-Ringing in the New Year in Vegas. No, we weren't on The Strip or anywhere exciting. Just at our friends' place with a view of the fireworks from the balcony, followed by days of drinking giant slushy drinks and gambling our pennies away downtown as well as nearby nature excursions to break up the artificiality.
-'Ginner' at The Eveleigh. English Gin sponsored a delectable dinner at this quality, unpretentious restaurant and bar on The Sunset Strip. We were each permitted behind the bar for lessons in making our own cocktails, and a fine time was had by all.
-Blogger Barhop 2. An evening not to be forgotten. Or, maybe more accurately, not to be well remembered. With Caroline on Crack as an organizer, all-around barman and spiritmeister Aidan Demarest as our guide, Beefeater 24 rep and mixologist Erik Castro as our link to Beefeater cocktails almost everywhere we went, and a big mustachioed van with a mustachioed driver driving us around to eight drinking destinations, it was hard to find fault with the evening.
-A Month in Hawai'i. Getting to know the Big Island has been my absolute pleasure. Highlights included tons of snorkeling, discovering phenomenal swimming beaches, and going to the top of Mauna Kea. I LOVE this island and can't say enough good things about it or spend enough time there.
-Dinner with Dave at Haven Gastropub. For a mere $25 per person (plus tax and tip, of course) we were treated to a fantastic, family-style dinner and beer tasting in an intimate setting with Brewmaster Dave Larsen and another dozen people to talk beer, food, and fun. Incidentally, lunch at their pop-up restaurant, Burger Haven, is a great place for grub.
-The Endeavour Coming Home. Everyone was just so happy and friendly when it did its flyovers (we had a perfect vantage point from Barnsdall Art Park), and it was really friggin' awesome to behold. Though I missed it parading through the streets, it's a treat to have it right at the California Science Center for our viewing pleasure. The underside is particularly cool because you can see the way it heated up upon reentry.
-Food GPS's Beer Float Showdown. Held at Golden Road Brewing in Glendale, this competition was a fantastic way to see creativity at work. These inventive gourmet beer floats were delicious and pretty, an example being one of the winners of the competition, Beer-Amisu (Stimulus Belgian Amber Ale with Espresso Mascarpone Ice Cream, and Homemade Ladyfinger Cookie), being made above.
-Neat's One Year Anniversary Party. One of the best bars in Glendale turned one in 2012. Aidan Demarest's Neat specializes in neat spirits (as the name suggests), but employs some of the finest barkeeps around that can whip you up a spectacular cocktail, if you'd prefer. For the anniversary party, Aidan (pictured above, courtesy of Tatsuya Oiye) brought in lots of guest mixologist bartenders to create their own magical concoctions featuring the sponsor of the evening, Sailor Jerry Rum. Woot!
-The Latin Road Home Book Signing/Dinner at Tinto. Iron Chef Jose Garces promoted his latest book with a delicious multi-course meal and wine pairing at his Palm Springs restaurant located in the colorful and newly remodeled hotel, The Saguaro. Esparogos con Trufas was one of my favorite things to eat, it was fun meeting the chef, and I am really enjoying the cookbook. The Saguaro's a nice place to stay, too.
-Hudson Whiskey Dinner at The Alcove. New York's first whiskey since prohibition is made by the Erenzo family in Gardiner. Gable Erenzo spoke to us about his family's whiskey and led us through a fun and educational tasting which complemented Sean Loeffel's delectable dinner. Also fantastic were Dan Long's Hudson Whiskey cocktails. Good stuff.
-Exploring Ukiah. The biggest city in Mendocino County (which isn't saying it's big) has some beautiful, mineral springs (we went to Vichy), great wine at half the price of Napa (we especially loved Victor's wine at Simaine Cellars), tasty eats (visit Rai at The Himalayan Cafe), and strange bars (Water Trough, holla!). It's also a great place for fall colors in the trees.
-Mud Baths in Calistoga. We had heard mixed things about doing it, but figured what the hell. Glad we did... It was a blast! There were a few to choose from and we went with Golden Haven. The mud itself felt like squishy oatmeal and was quite appallingly awesome. Following the mud (which only lasts 10-15 minutes) you spend time in mineral water hot tubs then they wrap you up like a burrito in a blanket and play cheesy music for you. My skin was as soft as a baby's bum.
-Eating and drinking in Napa. With the help of Monty Preiser of The Preiser Key to Napa, we had an itinerary that left us neither sober nor hungry. Highlights of this trip included discovering Delectus (some stand-out wine on a trip full of excellent wine), and a many-hour barrel tasting with Sean Foster, winemaker at Merryvale. Whew.
Here's to hoping that 2013 is even better!
Happy New Year!