Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Surfin' Safari

After leaving Arenal we spent a few days in Tamarindo, which was all sun, sand and surf. It was exactly what we were in the mood for after four days in the jungles up north. As popular as Tamarindo is, we were surprised to find such a small town. It's basically 3 streets, all dirt, and a big long stretch of beautiful beach dotted with hotels and surf camps. There are lots of free spirits providing entertainment, some of it orchestrated like these fire dancers and some just in the random people watching, like Forest knitting a scarf for me on a sweltering evening when there are fire dancers behind her.
I had planned to take a surf lesson, check out the neighboring beaches, maybe do some more hiking. But instead we just chilled.
We had some pretty good dinners at the Voodoo Lounge & Copacabana, had a very interesting New Year's Eve, enjoyed a delicious if somewhat slow lunch on the beach at Nibbana...
waded in the ocean which was as warm as a bath, viewed some breathtaking sunsets and had some very good mojitos in the sand...

A great couple of days doing just about nothing. And it was perfect!

Tamarindo photos here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Genever Say Never

One of the things I always enjoy at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans are the Spirited Dinners, so I was happy to see that this year Tales on Tour added an evening of Spirited Dinners in some of Vancouver's best restaurants. It was hard for our group to decide on one but finally we chose Genever Say Never held at MARKET by Jean-Georges and led by Jay Jones. I love genever so I was especially happy!

Originally Agostino Perrone, one of the bar talents at London's Connaught Hotel bar, was meant to team up with Jay, but due to a medical issue was not able to travel. Dayne and I loved the Connaught while in London last fall so we were disappointed that Agostino was not able to be there but Jay called and told me personally that he would be making Perrone's creations and I think they all turned out beautifully.

The cocktail pairings for the evening all used Bols Genever (natch). First up was the Yellow Submarine by Agostino. Bols Genever, Galliano L'Autentico, Fino Sherry and Celery Bitters. This was paired with a celeriac and lemon panna cotta. I have to say that the panna cotta was amazing and the color was so beautiful!
Next up was Jay's Kopstootje Kocktail. Kopstootje means "little head butt" and it refers to the tradition of leaning over and slurping genever from your filled to the rim glass. This cocktail used Bols Genever, Coriander, Lemongrass, Anise and Brasserie L'Achouffe "La Chouffe" Golden Ale. It was paired with juniper scented Sooke salmon with grapefruit and anise. I loved the flavor of the ale in the cocktail and the salmon was amazing!

The Stranger cocktail, also by Jay was our "main course" libation and used Bols Genever, Courvoisier VSOP Cognac, Cherry Brandy, JJ Bean Eastside Espresso and Angostura Bitters. The entree was butter poached squab and roasted carrot, coffee essence and cherry. This was my favorite cocktail of the night, it's got everything I like and it went very well with the dish. 
For dessert we had sous vide pear, roasted almond milk and vanilla fromage blanc sorbet (yum). The paired cocktail was Angostino's Galliano's Cup- Bols Genever, Galliano L'Autentico, Sauternes, Lemon, Yuzu, Orgeat, Pear, Sage and Peychaud's Bitters. This one came off a bit sweet for me but I thought the flavors were very interesting and original.

All in all another fun Spirited Dinner and a chance to taste the creations of two great bartenders! If you went to a Spirited Dinner at Vancouver Tales which one did you attend?

I apologize for the (lack of) quality of my photos, there was a bit of drinking involved...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cocktail Camp

I think it's only fitting to relive a little Tales on Tour Vancouver today being Mardi Gras!
Upon checking in at registration we all sat with sponsored St Germain cocktails and went through our goodie bags. It's a bit like Christmas with everyone shouting "look!" and "cool"! The lounge provided cocktails and punch for hours on end, we researched all of it.
"Cocktail Camp" phrase coined by Jen B.
Unlike last year, which was just one day of seminars, this year's conference expanded by a day to include some fantastic tasting rooms and Spirited Dinners.
Hendrick's Gin put on a morning filled with curious umbrellas, delicious drinks and even a bit of knowledge as we tasted through the spirit in different stages of distillation. Nothing like a bit of gin to wake up your senses!
There was also a gathering of interesting spirits in the "Meet the Distillers" hall. We were really happy to see Seattle represented with Oola Spirits and San Juan Distillery (Spy Hop Gin is a house favorite).
In the Lifford Lounge we were treated to oysters on the half shell served with Bowmore 12 Year Old Islay Single Malt. After that snack we walked into the "Around the World in Whiskey Days" room where cocktails made with Scotch, Irish, Canadian and US Whiskey's were flowing.

Eddie Russell, Master Distiller

Bacardi then showed off daiquiris made with dry ice and a cola sour using their new Oakheart Spiced Rum.
But the fun for us American's was in the Havana Culture room, stocked with prohibited Havana Club rum and Cuban cigars. I may have filled my flask with some of that 7. And we may be infusing white rum with a cigar.

 These rooms were a great opportunity to meet the Ambassadors, Brand Reps and Distillers and to ask questions and learn about the history of each. It was also an excellent opportunity to taste delicious drinks and have a hell of a fun day!

All the fun can be seen here

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Train to Tales on Tour

As per usual I'm about a year behind on posting about our travels. I've yet to write about Italy, Paris, Brugge, London, Bath, Chelan, etc. And I need to finish my posts on Costa Rica, 1st world problems for sure. But another month (or two) brings another trip, this one a short jaunt north with friends for the second annual Tales of the Cocktail on tour- Vancouver.
Unlike last year when there were mud slides and we had to bus most of the way, today is beautiful and sunny. The views of the Sound are beautiful and we spotted 5 bald eagles standing in a field, 2 adults & 3 adolescents.
Dayne pre-batched Corpse Revivers, Gary pre-batched a yummy punch, I made a mushroom/onion/bacon tart and away we went.
The train ride to Vancouver is about 4 hours. There's free wifi in the business class car and you can take a nap since the train leaves so damn frickin early in the am!
Tomorrow is our conference (lol! I love calling it that!) check in and opening party, it's a 30's themed Hollywood ball- I've brought a ball gown :)
There are still some tickets on sale at www.talesofthecocktail.com so if you aren't doing anything this weekend come join us!
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adios Arenal

On our last morning, as we walked up that damn hill on the way to breakfast, we passed an agouti next to the sidewalk. Then from the lodge's deck we were able to see quite a few large birds as the grounds crew impale hunks of fruit on a tall stake for the birds to eat. The clouds had not cleared to show us the entire volcano but everything else was on display.
 Dayne and I joined a small group from the lodge for a hike around their extensive grounds which finally gave us a chance to see more of the areas, like the pool and gardens. We found that even the Arenal Observation Lodge had it's own hanging bridges.
We immediately spotted a couple of Toucans, Mot Mots and more Agouti. Farther in we spotted Howler monkeys, about 5 in all but they were so high up in the trees that I couldn't get a good shot of them so here's a great picture of the Toucan!

The property also has a nice waterfall which we hiked down to, not as steep or as far down as the one at La Fortuna, it was still very pretty and with only a few of us deciding to venture to it, it was quite peaceful.
Over 2 1/2 hours we made our way from gardens to jungle to farm lands passing many beautiful plants, flowers and trees. The farthest point from the lodge is a working farm and here we boarded a funny cart which was pulled by a tractor for a "traditional" ride back to the main grounds. If you happen to stay at AOL I highly recommend going on the hike, it's complimentary and takes off each morning at 8:30am.

Back at the Casona we packed up while enjoying the sun and the amazing views of the lake. And we cheered on the volcano to let go of it's cloud cover but it didn't pay any attention to us. We arranged for a taxi to pick us up and take us to the car rental shop in La Fortuna. Here we had a bit of an issue with the folks at AOL who told us their car was being used and it would be $25 cash for the cab and they wouldn't call our cab until they had cash in hand. Geez! So we complied and about 30 minutes later a truck with the AOL logo on the side came and picked us up. The driver didn't speak English so we never got our cash back and when I emailed the company later I was told there was a miscommunication and that was the price for their car, a taxi being more. Hmmmm. We felt a bit jilted for sure.

After grabbing the car we had a pretty good lunch at La Choza de Laurel which is a big open air restaurant known for their casado's - big plates of grilled meat, rice, plantains, beans and vegetables. The food was good and it was cheap but the service was like molasses- don't go here if you are on a schedule. We weren't on a serious time line but it was going to be a very twisty 3.5 hour drive to Tamarindo, which was putting us to arrive after dark- not ideal but still doable.
We loaded up and hit the road, saying goodbye to the cloud forests and volcanoes and headed to the beach. We drove around Lake Arenal to the north and then due west to the coast. We'd have to wait till the morning to see our surroundings but our condo was huge and we were excited to experience another new area!

All photos of Arenal can be seen here

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