The OTHER Lou: Our Louisville Adventure

Maybe I’m being obnoxious by referring to Louisville, KY as the other Lou. I don’t remember my US history all that well (sorry, Mr. Jones!) but I’m fairly certain Louisville came before St. Louis, at least in terms of US Cities. (Ok, because I love history and hate being wrong, I had to turn to the ol’Google. Turns out Louisville was chartered in 1780, while the settlement of St. Louis was established in 1764 BUT [and here’s where that history lesson paid off] didn’t become a US city until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Thanks TJ!*)

Anyhoo, the hubs and I took advantage of the less-than-4-hour-drive for a long weekend mini-vacay (side note: I don’t know why I have to so aggressively defend the fact that Louisville is 4 hours from St. Louis. Several people have tried to dispute me on this *after* I’ve made the damn trip!). It was such a blast, despite the weather being pretty frigid. As my husband put it: we didn’t do a lot but we saw a lot.

We stayed at the 21C Museum Hotel which was awesome–there was a fun video wall in the elevator lobby, my brother in sculpture form near the entrance, and we were able to get drinks at the hotel bar and wander through the exhibits–which makes weird art SO MUCH more enjoyable. We giggled a lot, which is one of my favorite things to do with my husband.

Our hotel was right next to the Louisville Slugger museum. I come from a family of baseball fans (like, my mom’s dad built a baseball field into their farm when she was a kid). We wandered the gift shop and touched all the different bats and read the wall of plaques bearing the names of baseball greats and their favorite Louisville Slugger bat number. We did not tour the actual museum, but I got a picture of the giant bat out front.

We also made the short trip to Churchill Downs. It was really cool seeing the racetrack from the highway (and through the slats in the fence). We got some pics with the horse statue out front, and entered the lobby of the museum…in the middle of a feral pack of elementary school kids on a field trip. No thank you, we agreed to save the inside of Churchill Downs for another day.

We checked out several different neighborhoods. Our museum was on Main Street, which featured a lot of distilleries and restaurants and shops. It was an easy/long walk to NuLu, a hip neighborhood with funky antique shops, more distilleries and breweries, and some tasty food spots. We also walked through 4th Street Live, which was bumping with the Guy Fieris of the world. We made a few trips to Bardstown Road/the Original Highlands, which I liked a lot. It had a lower-key vibe that reminded me of some of my favorite St. Louis neighborhoods.

Ok, now for the good stuff, the real reason a person checks out Louisville (apart from maybe horses): the bourbon! I’ve enjoyed a few whiskey drinks on occasion before this trip, but had next to no knowledge about the nuances of whiskeys/bourbons/ryes. Now, I can say I really like bourbon. I like rye whiskey, too. I really like Old Fashioneds.

So first stop for us was Evan Williams, partly because it’s one of the best known names, partly because it was only about a block from the hotel, mostly (for me, at least) because he was Louisville’s first distiller! I wish I could have learned more history–I got that from a street placard–but we did not do the tour. We just hopped on the elevator with another group and slipped into the bar for the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had. We also got to keep commemorative Evan Williams bourbon glasses. Score!

We also wandered far enough down “Whiskey Row” to find Peerless–a younger distillery (closed before prohibition but recently reopened)–where we did an $8 whiskey tasting. 4 whiskeys plus a commemorative glass and a dee-licious piece of chocolate–I was obsessed with this place. Bourbon is aged for 4 years, so theirs won’t be ready until this summer–we had their rye whiskey instead. I learned how the barrel soaks its own flavor into each batch, and theirs had such unique flavors that most of their bottles are single-barrel (meaning–duh–only from 1 barrel) rather than small batch (combining several barrels). They also keep it cask-strength–this got a little too chemistry-heavy for me to remember fully considering the whiskey-fog my brain was in, but something about letting the alcohol evaporate rather than diluting it with water so it gets to the legal ABV without diluting the flavors (maybe?). We bought a bottle of their rye (as well as some of those whiskey-infused chocolates).

The tour we booked ahead of time was at Angel’s Envy. That was a lot of fun–the most memorable part for me was when we dunked our fingers in a bottle of basically everclear. He had us smack those fingers on the palm of our other hand, then smell it (straight ethanol). Then we rubbed our hands together a couple times and smelled it. Now, I can’t remember the order, but one time it smelled like corn, another grains, and after more rubbing, fresh-baked bread. It was a really cool “science experiment” to show how adding heat changes it.

A couple other notable experiences: my favorite bourbon drink was probably the bourbon slushy at Feast BBQ. There was a terrify bathroom at galaxie bar–painted black and lit only by black light, glow-in-the-dark paint, and a tv set on static (can you say flashbacks to the first/only 15 min I watched of The Ring??). I really loved how the air smelled of peat, similar to the hops-smell around AB in Soulard.

It was a lot of fun, a really cute city with a surprising amount to do. We’ll definitely be back for more bourbon–and maybe a horse race!

 

*TJ is of course Thomas Jefferson, hands down most popular president in Missouri, if the number of references to Jefferson (including the capital) are any indication.

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Lou Brew Reviews: Alpha Brewing

Do you love sour beers?

If you said yes — perfect! If you said no…that’s fine, too.

Alpha Brewing in the Tower Grove (ish?) area is worth a visit no matter your beer preference. They are known for their sours — the Delphian is amazing, and the Guava Brett will pucker even the most sour-lover’s taste buds — but they’ve got several great IPA, Stout, and Blonde Ale options as well. And some super-fun names. You better believe I tried the Hop, Lock & Drop It, the Troll Wheatwine, and the Fyler Flyer (which gets harder — or easier? — to order the more you have!).

I also really like that they offer a range of pours, so you can create your own flight — and/or just enjoy a *very* small glass of your favorite if you happen to be a lightweight like me. They have your normal-sized pours as well, of course, but I like that I have options, especially if day-drinking.

Alpha also offers live music shows on Thursdays and Saturdays. Their food looked pretty good, though we did not partake — they even have a Vegan night for the non-meat-eaters out there.

Their website claims “It’s not for everyone” but seriously, I think it’s my favorite local brewery. It’s tucked back in a neighborhood near Grand Ave, just out of the way enough to be a hidden gem while close enough to merit an easy trip.

Laumeier Sculpture Park

Because this blog is for rambling about what I love, and because I love Saint Louis (and because my husband might strangle me if I continue to wax poetic about our fair city to him on a daily basis), I’m coming at you with another fun St. Louis adventure.

I like how vague the punishment warning is. Maybe even better than the actual sculpture…

Laumeier Sculpture Park is not even 20 minutes outside the city. It’s a sprawling park with really cool sculptures (duh) and lots of open space for children and dogs to frolic, romantic picnics, or maybe a borderline-aggressive game of ultimate Frisbee. There are paved paths that wind between sections of the park so you can take a leisurely stroll through the grounds. OR if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and looking for a more rustic trail, there are a few winding through the trees surrounding the park.

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We did not go into the hiking with any sort of plan, and mostly stuck to the Western Woodland Trail. We ran into a couple of dead-ends (ok, one was really just that we heard slithering sounds from the underbrush and I DO NOT DO SNAKES — which I shouted as I ran back the way we’d come — so technically that doesn’t count as a dead end. Also, my husband said it was probably just a squirrel. Then another path was a little overgrown and my husband wasn’t trying to get THAT rustic so he said there were probably snakes along that trail, too. Which was mean, but effective). The backtracking just helped get our blood pumping and made us feel like we were real explorers.

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Once upon a time, my dad hung our old computer in a tree in our backyard, followed by several old bikes and other random things that created a sort of avant-garde sculpture garden of our own. Because of this, my husband was quick to point out a sculpture in a tree during our hike and call that artist a copy cat.

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Whatever you’re into, this is such a great spot. Easy, breezy picnic in the sun, a day out with the kids, a sophisticated art-viewing, a hike through nature — Laumeier Sculpture Park can do that for you.

PS: It’s free!

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

Happy Spring!

Here’s a post that’s just flowers, because SPRING!

Wash U, St Louis

Oakland, CA

Concordia Park, St Louis

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Forest Park, St Louis
 

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Charleston, SC

Culpeper, VA

Creve Coeur Lake Park, MO

Forest Park, St Louis

Tower Grove Park, St Louis

St Louis, MO
 

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.