The Broken Shaker – Best Cocktails in Miami Beach

First of all we loved this place! We went twice during our trip and probably would have been there more if we had stayed closer to it. This restaurant/bar is inside the Freehand Hostel. They have a pool with a large garden area around the pool full of lawn chairs and benches for seating. The pool, restaurant, and bar are all open  free of charge, even if you are not staying at the hostel.

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The pool is open all day and there is an all-day food menu. We are not sure if you can order drinks at all before the Broken Shaker is open. The Broken Shaker’s hours may change but while we were there they opened at 1 PM on the weekends and 5:30 PM during weekdays. They have a set cocktail menu with a short list of cocktails that are changed out seasonally and every month but also it is a full bar so whatever you want they can make you. The first time we went we just sat down and had a waitress come to us with menus and we ordered cocktails off the menu.
The second time we went, we walked up to the bar to order our drinks. We told the bartender we liked Rye Whiskey and asked if he could recommend something. He made us an amazing Monte Carlo. We had dinner with our drinks on our second time here. They have your usual bar/pub food options, but maybe a bit elevated. We shared a double cheeseburger with fries and it was probably one of the best burgers we have had. If you are in Miami Beach this place is a must! If you are wanting to relax with a good cocktail this is your place!
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-TFWYs

Extreme Ownership Book Summary

This is a book summary of Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. It is a high level run through and I recommend reading the book at least twice in its entirety. These are some of the notes I took as I read it to help guide as a reference. Each bullet below is a chapter and principle of leadership in the book.

  • Extreme ownership – the leader is ultimately responsible for everything that happens under his command. Jocko tells a story about how they had a blue on blue where they had friendly fire. A lot of individuals made mistakes, but it was ultimately his fault: he could have planned the operation better, could have made sure everyone knew where they needed to be, made sure communication with the Iraqj forces were clearer on where they would be..etc. ultimately it all came back to him.
    • What this means for business – own up to your mistakes as a leader and you will will be more respected for it. A lot of people can make excuses for themselves on why something isn’t happening. If you fail or your team fails: own it. That is what it means to be an owner and that is what it means to be the leader.
  • There are no bad teams, just bad leaders – Good leaders get the most out of their teams they find and utilize peoples’ strengths. Bad leaders think their teams are bad and they are just stuck with a bad team. Bad leaders don’t get their teams working together and think all of their decisions were the right ones. They don’t admit when it’s their fault. “If you were making the right decisions it wouldn’t have failed”.
  • Believe – ‘Even my initial reaction was “ Hell no”. It just wasn’t worth the risk. Why would we go into combat without every possible advantage, much less a self-inflicted distinct disadvantage? I didn’t believe the this mission made sense. I didn’t believe it was smarts. I didn’t believe it would be successful. To imagine a firefight alongside Iraqi soldiers with such inferior training and questionable loyalty seemed outrageous, perhaps suicidal. But as my task unit Bruiser’s commander, I knew my actions  and mind-set carried great weight among my troops. These were my orders, and for me to lead, I had to believe. So I kept my doubts to myself and asked the simple question “why?”’ – He goes on to explain how he gained his believe by understanding why the generals were asking him to do this. The long term goal of the operation was to have the Iraqi forces capable of sustaining themselves into the future, and due to the current demands, “on the job” training was the only way to accomplish this.
  • Check Your Ego – You need to be able to check your ego at the door. There is no room for ego in a battle, and it translates to business as well. Don’t be concerned about being outperformed in a task, as long as that performance makes your team better and closer to achieving its mission. This comes back to ‘Extreme Ownership’ in that you need to check your ego and understand the motivation behind peoples’ actions and how you as a leader failed to explain some important bigger picture strategy items of the project. If there is a good reason they should be doing something, you need to make it clear to your subordinates of the ‘why’ it is important: standard operating procedures, etc.
  • Cover and Move – The principle of ‘cover & move’ is a simple one. It really boils down to teamwork and making sure you are utilizing your resources to their potential. The example in the book was that they were set up as a sniper team deep in the enemy territory and they knew after the mission was over that they would go back to their command outpost before nightfall (outside of the standard) because they knew the enemy would carry out an attack on their position if they stayed put. Both sniper teams went back, but the one further into enemy territory took on fire as they returned. They utilized ‘cover & move’ to work as a team and everyone made it back safely. When they got back they were chewed out by the commander because they didn’t utilize the other SEAL sniper team for cover. They were so focused on their small unit that they didn’t pull the resources from the larger team. The business example was about an organization complaining about a related party supplier that they were forced to use for their product launch. The partner-supplier was causing delays and delays meant money. This should be a competitive advantage, but they were not utilizing the partner to its full extent. They ended up working closer with he partner and understanding what drove their timeline to optimize the value stream and start getting things done on time. As someone in manufacturing I can personally relate to this business example. The more you can work together with your suppliers and customers to help them understand the cost and timeline drivers, the better your teamwork will be which drives better communication, understanding, and trust.
  • Simple – Everyone has heard the acronym KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. This is the KISS chapter of the book. Do not over-complicate things. As a leader it is your responsibility that your initiatives are clear. Any complexity will be compounded when things go wrong. The example int he book was related to how the bonus structure worked at a company for manual labor. They had a convoluted system that took multiple variables and mashed them together to have an engineer’s wet dream of efficiency metrics. It was complex and the employees didn’t follow how it worked so the drivers they were being measured in weren’t clear to them. They ended up changing it to be a throughput and quality metric that drove bonuses that was much simpler.
  • Prioritize & Execute – The principle here is to define what is the highest priority, don’t get overwhelmed, and execute that top priority. It is easy to try to do too many different things at once which typically results in nothing getting accomplished. A leader needs to be able to step back and look at the problem strategically:
    • What is the highest priority problem?
    • Lay out a simple clear priority effort to your team
    • Develop and determine the solution using input from the team when possible
    • Direct all resources to that high priority problem
    • Move to the next highest priority
    • Always be ready to react if the priorities shift
      • Don’t let your focus on one priority cause ’target fixation’ be able to view the problems you are facing and reprioritize as they develop.
  • Decentralized Command – Human beings are not able to effectively manage more than 6-10 people. Teams must be broken out into smaller groups with clear leaders. Those tactical level leaders need to understand not just what to do, but why they are doing it. There needs to be alignment between the high level leadership all the way down the chain of command working towards the same goals. When things start to break down, leaders that try to do too much themselves can degrade into chaos. Use decentralized command to lead up and down the chain of command without micromanaging the teams.
  • Plan – The planning process is so critical to any operation it is almost a cliche in the business world. That doesn’t make it any less important though. This chapter focuses in on the most important part of the planning process and communication: Commander’s intent. The plan needs to be simple enough so the entire team can understand and own their roles. The commander’s intent it the most important part of the brief. It sets the definition of success and should guide each decision on the ground. It is also important for leaders to delegate the planning process down the chain of command. The leader should be able to keep a high level perspective and oversight of the mission without getting caught in the details. If you can maintain a higher level perspective it allows you to see the big picture and focus on the strategic aspects while seeing any gaps in the plan that need to be fixed and are more difficult to see at the detail level. They detail out the planning process on page 207:
    • Analyze the mission (define commander’s intent)
    • Identify assets and resources you have available
    • Decentralize the planning process
    • Empower key leaders to develop the plan for selected course of action
    • Plan for likely contingencies at each phase of the operation
    • manage risks that can be controlled
    • Delegate portions of the plan and brief to key junior leaders
    • stand back and be the tactical genius
    • Continually check and question plan against new information
    • Brief the plan to all participants
      • Emphasize commander’s intent
      • ask questions & engage w/ the team
    • Conduct post-operational debrief
      • Analyze lessons learned and implement in future planning
  • Decisiveness amid uncertainty – The key here is that you will never have complete information and a strong leader needs to make a call. The “wait & see” approach that a lot of people want to default to usually ends up showing a lot of weakness and puts you on your heels. You want to be the one that drives the issues. The business example was that there were two engineers that refused to work together and were undermining each other and overall creating a toxic environment. The choice was to see which one quit, or to let one go. The alternative options that wasn’t considered was to let both of them go and give a promotion to high performers. This is the most aggressive approach but it shows a lot of strength and decisiveness while showing that you will not accept that behavior no matter who you are.
  • Discipline Equals Freedom – The book talks about how creating disciplines in your areas of responsibility creates a pathway to freedom. It is a bit counterintuitive and will likely lead to resistance, but the at its core there is a principle. Order, standards, control and regimen may sound like the opposites of freedom, but it leads to freedom. In the book he Jocko discusses how they changed their evidence collection process from a haphazard ransacking to a strict procedure that has very specific jobs that are optimized for efficiency. I personally have two experiences that can relate to how enforcing strict standards can create a ripple effect of greater freedom. The first is in the standardization of our month end closing process in the finance team at my work. Month end used to be crazy: long hours, huge variations at the end of the month, and a ton of stress and inefficiency. We went through the long process of creating standard operating procedures for all month end processes and centralizing some processes to increase efficiency. These standards took our month end process from 2-3 long days to being able to close within a 24 hour period and being able to easily close more than one division. The other example I have is an article that circulates at my work every so often. It is basically about how standardization increases Innovation. It sounds counterintuitive, but there is a point to it. Increased standardization doesn’t just lead to higher quality and scalability within an organization. It frees up a ton of creative potential since people aren’t trying to figure out the best way to do something: there is already a standard. It only works when utilizing the other principles of Extreme Ownership because you need to allow the people on the front line getting feedback to those standards and making sure we are always improving. The chapter goes on to discuss the ideal leader in the Dichotomy of Leadership:
    • A leader must be:
      • Confident but not cocky
      • Courageous but not foolhardy
      • competitive but a gracious loser
      • attentive to details but not obsessed by them
      • strong but have endurance
      • a leader and a follower
      • humble not passive
      • aggressive not overbearing
      • quiet not silent
      • calm but not robotic
      • close with the troops, but not so close than one becomes more important than another or more important than the good of the team
      • able to execute Extreme Ownership while exercising Decentralized Command
This was probably the best, most complete book on leadership I have read. I think the principles found in this book can be applied to any leadership position in any organization. The book was compelling and had great examples that reinforced the principles. This is just a brief overview of what I found to be the most  useful information, but you will only get the most of it if you read it and apply it yourself.

RG

How to Make Kombucha at Home

We started making kombucha at home several years ago after reading about the health benefits it can offer. It is pretty expensive to purchase it at the store so we figured we could make it ourselves for much cheaper. Kombucha is a fermented tea that offers probiotic benefits. The fermentation is done by a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY will grow to whatever size container you decide to make your kombucha in. Each time you make a batch it will grow another layer. As you accumulate layers you can pull them apart and either give the extra layers away, compost it or make something out of it. We typically compost our excess or cut it into small pieces and give it to our chickens as a treat. You can find all sorts of different uses for it if you do a Google search or look on Pinterest.

Kombucha does contain trace amounts of alcohol (not enough to need an ID to buy it at most grocery stores). It also contains live cultures from the SCOBY which is what gives you the health benefits.  You can find lots of different flavors of kombucha at the store. If making it yourself you can experiment with all sorts of flavors to find what you like best. It is a pretty easy process so we will outline the steps here and offer some tips that we have for flavoring.

What you will need:

  1. A SCOBY – we will outline options for where/how to get a SCOBY later in this post
  2. A large glass container to do your fermentation in (metal can harm your SCOBY so no metal containers)
  3. A kitchen towel or other cloth to cover the top of your fermentation container
  4. Sugar- we use sugar in the raw for the fermentation but refined white sugar is fine
  5. Black tea or green tea- you cannot use other types of tea without risking your SCOBY dying
  6. Ball jars (wide mouth are easier to fill)
  7. Whatever fruit or flavoring you want to add
  8. Distilled water

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How to make Kombucha:

  1. You need to get a SCOBY in order to start this process. We have read online that you can grow your own from scratch but that can be a lengthy process. To do this you need an unflavored kombucha from the store so you can use the small amount of live culture that is in the bottle to start growing your SCOBY. We cannot offer tips on this since we haven’t done this but know that it is an option. A faster way to get up and running is to buy a starter SCOBY if there is a store locally that offers this. Or ask around,  if you know anyone who does make kombucha already they will likely be more than willing to give you a layer or piece of their SCOBY. Don’t be shy we shed a layer each time we bottle and would be happy to give one away!
  2. Once you have your SCOBY you need to brew some tea to get the fermentation started. We recommend using distilled water because tap water can contain chlorine and other chemicals which over time could kill your SCOBY. We do about a gallon at a time. For that we bring a gallon of water to a boil with one cup of sugar. Then steep 5 tea bags to make the tea. Once the tea is cooled to room temperature transfer the tea to your kombucha fermentation container and add your SCOBY. Your SCOBY was likely given to you in a small amount of liquid to keep it alive (that is already fermented kombucha). Transfer all of that liquid with your SCOBY to help get fermentation started. Place a cloth with a rubber band around it over the fermentation container to allow air to pass in and out during the fermentation process. Store this at room temperature out of direct sunlight. We let ours ferment for about two weeks. The longer you let it ferment the less sweet, more vinegary your kombucha will taste. Also longer fermentation will offer increased probiotic benefits when your drinking your kombucha.
  3. After fermentation is complete you have kombucha! If you want to drink this without adding additional flavor you can. We tend to add flavoring and let it sit another week in a secondary fermentation before drinking. To do this transfer your SCOBY along with one cup of the kombucha out of the container and set that aside for now (metal can harm your SCOBY so if you wear rings do remove them before picking up your SCOBY). We transfer the kombucha from our large fermentation container into smaller ball jars to flavor. This is also convenient because then you have your kombucha in serving sized jars so you can grab one and go when it’s ready to drink. We use a measuring cup to scoop the kombucha into the jars. You do need to make sure everything is clean during this process.
  4. Once you have the kombucha in ball jars you can add your flavoring. After adding your flavoring make sure the tops are securely on so that your kombucha stays fizzy. We let the jars sit about a week at room temperature before placing in the refrigerator and then drinking.
  5. The same day you bottle and flavor you will also want to brew another gallon of tea to start your next batch. Once it comes to room temperature transfer the tea and your SCOBY with the cup of kombucha you had set aside into your fermentation container and begin the process all over again. If you don’t want to start a batch right away you can keep your SCOBY stored in a few cups of your finished kombucha for a few weeks until you are ready. This will require you to reserve more than one cup with your SCOBY before you scoop the kombucha into the ball jars.

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Tips for Flavoring:

We used to slice fruit and add it right in. That does work but what we have found works better for us is to use a small food processor or blender to combine your flavors into something you can scoop into your ball jars. We do about one full scoop/spoon full per jar. We do find that our fruit flavors tend to form a mini SCOBY on the top of each jar so when you open it to drink your kombucha we typically just toss that out before drinking. Don’t be alarmed if you see this in your kombucha! You are still getting the live culture and benefits from drinking it even if you have to pull out a mini SCOBY before drinking.

We really enjoy ginger so we tend to use that a lot. We combine ginger with either strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or cherries. If you end up with more fruit then needed for flavoring it does freeze well and then you can thaw it out to use for your next kombucha batch. We also really like mint as a flavoring, again combine that with whatever type of berry or fruit you like.

Citrus flavors are also a good option. We tend to squeeze fresh juice right into our ball jars if going this route. We would recommend adding a pinch or two of sugar to help the kombucha continue to ferment and keep its fizziness. This isn’t necessary with berries or other sweeter fruits.

Another thing we have used is dried lavender. We enjoy this flavor on its own and combined with citrus juice or another type of fruit. We have tried using lavender essential oil but that gave too much of an overpowering flavor. A small scoop of dried lavender added to your kombucha gives it just enough flavor.

One last tip is that you can flavor your kombucha with another type of tea/flavored tea. Again you cannot use flavored tea as the base as it can kill the scoby. We really enjoy rooibos tea for example. To do this method you need to brew a cup of rooibos or whatever tea you’d like (add some sugar again to make sure fermentation can continue). Once the tea comes to room temperature you can add a small amount to each ball jar to flavor your kombucha.

These are our favorites but really the flavor possibilities are endless. You can use any type of fruit and/or herbs you want in whatever combination you want. If you have a great flavor idea we would love to hear it! We always enjoy experimenting with new things! One last note, if you do ferment other things (like we make wine at home) you don’t want to have your kombucha fermenting in the same room to avoid cross contamination. Happy fermenting!

 

-TFWYs

$150 DIY Wine Press

We looked everywhere for a reasonably priced fruit press for our grapes but weren’t able to find anything we would actually spend the money on. We usually press about 100 lbs of grapes at a time with this press and it can easily handle it. I had access to some scrap metal through work, but you could easily get by without some slight tweaks. The Shop Press is the most expensive part but I got mine at one of Harbor Freight’s frequent sales and picked mine up for $89. You are basically going to make the basket, the press disc, and a way to contain the juice that is pressed out. Below is the shopping list:

Materials List:

How to Make it:

  • Basket: some simple math will help you figure out the diameter you are looking for. I bought a 16″ round baking pan from Gordon Food Service That I wanted to fit this basket into, so that drove the dimensions of my basket. I ended up needing 20 vertical slats based on the spacing of the holes in the slotted steel flat bar and desired diameter. The goal is to have the spacing narrow enough so it contains the grapes while still letting the juice run through.
    • I was going for 16″ outer diameter for the basket to fit in my baking pan, so I needed about 51″ for each length, but I cut them a few inches long to make sure I could line up the holes for the connecting 1/4-20 bolts.
    • Cut your 1X2 Oak boards to 18″ lengths
    • Pre-drill holes in the 18″ boards at 3″ from each end
    • Using the #8 Stainless Screws, screw the slotted bars to the Oak boards (top and bottom straps)
    • We will connect the ends with the 1/4 – 20 bolts and wing nuts so it can be taken apart easily for cleaning. You may need to use a drill to open up one of the holes if it doesn’t line up perfectly.
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I used 2 spaces between each screw for my spacing
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You basically want to make railroad tracks. Don’t forget to leave some extra steel on either end so you know how you are going to connect them before cutting them off.
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It is pretty easy to roll this by hand. If you have a 16″ round baking pan you can make sure it fits to determine where to place the connecting bolts
  • Press Disc: Use a Jigsaw to cut out two 14″ round discs from the 3/4″ plywood. The diameter will depend on your basket, but I was consistent with maximizing the space available in the press.
    • Once these are cut, I screwed them together with 1.25″ wood screws. The two discs should line up perfectly to give you a double thickness and more strength.
    • Optional – I had a piece of 1/4″ steel that I screwed to the back of the press for even more strength. You are probably fine without it, but it helps distribute the forces coming down from the hydraulic press.
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Finished press disk. This is what directly contacts the grape must.
  • Press Base:  I wanted to make sure I had a stable base to rest the basket and pan on, so I used the rest of the plywood to cut out a stable base that fit in Shop Press perfectly. I just measured my press and cut out notches for the verticals so it stayed in place
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Cut out a base for the press to have a stable platform for the rest of the basket/pans

 

Use it!

  • It take some perfecting before you don’t make a complete mess, but we have found using a clean and sanitized pot to transfer the must to the press basket. Transfer all of the must into the basket and then insert the disk to press the remaining juice out of the must. I typically will use two 2X4 pieces of wood as spacers between the press and the disc. When you have squeezed out most of the wine from the must, you will be left with the pomace which you can add to your compost.

Check out our other winemaking posts below!

What do you think? If you end up making this press, please let us know in the comment section below how it went!

TFWY’s

Long Weekend in San Diego

We did a short trip to the San Diego area visiting Erika’s aunt who lived there at the time. This worked out well since we had a place to stay and basically a free tour guide during our trip! She actually lived in Carlsbad so we did not stay in the city of San Diego, we were just outside in the surrounding areas for most of our trip. We did some site seeing, got to do some kayaking, surfing and beach time and finally ended our trip with some wine tasting in Temecula Valley which is about an hour outside the city (we will talk more about that in a separate post). We don’t have as many food recommendations in this post since we did a lot of eating in or packing picnic lunches since we were staying with a local. We will share with you a couple places we did enjoy.

One of the first places we went was to Mt Soledad National Veterans Memorial. The memorial sits on top of a hill which offers great views of the city, the surrounding mountains and the coastline. The memorial is meant to honor all veterans ranging from the Revolutionary war to more current events. The memorial is open for visitors daily and admission is free.  It is a nice place to go to get some great views of the city.

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From there we headed to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This is a park that overlooks the ocean near the La Jolla area. We spend some time walking around and taking in the ocean views from up on the top of the cliffs along the coast line.  There are multiple hiking trails in the park to explore. If we had more time we would have loved to spend more time here and do some hiking. We were told that often times you can see people hang gliding from the cliffs. We didn’t see any the day we visited but it would definitely be a beautiful spot for this if that is something you are interested in doing.

We spent the rest of our first day in La Jolla which is along the shoreline. This area offers lots of shops and restaurants as well as beautiful views of the ocean. While wandering through this area we stopped at the Sunny Jim sea cave which was an old bootlegger cave during prohibition. There is a cave store where you enter and you can buy souvenirs it is about $5 per person to go down into the cave. From the store there is a tunnel that was dug out by hand to allow access to the sea cave. It is a pretty short path, less than 5 minute walk from the store to the cave. The stairs in the tunnel are pretty steep and small and can be slippery with the water. From the cave you get views out to the ocean and you can see the water coming in and out with the waves. We would highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area!

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One of our favorite things we did in La Jolla was sea kayaking. We did this through a company called La Jolla Kayak. They had tandem kayaks and single kayaks available. We went in a tandem. The hardest part was getting out past the wave break. We were instructed on how to do this and most people in our group got past it without a problem. After you are past the wave break the water is calm and it is pretty easy to kayak around the area. We had two guides and a group of about 8-10 people. The guides educated us on the history of the area and the wildlife in the area. They brought us over to where the sea caves are so we could get a good look at the caves. It was a bit wavy by the caves the day we went so we couldn’t get up super close. If the water is calmer you can kayak right up to and into the caves. We did get to kayak by several sea lions as they were sun bathing on the rocks nearby. The water is fairly cold, on average 55* to 61* F. If you do want a wet suit to help you stay warm during your tour they are available to rent. Coming back in with the waves was a lot of fun because you are basically surfing them. That being said about a quarter of the people went sideways and got a bit wet. Check out their website for specific tours and pricing options. https://www.lajollakayak.com/tours/.  

La Jolla has great park spaces near the waterfront to take advantage of. After we did our kayaking tour we had a picnic lunch in the park and spend some more time walking along the coastline.

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The next day we headed to the beach in Carlsbad for some surfing. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it but surfing is big in California!  There are multiple companies to do lessons, and people that offer surfing lessons. We booked a lesson ahead of time online with Carlsbad SoCal Surf Lessons. This was a private lesson that was one hour followed by an hour of surfing on your own. Rusty the instructor was a great teacher and awesome guy in general. If you’ve never surfed before, this is a great place to learn (not too crowded).

After surfing we headed into San Diego. We spend the afternoon in Balboa Park. This is where the zoo is located if you choose to visit. The park has a lot of other attractions worth seeing as well. This is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park that is absolutely beautiful to walk through! The park has many gardens, walking paths and open green spaces to sit and relax as well as museums and theaters. There are also several restaurants and shops in the park to enjoy.  We would definitely recommend visiting if you are in San Diego. For a full list of events happening in the park you can check out their website. https://www.balboapark.org/Sunset is a really pretty time to see the buildings and the theaters in the park.

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Food: We do have a couple recommendations

In-N-Out Burger: This is going to sound funny to anyone on the West Coast. But In and Out is a must try while in California. It’s a fast food burger place offering burgers, fries and shakes. It is a chain that you can find throughout California and maybe in other states as well. We do not have them in Michigan or anywhere we have been in the midwest of the U.S. If you are craving a good, greasy burger this is your place! Yes it is fast food which we normally do not enjoy but this place is worth a try. 

Harbor Fish Cafe: This place is right on the beach in Carlsbad. It is a causal place with great fish tacos! Fish tacos are definitely a must eat while in California. The tacos here are huge! There are fried and grilled fish options available. 

Cardiff Crack: This is a term used locally to describe Burgundy Pepper Tri Tip. You can buy this at the Seaside Market– here is the address 2087 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007. This is a tri tip steak with a Burgundy Pepper marinate. Our last night we picked one of these up and grilled it up for dinner with a nice bottle of wine. It was really good! We will be attempted to recreate it at home at some point. It isn’t easy to find tri tip steaks in markets/grocery stores where we live in Michigan so that will be a challenge. We would highly recommend getting this while you are in the area!

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Our final full day we spent heading out to Temecula Valley for some wine tasting. We will do a separate post on that with more information.  After that we unfortunately had to head home the next day. This was a pretty quick trip for us,  we would love to spend more time in this area at some point. California has a lot to see and do. We will eventually make it back to the west coast!

-TFWYs

Rivero Gonzalez Wine Tasting

During our weekend road trip to Parras del la Fuente one of the wineries we visited was Rivero Gonzalez. This winery is kind of in the middle of nowhere. We got lost and drove in circles through some small side streets around Parras before we finally found it. We had a reservation for our tour so we we talked to the gate attendant who let us onto the property and showed us where to park. We were still a few minutes early even with getting lost. When we walked back to the winery we could not find anyone who looked like they were planning to give a tour. The only people we saw were a few guys cleaning some farm equipment in a back building. We wandered all over the property without anyone questioning us or offering to direct us to where we needed to be. We decided to go back towards the first building we had seen which was a store where you can buy their wine and other products. We figured that would be most likely where our tour guide would be. After waiting a few more minutes our tour guide arrived and everything went well. So all that being said- remember that the rest of the world doesn’t operate on a American schedule/time table where being a few minutes early is normal and somewhat expected. Also since this isn’t a huge area for wine tourism you may be the only tour the winery has that day or week. Our guide was truly surprised he was showing two American’s around without any locals. I think we wondered how we even found this place!
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We had a private tour (in English) through the vineyard and winery before sitting down for our tasting. Our guide was very helpful and willing to answer whatever questions we had. He was nervous about his English but we felt he did a wonderful job and by this point in our trip we were so happy to find anyone who spoke any English! We sat outside for our tasting with great views of the vineyard. Along with our wine we had some chocolate covered pecans, bread, goat cheeses and jams all made onsite by the winery. The winery had pecan trees all along the property. The chocolate covered pecans were awesome and you can buy a bag of them before you leave! We also tried some pecan and whiskey cream liquors at a small street market in Parras which we would also recommend trying if you are in the area.
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We were given plenty of time to relax and enjoy our wine and snacks during the tasting.  We really enjoyed all the wines we tasted here. We would recommend their Scieno Reserve line as we felt that was the best value. These wines are their middle line of wine (they have a cheaper line and a more expensive/premium line you can also purchase) We purchased the R2 Scieno Reserve Cab Sauvignon and the R3 Scieno Reserve Syrah. We also really enjoyed their Naranja which was an interesting experimental wine they had. It is a Palomino and Riesling blend that is aged in oak barrels which gave it more body and a light orange color. It was very unique with the distinct Riesling characteristics. We found this wine to be really refreshing and we always enjoy when wineries are doing something different so we can expand our wine tasting pallet!
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Here are the links to our other Parras de la Fuente and wine tasting posts from this region of Mexico.
-TFWYs

The Oldest Winery in North America

The oldest winery in North America surprisingly is in Mexico. Casa Madero was founded in 1597. It is located near the small town of Parras de la Fuente of the South side of the Coahuila desert. The winery does offer tours but do be aware they are in Spanish only. You do not need a reservation ahead of time but it may be helpful to secure your spot. They day we went we ended up joining what we think was a large family who had reserved their tour and tasting ahead of time. It worked out okay but we were the only two not from this group of people on the tour. We are not entirely sure the winery staff knew we weren’t part of that group when they sold us our tickets.
The tour doesn’t take you through the vineyards but focuses on the wine making process in the winery. You see where fermentation happens, where they make Brandy, and where they store the barrels. You also get to see some of the very old equipment still on the property. Our Spanish was not very good when we did this tour so we missed a lot of the smaller details. It was still cool to walk through and see everything. If you don’t know a lot of Spanish you can definitely still enjoy this tour.
The tasting is separate from the tour itself, meaning there is a separate fee. We had our tasting with our tour group immediately following our tour. We tasted several of their wines, again the tasting is in Spanish. One of the staff members pouring the wine did know some English to help us out but the details given about each wine we did not fully understand. We really enjoyed the 3V which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo as well as the Shiraz Reserva.
Overall this tour is more established that the other wineries in the area. Not that you are not getting a good experience but you will likely be on a bigger tour with lots of other people. They are more prepared for tourists than the other wineries in the area as well which can be helpful to you when trying to communicate your needs if you are not a fluent Spanish speaker. Being the oldest winery in North America seems to bring them more tourism. While it was not the greatest winery tour and tasting we have ever done we would still recommend visiting if you are in the area.

 

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The town of Parras is not well set up for tourism. It is a very small town with few hotel options. There are other wineries in the area so if you are looking to a day or two of wine tasting that is possible.  Mexico does not have a strong wine drinking culture so wine tourism hasn’t taken off here as it has in other parts of the world. It was interesting because we were told that they are trying to establish higher end wine in Mexico and a lot of the tours we took focused on that education that leads to a greater appreciation for wine in general. We really enjoyed the wine at all the wineries we visited. We also visited Rivero Gonzalez and Don Leo winery. Check our our other posts for more details on both of those wineries:
We visited Parras de la Fuente as a weekend trip from Arteaga and felt that was a good amount of time. We found some great family run restaurants in town and enjoyed walking around the small streets.  For any wino this is a great off the beaten path place to do some tasting.
-TFWYs