Category Archives: cool places

Chocolate Monday: Sanders Favorites

Sanders fullMy gym is directly next door to Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market, which is especially convenient when I’ve forgotten an ingredient I need for dinner. Although it doesn’t happen very often, it is nice to be able to just pop next door, especially since the grocery store right around the corner from my house has gone out of business.

The only downside to Fresh Thyme is that no matter what time of day I go in that building, there is always a line at the checkout and it moves exceedingly slowly. While it does make me uncomfortable, as I am usually still sweating a bit from my workout (and I hate being smelly in public), it also gives me more than enough time to check out all the impulse buys by the register.

On a recent trip to grab the cauliflower I’d forgotten at Kroger that same morning, I was stuck behind a family who only had a few items to scan, but a lot of questions for the cashier about the prices of their items. Luckily, a few pieces of brightly colored cellophane caught my eye: I spied chocolate.

In a tiny plastic container were individual treats from Sanders Candy. I’d never heard of this company before, so I figured my overly long wait was a sign from the cocoa gods that there was a possible treasure to be discovered. I grabbed one of each chocolate to take home.

Sanders turtleFirst up was the Chocolate Pecan Tortie…in other words…a turtle. My step-mom used to be absolutely crazy about any brand of turtle. Yes, I realize that technically there is only one turtle brand of turtle, but it’s pretty much a universal term for anything chocolate, caramel and pecan that comes in a small, turtle-like shaped lump. In fact, when I was first learning to make my own chocolates, I learned how to make turtles just for her (they are amazingly simple). While everyone else in my family got a box of assorted truffles and filled candies I made, she got a box of nothing but turtles and was thrilled.

Sanders’ turtle is pretty much what you expect out of a turtle. Chocolaty, chewy and a bit crunchy. The pecans were actually fairly small, so there was just enough to get stuck in my teeth with the caramel, but not quite enough to really give it a truly nutty taste. It was a perfectly ok turtle, but nothing to write home about. Turtles have never really been one of my favorite chocolate treats, but I like them just fine. And I’d say that’s what this one was…just fine.

Sanders caramelNext up was the Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel. Sea salt caramels are an absolute favorite of mine, which is why I saved this one for last. What can I say? I’m a save the best for last kind of gal. At first glance, I didn’t see any sea salt on this chocolate at all, which was rather annoying as the picture on the package shows a few dozen shiny pieces of salt on top of the candy. It was only after I took a bite that I saw a few grains. I generally like my sea salt caramel to have a heavier dose of salt. I don’t want it to be potato chip salty, but at least enough so that every bite has a bite to it and I truly get to experience the sweet and salty.

It was chocolaty and chewy and had just a tiny hint of sea salt, but once again, it was just fine. There is nothing wrong with fine chocolate. I’d take either one of these pieces over a plain ol’ Hershey bar any day. If a student gave them to me as a gift or I got them in my Christmas stocking, I’d eat them and be ok with them. I just wouldn’t seek either of them out again. They were too much like so many other company’s versions that nothing about them stood out.

Overall:

Taste: 5/10
Appearance: 3/10
Value: 4/10 (Each piece was about .75).

 

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Chocolate Monday: World Market Dark Chocolate with Fig Pistachio Filling

fig and pistachio whole barOne of the many reasons I love when my best friend comes to town is that she gives me a good excuse to go to stores that I love, but don’t often go to. World Market is a perfect example. Although there is a store located about 20 minutes from my house, it’s in another town and about the only time I go up there is when my kids have swimming. Since swimming nights are always such a rush, we really don’t have time to just pop into World Market to browse. Especially not when my kids love it and always ask for, well, just about everything. Trying to convince my daughter that she does not, in fact, need a bottle opener, even if it is shaped like a monkey, can be difficult.

But when my best friend wanted to go, it was the perfect chance to get out of the house and visit a favorite store.

Although I love the fun furniture and housewares at WM, my favorite part of going is always checking out the food aisles. I love all the international offerings as well as the funky, fun snacks they always have.

And I simply adore their chocolate selection. No visit to World Market is complete unless my basket has at least half a dozen different types of chocolate in it. On this particular trip I found a few tasty looking new treats to try.

fig and pistachio wrapperThe first one I grabbed was a World Market brand dark chocolate bar with fig pistachio filling. Although I am not a huge dark chocolate fan, I am trying to expand my horizons and find more dark chocolate I enjoy. Buying dark chocolate is always a risk for me. If it is paired with something super tart, like raspberry or lemon, I generally enjoy it. However, when it is paired with merely sweet or nutty flavors, I am often not a huge fan. Although neither figs nor pistachios are particularly tart, I love them both, so I figured this might be a risk worth taking.

The chocolate itself has the usual bitterness of dark chocolate. It is not so dark that I cannot eat it, but it is dark enough that I wouldn’t want to eat more than a small square of it on its own. The filling, which is supposed to be a mix of figs and pistachio has a very slight sweetness to it, which does offset the dark chocolate, but only very mildly. The filling has the grittiness of figs, but I had real trouble tasting any pistachio in it. There is a very slight creaminess to it that reminds me a teeny tiny bit of pistachios, but I’m not sure if that’s really there or if I’m trying to make some sort of connection.

fig and pistachio close upI gave my husband a square of the bar as well. He is the biggest pistachio fan I’ve ever met (he once even owned a pet chameleon named Pistachio). Without even a word from me, he commented, “Well, I can kind of taste the fig, but I don’t taste any pistachio.” My husband is not really a chocoholic, but he does like dark chocolate more than I do. He liked the piece but said he couldn’t eat an entire bar. Neither could I.

My kids both really liked it, but they also go gaga over plain ol’ Hershey bars and those cheap gold coins Santa leaves them in their stockings each year. My son has also eaten chocolate covered insects, so I’m not sure his love of it is quite the ringing endorsement it may initially seem.

Overall:

Taste: 4/10 (the flavors were too subtle for me)
Appearance: 6/10 (the packaging was very pretty and the bar was appetizing)
Value: 4/10 (the bar is about $4 for two servings, but I know I won’t eat any more of it)

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Chocolate Monday: David’s Tea “Just Peachy” tea-infused chocolate bar

David's Tea close upIt took my most of my adult life to start liking tea. My step-dad loved cheap old Lipton iced tea, so we always had it in the house. Try as I might, I couldn’t stand the smell of it, much less the taste.

I tried tea again in high school, this time at the insistence of one of my best friends. I was losing my voice and we had a big show choir concert coming up, so she made me hot tea with honey. I choked it down…and I am not exaggerating, it was a struggle to drink it. Plus, when one cup didn’t magically cure me, I stopped trying it and went back to lozenges and Chloraseptic.

In college one of my boyfriends was addicted to a Chinese buffet place. Although I have never been an enthusiastic eater of Chinese food,* he could eat it almost daily. So, we compromised on once every few weeks, which meant way more time than I would have liked in that buffet line. I did, however, like the sugar donuts. I also took another chance on tea because it was free and we were broke. This time it was green tea and I found that if I dumped enough sugar in it, I could actually stand the taste of it. Of course, enough sugar was usually three packets in that tiny little cup, so I pretty much voided any potential health benefits from it.

A few years later, during another bout with illness, a friend brought me some peppermint tea and again, with the help of my friend sugar, I could not only drink it, but actually like it. It became my new cold/sore throat aid.

It wasn’t until I went on my super big diet in my late 20’s (when I lost 50 lbs), that I actually learned to like tea. I had to give up all sugary drinks and even though I still hate coffee to this day, giving up drink calories meant basically giving up my spiced chai lattes. I had to find an alternative and it came in the form of tea. Of course, since I had cut out most of my sugar, I added a bit of Splenda instead, and viola! I liked tea.

I am now a bit of a tea fiend, usually going through at least two travel mug-sized servings a day. Which means I spend a lot of time in tea stores.

david's tea packageAnd it is this time spent in tea stores that brought me to my latest find: David’s Tea’s tea-infused chocolate bars.

I first stumbled into the store after a visit to their competitor Teavana. I had no idea the mall I was at had two tea stores, but I needed a Godiva fix and David’s Tea opened up a mere two shops down from my chocolate mecca. Since the new tea shop was on my way to Godiva and it was full of bright, eye-popping colors AND they were offering free tea samples, I had to stop in.

I’m glad I did, because I fell in LOVE with their teas. When I was paying for my first batch of tea, I couldn’t help but notice the equally brightly colored boxes of chocolate right next to the register. I didn’t grab one then. After all, I had to make sure I liked the tea first, but I definitely looked at all the flavors.

I’ve been eyeing these bars ever since. Finally, on a recent trip, I noticed this peachy chocolate on sale and I figured what the heck. I might as well try it. I happen to really love peach flavored tea. I’ve never really had any peach flavored chocolate before, but I also love peaches, so I thought it might be an undiscovered gem.

David's tea full barThe bar is pretty thick. It’s separated into five distinct segments, each with the name of the tea shop on it. It’s not particularly interesting to look at. The back has a few little “bumps” where I assume peach or tea bits are, but for the most part it is pretty smooth. The chocolate itself doesn’t smell very peachy.

At first I didn’t get much of a peach flavor either. It’s definitely got a creamy milk chocolate texture. Letting it slowly dissolve in my mouth gave me a vague hint of peach, but nothing too grabbing. With the next bite I decided to really just bite into it. When I did, got a burst of peach that tasted not so much like a fresh summer peach, but exactly like a mug of peach tea, which has been slightly sweetened (these days I sweeten with Stevia). That’s when I noticed the gritty texture of actual tea leaves in the chocolate. It was a bit unsettling at first. After all, it sort of remind me of chewing on a twig, but once I got over that, I enjoyed it.

Subsequent bites were not quite as infused with peach flavor. It seems the peach tea portions are spread out so that for the most part it was creamy chocolate with just the tiniest hint of peach and then BOOM! full peach tea flavor.

It was definitely a unique tasting experience and I’m glad I tried it. I really want to try their milk chocolate macaroon bar as their chocolate macaroon tea is one of my absolute favorites. If the bar really has the flavor of the tea the way this peachy one does, I’m guessing it’ll be quite good.

Overall:

Taste: 7/10
Appearance: 5/10
Value: 8/10 (this bar was on sale for half price, so it was only $3, which is a good price for quality chocolate. At full value I’d give it a 6/10)

*I know I sound really picky here, but honestly, aside from Chinese food and lima beans, there’s not much I try to avoid. And I will eat Chinese food, it’s just never my go to and I always feel I could have eaten something tastier, like Thai food or Japanese food. I’ll also eat lima beans if they are in something…like soup. On their own those beans are dead to me.

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Chocolate Monday: Co Co Sala

Coco closeThis might be my last post about my DC trip, which I’ll admit makes me a bit sad. While I only spent four days there, they were four really fun days. On our last morning in town, just hours before our plane was to depart, my best friend and I took one more rather purposeful stroll around town. On our very first day, while waiting for our DC friend to wake up, we spent a few hours walking around and doing some light shopping. As part of our walking adventure, we stumbled on a chocolate shop. Sadly, it was closed when we first passed by, but we thought we’d give it one more try before we headed home.

This time it was open, so we headed in to Co Co Sala. It wasn’t until I got back home and actually looked up the company online that I realized it was not only a chocolate boutique but also a full fledged restaurant, complete with some pretty amazing sounding desserts. It’s probably better for my waistline that I didn’t know this because I think we might have just had dessert for dinner one night.

The boutique itself was pretty spartan. There were only a small handful of their signature chocolates on display in the front case. Most of them were dark pieces, so I wasn’t instantly excited about them. The two pieces I was interested in were out of stock. Behind them was a shelf of their Co Co Bars. There were only five to pick from in the store, although their website offers 9. That day my choices were: dark, milk, blonde, Some More (s’more) and Dulcey Pearl. Looking at the website, I really wish the Frankly, My Dear bar would have been in stock because it seems right up my alley.

CoCo full with beadsAlthough I usually love anything s’more inspired, since it was dark chocolate, I decided to try the Dulcey Pearl bar. The three different types of chocolate “pearls” really made this bar appeal to me. I also liked that the descriptive card said it was “An elegant blond chocolate bar reminiscent of dulce de leche.” I love dulce de leche, so I figured this one was a good risk.

Despite being a “blond” bar, this one does not have the overly sweet taste that often comes with white chocolate. I like white chocolate in moderation, but find that far too many of white chocolate bars have an overly sweet, almost artificial taste to them. This bar does not. It does have slight undertones of caramel, but they are only the vaguest hint. Mostly, this bar is just super creamy and quite delightful. I like the added little crisp from the “pearls.” They don’t really alter the taste much, but they give the bar a fun texture. Sort of like eating a “crispy” bar, but without the constant crisp, which allows for a smoother, creamier texture.

CoCo with nameI also think the bar was attractive to look at. Not only was the front of it fun with all of those little pearls and the simple, but attractive logo, but the back was also enticing. Although it was simply a bigger version of the logo, I though the cluster of pearls at the top was cute. The packaging is simple and elegant. I think it would make a lovely gift.

After trying this bar, I definitely wish Co Co Sala had had a few more offerings that morning we popped into the shop. I know the next time I make it to DC, I will definitely pop in not just for another bar (or two), but also to try some of their food, especially their desserts.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 9/10
Value: 7/10 (although it is tasty, at $10 a bar, it is still a bit pricey)

 

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Free Reading Friday: The Trials of Apollo, the Dark Prophecy

Trials of ApolloMy son became obsessed with Greek mythology in second grade. I’m not sure exactly what sparked it, but I think they did a short mythology unit in class. That combined with the copy of Terry Deary’s The Groovy Greeks (part of his Horrible History series) I gave him sparked an interest that is still thriving three years later. He actually loved the Groovy Greeks and Deary’s Top Ten Greek Legends so much that he’s read each of them a few dozen times.

He also loved them so much that I knew we had to get more books about Greek myths for him. My husband bought him a copy of D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, which he loved when he was a child. Each night before bed they read them together. Once they finished the book, my son took over and started rereading all of the tales himself. I had to find more.

Although I’d never read any of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, I’d been a teacher long enough to know that my students loved them. My kids RAVE about Percy Jackson and his adventures. They love Percy so much that even mentioning the movies made of the books send them into fits of rage because the movies “ruined” the books. I’ve actually had kids so passionate in their rants about how the movies destroyed these beloved books that I had to ask them to calm down, take a few breaths and have a seat before letting them talk again.

Many of my students read the books in elementary school, so I went to our local library and got a copy for my son. In hindsight it was a bit reckless of me. I keep a pretty tight watch on what my kids read/watch/listen to as I try to walk the dangerous tightrope of keeping them too protected and letting them grow up too fast. I only just allowed my son to read the 4th Harry Potter book (despite my undying love for them) because he’s a pretty sensitive kid and I was not sure how well he’d handle how dark the books get.*

But for some reason, I just handed over the Percy Jackson books without so much as a nod. It wasn’t until a few of my students expressed surprise that I was letting him read them so young that I also checked out a copy and started reading. That’s right, he was on the last book of the series when I was on the first. Granted by the time he got to book 5 he was almost done with second grade, but he was still only barely 8.

Like my son, I fell in LOVE with the series. While I thought in hindsight I should have probably made him wait a little longer, I was glad we had them to talk about. I immediately launched into the Heroes of Olympus series and part way through the book realized my son would need to be a bit older to read them.**

When I finished that series I devoured the Kane Chronicles, which I liked, but not quite as much and which I did let my son read in third grade.

I was thrilled that just as I’d finished all of his other books Magnas Chase: The Sword of Summer came out. I don’t know much about the Norse gods, so I was very excited for this series. And I do love it. It actually might be my favorite series so far. I am really excited the next book will be out in early October.

To tide me over though, I started his latest series, The Trials of Apollo, which he is writing concurrently with Magnas Chase (that man is talented). The latest book in his Apollo series is The Dark Prophesy.

I may not love Apollo quite as much as I love Percy Jackson or Magnus Chase, but I still find this series very fun to read.

It probably doesn’t hurt that this particular book is set in my hometown (Indianapolis) and his depiction of the city, including naming a favorite eatery of mine (Cafe Patachou-which has the best chicken salad and cinnamon toast in the city), is accurate. My son just finished the book last night and he loved the fact that he has walked along the same canal as Leo and Apollo (although he was on a Pokewalk) and has ridden the same zoo train they do (he was, in fact, obsessed with it as a small child). Riordan’s descriptions of the town are pretty darn accurate and made the book even better for us.

I like that this series seems geared at a slightly younger audience than Magnus Chase. Don’t misunderstand, I love that Riordan has the Magnus series, which is geared more to late middle and high school students. However, my son, isn’t quite ready for Magnus. There are moments in The Dark Prophecy that I am not quite sure he is ready for either, but they either went over his head or he’s more ready than I thought because he didn’t mention anything. There are subtle discussions of Apollo’s romantic relationships, but nothing too mushy or mature.

I like that Riordan has included Emmie and Jo and that they get to teach Apollo a bit about love and sacrifice. I think this it is good to show kids strong, healthy relationships and families, especially ones that don’t fit the cookie cutter mold. Kids develop empathy through reading and Riordan’s books always do a wonderful job of showing characters who not only need empathy, but also show great empathy. I love that this book deals a lot with the idea of second chances.

And, Leo is back. I like Leo

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Throwback Thursday: The Smithsonian

spider.jpgI’ve had quite a few recent posts about my recent trip to DC. You might be getting a little worried that I don’t get out of the house much. I assure you I do not only leave my house daily, but even leave the state several times a year. However, this recent trip has so much significance for me because I a) got to take it with my best friend, b) got to visit one of my oldest friends who I rarely get to see and c) got to revisit some places from one of my favorite childhood vacations. Although the trip was only about 4 days, it was the triple threat of trips.

Saturday and Sunday of the trip were great because my dear friend, who is a reporter in DC, was able to have both days off to hang out with us. It was fun having our own personal tour guide who didn’t actually make us look like tourists. I didn’t have to do any planning or figure out the Metro. Where he led, we followed. And it was great fun and great food.

Sadly, he had to go back to work on Monday, so my bestie and I were on our own to explore until dinner time. It was on this day that we got delicious blueberry pancakes at Lincoln’s Waffle Shop, a hole in the wall kind of place with crazy curving counters and a necessity for giving up personal space in exchange for some pretty tasty food. It was also on this day that we got to explore Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House, a real nostalgic trip for me.

It was also on this day that we decided to head back to the National Mall and hit a few of the Smithsonian museums. The first time I ever visited DC with my parents, I was enthralled by the museums we visited. While I loved the National Air and Space Museum for its space capsules and astronaut food, I was equally enamored with the National Museum of American History for the Star Spangled Banner flag and Judy Garland’s ruby slippers.

In addition to their simply amazing collections, which are contained in a series of splendid buildings which make up the “largest museum, education and research complex” in the world, one of the best parts about visiting any of the Smithsonian museums is that they are absolutely free. The same is true of Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House. It may be a bit costly to stay in DC if you don’t have a friend’s couch to crash on, and food and drinks are way more expensive than most other places in the country, but there is a darn lot of awesome, free entertainment in the city. There are actually 23 different Smithsonian places to visit, including some cool gardens and a zoo.

I don’t actually remember whether or not we made it the the National Museum of Natural History when I was a kid. It seems like a place we would have stopped, but my memories might be running together with the Field Museum in Chicago, which we also visited quite a bit during my childhood.

My bestie really wanted to see some dinosaurs, so we decided to begin our trip at the Natural History museum. As we made our way toward the hall advertising dinosaurs, our plans were thwarted. We ran into the same roadblock we’d found the day before at the Washington Monument: the exhibit is closed…until 2019.

I’m not entirely sure what is going on in DC, but it seems like some majorly good parts of the city are closed until 2019 or, like the main branch of the national library, 2020. Although, considering what is going on politically in this country, it does seem to make sense. The national library, a great place of learning and knowledge, closed until 2020…I wonder…

But I digress.

Although we were disappointed we could not wander around a hall exclusively created for showing off dinosaurs, the sign describing the coming exhibit did mention that bits of the original exhibit had found temporary homes in other corners. So, we set off once again to explore.

fossils.jpgIf you’ve ever wanted to see what any animal would look like stuffed, this museum will be Nirvana to you. There were giraffes, lions, bats, ermines, mice…you name it, it was there and stuffed. It was actually a bit creepy because they were both so life-like and so dead at the same time. We hurried through this bit and took in a more interesting exploration of evolution. We actually went through the exhibit backwards, so we joked about “de-evolving.” We did, get to see a model of Lucy, which was pretty cool. We also got to see some really neat fossils, which I had to get pictures of for my son. He is a HUGE fossil freak. He has several fossils his grandfather has given him and he loves them.

He also loves all sorts of bugs, which is why I know I will have to bring him back here some day soon. The second floor of the museum has a really cool live section, complete with a butterfly garden and several insect/amphibian/reptile inhabitants. The giant spider in the picture at the top of this post is an example of just one of the terror-inducing, I mean, critters who calls this museum his/her home. I took this picture to show my son, but just looking at it makes me shudder. There is no zoom and that picture is not blown up. That is the true size of that spider (shudder).

We thought about taking time to go in the butterfly habitat, but there was actually a cost for it (you get to feed them) and quite a line, so instead we just gazed at the cool butterfly hatchery next to it.

butterflies.jpg

Because this is the natural history museum, there are not only animals and fossils, but also lots of gems, including the Hope diamond. My bestie and I both agreed that the diamond in its current setting is a bit gaudy, but I thought the history behind it was pretty darn fascinating. It’s hard to imagine that the diamond, which currently weighs in at 45.2 carats, was actually over 112 carats when it was first found. What is even crazier to me is that when the diamond was donated to the Smithsonian in 1958, it was sent to DC in the mail. Yes, that’s right, a 45.2 carat diamond was sent through the US Postal Service. It was insured, of course, and there is even a picture in the gallery of it being stamped. The insurance cost just under $150.

Although we wanted to spend a lot more time exploring other museums, I got horriblystone guy sick as the day wore on. We tried resting in the cafe in the basement, but my stomach was not having it, so we had to leave all too soon. On our way out we did pop into the gift shop where I got my son some cool dice made of some sort of stone and an even cooler jellyfish paperweight for my husband. We also got to see this guy from Easter Island.

Despite my rolling tummy, I was still able to navigate the Metro with relative ease. I even managed to find the tea store a friend had suggested. My hope was that a calming cup of herbal tea might help settle my stomach. Teaism provided just that and before we headed back to my friend’s apartment, I was feeling better. We may not have been able to visit anymore museums that day, but we did get to have some truly tasty noodles at DC Noodles and played Settlers of Catan well past my usual bedtime.

 

 

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Wildcard Wednesday: Game of Thrones PUB

GoT crying treeI know that the entire world has thrown itself into fits about the return of Game of Thrones. I’ll admit that I am one of those people who had palpitations at the mere thought of the return of Jon Snow, Daenerys and even bad ol’ Cersei.

While planning my recent trip to DC, I was over the moon when I happened upon a link to a newspaper article about DC’s latest attraction: a Game of Thrones PUB. Despite the word pub, this is not the traditional use of the word, but rather an acronym for Pop-Up Bar. These bars do exactly what their name suggests: they pop up for a brief time and then are closed, redecorated and reopened with new themes. This particular space, which is actually a combination of three bars, has also had pop-ups themed around Super Mario Brothers and DC’s beloved Cherry Blossom festival.

Despite warnings of long lines, my best friend and I decided we were going. Thankfully our host, a long-time DC resident and one of our closest friends is also a die-hard GoT fan and was willing to join us in our potentially foolish endeavor.

And potentially foolish it was…at least at the start. We decided to go on Sunday, hoping that getting into line close to the 1 pm opening time would secure us a decent spot. Unfortunately only two of us are regularly rise before noon, so we got to the PUB closer to 1:30 and the line was all the way to the front of the Metro stop. My friend went to check on the estimated wait time and was told that optimistically speaking, it would be at least 90 minutes before we got in, however, the bouncer seemed to think it would be closer to two hours. We all decided that even though our love for certain Lannisters is strong, since it was already close to 90 degrees outside, there was no way we could stand in that atrocious line that long. We vowed to try again later.

We found another bar to drown our sorrows at, spent some time walking around the National Mall, where there was a Folklife Festival going on*, got a close up view of the Washington Monument, and then met up with my friend’s girlfriend and headed back to the PUB.

This time we had much better luck. There was still a line, but it was only about half the size. It probably helped that it was five and the bar is only open until 7 on Sundays. This time the bouncers were estimating an hour until entry, which we’d all agreed was our limit. Thankfully it moved quicker than expected and after only 40 minutes, we were in.

GoT dragonAlthough the PUB is actually 3 buildings, they are rather narrow buildings and there was hardly any room to move around. In fact, we were told that in order to get in, we had to go straight to the back of the first bar, into the area known as Mereen where it was the least crowded. Unlike the actual country in GoT, this version is quite dark and the floor amazingly sticky, even for a bar. At one point, after getting my first drink, a Dothraquiri (fitting considering our location), I actually had trouble getting out of the way for others to order because my feet were so stuck. Still, it was fun to watch the dragon spew forth smoke as I sipped my very tasty drink. It was also amusing to watch the bartender yell at patrons who thought reaching up to try to climb inside the dragon’s mouth was a good idea. I asked her how tired she got of telling people not to touch the dragon and she said it was the first time she’d had to do it, but that they’d kicked someone out earlier for trying to hang from it. Clearly people have not learned their lessons about dragons from the show.

My friends and I hung out with Dany’s dragon long enough to get our second drinks (this part of the bar really was less crowded) before heading off to explore the rest of the PUB. Because we’d arrived at the PUB so late in the day, we’d missed our opportunity to sit on the Iron Throne. They give out tickets on a first come, first serve basis and allow people to get their pictures taken on the throne both wearing a fake fur and holding a sword. We got GoT banners.jpgto glance at it, but had to spend sip our drinks in the banner room of the Red Keep. That was ok with us as we had drinks and good company. I was enjoying exchanging sips of my The Lannisters Send Their Regards with my best friend’s Lady Mormont. Although I liked my drink, it was not quite as sweet as I’d hoped. I loved the red color, the gold paper straw and the swords with a strawberry stabbed through it. However, it was not quite as awesome as her drink which came served in a glass bear jar, was a perfect blend of honey and fruit and had an actual flower in it.

Passing over into The North, we got a glimpse at the House of Black and White and all took pictures of us making faces next to the faces ensconced in the walls. Turns out we are all pretty big dorks. The North not only features the red tree of the Starks, complete with blood dripping from its eyes, but also a portion of the wall with the lone pick ax an unfortunate Wildling left behind. It’s also where we tried a few more drinks. Our least favorite was the Dracarys, but it did come with a little plastic dragon, which slightly redeemed it in my eyes. My friend had to temporarily surrender his driver’s license in order to get The North Remembers because it came in a kick-ass mug, very similar to the ones the brothers of the Night’s Watch use at the wall. While we thought the drink was decent, what we really liked was taking pictures of us drinking it. The undisputed drink winner of the evening was Milk of the Poppy, which freaked us all out a little with its list of ingredients (what is clarified milk?), but was simply delicious! We all wished we’d ordered one.

Although Milk of the Poppy was the best drink, the best delivery of a drink has to go to the very first one my friend and his girlfriend ordered, Shame. Not only was it pretty tasty, but as the bartender handed each drink out, she rang a bell and yelled “shame,” which we all then repeated  three or for times. No matter what anyone was doing in the bar, the second a bartender hollered “shame,” well all joined in to great communal joy.

GoT facesAlthough the bar was a bit cheesy (cosplayers dressed as Daenerys and Jon Snow walked around and took pictures with guests) and the drinks pricey, it was a great way to spend an hour and a half. We stayed until last call, which came earlier than I would have liked, however, our bar tender told us that they are under contractual obligations with HBO to close early on Sundays so that patrons have enough time to finish their drinks and get home to watch the show.

The bar is only open until mid-August, so if you get the chance to go, I highly recommend it. It was a great time spent with some of my besties, paying tribute to one of my favorite shows and getting some tasty drinks to boot!

*which oddly seemed to be 100% dedicated entirely to the circus. We heard some very strange clown jokes, saw an actually funny guy do a juggling demonstration and one of my friends got 1/2 a barbeque chicken.

 

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