The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

Brewpubs away from Home – Faultline and El Toro June 22, 2008

Filed under: beer — Amanda @ 20:42
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We try to visit local brewpubs whenever we travel, and last weekend in San Jose was no exception – we made a return visit to El Toro, Chuck’s hometown brewery, and visited Faultline Brewing in Sunnyvale for the first time.

Since we were new to Faultline, I decided to get acquainted by way of the sampler:

The Winners:

Kolsch – a solid example of my favorite style of light beer (local Lightning Brewing makes my favorite), crisp fruity flavor that doesn’t overwhelm

India Pale Ale – I was skeptical at first, since they claimed to brew it in the English style, and I’m a West Coast IPA kinda gal, but this had strong flowery aroma and clean bitter flavor – good stuff.

Spring Bock – malty with a fresh bitterness to balance.

The Not-Quite Winners:

Hefe Weizen – Couldy, fruity, and fresh, everything a good hefe should be. Didn’t quite crack the top three, but I liked it.

Irish Stout – More smoky and less smooth than I was hoping, but an enjoyabe brew.

Best Bitter – draft and cask versions – I wanted to like this beer a lot, but it fell into the “drinkable but not exceptional” category. Not something I would have again on cask – it’s lacking the strong, rich flavors that make cask beers great, this one just seemed like a draft beer gone warm and flat.

Beers I wouldn’t order again:

Dunkel Weizen – like the Bitter, I really wanted to like it. Since I liked the Hefe Weizen, and this is ostensibly similar but darker, I actually thought I would…but I did not. I guess the fruity flavors overwhelmed the dark malty flavors, I just didn’t find it well balanced or compelling.

Golden, Pale Ale – these two were virtually indistinguishable to me, even in side-by-side tasting – light, bland, boring. Granted, these are not my favorite styles in general, but a lot of mircobreweries make their versions with enough flavor to be interesting, and a good Pale Ale (Stone, Sierra, Kona) should be hoppy enough to have some character . At Faultline, I’ll happily stick with the other styles.

We’ve visited El Toro Brewing in Morgan Hill before, so I was already aquainted with some of their beers. Worth mentioning are their “Extra Hoppy” Poppy Jasper Ales, where they start with their signature beer and add dry hop it with different varieties of hops, so you can order them side-by-side and compare the finishing characteristics of different kinds of hops. This is cool. This time, I was in the mood for extreme hoppiness, so I tried a Duece Imperial IPA, which delivered all of the bitter hoppy goodness I was after. I followed that up with a Blackraspberry Ale, a darkale infused with fruit concentrate – no subtle flavors here, this was fruity! Not something I’d have everday, but fun once in a while. El Toro is definitely worth a visit – the beer list is long, and they’re all quite drinkable. Next time I just have to remember to wander about town and find some Poppy Jasper jewelry to go with my Poppy Jasper Ale!


Hike: Iron Mountain June 10, 2008

The first Sunday in June, we woke up early and walked down to the Rock N Roll Marathon route just in time to see the lead runners zoom past. The elite runners trickled past, then after about 10 minutes the crowd starting picking up, and by the time we left about 20 minutes later we’d watched thousands of runners go by, several in full “Running Elvis” garb, been nearly splattered by wayward water cups, and helped one runner with a wardrobe adjustment. As we left, I was of two minds about any possible marathons in my future – on the one hand, it was very exciting to watch the runners go by, and when you think about the distance in terms of doubling training miles (run a 5K, then a 10K, then a half-marathon, then a marathon) – it sounds like a completely reasonable progression; on the other hand, we were watching from right around the seven mile marker, and a lot of people were looking like they were in pretty rough shape already – with over 70% of the race still ahead!

After our marathon-watching, we headed out to east county for a hike (our first one since all of the moving craziness began, it had probably been about three months!). We went to Iron Mountain, Chuck’s favorite San Diego hike.

When we started out, there was still a nice cool layer of June Gloom protecting us from the sun and shrouding the trail in mystery:

The sun came out soon after we started on the trail, so I piled on the sunscreen as we trekked. Iron Mountain is a tricky hike – when I picture it mentally, I always think of the first 1.4 miles as fairly flat, and then expect the actual ascent to the mountain to be a harder climb. In reality though, that first section has about half of the total elevation gain of the hike, and is steeper in parts as well, so it always beats me up a little bit, but by the time I’m doing switchbacks up the mountain, the going is pretty easy (unless, of course, Chuck is in race-hiking mode, in which we try to pass everyone else on the trail to prove to ourselves that we’re faster…then, I’m just panting along and trying to keep up!).

Iron Mountain is a very popular hike, but it doesn’t typically feel crowded, either on the trail or at the top. This time though, there was a boy scout-like group on a backcountry training trip, probably 10 or 15 of them in the group, AND they left the summit right after us so that it felt like we were being chased down the trail until the faster ones passed us halfway down the switchbacks. The view from the top was a little bit obscured by the fog, but I was happy to have it in exchange for mild temperatures.

Summit Views:

Views from the descent:

Want to hike Iron Mountain? Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Trailhead: route 67, just south of Poway Road
  2. Distance: about 5.8 miles; Total Elevation Gain: about 1200 feet
  3. Don’t forget: sunscreen, water (if you’re hiking with a dog, take lots of extra water!)
  4. Need More Info? Get the ultimate guide to San Diego hiking – Afoot & Afield San Diego County

See the route on MapMyRun:
View Interactive Map on


Memorial Day at the Zoo June 4, 2008

One of the great things about living in San Diego is having a Zoological Society membership. Not only do we get to learn about and contribute to the conservation and education efforts of the zoological society, but we also get unlimited access to visit one of the best zoos in the world. For me, visiting the zoo (or Wild Animal Park in Escondido) is a nice, relaxing weekend morning activity, like a stroll in the park or a light hike. So when I found myself with a free day on Memorial Day while Chuck had to work, I headed over to the zoo for a leisurely morning. It was a beautiful morning, a little cool and grey to start out with, but sunny with dramatic clouds later on, perfect for a nice long walk to enjoy the flora and fauna.

The zoo was a bit crowded, especially on the Panda – Polar Bear Highway, where everyone crowds in to see the most popular exhibits. The line for panda viewing was so long that I skipped the exhibit, but I did see some amazingly cute baby Red River Hogs along the way – I think there were four hoglets, and as I walked up they were following their mother to the back of the exhibit – they practically ran her down and knocked her over so they could nurse. I wandered off and came back a few minutes later, hoping they were close enough for a picture, but by then they were asleep in the hay, tiny striped bundles of cuteness so well-camouflaged that most passers-by didn’t even notice.

It wasn’t a very good day for okapi pictures – there were three okapis in the enclosure, so it was good okapi viewing day, but they stayed too far away for me to get good pictures. (By the way, if you’re in the market for a stuffed okapi, has an excellent selection right now – seven varieties of okapis! The minis and the giant one are my favorites.) I did get some good pictures of the other animals though – check it out:

Giraffes In Symmetrical Poses:
Giraffes in Symmetrical Pose

Baird’s Tapir, Sleeping Under a Tree:

Malayan Tapir eating breakfast:

Koala – surprisingly active (which is to say, not yet asleep in his chosen tree!):

Wombat – I think wombats are my new animal obsession! This was the first time I’ve seen them on exhibit at the zoo (where had they been hiding before?) Aren’t they cuddly?!?!?!? Must buy stuffed wombat.

Warthog – the warthogs were not very active when I stopped by, but there were five of them out, and I got a good sleeping-in-dirt picture:

Meerkat – Like the red river hogs, the meerkats seemed to be enjoying a baby boom – there were probably 6 or 8 young meerkats in the back enclosure (the one past the kopje, rather than the one on elephant mesa, if you know the zoo), and a few of them posed for me:

Klipspringer – Speaking of the kopje, it was a good day there as well – I got to see all of the residents – mongeese and klipspringers relaxing in plain sight, and rock hyraxes peeking out from the rocks above. My best klipspringer shot:

Polar Bear: Saving the best picture for last! It was VERY crowded at Polar Bear Plunge, and for good reason! The bears were quite playful, chasing each other around the exhibit, diving into the pool to escape, and then play-fighting back on land. Like all animals at the zoo, these guys are often just sleeping or lounging around, so it’s a real treat to see them displaying different behaviors, and I had very good timing:

After two hours at the zoo, I headed into Hillcrest for another treat on my day off – lunch at Bread & Cie. I had a delicious mozzarella, tomato, red pepper and olive-spread sandwich on focaccia, and took a mini-loaf of seeded sourdough home with me to enjoy with my ginger and golden carrot soup. Yum!

PS – Another great site for plush animals is They’re in the UK, so prices can be a little bit daunting for those of us in the US with the current exchange rates, but their selection and quality is excellent. I’ve purchased two okapis and several tapirs from them in the past, they’re highly recommended.


May Concert Wrap-Up June 2, 2008

Filed under: concerts,San Diego — Amanda @ 22:03
Tags: , , , ,

So many shows to blog about, so little time! A few highlights from May, before I forget about them entirely:

We started and ended the month with “surprise” shows. The first, I learned about by chance the day before the concert, and I’m so glad I did. We saw Po’ Girl at the same church near Adams Avenue where we saw Gregory Page during Roots Fest. I first discovered Po’ Girl at Hear Music in Santa Monica last year, where I bought their “Home To You” CD because it reminded me of the Be Good Tanyas (1st place on my Desert Islands Discs), without realizing that one of the contributors to the album actually WAS from the Be Good Tanyas (I am perceptive, sometimes). So through random browsing of events on, I found out about the Po’ Girl concert. It was presented by Acoustic Music San Diego, a wonderful group that presents concerts several concerts a month and sells some of the best chocolate chip cookies ever made (big, buttery, crispy but not too-hard, seriously good, homemade chocolate chip cookies!); I had no idea that the group or the concert series existed before the fortuitous Po’ Girl discovery, but I’ll definitely be going back!

This was another one of those extremely intimate concerts that I absolutely love. We were seated in the third row of the church, and there were probably 40 or so people total for the event…I actually feel kind of sorry for every single person in San Diego who was not there, because it was an amazing show. I like “Home to You”, but it pales in comparison to seeing the ladies perform live – they were so talented, gracious, funny, and beautiful, I was completely entranced by them. Among the many instruments played throughout the evening, Allison Russell played the clarinet, and it was the first time EVER that I was sad to have quit clarinet lessons in the 5th grade. Also, Awna Teixeira somewhat reluctantly broke out the glockenspiel for one song, and was so utterly brilliant on the accordion that I may postpone my theoretical harp lessons to play gypsy music on the accordion instead.

Next up on our whirlwind May wrap-up: Jesse Cook, performing at Humphrey’s By the Bay. It was our first ever trip to Humphrey’s, and it was a very different experience from the small acoustic shows and bar stages that we’ve been frequenting. Humphrey’s is an outdoor venue, with three sections of seating in front of the stage, with one side open to the bay where those with boats can motor over for some free entertainment. The atmosphere was kind of a bizarre mix of high-society meetup and Hawaiian luau vacation resort craziness. The last time we saw Jesse Cook (opening for Diana Krall in Santa Barbara, maybe eight years ago?), there was just him and his guitar, playing beautiful flamenco melodies. I have not been following him in the meantime, and was pleasantly surprised to see him on the Humphrey’s schedule, and even more surprised to see how his career has apparently exploded since we saw him last. The music was AMPED, with more of a world-beat feel, Latin and maybe African rhythms mixed in with the flamenco influences. Mr Cook was joined onstage by another guitar player, a bassist, a wild-haired and generally fun violinist, and a fantastic drum player, and they had a great time playing together and making great music together. There were quite a few hard-core fans in the audience, and much dancing in the aisles at the end of the show.

We ended May with yet another show at Humphrey’s. I found out on Friday that I’d won tickets to see Craig Ferguson that night, thanks to San Diego City Beat. I’d submitted an online entry several weeks earlier, and not even realized that the show hadn’t taken place yet, so the tickets were a fantastic surprise! We used to watch Craig on the Drew Carey show, and were fans of the movie Saving Grace, and I’m happy to report that his live routine did not disappoint. Live comedy is always a bit of a grab bag for me – sometimes it seems like the comics just try to say random, offensive things and hope someone in the audience is drunk enough to laugh – but Craig Ferguson was excellent from start to finish, creating humor from personal narrative and a well-honed sense of the ridiculous, with only a few cringe-worthy moments (and most of those were still funny).



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