simple scrape of the bumper could cost more than a year of college tuition (just kidding, sort of).

Sing it with me "I'm still Jenny from the block"
Instructors will be in a lead car and a chase car to ensure the group stays together on the adventure and sticks (roughly) to the speed limit, but it's just you and your chosen passenger in each super car. Two way radios are standard equipment and the lead instructor will call out directions or alert you to any traffic situations ahead. All eight cars stay together in a very stylish convoy and it's hard to lose sight of your fellow enthusiasts.

You'll drive each car about 15 miles before stopping to switch. We worked our way from Teterboro Airport (the better to check up on your private plane) to Bear Mountain State Park and back. There are a few cars, like the Murciélago, where your passenger will be replaced by an instructor just because it's so low to the ground or it's hard to see out the tiny windows. Mr. C&G got into the car behind me and said when I stepped on the gas pedal the thunder from the exhaust almost blew a hole through his chest. See, I'm a natural. Now if I could just convince him to go another round in the passenger seat while I'm behind the wheel. . . A perfect Father's Day present!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Burgers, Books, and Boardgames

Love a bar with coupe glasses!
Almost every road trip we take involves a stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to break up our drive south or to stop for dinner on our way home. We have our favorites that we frequent, Flatbread for their brick oven pizzas and endless supply of coloring paper and crayons or Friendly Toast for the kitschy wall decor and all day breakfast menu. But a new spot opened a few weeks ago that has jumped to the top of our list, and not just because of their amazing cocktail menu.

Brgr Bar sits on a sunny corner in the Marriott Residence Inn in the new Portwalk Place neighborhood development. It's a simple concept, unique salads and sides (definitely order the Buffalo brussels sprouts) to accompany your burger of infinite combinations. Pick one of their readymade combos like a tuna burger with Asian peanut slaw and sriracha aioli or a beef (from our very own Maine farms) patty with poutine (don't ask, just order it). You can also build your own, as vegetarian or as carnivorous as you like.

Milkshakes at Brgr Bar come in super kid friendly flavors like Nutella with marshmallows and graham crackers or super adult friendly flavors like almond and coconut with dark rum. I volunteered to do the drive home and was very happy with my house made blood orange soda. Next time I'll be sure to not pick the short straw so I can order the soda with vodka or something from their creative cocktail menu.

Whether you need to work off your burger or you need to waste some time while you wait for a table (give them your cell phone and they'll call you) be sure to stop into the brilliant toy shop, Diversions on Congress Street. They have every puzzle, board game, card game, or role playing game that you (or your kiddos) could ever want. There are some great European toy companies represented as well and we found the original German version of our favorite game, Scotland Yard.

We stocked up on some fun little travel games to take us through the summer and there's an entire wall filled with easily packable card games or dice games perfect for car or plane trips. Diversions has every subject of Table Topics cards and I couldn't resist buying the travel version of the travel topics cards. Little C&G and I questioned each other at dinner over which language we'd like to be fluent (me, French, him, German so he can play for Bayern Munich) and I think we'll get a lot of milage out of the cards on our upcoming adventures.

There's nothing like a good bookshop and River Run Bookstore is a great find, tucked down Fleet Street off Congress. It's filled with new and used books and has a nice children's corner where Big C&G promptly plopped himself down with some newly discovered tween fiction. One set of shelves has enough Mad Libs to keep you going until the start of school in September. Or at least to occupy the kiddos while you work your way through the cocktail list at Brgr Bar. Cheers!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cocktail du jour: Classic Negroni

The Contessa Negroni at the Algonquin
My resident bartender has been under the weather this week and it's very poor timing on his part. Partly because I can't be bothered to make my own cocktail at the end of a long night on the baseball field, but mostly because he's missing out on celebrating Negroni Week.

Negroni Week is a worldwide fundraiser put together by one of our favorite magazines, Imbibe, and the Italian apéritif Campari. Mr. C&G loves a good Negroni and it's one of his signature house cocktails. I'm sure if he were feeling better he'd be experimenting with his own twists on the classic combination of equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.

Campari is an acquired taste for most people and I have yet to acquire it. While at the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel in NYC recently the bartender made Mr. C&G a variation of a Negroni with Hendrick's gin, Aperol, and Campari. Now that sounds like something I might like, and not just because he offered to add it to the cocktail menu and call it "The Laura". I'm looking forward to trying it as soon as Mr. C&G gets over his cold but it needs a much more elegant name. The Contessa Negroni seems appropriate. Cin cin!

Classic Negroni
1 oz gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
Strain and serve over ice in an old fashioned glass, garnish with an orange peel

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Shake Shack With a Side of Andy Warhol

Fruit so realistic Little C&G said "I'm starving"
Looking for something cheap and easy to do with the kiddos this summer? I'm sure neither of those words come to mind when you think of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Tuition might be astronomical but it doesn't cost a penny to wander their gorgeous campus and take in some world class art. Van Gogh, Rodin, Picasso, and Andy Warhol all decorate the walls of the fabulous and absolutely free Yale University Art Gallery

Less than two hours from NYC (either by car or Metro North train) is where you'll find an outstanding collection of art hidden behind the ivy covered stone walls of Yale University. The museum is perfectly sized for little kiddos, unlike the Metropolitan Museum of Art (read about our visit here) and there's a Shake Shack just a few minutes walk down the street for when your crew is ready for a shake break.

Family programs run throughout the school year (weekends only) so during the summer months stop by the information desk in the lobby to pick up self-guided activity packs, worksheets, and drawing materials. We like to pick out a few postcards (available for sale on the wall as you walk in to the museum) for a game of iSpy, the boys have to track their cards down in the galleries and they come in handy when they need something to draw on as we sit around during lunch, cocktails, or dinner. 

After a quick lounge on the chic and modern low couches in the living room-like lobby head into the Ancient Art collection to see what the fictional Indiana Jones might have contributed had he been a Yalie. Beautiful mosaic tiles hang on the walls as they would have in Babylonian times and see if your kiddos can match up the marble busts with anyone they know. 

Archaeology students from the early 1900s explored the globe in search of hidden treasures (and possibly the Lost Ark, the Temple of Doom and the Holy Grail) and the remaining exhibits on the ground floor show off their discoveries. A kiosk lets the kiddos explore how the students excavated important sites in present-day Syria and many of the objects are on display in the surrounding cases. 

As you head up the spiral stone staircase you also go forward in art history. The second floor houses an amazing collection of European art, along with American and Asian art. Degas' dancers are on view alongside a small bronze of Rodin's The Thinker, and you can get close (not too close) to Van Gogh's colorful Le Café de Nuit. Search out the little alcove of realistic still life paintings in the American wing that started Little C&G down the "What's for lunch? I'm starving" path.  

After a quick tour of the modern and contemporary collection on the third floor you'll be ready for some burgers and milkshakes. Our stops in New Haven usually coincide with the long drive back to Maine or the short drive to the grandparents in NY, so unfortunately cocktails are out of the question. A tall, frosty vanilla milkshake from Shake Shack is the next best thing. 

Shake Shack has notoriously long lines at their restaurants around the world but I'm guessing with most of the student population back at home  or slaving away at their summer internships you won't have any problem finding seats at the wooden tables. Be sure to save room for the Yale-themed desserts, Little C&G was very intrigued by the Skull & Cones frozen treat. We told him he could only order it if someone came up and tapped him on the shoulder.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Maine Monday: Happy June!

Is it possible? Could warmer weather really be here? Can I really put away the heavy fleece blankets that I drag around like Linus (of Peanuts fame) from baseball field to soccer field? Should I tell Mr. C&G to have a glass of rosé waiting for me instead of the usual Italian Nightcap or the Stormy Scot (for when I'm truly chilled to the bone)?

One sign that warmer weather could be sticking around for a while is the crowded cobblestone streets in Portland. We headed into town to meet friends for lunch on Friday afternoon and couldn't find a single parking spot. Mr. C&G also noticed that the parking garage that charged $1.00 an hour a few weeks ago has changed its sign to $4.00, which clearly means the tourists are coming.

Portland has a record number of hotel rooms available this summer, and rumor has it the newly renovated Westin (a must for cocktails, check out my post here) was sold out last weekend. It's great news for local businesses, shops, and restaurants, but not such great news for my last minute "let's procrastinate making dinner until Mr. C&G suggests we go into town" plans.

As we worked our way to lunch at Central Provisions (small plates, great cocktails, any time of day!) I realized Maine Monday posts were going to have to take a holiday. It's hard to get into town (and out and about around our beautiful state) during the summer tourist season, which makes it difficult to find new things to share.

Just before Memorial Day I recapped some of our favorite adventures in Maine and there are lots of ideas here on C&G to keep you busy throughout the summer if you're traveling our way. As we head into summer the posts might not be as regular as they were during the school year, the boys require a lot of attention and activity (hence, the blog) and I find it very hard to write while they're running around the house because they're no longer in school.

But I can promise you there will always be a cocktail post (priorities!) on either Friday or Saturday and I'll try to keep up with two posts during the week. We will be heading out on our own adventures and I've got a lot of work to do researching our new destinations before we can pack our bags. Tracking down gelato and cocktails in new cities is a lot of work, but you know I'll be sharing all my findings with you. Cheers to the start of summer and enjoy wherever your travels may take you!