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Grand Rapids Brewsader Tour

1 Jan

It took me a while to getting around to writing this post – Hubby and I did our own Beer City Brewsader Tour of Grand Rapids, Michigan, over a weekend in the Fall. We mostly walked between breweries (gotta earn our beers!), with a couple of Uber rides thrown in. Since winter is a great time to hang out indoors while tasting craft beers, hopefully this post is still relevant.

Kick off the morning with brunch at Grand Rapids Brewing (1 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). Have a pint, a beer sampler, or hit the Bloody Mary bar.

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Hubby had the breakfast platter – it’s a good amount of food with eggs, a sausage, potatoes, and toast.
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For smaller appetites (since you’ll have to pace your eating for the day), there are several brunch appetizers. I had a salad and a Scotch egg – I have a weak spot for Scotch eggs…The sausage was good, but the egg was fully cooked, without the soft-centered yolk I had hoped for.

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Don’t forget to ask your server for a Brewsader passport – collect stamps at 8 or more participating Grand Rapids area breweries, then submit your “passport” to receive a free t-shirt (to advertise your love of alcohol, or you can use it as pajamas since it’s very comfy and soft). All of the breweries I mention here are part of the Brewsader program. And if you use the Untapped beer app on your phone, you’ll also get the Brewsader badge (more incentives to drink).

Just a couple doors down you’ll find HopCat ( 25 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). Grab a seat at the bar for a drink or two. The beer list is great, the bartenders are fantastic, and so is the decor. 

If you need a break from beer, head to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market for a bite to eat – you’ll find soups, tacos, Thai food, pizza, and fantastic ice cream at Love’s. From there, it’s a 1 mile (20 minute) walk along Wealthy Street to ELK Brewing (700 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). Though ELK’s brews weren’t really my style – I found the flavors too obvious and overpowering – there were a lot of local regulars who came in to refill their growlers.

Then it’s another 20 minute walk (or short cab ride) to Brewery Vivant (925 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506), a brewery in a former historical funeral home. Once inside, under the vaulted ceiling, you’ll feel as if you might be in a small Belgian town. My photos don’t do it justice.
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I recommend trying the charcuterie plate at Brewery Vivant:

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But save room for dinner, because you’ll want to head to Harmony Brewing Company (1551 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506) to enjoy some good beer, and some of the best pizza in town (I forgot to take photos because I was too busy devouring that  pizza!)

Finally, finish off the night at Founders Brewing Co. (235 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503), with its large beer hall, fantastic patio, and beer shop. 

Founders

Mitten Brewing
If you have room in your belly for one more brewery, kick off Day Two at Mitten Brewing Company (527 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). It’s a bit further afield from the others, but it’s a cool place – in a restored Victorian-era firehouse, decorated with a baseball theme. This place is kid friendly – we saw many families enjoying pizza together. We opted to snack on the trout dip, which is absolutely delicious!!
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Happy new year, and happy brewsading!!

Grand Rapids Brewing Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Brewery Vivant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Neapolitan Pizza in Chicago: Spacca Napoli

30 Oct

Looking for some solid Neapolitan-style pizza on Chicago’s north side? Spacca Napoli is a good option.

We started off with a grilled vegetable plate – a generous amount of grilled eggplant, red and yellow peppers, and zucchini.

Spacca Napoli

The grilled octopus was alright. It came as a a couple large pieces, so it was bit more challenging to eat than most other presentations I’ve seen.

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The pizzas are where Spacca Napoli shines. The Neapolitan-style pizzas are all sized to suite one person. They are so good you probably won’t want to share anyway. There are many options, including a couple of daily specials.

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The disappointment of the night was the Peaches Vesuvio we ordered for dessert, which was I suppose more of a misunderstanding than anything. I thought that the peaches would be fresh, but they are not. The menu says “Peaches (Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio)”, meaning they are jarred peaches from the national park in Italy. Though they may have originated from Italy, they tasted like run-of-the-mill canned peaches from around here…I expressed my disappointment to our server, and he graciously took the dessert off our bill.

Info: Spacca Napoli Pizzeria, 1769 W. Sunnyside Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640 USA
Spacca Napoli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pearl’s Southern Comfort, Chicago

9 Oct

I‘ve been to Pearl’s Southern Comfort in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood three times now – the food is delicious, there are good beer and cocktail options, the service is friendly and attentive, and I like the ambiance. Pearl’s also has a rooftop deck that opened this past summer that serves up drinks and bar bites. Pearl’s is busy, but I’ve never had to wait for a table. Plus. the bar has a couple of good screens for watching the Cubs game.

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We love the boudin balls,  delicate fried dough balls filled with sausage and a bit of rice.

Pearls Southern Comfort - Boudin balls

The catfish bites are lightly battered pieces of flaky fish.

Fried catfish bites

The gumbo is so flavorful, packed with dark meat chicken, sausage, and okra. (This photo was taken after we had already devoured half the bowl!)

Gumbo

Hubby ordered the shrimp po’boy. The fries were extra crispy.

Shrimp po'boy

I had the blackened catfish which was nicely done. It was served with collard greens, and the only disappointment of the night – the mac n’ cheese. Which, unfortunately, was a huge disappointment. I ordered the catfish partially because it came with a side of mac. However, this was probably the worst restaurant mac n’ cheese I’ve ever tasted. It kind of made me wonder whether the restaurant had run out of real cheese, and came up with this Kraft dinner / cheese whiz concoction instead. It tasted so bad, I couldn’t eat more than one spoonful of the mess.

Blackened catfish

Luckily, the fantastic banana bread pudding redeemed the night. This gigantic dessert was epic. Don’t attempt to finish this on your own, this is a dessert meant for sharing. It’s soft, sweet bread layered with banana and served on a plate drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce. There were hints of rum in there as well.

Banana bread pudding

 

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The Final Word: Overall, Pearl’s severs up excellent Southern food, and it’s a great place for a date or dinner with friends. The only thing I’d wish they’d change is the mac n’ cheese. 

Info: Pearl’s Southern Comfort, 5352 N. Broadway Street, Chicago, IL 60640 USA

Pearl's Southern Comfort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Delicious and Healthy Breakfast: Walnut Avenue Cafe, Santa Cruz

17 Jul

Kicking off our road trip from San Jose down to San Diego, California, hubby and I were in search of a hearty but healthy start to our day. We found it at the Walnut Avenue Cafe in Santa Cruz.

My veggie scramble was fantastic. I hate it when scrambled eggs are too buttery, this was not it. And it came with a fruit cup and rye toast. The scramble may look simple, but it was so perfectly prepared.

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Hubby ordered a build-your-own omelette, stuffed with chorizo, onions, bell peppers, and avocado. 

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Check out all that avocado inside!! And, the side of potatoes were some of the best breakfast potatoes I’ve tried. Again, simple, but perfectly prepared.

We shared a plain, fluffy waffle too. Yum! What a perfect breakfast. I only wish I had ordered a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. The large glasses looked amazing at the other tables.

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The Final Word: A solid breakfast/brunch here, with simple ingredients done well. I would definitely come back!

Info: Walnut Avenue Cafe, 106 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95060 USA

Walnut Avenue Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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