OUR MISSION - WE'RE PUBLISHED! Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 marked the Premier of our new book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide. The hardcover, 160 page book can be found at bars and bookstores throughout the Adirondack Park or order online at www.happyhourinthehighpeaks.com. You'll find a list of our book signings on the Events page and where to buy the book on our Retailers page. The book contains reviews of 46 of our favorite bars in the Adirondack Park, and 46 drink recipes with an Adirondack twist. As a companion to the book, we have also published a 46er Passport so that you can follow the Happy Hour Trail to become a Happy Hour 46er and make new friends along the way. Summit Tour t-shirts will be for sale at our book signings or available online. Whether you are a native, resident, or visitor, you'll find 46 more reasons to visit the ADIRONDACK PARK!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tail O the Pup, Ray Brook

On our way to Saranac Lake for a day of reviews, Pam was whining from the backseat that she was hungry. As we drove through Ray Brook, Tail O’ the Pup appeared like a mirage on the horizon. The giant lobster in front created a bit of confusion, and we hadn’t even started drinking yet! We stopped just to check it out and decided to stay, mostly out of curiosity, but also to grab a bite to eat before hitting the Saranac bars. Technically not a bar, Tail O' the Pup does offer beer and drink specials, so we let this one squeak by.
Red-and-white striped tents sheltered 50 or so picnic tables, only a handful of which were occupied, but it was only mid-afternoon. A collection of small brown buildings, trimmed in red, stood along the edges of the property. Former cabins labeled with hand-painted signs, they now serve as camp store (with ATM), ice cream shoppe, and arcade for guests of the dozen or so housekeeping cottages. The tap room was empty, but supported the wait staff with their drink orders. A small sign over the door to the tap room identified it as Charley Mazzara's Bar, but the bartender on duty didn't know who Charley was and admitted she had never noticed the sign. The tap room is a tiny, open air bar, seating less than ten people inside and a few more just outside. A blues trio performed on the small outdoor stage.

We selected a picnic table and browsed the menu, Pam paying particular attention to the drink specialties. There they were - frozen margaritas of raspberry, blueberry, melon and strawberry. She chose the raspberry and didn't look the least bit disappointed, the $6.75 charge slightly less than what we’ve typically found. At least 10 draft beers are offered at $5 a pint or you can choose from layered versions of the Black and Tan for $5.50.

Tail O’ the Pup has been in business since 1927. A main structure offers a bar and dining, but there was no one in there on this early August afternoon. The establishment is open from May to October from 11am to 9 or 10pm. When we passed by on our way back from Saranac around 9pm, they were packed with cars parked all along the road.

Tail O’ the Pup, like an elaborate Texas roadhouse, is a playground for both children and adults. An interesting place to stop for drinks and eats, a weekend spent here could be a lot of fun, but a week would require a serious workout when you got home.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Adirondack Mudslide - the drink that started it all

First, we'd like to apologize to all of you Bing and Google searchers who were searching in earnest for information about Hurricane Irene and its plight on the Adirondack Region and ended up at our Happy Hour in the High Peaks blog. However, you didn't have to go to our site, but you just couldn't help yourselves, could you?

If you're "hunkered down" for the day (have you ever heard that term so over-used as during this storm), you might be wondering what to do, like we are. We have been discussing the selection of an appropriate drink for today and remembered the Adirondack Mudslide, the drink that started it all. Pam made a variation of the mudslide for some guests long before the book/blog, and wondered later how she could get that drink on the Internet. Thus Happy Hour in the High Peaks was born (for the full story, see our interview on The Free George).

Adirondack Mudslide
1-1/2 oz vodka
1 oz chocolate hazelnut liqueur
1 oz irish creme liqueur
1-1/2 oz Kahlua
1 c chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream
4 ice cubes
mix in blender
drizzle chocolate syrup on top

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene Survival 101

When you wake up in the morning, have no electricity, but plenty of bottled water, you won't be making coffee because your coffee maker is electric. Survival tip 101: You have water, you have whiskey sour mix in packets somewhere in your house, every household has tequila and triple sec, and your ice is going to melt if you don't use it up. Throw those items together in your coffee pot, shake well, and serve in salted glass. If you happen to own a Margarator (like I do, being a survivalist) they come with a car adaptor, so you can make frozen margaritas! You'll never go back to coffee.

Ok, now about those D batteries. Most modern flashlights do not use D batteries. There are other "appliances", mostly found in the bedroom, that DO still use D batteries. I'm thinking there was a big run on D batteries, particularly for those wives whose husbands work for National Grid. Just saying...Probably not going to be a big baby boom from this hurricane. Just saying...

Hurricane Morning Recipe
2 cups tequila
1/4 cup triple sec
2 packets whiskey sour mix
garnish with water
shake over ice, before it melts
serve in your favorite coffee mug

Tip number 102: What to do with all of those leftover D batteries after consuming that much tequila? See paragraph 2.

Hurricane Irene

Funny thing about storms on the horizon. Beer selection, along with supplies of D batteries, bottled water and canned goods are pretty well depleted in the stores. What to do when you can't stock up on your beer brand in the face of a hurricane? Why, invent a cocktail with a theme, of course!

We never enter into a cocktail creation lightly. Brainstorming for meaningful connections to the occasion is required. To create the Hurricane Irene, we decided it must be swirled at high velocity in a blender. Since hurricanes and tropical storms originate in the tropics (duh), the drink should have a tropical flavor and a rum base, but not one of those overly optimistic sweet mango-and-papaya-doing-the-limbo-in-the-Bahamas drinks you get on a cruise. Garnish is impractical. We wouldn't want the umbrella to blow away. So far, not hard. The color should be that of stormy waters and finished with foam.

After much thought and deliberation, we arrived at the following:

Hurricane Irene
1 1/2 oz. white rum
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
3 oz. passion fruit liqueur (Hypnotic or Alize are two brands)
1 oz. peach schnapps
6 oz. grapefruit juice
Combine all in a blender with plenty of ice. Serve in (you guessed it) a hurricane glass!

The rum originates with the tropical storm forming in Jamaica. The storm picks up some speed, is upgraded to hurricane (category 3) and may pass through Florida for some grapefruit. Georgia is possibly on the itinerary, so grab some peach schnapps while you're there.

Down the hatch (battened down).

Cheers & Bottoms Up!

Kim & Pam

Grizle-T's, Saranac Lake

We had been watching the door at Grizle-T's from outside the Waterhole for quite some time, trying to decide if it was worthy of a review. Pam reported that people had gone in, but no one ever came out. A small sign hung over the door, barely visible from across the street. Not much of a conclusion to draw from a door and a beer sign in the window. Piqued, Kim started across the street. Pam insisted she not go in there alone, and we giggled our way over, leaving our companions unattended while wondering where our nerve had gone.

Instinctively scanning the interior as we crossed the wide plank wood floor, we spotted the bartender playing a board game with a patron. We took a seat at the relatively empty bar, which seats about ten, and started looking around. No particular style of décor exists in the long, fairly narrow interior, but Grizle-T’s has a homey, “lived-in” feel to it like a family rec. room, complete with two TV’s and a pool table. Various columns support the low, beamed ceiling and beer art and photo collages plaster the walls.

Michelle, the bartender, was at our side immediately. Earthenware beer mugs hung over the bar and Kim couldn't resist the inquiry. Pam began her interrogation. Gettin’ the facts, ma’am - Joe Friday style. Mug Club members are treated to 50 cents off drafts every day from 4 to 7 p.m. Michelle launched into the specials formula consisting of Micro Monday, 2fer Tuesday, Whisky Wednesday and Thirsty Thursday. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, various drink specials are featured all day long. This week’s “Shots for Shark Week” were the Shark Bite and the Dead Sailor. We were surprised to learn later that Michelle was relatively new to Grizle-T’s and to Saranac Lake, given her knowledge of their specials.

Kim wandered off to look around and talk to the patrons while she decided which of the many drafts she’d like to try. On tap this day were some she had not yet tasted so started with an agave wheat - perfect for a hot summer day. John, a regular and one of Grizle T’s best promoters, recommended a Moo Thunder Stout, produced by Butternuts Beer and Ale in Garrattsville, NY. That would be next.

Games are available on loan to patrons and include backgammon, Connect 4, Guess Who, Scattergories and Phase 10. There is something about playing a game while you're out at a bar that helps keep you focused and alert, not to mention just how much fun it is, and a great way to meet people. We couldn't resist a stop in the photo booth to commemorate our visit. Don't those Happy Hour in the High Peaks hats look smashing? We didn’t test it, but WiFi is available at Grizle-Ts and an ATM was found on the premises. In an effort to appease the graffiti artist in most of us, the bathroom walls are covered in chalkboard wallpaper. We left our URL, but were sure to wash our hands afterward.

Open 7 days per week, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., Grizle-T’s has no blackout dates. They offer microwave fare and the pizza shop next door actually has a window into the bar where they take and deliver orders. Several different seating areas offer additional seating separate from the bar, with pub tables at the front and another separate area at the rear. A deck off the back features outdoor seating with built-in benches and several picnic tables and allows smoking. Grizle-T’s hosts D.J. Karaoke on Friday and live music on Monday.

As we were considering leaving, Pam noticed and commented on the Fish Bowl sign offering a drink by that name for $25.00 all day, every day. The deal is a rum based drink mix served in a large fish bowl, intended to be shared. Typically it comes with straws, but glasses are available for the feeble drinkers.

Owned by Adam Harris since 2007, Grizle-Ts seems to be on the right track as an entertaining and welcoming place to go with plenty to do, a variety of drink specials and a pleasant staff and friendly patrons. This, along with the comfortable atmosphere, made Grizle-Ts our favorite spot in Saranac Lake.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tony Harper's Too, Old Forge

The Old Forge (and vicinity) Pub Crawl Part II was reaching its conclusion. For those of you who are just joining us, that Saturday in July was a productive one. The first part started at the Big Moose Inn, then on to the Way Back Inn and the Red Dog Tavern. We took a break for a lunch meeting then drove out to Daiker’s, then continued back toward Old Forge, stopping at Slicker’s. We dropped the car off and continued on foot to the Tow Bar. Our next stop: Tony Harper's Too, a.k.a. Pizza Clams for the visually impaired. The "Tony Harper's Too" portion of the sign is barely visible, but the owner's husband Don, whom we had met at Slicker’s, had already advised us of its location. Located on Main Street in Old Forge, across from the Tow Bar, the unique exterior is hard to miss. Stone and brick, outside and in, a semi-circular façade extends the confines of the interior, creating a sense of being outside while in, (or vice versa). The three-sided bar, built of corrugated metal topped with a polished hardwood top continues outdoors, creating a breezy open feel. This was not your typical pizza and clam shack. An acoustic duo played near the entrance as a few of the patrons danced informally outside. There was no seating left at the bar and the restaurant tables were full.
We crowded up to the bar to order a drink. Finding plenty of beer choices, both bottled & draft, Kim chose an Apricot Wheat from the Ithaca Beer Company. As busy as she was, the bartender took our order right away. While we awaited our drinks, a woman returned to her seat at the bar and looked annoyed that we had infringed on her space. Pam tapped Kim's shoulder and gave her a look that said, "Get out of her way.” Kim moved aside, and we both smiled apologetically to her. Who can resist those sincere smiles? Moments later we introduced ourselves to the woman and were in the thick of one of those shouting conversations that take place over live music. The bartender came from behind the bar and delivered our drinks. Eventually we politely escaped the conversation, the woman’s boyfriend or husband having tired of being ignored, and got back to the review we had come for.

Pam recognized a few men she had first seen at Daiker's, then at Slicker's and who were now here at Tony Harper's Too. We said hello and decided to try being on the outside looking in. No seats were available out there either, but we were able to stand at a pub table. The music was just as good to hear outside and many young people stood around on the patio, talking, dancing and just enjoying themselves. We spotted Don, who tried to introduce us to his wife and owner, Lisa, but she just wouldn't be distracted from her conversation with friends. Don’s construction company, D.E. Murphy Constructors, designed the bar and the building and we admired his workmanship from where we stood. Looking up into the turret-like structure, the ceiling was a spoke-work of pine, an enormous metal chandelier hanging from its center.

Tony Harper’s Too is open from 11 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. during the week; until midnight on weekends. The website includes entertainment schedules, the history of Tony Harper's and full menus, so check there for more detailed information. Armed with the knowledge that this was a fun place to go, we excused ourselves and headed across the street to the Tow Bar, having promised earlier to return there for a couple of drinks – off the clock.

Wayback Inn, Eagle Bay

The open, grassy grounds of the Wayback Inn in Eagle Bay projected a very different image from many of the bars we had visited. Having just left the Big Moose Inn, with its lake views and massive deck, the Wayback Inn sparked an image of biker parties sprawled on both sides of the remote road. An outdoor bar was visible in the large, open barn in the distance.

After watching a turkey with her chicks cross the road, we entered the bar and were immediately greeted by the bartender and owner, Laurie Herzstein. When asked if they had any drinks unique to the Wayback Inn, she entrusted the help of a patron and off-duty bartender who mixed up a recent creation she called the Lemon Slushie for Pam while Kim snooped around.

Laurie proudly presented us with a menu, but we had already eaten, and had to turn down the very appealing Crabby Fries. As we took in the surroundings, Laurie gave us more information about the use of their outdoor amenities. They have a big movie screen that they erect in the lot across the street for movie nights. The Wayback Inn hosts the Snow Rats Snowmobile Club, the Fireman's Banquet, and have the occasional chicken barbecue. Clientele includes locals, snowmobilers, firefighters, hunters, bikers and now even bloggers who stop by on their quest for knowledge and cocktails. Football regulars can partake of various games of chance involving spinning the wheel for the Bills or Giants. Nascar enthusiasts can play The Wheel of Caution for drink specials during their favorite season.

As we scribbled away in our notebooks, Laurie's husband, John, joined us and treated us to the Golden Cherry, cherries soaked in Goldschlagers. Very delicious and easy to make at home even for the beginner bartender.

The Wayback Inn is open seven days a week, but occasionally closes in April. The restaurant serves food from 8:30 am until 10 pm or later. They have been in business since 2007 and offer seven rooms for overnight accommodations. Though they claim winter is their best season, summer seemed the best time for us. An ATM machine is available for cash-starved customers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Red Dog Tavern, Inlet

The Red Dog Tavern is a restaurant with a bar. The tavern area is rather small, but the various photos on the walls of parties past attest to a different level of grandeur. Its demure stature doesn't preclude it from being a fun place to go.

Pam was immediately drawn to their Martini Specials menu. From the list of Nutti, white, dark, appletini, orange and Purple Haze, she chose the Orange Martini. Consisting of orange rum, triple sec, cranberry juice and fresh lime, she claimed to have made the perfect choice, but was yearning to try the Purple Haze too.

Located 8 miles from the hamlet of Old Forge and 3 miles from Inlet, the Red Dog Tavern is a popular destination for people in and in between Old Forge. As we sat at the bar during mid-afternoon on a Saturday, many people filled the restaurant. The bar remained constant, however, with about ten patrons. The bartender, Kathy, was pleasant and obviously had many years of experience in her line of work. She could be found in many of the past party pictures displayed here and there on the walls, and she later advised that she has worked there for more than 8 years.

The Red Dog Tavern has been in business since 1982. The current owner, Diane Doyle, has owned it for the past 3 years. She brings an air of olde Ireland to the tavern. They are notorious for their Armageddon wings and their nachos. The wings, we've been told, are not edible by the average consumer, and may be a challenge for Adam Richman of Man vs. Food on the Food Channel fame? Surprised, though, that Pam didn't get into their nachos, since she has developed such an appetite for them this year. They do close for a few weeks in April and again in November, but promise to be there for you in summer and winter but not before 4pm. They don't have live entertainment, but we found the background music pleasant and unobtrusive.

Seating 12 to 14 at the bar, the view is all windows along the front wall of the bar. A few tables are available in the bar area and the restaurant seating is mostly separated from the bar. A fireplace lines one wall in the tavern. The delicious smell of food permeates every corner. St. Patrick's decorations decorate the walls behind the bar, ready for the next celebration. Pictures and stickers of Red Dogs are scattered throughout, as are Red Dog shirts and hats, adding to the local pub atmosphere.

Whether you're looking for drinks or food, this would be a place not to pass by on your way to or from Old Forge.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

20 Main Bar - Au Sable Forks

Twenty Main was recommended to us by the elevator operator named Bob on Whiteface, whom we met while doing our Lake Placid Tour. We had to kill some time in the morning before the bars opened, and Pam's husband, Bob, recommended that we visit Whiteface. It was zero visibility and the temp was 48 degrees with a wind blowing at 30+ mph, IN JULY, but at least we can say we've been there, and it only cost us $28.00 for four of us to see nothing and to test Pam's brakes! We asked Bob, the lift operator, if we should mention that Bob sent us and he laughed and clued us in on the fact that most of the patrons at 20 Main are named Bob.

When you're the only bar in town, except for the bowling alley bar, you're special by default. Twenty Main is just such a tavern, but not without merit. Located in the center of town, in an old building that was converted to a bar in the 1940's, 20 Main has its history and a faithful following, most of them named Bob. The bar seats about 9 people, but a few tables, booths and even a loveseat can accommodate the overflow. Pictures over the bar depict the building long ago, including a parade when a circus came through town.

The current owner, Barbara (BJ), has owned the bar for the past 10 years. They offer no Happy Hour, because it is believed to be illegal in New York State (cannot be confirmed), but have reasonable prices all of the time. Our bartender, Sheri, did not have any specialty drinks to offer us, but admits that Barbara does get creative on her own shift. They are open year round and entertain winter skiers and summer tourists. While we were there, we saw signs advertising Elvis' appearance within a week. Further investigation confirmed our suspicions that it was an Elvis impersonator, but nonetheless, it sounded intriquing. A Neil Young tribute was also on the marquee, but again, as much as he is still alive, it would not be a live tribute.

A word of caution, if you think you can enter 20 Main Street in your GPS in Au Sable Forks, first make sure you put the space between Au and Sable. Second, you will end up at a Stewart's Shop. We traveled 90 miles (one way) to Au Sable Forks that evening, so we decided to get some dinner at Mad River Pizza after our visit to 20 Main. We don't review food, but will go out on a limb and recommend Mad River Pizza, especially if you have travelled a long distance and want to get the full ambience of Au Sable.

Based on our observations that day, Twenty Main is a comfortable bar for people of all ages and for a variety of purposes. They don't offer food, but have a pool table, juke box, reasonably priced drinks and a comfortable atmosphere. You can't bring your drinks outside, but a venue is available off the main street for discreet smoking, with seats and an ashtray, should you need to partake.

Bottoms Up and Cheers!

Pam Ladd and Kim Ladd

Daiker's, Old Forge

Daiker's, located on Fourth Lake in Old Forge, has something for everyone and ample space to accommodate many. Whether entering from the large parking area or from a boat on the lake, it will take some time to take it all in, including the lake view from the expansive porch and deck.

This was our fifth bar review on that Saturday in July. We had taken a break for an early dinner, planning Old Forge Pub Crawl Part II. We decided to resume at Daiker's and make our way back to the hamlet of Old Forge for later foot travel. Janet, our host at Village Cottages, armed us with a referral and description of owner, Tal Daiker.

“Oh, #?!*%,” Pam thought, entering the bar, “This is going to take awhile! So much to absorb.” Daiker’s is an amusement park for adults. Taking a seat at the bar, two bartenders at the ready, we began the arduous task of the visual review, but not without first reviewing the bar selections and ordering our drinks. With a well-stocked bar, six drafts, and plenty of bottled beers, there’s something for everyone.

The place is huge, with a long, long bar and another one outside on the deck. A partition separates the bar area from the dining area. Bar stools along the partition provide additional seating. Daiker’s interior is a unique interpretation of Adirondack style with both subtle and overt accents. Pine walls display wildlife art and antler chandeliers hang from a high ceiling supported by sturdy log beams. A massive stone fireplace, dormant for the summer, commands the center of the room. In an adjoining room, musicians haul amps and equipment for the night's entertainment. A dance floor lay empty. A pool table sits in an area near the bar; interior walls lined with a photo booth, a vending machine for snacks and another for lottery tickets. In another section, partially partitioned, is a gaming arcade. Beer advertisements and sports memorabilia covering the most popular events adorn the walls, with televisions and Quick Draw monitors strategically placed throughout the building. An Adirondack scene in diorama is displayed high above in an alcove in the ceiling. Tucked in the wall and protected by glass is a miniature of the original Daiker's bar. Though we didn't get the story behind the display of bras behind the bar, we trust it's an interesting one. Daiker's gear is on display and available for purchase there or online.

Tal Daiker was a friendly host and happily answered our many questions about the bar and its history and gave us some insight on his family's commitment to Daiker's. Originally called the Fulton House, Daiker’s was once a casino and a stop for the steamboat that ran along the lake. Tal’s dad bought it in 1956 and it has been Daiker family operated since then. In 1988 Tal took over operations, instituting changes, expansions and improvements over the years with his wife Debbie. Their sons Devin and Dane also help with the business. The restaurant and bar are open 7 days a week, serving food from noon to 9 p.m. The bar is open from noon to 2 a.m. Live entertainment, from acoustic soloists to rock bands, is provided on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in the summer. Both summer and winter are busy times at Daiker’s, with a substantial snowmobile following in winter. Tal maintains a Twitter account, Tal’s Trail Report, with regular updates on local snow conditions. They do close briefly off season, spring and fall, so be sure to check their website, before visiting off season.

On a mission with a minimum of three more bars to visit, we didn't socialize with the patrons, but did observe the local camaraderie and diversity. Those observations led to our recognizing several of Daiker's patrons in the next bar we visited, and the next, and much later yet, another. They, too, were on an Old Forge pub crawl?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

HHHP Summit Tour - an afternoon (and evening?) in Saranac Lake

We haven't finished all of our reviews for Old Forge yet, but we're off to Saranac Lake today anyway! We have a mini plan, and hope to get some suggestions as we visit some of those bars. Not sure yet what the goal is, how many bars we'll visit, but Kim is lining up our driver as I write. A man can work from noon to sun, but a woman's work is never done!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tow Bar Inn, Old Forge

We're not sure how many other bartenders might also work at the Tow Bar, but if you enter and find Jack, a.k.a. Jackson, a.k.a. Famous Jack, a.k.a. Action Jackson behind the bar, sit down, relax and expect to enjoy yourself immensely. Whether it was Jack, our new-found friends (the "Tow Bar buddies") or the fact that it was our 6th and 8th bar (perhaps making us vulnerable) the Tow Bar is at the top of our list in Old Forge. It didn’t take us long to realize we wanted the Tow Bar to be our last stop of the night so we stayed long enough to get some fact checking done, left for another bar, then returned afterward. Our work finished for the night, we were ready to just have a couple of drinks or shoot some pool without “working”.

Jack, head mixologist, has worked at the Tow Bar for 21 years! Apparently, he came with the deed when the current owners purchased the bar five years ago. His proud supporters, our Tow Bar buddies, strongly professed him to be the best bartender. Having witnessed him in action, his patience was outstanding, but what stood out above all other qualities was his genuine friendliness. Imagine working in a bar for 21 years and having any patience at all!

TOW in Tow Bar stands for Town of Webb. Having driven around Old Forge several times on Saturday, we had already formed the opinion that Old Forge was a village within the Town of Webb, but learning the origins of “Tow” confirmed our deduction. The Tow Bar is open seven days a week and only closes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Open from noon to 2 a.m., the Tow Bar caters to locals but enjoys entertaining (verb as well as adjective) visitors. In line with catering to locals, they offer live entertainment on Sunday night, when local workers tend to get some time off to fraternize with their friends.

The Tow Bar’s 20 or so bottled beer choices are unpretentious and mostly domestic. Drafts include LaBatt Blue, Blue Light and Budweiser, all at pretty low prices. The bar is well-stocked and Jack will happily improvise if he doesn’t have what you’re looking for.

The works of Doug Green, Tow Bar's "house" cartoonist, are displayed throughout the bar. One they are especially proud of is the cartoon of John Ratzenberger, Cliff Clavin of Cheers fame, who stopped in and played pool with some of the regulars. They list Sandra Bullock among other famous visitors to the Tow Bar. Yankee, Dodger and Giants fans will feel comfortable taking in the bobbleheads, old photos, and autographed memorabilia displayed throughout the bar. Several TV’s are strategically placed and NASCAR stats are in evidence so you can probably catch the race there on Sundays, if you’re so inclined.

The Tow Bar seems to have something for almost everyone - sports, pool, darts, friendly patrons and a terrific bartender. If you go, be sure to mention Happy Hour in the High Peaks. I think they’d like to know we weren’t just making this stuff up.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Drinking in the Adirondacks: Seven Months of Research

We have learned so much since visiting our first bar in January. To date, we have visited 40 bars with the intent to review. A few of them didn't merit a written review. The foremost item of note is that many places no longer have a formal "Happy Hour". Some believe, or have at least insinuated, that Happy Hour is now against the law in New York State. We have researched that and believe they are mistaken.

Another item of note is that every bar is so very different from the other. We knew that they were different, which was part of our reason to write our book, but it wasn't until we did two large tours in Lake Placid and in Old Forge, that we realized just how significantly different they are. Visiting 8 bars in one day made it ever so obvious. We hope that we convey those differences in our reviews. It is our intent that you will find the right fit for the purpose you choose to go out and visit any of these establishments. There are places that are good for a quiet place to chat with friends, a place to listen to music, a place to eat and enjoy a few drinks, play Quick Draw, or a place to make new friends. There are some places that would satisfy all of those needs.

Please pardon the obvious, but if you are going out to meet people, it depends just as much on you as it does the establishment. No matter how friendly a bar is, if you don't have the personality, it probably won't work out. If you don't have the personality, be sure to bring someone who does. We have also been to some bars where no matter how much personality you have, they don't have any. A few of those we did not review, and a few we have given a little latitude, finding some redeeming qualities, hoping that it was just a bad moment. We also realize that we have only captured a moment. So much depends on who is tending bar and who is patronizing it.

Bottoms Up!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Big Moose Inn and Restaurant, Eagle Bay

The Big Moose Inn and Restaurant, located directly on Big Moose Lake in Eagle Bay was the first stop on our Old Forge Summer Tour, more aptly defined as the Old Forge Pub Crawl. Ours was one of just a few cars in the parking lot, but it was early afternoon and we had a long day ahead of us.

The dramatic view of the grand covered porch, dotted with rocking chairs and expanding outward to a vast open deck overlooking the lake, inspires a feeling reminiscent of summer vacations of years past. Several small docks on Big Moose Lake capture attention, drawing the eye along an expanse of lawn to the lake and small beach. Quiet and secluded, The Big Moose Inn has an air of sophistication and Adirondack lore, evoking a sentimental yearning for simpler times. Its timelessness captures the imagination. A novelist could come here to spend a week and leave with a finished manuscript.

Work to be done, we grudgingly entered the tavern, leaving an early summer afternoon behind. The tavern, cool and dark with walls of wood and brick, complemented the exterior charm. We half expected to see Ernest Hemingway entertaining friends in one of the booths, or John Irving alone at the bar, having strayed from his New England comfort zone.

Spot lights shone gently on the dark plank bar which seated about 14, with ample room for standing patrons too. Each of three booths on the opposite wall were illuminated overhead with Tiffany lamps; a cozy room with brick fireplace was tucked away beyond, and provided more private seating.

As Pam’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, Kim immediately pointed out the business cards adorning the ceiling. Skewered with straws, swizzle sticks and cocktail picks, the ceiling was almost completely obscured by thousands of business cards. Hard to describe because of their multitude, some of the cards were obviously yellowed with age. Though barely visible, the ceiling was tile. Mark, the most recent owner, later advised that they came with the inn; that some had been there for thirty years. He felt compelled to leave them for their nostalgic significance, despite criticism from state authorities. Can't blame him, we would leave them too.

We took a seat at the bar and were immediately greeted by Melinda, the bartender. Upon inquiry regarding drinks unique to the establishment, Melinda offered Pam a Big Moose Manhattan, proudly laced with Adirondack maple syrup. The maple syrup sank to the bottom and Pam showed no shame occasionally enjoying it through the swizzle stick. Just good to see her sipping since this was only our first stop. A variety of flavored vodkas are available, indicating a better than average selection of drinks. Several wine, draft and bottled beer choices are also offered.

Big Moose Inn's Big Moose Manhattan:
1 part Seagram's VO
1 part sweet vermouth
Drizzle with real maple syrup and garnish with two cherries

Melinda was courteous, friendly and knowledgeable about the history of the Big Moose Inn, offering a book on the history of Big Moose Lake to help support our questions. She was busy tending to both the bar and the deck patrons, but still took time to alert the proprietor of our presence.

Owner Mark Mayer came out to introduce himself. Obviously quite proud of the Big Moose Inn, Mark spent several minutes sharing history, trivia, hauntings, and his family’s acquisition of the inn. Perhaps the most famous Adirondack ghost, stories of Grace Brown attracted TV's Unsolved Mysteries several years ago.

Offering 16 rooms, the inn is open year round and entertains summer vacationers and winter snowmobilers. The Big Moose Tavern is open from noon to midnight and Happy Hour drink specials are available from 4 to 6 p.m. They do offer music on occasion, featuring solo artists. Summer and winter hours vary, but claim winter is the best time to visit. We had trouble with this proclamation, given the beautiful view of the lake, the sandy beach and massive porch and deck. The tavern is only open four days, including weekends, after the summer season.

Reluctantly, we left the Big Moose Inn in search of our next destination. One down. Seven to go. In an effort to catch up, we plan to review some of the Old Forge area bars first on the Adirondack Almanack and others on our blog. Lake Placid reviews of The Cottage, Lisa G's and Dancing Bears have all been completed and posted.

Camping: A Blog on the Fire

My family claims I have a PhD in camping. That is, civilized camping; not really roughing it camping. We camp at campgrounds. Not those overly-populated pigeon-hole places. Campgrounds with old trees, dirt, rocks and bumpy roads, rutted from washouts, where kids can really hurt themselves if they wipe out on their bikes. Shower and restroom facilities are a must, though I frown on frilly amenities like swimming pools, rec. rooms and cartoon mascots.

It takes me two days to pack and load the car. Space is limited and things must be done a particular way so that I won't have to work so hard while we're supposed to be relaxing. But camping is hard work and usually everyone else gets to chill while I, the control freak, insist on doing everything else myself - the (right) way. The others do try to help, Pam in particular (she's not afraid of me), and I exhale patiently while tolerating their pathetically inept attempts at starting fires, cooking burgers, organizing coolers and, particularly, erecting the tents.

They call me the Tent Nazi. An avid collector of tents of many capacities, (six at last count plus a beach cabana), I can set up any one of them by myself. Takedown, on the other hand, is a little more difficult. I insist on folding the tent to its original factory dimensions and it must fit in its original bag along with the rain fly, stakes and poles. Hence the nickname. My kids used to tremble and go find something else to do, my husband and sister glancing at one another in fear of the inevitable correction. "Not that way," I'd sigh in what I hoped was an instructional tone, silently adding, "Idiots." Finally, sweating and filthy or wet and muddy, we'd all pile into the car for the five-hour drive home. Smug and satisfied that it had all gone so well thanks to my helpful instruction, I'd congratulate myself on yet another fun, relaxing and educational family vacation. I'd outdone myself again, and we'd gotten out of there at the appointed check-out time.

Camping with Kimmie has mellowed over the years. The kids mostly don't go any more. They have lives. Or maybe, for some reason, they just don't enjoy it? Can't imagine that's the reason. I've learned to let go, let others do the work, or to simply do nothing at all. It all gets done eventually.

I arrived at Cape Ann Campsites in Gloucester, Masssachusetts on Friday afternoon, the warm, damp sea air heavy with the threat of showers. Hurrying to set up two tents before it rained, I was really looking forward to a campfire and some tasty new local brews. Pam would be arriving in a few hours with her daughter, Sydney, and Syd's friend Brittany. I was ready to take the burgers off the grill and drop into the nearest chair when they pulled in. After a quick dinner, the two 12-year-old girls went off to explore (code for check out boys). It was sprinkling ever so slightly.

As darkness fell and the mosquitoes began feasting, we built our campfire and pulled the chairs around. I had bottles of two local ales in the cooler and was ready for a taste test. Pam poured a glass of wine and sent the girls to bed. Mom time.

The sprinkles soon turned to a light gentle rain, but the trees were protection enough. We inched closer to the fire. The rain picked up a notch, then another, until it was raining steadily. Oh, but we're stubborn. We toughed it out for a few minutes. Umbrellas popped up in conversation. I got mine out of the car and Pam and I huddled underneath. It just wasn't big enough to cover both of us. Still not ready to give up, I grabbed a small tarp and draped it over Pam and the two chairs. Using the umbrella to hold the tarp up off our backs, tarp trailing behind our chairs and open in the front so we could still enjoy the fire, Pam claimed rights to our invention of the umbrubble or the umbrelter Too late. We saw mass-manufactured versions of the "Sport Brella" on Wingaersheek Beach the next day.

Oh yeah, the beer. I love trying local microbrews when traveling and try to pick some up wherever I go. The package store (in MA that's a liquor store and it's where one buys beer) I remembered as having a vast selection turned out to have a disappointing inventory and no longer allowed customers build a custom six-pack, but I found two local beers I hadn't yet tried: Ipswich Ale Brewery's Summer Ale and Cape Ann Brewing Company's Fisherman's Ale.

The Ipswich Summer Ale, an American blonde ale, had a slightly cloudy golden to light amber color with a hoppy, fruity, floral aroma. The texture was light and a little thin but crisp with a little carbonation. The flavor started with citrus and spice, then something reminded me of hay. For a summer ale, the bitterness was somewhat surprising, rivaling some pale ales I've tried. I was disappointed. I'll let my husband drink the rest of these when he gets here.

The Fisherman's Ale, on the other hand, suited me just fine. A Kolsch-style ale with a hazy, dull, golden straw color, the Fisherman's ale had a sweet malt and wheat aroma with dominant lemon and fruit flavors. The texture was smooth and creamy with mild carbonation. The rest of this six-pack is all mine. The only beef I have with this particular beer is in its packaging. This 2007 Great International Beer Festival gold medal winner obviously has taken great care in the production of its fine product. The artwork is nicely designed with bold, vibrant colors and excellent font selections. I found three errors in the single paragraph describing this delicious ale. Someone should have taken the same care with proofreading. I know it sounds petty, but surely someone should have caught this - no excuse. I'd send them an email but they'd probably just be annoyed.

Camping continues for another few days. I'm about to go and find out if they have WiFi at the office.