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!