Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.
The end of the week was way too hot for mid-April, so a refreshing, tropically named, cocktail was required. Dale DeGroff’s South Beach cocktail worked quite nicely. I also tried a version using grenadine instead of simple syrup, which just added another layer of flavor, and is going to be my go-to variation on the drink. Still sweetened, but with more taste than the original. Very good. The Lady Friend and I also split a bomber of Bar Harbor Brewing’s Thunder Hole Ale. I was expecting it to be along the lines of a bitter British malty ale, but it was actually a brown ale. Strangely, it smelled roasted and creamy like a good stout, but had a sharp stale hop bite to the start, then malty brown through the rest. However, the aroma put me in the mood for a stout, so I finished off the last survivor of my Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout Nitro. Delicious.
Saturday brought a bit of a twist: a wine event. I know. It doesn’t happen often, and I’m usually not too happy about it. Silly wine. However, Ke$hia got herself a job with Second Glass, a company that does wine events, tech, mobile apps… that sort of stuff. Apparently they do a thing called “Wine Riot,” a tasting event held in Boston for the past several years. This year it’s expanded to a multi-city tour, and Ke$hia scored us some tickets for the Boston stop. We don’t do much wine drinking (as little as possible if I have anything to do with it) but after all the brewery and distillery visits, this was something that appealed to the Lady Friend. Plus, cheap tickets.
The event took place in the Park Plaza Castle, which I had never been to. Apparently it used to be an armory. We hit the 1-5p afternoon session and made our way into the city. Despite a line stretching all the way down the block, we got inside fairly quickly. Annoyingly, one of the “security” guards checked our ID once we got in the line, then the SAME guy checked us AGAIN at the door. Dude, what was the point of that? Just stand at the door, Mongo. Once, inside, we met up with Ke$hia, and she showed us around off and on through the afternoon. There was… wine. Lots of it. Second Glass had a nifty phone app for the event so you could keep track of the wines you liked, and it’ll tell you where to buy them locally. A pretty good idea. We stuck to mostly bigger, red wines, though I also like sparkling because it’s fancy. Oh! And I won a handy little keychain bottle opener from the Yelp! table, which was mostly the highlight of my day.
The Lady Friend tells me tales of these wine events she’s been to in the past with all kinds of free givaways: glasses, corkscrews, stickers, hats, um, corks, uhhhh, hedgehogs…? I don’t know what they usually give away, but the LF says it’s a haul of free stuff. There really wasn’t much of that at this event. A few stickers, and a pen or two, plus my awesome bottle opener. The event “glasses” were stemless plastic, which makes more sense from a spillage/droppage point of view, but doesn’t really give you much of a souvenir. At least there was plenty of alcohol, which helped because the DJ felt it necessary to BLAST her Top-40 remix tunes loud enough so that everyone had to shout their conversations. What is it with events that they feel the need for 747 jet engine decibel levels of horrible music? I guess when the event is called a “Riot” you need to step it up.
I won our bet of “which one of us will see someone we know first” when I ran into John Hafferty of Bin Ends. John was sampling the fares and making introductions, but also gave a seminar, which we attended, called “F*ck the Wine Police.” Basically, it was all about wines that were snubbed by the critics and given low scores, but are actually excellent wines. He gave four examples (and we tasted along with the talk) and sure enough, all four were quite good. Critics usually have SOME sort of reason for panning a wine, and John gave the example of a particular Spanish wine. I forget what year he mentioned, but apparently it was a bad year for Spain, so critics avoid Spanish wines from that vintage. Well, as John says, “it turns out that Spain is a pretty big place.” He had us taste a Spanish wine that was actually quite good, but no one would buy it because of the vintage. Hence, the price drops and they snag it by the case to sell at Bin Ends. That’s what they’re all about… finding the hidden bargain wines, so you can get something that tastes like a $60 bottle for a third of the price. THAT is when I start to get really interested in wine; getting something tasty and amazing, but without draining my bank account. An excellent beer might set you back $10 for a 22oz bomber, but an excellent wine could be $80. A very steep learning curve. However, if I can get some tasty wines for beer-type money, now I’m a lot more willing to give it a shot. John’s lecture was right up my alley… if you know what to look for, you can ignore what the “experts” say and find some real bargains. If that appeals to you, go check them out. They’re in Braintree, near the South Shore Plaza on Wood Road (the same road as the F1 go-kart building).
The vendors started packing up about 20 minutes early, which was annoying, so we said our goodbyes to Ke$hia, who told us the gritty horror stories that happened behind the scenes (people changing clothes behind curtains, seven pukers, and other fun). We didn’t see any of this, so our afternoon was quite pleasant. I did actually taste some decent wines, and thanks to the Second Glass app, I know which ones they were. Also, John’s lecture was really enjoyable and, without trying to sound corny, really does make me want to learn more about these wines. I’ll be stopping by Bin Ends this weekend for some more info (FYI, they’re doing a tasting of Mayflower’s beers on Friday night, and The Knot, an Irish whiskey liqueur, on Saturday) and likely do some damage to my bank account, and liver, in the process.
The Lady Friend and I did some wandering around the city, stopping at Wagamamas for dinner, and grabbing a beer in the theatre district before heading to a going-away party for a friend of mine. The party was at a ridiculously nice apartment in the Leather District, and there were REAL Margaritas (fresh lime juice) and some variations (fresh grapefruit juice, and a float of St. Germain). The Lady Friend’s eyes lit up at the prospect of high-quality Margaritas, and she sampled several, leading to her crawling around my apartment later in the evening. Literally crawling. Altogether, a decently boozy day.
Sunday was a comedy of errors. We had planned to meet up with Ke$hia after her company brunch, so we drove into Back Bay and headed to the OtherSide Cafe for a beer while we waited, since the OtherSide is set to close (again) on April 28th. It’s a punk/hipster kind of place, but they have decent beers on tap, and it was pouring rain, so a nearby location was key. I sipped on High & Mighty’s Beer of the Gods, a blonde ale which was quite tasty, with a decent amount of sharp hop. Ke$hia got tied up with her company outing, so we headed over to the Sheraton’s SideBar, unique for their “sunken” bar arrangement. Patrons sit on ottomans at a low bar, while the bartenders stand in a sunken pit. Groovy.
However, their service didn’t impress me too much. While the Lady Friend snacked on a trio of Whoopie Pies, I excitedly ordered a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, only to be told they were out of it. Since it was a cold and rainy big IPA sort of day, I went with the next choice on the list, Harpoon’s Leviathan Imperial IPA. When I saw the bartender pouring my beer from a tap, I got suspicious, and sure enough, it was Harpoon’s standard IPA that they tried to serve me under the guise of the Leviathan. When I called them on it, they said they were out of all their craft bottles, leading me to wonder why they didn’t just say that in the first place. That’s kind of an underhanded move. Don’t try that with someone who drinks as much beer as I do. I settled with the Harpoon IPA (which is plenty tasty, just not what I wanted), and we grabbed some food at the Pru before heading back to SquirrelFarts Headquarters to dry out. A day better spent entirely indoors with sleepy pants on.