The Hop Shop

image from the Hop Shop

This spring, my mom, her two sisters, and her dad all hopped on a plane together to spend two weeks traveling through Germany and the surrounding areas.  As her father is originally from Germany, it was his dream come true to have all of his girls with him while touring his home country.  They visited castles, recreated multiple scenes from The Sound of Music, and, of course, drank a lot of great beer.  As a beer geek myself, I was thrilled to hear that my mom and my aunts took full advantage of the situation and imbibed in the local specialties.  The story I enjoyed most of all was that of their trip to the Hofbrauhaus in Munich.  Along with its historical significance, the Hofbrauhaus is renowned for its terrific beer garden.  Unbeknownst to me, the bierhaus has a policy of serving beer in containers no smaller than a liter after 5:00.  Oh my.  Undaunted, the intrepid quartet took the plunge, and, beers and pretzels in hand, had a lovely afternoon drinking beer and enjoying each others’ company in Munich.

DSCN2274Here in the states, the Hofbrauhaus in Las Vegas is probably about the closest you can get to the aforementioned experience.  Nonetheless, it’s still nice to enjoy a brew or two out on a patio on a summer afternoon.  Here in Spokane, one of the South Hill’s hidden treasures, the Hop Shop, is my favorite place to do so.  Situated just up the hill from the beautiful Manito Park and a few blocks away from the lively bustle of Manito Tap House, the Hop Shop’s vibe is low-key and relaxing.  The same two fellas are always manning the bar, comfy seating is plentiful, and the work of local artists is featured on each and every wall.  As its name implies, beer is the focus: the bar offers a great selection of limited release bottled beers, as well as nearly a dozen rotating taps, several of which feature local breweries like Iron Goat, Budge Brothers, and Orlinson.  For those who are not beer lovers, fear not: the Hop Shop also features a top-notch wine list including everything from Pinot Grigios to Malbecs and beyond.  If you’re in need of some sustenance, local food carts are known to appear on a regular basis in the parking lot, and a cheese plate can be ordered from the bar.  A little snack and a great beer- what more do you need?

While I do love (LOVE) having a whole food-and-drink pairing experience at a brewpub or sampling each and every offering at a new brewery’s tasting room, every once in a while, it’s nice to just take a breather and enjoy a pint of one of my favorite IPAs with good company.  It may not be quite the same as a trip to a German bierhaus (I’ve never seen anyone sporting liederhosen at the Hop Shop), but the idea and feel is the same, so, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a step in the right direction.

The Hop Shop is open 4pm-11pm Tuesday-Thursday and 4pm-12am on Friday-Saturday.

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Spokane’s Summer Bikes and Brews

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Bikes parked at No-Li Brewhouse

With temperatures nationwide regularly reaching into the 80s, 90s, and 100s, there’s only one conclusion I can confidently draw: summer is here and in full swing!  Here in the good ol’ Lilac City, we’re deep in the heart of the hottest season of them all and loving it.  With cloudless skies as far as the eye can see, multiple lakes less than an hour away, tons of great biking and hiking trails, and some of the best breweries around within the city limits, what’s not to love?

Amy (Goose) and me (Maverick) were the only two goons on a tandem bicycle that day. What can I say? We love fun! Image from Lantern Tap House

This weekend, I was lucky enough to enjoy what I think was the epitome of a Spokane summer experience.  Once again joined by Amy from Amy’s Nutritarian Kitchen, I headed up to Spokane’s South Perry neighborhood to take part in the newly expanded Lantern Tap House to take part in their monthly bike pub crawl, though this time around, it was really more of a brewery crawl (or ride).  With about a dozen other intrepid beer lovers, we set off from the tavern in the afternoon sun and headed to our first destination: Spokane’s celebrated No-Li Brewhouse.  Located on a particularly serene stretch of the Spokane River, the wide-open patio of the brewhouse has lounge chairs right on the river bank, as well as a fire pit and picnic tables galore for the enjoyment of sun-loving patrons.  Our ride leader, Mike, ordered up a few pitchers of No-Li’s Summer Wheat for everyone to sip on while we chatted and worked on our tans.  After an hour at No-Li, we steadily mozied on to our next destination.

Enjoying the patio at Iron Goat. Image from Lantern Tap House

Just a stone’s throw from No-Li is Iron Goat Brewing Company, which celebrated its first anniversary just last month.  Once again, everyone grabbed a pint glass, filled it up with the beer of his/her choosing, and scurried to the patio to relax and chit-chat.  Our relaxation efforts were aided all the more by the sudden appearances of an ice cream truck and the Shameless Sausages cart.  After refueling, we summoned our strength for our final destination Budge Brothers Brewing Company, which resided only a few blocks away.  Those who weren’t yet acquainted became so, and we each enjoyed one final, locally brewed pint before heading back up the hill to our starting destination.

By the end of the day, our adventure earned its title of “crawl”; the whole voyage took nearly six hours to travel a distance of only a couple of miles.  Nonetheless, it was a great way to spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon: the beer was terrific, the ride nice ‘n easy, and the company amiable as could be.  Lucky for me, and maybe you, too, the Lantern Tap House hosts bicycle pub crawls each month, most with five destinations rather than three.  If you’re looking to ride from a different destination or on a different route, or if you’re still on the lookout for your ideal outdoor beer hangout, there are options to be had here in Spokane.  I encourage you to check each of them out so as to find the one that’s best for you!  Cheers, and ride safely!

Bike Rides Around Spokane

Lantern Tap House Pub Bike Ride – Groups ride from the tap house on South Perry to 3-5 downtown or South Hill pubs.  Rides occur approximately once each month.  Check Lantern Tap House’s Facebook page to find out about upcoming rides.  Note: If running is more your style, there’s also a Lantern Running Club.  They’ll be meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, July 16) at 6pm at the tavern to run, and the run will be followed by $2.50 pint night!  Haven’t you heard that beer is a great post-workout drink?

Two Wheel Transit Recyclers at Manito Tap House – The Two Wheel Transit Recyclers meet at Manito Tap House on Thursday evenings at 6:15pm to go for a 60-90 minute ride around the South Hill before meeting back at the tap house for drinks and snacks.  Manito Tap House has a great little bike maintenance station right in front of the restaurant in case you need to make any last minute adjustments to your ride.

Elk Drug Drop-Outs Vintage & Cruiser Bicycle ClubThe Elk‘s bike club meets at the pub at 3pm on the first Sunday each month.  They ride from the Elk, in Brown’s Addition, to No-Li Brewhouse, located near Gonzaga University, and back.  The ride is family-friendly, and anyone and everyone is invited to ride whatever they’ve got!  The next ride should be on Sunday, August 3rd.

Spokane Party Trolley – OK, so this isn’t a bike club per se; it’s more of a club on a bike.  A really big bike.  Like, a big bike that you can ride with a dozen or more friends at once.  It’s crazy fun.  I was lucky enough to get to take a spin on the party trolley for a pub crawl a couple of weeks ago, though the trolley can also be rented for bachelor/bachelorrette parties, family reunions, team building, you name it.  If you’re looking to try it just to try it, the party trolley also hosts Mixer Tours, 2-hour pub crawls that peddle to 3-4 pubs in downtown Spokane.

For information about other Spokane bike clubs, check out the F&*%ing Bike Club’s website.

Thanks to the Lantern Tap House for leading such an excellent bike ride.  Thank you to both Amy from Amy’s Nutritarian Kitchen and the Lantern Tap House for the photographs.

Day Out: The Shop on South Perry

DSCN2246As of late, Spokane’s South Perry neighborhood has become my favorite miniature getaway/hiding spot.  It’s just far enough away from the Valley to feel like a minor excursion, but close enough that I can scurry downtown or back to the Valley in a timely manner if need be.  The neighborhood’s got just about everything you could possibly need or want, too: a pizza parlor, a natural foods store, a fitness clothing boutique, a great place for fine dining, and a quaint little cafe for meet-ups throughout the day.  The latter, simply named “The Shop”, is really a catch-all for the neighborhood: it’s got coffee, ice cream, pastries, lunch fare, vegan and gluten-free options, beer on-tap, and outdoor movies in the summertime.  Sounds pretty good, right?  I thought so, so I scootered on up there and checked it out.

I first happened upon The Shop by accident during a dinner outing this winter.  A friend and I pulled up to Casper Fry one evening, eager to check it out after hearing so many great things about the eatery, only to find that we had arrived on the one day of the week it was closed (Tuesdays, for future reference).  Feeling slightly let down that we’d driven all the way up there just to be shut out, we resolved to head across the street to drown our sorrows in a pistachio-topped pie at South Perry Pizza (it was terrific).  On our way out, we noticed a wee cafe hidden behind the parking lot next to Casper Fry.  Lo and behold, we’d found The Shop.

"Voluptuous" is how I'd best describe the blueberries on this scone.

“Voluptuous” is how I’d best describe the blueberries on this scone.

The Shop opens bright and early at 6am on weekdays, and after an hour or so, the house-made pastries and tarts start to appear.  To go with your fresh-out-of-the-oven scone or quiche slice, The Shop offers locally roasted Anvil Coffee.  If you’re after something a bit chillier to counter the heat of these sweltering July days, ice cream from Spokane’s very own Brain Freeze Creamery is also ready and waiting for your order.  The cafe also hosts six taps, a couple of which serve area brews from breweries such as No-Li, Iron Goat, and Paradise Creek.  By the way, The Shop has a killer Thirsty Thursday deal: $2 pints all day!  The Shop is ready and waiting to offer air conditioning and a cold one for those seeking shelter from the heat and excitement of the farmer’s market that takes place in front of the cafe every Thursday afternoon.

Adjacent to The Shop is Casper Fry, and the two eateries are separated by the latter’s north-facing brick wall.  Not wanting a blank canvas to go to waste, the wall is painted to look like the screen of a movie theater, which, on summery Saturday nights, it is.  Throughout the summer, The Shop hosts outdoor movies at dusk each Saturday night, each benefiting a different local charity, and this year’s lineup has something for everyone: The Princess Bride is this Satuday’s feature, and upcoming shows include Jurassic Park, Wreck It Ralph, and, to my delight, The Avengers (remember how awesome IronFest 2013 was?  I do).  Grab your favorite lawn chair and a bag of popcorn and enjoy a free (FREE!) showing in one of the most charming neighborhoods in town.

It can really be a challenge for a business to try to be everything to everyone, but The Shop does an impressive job at it.  Offering a place for locals to grab breakfast, lunch, an ice cream cone, or a cold brew, this hidden gem hits all the right notes.  As my last trip there resulted in an unexpected sighting of some rabbits sitting at the table next to me (I couldn’t make this up), I’m curious to see what surprises my next trip to The Shop will have in store (fingers crossed that it involves another peculiar farm animal!).

Bourbon-Cherry Hand Pies

DSCN2255How’s your 4th of July party planning coming along?  Are you like me, racking your brain for a clever and patriotic dessert sure to delight the masses?  You can never go wrong with a flag cake made of strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream, because, really, who doesn’t like (nay, love) berries ‘n cream?  However, if you’re looking for something that tackles Americana from a slightly different angle, I think that I may have a solution.

Well… seeing as Americans love pie, bourbon is a distinctly American liquor, and cherries are presently in season, hows about we make a bourbon and cherry pie?  Did you just start playing “Cherry Pie” by Warrant in your head?  I did.  To kick things up a notch, why not make them single-serve hand pies, too?  Yes, please.

I’m a fan of any cherry for the purposes of making pie, but for this go-around, I went with bing cherries.  Their deep crimson color is particularly eye-catching, and they’re not quite as sweet at Rainiers or as tart as pie cherries.  This subdued sweetness wonderfully pairs with the vanilla notes in bourbon.  This pie will turn out like the edible version of a Manhattan.  Very American, indeed.

Bourbon-Cherry Handpies

Makes 6 hand pies

Filling Ingredients:

1.5 lbs bing cherries (or the cherries of your choosing), pitted and halved

3 oz. bourbon

1/3 cup turbinado (raw) sugar

2 Tbs. flour

Crust Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) cold, unsalted butter

1/2 cup buttermilk

Toppings:

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar

To Make the Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and butter.  Using either a pastry blender or your fingers, blend the butter into the flour until it’s reduced to pea-sized pieces and the mixture resembles course oatmeal.  Create a small well in the center of the mixture, and add about half of the 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  Using a large spatula, combine the buttermilk and flour mixture.  Continue adding the buttermilk, about 1 Tbs. at a time, until the mixture comes together in a shaggy ball.  You may have to use your hands to get it all to stick together.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To Make the Filling:

In a medium bowl, combine the pitted and halved cherries and the bourbon.  Allow the cherries to soak in the bourbon for at least an hour or, preferably, overnight.  Toss the cherries every once in a while to make sure that they are evenly coated in bourbon.  Just before using, add the 1/3 cup sugar and flour, stirring to combine.  Set aside until ready to use.

To Assemble the Pies:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Roll out the chilled crust dough until about 1/4″ thin.  Using a hand pie mold (I found one for $6 at Target) or a 5″ cookie cutter, cut six circles out of the dough.  Using your finger, wet the perimeter of the circles with water; this will help the pies stay shut when you fold them over.  Fill each pie with 1/4 – 1/3 cup of the pie filling.  Fold over the pie crust, creating a semi-circle.  Use your fingers to pinch and crease the pie closed.

Transfer the hand pies to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Brush each pie with buttermilk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Use a small knife to cut 1″ slits in the top of each pie.  Bake the pies for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool on a baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!