highlights: 2012 in favorites

Well, since everyone is putting out their “Best of 2012” lists, I decided to conjure up my own. But, since Best of really means favorite, there’s no reason to hide the truth under a Best of title. Which also means I don’t have to pick just one.

Coffee: We had more than one new coffee shop open in the Short North this year. I anticipated the opening of both One Line and Mission Coffee Co, and was pleased with my first taste of each. I worry about the sustainability of One Line in a city that’s still learning about coffee. They specialize in pour overs, don’t have much seating, and could be intimidating to new coffee drinkers. But it’s worth the wait for an excellent pour over. Over at Mission, they make great espresso drinks as well as French pressed coffee. I have to say I’m partial to Mission. The environment is more welcoming, the employees (who I think are also the co-owners?) are friendly, and they’re homies with the guys over at Snapstagram. Mission’s struggle will be losing traffic without a High Street-facing storefront. Now, if you voted in the Columbus Underground Best of 2012 survey, listen carefully: STAUF’S DOES NOT HAVE GOOD COFFEE. Don’t miss out on the really great coffee Columbus has to offer. (Shout out to Hans and Joelle manning the Hemisphere Coffee Cart. I haven’t been to the cart yet, but frequently buy whole beans from HCR.)

Eats: Three memorable restaurants that I tried for the first time this year were Till, Explorers Club, and Refectory. Technically, Till was new this year for everyone. It’s the revamped, re-done, but same owners replacement for Dragonfly. As a meat-eater, I’m glad it’s not strictly vegan anymore. They offer yummy, adventurous food, tasty cocktails, and a trustworthy selection of wine and beer. At Explorers Club, I had the most heavenly version of Eggs Benedict. Spicy food + runny eggs = all things good. The downfall of my trip to Explorers Club was that I couldn’t get a Bloody Mary during brunch. And finally, the Refectory, Columbus’ long-running classic French restaurant. The meal I ate there tops the charts in all categories. Melt-in-your-mouth scallops, the biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen (excuse me, prawn), and perfect dessert. But, Parker and I were the youngest people there by twenty years.

Booze: In the fourth quarter of 2012, I toured Middle West Spirits (right here in Columbus) and Southern Tier Brewery (Smalltown, NY). Okay, the tour of MWS was a little long. Brady was all, “I don’t have anything to do tonight so I’m gonna keep you here awhile” and he meant it. But, the more I heard about this small business, the more I wanted to support their products. Well worth your money and time. Southern Tier was my third brewery tour and I really enjoyed it. Maybe because they gave us so much beer to sample. And broke out some Pumpking from the secret stash for us. One main critique is that they don’t have a true restaurant at the brewery, and food is limited as it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.

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Travel: If you read my 2012: here’s hoping post, you’ll be happy to know I made it to all my National Parks! Acadia in July and Zion and Bryce in November. Acadia was amazing; I’d never hiked a mountain that’s right on the ocean, so it was a completely new experience. I didn’t get to see enough of Zion and definitely want to return to do the Narrows. Bryce was incredible. Parker and I stood looking out across the canyon saying, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could go in it?” Turns out, we could! Hiking down into the canyon will be one of my most memorable experiences. I also made my way around Ohio: I received a proper tour of Athens courtesy of Parker, spent some time in downtown Cleveland (which reminded me why I love Columbus), and hiked Hocking Hills more than once.

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Music: I’m working on a separate post just for the lady singers, so I’ll highlight some man singers here. My favorites are on opposite poles from each other: folk bands to electronic/impossible to categorize. Lord Huron. They’re like a beachy Fleet Foxes. Speaking of which, Poor Moon. Saw them open for Lost in the Trees this spring and looooved them. Actually preferred their sound live to listening to their EPs. Alt-J. It’s a struggle to figure what the hell he’s saying, but turns out his lyrics actually make some sense. Really unusual sound. The Lumineers. I listened to them on World Cafe: Next back in January and eagerly awaited their spring release. Though I wasn’t super impressed by their live performance this summer (they aren’t made for a big stage), still loved the album. Kishi Bashi. That guy is nuts. I thought about going to see him open for another group at the Wex, and regret not doing it. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. There are songs on their album that I always skip, but then I listen to Same Love on repeat. (Check out Mary Lambert‘s poetry.)

Concerts: Feist at the Wex. Well done, Leslie, for making everyone get out of their seats. Punch Brothers at the Beechland Ballroom. Always worth a 5 hour round trip drive. Lost in the Trees with openers Poor Moon at the Wex. For me, LITT live transcends music and becomes performance art. Tanlines, Maps and Atlases, Atlas Genius, The Lumineers, Ben Kweller, and Metric at Summerfest at The LC. Emily Haines is amazing live.Feist

Reads: Separate post to follow on the books I read in 2012. It was a weird year for reading.

Babies: Yo, there were a lot of babies born in 2012. And while most of them are cute, Harper J wins the All-Around for Baby of 2012. I could be biased.IMG_3079

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Congrats to all my friends who got engaged, married, or had a kid this year. Congrats to all of us who didn’t. I still got my KitchenAid mixer.

Thanks for a good year Columbus. You owed me one.

highlights: christmas in utah

We all converged on SLC for Christmas this year. It felt a little more like vacation than a typical family Christmas since I hadn’t been to my parents’ new house. Thought I’d show you the highlights via photo…

First up, the Agnew sorority, as my dad likes to call us.

Utah doesn’t have a great selection of beer (lots of LDS-imposed laws about alcohol) so my parents had my sister and brother-in-law bring a bunch of beer with them from Colorado. My other sister’s boyfriend bubblewrapped two 6 packs of GLBC Christmas Ale and packed them in his suitcase. Hilarious. These are some of the CO beers we had (along with Breckenridge Christmas Ale). Odell is out of Fort Collins, and I really enjoyed the Isolation Ale. Caramel-y and delicious. Wasn’t a huge fan of the Snow Day from New Belgium. People in the Midwest seem to go crazy for Fat Tire, also from New Belgium, but I haven’t quite caught on to the hype.

I finally got to make Meg’s Potatoes the correct way!

We went on a few hikes and saw 3 moose while driving down the mountain after one of the hikes!

And of course, Little Beers. If you’ve never had a Little Beer, it’s a shot of Licor 43 with a “head” of heavy whipping cream. Licor 43 is a liqueur, so it’s actually a very tasty shot.

60th birthdays are better with beer (and 18 pounds of beef).

This past weekend we celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday in Cleveland. (Are we done calling it Believeland since LeBron’s peaced? I like saying Believeland.) My parents moved to SLC, Utah this summer, so my dad decided to fly mom back to her hometown to celebrate the big 6-0. A major perk for those of us who have yet to relocate–my sister, aunt and uncle, and I drove up to join the party with the rest of the family. We know how to have a good time.

My mom is a beer connoisseur of sorts, and like many, she’s recently become interested in the microbreweries. I definitely got that gene. So, last week I sent an email recommending we go on a tour of Great Lakes Brewing Company in downtown Cleveland. I’d been to the brewpub before (great food), but wasn’t able to go on a tour. I figured this was my chance, and hoped mom would be interested. CHA-CHING. She was!

We had to rush through lunch in the brewpub in order to make our 1 o’clock tour, but it was worth it. Mom and I split a flight of the brewpub features. Aside from Christmas Ale, these are only available on-sight at the brewery:  The Wright Pils; The Stein Bock; Truth, Justice and the American Ale; Highlander Scottish Ale; and a Farmhouse Ale. Mom and Nicole favored The Wright Pils and the Farmhouse, which worked out perfectly as I fell in love with Truth, Justice and the American Ale. (No surprise there, seeing as I’m the girl who dreamt she had a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale tap in her house. GIVE ME HOPS!)

We finished our hurried lunch just in time, and hopped on the tour. Great Lakes is a very respectable company; they recycle whatever they can, even using vegetable oil to fuel their Fatty Wagon and one of their distribution trucks. This was my second microbrewery tour (the first being Bell’s Brewery). I didn’t notice too much variation in the general line-up of the tour:  check out some barley, smell some hops pellets, move into the really cold fermentation room (lagers take LONGER than ales), and then into packaging and distributing. The main difference for the GLBC tour was the tasting (yay!). The tasting featured their year-round beers, all of which I’d had before, but who can resist?

Naturally, we made our way back into the gift shop at the end of the tour. On the way in, mom asked me if I wanted some Christmas Ale for my birthday. I thought it was a rhetorical question, and left with two 6-packs AND a koozie. Who wants warm beer?

Now let’s get to that beef.

Mom ordered a prime rib roast from the deli she frequented before the move. My sister, Nicole, picked it up on her way to Believeland. Two humorous things happened at the deli. 1.) The owner, Greg, asked Nicole what we were celebrating. She told him it was mom’s 60th birthday, to which he replied, “She looks damn good for 60! She doesn’t look older than 40.” #momprops And 2.) Greg handed Nicole the bag with the beef. She lifted it by the handles, and as soon as she moved it off the counter, the handles ripped off the bag and we had 18 pounds of beef on the floor. Apparently the cows were big this year, because my mom asked for the smallest roast available to feed our party, and we had some extra:

Yes, that was the part we cut and put back in the freezer. Here’s the 10 pounds dad would cook for us:

Dammmmmmmmmmn that’s a lot of beef.

Nicole and I were commissioned to prepare the side dishes for this birthday feast. I was in charge of the potatoes, as usual. One year for Christmas, we made a new potato dish, and since that fateful holiday, my parents have referred to it as “Meg’s Potatoes.” Now, the problems is, my parents don’t seem to ever remember what’s actually in “Meg’s Potatoes,” and because I wasn’t part of the grocery run, I had to put a disclaimer out that these would not, in fact, be “Meg’s Potatoes.” (Truth be told, they’re actually Food & Wine’s Potatoes, but you should still make them. Now.) Here is the original recipe. I recommend using a shallot. Feel free to start with some garlic before sauteing the shallot. And it never takes as long as the recipe instructs. The point is, you should make these. Because if everything is better with bacon, it’s got to be better than better with fancy bacon.

As is customary with mom’s family, we rounded out the night with some (very) low-end gambling games. In my opinion, the highlight of the night came at this time, when mom declared that, “You lucky bitch!” would be her saying throughout the rest of the game-playing. Sorry mom, but I couldn’t resist sharing that bit!

All in all, a very successful weekend.