Lou Brew Reviews: U.R.B.

While not technically its own brewery, URB is a place of legend around here. It’s Urban Chestnut’s Research Brewery, and for $1, you get to sample 3 unreleased beers and provide feedback on each one. The pours are sizeable for samples, and the questions in the survey help enhance the experience by making you think about the flavors and aromas of each sip. For $5, you can take the survey and follow up the research brews with a full draft pour of any of their beers on tap.

Leaving aside the different–yet delicious–drink options, URB is also known for its pizza. In a city where pizza is hotly debated (St. Louis-style pizza has cracker-thin crust and uses provel cheese in place of mozzarella), we have been searching for the familiar comfort of hand-tossed dough and “normal” cheese.

I fell in love with URB’s pizza. The sauce is a little spicy, and their margherita pizza is a little light on cheese for my taste (nothing a heavy-handed sprinkle of parmesan couldn’t take care of) but this is the closest I’ve found to Two Amy’s pizza in DC (which was the standard my husband and I began judging pizza against before we moved).

We had a spontaneous date night here on a Wednesday night, and it was a little crowded around the research bar when we arrived, but we were easily able to get a table after ordering a whole pizza. By the time we finished dinner and moseyed over to the research bar, it had cleared out a lot and we got seats right at the bar.

I highly recommend URB if you’re looking for a fun twist on the old “grabbing drinks” standby, for an easy date night, or if you’re just craving good pizza. You can’t go wrong at URB!

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A Rambling Adventure

Something I love to do is to head out with no plans and see where the day takes me. This is sort of me rebelling against myself, because normally I prefer to know exactly what is going to happen (and tend to freak out a little if those plans suddenly change last minute). It doesn’t make sense that I would welcome the opportunity to completely go with the flow — unless you also take into account that I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of person. I’m a bit oxymoronic and I’m starting to love that about myself.


Saturday was one of those spontaneous days. My husband made plans with friends to check out Schlafly’s Stout and Oyster Festival — something he never mentioned to me until the night before. My tentative plans were to straighten the apartment and spend most of the day snuggled on the couch with a cup of tea, reading a book and listening to the rain…but St. Louis has presented me with quite enough of those opportunities lately, and with no sun in sight, I welcomed the chance to do something new.


The best part is my husband can’t eat raw oysters and I haven’t been a fan of stout beers. We really had no business at a stout-and-oyster-fest, but it was free and our friends were there. First adventure was confirming a suspicion I’ve been cultivating: since moving to Missouri, my taste for beer has expanded quite a bit. Recently, I’ve transitioned from tolerating slightly more hops to actually enjoying a (more mild) pale ale. Saturday, I threw caution to the wind and ordered a Red Velvet Stout to see if my palate has expanded the other direction. It. Was. Delicious. And even though we did not partake of the raw oysters, I did have some pretty awesome fried oysters.


We’d passed Pappy’s BBQ on the way in, and if there’s one thing I’ve heard more times than I can count since moving here, it’s that Pappy’s is some of the best barbecue around. After our stouts and oyster appetizers, our group decided to walk the 20 minutes to Pappy’s for lunch. Along the way, we spotted the Fountain on Locust. Now, before we moved, I made a list of places that sounded interesting or were highly rated, and the Fountain on Locust made the top of that list. One friend agreed that she’d seen posts about them on Instagram and wanted to try it. When another friend pulled up their 4.7 stars (out of over 700 reviews) on Yelp, my husband was convinced. We stopped for AH-MAZING ice cream martinis (the dreamsicle was sooo good, and the others loved their drinks too) and a couple of the best grilled cheeses in the state (they really were freaking awesome).


After our dessert-drinks and second-appetizers, we continued on to Pappy’s. If you are familiar at all with Pappy’s reputation, you are probably muttering to yourself that we are fools for thinking we’ll get in at lunchtime on a Saturday. You would be correct. The line was wrapped around the building, and by this point the little food we’d had was not quite holding us over the way we’d hoped. We agreed to continue the walking adventure and see what other spots might present themselves to us. Enter Center Ice Brewery. Located a few doors down from Pappy’s, the owner’s father happened to be grabbing something from his truck as we passed, and — in typical Midwest fashion — struck up a conversation. He let us know we could order Pappy’s from the bar at the brewery, and it would be ready for pickup in 20 minutes. He told us about their most popular beers, and gave us some history about the space — like the actual penalty box doors leading to the back bar. Their Golden Ale was really good, and the hockey theme throughout was a lot of fun, complete with one of those hockey-foosball tables that the boys had way too much fun with.


Because we were in the area, someone suggested heading to Narwhal’s to continue our spontaneous bar crawl. It was a longer slog through the damp, darkening afternoon, but the feel inside Narwhal’s is all summer! Their beverages are all frozen (they did have a Winter Hot Bar, from which I tried the Winter Sake — basically a sweet, boozy tea — but they’re phasing it out for spring — if it ever arrives), and the Strawberry Basil is very refreshing. I also tried the Blueberry Moscow Mule which was pretty good. Two friends like the Banana Dave, another the Mango one. It seemed like you can’t really go wrong with the tropical, fresh flavors. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up to really enjoy all they offer!


Our day of spontaneity ended (at least for my husband and me, who are 100% ok with calling it a night when we feel like it) at Dressel’s. I had a fantastic grilled cheese and tomato soup, and my husband had his favorite burger (post about that coming…someday). It was the perfect capstone to an adventurous day!

We also passed this gorgeous church on SLU’s north campus

City Museum: Round 2

A couple of wildcards came to visit over St. Patty’s Day weekend, so of course I took them to the City Museum. There are few things as fun as climbing on stuff (and few things worse than realizing just how old you are when you try to wriggle through caverns).


We immediately lost one of them. He took off through a gap in the caverns that the two remaining were not enthused about. After a Roger Murtaugh-esque we’re getting too old for this shit moment, we finally wrenched our bodies through twisting gaps made for children to find the first wildcard had vanished. A trek through near-pitch-dark, winding pathways full of tiny pockets children would randomly pop out of led us (somehow) to the second floor cafeteria. After a couple more disorienting tries, we remembered we’re adults with cell phones and so we coordinated a regrouping and plunged into the caves a happy trio once again.

The caves lead round and through and up to the top of the 10-story slide. About halfway up, it’s all tightly spiraled stairs that one of us (okay, me) charged up with wild abandon, only to nearly pass out from hyperventilation at the top. The guy watching the slide entrances was slightly misleading when he said “Slide 2 is open!” and did not add that it is slightly shorter (ending about a story above Slide 1). Also, I got stuck a couple times and had to kick my feet to get moving again. And by the time I exited the slide, my quad muscles had seized up after all that stair-climbing and I was confronted for the second time with just how old I am.


We were also all sweating from the exertion and the heat pumping into the building on top of all the tiny bodies clogging everywhere (don’t these kids have school!?) so we headed out to Monstrocity and the blessed chill of early March in the Midwest. Once again, the youthful-hearted wildcard took off into the cages, climbing higher than I swore I ever would, while I waved like a proud-yet-slightly-worried mama from the catwalk over the giant ball-pit.


His adventurous spirit was contagious, though, and before long we all found ourselves monkeying up wire ladders and strutting across catwalks that lead out from the plane wings. We found a terrifying slide that was very short but very steep. When I finally let go of the bar and slid, I shot down it so fast I skidded across the sidewalk. An older couple went down, and he almost took her out at the bottom. We went down twice.


I loved the City Museum the first time I visited, but I also had a sort of “been there, done that” feeling when presented with the opportunity to go again. I’m really glad I did check it out a second time. I climbed higher than I ever believed possible of myself, and I got to play like children with some of my favorite people.

 

Lou Brew Reviews: Schlafly Bottleworks

We’ve been sort of avoiding visiting either of the two Schlafly (pronounced shla [‘a’ like in ‘cat’]-flee) brewery locations because we’re now St. Louis craft beer snobs who view Schlafly as practically being on the same level as any Anheuser Busch product. That’s not exactly fair — mostly, Schlafly was our first St. Louis beer experience, and we found Schlafly beers back in Virginia, and they seem to be everywhere here, so they just aren’t *exclusive* enough for us anymore.

Anyhoo, we decided to visit Schlafly because it was one of the few breweries we haven’t yet visited and (the Bottleworks location specifically) because it was pretty convenient for us and the friend we were meeting up with.

First, let me throw some fun facts at you: Schlafly was the first microbrewery to open in St. Louis since Prohibition. They opened their downtown location (Taproom) in the early ’90s, and expanded to a second location (Bottleworks) in the early 2000s.

Secondly — and maybe this should have gone first — you need to know why visiting Schlafly is imperative. They have a bunch of beers that aren’t sold everywhere. Specialty and seasonal options that are freaking tasty and fun. We really liked the Kentucky Mule Ale specifically (which basically tasted like a Moscow Mule, but with beer). The Bottleworks location is pretty big, with lots of seating (indoor and outdoor), a shop full of beer glasses and t-shirts and 6-packs, plus a space you can walk around and learn more about the different beers being brewed (and windows you can peek through into the plant).

It was a lot of fun and surprising in the best way. The food looked really good, but we’d just eaten so we’ll save taste-testing for our next visit.

Roadtrip: Kansas City and Lawrence

I mentioned in an earlier post that we’d planned to fly out to California recently, but that trip was canceled. To make the most of my time off from work, my husband and I decided to cross off one of the “long weekend” trips we’ve been wanting to take. We hit the road and traveled across the state to beautiful Kansas City.


On the way, we stopped for coffee in Columbia, MO (home of Mizzou). We only took a quick walk around the block, but we loved the “college town” vibe — great looking restaurants and bars — and the architecture is par for the course in Missouri. Beautiful old brick buildings and interesting monuments everywhere you look.

Our first stop upon arriving to KC was the River Market. Despite the name, we could not find a way to access the river on foot — much to my husband’s dismay. However, we did have amazing lunch at Bite (I had the Sloppy which was a soy chorizo sandwich and probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever eaten). The market itself is really cute, with lots of local shops and a huge pavilion for their famers’ market. They also have a river boat museum with a giant river boat wheel churning through water — we power-walked past in our search of the restrooms.

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A trip to Kansas City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Power and Lights District. I’m pretty sure that should include the words “at night,” but even during the day we grabbed a drink and enjoyed outdoor day-drinking (one of my favorite activities) in the courtyard of Kansas City Live. I’m sure that area is bumpin’ at night, and we definitely want to check it out with a group of friends sometime in the future. For this trip, we were satisfied with the epically large cups of beer and a little sun on our faces.

Got a little sun on my ankles, too!

We spent the night in Westport, which is my favorite of the areas we saw. It reminded me a lot of the Columbia Pike area we used to live in back near DC. Every block had several bar and restaurant options, and almost all of them seemed to have some form of outdoor seating (the biggest thing I’m missing living in St. Louis: rooftop bars!). Our dinner was — of course — barbecue. Char Bar had some of the best pulled pork butt, and our waiter was hilarious. After dinner, we went out to their beergarden to enjoy the firepit. Then we wandered down the street to Julep, a cocktail bar with delicious, imaginative drinks and one of those shelves with a sliding ladder (like the one Belle uses toward the beginning of Beauty and the Beast. A fact I pointed out to my husband at least twice while we were there).

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Westport also boasts a lot of coffee options, but what wowed us was the tea. Tea Drops is a cute little tea shop (soon to be restaurant as well!) with walls lined with tea canisters for customers to smell and pick their preferred brew. The owner is extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. He answered my husband’s questions about Mate and got him to try a cup — which he loved! He also gave us a lot of advice about places to visit and things to do in the area.

One of his suggestions was the Plaza district, which we’d already planned to visit but it’s always nice hearing a local confirm. This is where the major shopping is done. It felt like King Street in Charleston, SC — but so much more. The buildings are all the southwestern, mission-style, and they seem to have every upscale shop imaginable.

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Because we were so close, we decided to cross the border into Kansas and check out Lawrence (home of KU). Similar to Columbia, it is a really cute college town with some awesome-looking food and drink options. We hit the Burger Stand for lunch, and even though it’s Yelp-famous for its burgers, we each tried a vegetarian option. My husband got the black bean burger, while I tried the Garbo (chickpea patty with citrus-garlic aoli, sweet relish, and cheese). Oh em gee was it mouthwateringly good. I also had the Free State Marchtoberfest beer, which was pretty tasty.

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Maybe I put too much emphasis on food when I travel, but I always judge a trip a success if I ate well. Safe to say, this trip was hugely successful.

 

Lou Brew Reviews: Civil Life

Civil Life is possibly my husband’s favorite of the local breweries — but more for the atmosphere than anything. We found Civil Life because it is one of the few breweries that has (or at least advertises) outdoor seating. (Some, like 2nd Shift and Modern, have huge warehouse doors so you can still enjoy the sun and warmth even if not technically sitting outside). It reminded him of a beer garden we liked to frequent back in Virginia, with its picnic tables and no-fuss environment.

I only had the Oktoberfest beer, which was good but a little heavy. My husband had both the Oktoberfest and the Brown Ale, which is their most popular beer.

The weekend we went was their anniversary, so it felt in some ways like we were crashing a party — most everyone else seemed to be regulars who all knew each other.

It’s a small brewery with picnic tables outside and a few tables inside, but they do let you wander around and see the tanks and their actual brewing process. We’ll have to go back in the spring so I can try more of their beers.

*UPDATE*:

We revisited Civil Life as soon as the weather warmed up. The beer garden out front was a lovely spot to enjoy the sun and a tasty German Wheat. They are cash only, something I had forgotten, but they do have an ATM on site. Also, the beers are so inexpensive — $2.50 for a 10 oz pour, $5 for 20 oz. Their food looked really good too; we’d discussed getting nachos but didn’t have time before some of our group had to get to school for a late meeting.

Sonoma and Babies

So I wrote this post last week (because I planned to be up to my eyeballs in adorableness today and have no time for blogging) but due to shitty weather basically everywhere except St Louis, all flights to the Bay Area were canceled/sold out/outrageously expensive. Still, the irony of it all was too heartbreaking-ly perfect not to still share. Sending my nephew wishes for the happiest of first birthdays from half a country away!

(Original post):

A year ago, our nephew was born in sunny California. He’s beautiful and rambunctious and perfect in every way — he’s the first of the next generation of our families, so he’s quite special.

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As such, we are using my husband’s spring break to fly out to Cali and celebrate this little munchkin turning 1. It’s a quick trip, because while he has 2 weeks off, I have a limited number of vacation days. I plan to soak up the sun and the delight of my nephew for the few days we have out there, and cross my fingers for another snow day.

See, last year around this time, our flight home was delayed due to bad weather on the east coast. We ended up staying an extra day, one of the nicest days of our trip, and got to experience California Wine Country for the second time (we’d previously been to Napa over Thanksgiving).

The first thing I liked about Sonoma was its sass. As we arrived, a sign let us know we were in the “REAL wine country” and I knew this was my kind of place. The town of Sonoma was very cute. We had a delicious lunch and wandered around the square, reading about the historical sites.

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The vineyards also had more of a look and feel that my husband and I are used to, similar to Virginia wine country: rolling hills and acres of grape vines. The wine was delicious, and of course enjoying a glass with such awesome views is always a plus.

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This year, if we do happen to get an extra day, we’ll probably spend it with the family rather than another road trip adventure, but I wouldn’t complain about that at all.

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