Monday, July 22, 2024

What I Ate on Summer Vacation (Vancouver, Bellingham, and Seattle)

I returned recently from a whirlwind trip out west with stops of varying length in Seattle, Vancouver, and Bellingham. We were traveling to see family and a few friends,but I’m happy to say that we prioritized eating well also. What we found what so different than the food I know and love in upstate NY that I want to share a few highlights here. Vacation ciders are coming next, I promise. 

So, here are some of the best things I ate on my summer vacation.

Sun Bo Kong Vegetarian Restaurant:

This was my first ever experience with vegetarian Dim Sum (any Dim Sum really). I didn’t manage to get any good pictures, because once the food started flowing chaos descended. We reveled in a parade of dumplings, spring rolls, savory vegetables, stuffed buns, and delicious tiny faux chicken legs. Everything was different and moutwateringly good. Our friends know where to take visitors! Now I know that vegetarian Dim Sum is an experience to be sought out!

Mila Plant Based:

I had the Cold Pho Salad, because conditions outside were sunny, dry, and hot. I needed something cool and refreshing. When I saw that this dish used cucumber, radish and asian pear along with udon noodles and just a hint of Birds’ Eye Chili Peppers. I don’t know if anything else I ate on the trip could rival this dish for complexity, flavor, and serving as the perfect counterpoint to an intense summer day. Both of my companions enjoyed their Dan Dan Noodles as well for the fun interplay of textures and zesty heat.

Cafe Rumba:

Peruvian Yam Sandwich called a Peruano with Yam, avocado, mozzarella cheese, roasted tomato, spinach, aji huacatay, aji amarillo sauce. And we shared a small bowl of big Andean Corn Kernels, with Feta, and fresh vegetable salsa. Alex teased me for wanting potatoes as a side and as a topping, yet I remain undaunted. Ever since falling in love with La Feria in Pittsburgh, we seek out Peruvian food wherever we go, and this place is a casual gem!

Rock and Rye Oyster House:

My salmon craving was really directing us on our evening in Bellingham. The Tall one suggested a lovely narrow strip of a place in a lovely old brick building downtown. The restaurant was celebrating it’s tenth year of operation with several specials, some of which we chose for our dinner. I enjoyed the special smoked salmon with tomatoes and berries. Alex had the beet gnocchi. We shared an appetizer of Japanese street corn.

MeeT on Main:

We tried loads of delightful things here including vegan poutine, Oyster Mushroom Calamari, a BBQ burger, and gnocchi with Romesco sauce. Everything was deliriously good. I tried a local cider that will be written abouNt in a future post, but having all the salty snacky comfort food as an accompaniment to good companionship and a fun cider really is hard to beat. I loved the menu, atmosphere, and palette of flavors that MeeT brought to the table!

Ignite Pizzeria in Mt. Pleasant:

On our way into town we stopped at a cute little pizza spot for the Potato Gorgonzola Pizza. The place does stone fired pizzas, and ours had plenty of thinly sliced potato, mozzarella, loads of super flavorful gorgonzola, and just a sprinkle of rosemary. The other fun thing was trying our first ever Italian hot sauce. I’m a wimp about spice, but I love smokiness and peppers, so I was brave and tasted the Firelli Hot Sauce. It was delightfully flavorful, but I managed to handle it on a pizza simply created for such a pairing. 

Portage Bay Cafe:

When I have the opportunity to order Shakshuka, I take it. That’s just a given for me. I love tomato-y, eggy, breakfasts with good bread and feta cheese. The Tall one ordered Lemon Ricotta Pancakes that included one trip to the berry bar. Yes, I said berry bar. It looked sublime. The pacific northwest is known for berries almost as much as for rainfall, so do not skip any opportunity to explore that reputation first hand. Both of our dishes came out exactly as we hoped. For me that meant rich, spicy, and hearty and for my companion it was light and fluffy sweetness. Add in eating outdoors on a lovely morning, and I’m all set. 

Believe it or not, these are just the highlights and not an exhaustive list of all of the great food finds on our trip. And I promise we did loads more than just eat. Next up, cider!

Monday, July 1, 2024

Cider Review: 2 Towns Ciderhouse Sidekick Non-Alcoholic Cosmic Crisp

When sitting down to write today, I noticed that in this blog’s history that I’ve posted 600 times. That feels shocking to me. It’s so many. And though I promised experimentation in addition to a new posting schedule back in February, I’ve mostly stayed to the tried-and-true descriptive review format. My desire to try new things hasn’t changed, so I’ll redouble my efforts. 

Today, I’m happy to share one more non-alcoholic cider review in Two Town’s Ciderhouse Sidekick Non-Alcoholic Cosmic Crisp. This cider and it’s companion the Pacific Pineapple have been sweeping all sorts of awards for cider innovations, non alcoholic drinks, you name it. 

Here’s the complete roundup of all of my 2 Towns Ciderhouse reviews from the past 10 years. More background on the cidery appears in several of the earlier posts.

Sidekick Pacific Pineapple:

Apricot Cosmic Crisp:

The Baddie:

Crimson Bliss:

Hollow Jack’d:

Two Berry Dream:

10th Anniversary Cider Pacific Northwest Heirloom Blend:

Good Limes Roll:

Cosmic Currant:

Hollow Jack’d:

Afton Field:

La Mûre:

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy:

Cidre Bouche:



Bright Cider:

Hop and Stalk:

Here's where to find 2 Towns on the web:

And this is what 2 Towns has to say about the Sidekick Cosmic Crisp. 

Crafted with Washington grown Cosmic Crisp® apples, this galactic shredder will have you hucking craters and airing it out big in zero-G. Using exclusively sourced Northwest apples, each batch is fresh-pressed with a custom blend of ingredients. After fermentation, the alcohol is gently removed low and slow until it reaches less than 0.5% AB. The newly dealcoholized cider is finished and blended to create a crisp, clean cider that always has your back!

Appearance: hazy, the color of a hawk’s yellow cream feathers,

Aromas: green apple, yogurt, yeast

Something sharp and crystalline that implies both green apple fruit and sweetness. A richer yogurty note supporting that. It’s a bit of yeasty fermented aroma that helps differentiate this from a soda or fresh juice. 

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is sweet. I think it’s very much like the alcoholic version of the Cosmic Crisp, so the sweetness is balanced with high acidity.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, bubbly, fruity with apple, elderflower, pineapple, peach and pear notes

This nonalcoholic cider manages to stay absolutely true to the fruity and approachable acid driven style that has made 2 Towns so successful. There are fermented notes; it’s not just sparkling apple juice. It’s full bodied, super tropical and juicy, and pleasantly bubbly. I quite like it, especially on evenings like tonight when I want to have a treat, but need to be 100% sharp. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

Cider Review: Five Maidens Craft Cider's Betty

We’re under the heat dome, and I’m afraid there’s no real escaping it for the next several days. My primary recommendation for those of you who are stuck in it with me, please drink water often, enjoy the shade, take it as easy as you can, and take everything with a grain of salt this week. Cider on the porch still sounds good to me, but I’ll have a glass of water ready to hand as well.

This week, I’m sharing my thoughts on Five Maidens Craft Cider’s Betty. This is my first review of anything from this cidery. The ciders come to us from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Andrew David, Brian Williams, and Mandy David own and run the cidery, which grew out of Brian and Andrew’s passion for home brewing. 
You can visit Five Maidens Cider online here:

If you want more background about this cidery, I do recommend this member spotlight for the cidery on Lehigh Valley’s Brewer’s Guild websiteLehigh Valley’s Brewer’s Guild website.

I picked this sample up when I was a cider judge at the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg, otherwise I would not have access to this cider, so big thanks to the competition folks for sharing!

Official description:

Betty, our single varietal cider from the Rosalee apple, reminds us of our favorite Betty White character, Rose Nylund. This single varietal cider provides a sweet, fragrant fresh apple picked aroma. The flavor is semi sweet initial lush apple with background acidity that finishes drier. Betty is a unique single varietal cider that should appeal to both dry and sweet fans.

Appearance: brilliant, pale straw, subtle color

The Betty looks like an inviting new world style cider with a pale straw hue and beautiful brilliance.

Aromas: vanilla frosting, green apple, fresh apple

At first scent, the Betty smells fresh and sweet like vanilla apple frosting. The fruit notes are specifically fresh green apples. It’s an easy smell to enjoy.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet cider. It’s not cloying or overpowering, but it’s unambiguously sweet in a fresh fruity way.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, full body, mild bubble, tropical fruit

The Betty is vivacious with mild bubble, high acidity, and a full body. This is a super approachable cider for folks who might not have tried many single varietals before.
The mid-palate really pleases with tropical fruit flavors alongside notes of peach and ripe apple.

I find this cider to be pleasant and easy drinking. It went well with a simple supper of sautéed zucchini and a lemon ricotta ravioli with pesto. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Cider Review: Albemarle Ciderworks Jupiter's Legacy

Today, I’m reviewing Albemarle Ciderworks’ Jupiter’s Legacy. This cider was shared with me by the fine folks at Albemarle Ciderworks. We’re cruising into Summer quickly, and this cider was my reward after a huge day of garden work and exercise. I wanted nothing more than peaceful relaxation on my porch and this is what I enjoyed with it. 

I’ve reviewed a few Albemarle Ciderworks beverages before. You can find more information about this Virginia based cidery in the earlier reviews. Here’s the full list. 

Brut D'Albemarle Hewes Crab:


Brut D’Albemarle Harrison:


Ragged Mountain:

Royal Pippin:

Pomme Mary (a Top Ten cider from 2013):

This is where you can find the most up to date info on Albemarle releases and tasting room events:

Here’s what Albemarle’s website has to say about Jupiter’s Legacy.

Jupiter's Legacy

Jupiter’s Legacy has a bright acidity with notes of citrus. Made from a blend of classic cider apples that changes yearly with the variation of the apple harvest, this cider has a nicely astringent tannin and a tart apple finish. Elegant with chicken and cream finished dishes.  8.2% ABV

Tasting Notes

As our most complex blend, Jupiter's Legacy displays a nuanced depth of body and flavor that reveals itself slowly, over the course of a glass.  Some warm tannins give this cider a rounder mouthfeel and longer finish, while the balancing acidity keeps it lively.  Jupiter's Legacy really shines when paired with complementary foods: chicken and cream-finished dishes, game meats, steak au poivre, and of course pork.  Sweet, apple-based desserts can also offset Jupiter's tartness nicely, such as an apple tatin with caramel sauce, or simply a cider donut.

Why we like it

This is our flagship cider incorporating our best traditional cider apples.  We believe that this blend which will vary from year to year as we are able to grow more traditional American cider apples.  We believe it represents the best of what American cider was and will be.

The cider’s label makes clear that Albemarle Ciderworks named this cider to honor an enslaved man and cider maker: Jupiter. His last name is thought to be Evans, but sources aren’t entirely confident. I’ll link to two sources of information about the cider’s namesake.

From the Monticello research center:

Civil Eats Article:

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, intense saffron color

This cider’s color reminds me of saffron yellow, which is warm and leans toward apricot. It’s brilliant and bubbly as well.

Aromas: overripe apple, baking spices, grilled peach

Initially, Jupiter's Legacy’s aromas bring to mind applesauce and baking spices. A gentle ghost of cinnamon is decidedly present. Repeated sniffs unlock overripe apple and grilled peach notes too. Very inviting. 

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

This one is a bit debatable. When I first had a glass, it tasted off dry. A second glass the next day, and after a meal, tasted drier. I’d be curious to learn the cider’s residual sugar. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, high tannins, soft leather, sweet orange

Albemarle Ciderworks has crafted something special in Jupiter’s Legacy. This cider has high acidity and medium tannins, but those words do not capture what’s special about it.  I love that it reminds me of old supple leather softened by time and handling, overripe apples and sweet orange. It’s stony with a fine active bubble.

Drinking it, I found the cider both balanced and beautiful. It’s one I was so happy to enjoy two nights in a row as I watched the evenings stretch out long and golden. 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Cider Review: 2 Towns Ciderhouse Sidekick Pacific Pineapple

My posting has been off schedule lately. I’m not going to say that life keeps getting in the way, because life is the way and the blog must fit into it to continue. And that’s how everything goes, certainly including cider. Which leads me to this week’s review. I’m reviewing a non-alcoholic cider for the first time. The timing is perfect for me to share my thoughts on 2 Towns Ciderhouse Sidekick Pacific Pineapple.

Things have been hectic and difficult lately in such a way that I sometimes want the flavor and experience of having a cider without the buzz or effects of alcohol. And I’m seeing a ton of new non-alcoholic beverages out in the world. I was thrilled to accept some samples for review by 2 Towns Ciderhouse. As always, my reviews are my own opinions and completely unpaid.

I’ve reviewed many 2 Towns Ciders over the years. Here’s a full list.

Apricot Cosmic Crisp:

The Baddie:

Crimson Bliss:

Hollow Jack’d:

Two Berry Dream:

10th Anniversary Cider Pacific Northwest Heirloom Blend:

Good Limes Roll:

Cosmic Currant:

Hollow Jack’d:

Afton Field:

La Mûre:

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy:

Cidre Bouche:



Bright Cider:

Hop and Stalk:

Find out what 2 Towns has been up to lately on the website:

And here’s how the ciderhouse describes this new release. 



Juicy and tropical, Pacific Pineapple rolls ripe Costa Rica golden pineapples into fresh-pressed Northwest apples. Refreshingly juicy and easy drinking, no matter your locale! Using exclusively sourced Northwest apples, each batch is fresh-pressed with a custom blend of ingredients. After fermentation, the alcohol is gently removed low and slow until it reaches less than 0.5% AB. The newly dealcoholized cider is finished and blended to create a crisp, clean cider that always has your back!

Here’s what I thought of 2 Towns’ Sidekick Pacific Pineapple.

Appearance: Hazy, buttery yellow, bubbly

This cider has a consistent haze that makes me think of lemon curd. The color is a pale buttery yellow, and the Pacific Pineapple doesn’t lack for bubbles. Apologies for the lack of a picture. I was drinking this in the yard with my cat. Here's a picture of the cat instead. This is Braeburn.

Aromas: fermentation, apple, pineapple, bread yeast

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for this cider’s aroma, considering that it’s non-alcoholic. It certainly smells fermented, with an inviting blend of clean bread yeast, fresh apple, and pineapple. I would have no notion that’s anything other than 2 Towns Pacific Pineapple (the with booze version) by aroma.

Sweetness/Dryness: Sweet 

This cider is sweet, but it’s not maximally sweet. What’s there is balanced by body, bubble, and acid. It’s a good level, and I’m so glad it’s not sweeter.

Flavors and drinking experience: Super fresh, vivid, light fermentation flavor, medium high acid, bubbly, full body

The Sidekick Pacific Pineapple smelled like cider and pineapple, and that comes through in its flavors as well. The cider is sweet and lightly fermented tasting  but largely the experience is super fresh and vivid. I appreciate that it’s just a bit yeasty! That gives the experience a hint of warmth and a reminder that I’m not drinking soda. I love that there’s a tiny hint of bitterness in the mid palate.

The cider starts of reminding me of citrus, blooms into pineapple, and ends with an apple finish. I appreciate that it’s complex, offering up loads of flavor, a full body and strong bubble.

I enjoyed this tremendously, and I don’t really want to share my 6 pack with anyone, but I suppose I’ll have to. I know everyone will want to try it! Way to go, 2 Towns Ciderhouse.

One more cat picture, because I cannot help myself.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Cider Review: Rootwood Cider Co.'s Harrison


I found out about Rootwood Cider Company through the Northwest Cider Club. This is a wonderful way to get access to a mouthwatering array of ciders from that region. I would not find out about a fraction of the Northwest ciders I’ve enjoyed without them. 

Here’s a link to the club for the curious:

This introduction to Rootwood Cider Co. came through a delivery in 2021, so it has waited a while in my cellar. Here’s what I can say about the cider producer. This Washington State cidery was founded in 2014 in the Koenig family’s 5th generation of orcharding. The cidery is now owned by Emily, Kate, and Anna Koenig. A short quote from the about page on the cidery website gives a sense of the cidery’s breadth of style.

“Rootwood will continue to produce a combination of traditional and modern ciders - both heirloom apple blends and single-varietal products, and small-batch experimental ciders such as the syrah-infused Rosé, honey infused Pollinator, and ghost chili pepper infused Golden Ghost.”

This will be my first ever review of anything by Rootwood. I was excited to try the Harrison on a recent spring evening, because of the mystique surrounding the varietal. Here’s how Rootwood Cider Co. introduces it.

Tasting notes

HARRISON - SINGLE VARIETAL - juicy apple brightness with a warm sherrylike finish

Once thought to be extinct, a single Harrison apple tree was rediscovered in 1976 in New Jersey, allowing for the reintroduction of this variety through grafting and budding. This cider was produced with apples from our estate cider orchard, where more than 500 Harrison trees grow today. 6.9% ABV.

Appearance: Orange,  bubbly

I was shocked initially by the Harrison’s intense shade of orange. I admit, it left me curious about what to expect from this cider. The cider is brilliant, bubbly, and bewitching with its unusual hue. I’ve seen a few UK or French ciders with shades of orange for color, but it’s not usual for an american cider or a cider with this level of clarity. 

Aromas: Ripe apples, pear, and peach

As surprising as I found this cider’s appearance, the Harrison smells familiar and wonderful. The enticing notes center on ripe apple, pear, and peach.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet
What a treat! Often single varietal ciders are fermented to total dryness. I like that. It’s a good way to make a considered cider, but it’s not the only way. Rootwood has crafted something lovely approachable and delicious in the sweet but not simple Harrison.

Flavors and drinking experience: Tannic, juicy, golden raisins, apricot finish and bubbly

The sweet and tannic cider does not strike me as typical of any sort of American cider. It’s not always easy to get apples that will make a tannic cider, but Harrison is one. The cider sings with high acidity and notes of golden raisins.

The Harrison’s mid-palate is peachy, juicy, and bubbly. It finishes with a pleasant apricot and seasoned wood drift of flavor.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Cider Review: Eden Cidery's Cellar Series Franklin Pet Nat

Things change all the time. The seasons cycle through (though less predictably than in the decades gone by), and we all grow and change. Recently, I completed a first draft of a novel manuscript. This is a first for me, and I’m excited to jump into editing. And I’ve accepted an exciting offer of a different role within the larger organization of my day job. That will start next week. I still love apples and cider, so I celebrated the good job news with a special bottle.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on that celebratory beverage: Eden Cidery’s Cellar Series Franklin Pet Nat.

If anyone reading isn’t familiar with the term Pet Nat, that’s totally fair. It’s short for Petillant Naturel. That’s a specific fermentation technique used for wine and cider that leverages the yeast’s transformation of sugar into carbon dioxide to create naturally bubbles in the bottle with just one round of fermentation and no disgorging. Here’s a link to a better explanation by the illustrious Beth Demmon:

I love a good Pet Nat. They are dry and often taste super fresh, slightly funky, high acid, and bubbly. This is a huge part of what I want from cider. It’s not the only profile, but it’s a trustworthy one!

Eden Ciders are some of my favorites. This small Vermont cidery experiments and creates new delicious ciders all the time while remaining truly orchard and harvest focused. There aren’t enough cideries that can make that claim. I’ve amassed quite the collection of reviews of Eden ciders. Here’s the list.

Fuzz Ball:

Cobble Knoll:


Oliver’s Twist Foxwhelp Cider:

Brut Rose:


Deep Cut:

Peak Bloom:


Extra Sec:

Eden Heritage Cider:

Siren Song:

Brut Nature:

Imperial 11 Degree Rose:

Sparkling Dry:

The Sparkling Dry supported my Thanksgiving & Birthday celebrations in 2016:

I suggest visiting Eden Cidery’s website. That’s the best place to read about the harvest ciders, aperitifs, and ice ciders available along with the sister brands Eden is now affiliated with:

Here’s how the label describes the Cellar Series Franklin Pet Nat.

Franklin is Vermont's own cider apple variety. Propagated from a wild seedling tree found at the edge of a small orchard in Franklin County, Vermont. It is a high volume apple, producing a dry sparkling cider that balances mouth-watering acidity and robust tannins. We were privileged to pick the fruit of the mother tree for this special small batch. Abv 7.2% Residual sugar 0 grams/liter

Appearance: intense butter yellow, brilliant, lots of active fine bubbles

This is a lovely cider! The color just radiates like welcome spring sunshine in a pure buttery shade of yellow. There are tons of bubbles present, all tiny and active!

Aromas: Nutty farmy lemon and moss and grape skin

The Franklin Pet Nat smells nutty and farmy upon first whiff. As I let the aroma notes unfurl, I get lemon, moss, and grape skins. It feels so appropriate for Spring!

Dryness/sweetness: Dry!

Eden’s Franklin Pet Nat is a completely dry cider, and it tells no lies about that. Dry cider fans, rejoice!

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, lemon fluff, funk, bubbly

I love the mouthwatering high acidity on this cider.  Eden has released something super gorgeous and bubbly with the Franklin Pet Nat. This dry cider comes across with citrus zest, lemon fluff, and some farmy wildness.

The mouthfeel is Austere and spiky with tannic weight. The cider is more indebted to minerals than fruit, but the fruit that is present is firmly citrusy. The gentle notes of funk from the Franklin Pet Nat’s aromas remain present in its flavors. They aren’t out of control, but they remind us that we’re drinking something a bit untamed.