Island Life - Part 1
In celebration of three years of tolerating each other, Rizzo and I locked the kid in the basement (code for begging my parents in all there amazingness to keep Cece for two consecutive nights) and hopped in the car to spend a weekend in the islands. I know what you are thinking, travelling all the way down to the Caribbean seems expensive and time consuming when there are 48 precious hours sans kid. Well, I agree with you so we didn’t go the Caribbean. We also didn’t go to the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, or anywhere in the Mediterranean. We took a trip to the most famous and beautiful and well-travelled islands on the planet: Chincoteague Island.
As one may expect from our adventures, we planned our route to the island based upon breweries we could stop at along the way. Our first stop objective was to find a lunch spot along the route. Rizzo can always be counted on to find food while travelling. Most of her time on vacation is researching the next spot we are going to eat so she has lots of experience locating great dining experiences. We drove a bit over an hour to Bowie, Maryland to DuClaw Brewing Company’s brewpub for some lunch and some beers.
DuClaw serves some of the best beers in the area included one of my all-time favorite beers, Sweet Baby Jesus. The list available at the brewpub included beers that I have already had or lots of IPAs so I decided to have a pint instead of a flight. Don’t take that to mean that the list was inadequate because that wasn’t the case at all. There were several beers from DuClaw on the menu as well as some beers from other brewers. I was just feeling like a pint so I went with the Bare Ass Blonde Ale. It was a beer that was mildly hoppy but still had pretty good flavor. This is another one of those beers that would be a good recommendation to those who don’t have much experience with craft beers. If you have a friend that likes Coors Light then hand them this brew and let them enjoy. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
After enjoying our beer and lunch at DuClaw we hit the road for another hour and a half drive to our next destination; RAR Brewing of Cambridge, Maryland. We were breaking up the nearly four hour drive to Chincoteague with multiple beer stops along the way. The Untappd description of RAR brewing is “based in Cambridge, MD on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay. We built our brewery in an 80-year-old former pool hall and bowling alley with the goal of producing well-balanced American Pale Ales and Belgian-inspired brews.”
RAR Brewing is right in the middle of downtown Cambridge. The beer offering is great and the atmosphere is just as great. The open floorplan of the tasting room allows patrons an easy view of the brew house to see the magic happen. Free games are around the brewery including shuffleboard and foosball. Rizzo and I each grabbed a flight of four beers and made our way over to the shuffleboard table to enjoy some games and beer.
My delicious flight consisted of:
3870 – A dark strong ale that is named for the exact mileage it is from Chimay, Belgium to Cambridge, MD. The beer is brown in color, massively malty, and sweet like syrup. Even through this beer rocks 9.2% ABV you wouldn’t know it based upon the smooth finish. There is no “alcohol” taste to the Trappist-style beer. There is nothing but deliciousness in this beer. 4.75 out of 5 stars. This beer was worth the trip by itself but I still had three other beers to try.
Sailor’s Cream – The big board in the RAR tasting room identifies this beer as cream ale. I think some people may be scared by the name cream ale thinking that the beer will literally be creamy. I’ll admit that when I first started drinking beer I thought a cream ale would have the same sort of flavors and textures as a chardonnay wine that was aged in oak; very buttery flavors. In reality, that isn’t the truth at all. Wikipedia gives the description that “A cream ale is related to pale lager. They are generally brewed to be light and refreshing with a straw to pale golden color. Hop and malt flavor is usually subdued but like all beer styles it is open to individual interpretation.” Take that how you like but if you are someone that likes a Bud Light or a Coors Light then you will be into a cream ale.
What is interesting is that this cream ale has some additional spices that really give it a cinnamon flavor. I can’t say if there is nutmeg in the beer either but the Sailor’s Cream should be put up as the Christmas ale offered by RAR Brewing. I’m a big fan of the Christmas ale and being able to imbibe a beer like that in the middle of summer just made it Christmas in July. 4 out of 5 stars.
Bucktown Brown – I’ve said it over and over again that brown ales are my favorite kind of beer. I love the dark color, the malt flavor that can be just slightly subdued by mild hoppiness. They can be bitter and dry but are often very nutty and the best ones are strong flavored. That being said, I always try a brown ale if a brown ale is available and I made no exception when visiting RAR brewing. The Bucktown Brown was very smoky and very malty, which are two things that I always enjoy. However, I found the beer a little bit too bitter to make a perfect brown ale but not too shabby. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Horn Point Oyster – A stout is a delicious beer. They come in a wide variety but all of them are dark, all of them are heavy, most of them are malty, and some of them are bitter. Some of them are even brewed with oysters, just like this Horn Point Oyster Stout. Now, I don’t like oysters. In fact, I hate oysters. I’ve tried them enough to know that they taste like snot so I don’t eat the things. However, if you throw them into a barrel with some water, malt, and yeast then they can create something terrific. This beer was heavy on the smoke flavor and very, very dark but light at only 4.5% ABV. 4 out of 5 stars.
After our brief sojourn we got back on the road to finish the drive out to Chincoteague Island. Upon arrival we checked into our hotel just to drop off our bags before heading out to dinner. I won’t speak much on the hotel except to say that it was a decent place. Nothing fancy worth writing paragraph after paragraph to entice others to pay to stay at this place. It was a good sized room with a king sized bed, a fine shower, and a balcony with a few of the island sound. It wasn’t extravagant but it was serviceable.
We were able to walk to dinner from our hotel which is an absolute bonus when going on a trip like this. It allowed us to have a few drinks and still get home safe and sound. It also allowed us to enjoy the island weather and get in some extra steps in route to eating far too much food.
About a half mile from our hotel we found ourselves at The Jackspot which was just a short walk from our hotel. This is a great little island restaurant with a nice beer list and an outstanding outside seating and bar area. The location is right on the sound so there is a wonderful view of the water and some boats coming and going. What is even better is the island feel because the outside seating area is like walking on the beach with a small bar that would fit right in to any beach location.
There was a wait to sit outside to Rizzo and I bellied up to the bar for a drink instead of taking the immediate seating available indoors. Why go to the beach if you have to spend it inside? The beer available outside is limited (because there are no taps but only bottles) but don’t let that discourage your visit because you can run inside to the bar for any of the more local and craft beers then bring them outside. This is something you should definitely do because there is live music outside (at least on Friday night when we were there).
It wasn’t long before we got to sit down at a table right up by the singer (which was awesome) and have our delicious meal. If you are looking for something incredible fancy meal suitable for a Michelin star then this isn’t the place for you but the food is local and it is good. There is a raw bar available with local oysters so Rizzo took advantage. I had a burger and a Caesar salad which was wonderful as well.
The Jackspot has a nice beer menu with some local and craft beers so we both made sure to take advantage of the availability. I started off with the Angry Clown Brown Ale by Assawoman Bay Brewing Company from Ocean City, Maryland which is just a quick jaunt up the road from Chincoteague Island. It was delicious brown ale that was smooth and heavy with malt flavors which earns 4.5 out of 5 stars.
By the time dinner had arrived I was ready for another round so I ordered a Lucky 7 which is a porter by Evolution Craft Brewing Company from Salisbury, Maryland. Unfortunately, I never got to try that beer because the waitress instead brought me the Lot No.3 IPA from Evolution. I’m sure it was a good IPA but that is like saying it was a great example of getting kicked directly in the balls. I do not enjoy an IPA of any stripe so this only earns a 1.5 out of 5 stars even if it was a good beer.
I’m happy to report that Rizzo was there for the rescue because we traded beers. I hated mine and she tolerated hers so she gave up her Jackspot Amber by Fin City Brewing Company from Ocean City, Maryland. Jackspot Amber is a good and easy drinking amber beer that is nice and smooth. There isn’t anything remarkable to report about this beer accept that it isn’t an IPA and it will do satisfy your taste buds without killing you with hops or malt. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
After dinner and drinks we stopped into Muller’s Old Fashion Ice Cream for a treat. The night was hot and the ice cream was delicious. There will be more on Muller’s Old Fashion Ice Cream later in the blog so I won’t say too much now. I remember the ice cream was tasty but the burning rage that I felt the next day towards Muller’s has blinded me to anything else positive to say so we will end the report on this day by saying after ice cream we went back to the hotel and went to sleep to rest up for our Saturday excursions.
What do you do when you wake up on vacation? Do you go back to sleep? Maybe get yourself a relaxing cup of coffee and read the paper? Perhaps you make a trip to the local donut shop to pick up some treats for you and your family to enjoy? All of those sound like great ideas and probably a better idea than what Rizzo and I did when we woke up on Saturday morning. We went out running.
There are two reasons that I can think of right now that we went out running during our weekend getaway. First, I’m scared that if I ever miss a workout that I will enter into a downward spiral and I’ll end up gaining back all the weight I’ve worked so hard to lose. I’m not so naïve to think that I’m not going to gain weight on vacation. It is bound to happen but if I can keep up my workout routine without missing a beat then it should be easier to drop the extra weight and I won’t fall back into old habits of not working out at all.
The second reason we had to go running is because Rizzo is training for a 20K (that isn’t a typo, it is a twenty) race. I remember when we ran a 5K about a year ago and she said she was going to run a 10 miler but never a half marathon. Now she is running a 20K (which is 12.4 miles) which might as well be a half marathon. Before you know it she will be running a marathon and I’ll never ever win a mileage challenge again. I digress. Regardless of the reason we went running in the morning and it was hotter and more humid than the inside of a pot of boiling water. Our plan was to go out for Rizzo’s scheduled 6 mile run. Well that was quickly aborted when we started our jog and we were barely able to get in 3.5 miles but we did it so that is half the battle.
Our plan for the rest of the day was to eat, go to the beach, eat, go to the beach, eat, change clothes, eat, eat dessert, then go to bed. There were so many places on the Island that we wanted to eat that we had to make a schedule of a few small stops. Our first stop was Bill’s Seafood Restaurant for breakfast. I have a love/hate relationship with breakfast. I love eating in the morning in a relaxed atmosphere but I’m not the biggest fan of breakfast food. I tolerate eggs, pancakes, and toast but would much rather have a club sandwich for breakfast with my coffee.
Rizzo, on the other hand, loves nothing more than going out for breakfast and who am I to argue with what an intelligent, powerful, compassionate, loving, honorable, beautiful, charming woman (that kissing up should cover me for a few weeks). We enjoyed a few breakfast bellinis (drinking in the morning is great) with our breakfast to get energized for our day of not moving. I got a typical breakfast of eggs, breakfast potatoes, and toast. I also got a breakfast meat that my mom loves; scrapple.
Many of you may know the word scrapple but not have a full grasp on what exactly is scrapple. Wikipedia describes scrapple as “a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then pan-fried before serving.” In real terms, scrapple is when you take everything left over from pig after the pork chops, loins, ribs, and other well-known pig parts are taken, grind it up into a mush, add some spices, and then fry it up. We are talking about the pigs head, heart, liver, and whatever else may be lying around. It may not sound good but believe me, when it is done right it is delicious. The scrapple at Bill’s is done right and made the meal worth the trip.
Come back next time for the thrilling conclusion of our weekend on the Eastern Shore including going to the beach, eating, and hatred of ice cream proprietors.