Tag Archives: travel

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. 

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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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Fantastic Tapas Abroad: Ficcin, Istanbul

29 Dec

Ficcin, just off İstiklal Caddesi is a restaurant well-known to locals in Istanbul. For good Turkish food, stay off the main drag and duck into smaller alleys – that’s where you find the good stuff like Ficcin, where the hosts don’tneed to  pester you with invitations into their restaurant. This was one of the best meals I had while in Istanbul.

Dinner at Ficcin

Mixed vegetables in olive oil (left) | minced chicken – a cross between chicken salad and pate. It looked plain but was delicious! (right)

Stuffed sundried eggplant

Stuffed sundried eggplant, my favourite dish of the night

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Ficcin’s specialty: Circassian pastry, stuffed with beef. A huge portion!
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Manti (Turkish style dumplings) filled with meat, served with yogurt

 

Info: Ficcin,  İstiklal, Kallavi Sok. No:13 D:1, Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey

Baklava in Istanbul

8 Nov

You can’t stumble more than a couple blocks in Istanbul without running into a baklava shop, the same way you’d run into a Starbucks in America. But baklava is so much tastier than Starbucks coffee. I ate baklava daily – if not multiple times a day – during my trip to Istanbul, and my favorite was at Hafiz Moustafa. I’m pretty sure there are multiple locations, but I frequented the one on the main avenue, İstiklal Caddesi, near Taksim Square.

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Large windows show off Turkish delight on one side of the shop, and baklava on the other, with customers surrounding all sides of the U-shaped counter.

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Fresh baklava in Istanbul is generally cheaper than in the United States… except at Hafiz Moustafa, where it’s just about on par. Totally worth it though, for the selection alone!

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My husband’s favorite is the chocolate baklava with pistachios inside (top row, square piece). Chocolate baklava was not something we were able to find at most baklava shops  – stock up at Hafiz Moustafa!

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Not all baklava is created equal, either. Avoid the very drippy kind (below) – it’s older baklava with added sugar poured over it to keep it looking “fresh”. (This was at a different shop on İstiklal Caddesi).

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Some tourist guidebooks chose Develi for the best baklava in the city, so we went on the hunt. It’s a small, nondescript shop near the Spice Bazaar. My husband liked the baklava from Develi best (guess the guidebooks are on to something). I liked its texture – it was flakier than the baklava at Hafiz Moustafa, but I didn’t like the flavour as much – a bit doughy to me. 

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Unfortunately, fresh baklava isn’t something you can keep around for a while and bring home with you in a suitcase. Day-old baklava is alright, but two-day old baklava? Fuggetaboutit (it’s no longer as flaky, and it’s dried out too much). So go to Istanbul, and stuff your face with baklava! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Fresh fried donuts in Istanbul

17 Oct

A thing to do in Istanbul, Turkey (as suggested by a couple tourist guides), is to enjoy fish sandwiches on the quay near the Galata Bridge. Small sandwich shops with bright coloured lights line the water. The fish is grilled on the boats directly behind the shop. However, I spotted quite a bit of garbage floating in the water by these boats, where fishing lines were being thrown. So I didn’t eat a fish sandwich.

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I did however, order some freshly fried donuts! About one euro gets you five light and airy pillows tossed in honey. Yum!! Pretty sure these are my favourite donuts ever – so simple, unpretentious, delicious.

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Small crowds gather to watch the chefs turn handfuls of bubbling batter into small donuts that take shape immediately after being thrown into the hot oil. These donuts really sell like hotcakes, so you’re guaranteed to get a fresh batch!

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Wish we could get some of this awesome street food here in America!

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