Charlotte, NC and the Black Keys

CharlotteThis last weekend away was amazing! My husband took me to Charlotte, NC to see the Black Keys for my birthday and it couldn’t have been better. It was one last trip before my surgery and weeks of lying in bed. Also, check out my birthday bling from my lovely hubby.

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On Thursday, I took my last two finals (killed them!) before heading North to Charlotte. We got there around 6 and checked into the hotel, which was right in the heart of the city. I got all dolled up, bundled up in a scarf and hat and headed to 5Church with the hubby for my birthday dinner. It was only a few blocks away from the hotel and I had scoped it out as one of the best restaurants in downtown Charlotte.

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5Church did not disappoint! The decor was amazing and it had a hip, upscale and sexy vibe (also, we decided that you must have to be gorgeous to work there). Waaay too much money later, we were full of calamari, the best crab cakes I’ve ever had, the perfect crisp brussel sprouts, and the most delicious and intricate chocolate pretzel dessert you’ve ever seen (not to mention house lychee cocktails). Dinner was followed by live music at RiRa Irish Pub and enjoying the city.

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On Friday, T-minus 10 hours before the Black Keys, we had brunch at my favorite restaurant, the Tupelo Honey Cafe. I’d been to the location in Asheville, so I was looking forward to it. The food was fabulous as expected, I had the homemade chicken and biscuits. The rest of the morning and afternoon we just got to know the city. We checked out the parks downtown and walked up and down the streets, which are impressively immaculate. It’s truly the cleanest and most well kept city I’ve ever visited.

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Charlotte7I was widely impressed with the 7th Street Public Market. It’s a little market downtown that promotes local food and culture. You can get anything from fresh squeezed juice to wine to meats. It had a laid back and fun atmosphere. Also, it was the location of Charlotte’s famous Not Just Coffee. I’ve been super interested into coffee and the science of brewing the perfect cup (nerdy I know), and it was fascinating watching the talented baristas at Not Just Coffee. They truly know the art, not just science, of pulling the perfect shot of espresso and crafting a delicious beverage. The barista sold me on the special right away. It was called a Foggy London Town, and was espresso, house-made mocha, vanilla, steamed milk infused with earl grey and topped with a lavender dusting. I loved it so much that I went back the following morning for another. My husband ordered the house-made caramel latte, which was also fabulous.

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Charlotte3In the evening we ventured northeast of Charlotte to the popular NoDa art district. There was definitely a hipster vibe and you could tell that it’s a real up-and-coming neighborhood. We hit up Amelie’s French Bakery, which was super eclectic and delicious (though sadly, the macarons just didn’t compare to LaDuree in downtown Paris). After that we hit up the NoDa Brewing Company. They had a taproom that was open to the public from 4 to 9. We sat there and shared some pints and laughs until the concert. We also got a tour of the brewery which was interesting.IMG_5263

CONCERT TIME
The arena was less than a mile from the hotel, so we headed there around 8 when the concert started (we weren’t too interested in the opening act, St. Vincent). We did catch her show and her music isn’t my style, but she definitely did her thing. Our seats were great and we had a blast. The Black Keys are absolutely amazing in concert, even better live than recorded. Their fans are so diverse; everyone from teens to middle-aged parents love the music. We jammed out all night before heading back to the hotel and ordering pizza for dinner at 1 am. Needless to say I’ve been bitten by the concert bug and started looking up other shows for next year.
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Charlotte, you were so wonderful and have a great place in my memories.

The Lazy Girls Guide to Brewing Beer

Ok everyone, I realize that brewing beer isn’t the healthiest of activities, but it’s fun and it’s tasty and it makes me happy. Also, you can do it too! That’s why I decided to put together this easy step-by-step guide to brewing an IPA (beware, I am a novice). I haven’t done a recipe in awhile and this is kind of like a recipe! You can order many of the ingredients together online in convenient kits to make it easier. Here is where we ordered ours.

What you need:
Gas burner
Propane tank
10 gallon metal boiling pot with lid
Thermometer
1 lb. crushed grain in mesh bag (we used the one from the kit)
6.6 lbs. Briess gold malt extract (syrup)
1 lb. Briess gold malt extract (dry)
3 oz. pellet hops (we used Warrior, Columbus and Centennial)
5 gallons purified water
Water for sanitization
1 packet yeast
Sanitizer
Air bubbler
Large metal stirring spoon
2 Large plastic buckets (one with lid)
2 bags of ice
Large plastic container for cooling
Beer for drinking while brewing (not a requirement, but feels wrong without it)

IMG_4996Step 1:
Sanitize EVERYTHING and setup. Sanitization is vital when brewing. If bacteria gets into your brew it can change the taste and make it taste funky. You want to mix your sanitizer with water as per the directions and keep it around during your brew. Make sure to sanitize your pot, bucket, spoon, bubbler, thermometer and anything that will come into contact with the batch. Attach your propane tank to burner and grab any of your ingredients that are stored in the fridge. Pop open a fresh beer for drinking (optional).

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IMG_4999Step 2:
Steep your grains. Pour 3 of your 5 gallons of purified water into your large boiling pot and heat your water to between 150 and 155 degrees Fahrenheit. When it reaches temperature, add your mesh bag of grains into the water and maintain the temperature while it steeps for 45 minutes to an hour. You don’t want to let it boil.

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Step 3:
Remove your grain bag and place in a bowl. Set aside. When cooled, lift out mesh bag and drain excess water into bowl. Add back the remaining liquid to your brew. Discard grains (can be great compost!)

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Step 4:
Bring your grain liquid to a boil. Turn off burner and add all malt extract. Stir to prevent malt from sticking to the bottom and sides of your pot. Turn burner back on and bring back to boil. Maintain the boil for 55 minutes stirring often and ensuring it doesn’t boil over (you will be adding hops during the 55 minute boil). Feed excess malt to dog. (ok don’t do this, she just loved it)

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IMG_5040Step 5:
Add hops! There will be 3 hop additions. Set a separate timer after malt is added for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes it’s time for your first hop addition. Pour in your first bag of hops and stir. Set another timer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes is up, add the second bag of hops and the third bag (the aroma hops) is added when your 55 minute timer for the boil goes off. After addition of last hops, turn off burner, cover pot and let sit for about 3 minutes.

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Step 6:
Cool your wort! Add your ice to a large plastic container and fill with water from a hose or tap. Make sure your container is large enough to accommodate your plastic bucket (fermenter). Immerse your fermenting bucket into the ice water. Add the remaining 2 gallons of purified water to the fermenter. Carefully pick up you boiling pot (WITH GLOVES OR OVEN MITTS) and add wort to the water in the fermenter that’s resting in the ice water. This will cool your wort so you can add your yeast. You don’t want to add the yeast before you cool the wort or the heat will kill it and your beer won’t ferment! Stir the wort often to allow it to cool uniformly. Cool to around 74 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly room temp. (We had to guestimate because someone *cough husband cough* dropped and shattered our thermometer).

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Step 7:
Add the yeast. Sprinkle in the yeast packet and stir vigorously with a sanitized spoon to aerate the brew. Tightly seal the bucket with the lid. Fill bubbler to fill line with sanitized solution of purified water and affix to bucket.

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Step 8:
Store your batch. Store it in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 2 weeks before it’s ready to bottle or keg!

THE END.

Redneck Wednesdays

Yesterday was a good day in my books. I woke up wanting to do something more than sit around the house. So our Wednesday lie-in turned into a stroll down Broughton Street at 9:30 am. It was foggy and refreshing. I got a latte and a scone at The Coffee Fox and browsed overpriced decor in Anthropologie. I always like starting my day downtown because of all the energy and beauty in the city. When I got home, I changed into my go-to comfy outfit and headed out front to brew my first batch of IPA with my husband. The process is actually more interesting than I thought it would be because it combines 2 of my favorite things: science and beer! The thing with brewing is that there is a lot of downtime; grains have to steep and worts have to boil. So me, being the busy bee that I am, cleaned and vacuumed my car, trimmed the bushes, and did some gardening. Honestly, I loved gardening. I’ve never really had any interest in gardening, and I don’t really know much about it, but I found it fun. It was quite the workout (and more entertaining than gym equipment) and gave me something to focus on. I plan to do more research over Christmas break. The redneck part of the day was the fact that we had a fire pit on the driveway and were drinking cans of beer while brewing. IMG_5020Best x.

Creature Comforts

There’s nothing better on a Friday evening than a cold beer and good conversation with a best friend. In July I ventured up to my alma mater to stay with a friend for the weekend. When I got there we went on a date to a cute downtown microbrewery; It was so hot out, but the beers were cold!

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Creature Comforts was absolutely adorable. They brew in the converted Snow Tire building in downtown Athens and have tastings for a few hours each evening (except Sunday). You start by buying a souvenir glass and a wristband with coupons for 6 refills. The tasting area is really open and laid back.

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The fresh flowers were a beautiful touch.

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and of course we ended the night with pizza!!

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Best x.

The Green Truck Pub Savannah

IMG_2883Let me tell you all about a magical place. A place where burgers are grass fed/sourced locally, pickles are made fresh, ketchup is made in house and great craft beers are all around. Any true burger lover needs to stop by the Green Truck Pub on their way through Savannah, Georgia. It’s small and not in the heart of downtown Savannah, but there is always a line out the door. Locals, foodies and visitors alike enjoy the quirky atmosphere, great service, and delicious food. Wash it all down with a local craft beer and you’ve got a full belly and a smiling face!IMG_2894After starting with a beer (of course), I ordered a Green Truck Classic burger with swiss. The ketchup and fries are almost as delicious as the burger. Their house made ketchup is tangy and goes perfectly with the fresh cut fries. Healthy eating, we shall meet again….sometime.IMG_2893After lunch we went on a walk in downtown Savannah to burn off a few of those new fat cells on my thighs. We strolled down Jones Street, known as the prettiest street in Savannah. Eric and I checked out some (fantasy) real-estate. One can only dream.

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