We wanted to provide a light-hearted and photo-filled read to get your mind off of everything life is bringing to us all. This is part 2 to a multi-part post about our trip. Enjoy!
We enjoyed quite a few hikes in our short time in New Zealand. It was the perfect way to move around and take in the spectacular scenery. One fun thing about New Zealand is that trails are called tracks and hiking is referred to as tramping 🙂
Mt. John Walkway – Tekapo Lake
Before we get to the hike: Tekapo Lake features an amazingly photogenic church. We were hoping to get some great night shots of the church, but it was a full moon and the pictures look like daylight with long exposures.
Sealy Tarns Track to Mueller Hut – Mt. Cook/Aoraki National Park
The road to Aroki National Park is an amazing 45 minute drive from the bottom of Lake Pukaki to the foothills of several glacier-covered mountains.
Oh man, where to start with the Sealy Tarns Track. This trail is located in the Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, and it was HARD! We had intentions of going to the Mt. Olivier peak – a 7 mile round trip hike – but called it once we got to a glacier field roughly 2.7 miles up. We ended up only doing 5.5 miles, but it was more than enough. The track climbs 3,000 feet straight up the mountain; the first 1.75 miles are narrow stairs and the last mile is a rock scramble. We definitely felt the elevation on this hike, which was 2,700 feet at the base and just under 6,000 at the highest point. Despite our slow pace, we were constantly in awe of the vistas.
It was a brutal scramble to the summit after the Sealy Tarns halfway viewpoint. It was a combination of large boulders and loose gravel for a hands-and-knees scramble. The high altitude and cold breezes made the activity that much harder. However, Summit offered some amazing views into a glacier-worn valley–the pictures don’t do it justice.
At the end of the day we stayed in the Lake Pukaki Overnight Parking area that has some great views of the mountains over the lake.
Kepler Track – Te Anau
When we got to Te Anau, we immediately hit the trails. We headed to the Kepler Track, which is a 60km loop in the Fiordland National Park that is normally done as a 4-day, 3-night hike with developed campsite areas along the way. We obviously did not do the entire loop, but we did a 7 mile out-and-back tramp starting at the Te Anau Lake Control Gates and heading south. It’s a flat, tree-covered route that would be easily runnable for a 2-day fast pack if you have your legs on you!
The track ran along the Waiau River through lush, dense forest. It reminded us a lot of the PNW. The section of trail we completed was mostly flat – we only gained 500 ft over 7 miles – and was an easy walk in the woods. It was lightly trafficked the day we went, and while there were no vistas through the forest, it was very serene… if you like rainforests. 🙂
The greater San Diego area has not given us a glory-of-nature feel with the sprawling suburban landscape. However, when it’s 70 and sunny in the middle of winter and we get out for some tank top-friendly hikes, it’s easy to enjoy wherever we go!
Beth’s parents joined us from their Florida retreat for a long weekend in the dry San Diego landscape. For a traditional weekend hike with them, we traveled north to Escondido into the Daley Ranch conservation area. In addition to the diverse biological habitat the area preserves, it also offers many paved and dirt trails for people to enjoy.
It was a picture-perfect February day in Southern California! There were quite a few people starting and finishing in the late morning when we got there. The trail starts on a paved mile walk down to the old ranch. It never ceases to amaze me how a rancher would chose such a remote site for a ranch! There was fresh water feeding into here, which is an obvious necessity, but you can also see large open areas that were likely fields back in the day.
We were able to get some nice views to the South, overlooking the outskirts of Escondido.
We were lucky enough to host our good friends, Aaron and Dara on their trip to SD! We were looking for some new and high-end tequilas, and we thought a great place to explore would be Tijuana, a quick 15 mile, 30 min drive South. We heard a great way to visit was to park on the US side, where there is plenty of parking next to the premium outlet mall lots, and walk across using the West Pedestrian entrance. It was fast and easy!
We planned on calling an Uber but ended up walking to everywhere we wanted to go!
Our first stop was Casa Cocoa for a delicious mole-based meal with a variety of refreshing cocoa-based drinks.
We continued to the Mercado El Popo to explore a variety of stalls with local foods and ingredients. I wanted pretty badly to stock the pantry but help myself back so we could continue our adventure.
Next stop was, of course, to get some beer! Just off the main drag, Revolucion, we were told about Azteca Craft Brewing which has an eclectic space that you could easily miss.
Beer was great, but we were looking for tequila! So, we headed to a trendy cocktail bar, Estacion. The menu looked good, and the food smelled divine.
Ok, so the Tequila came from an unlikely place… Victor’s Liquor Store. Don’t let the sign in front of the building fool you- “Want to get drunk?” it has some HIGH END tequilas on the shelf! Many we had never heard of, of course. There were some amazing looking bottles, so many kinds from blancos to 23+ super anejos. We walked out with a good find, very satisfied.
We took the hike back to the car, and what do you do after a good day of walking and trying tequilas? TACOS! We went to one of the hottest places in the city – Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista! At 8:30pm there was a line down the street, maybe no surprise. It’s a strange setup with ad hoc lines that are based on the type of food and protein you are getting. The crazy long line is for the adobada which is an amazing-looking, seasoned and slow-roasted pork skewered on pineapples. Pro tip- For a quick bite, grab the shortest line- it’s all so good and will only take a couple minutes!
Big Laguna Mountain
So… Who is ready to get outside?? The expansive Cleveland National Forest offers quite a variety of landscape, including some moderate altitude, 5k ft trails. The air does feel a bit thin coming up from sea level. We headed straight into Big Laguna trail at the Penny Pines Trailhead for a 10 mile moderate hike/run. This is a very run-able course for anyone looking to leg it. We ran about half of it on-and-off to burn a little energy and enjoy the fresh air.
This area has a very different feel from the trails around the San Diego area. The higher altitude and pine forests really bring us back to a Colorado landscape. The reminder that we’re in Southern California comes early when you look East and see a massive drop-off into the desert landscape.
The lakes (2 of them!) midway through the hike are beautiful to look at, containing many water foul. You can definitely tell this was (is??) range land, with much of it pasture land that is clear of scrubs and plants from the grazing cattle and many fences along the perimeter of the trails.
Seward is a beautiful 125 mile (~2 hour) drive south from Anchorage. As you leave Anchorage, the road runs along the Cook Inlet and Chugach State Park providing both mountain and sea views.
Seward is a beautiful little sea town on Resurrection Bay. During our stay, there was a heavy smoke cloud hanging over the area from the Swan Lake Fire. While we couldn’t see much definition in the mountains across the bay, the smoke lent itself to some interesting lighting for photos.
We stayed in an AirBNB on the main drag, just a few blocks from Resurrection Bay. The first night there we walked along the bay and spent some time watching the otters swimming around. We also grabbed some pizza and beer at Seward Brewing Company. Decent selection of beer, solid pizza, and amazing views over the water.
Water Taxi from Seward to Alkai Glacier
The main reason we headed to Seward was to do some kayaking in the glaciers. We booked a trip with Kayak Adventures Worldwide and they outfitted us with kayaks and gear along with a water taxi ride to the put-in site. We took a cold, leisurely ride from Seward to Aialik Bay and got to see some sights along the way.
Wildlife along the way
There were plenty of seals sunning themselves along the shoreline. Reminded us a bit of the sea lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco. The guides told us these were adolescents who were testing the waters before returning to the pack.
There were so many otters in the bay! They were so fun to watch since they spend most of their time lying on their backs at the surface.
On the return trip, the taxi took a detour to spot some whales. Seward is a great place to view Orca whales, and there are plenty of options for whale watching tours. We got to see a few groups of Orcas putting on a show.
Kayaking to the Aialik Glacier
We had a gorgeous, sunny, and unusually calm day for our boat ride and kayak adventure. We kayaked about 3 miles to the Aialik Glacier – one of the most active calving glaciers! The glacier was so blue and we could see the lines from where it had moved over the years. What you see in photos is just a small piece; it’s 17 square miles! Fun fact: the glaciers really are as blue as you see in photos. The older the ice, the bluer it looks because it had become so compacted and reflects all other light on the spectrum.
When we got about a half mile from the glacier, we grouped up with the other two kayaks in our group and enjoyed lunch. It was truly an experience to just sit in our kayaks and watch the glacier calve while noshing on a sandwich.
Afterwards we got the chance to kayak around a small island, enjoying the serene landscape. Since our group was pretty strong and fast, we had the opportunity to explore some areas that not many other groups get to see. We kayaked through some islands and into an inlet since the water was high.
We had such a great time in both Seward and Denali. It was definitely a trip for the books, and as we were coming home we were already talking about how we could get back to explore more of the Last Frontier.
Alaska offers an abundance of wilderness experiences and a chance for us to get away from the monotonous modern business life. It is a quick, cheap flight from Portland to Anchorage, directly up the Pacific coast.
From Portland into Anchorage
On a clear day looking East you are able to enjoy the splendor of the coastline, ancient volcanoes, islands, mountains, and once further north, glaciers. However, thick smoke hung over most our trip, caused mostly by the large Swan Lake Fire.
We spent the rest of our day and evening in Anchorage which was still under some gorgeous low-70 degree F weather at this time. Save the smoke in the air, it was a perfect time to walk around the city and enjoy the last bit summer. We moseyed over to a highly rated pizza joint, Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria. It definitely did the trick–good stuff!
Alaska Railroad 8-hours North from Anchorage to Denali
First thing the next morning we headed to the Alaska Railroad station to catch the 8am train. Driving a vehicle the 5+-hours to Denali is another viable option–in fact the railroad runs parallel to the highway for nearly the entire trip; however, the train does offer a hands-free and scenic perspective to the landscape that we did enjoy. A vehicle does not give you any extra capabilities in Denali anyway since the town is small and shuttles are provided to and from the hotels to the Denali Visitor Center and National Park buses inside the Wilderness area.
There are two different options when booking the train: the Goldstar Service or Adventure Class. We actually rode in both classes and would definitely recommend upgrading to Goldstar if your budget allows. The Adventure Class ticket includes spacious seats, food for purchase, and second floor open seating with domed windows. You are free to move about the train and explore other cars. The Goldstar Class is more expensive but includes amenities that were worth the upgrade for us. The ticket includes larger seats with footrests, glass domed ceilings, open air deck, two meals, two alcoholic drinks, and upgraded facilities. Either way, you can’t go wrong; riding the train was such a great experience.
Along the route we got our first view of the great Mt. Denali peak. The mountain range is over 60 miles away and from this distance it is a rare site (visible less than 20% of the time). However, on this day it was visible in all its glory standing at over 20,000 ft above sea level, which is about 16,000 ft above surrounding base! Also visible on the left are the lower peaks of Mt. Russel and Mt. Foraker.
The smoke from the Alaska wildfires followed us everywhere. We got a very up-close experience with the 3,000 acre McKinley Fire (50 times smaller than the 160,000 acre Swan Lake Fire mentioned earlier) that ran along the Alaska Railroad for several miles. The train slowed to a crawl to give way for the forest firefighters who were containing the still-smoldering areas that we captured.
As we approached Denali National Park we come to Hurricane Gulch which spans 914 ft and stands 296 feet above the valley floor. This bridge is among the oldest in the area, built in 1921.
Denali National Park
We spent a little time near the hotels, getting to know our surroundings. There are plenty of hotel options near Denali National Park. Be aware that you may pay a bit more, especially during the summer season. We booked a hotel as part of a package with the railroad. It was a good deal, but we wouldn’t recommend that particular hotel. If you have a large budget, there are also lodges in Kantishna – the center of the park.
If you choose to take the train, chances are you’ll need some way to get around. Luckily there are plenty of free shuttles that run to and from the park and town. “Downtown” is really just a short strip of road with a few restaurants and shops – it’s a very short walk to many hotels from there.
Even if you have a car, you’ll need to ride a bus in the park. There is one road that runs 92 miles through the park. In order to keep the land as wild as possible, vehicles have been limited on park roads since the 1970s. Personal vehicles are allowed in the first 16 miles of the National Park Road, but if you want to go further you have to purchase a ticket. There are also free shuttle buses that will go to mile 16 (Savage River) if you don’t have a car.
There are two types of buses running through the park: green Denali park buses and white tour buses. The green buses are non-narrated while the white busses are narrated. The price of a ticket varies based on whether or not you choose a narrated bus as well as the distance you want to go into the park. These trips usually range from 5.5-12 hours round-trip if you don’t get off the bus. The buses make stops every hour or two for bathroom breaks, but be sure to take your own food and water.
Visitors are encouraged to get off the buses and explore the park. Be aware of wildlife and follow the safety precautions. When you’re done hiking and ready to go back, simply flag down a green bus and hop on.
For the Ranger Discovery Hike we took the disco bus to nowhere
Denali National Park offers a boundless many activities, but most of them are centered around very wilderness-oriented activities. We opted for the Ranger-led Discovery Hike as our first introduction into the Denali Wilderness. It gave us the confidence to explore the back country with an experienced guide, so we could get our bearings.
Sightseeing on the disco bus before the hike
We started the trip on the disco bus, 1.5-hours (about 30 miles) into the park early in the morning. On that early trip, we were able to catch some wildlife along the way. There are over 150 species of birds in the park as well as plenty of mammals and even one amphibian (it literally freezes solid in the winter!). These caribou are a common site, but these large males had particularly impressive racks. We were also able to spot some brown bears (grizzly bears), from a safe distance. They were digging for roots along a river bed. It was moose rutting season while we were there, and we got to see quite a few moose.
Further up the road we were able to get some fantastic shots of Mt. Denali. This for the second time in 2 days–a rare treat!! Even near the end of summer those peaks are completely snow-covered and frigid. So many people visit Denali and never get off the bus. The scenery and wildlife is so amazing that you don’t have to, but we highly recommend hopping off the bus for some hiking.
There is so much to do in Denali and Alaska; this was just the start of our adventure. Our favorite part in Denali had to be the off-trail hike we did – stay tuned for a recap of that! And in Part 2 (?) we venture south to Seward and the Kenai Fjords.
You have seen the Mt Hood to Columbia River Gorge run report from Beth detailing her 45 mile back country run. However, you haven’t ever seen what the support crew, the dog and I, have to do to support such a monumental effort! Spoiler: It involves a lot of driving (200 miles), a lot of waiting (10 hours!), and some fun hiking.
Resupply points are important for water, nutrition, and a mental break
Although there are some beastly runners that go unsupported for a hundred miles or more, we found a nice balance by resupplying every 16-20 miles. Beth is able to pack enough nutrition to last a 50k, but her 2 liter water bladder runs low after 3 hours running the trails. This is the single biggest thing we provide to her. If we meet her in a remote area, I will pack in 4-5 liters of water to fill her up and have enough for the pup and I to make it out. If we meet up at the car, we will have ice-cold water waiting for her in Yetis–now that’s a real treat!
Although Beth can pack enough nutrition for a 50k, having some fresh crackers, baked potato wedges, and dumping the sticky empty containers provides a nice relief. You can see below the typical food I carry for the resupply: Lots of Gu gels and gummies, Kind bars for later in the run, and even Nuun electolyte tablets for really long, hot runs. Missing from the picture is perhaps the runners best calorie-packed friend: bananas!
Besides water and food, we also provide a mental break for Beth–imagine that! After 3-4 hours of nothing but her own thoughts and hearing her feet plodding on the ground, she is excited to have the goal of seeing us and taking small break. We make sure she’s feeling good all around and provide her any support material such as K-Tape, sunblock, Body Glide, or even bug repellent.
Route planning happens days before the race and needs to work for both of us
Beth ran through some remote, back country areas in Mount Hood National Forest, so it was tough to plan where to meet up that I could drive and hike in the time it would take her to get there. We broke this course into 3 sections (check the map). Each section allows Beth to cover 13-16 miles and me to arrive there well before she did so I would be ready and could get in some hiking myself.
Beth was able to cut a mostly direct path through the forest, but I had to drive about 150 miles total to accommodate each one of the stops and the final pickup (gray lines indicate my driving route).
One of the hardest parts of doing these back country runs is that without cell phone reception, there is no way to check in with each other about timing, trail conditions, or change-ups. We do well, though, by having a good handle on estimated time, distance, and elevation gains. When I prep my resupply pack, I carry just about anything she may immediately need.
Ran 45 miles in 11 hours with 2 resupply points
Started at Timberline Lodge Ski Area at 9:30a
We drove from Portland to the South side of Mount Hood at Timberline Lodge Ski Area to reach the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) starting point at 0900. The elevation here is around 7,000 ft above sea level and really puts a burden on the lungs and legs. After a bit of wandering around to find the trailhead, Beth started her run at 0930!
We knew we would be pushing dusk in 11 hours but were excited for this journey–C’est la vie.
Stop 1 at Lolopass Rd and PCT at 1:30p, 4 hours running
Stop 1 was an easy 45-min drive for me down the mountain to the North side of Mount hood. That gave me plenty of time to hike up the trail a few miles to meet Beth at the trail intersection. The pup and I went 2 miles up the trail to a big intersection and waited about an hour for Beth to come rambling up a brutal climb to greet us. We all run back to the car together and got a feel for the next 30 miles!
Notably, this first leg took almost an hour more than expected because of the high altitude and 3k ft worth of climbs, setting us up for late and dark post-9pm finish time.
Stop 2 at Wahtum Lake at 5:30p, 7 hours running
It was a windy, single-lane, paved road to Wahtum Lake for stop 2. Snickers and I arrived two hours before we estimated Beth would come through, so we took a nap in the car in the busy little campground parking lot. 🙂 Afterwards Snickers and I headed down to the lake to see the sights and capture a few photos.
Beth came rambling down just before 5:30pm at 32 miles run! We jogged up to the car to resupply Beth with some water and food. At this point it was getting late. Although there was 3.5 hours of sunlight left, that would leave very little room for error if the last 13 miles took longer than expected. Beth was motivated to finish the course she had planned at 45 miles! She was feeling good and chose to continue forward. She had to finish at the Gorge because there were no roads or pickup spots in between Wahtum Lake and the end.
End at Columbia River Gorge at 8:30p, 11 hours running
By 5:30pm we were both getting pretty hungry: Beth having eaten mostly Gu gels, some granola bar, and half a potato, and I only had some trail mix and a granola bar. I had made a plan to have food ready to go by the time I met Beth at the trailhead. I stopped in Hood River at a Hawaiian BBQ place and got a couple big containers of meet, rice, and noodles–post run power food??
I arrived at the trailhead a little after 7:00pm, and I scarfed down half the food in no time. Beth had gotten cell reception and texted me around 7:30pm that she was really feeling fatigued. I had been debating on hiking in to meet her, but that sealed it for me. I loaded the pack with some snacks, electrolytes, and the hiking poles and headed up the trail to meet her. I left the dog napping in the car. I was glad I ate food, because I wanted my strength to help Beth–it’s like they say on the plane, put on your own mask before helping others.
We were losing light fast in the woods near the Gorge, so I was a bit worried we were going to have a dark hike back to the car. Two miles into the Herman Creek trail I made it to the PCT intersection. I had estimated I would meet Beth at this point and not seeing her I was a bit worried she had run our of steam up the hill. I gave her a call in hopes I could connect with her live and sure enough I did! Luckily she was only a quarter mile up the trail! I rambled up and we were able to meet there! I immediately gave her some more potatoes and electrolytes along with the hiking poles. She was looking totally wore out but was still on her feet. After a couple minutes to get set we were on the trail back to the car. The sky was growing darker and the air cooler, we moved at a good pace mostly downhill to get to the parking lot.
We arrived at 8:30pm, 45 miles into Beth’s run, 11 hours after she had started on the trail at Mount Hood. Beth was overcome with joy and relief. We took no time to load up the car and get on the road back to Portland. She has two weeks to recover and then we will be back at Mnt Hood for her 50 mile race! And she will definitely be able to do it, because… What’s 5 more miles??
Independence Day we decided to head out for a sunset hike on Antelope Island in the middle of the great Salt Lake! It was _hot_ and the evening sun provided no relief. The views were fantastic from the top of Frary trail, a 7.3 mile out-and-back, the sunset gorgeous, but the fireworks were but small twinkles in the city skyline 30-miles away!
Hot Frary Trail hike
We started at 6pm and it was still in the upper 90’s, sun blazing. It is an hour drive from SLC because the only way to the island is over a land bridge on the North side of the island. After we entered, we were treated to views of hundreds of bison (buffalo??) right from the car. Looks like they were trying to cool off on the salty beaches.
Frary Trail is rated Hard on Alltrails.com and it earns primarily through zero shade, a good, 2,300 ft climb, and some rocky terrain inside a 3.1 mile trail (plus the return). We were a bit worried about how many people might be out there for a sunset hike on July 4th, due to fireworks. However, we only met 1 person returning when we got to the trailhead!
The trail offered a beautiful, rolling grasslands, with plenty of wildlife and quite a few exposed rocks. Apparently these are some of the oldest rocks around! Definitely not what we expected seeing the island from SLC. The pup was ready for action and did very well, but she was feeling the heat by the time we hit the top of the mountain.
We ran into some antelope(??) on our way up- they were crossing the field in front of us, just a hundred feet or so. They were really eye-ing us up, so we waited and they meandered across the path. We saw a few more scattered around the paths as the sun set.
The last leg of the hike is a bit of challenge- it offers 2 paths. One is across a craggy ridgeline that is really not meant to be hiked at all, and the second is down and then up and up a pretty well-marked path.
Golden hour makes for some fantastic shots
Take a look at the shot I capture of Beth during the last hour or so of sunlight. Fantastic shadowing at this faux-peak about a half mile still to go.
Sunset at the peak offers spectacular 360
The real show was at the the peak at 6,445 ft of elevation. You are able to see 360 and miles and miles in every direction. Salt Lake City sits due East about 30 miles as the crow flies and makes for a humbling setting in front of the mountain range. The real show is to the West, with the sunset over the far mountains and the Salt Lake.
When we hit the top we were joined not long after by a few more folks: a couple single hikers plus a group of 4 that was struggling to get up… Looks like they were planning to have a few drinks and stay up past the fireworks. They were going to be in for an unpleasant return hike.
Dark, dark return hike
We started down the return around 10pm, just as the sun had set. We still had some light for the most difficult half mile; however, that bit of good fortune quickly ended as the sky grew darker. When the sun sets out on Antelope Island it is DARK. Not true International Dark Sky’s dark, but no artificial lights outside SLC. We had a heck of time coming down the entire trail after nautical twilight. We really had to pick around the rocks in the trail that hadn’t even given us notice on the way up. On top of that, we heard animals… I mean, all kinds of them. We heard coyotes as soon as the sun set, the bleating of the deer and antelope in the distance, and the constant, low rumbling of the bison(!!!) at the lower elevation. On top of that, there are many large rocks sticking out of the ground, just outside flashlight view that at every turn make you think you’re going to run right into one of those big things. It really felt like being out in nature.
For the dog, the return hike was just… miserable. We would highly discourage folks from making the dark decent with their furry friend. It was hard for us to see, but impossible for the dog to see, so it was slow going picking through the trail.
The fireworks were but small twinkles
So, what about the FIREWORKS! It is July 4, after all. Well… We were able to see some grand city views on our return hike. The fireworks, though, were only small twinkling lights that must have been spaced every city block. In fact when I first saw them, I thought I was looking at blinking street lights. It’s amazing how small the fireworks look at such a distance when they look so big and beautiful when you are beneath them! The whole of the greater Salt Lake City area was twinkling the entire time we descended.
It was a long, dark, and lonely drive back to civilization off the island… very appropriate way to end it!
Here’s another tasty recipe we tried and loved! (What is this, a food blog??)
We’ve been making savory scones for a while now, and they turn out fantastic every time. This time, we decided to tweak the base recipe for the savory scones and turn them into a sweet treat. We used freeze dried strawberries, which we picked up at Trader Joe’s but you can get them on Amazon. You could certainly use fresh berries, but they will add a lot of moisture to the dough; to combat this you may consider draining the juice after chopping, using frozen berries (don’t thaw first), or coating the chopped berries in flour or powdered sugar prior to mixing in. As always, we love our sweets with a side of coffee! This time we paired it with a Columbian from La Barba Roasters here in Salt Lake, which has notes of honey, caramel, and chocolate. Yum!
Strawberry chocolate scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk, very cold — splash of vinegar in milk
1 egg, plus 1 egg for egg wash
6 tbsp unsalted butter – cut into
1 T honey or brown sugar
1/4 C freeze dried strawberries, roughly chopped
1/4 C dark chocolate chips, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into the dry mixture until resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the buttermilk/soured milk and honey into the mixture and mix until it forms a dough. Mix in strawberries and chocolate until well incorporated.
Pour the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead once or twice to make sure everything comes together. The mixture should still be very shaggy.
Form the mixture into an 8-inch circle. Cut the circle into 6 even wedges. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Beat one egg and brush the top of each wedge thoroughly. Sprinkle tops with a little sugar.
I have been looking forward to this pairing all year long! It combines my love of Stouts with the love of pies. You may have guessed it… November was Oatmeal Stout and Pumpkin Pie! Mmmm.
Those of you who have been lucky enough to have a beer or two with me know I love my stouts. Imperial Stouts! Anything particularly with a ABU of 10% plus and aged in a bourbon barrel. I believe oatmeal stouts actually run on the more drinkable side, usually a lower alcohol content and very sweet and smooth due to the lactose (right??). This was a great pairing for the Thanksgiving Day pie and fresh whipped cream.
Since we are in Austin, TX at the waning months of the year, I have had quite a few local and regional stouts. In fact, just across the street is a local beer bar called Craft Pride which only serves Texas beers, and they have a great selection. That said, I had already chosen a beer back in Minneapolis for this occasion, so we went ahead with Braubeer MooJoos from Lucan, MN.
Beth made the pumpkin pie and we had it along with everything else from scratch for our Thanksgiving Day feast! Here is the recipe:
Filling (Beth here – if making two pies, use a 29 oz can of pumpkin and 5 eggs, double everything else in the recipe):
1 x 15 oz can of pumpkin (unflavored)
1/4 t nutmeg
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves (0r 3 whole cloves ground)
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1 C milk
Pie crust was made from scratch (Beth here –or use your favorite pre-made crust, Pillsbury was always a favorite in my house):
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 C butter, chilled and diced (works great if frozen and grated on a cheese grater as well)
1/4 t salt
1/4 C ice water
Whipped cream (Beth here – I don’t actually measure when making whipped cream I just go by sight, but these are standard measurements):
1 c Heavy cream
1 T powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
1 t vanilla
Mix the filling, set it aside.
For the crust:
Make the crust by combining the flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add in water 1T at a time until mixture forms a ball. Do not over mix and don’t add too much water; this causes the butter to melt and aids in gluten formation that leads to a less flaky crust. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let chill in fridge for a few hours. When ready, roll it out and place it in a pie tin, any ol’ disposable tin will do.
Pour filling into crust and bake at 375 degrees until knife comes out clean (~60 minutes).
For the whipped cream:
In a large bowl, whip cream on high until soft peaks form (~2-3 minutes). Add vanilla and confectioners sugar and continue beating on medium until stiff peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat or cream will become butter!
When the pie is cool, top with whipped cream and serve!
This one is a bit out of order, but wanted to share the delicious-ness. September was West Coast Lager and Beer Can Chicken.
We had heard of beer can chicken; however, I never knew how to make it. We did some research as to how exactly this method operates, but (spoiler alert) after we had collected the data we ended up butterflying the whole bird and grilling in directly on the rack. Some points on why it is disappointing clear we had to go our route:
First, the beer can in the chicken plays no gastronomic role at all! That is, the beer can only exists to help hold up the chicken. There are a few sites that will tell you the [open] beer is supposed to evaporate into the chicken to make it more juicy, but my whole grilled chicken always comes out juicy, so I don’t see why this is a problem in the first place.
If the beer can is supposed to structurally support the chicken while cooking, the physical setup still baffles me. I don’t think that top-heavy foul would support well even with a big beer can crammed in its cavity. I imagine one would have to create a suspension system to keep the bird up. So, even if it could be balanced, the practicality here makes it pretty hard to make the point.
The chicken won’t cook properly on a grill if it sits on top of a beer can- the top part of that bird is so far from the rack/heat source that the bottom would be extra crispy while the top of that breast would be extra rare. This method might work in an oven where the heat is evenly distributed, but I fail to see it working on the grill.
These are my thoughts, so take them with a grain of salt.
To prep the chicken, I butterflied it by taking a large chef’s knife and cutting along the backbone. I also cut the skin that holds the thighs and legs, since I want the heat more evenly spread. The whole then essentially lays flat. I season the skin with salt, pepper, paprika, very little cayenne pepper, and maybe some rosemary. I make sure the grill is hot and throw on the bird, cavity side-down. I always start chicken with the skin-side up, so it get mostly cooked then halfway through I put skin side down for not quite the rest of the half. This gets it cooked well all the way through and the skin has time to crisp but avoids burning it. The whole chicken will take about 20-25 min to cook on the grill.
We served it up with a simple meat and potatoes meal – a microwaved sweet potato and some red leaf lettuce with a bit of balsamic vinegar + olive oil topped with cheddar.
Now the beer: We cooked this at the apartment in Minneapolis, so I had a hard time finding “West Coast” lagers from which to pull. I ended up using a Lakefront Brewery, Inc. Oktoberfest Lager, which is based in Milwaukee, WI. For the truest West Coast notion, I went as far west as we can go- Kona Brewing Co Longboard Lager, which also reminded us of the warm vacation just back in Jan at Hawaii.
This is long overdue, but it’s time to examine the beers that we imbibed in Denver! We were pretty busy with wedding activities, so you’ll have to forgive us for not having the same, comprehensive list that we created in Beer in Portland.
We lived in the Capitol Hill/Five Points area, and we prefer to explore breweries within walking distance (for obvious reasons). We also like dog friendly breweries so the pup can join us for a brew after a hike! However, we found that the week we moved to Denver, the health department said Dogs were no longer allowed in breweries [or patios]! Boo, Denver. This was enforced even on patio areas, where the dog needed to be outside the gates. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t need the dog around all time, I prefer her like while we’re eating, but when we want to grab a beer after a hike (when we have her along), it would be nice to sit on the patio because she can’t stay in the car on those sunny, hot Colorado afternoons.
Denver does have a healthy brewing scene. The difference here is that you will not always find them filled with bearded beer connoisseurs that spend a good portion of their income on beer; on the contrary, Denver breweries are full of beautiful, young, polo-wearing yuppies! And if I were a brewery/taproom business owner, this would not be a bad thing. I’m just saying, it’s not our scene.
Grandma’s House is an eclectic stop on Broadway, South of downtown Denver. The whole area is very hip and up-and-coming. This place features doilies on the tables, rocking chairs, and a Super Nintendo on an old tube TV. The beers are solid, though the smaller production can make it tough to try everything they produce. Order some take-out from some of the restaurants in the area; we ordered from Maria’s Empanadas, which was a great combo with the beer.
Ratio was a good example- a Saturday afternoon will have you in the middle of a Match.com meetup, dodging happy peddlers, and looking for a table so you can sip the delicious suds without having a bro talk about how crazy last night was and how great tonight will be (see the background of the photo). Ratio has solid offerings, and there are many breweries in crawling distance in this RiNo area, so check it out. We had wings from a food truck posted out front, settled me down a bit about the other patrons. There is one plus- we ended up talking to a professional “grower” for 20 minutes or so- God bless Colorado’s lax weed laws.
Epic Brewing hit a good note for me. It’s also in the RiNo area and features a large brewery and tap room. They have a big fireplace which would surely be wonderful to huddle around in the cold Colorado winters.
Lost Highway brewery is on the Colfax, “the longest, wickedest road”, just East of downtown. We enjoyed this hole-in-the-wall feeling, chill brewery. It has a small-er facility and brew with some interesting ingredients- They do an almond porter where they actually start with almonds and not just extracts, pretty cool. It was a great spot to run for some weeknight brews. They also will can 32 oz “crowlers” right in front of you–this is a tall-boy that would be easy to take on a weekend camping trip.
Twisted Pine in Boulder is a nice stop after tackling some foothills mountains in the area. It is just East of the downtown area and offers a good selection of food with decent beers. We did this with Beth’s parents one lazy Saturday afternoon.
Great Divide has been brewing in downtown Denver for quite some time, and puts out solid beers. It’s a busy place, but you should be able to find a spot as long as a giant bike group hasn’t just walked in to celebrate a good ride.
Barrels and Bottles Brewery is another Golden brewery that served decent beers, but the more interesting feature is the wine dispensing system they use–very high tech!
Mountain Toad in Golden offered some good beers and a solid selection of rotating food trucks! This is actually the place we went to get the pizza food truck, Basic Kneads to cater our wedding- delicious! Dogs are everywhere here, since it is not in Denver and does not need to adhere to the Denver No-Dog policy.
Avery has quickly become one of my favorite breweries, period. They just do really good beer, all round. We took down quite a few of them on this list; including my favorite here, the 17% Imperial Stout with Espresso- Tweak! The brewery was packed with people, but the servers are really good at finding you when you arrive, so it was a pleasant experience despite having to eat while sitting on a bench; which reminds me- great, upscale food!
Declaration has a beautiful patio area and nice indoor spot about 4 miles South of Denver. Solid beer, and great place to hang out on a sunny weekend day (dogs are NOT allowed, unfortunately, since it’s still in the Denver metro area).
During our wedding we did some 5.5 gal pony kegs of Upsloap Pale Ale and Great Divide Titan IPA. Sorry no pics, not even the keg stands… 😀