Cigar City Brewing: A tour and a pint!

I have one more place from my weekend that I want to share with you.  On our way out of the Tampa area on Sunday, we stopped for a 1pm brewery tour at Cigar City Brewery, which is in a warehouse off of Lois Ave near the airport.

For a mere $5.35, you get a brief but interesting tour of the brewery, a pint of beer of your choosing, and a souvenir pint glass.  If you are at all into craft beer, this is a great cheap thing to do while you’re in the area.  Cigar City has some of the best beer in the state, if not the country!  They do all kind of fun experimental things with beer.

We arrived about 10 minutes early and started off in the tasting room, where we paid our tour fee, chose our beers, and grabbed a seat to wait for the tour to start.

Tadd and I both got Maduro Brown Ale, my brother Ryan got a Minaret ESB (pictured above, with his complimentary souvenir pint glass), and my friend Carrie got a Xenu Cream Lager.  I love Maduro!  I get it often when I’m at Oblivion Taproom.  It’s a very deep dark brown ale that is full of flavor but not as heavy as you would expect from a darker beer.  Everyone else seemed to enjoy their selections.

Before we were finished our beverages, we were called to the brewery entrance to start the tour.  We were provided with classy eye protection, and anyone with open-toed shoes was required to wear blue sanitary booties over their feet (TIP!  Wear closed-toed shoes!).  Also, we were allowed to take our beer with us to enjoy during the tour.

The place isn’t very big, but it’s still interesting to see how it all works.  It was especially neat to think that every Cigar City brew I drink will originate right there in that room.  Our tour guide was really friendly, informative, and funny.  I loved that the tour was surprisingly multi-sensory, as we were allowed to smell a canister of hops and chew on a few of the malted grains that are used in beer production.

We were also allowed in the freezer store room to see all of the kegs ready for shipping as well as other ingredients waiting to be used in the beer-making process.  For example, we saw a large shipment of a particularly rare type of hop that was awaiting experimentation in future brew batches.  My brother (who has done some home brewing) had lots of questions and ended up coming away with several tips for his next round of beer-making.

Every single bottle of Cigar City beer is bottled right on this little machine!

I love that they name their kettles…Below are “Barbie” (there is also a “Ken”) and “C3PO”.

We also discussed the merits of canned vs bottled beer.  Apparently the canning process is not only more efficient, but it’s also better for the beer (keeps the light out and keeps the beer fresher longer).  We got to see prototypes for their soon-to-be released canned versions of two of their most popular beers; Jai Alai IPA and Maduro Brown Ale.

All in all, for what we got, it was $5 well-spent.  I think most of us would have stayed for another round if we didn’t have to be on our way back in Orlando so soon.

On our way out we bought a 750mL bottle of their experimental Cucumber Saison to take home with us, which turned out to be astonishingly cucumbery.  Very different from any other beer I had ever tried, but refreshing and great for summer.

Peachy white sangria!

I am going to preface this post by saying that I really didn’t take any “glamor shots” of the finished product of this recipe because we loaded it into a cooler, dragged it to a local park for an early 4th of July fireworks celebration, and drank it out of red solo cups.  BUT, despite the lack of pretty pictures, please give this recipe a try, especially if you like peaches.  I think it was one of my best sangrias yet!

1.5L bottle pinot grigio

4 cups Ocean Spray White Cran-Peach juice

1/4 cup white brandy

1 or 2 sliced peaches

4 cups of Sprite

I think the most important detail about this recipe is that we started it the day prior to when we needed it.  It had a good 24 hours for the flavors to meld.  I firmly believe that this makes all the difference!

Slice the peaches and place into the pitcher or jug.  I estimated two, but one would have been fine.  My mother-in-law and I snacked on peach slices while we put the sangria together, so no harm no foul.

Pour the wine into the jug over the peaches, then add the juice and brandy.  Stir everything well and refrigerate several hours, or as I suggest, overnight!  Patience, people!  It’s so important when it comes to crafting fine sangria…

Just before serving, add the Sprite, and enjoy!  The flavor is slightly sweet, very peachy, and extremely refreshing on a hot summer day!

shabby creek cottage

Pink Sangria!

It is definitely sangria season!  I know I have mentioned in the past that I love making sangria.  I don’t really use a recipe, I just kind of mix up what tastes good, but I do have a basic and very versatile formula that I use to get me started.  It’s very easy to add and subtract and substitute ingredients based on my mood or the occasion.  Last summer I shared the basic recipe that I use for classic red sangria.

When attending a housewarming party for some friends of ours over Memorial Day weekend, I knew immediately that I would bring sangria and soon decided on making some pink sangria!  Here is what I used to make about a gallon of sangria for the party:

Pink Sangria

1.75mL bottle of white zin

1 orange (juiced)

4 cups tropical fruit juice (here I used strawberry kiwi juice, but you can use anything tropical…bonus if it’s already pink in color)

splash of white brandy

2+ cups of cranberry ginger ale (you could also use regular ginger ale or Sprite)

Pour the wine, fresh squeezed orange juice, tropical fruit juice, and brandy into a large pitcher.  Let sit a few hours or overnight.  Just before serving add the ginger ale (I ended up not measuring and just topping off the pitcher with it, but figure about 2 or 3 cups).  Serve over ice.

Enjoy!

P.S. I have another variation that I have done with equal parts white cranberry juice and pineapple juice instead of the strawberry-kiwi juice, and Sprite instead of ginger ale, and it also turned out awesome.  See?  Versatile!

Tuesday’s Tip: Whole Fruit coconut fruit bars

Ok, this will be a short and sweet Tuesday’s Tip, but a good one!

I am not usually a big fan of Popsicles or Freeze Pops or other fruity-flavored frozen novelties. I would much rather have ice cream or frozen yogurt. However, THESE are a totally different story (sorry the pic is so small, it’s the best one I found):

Whole Fruit Coconut fruit bars

If you like both the flavor and the texture of coconut, then this is the summer treat for you.  They are creamy and taste like pure true coconut – NOT artificial at all, and NOT overly sweet.  And they are full of little bits of coconut as well.  Yes, they may be a little more fattening than the other flavors, but I think it’s worth it for the creamy texture, flavor, and the bits of real coconut.

Here’s a link to their website for more info on this and the other flavors they carry.  The lime and strawberry flavors are good too, and I want to try both the pineapple and peach flavors soon.  Unfortunately, when choosing flavors, it’s hard for me to pass up the coconut because I just love it so much.

What is your favorite frozen novelty or summer treat?

Disclaimer: Thoughts are my own.  I am not being paid to make the aforementioned
statements.  Simply reviewing products and providing tips of items that I love,
to share with my readers.

Avalon Park Food Truck Bazaar

Just got back from a delicious (and quite WARM!) evening at the Avalon Park Food Truck Bazaar!  I’m excited about this because it’s something I had wanted to do for awhile and is yet another item I can cross off on my Summer List.  We had a great time, despite the heat and crazy crowds.

Food trucks, as I’m sure many of you know, are a trendy phenomenon that sprung up in Orlando early this year.  There just seem to be more and more trucks at more and more events all over the Orlando area.  They have food trucks for every category of cuisine; bbq, cupcakes and other desserts, seafood, asian, latin, caribbean, and on and on.  And when they all get together, it’s like a mobile food court festival!  People roam from truck to truck, gather some items to sample, then plop down on the grass to try what they have purchased, picnic style.

When I heard there would be a food truck event in East Orlando on our anniversary, I knew we had to go!  We were planning on a very low key anniversary weekend anyways, so it really worked out well for us.  I was a little unsure how Tadd would like it because I knew there would be a lot of crowds and a lot of waiting in line, but he absolutely LOVED it!  I think preparing him for the crowds helped.

We bought food from three area food trucks, Korean BBQ Taco Box, Big Wheel Provisions, and Yum Yum Cupcake Truck.  We started with the spicy pork taco box from Korean BBQ Taco Box, which was TO DIE FOR!!!!  I’m not even a big pork eater, but this taco was one of the best things I have eaten in a long while.  The sauce was sweet but also had some soy-saucy zing.  I don’t know what else to say about it except that it was DELICIOUS!  It came with all kinds of accompaniments…ginger salad, a chicken wing, fried tofu, and some rice roll things.

Tadd had a bite of the taco and ate my chicken wing, but the rest was all mine.  Don’t feel bad for him though, because our second stop was Big Wheel Provisions…

Where he got (and ate) all of this (except for the root beer, that was mine!):

Clockwise from top: Buffalo Style Pork Belly Sandwich, Lake Meadow Naturals’ Deviled Eggs, Chicken Caesar Skewer. Beverages are a Mexican Coke and Capt Eli's Root Beer

We enjoyed our dinner…Mmmmmmmmm…

Before we headed home, we stopped by Yum Yum Cupcake Truck and picked up a four pack of cupcakes to bring home and eat later.  We got two Peanut Butter Choco-Rama, one Orangesicle, and one Key Slime.  Can’t wait to try one later with some wine in lieu of an anniversary cake!

After that, we were both sweating and full, so we walked back to the car to go home.  But Tadd was really psyched about the whole experience, which made me happy.  We plan to try to get to another food truck event once the weather has cooled down.  Can’t wait to try more yummy stuff!

Weekend Update: Red Sox Edition

I am back from my fun-filled weekend in St. Petersburg!  We had a great time, and I am excited to say that the Red Sox beat the Rays at the game we attended on Saturday night!  I hope we inspired some of our friends to become baseball fans.  Jury is still out on that, but in the end it doesn’t really matter, because I love baseball!  And that’s what is important.  To me anyways.

The weekend started off early Friday afternoon when Tadd and I left work around noon and headed over to Downtown Disney on our way out of town.  We were able to get our weekend started a few hours earlier than the rest of our friends, so we decided to make this fun stop to kill some time.  I was excited because it meant I was crossing off another item on my Summer List!

It was SUPER hot and crowded at DTD, and all of the restaurants where we had intended to grab lunch had long lines and no indoor seating, so we decided to eat at Rainforest Cafe.  HOLY OVERPRICED, BATMAN!  But I have to admit that my turkey caesar wrap was really good, if messy.  I was annoyed that they charged me $15 for a wrap and chips, but were going to make me pay an additional $2 if I wanted fries.  Forget it!  I stuck with the chips, which I barely touched.  Regardless, we just rolled with the punches and had a nice lunch.

After that we window shopped around a bit, and then headed back on the road at about 3pm, just as it started to rain ever so slightly.

You always know you are on your way out of the Orlando area when you spot the Mickey power lines.

We got to the hotel around 5, and relaxed before running over to Publix for provisions (beer, snacks, water, soda, etc).  Pretty much everyone else was running a bit behind schedule, so we had some more time to kill.  Mostly everyone arrived a little after 8, so we headed out to Jimmy Guana’s for dinner, followed by Lana’s Friendly Tavern, which is a dive/kareoke bar that we visited last year during Red Sox Weekend too.  It’s one of those hole-in-the-wall all-locals kind of places.  Cheezy but fun.

Saturday morning, Tadd and I got up early and grabbed some freebie continental breakfast while everyone else slept.  We got back, showered, lounged for a couple hours, and then started getting everyone moving.  We had all of our Red Sox gear ready to go!

First we ate lunch at an interesting place called Quaker Steak & Lube.  Cue a string of about eighty million 8th grader jokes throughout lunch.  Those poor waiters and waitresses have to hear them ALL the time, I’m sure.  Stupid tourists!  Ha!  Oh well, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The joke was on us though, because even in all of our Red Sox gear, my brother’s beer was brought to him in a Rays glass!  Lame! Waitress’s revenge, I suppose.

After lunch, it was time to get ready to tailgate, then on to Tropicana Field (or “The Trop” as it is called by the locals)!

 

I won’t lie…We were freaking HOT while tailgating.  The parking attendants were discouraging people from parking willy nilly, so we had to take a spot in the middle of the open parking lot instead of strategically parking under a tree on the perimeter of the lot.  This is on blacktop, at 2pm, in Florida in July.  HOT!  Oh well.  Thank goodness the Trop is domed and climate-controlled!  Yay for air-conditioning!

On to the game (crossing off yet another Summer List item)!

Final score!

Celebrating our victory in style!

It was a magnificent game.  Lots of excitement, and, most importantly, the Sox won, 9 to 5!  Woo!  We decided to head to Five Bucks Drinkery in Downtown St. Pete to celebrate.  This might be my new favorite St. Pete spot.  Everything on the menu is under $5 and they have some really interesting (albeit high-calorie) pub fare.  Really, anyplace that has craft beer and tater tots is great in my mind.  But Tadd ordered chicken fried bacon!  Not something I would touch with a 10 foot pole, but he was in heaven.  I liked the fried pickles too.

"To the Sox!"

After our celebration at Five Bucks Drinkery, a few of us decided to drive out to Treasure Island and hang out on the beach for a bit.  Despite the humidity inland, the weather right at the ocean was beautiful.  We waded in the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico for a bit, and then plopped down on the sand to just enjoy the breeze and the sound of the waves.  I love the beach at night!

Sunday morning a few of us decided to do the Florida Aquarium Dolphin Eco-Tour before heading back to Orlando.  It’s a 90-minute boat ride around Tampa Bay.  We really enjoyed the tour and saw a bunch of dolphins!  Our guide was really informative and had some really interesting info on the Bay and its ecology.

See the dolphins? They are not easy to photograph!

The end.  Go Sox!!!

Before & After: Entry table transition.

Monday is DONE!  Yay!  Onto the rest of the work week.  Let’s hope it passes quickly!

Just thought I would do a quick little post to show you how I redecorated the entry table to transition from 4th of July decor to a more generic summer look.

This is how the entry table looked a few days ago, still dressed up for the 4th:

When we went to Ikea a couple weeks ago, one of the items I picked up was a tall skinny lamp for this table.  I think it was $6 or $7.  Added a $10 lampshade from Target for a clean, simple look.  Kept my favorite kitty sculptures and jar of lemons, and added some more silk flowers and a wedding pic of me and Tadd (printed on regular printer paper!) in a pretty glass frame.   The two little pots of silk daisies are from Dollar Tree!  I love how colorful and fun they are.  The bud vase behind them with another silk daisy was actually a leftover bridal shower favor from my own bridal shower over 7 years ago!  I still love it and bring it out every so often.

And there you have it!

I am linking this post up with Thrifty Decor Chick’s Before and After Party!

Blueberry picking in the hills of Florida

One more item to cross off my Summer List!  A friend and I drove north to Clermont, Florida for some blueberry picking yesterday.  It was hot, but we had a blast!  Now I have to figure out something to do with all these blueberries!  I am thinking scones, but haven’t found the perfect recipe yet.

It’s funny to think of Central Florida as scenic in any sense of the word, but up there in Lake County, it certainly is.  Lots of rolling hills and pastoral green fields of farmland.

I will let the pics do the talking.

Weekend Update! Fourth of July edition…

I am sorry to say that the weekend did not turn out like I had hoped.  We still had a great time, but as you will see, a very large monkey wrench (er, three tiny ones) were thrown our way.

Friday night we did our typical relaxation night.  Not much to report there.

Saturday we worked a bit on the cabinets.  We finished the last coat of primer and started on the first coat of black paint!  Getting closer, but unfortunately did not finish them this weekend.  They still need another coat (maybe two!).  I couldn’t convince Tadd to really do much at all this day, as he really had his heart set on relaxing.  I couldn’t blame him, so we did a lot of nothing!

Twistee Treat!

Early Saturday evening, I was suddenly struck with the desire to go out for ice cream and to swing by the grocery store to get the stuff to make sangria.  We went to Twistee Treat, which is a place I had been meaning to try ever since we moved to East Orlando (almost 2 years ago!).  It’s one of those nostalgic ice cream spots, where they only have outdoor seating and the whole little shop is encased in a giant fiberglass vanilla ice cream cone with a cherry on top!  Very cute.  I got a banana soft serve cone with chocolate sprinkles.  Unfortunately, when they called us over to the window to retrieve our order, they let me know that my cone had fallen when they were adding the sprinkles, so they dumped it into a cup.  I was kind of annoyed because I had wanted my ice cream in a cone, and I really thought that they should have just made me a new one, but really, it tastes the same either way, so I sucked it up and dealt with it.  Tadd got a cheesecake flavored milkshake.

Once back at home, we finished our ice creams and I started on the sangria, which you have probably already read about in this post.  We drank a few glasses of sangria that night, and watched some TV.  Very low key day.

By Sunday, I was starting to get stir crazy being at home with not much to do for a few days, so I told Tadd that I wanted to have lunch with him somewhere and run a few errands.  He agreed, so we had a delicious lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (love their buffalo chicken wrap!), and followed that with a trip to Home Depot.  We are Lowes people, generally speaking, but since I hadn’t found the perfect light fixture for the powder room yet, I wanted to at least see what they had at HD.  Unfortuantely we were only reminded yet again why we are Lowes people, and not HD people.  Selection sucked, prices were high, blech…  I also feel like the Lowes near us is about a million times more pleasant to walk around, better organized, etc.  Needless to say, we left without a light fixture, but did pick up a few random odds and ends that we needed.  Then, it was off to Target where we got, among other things, a trifle dish!  This is one of those things I have always wanted, but just never got around to getting.  I wanted to make a patriotic trifle for the 4th of July, so this was the perfect opportunity to finally get one.  They are so pretty!  I already told Tadd I want a 2nd one…maybe one with straight sides (the one I got is fluted, as you will see below).

Beautiful weather at Baldwin Park.

Sunday night we made plans to meet a few friends at the 4th of July event that evening in Downtown Baldwin Park.  We brought a blanket, and found a great place overlooking the lake, where the fireworks were to be launched.  The weather was actually pretty nice for Florida in July.  No rain, not too hot, and we were enjoying ourselves quite a bit.  At some point, Tadd needed to get cash and some beer, so he walked over to Publix with Keith.  This is where our evening took a strange turn.

In the Publix parking lot, they found 3 tiny kittens, about 3-4 weeks old.  They were mewing up a storm and very hungry.  Tadd and Keith stayed with them for a bit to see if there was a mommy cat around, but did not see any.  One of them was starting to run into traffic in the parking lot, so at that point, they decided to take action.  Tadd started calling shelters, which were of course all closed for the holiday and/or full to capacity.  The only thing he could think to do was to take them back to our car.  Once he had them at the car, he called me to meet them at the car so we could take the kittens home and figure out what to do with them.  So unfortunately, we had to cut our evening with friends short, before the fireworks.

We got the kittens home and into a large box lined with a towel in our spare/storage bedroom.  We had Keith watch over them while we went out in search of supplies.  Unfortunately, at 9:30pm on a Sunday, there wasn’t much choice aside from WalMart.  Luckily, they happened to have kitten bottles and kitten formula in the pet aisle, so we got some of that, plus some wet kitten food.  Tadd called his mom, who has some experience dealing with really young kittens, and she gave us some tips.  Meanwhile, we had posted about the kittens on Facebook and several friends were asking around about shelters to send them to or people who would take them in.  We did our best to feed them, although they were all a bit too freaked out to eat, and then we left them to sleep.  Tadd and Keith started taking turns feeding them every 4 hours at that point.  I feel terrible for them and I know they miss their mommy, but I am happy that they have been eating and sleeping since we took them in.

We think we have found a no kill shelter that will take them this coming Saturday, so we will have to take care of them all week.  Luckily Keith is still here, so he can keep up with their care while Tadd and I are at work.

Kitten stuff pretty much took up most of our Sunday night and Monday morning.  Late morning, I headed back to the grocery store to get the stuff to make my red white and blue trifle for our friend’s 4th of July party that night.  I took the easy way out and bought & baked a white boxed cake mix, and made some vanilla instant pudding (which I lightened up by folding in whipped topping).  Then I just layered cubes of the cake, with the vanilla pudding cream mixture, and strawberries and blueberries.  Easy stuff, but the results were very festive!

So Monday night, we left the kittens in Keith’s care, and headed over to our friend’s house for a cookout.  We had a great time eating, drinking beer, and shooting off (small) fireworks and sparklers!  His neighbors down the street were launching the big stuff, so that was entertaining too.

Woo! Bright!

I was happy to at least have somewhat of a proper 4th of July, since our plans to see the Baldwin Park fireworks Sunday night went awry.  Actually, all of Orlando seemed to be lit up last night with big fireworks.  Everywhere we turned in our friend’s neighborhood, and on our whole ride home from the party, we saw them all over the skyline.  Pretty cool.

I hope everyone had a nice weekend!