Guide to California Trails and Taquerias

There’s nothing more gratifying after a long hike than a plate full of tacos and a cold cerveza. Trust us, we Toads are experts. With half of HQ born and bred Californians and the rest happy transplants, we’ve got this state pretty well covered. If you find yourself in the Golden State, here’s where we recommend heading. And we know you know, but stay on trails and pack-in-pack-out. Save your reckless abandon for the taquerias.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAN DIEGO

Torrey Pines State Park – Easy trail along the Pacific coast with a glimpse of the rarest pine tree around.

The Taco Stand – Tacos al pastor, Mexican street corn, mango chile paletas. YUM.

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

Willow Hole Trail – Big rocks and an oasis; great spot to see wildlife like big horn sheep.  

Algobertos Taco Shop – Hole in the wall taqueria with burritos bigger than the front door.

LOS ANGELES

Bronson Canyon – Part of LA’s Griffith Park, so hike up to the Observatory and channel James Dean.  

Ricky’s Fish Tacos – There are 3 options: fish, shrimp, and special. Get all 3.

OJAI  

Horn Canyon – Crisscross streams toward an epic pine grove with distant views of the Channel Islands.

Ojai Tortilla House – Cash only, handmade tortillas daily. Buy some to go if you know what’s good for you.

SANTA BARBARA

Rattlesnake Trail – Named for the twisty nature, not the inhabitants. Moderate to the meadow, then steep for .5 miles to the top. Good views abound.

Mony’s Tacos – Great salsa bar (hello pistachio salsa) and 5 minute walk to the beach.  

SANTA CRUZ

Old Cove Landing Trail – 3 of the 34 miles of trails in the Wilder Ranch State Park. Bonus: Wheelchair and stroller accessible!

De La Hacienda Taqueria – Carnitas are bomb, but so is the veggie burrito. Something for everyone!

BISHOP

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Trail – 4.4 miles through the oldest trees in the WORLD. Like 5,000+ years old.

Taqueria Mi Guadalajara – A sedentary taco truck with bizarro hours and delish barbacoa.

EAST BAY/OAKLAND

East Ridge Trail – In Redwood Regional Park; you can see SF on a clear day then hike down into the redwoods.

Mariscos La Costa – Cash only so you know it’s legit. Great ceviche tostada. 

SAN FRANCISCO  

Golden Gate Park – Start at 9th and Lincoln, mosey through the Botanical Garden, loop around Stow Lake.

Taco Shop at Underdogs – sports bar-slash-taqueria. $1 margaritas Fridays 6- 6:30.

 

NORTH BAY/MILL VALLEY

Dipsea Trail – 9.5 mile trail from Muir Woods to Stinson beach. Steep grades = amazing views of San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Tamalpais and the Pacific.

Parranga – Tacos and ceviche; get the slow-roasted rotisserie chicken plate. 

 

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE

Maggie’s Peak – Make your way to Granite Lake and keep on going. The sweeping views of Lake Tahoe are worth it.

Chimayó Tacos y Tortas – Taqueria meets BBQ meets bar. Not as “divey” but just as delicious.

 

SHASTA-TRINITY NATIONAL FOREST

Pacific Crest Trail – A portion of this epic 2,650 trail makes a great day hike to Middle Deadfall Lake; start at the Parks Creek Trailhead.

El Zaguan Food Truck – Parked in Weed, CA. Cheap street tacos with a million dollar view of Mt. Shasta.

 

7th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

Melted, gooey cheese. Golden toasty bread. Maybe some roasted jalapeño, a healthy heap of pork belly, a fig jam spread, perfectly crisped bacon. Yes, we’re talking about the grilled cheese sandwich and yes, the possibilities are endless.

There’s no better place to show off the versatility of this practically-perfect-in-every-way sandwich than at our annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown – a battle among Toads, family, friends, and community members for the coveted Golden Spatula Award.

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This year at our seventh annual, competition was tougher than ever. Here’s how it works: Everyone gathers in the Toad office backyard to watch our competing teams duke it out by whipping up their tastiest recipes. First sandwich off the grill goes to the judging table and the rest go to the salivating crowd (there’s a Peoples’ Choice Award too, so feeding the audience is equally as important!). If you can’t wait for the chefs’ creations, you can tide yourself over at the Make-Your-Own-GC station. And because nothing pairs with a grilled cheese like tomato soup and a cold one (or two, or three), we’re lucky that longtime partners Organic Soup Kitchen always show up with the soup and local fave Topa Topa was there to keep the beer flowing.

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This year’s lineup consisted of 4 Toad teams, plus teams from our friends at Alpha Resource Center, Luno Life, Los Padres Forest Watch, Ontraport, Topa Topa, The Sandbox, SB Fire Department, and UCSB Bren School. A few masterpieces included “You Are Bacon Me Crazy,” “The Hogfather,” and “The Cubano.” Mouth watering yet? Us too.

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Grill Nude

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When the sun sets, and panini presses are turned off, there can only be one Golden Spatula winner (OK, and a few runners up because we love to spread the celebrations). Congrats to the following teams!

All That Jazz: UCSB Bren School, Kimcheeze for Sheezy

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Best Solo Act: Toad’s Ian, The Big Cheesy

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Most Balanced: Los Padres Forest Watch, Gourmet Girls on Fire Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Peoples’ Choice: Alpha Resource Center, Pesto So Gouda

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Golden Spatula (Best Overall): Toad’s Guin and Helena, Frankenfromage 

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AND we asked realllyyy nicely and got Guin and Helena to share their mouthwatering secret recipe with us. Get your aprons ready (and fair warning, this is some seriously gourmet stuff)!

What you’ll need:

  • -Equal parts Gouda and Gruyere
  • -Parmesan
  • -5 sweet white onions (we used Vidalia)
  • -Beef stock
  • -Sherry
  • -White wine (mostly for the cooks)
  • -Kerrygold butter (It’s the fancy-pants kind and so worth it)
  • -Milk
  • -Half and half (or cream)
  • -Flour
  • -Bay leaf
  • -Fresh thyme
  • -Fresh flat leaf parsley
  • -French bread

 

Chop, and then caramelize the heck outta the onions in a pot. Simmer 2 hours, de-glaze with 1/2 cup sherry and 1/2 cup white wine (the rest is for drinking, remember?). Cook down for 2 minutes, add a splash of beef stock, and a few thyme springs. Remove 2/3 of cooked onions (should be super brown for maximum tastiness), add to blender, and blend into a puree. Set aside.

Pour remaining beef stock into onion pot, add bay leaf, leave to reduce and simmer for a good long while. Salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile –

Grate all that cheese. Make a roux out of 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 cup flour, slowly add milk and half and half, (3 parts milk x 1 part half and half) until your reach nappe consistency. Teamwork really helps here—one whisking furiously while the other adds ingredients. Next, a handful at a time, add grated cheese until incorporated. Keep whisking until creamy and salt to taste. Add onion puree to cheese mixture. Once combined, pour mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment. Allow to cool then toss in the refrigerator until solidified (most likely overnight).

Next, chop parsley. Slice bread (we like the slices thick), butter the outside like there’s no tomorrow, crust outside of bread with parmesan, cook parm-side down on in a buttered pan using low heat. Remove chilled cheese loaf from fridge, slice 1/2 inch thick, place on top of bread, and sprinkle with parsley. Top with a second slice of parm-crusted bread and wait until it gets super golden brown and tasty tasty looking on both sides. Don’t flip it too early. Here’s how you’ll know it’s done: It should be a rich brown color, and if you tap the bread and it makes a low hollow noise, you’re good to go.

Remember the beef stock we set aside? Pour into cute little bowls and use as au jus for your cheese masterpiece!

And while we’ve got you in that grilled cheese spirit, we asked two of our esteemed Toad judges for their favorite full belly-approved Toad items to wear while chowing down on the good stuff.

Danny and Neil

“I’m a big fan of the Mission Ridge Lean Pant. They’re so comfortable you’ll think you’re eating your grilled cheese at home on the couch. And if I’m grilled cheesing it up in the summertime, I’m all about the Lounge-Out Cord Short—because classics like cords and a tasty grilled cheese were meant for each other. And also, stretchy draw-cord waist. Enough said.” – Danny, Sr. Sales Ops

“Nothing screams summertime grilled cheeses like some 4-way stretch shorts, so the Cetacean Block Board Short is my go-to. I like to keep it classy on top with the Mattock II Short Sleeve Shirt, which also looks surprisingly good with a napkin bib.” -Neil, Sr. Ops Manager

10 Reasons Why Guinness Is Good For You

Spinach, kale, avocado, Guinness—A few of our favorite health foods. OK maybe we’re using the word “health food” a little freely, but we do have proof that it’s good for you (just like the old advertising slogan says). So this St. Patrick’s Day, fill your pint glass with the good stuff. Sláinte! (Which btw, is an Irish Gaelic saying for “cheers” and literally translates to “health.” Coincidence? We think not).

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1) Antioxidants make it heart healthy

Move over, red wine. A 2003 study claimed that a pint of Guinness could cut the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries, while other beers didn’t have the same effect. You can thank flavonoids, a plant-based antioxidant found in certain drinks and dark chocolate, for this heart healthy benefit.

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2) Iron does a body good

Though Guinness only contains .3 mg of iron per pint, most adults don’t reach their recommended 9-18 mg/day, so we say every sip counts! There was even a time when Guinness was given to post-op patients and pregnant women, and as recently as 2010, it was given to people after they donated blood to help replenish their iron levels.

3) It’s considered a “light” beer

Don’t let the color fool ya. A Guinness only has 15 more calories than a Bud Light and 5 more calories than the same amount of skim milk. Plus, you’re going to feel a lot fuller after a Guinness than a Bud Light (thanks to the CO2 and Nitrogen carbonation that leads to its thick, creamy texture), saving yourself from the extra food calories later. Drunchies beware.

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4) It’s good for your bones

Beer contains a plant hormone called phytoestrogen, which is key to building dense bones, plus has calcium and dietary silicon, important for growth and development of bone and connective tissues. Studies have shown moderate beer drinkers to be less likely to have osteoporosis and lower risk of hip fractures. Of course, like with anything, moderation is key – overindulging can have reverse effects.

5) It’s relatively low on alcohol content

When comparing to other beers, Guinness has a lower ABV (4.2% compared with your average beer at 5%). So for party goers and bar frequenters, Guinness leans on the more responsible side.

6) It will make you the life of the party

If Elle Woods taught us anything, it’s that endorphins make us happy. Light to moderate drinking triggers these “feel good” chemicals in your brain (though as many of us have probably experienced, overdoing it will have the opposite effect). So on St. Patrick’s Day, help yourself to a pint or two of Guinness, and enjoy being the most fun, social, happiest friend at the party. Bonus effect: It will make everyone around you more fun and attractive too.

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7) It contains folate, fiber, and ferulic acid

Guinness contains more folate, a nutrient we need to make DNA, than any other beer. And it’s high in barley, which makes it one of the beers with the highest levels of fiber (while Bud Light and most other light beers don’t contain any. Thank u, next). High levels of barley also equal high levels of ferulic acid, which is associated with improved immune function. And all that fiber and ferulic acid lead to a couple of other benefits too…

8) It’s anti-inflammatory

Studies have shown the consumption of hops (in beer form) interfere with inflammation causing compounds. Plus, a fiber rich diet can help reduce inflammation.

9) It lowers bad cholesterol

Not to sound like a broken record, but have we told you about the benefits of fiber? It’s really good for you. And the soluble fiber in beer can help reduce LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol) – plus it has a variety of other health benefits like promoting healthy blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.

10) It helps hydrate post-workout

Maybe the most surprising of them all, one study showed that people who drank a post-workout pint of beer were more hydrated than those who drank water. Probably why a beer at the top of a hike feels so right.

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So there you have it. A little bit of science and a little bit of Irish luck. Either way, feel good this weekend when you reach for that creamy, malty goodness.

Not feeling the booze? Just like Guinness is now vegan (true story!), we like to keep it green every day too.

How to Make Simple Syrup

It’s called “simple” for a reason. No matter how fancy they sound, they all boil down to water and sugar… boiled down. Kick up any drink with these 6 simple syrup recipes. Enjoy responsibly with friends.

Basic Simple Syrup

Need: 1 cup water, 1 cup granulated white sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes until sugar dissolves. Cool immediately. Store in the fridge for a month or freeze forever. Use in any cocktail to sweeten things up!

Hibiscus Grapefruit

Need: 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup whole dried hibiscus flowers, 1/4 cup sugar, and peels from half a grapefruit. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes, then strain and chill. Great with mezcal or tequila.

Cinnamon Syrup

Need: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, a couple of cinnamon sticks. You know the drill – bring to a boil, then add cinnamon sticks. Simmer 2-3 mins, then remove and chill. Great in an old fashioned or bourbon.

Rosemary Syrup

Need: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 or 2 rosemary sprigs. Bring all ingredients to a boil and simmer for 3 mins until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool for 30 mins. Strain (or just remove remove rosemary) and chill. Great in greyhounds or palomas (or any cocktail with grapefruit juice).

Habanero Simple Syrup

Need: 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 2 habanero peppers, quartered. Bring sugar and water to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Add peppers and reduce heat to low, simmer about 15 minutes (or longer if you like it spicy!). Remove from heat and let cool for 1 hour. Strain and chill. Pairs well with vodka or in a margarita.

Turmeric Simple Syrup

Need: 1 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, a big thumb’s worth of fresh ginger root (peeled and sliced), 1 tsp turmeric powder. Bring water, sugar and ginger to a boil and simmer for 10 mins (if it’s not sweet enough, add a touch more sugar or a dollop of honey). Stir in turmeric until it’s dissolved. Strain through a coffee filter and chill. Tastes amazing in margaritas or screwdrivers.

Now we just need a good view and a good book

@shotsoflouis making us thirsty in Marrakesh

Watch This, Drink That: Holiday Movie Drinking Games

Nothing gets us in the holiday spirit like a festive cocktail and a good holiday flick (and maybe a Cashmoore Blanket). Gather your bar cart, light a fire, and curl up – we’ve got your holiday couch agenda covered with our favorite drinking games for Christmas and holiday movies. As always, drink responsibly and refrain from operating sleighs after consumption.

Watch: Elf – Released 15 years ago (Yikes, we know – take a drink for that), this cheery comedy is one of our Yuletide faves. Will Ferrell as the tallest, most enthusiastic elf-slash-human, can do no wrong.

Drink: Spiked egg nog, with a dash of maple syrup. Drink every time Buddy the Elf refers to himself in the third person, every time sugar is referenced, and every time you hear a holiday-friendly alternative to a swear or an insult.

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Watch: The Santa Clause – Despite the fact that things start out a little dark (Let’s not forget this movie begins with Santa’s traumatic fall off the roof), things quickly turn around and The Santa Clause is a true holiday classic.

Drink: Hot cocoa (with peppermint schnapps). Not too hot. Extra chocolate. Shaken, not stirred. Drink every time Tim Allen raises his eyebrows, every time Neil rocks an awful (but also kind of awesome) sweater, and every time someone mentions The North Pole.

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Watch: The Holiday – Filled with adorable (and OK, totally unrealistic) meet cutes, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet’s life swap turned love story gets us in the spirit to celebrate “being young and being alive” year after year.

Drink: A champagne toast. Drink every time you catch yourself staring at Jude Law, every time someone cries, and finish your drink when you get on Airbnb to look for holiday homes.

Watch: Home Alone – Kevin McAllister, master of booby traps, makes a left-home-alone-holiday look equal parts amazing and terrifying.

Drink: Pepsi with a shot of whiskey. For the Home Alone drinking game, drink every time Kevin McAllister talks to himself (can’t say we blame him), every time Harry’s (aka Joe Pesci) gold tooth sparkles, and every time someone runs panicked through an airport.

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Watch: Bridget Jones’s Diary – A hilarious adaptation of the novel, Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones makes us all feel a little bit better about our own lives during the holidays.

Drink: A bottle of whatever is in the fridge. No time for judgment here. Drink every time there’s an expletive, every time Bridget drops some shade, and every time you see your favorite reindeer jumper.

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Watch: Die Hard – This 1988 action thriller was voted the greatest Christmas movie by readers of British film magazine Empire in 2015. Enough said.

Drink: Straight Vodka. Drink every time someone says, “This isn’t a Christmas movie,” every time there’s a reference to Christmas (to prove your point), and take a shot in Alan Rickman’s honor whenever you feel like it.

Watch: Love Actually – Nine stories intertwine to bring us a watch-every-year-and-it-never-gets-old holiday favorite. Plus, Hugh Grant dancing.

Drink: Mulled Wine (a favorite, easy recipe here). Drink every time you hear the smash-hit “Christmas is All Around,” every time someone orchestrates a big romantic gesture, and every time Sarah’s (Laura Linney) phone rings. When you’re through with the Love Actually drinking game, you’ll likely be dancing along.

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Watch: A Very Murray Christmas – Because there’s never a bad moment for some quality time with Mr. Murray, and this eclectic musical comedy includes a lengthy list of guest appearances (George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Miley Cyrus, Maya Rudolph, the list goes on…)

Drink: A strong martini. Bonus points if you’ve got a white piano to sit atop. Drink every time a new celeb makes a cameo (don’t plan on driving anywhere after this game).

Watch: How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The first Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a full-length feature film, this unexpectedly heartwarming holiday favorite reminds us that Christmas “doesn’t come from a store,” and that The Grinch drinking game is always a good idea.

Drink: The Santa Shot. 1 part grenadine syrup, 1 part green creme de menthe, 1 part peppermint schnapps (recipe here). Drink every time The Grinch accidentally rhymes, has a fleeting moment of feeling, and every time Cindy Lou Who visits Mount Crumpit. Finish your drink when The Grinch’s heart grows.

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Apple Cider Donuts

Makes: A dozen
Time: 35 mins
Listen to: Rock the Holidays Playlist
Recipe from: Daisy, Copy Editor & Donut Enthusiast

Every year on Christmas morning we spike our coffee, settle into our respective couch/chair/floor positions, and dig into heaps of homemade Apple Cider Donuts. It’s a tradition that goes back to my Pennsylvania roots – where my grandmother proudly made her OWN apple cider in the fall and these donuts were her way of reminding us of the feat well into winter. We’ve since relocated to Southern California and substituted grandma’s homemade apple cider for the local farmer’s, but the tradition – and sugar rush – are still going strong.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup apple cider, organic or local is best

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350° and lightly grease two 6-doughnut pans (or a 12-cup muffin tin). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or a bowl with some serious elbow grease), cream 10 tablespoons butter (or 1¼ sticks), brown sugar and ¼ cup granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy ( about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time mixing until well after each egg, scrape the bowl as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract. Switch to low speed and add the flour mixture. Keep the mixer running and add the apple cider in a slow, steady stream. Scrape the bowl to make sure all the batter is mixed thoroughly – no weird bumps!

Spoon (or pipe) the batter into doughnut pans, filling them about 2/3 of the way full. For Donuts: Bake 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until evenly golden brown. For Muffins: Bake 15-20 minutes, rotating halfway through ,until evenly golden brown. (For both, do the toothpick test: insert pick into the center to see if it comes out clean. If not, cook for a few more minutes).

While the doughnuts bake, whisk together the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Let the doughnuts cool for 5 minutes after baking, then pop them out of the pan, brush with melted butter, and dunk in cinnamon sugar – all while they’re still warm.

Serve immediately with spiked coffee and holiday tunes.

TOAD & CO FALL WINTER 2018

Need PJs? We got you covered for dudes and dudettes.

Camp Kitchen: Pesto Halibut

Words by Kaleigh Wood; photos by Gretchen Powers of Powers Provisions and Johnie Gall of Dirtbag Darling

Aluminum pouches are your best friend when it comes to a camp kitchen. You can prep, season and seal everything before heading out (or bring foil and make your pouches onsite). I grew up hunting and fishing in the Lower 48 and have really enjoyed harvesting my own food in Kodiak, AK this year. (And a major perk of living in Kodiak is receiving wild fish and game from friends.) When transfer season rolls around in the Coast Guard, everyone gifts you the leftover food when they clean out their freezers. With lots of halibut in our freezer and friends coming to visit, our recent camp menu was a no brainer.

The morning we left to go camping, I threw the frozen fish and a jar of pesto in the cooler. I prepped the veggies, hit them with a healthy dose of EVOO, salt and pepper, and sealed them in an aluminum pouch. I grabbed a couple bags of instant rice for an easy starch to round it out. You know, just for the hal-i-but.

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Pesto Halibut with Veggies 

2 Large Halibut Filets
4 TBSP Basil Pesto (make it from scratch if you’ve got fresh herbs)
3 Carrots, 1 Red Bell Pepper,1 Zucchini, 2 Shallots – julienned
2 Bags of Boil in Bag Rice
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO, affectionately)
Salt
Pepper
Fresh Basil

Get your grill going then crack a beer or make a whiskey as your charcoal gets going. Take halibut, pat dry, season with salt and pepper, then lay flat on foil that has a touch of EVOO so your fish doesn’t stick. Top fish with a healthy dollop of pesto and seal in a foil pouch. Bring water to a slow boil and add rice bags to jet boil or pot of water. Once grill is ready, place your veggie pouch and fish pouch and let the steam do the work. Take a peek in 10 mins or try a sample to ensure everything is cooked. Plate it up: scoop of rice, scoop of veggies, piece of halibut, topped with fresh basil on top. YUM.

 

 

Watch This, Drink That: Halloween Edition

If you’re like us, you’ve watched Hocus Pocus every October for the last two decades (and why not? Bette Midler IS Halloween). If you’re ready to change things up (and no, that doesn’t mean watching Nightmare Before Christmas…) these films should scratch the itch. Pair with spirits for an extra spooky time (sorry, we just couldn’t help ourselves).

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Watch: Shaun of the Dead – The zombie apocalypse movie to rule them all. It’s funny, jumpy, and features some classic zombie-gore. There’s even a little romance, so you really can have it all.

Drink: Boddington’s Pub Ale. Drink every time someone says “pub,” someone says “Winchester,” or a zombie gets whacked.

Watch: Rocky Horror Picture Show – Fun fact: RHPS has the longest-running theatrical release in history, screening in cinemas across the world every year since 1975. Why the unstoppable run? Most performances turn into cult-like, fan-cast performances. If you haven’t been, check your local cinema listings.

Drink: Irish Coffee. You’ll need the liquid inhibition and caffeine to get you through a midnight viewing/performance.

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Watch: Clue – Doesn’t get more Halloween than a who-done-it in a gothic mansion. The 1985 theatrical release included three possible endings, with different theaters receiving one of the three finales. The original “Gotta catch ’em all.”

Drink: Anything from a can…and open it yourself. Invite your friends and give each a different drink in a paper bag. Bonus points for whoever guesses what they got first. A little trick, a little treat.

Watch: Coco – Disney Pixar pulls at the heartstrings in this gorgeous film about Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) traditions. Plus, the song “Remember Me” hits us with the feels every time. We’re not crying, you’re crying.

Drink: Spiked Horchata. How you spike it is your call, but rum, bourbon, and tequila all pack a good punch. Garnish with a little cinnamon.

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Watch: Ghostbusters – Because Bill Murray can do no wrong and we miss Harold Ramis. Channel the supernatural with the 1984 box office smash. Apologies in advance for the theme song being stuck in your head for the entirety of November.

Drink: Chartreuse Mezcal Margarita. 1 part mezcal, 1 part Green Chartreuse, 1 part maraschino, 1 part lemon (or lime) juice. BYO Proton Pack.

Watch: Rosemary’s Baby – Paranoia, persecution, and parenthood – what could possibly go wrong? Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse find the dark side of domestic bliss in their NYC apartment building. Best to watch if you’ve already got kids… and they don’t have their father’s eyes…

Drink: Manhattan. Chilled.

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Watch: Beetlejuice – (Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!) It’s said that Tim Burton’s only character direction for Michael Keaton was that he “lived in every time period, but was of no time period.” The result: a lovable ghoul and a quirky underworld that feels more like a fun-house than eternal damnation.

Drink: Pina Colada (and a Shrimp Cocktail). That calypso dance scene just has us feeling some sort of way… DAAAYOOO, me say DAYOO…

Watch this: Silence of the Lambs – BEWARE: Our copywriter was born after her mother went into labor while watching Silence of the Lambs in theaters. Soon-to-be moms, you’ve been warned.

Drink: A Nice Chianti. Maybe a little fava bean snack?

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Watch: Ghost – Fact: Patrick Swayze is the ghost of our dreams. Also fact: Ghost kicked off a national ceramics craze after premiering in July 1990. Just yes to all of it.

Drink: A buttery chardonnay (by the bottle) and a box of tissues for each person.

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Watch: The Addams Family – They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether… the First Family of macabre and fantastic inspiration for next year’s group costume. #AngelicaHouston4Evr

Drink: Sangria. Get a little monster smashed.

Winning Recipe from the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

What do Picasso, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt all have in common? All three of these famous creatives were able to produce stunning artwork from relatively simple materials. The magic lies in the artist’s ability to create something greater than the sum of their materials, and this philosophy is exactly what propelled UCSB’s Bren School to victory at the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown. For those unfamiliar, the Grilled Cheese Smackdown is the biggest cooking competition west of Paris, and draws some of the world’s best chefs and artisan sandwich makers (that we know of).

With stiff competition and numerous competitors duking it out for the coveted Golden Spatula trophy, recipes are often kept secret. After all, why would you divulge such confidential and fame-inducing information? But this reserved mindset is not shared by all, especially the team from UCSB’s Bren School. They were generous enough to share the recipe to their winning sandwich, The Vampire Slayer, so everyone can enjoy their marvelous creation. Recreating the greatest grilled cheese sandwich of the year may be difficult, but rest assured, with enough time and dedication, you’ll surely be able to turn out a sandwich capable of slaying vampires!

The Vampire Slayer by UCSB’s Bren School

Ingredients

1 loaf of sourdough bread (The winning bread was from Helena Ave Bakery.)
Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar Cheese (Try some from Face Rock creamery.)
Dubliner Irish Cheddar Cheese (The one from Kerrygold is a good bet.)
Garlic Parsley Butter (1 stick of butter, 4 cloves of mashed garlic, liberal pinch of parsley.)
Homemade Marinara Sauce.

Instructions

For one sandwich, allocate enough Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar Cheese slices to cover an entire piece of sourdough bread.
Top the Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar cheese with a few slices of Dubliner Irish Cheddar Cheese.
Liberally apply garlic parsley butter to the outsides of both pieces of sourdough bread.
After the garlic butter has been applied to the bread, garnish the outsides with parmesan cheese for a toasted parmesan crust.
Place the sandwich on an already hot griddle, and toast until the bread has a light brown color, and a crispy texture.
Now you are ready to experience The Vampire Slayer!

DSC02027.JPGThe best team of the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown, UCSB’s Bren School!

6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

Every culture has a tradition that transcends time and becomes a shining beacon of pride. The Romans tout their architectural acumen, Hawaiians boast a proud wave riding culture, and Toad&Co is known the world over – nay, across the galaxy – for our unparalleled expertise in making grilled cheeses. But this rich cultural tradition (yes, we’re talking about the cheese) didn’t just pop out of thin air. No, the Grilled Cheese Smackdown was born out of both necessity and celebration. A celebration of the divine union of bread and cheese, and the need to find the one grilled cheese to rule them all. In 2011, the inaugural Grilled Cheese Smackdown was held by a handful of Toads in the office kitchen. It was the stuff legends are made of – fontina, cracked pepper jack, triple-cream brie… a tradition in the making. Well, grilling.

Over the years, the Grilled Cheese Smackdown has become a melting pot of intense competition, family rivalry, and good ol’ fashioned fun. Competitors line up at the ready and have 30 minutes to crank out 10 sandwiches – 2 for the judges, 8 for the crowd. Hungry onlookers watch the masters work and wait patiently for a bite of the good stuff. For the purists, a Make-Your-Own grilled cheese table has all the butter, bread and cheese you could ever want, and we recommend dunking into the world’s best tomato soup from longtime partner Organic Soup kitchen. To wash everything down, Draughtsmen Alework’s Blond Buxom poured freely all evening !

DSC01674The stuff dreams are made of (CARBS).
DSC01711A young chef in the making.
DSC01763Even puppies love the Grilled Cheese Smackdown!

While the competition at this year’s Smackdown was intense, a few sandwiches stood out. A rookie Toad&Co team, Kira and Helena from our Design and Product Departments, came out swinging with the “Santorini Panini”, a beautiful basil and olive sammy that left everyone’s fingers Greecy (see what we did there….). Longtime competitors, UCSB’s Bren School warded off all bad spirits with “The Vampire Slayer” with heaps of garlic and a parmesan crust that slayed the taste buds. Our neighbors at Toad HQ, Team Ontraport’s sando, “The Briegal,”made good use of brie and granny smith apples. DE-LISH.

DSC01692The Santorini Panini, in all its Greecy glory!
DSC01757UCSB’s Bren School knows that presentation is everything at the Smackdown.
DSC01752A little of this, and a little of that. It all came together for Ontraport’s Briegal sando!

But impressing the crowd is not enough. The judges are the ultimate authority on who will take home the coveted Golden Spatula Award. This year’s judges included past champions from Visit Santa Barbara, chefs from Organic Soup Kitchen, and our very own Danny, our West Coast Sales. In the post-eat interview, Danny referred to the event as “the best day of his life!” We can relate. When the dust settled, the judges declared the winner of the Golden Spatula to be UCSB’s Bren School for their scary-tasty Vampire Slayer Sandwich!

1st place at the Grilled Cheese Smackdown is an honor indeed, but the coveted People’s Choice Award is the true vote of the masses. More votes were tallied this year than ever before, and the perennial favorite, Alpha Resource Center once again clinched the people’s choice award.

As an event that has come to define Toad&Co and will (hopefully) take over the world, the Grilled Cheese Smackdown once again proved that a group of friends and a few beloved snacks is really all you need for an afternoon of epic proportions.

DSC01745.jpgBeer + Cheese = Fun!
DSC01772_lastThanks to everyone who came out to the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown!