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Ice Cream Chronicles - New Interactive Map

As you may have noticed, a new interactive Google Map containing all the location and links to all my Ice Cream Chronicles posts is now acce...

Charleston Choosing (Part 4): Give Peace a Chance, and Sitting by the Dock of the Bay

The Charleston storefront of Columbus's very own Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Not surprisingly, coast-hugging Charleston is considered a hot bed of seafood, with numerous restaurants sporting all manner of sea creature creations on their menu. With its seasonally warm temperatures (the city averages 60 degree high temperatures in every month except January), Charleston has its fair share of frozen confection shops, from familiar chains (Ben & Jerry's, Haagen Dazs, and Kilwins), new arrivals (Jeni's, a brand very familiar Central Ohioans and growing in prominence nationwide), and local shops their own versions of ice cream, gelato, custard, and even the currently very trendy rolled ice cream variation.

On our Charleston trip, we got to dive into both, with some very tasty results indeed.

Charleston Choosing (Part 3): An Angel at Low Tide, and That's How It Gose

George C. Brilant & Company, one of the higher end antique stores you'll
find dotting the lower reaches of King Street in downtown Charleston
In a way, one of our brewery destinations in South Carolina was determined four years prior during a stop in the more northern reaches of the state in Greenville. Popping by the quite well stocked Greenville Beer Exchange for some suggestion of local South Carolina brews to bring back with us, the clerk introduced us to our first Gose beer.

We knew from the first sampling that this wasn't going to be everyone's bag, including this Thrillist author who declared that craft beer was officially dead with his first samplings of this style which originated in Goslar, Germany in the middle of the 19th century. However, this crisp, lemony and salty brew sat right with our taste buds, and we brought home two six-packs for consumption.

Our second brewery destination was a happy accident, a chance spotting on the way to see one of the oldest and, as it turned out, most entrancing living things residing in the eastern part of the country.

Charleston Choosing (Part 2): Grits Are Good For You, and The Slice you Needa'

Walking on top the High Battery, the seawall and promenade which
was originally part of the town's coastal battery defenses
The fact that Charleston's culinary scene has risen on a national level cannot be denied, though if you take as de facto what this USA Today article states, this attention might be a bit much for the locals, as it has perhaps unsurprisingly brought in increased car traffic, raised rental rates, and created staffing shortages in the hospitality industry.

Even with these issues, I am certain the attention given to the local food scene by these national luminaries is deep down a point of pride for the residents of this city of just under 135,000 people, and we were obviously not about to deny ourselves our first sampling of this diverse food scene.

Charleston Choosing: Fort Nights and a Mart of Ill-Repute

Just a few of the houses that form Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC
"First light
just roll your window down
And smell the salty air
perfume of Charleston Town
I'm a stranger here, no one you would know
My ship has not come in but I keep hoping though
And I keep looking past, the sun that sets above
Saying to myself, goodnight America"
Mary Chapin Carpenter - "Goodnight America"

Just as my spouse and I passed the picturesque houses "Rainbow Row" in Charleston (the state's oldest city, being founded in 1670) I spied a sign outside what looked to be the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon with the bold claim that the structure was the most historic building in this harbor town.

We did not stop by the dungeon on this trip, so I have no way to verify whether or not this statement is remotely true. But there's plenty of history to be had in Charleston, and we decided to get a dose of the familiar and the not-quite-as-familiar, as well as a serious delving into at the grim reality which was largely responsible for the pretty exterior facade that typifies the downtown area.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 5): Be Aware of Greeks Bearing Sweets

Opened in 1851, the downtown Savannah located Marshall House served as one
of the city's destination hotels until its closure in 1957. An extensive restoration
in 1999 brought the building back to its glory and original purpose as a hotel.
Columbus Ohio area residents know full well what kind of sweet treats Greeks can create. Emigrating from Greece, the Barouxis family started Jolly Roger Donuts in 1969. Now known as Buckeye Donuts, current owner Jimmy Jr. and his staff conjure up breakfast sandwiches, gyros, and those trademark decadent dough rings for the public 24/7, and their gala 50th anniversary really isn't too far away now.

Columbus residents traveling down to Savannah should be aware of another Greek-owned institution selling delicious sweet treats.  In this case, this local gem, Leopold's Ice Cream, is less than one year removed from celebrating a century's worth of providing tasty frozen confections for local residents and visitors alike.

Headed Down Savannah Way

Girl Scouts all around the country make a pilgrimage to Savannah's Drayton Street,
which was home to the organization's first headquarters building
"To wake next to you in the morning
And good morning to you
How do you do?
Hey, good morning to you!
More covers for you
Sleep soundly dear, 'cause I have to go

And I'll love you always
When we leave this place
And drive back to Carolina
And down to Savannah and
Band of Horses - "Part One"

Two things struck us on our trip into Savannah, which holds the status as the state of Georgia's oldest city. Firstly, the city is highly geared towards the tourist, perhaps more so than most. The placards at the Visitors Information Center advertise numerous tours based on a variety of subjects (architecture, cemeteries and ghosts, and movies, to name a few) and all manner of transportation (trolleys, boats, Segway scooters, horse-drawn carriages, and good old foot power) at the ready.

Something Followed, Something New: Burial Beer (Asheville, NC)/Fonta Flora (Morganton, NC)

Stray Local, an Americana/Folk group based out of Wilmington, NC,
provided some toe-tapping music at Morganton's Fonta Flora Brewery
One thing that drew us to Asheville in the first place was their status as a craft beer mecca. Our first two visits, within one year of each other, introduced us to a nice swath of the area's craft brewers, including a very early visit to Wicked Weed Brewing, Green Man Brewing, Asheville Brewing, and the Brevard-located production facility of Colorado-based Oskar Blues.

You can expect a lot of changes with a four-year gap between the second and third visits, and sure enough, that turned out to be the case. Out of the big names, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada (as much as we tried, we couldn't make a companion trip to their Mills River location to pair up with our Chico trip a reality) have joined Oskar Blues as national breweries setting up shop in the area. Wicked Weed has also joined the big boys with their purchase by AB InBev in their so-called "High End" division, a move which shocked many in the craft beer world. And there are plenty of new breweries that have joined old guard members like Wedge, Highland, and French Broad.

With our time limited, we decided to drop by a brewery that impressed us greatly on our last visit and one brewery on the outskirts of town that has been impressing with their brews made from numerous locally-produced ingredients.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 5): Rising Up to the Challenge of Your Rival

Asheville's iconic Flat Iron sculpture, which was modeled by local artist
Reed Todd after the irons used at the historic Asheville Laundry.
"Love is a burning thing 
And it makes a fiery ring 
Bound by wild desire 
I fell into a ring of fire.
I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire."
Johnny Cash - "Ring of Fire"

We freely acknowledge as a couple that our appetite for hot, spicy food skews our perceptions a bit.  With that said not even the most veteran, heat-tolerant spice seeker (we don't count ourselves in this select category) can't avoid being sent into facial contortions given enough capsaicin in their consumables. 

Add in a little lack of consistent, practical experience of late with the hot and spicy, and perhaps our recent experience with one of Asheville's hottest food purveyors was to be expected.  Thankfully, the outing, with an eatery appropriately starting with the name of Rocky only put us partially down for the count, and a little after dinner ice cream treat soothed our somewhat seared pride.

Saying Hello To An Old Friend: Return to Asheville

Mural of actress/comedienne/Asheville native Shirley Hemphill,
as painted by local artist Gus Cutty
"And we're supping on tears
and we're supping on wine 
We all get to heaven in our own sweet time 
So come all you Asheville boys
And turn up your old-time noise 
And kick 'til the dust comes up
From the cracks in the floor"
Gillian Welch - "Hard Times"

Our yearly road trip adventures this year found us in one of our favorite destinations in Asheville, NC. The time gap between our two visits (roughly four years) plus the scope of our trip (unlike other visits, this craft beer mecca would share the spotlight with other destinations) made blending old favorites and new explorations a little trickier.

When all was tallied in the end, we sneaked in a lot more than we figured we would in our less than 48 hours in this town of nearly 90,000 people, and ended with plenty of worthwhile things to write about.

Kain Na Tayo! Bonifacio Modern Filipino

Much of the history regarding Bonifacio and my personal relationship to this Filipino restaurant can be found at this prior blogpost, which detailed the experiences of my spouse and I at their July 2016 preview event. At that time, I was eager to for the restaurant's grand opening, but in many ways I wanted to fully digest how Krizzia Yanga's somewhat bold venture into a full-service restaurant, largely spurred on by the success of their Filipino-oriented silog (featuring a fried egg) and panini brunch and lunch offerings at her Downtown Columbus-located Red Velvet Cafe and in a region largely unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine.

Well, almost two years later after the restaurant's opening, and after landing a "Best New Restaurants of 2016" from Columbus Monthly and grabbing national press in media sources like NPR and Southwest: The Magazine, I figured I had more than enough time to take it all in. In some ways, this post is somewhat exemplary of the concept of Filipino Time, a concept not unlike Hawaiian Time where folks (or in this case, this blog post) are known to show up fashionably late to events.

In Praise of the Swag Bag: Brunch with the Columbus Food Bloggers

The swag bags you'd get at pre- and post-race athletic event expos
were the ultimate cat's meow at one time of my life
Back in the day when my body was adapting better to the condition known as "adult onset athlete", I learned about the joys of the swag bag, especially in relation to running or triathlon races. Back in those days, an energy gel that wouldn't make you barf and a running shirt made of wicking material (bonus points for a good fit) were really nice gets. Every now and again, your event fee would get you a really good quality product - one swag bag turned out to be the best swag itself, a snazzily constructed duffel bag that we have taken on numerous trips now for almost a decade now. On occasion, the mystery of what you might get in the bag actually outweighed what you found there.

As the focus of my spare time in recent years has turned toward both blogging and exploring my new city of residence, the swag bag still holds that special intrigue for me, whether it was related to a community event (such as Franklinton's fun holiday Festivus event swag bag, which was available for a small donation) or attendance at a group event. The little coupons and items within have led us to explore some businesses and sampled some products we may have never figured out existed during our normal travels.

Our haul from our most recent swag bag (a natty model produced by Inked and Screened) came at the fun gathering that was the Columbus Food Bloggers potluck brunch. The contents, plus some special guests in attendance, proved to be for my spouse and I both a discovery and rediscovery of a wide swath of locally produced products.

Thrills for the Gills: Marino's Seafood Fish and Chips

My relationship to seafood has always been a tenuous one, but one thing that has remained true for me is that frying solved a lot of my reluctance. In fact, I remember as a kid liking my parent's fried fish so much, I would crack off chunks of the tails simply because I enjoyed the crunch. Steamed crab was never a favorite of mine, but my first encounter with a fried up disc of deliciousness that is a Maryland Crab Cake gave me a new way of thinking of this crustacean.

As I've grown up, my appreciation for this culinary class of food has evolved, and I've begun to appreciate well-made seafood creations no matter what the preparation method. But I'll always have a jonesing for the fried versions, something that has led me more times than not to the doors of Marino's Seafood Fish & Chips, located in Columbus' Fifth by Northwest neighborhood.

Hier spielt die Musik: Valter’s at The Maennerchor

My first encounter with the German culinary hybrid currywurst came courtesy of a
Columbus Männerchor booth at German Village's Village Lights holiday event
For all the influence that immigrants from Germany had in Columbus's early history, the culinary presence these days is somewhat muted.  German Village's Schmidt's is the most prominent purveyor these days, with their famed cream puffs and Bahama Mama sausages, but overall the numbers are/were slim, from the recently closed Juergens Bakery (due to be replaced by another German restaurant), Grandview Heights's German import Hofbräuhaus, the Crosswoods-area Wurst Und Bier, and a decidedly German take on fast food in Polaris's What´s for Döner.

Other options to sample German treats blend in a welcome dose of culture: Columbus's annual Oktoberfest celebration offers beer, music and other cultural elements in a family-friendly, festival-style setting. Additionally, the Brewery District-located Germania Society, which was established in the mid-1800s to help new German immigrants adapt to their new homeland, openly invites the public to join them in events such as their Sommerfests and Red, White and Brats.

Java Broad-side: Bottoms Up and Third Way Cafe

Columbus's vigorous coffee scene has headed west in recent months
down Broad Street, one of the city's historically main thoroughfares
For those in the know, the Columbus coffee scene continues to steam as vigorously as milk for a latte drink, prior to and ever since the well-respected Sprudge Media Group's listing Ohio's capital city as one of its Five Underrated Coffee Cities. Just in the past several months alone, a bevy of local favorites, from Fox In The Snow, Roaming Goat Roasters, and Stauf's either opening new locations or on the verge of expansion.

Of course, the places to grab a lovely cup of java around here tend to be concentrated in select neighborhoods, with the Short North, German Village, and Downtown being prime hot spots. But I personally like to the opportunity for a good cup of joe filter out to lesser served parts of the metro, as I found out headed toward parts west on Broad Street during recent travels.

Brews and Ques: A Trip to the Heart Of Ohio

Our last antique venture led us to this bottle from Schlee & Son Brewery,
which made its home in Columbus' historic Brewery District
Our next pairing of 'Ques and Brews wasn't an option in prior years, mainly because the Brews pairing wasn't in existence. However, give credit to the ever growing Ohio craft beer industry - as noted in this Columbus Business First article, nearly 70 breweries were added to the Buckeye State roster in 2017 alone to push the total number statewide to nearly 260. While the brewery in this pairing was actually a Class of 2016 member, our recent visit was our first chance to pair an old with a new favorite.

Going Off The Rails on the Wholesome Train: Acre

Looking back at that Columbus Underground "Best New Restaurants of 2014 List" that I had mentioned on a post last year on Bareburger, I noticed just how many of these restaurants have become or were regulars in our rotation.  Of course, there's local phenomenon Hot Chicken Takeover, but in addition I found the now (sadly) departed Double Comfort, the Brewery District hot spot Arepazo Latin Grill (I have blogged about their first two locations in Downtown and Gahanna), and Clintonville's Harvest Bar & Kitchen, an offshoot of the original Harvest Pizzeria in German Village.

Also on this list was an eatery that for some reason had for some reason slipped through the cracks in terms of a blog post in the locally-focused, fast-casual eatery known as Acre.

It's Not The Journey, But The Destination That Matters

The above photo highlights one of the first times I got to sample the creations of Columbus' "Donut Queen" aka Heather Morris, owner and force behind Destination Donuts.

At that time, Columbus (a very under-the-radar donut town, if I do say so myself) had little in the way of more fancy donut creations, and Morris saw the opportunity in the market for her more upscale, gourmet creations. Her pop-up made regular appearances at the North Market, and her creations were just starting to make her way out to local shops like The Hills Market and Luck Brothers Coffee in Grandview Heights. The locations she regularly stopped weren't necessarily easy for us to get to in those days, but we made it a point to grab her inventive flavor creations like Raspberry Hibiscus, Thai Peanut and Caramel Apple. Even better: the simpler flavors like her Dueling Vanilla and her vegan creations are equally as flavorful and addicting as those fancier models.

The Happy Ones Are Here: Baba's

The current mural outside Baba's in Columbus' South of Hudson (SoHud) neighborhood
My spouse and I are generally fairly unabashed menu surfers. Not that we have our don't have our favorite menu items at the eateries we attend regularly, but it's fairly rare that we settle on one dish without fail. For example, my spouse and I pretty much gravitate to the Vermicelli with Grilled Pork and sliced Spring Rolls on every visit to Buckeye Pho, which has in many ways morphed into a comfort dish for us.

When it comes to Baba's in the South of Hudson neighborhood, we are still working through all the menu, but there's one item that is quickly falling into that must get on every visit.

The Greater Columbus Pizza-politan Area

The Ohio State University Campus: a heavy (unsurprisingly) pizza area
As covered in my last blog post, a simple question about Worthington being the pizza capital in terms of ratio of pizza to people proved to be a lot more complicated than I would have thought at first glance. A lot of it has to do with geography - ragged city borders from years of annexation and the normal flow of business means some popular destinations for the city's residents are actually not in Worthington proper.  But as a countering force, there is a hometown pizza aspect that does drive diners to prefer one pizza place over another.

With obviously other factors at play like price and convenience, I figured that a bigger picture was needed and that all pizza places in the area needed to be mapped. Who knows, similarly sized suburbs like Bexley or Grandview Heights might be more pizza-rich than Worthington, or maybe I could pinpoint some relative pizza hot spots. So a couple weeks after I started looking into the topic, I broke out my Google Maps and centered it on the Columbus area and punched in the word "pizza".

Worthington: Pizza Capital of Central Ohio?

The downtown Worthington location of Cincinnati-based Dewey's Pizza
"Is Worthington the pizza capital of Central Ohio?"

This rather simple notion that I overheard in casual conversation awhile back seemed to have some merit on my casual remembrance: this smallish Columbus suburb does seem to have a fair number of pizza purveyors within reach of the area's residents. And like that intoxicating smell of melting cheese, tomato sauce and browning dough in the oven, the question grew more alluring in my mind.  Finally, early last November on a day I wasn't doing anything else in particular, I decided to dive in to the topic.

Little did I know that that quest would be almost like answering the bigger, oft-debated questions related to pizza, such as what style of pizza rules supreme, and this quest's eventual result was not anything like I was expecting at the beginning...

Petal-er of Tasty Treats: Flowers and Bread

An insurance commercial I remember from a couple years ago (all my attempts to verify the actual company behind it have gone for nought) focused on some rather dubious-sounding business combinations ("Kevin's Plumbing and Hot Dogs, may I help you?"), with the ultimate lesson being that you should trust the focused specialist.

Clintonville's Flowers & Bread, created by Sarah Lagrotteria and Tricia Wheeler roughly one year ago, seems to go against that train of thought, offering up the charms of both flours and, well, flowers underneath the same roof.  It sounded like an intriguing combo (not that I would be interested in the floral aspect all that much) but I did wonder on another level whether this would come off as gimmicky in any way.

Thankfully, my spouse and I have found this not to be the case at all.

The Sounds of Bronuts: Cravings Cafe

When I initially started writing this post related to the return of Cravings Cafe, I kind of got the feeling that I was adding to the chorus of those pleased to see the creations of Matt and Lindsey Tewanger available to the public at large again.  Media sources like the Columbus DispatchColumbus Underground, Columbus Alive and our the city's own breakfast guru Breakfast With Nick and have documented the Tewanger's longer-than-expected saga (roughly two years) to rehab the long-idle Saigon Palace space in downtown into their third iteration of their business.

I could tell you that their seasonal creations are just as tasty as they are (and they are), and that the downtown crowd has made Cravings a go-to spot for breakfast and lunch (the place has always been buzzing on my visits), and that their space, while still relatively cozy, is much more functional and appealing than their old Italian Village home, and that their once specialty item in their Bronut becoming a regular menu item.

But frankly, I think that would be rather rote, and since I'm feeling a little creative on my return back to the Columbus food scene, I figured I oughta' sweeten this post up with a little poetic license.

Three For The Road: Until We Meet Again, Bay Area...

As is typical, our Bay Area travels covered a number of random delectable destinations around the region, and we'll be closing this extended series with three of those places, covering the worlds of craft beer, coffee and ice cream.

Barebottle Brewing Company - San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood is a little bit off the radar for most visitors to the area, but the area holds some fairly respectable culinary charms.  Barebottle Brewing Company's arrival to the area in June 2016 (courtesy of Michael Seitz and Lester Koga, whose success in homebrewing competitions encouraged them to go professional) added a craft beer element to the area.

Blue Heron Lands and Klezmer Bands: Cullinan Ranch Wetlands/Saul's Delicatessen

A panoramic view of the Cullinan Ranch Wetlands, an under-the-radar treasure of the Bay Area
Way back in the days when the native peoples roamed the lands of what would become the state of California, the Bay Area unsurprisingly housed acres and acres of natural wetlands. These spaces, vital ports for migratory birds of all types, remained relatively untouched until 40 years California achieved its statehood, when officials thought these "useless" wetlands would be better used to supplement the state's burgeoning agricultural industry.

Cullinan Ranch, a 1500-acre parcel of former tidal marsh, like many of its surrounding wetlands, was diked off for those purposes. Later, a proposed marina community development in the 1980s and threatened any chance of full restoration, but the proposal was ultimately defeated and led to the land's sale back to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for that very purpose.

Tomales Bay and Tasty Ways: Pt. Reyes National Seashore/M.H. Bread and Butter

One thing I will always love about California is the weather, in that it generally is much less an impediment to exploring Mother Nature's wonders than elsewhere.  With solidly fair weather in place throughout our California stay, we figured a couple of day trips to do some exploring were in order.

Tomales Bay in Point Reyes National Seashore, underneath which the San Andres
Fault runs (photo credit to Brewbooks under Wikimedia Commons license)
Geographically, the casual observer might think at first glance that the Point Reyes peninsula looks as if it were being cut in half by the Pacific Ocean. That notion is more correct than they might suspect, as the San Andreas Fault runs right along where Tomales Bay lies. Essentially, anything east of the bay is going south toward Los Angeles, while anything west is creeping north toward Alaska. What this unique clash of land masses creates is a bevy of interesting sights for the visitor.

Wine Country in Recovery: Through The Valley of the Moon

We admit, it was hard to keep our eyes on the roadway ahead of us as we made our way out of Santa Rosa down California's Highway 12, the scenic "Valley of the Moon" highway that cuts through some of the prettiest parts of Sonoma and Napa counties. The charred hillsides in the distance proved to be a consistent backdrop to be chaotic, erratic nature of the wildfires on either side of the road.

Relatively lengthy stretches of normal were interrupted by seared foliage and grasslands, or worse, a vineyard or a business blackened almost beyond recognition. Perhaps the most jarring to me of the sights I saw this day was the rubble that had been historic, century-old Stornetta Dairy complex where Napa Road and Highway 12 intersect.

Wine Country in Recovery: When You Can Beat 'Em, Cooperate 'Em to Death (Pt. 2)

Charlie Brown dons the hockey gear near Santa Rosa's
Redwood Empire Ice Arena. Creator of Charlie Brown, Charles Schulz,
grew up in Minnesota and became a huge hockey fan.
Before continuing with our travels with Santa Rosa, I did want to mention perhaps the number one attraction in Santa Rosa. The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center (which thankfully escape the wildfire's wrath) wasn't in the cards for a visit this time, as my spouse and I have visited here several times. However, if you're at all a fan of comics and especially a fan of the Peanuts gang, this museum is pretty much a must see if you're in the area.

Wine Country in Recovery: When You Can Beat 'Em, Cooperate 'Em to Death (Pt. 1)

Woodstock, along with numerous Peanuts-themed statues, watches over
the city of Santa Rosa, longtime home of famed cartoonist
Charles M. Schulz (who was the inspiration for the subject line quote)
Perhaps the most indelible images to those like me who intently watched the progress of the California wildfires in October came from the city of Santa Rosa.  Early on, the Tubbs Fire, which started 12 miles as the crow flies in the Napa Valley near Calistoga, rampaged southwestward over the coastal hills powered by powerful offshore winds, and in less than two days had reached and inundated both sides of the concrete barrier/transportation artery that is Highway 101 in northern Santa Rosa.

In many ways, the footage reminded me of what happened just over 25 years prior, when a small grass fire not properly extinguished was reignited by the Diablo Winds and blew up overnight, ravaging the hillside homes just above Oakland, California for two straight days. Watching scenes of ash fluttering down on Candlestick Park during a 49ers-Lions broadcast proved to be the final confirmation of how serious the situation had become.

Wine Country in Recovery: Hopping into Healdsburg

A view of Downtown Healdsburg, our second stop in our Sonoma County tour
Our next stop on our wine country tour took us to a town in which we enjoyed one our more memorable dinners ever at the rustic-chic barn house restaurant Barndiva.  This return visit to Healdsburg, which was named after native Buckeye and gold-seeker Harmon Heald, would be a little more casual but no less fun for us both.

Similar to Petaluma to its south, Healdsburg proved to be on the outskirts of the wildfires, though in this stylish Sonoma suburb of just under 12,000, residents had to keep an eye to their north (the mainly Mendocino-county based Pocket Fire) and to their east (the wide-ranging Tubbs Fire, which caused direct havoc to cities like Calistoga and Santa Rosa) just in case. While not directly affected by the flames, it was towns like Petaluma and Healdsburg which provided valuable assistance and temporary homes for firefighters and displaced area residents alike.

Wine Country In Recovery: Popping Into Petaluma

The historic McNear Building in downtown Petaluma, California
A mini-tour of the Bay Area has become a bit of a tradition during our holiday-time family visits  has become something of a tradition for us. Initially, we had been aiming for more southern portions of the region, an area we had not visited in earnest since late 2015. However, when the news of the tragic fires that struck the wine country areas of Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties ran through our news feeds in October, we figured we needed to lend the region a helping hand with our tourist dollars this holiday season and altered our plans.

We've always kept an eye out for this kind of assistance since my spouse and I have been traveling together as a couple: my travels to move to the Buckeye State included a trip into Joplin, Missouri, about a half-year after a devastating EF5 tornado tore through the town's center. And from all we've read, the biggest issue in this highly tourism-centric region of the country is simply letting know that the area is open for business.

Sounds good enough for us. Our little mini-journey to get that word out started in Sonoma County in Petaluma, a town of 60,000 known historically for its egg industry and long-time former home of the World's Wristwrestling Championships.

Uncharted Waters: Anchor Public Taps (San Francisco, CA)

San Francisco's iconic Anchor Brewing Company
In the increasingly muddled world of what defines a craft brewer, the August 2017 news related to San Francisco's Anchor Brewing threw more haze into the equation. Essentially, the purchase of this craft beer pioneer by Japan-based Sapporo Holdings technically made Anchor a craft brewer no more, at least according to the current Brewers Association definition.

For many craft beer aficionados, the news was disappointing to say the least and, as a long time resident of the Bay Area, it had a similar effect.  With that said, it wasn't surprising, knowing the company's numerous struggles to keep its foothold within its home port (something we learned on a tour of the main brewery roughly eight years ago, ironically just before longtime owner/brewer Fritz Maytag’s sale to an investor group was widely known) as well as get its brews out to a larger audience. In a weird way, it made the brewery's new Anchor Public Taps space, advertised on Anchor Brewing's website as a "new pilot brewery and bar" and "one-of-a-kind San Francisco experience" a must visit on our recent travels to California to see what was going on.