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!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Inn at Speculator, Speculator

Oak Mountain for sale! That's one of many things we learned from Patrick, the bartender at the Inn at Speculator. An enthusiastic purveyor of information about the Inn at Speculator and the community in general, he could easily be mistaken as owner. Conversations and gossip, both political and personal in nature, volleyed around the room as we spoke with Patrick. In response to our "nearby attractions" question, we were surprised when he mentioned skiing. That led into the story about the Town of Speculator temporarily taking on the foreclosed ski area at Oak Mountain. The owners of the Inn at Speculator for the past 30 or so years, Neil and Linda McGovern, proudly sponsor community events and host fundraisers throughout the year, including Friends of Oak Mountain benefits, an ice fishing tournament in February, fish and game club events, and the local snowmobile club.

In keeping with a building from the mid 1900s, several rooms adjoin the bar area, adding more dining space away from the bar. A glass case in the front room displays gourmet dressings made there and books for sale on the history of the Inn. It appears to have once been a place to pay your tab on the way out, to get change for games or the jukebox, and may once have offered candy or souvenirs for sale. The décor is fairly nondescript, with well-worn hardwood floors, pine-paneled walls covered with photos, certificates, memorabilia, and lingering St. Patrick’s Day trimmings. Although no children were on hand that day, there was an atmosphere of family entertainment in the past. The Inn at Speculator now entertains the adults with a pool table, foosball, electronic darts, Quick Draw, and an occasional solo musician or DJ. For the sports fan, there are three TVs in the bar area for keeping up with your favorite sport. Football, Nascar and March Madness basketball pools may help get the staff and patrons through the long winter months.

Liquor basics, a handful of draft beers, and 18-20 mostly domestic bottles provide adequate thirst-quenching options. Seasonal drinks of coffee varieties in winter and refreshing coolers in the summer are subject to the creativity of the bartender. Happy Hour includes $2.00 domestic drafts, Monday through Friday, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Open daily at 11:30 a.m., except Wednesdays, the pub room serves lunch and pub fare until the main dining area opens at 5:00 p.m. The inn is open year-round, but does occasionally close for a week in November and/or in April. Three rooms are available for lodging with special rate packages varying throughout the year. Dinner specials include the Friday Fish Fry, Prime Rib Saturdays, and a beef and burgundy buffet in the summer months.

The bar at the Inn at Speculator is patronized by locals, seasonal residents and tourists just passing through. Everyone seemed accepting of one another, whether known in the area or not. If you’re looking for a quaint, overpriced Adirondack country inn filled with antiques, bark furniture and faded sepia photographs, keep looking. Instead, you will discover a roadside rest more representative of today’s resident, the very essence of true Adirondackers, who struggle to make a living in an area that relies so heavily on tourism. Here, icons of a playground for the affluent are replaced with countless images of friends and neighbors doing the things they enjoy like fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, skiing and participating in their customary events, in a town they love and care about. Sit at the bar with the locals as they debate park politics and banter about the everyday. And listen. Learn something, if only what it’s like to live here. Add the Inn to your list of "must visit" venues to get a real Adirondack experience and, if you're in the market to buy a ski area, go see Patrick at the bar.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Market Place Steakhouse, Bolton Landing

Now here's a place with curb appeal. Driving through Bolton Landing, we nearly ignored the Market Place Steakhouse & More until we spotted the words Sports Bar etched on the bottom of one of the windows. Stained cedar shake siding, varied rooflines, and simple, understated signage create an inviting façade. The street-front deck is small with turned posts and balusters, finished in rich browns. Double doors to the dining room, in pristine condition, indicate that the premises are well maintained. First impressions enticed us to see more and music playing from outdoor speakers beckoned us in. Stealing a brief glance at the dining room features, we headed straight for the bar.

We continued to drink in the decor while Tami prepared our drinks. Floors of oversized tile in the main bar area, a small green enamel gas stove walled in a far corner with a river stone backdrop, and a copper sidebar on the partition wall, ready to seat eight in backless black and blonde stools, all add to the interior appeal. A small sunny alcove houses four pub tables with seating for 16. Known as the rock and roll room, an impressive collection of autographed guitars and posters is displayed on the walls.

In keeping with the Sports Bar designation, TVs are placed throughout the establishment, the majority located in the bar area. Tami informed us that there were, in fact, 14 in all, including the outdoor dining area in fair weather months. And yet, it wasn't overdone. The pub area was tastefully finished with a variety of sports memorabilia, again in perfect moderation.

The Market Place Steakhouse was originally an A&P supermarket and was known more recently as Michael Arthur’s Steakhouse. Steve McCranels and Amy Ullrich opened the current version in July of 2011. Open every day in the summer, The Market Place is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday in the off season. The sports bar is open at 4 p.m. and the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. Happy Hour is daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with $1 baby (7 oz.) beers and $2 beer or well drinks. Closing times vary, but around 11 p.m. is fairly standard. Three-course dinner specials make the Market Place a popular dining venue, but Open Mic Night on Monday nights and live musical entertainment on Saturday nights fill in where sports leave off.

On street parking is easily available in the winter months, but harder to find in the summer. A small parking area behind the Market Place offers limited parking, with an entrance to the bar from the back. Bolton Landing has several public parking areas as well.

The Market Place was not our intended destination. We had heard of a new bar in Bolton Landing and were looking for it when we found the Market Place. Perfectly content to stay put, we found the service was as pleasing as the décor. Tami was pleasant, attentive and professional. Once engaged in conversation, she kept one eye on the other patrons, while she imparted information to us. At her suggestion, we couldn’t resist sharing their signature drink, a Pear Martini, made with pear vodka and elderberry liqueur.

The Market Place is the perfect place for a break from the beach, or as a rest for wanderers. The slower months offer a perfect opportunity for locals to get a taste of summer's popular venues without having to deal with crowds. Family-friendly, food and drink prices are reasonable. The ambiance is free.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day - Recipe Night!

Had to join in the festivities and create our own Irish specialty.  A new twist on the Irish Coffee, the Frozen Shillelagh, is a tasty frozen drink that can be enjoyed any time of year.  Now that you know how to spell it, here's how to make it.

Frozen Shillelagh
4 oz Sheridan's Coffee Layered Liqueur
4 oz coffee
Blend with ice.
Rim with anything green. We used green sugar sprinkles (leprechaun dust).
Drink responsibly.
Makes two servings.

The shillelagh is a walking stick made of oak or blacktorn roots, traditionally used in a ritual form of fighting, or in general self-defense. It also is said to possess magical properties. When, in1670, Major Thomas Weir was burned as a witch, his powerful shillelagh (his reputed mode of transportation) was burned with him.

We often see leprechauns (maybe you don't) carrying a sturdy staff.  Now, what a leprechaun does with his shillelagh is his business. And that pot 'o gold he's always looking for? Metaphor. Pure metaphor.

The Oxbow Inn, Piseco

We aren't snowmobilers. But, if we were, the Oxbow Inn in Piseco could easily be the designated last stop on the trail. They are open the latest, have great drink prices, and plenty of dinner and appetizer choices. Burgers are a notoriously popular choice. Mostly, though, they seem to be the hardest place to leave.

Like so many of the roadhouses tucked away in the Adirondacks, the Oxbow Inn is genuine and unapologetic, the interior pieced together with no particular theme in mind, spanning decades of decorative tastes. The veneer-topped bar is built on a glass block base, the floor is linoleum tile, and the walls are pine. A variety of memorabilia, humorous signs and beer advertising fill the walls and area behind the bar. A hand-painted saw blade depicts the old country inn in its serene lakeside setting.

Owned by Heather Sboto, the Oxbow Inn is one of the oldest establishments still in operation in Piseco (and Hamilton County), easily surpassing 100 years. Heather, as her youth will attest, has only been operating the bar and restaurant for four years, but seems comfortable in filling the shoes of Oxbow keepers past. With at least 14 seats at the bar, pub tables barside, plenty of dining in the back room in winter and on the deck in fair weather, the Oxbow is ready for any number of guests. As twilight fell on this warm March Saturday, there were perhaps 25 patrons refreshing themselves at the bar and several more in the dining room, though we're told the number would ordinarily be double that were the snow conditions closer to normal.

Though they offer no standard signature drink, a Shot of the Day can be found on the drink specials board on Saturday, along with several other creative suggestions. Our offer to invent a signature drink was readily accepted and quickly renamed from slammer to martini. The Oxbow Martini, comprised of orange vodka, cranberry juice and a splash of 7-Up, proved to be a tasty beverage worthy of the Oxbow name. If that doesn't appeal to you, Happy Hour specials offer $2.00 domestic beers from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and there are plenty of bottled and draft beers from which to choose.

Though a trendy stop on the snowmobile trail, the Oxbow Inn offers gorgeous deck views of Oxbow Lake that should not be overlooked. A game room featuring a wide variety of action can offer entertainment and shade in the summer or warmth in the winter. A jukebox played continuously and seemed willing and able to transition from rock to country music and back again. Cell service is sporadic, with Verizon reputedly outperforming AT&T.

The Oxbow Inn is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a later closing on Friday and Saturday as business demands. The Inn closes for two weeks around both Easter and Thanksgiving. The best time to visit the Oxbow Inn is any time of year. With direct access to snowmobile trails, it's winter headquarters for snowmobilers. Though we have only seen it in winter, the deck and lake views promise equal splendor in all seasons.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Melody Lodge, Speculator

A spectacular 45 degree day and less than an hour from Warrensburg, our drive over Route 8, its bumps, heaves and moguls making a challenging run for the Highlander, led us to Melody Lodge, located on Page Hill off Route 30 in Speculator. As we pulled into the parking lot of the lodge, it was difficult to decide what to look at first: the incredible hilltop views, or the rustic grandeur of an authentic Adirondack lodge. We decided to take our time and do both.

From the upper parking lot we observed another lower lot, snow-covered and partially filled with roughly a dozen snowmobiles, indicating easy access from the surrounding lakes. Beyond, a leafless view of Lake Pleasant. Looking to the right from there, a mountain stands firm. Further right, a view of Sacandaga Lake is visible in the distance. The barn red Melody Lodge, a rustic, two-story structure wrapped in a porch of stone columns, stands as the centerpiece in this picturesque frame. The columns of seemingly haphazard piles of stone authenticate the craftsmanship of earlier days. Piles of wood on the porch, growing thinner as winter wanes, promise warmth within. Several outdoor tables, partially covered in snow on the front lawn and white Adirondack chairs on the porch, remind us that spring and summer will come again and offer very different scenic views.

The promised warmth greets us as we enter the lobby, a cozy common room with several people gathered comfortably in front of the fireplace. To the left, partitioned by paneled glass walls and doors, is the dining room, expectantly awaiting the dinner bell. Another fireplace, of massive proportions in stone, is the focal point of the dining room. To our right, we are beckoned to another room where noises and voices indicate the possibility of a pub.

As we enter what Melody Lodge calls the Tap Room, a ten-point buck's head on the wall and multi-level seating command our attention but are held at bay. The ceiling full of white earthenware mugs looms overhead, covering nearly the entire ceiling over the bar. With over 250 members in Melody Lodge's Mug Club, no new members are being accepted at this time, conjuring up scenarios of Melody Lodge Mug Club mugs being bequeathed to next-of-kin upon a member's death, bitterly fought over in a divorce settlement, or bringing in thousands of dollars at auction on EBay or Sotheby's.

Though primarily a summer venue, Melody Lodge seems to do quite well in winter months. Twenty or so snowmobilers, savoring a rare weekend after a fresh snowfall, gathered in boisterous groups, eager to grab lunch and a drink before moving on to the next stop. A Tap Room menu is available for dining all day. The dinner menu is available in the bar after 5:00 p.m. when the dining room opens. Melody Lodge closes each year for the months of April and November. In light of this fact, the usually plentiful tap selections were sparse, in preparation for the semi-annual closing. The Tap Room and restaurant are open from 11:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday in winter; Wednesday through Monday in summer.

We had an opportunity to interview the owner, Julie, from whom we learned that Melody Lodge was originally built in 1912 as a singing school for girls. It was converted to a lodge along the way, and purchased by Julie's parents in 1976. Julie and her husband, Kyle, took over the operation in 2006. The Lodge offers seven guest rooms, each uniquely named for a musical instrument, promising private baths for today's standards. The constant smile on Julie's face and her open friendliness as she imparted facts and history indicated pride and enjoyment in Melody Lodge.

The Melody Lodge is more a visitor's venue than a hangout for locals, though the exchange of greetings between Pam the bartender and the coming and going customers made it clear that many patrons stop in regularly. The ample bar seats ten, with pub and dining tables in the immediate vicinity. A lower level features several varieties of table seating while a regulation shuffleboard table consumes one whole wall on the lower level. A curious square game board, scuffed and worn with obvious decades of enjoyment, hangs on the wall. Called ring toss, the objective is to get the ring, suspended from the ceiling with a length of string, onto a hook in the center of the game board. We couldn't resist trying it out, though it was more difficult than it looked and we didn't have time to keep practicing. Appreciating any novel amusement, Pam now plans to add ring toss to her home pub.

There are some venues that warrant a visit for no other reason than to see them for yourself, though we don't usually know it until we do just that. Melody Lodge is just such a place, inviting and warm, without pretense, and well worth visiting.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What makes a good bartender?

We just visited our 71st bar on this quest for the best in the Adirondack Park. The bartender is the first line of defense and usually the first person to whom you speak when visiting an unfamiliar tavern. A great bartender can make a lousy bar look good. A bad bartender can ruin even the best bar.

What makes a good bartender? The criteria varies, depending upon your needs. If you just need somebody to serve you a drink, not engage you in conversation, any bartender will do.

Good Bartender
1. Don't be an asshole.

2. Do greet your customer in a timely manner, even if you're busy. Let them know they have your attention, even if you're restocking all the beer, mixing kamikazes, and taking a food order all at the same time. A smile goes a long way.

3. Be helpful. Some people just never know what they want to drink. Offer suggestions and ask leading questions. Do you like martinis? Are you a vodka drinker? Shots are my specialty.

4. Know something about the establishment for which you work and the basic history of the place.

5. The most attractive people are not necessarily the best tippers. (See rule #1.)

6. Speak to your customers as though they're adults, not third graders. (See rule #1.)

Good Bartender
7. Try to act like you like your job, even if you don't. Though we can usually tell. Burnouts are obvious.

8. Be forthright. If one customer orders a rum and Coke, and the other orders a diet Coke, and you only have Pepsi products (or vice versa) tell both customers the truth. (See rule #1.)

9. Don't touch the sipping part of my glass.

10. Fer Chissakes, wash your hands once in awhile.

11. Listen. You can learn a great deal through observation. You have two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you talk.

There is more to an enjoyable experience than a good bartender. It's also imortant to be a good customer. We hope we are. Advice on that next time. Just don't be an asshole.

Cheers & Bottoms Up!
Kim & Pam

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Recipe Night! Whiteface Sour

Apparently reviewing two bars this afternoon is not enough. Weary from our trip to Speculator and Piseco, we still had a need to concoct a new Adirondack-style beverage. In keeping with our goal to create drinks in tribute to the various high peaks, we present the Whiteface Sour.

First we must caution you that we are going to bring you through our thought process in developing this drink. Some of our readers just might not be ready to go there. If so, skip this paragraph and go straight to the recipe. Maybe inside our heads is not a place you want to go, but here you are, bypassing our warning. First thought: it has to be frozen, slushy, ice - hey let's use ice - ingenious! Next: it has to be white, duh! So, sweet white or sour white? Sour white because sour mix is white. Beyond: liquors have to be clear, in keeping with the white theme - yo! ho! ho! white rum 'tis - arrrrhh! Finally: let's sweeten our sour. We need flavor with a twist, and mildly sweet, oh yeah, and clear or white. Rummaging through the liquor cupboard, we find good ole triple sec (prevents scurvy, ya know - arrrrhh!).

We are going to ease you out of our mind gently. When you awaken, you will not remember a thing, but will feel like wearing a patch over one eye. How do you know a pirate from the Adirondacks? They wear a patch on both eyes! Sorry, you might remember that.

Whiteface Sour

3 oz white rum
1 oz triple sec
2 packets sour mix
2 oz water
generous portion of ice
mix in a blender and drink responsibly!

We wish you a very Happy Hour!

Cheers & Bottoms Up!
Kim & Pam

Friday, March 2, 2012

East Cove, Lake George

Either this is just getting too easy, or the East Cove in Lake George is a great place to go on a Tuesday afternoon in February. You know what? The East Cove is a great place to go on a Tuesday afternoon in February! Pam had been away for two consecutive weekends, creating absences in our tavern attendance. Our Adirondack Almanack deadline looming, Pam skipped out of work ten minutes early so that we could meet at East Cove, review the bar, and still have time to write our review for the Almanack by Wednesday afternoon.

Driving along Beach Road, Kim noted the setting late afternoon sun as it cast its golden glow on distant mountain peaks surrounding Lake George. Low shadows crept across the water's edge, rendering the choppy waves a deep Prussian blue. Pam was waiting in the East Cove parking lot, observing the signs related to Early Bird specials and Happy Hour. Happy Hour offers 1/2 priced drinks from 4:30 until 6:00 p.m. Dinner isn't served until 5:00 p.m., but you can get into the bar at 4:30. Something not found in too many other establishments, the East Cove offers a late-night Happy Hour Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. Open every day during the summer season, the East Cove is closed on Mondays during the off-season.

Only moments after we arrived, Pam was already getting reacquainted with old friends, formerly of her Garrison days. We chatted easily with the handful of affable patrons as owner Pete Smith organized menus on the bar, occasionally peering over his glasses to answer questions and offer comments. Kim ventured to the end of the bar where she could examine the half-dozen taps, finding three local brews from the Adirondack Pub and Brewery, Blue Moon, Yuengling and Sam Adams seasonal. A very well-stocked bar offers a liquor selection which includes numerous flavored rums and vodkas. The wine list is extensive as well. Pam, not sure what she wanted, asked bartender Shannon if the East Cove features any unique drinks. Though the white chocolate espresso martini is the signature drink at East Cove, Shannon suggested a tangerine cosmo and Pam quickly acquiesced: Finlandia tangerine vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice, served in a martini glass and garnished with an orange slice.

Shannon led Kim on the grand tour, the two pausing for reference photos in the adjacent sitting room and private upper dining room. The East Cove's rustic interior of log cabin walls, with its fishing and nautical theme, is alluring and cozy. Scenic and historic postcards, lithographs and watercolor prints by Loren Blackburn showcase a pictorial history of Lake George Village. Framed photographs offer a glimpse into more than a century of Lake George's past, including a photo of the Colonel's Table, the East Cove's former identity, the facade little changed since it was built in 1947. A shelf in the corner of the dining room holds a display of local pottery. Overhead, a ship's wheel chandelier hangs suspended from richly-stained log beams, casting soft light on the dining tables below. Sunlight pours in through the large window in the bar area. The L-shaped bar is punctuated with ten aged and unusual barstools, their wooden backs shaped like curly brackets. An adjoining room houses soft brown stuffed sofa and chairs facing a TV for the East Cove's Sunday football and NASCAR fans, and another dining room is located upstairs.

Next thing we knew, George suggested a shot, and Pam launched into inventing the "drink of the day". They settled on Stoli apple, Cointreau and cranberry juice, and dubbed it the East Cove Slammer. Invigorated with nostalgia, Pam suggested a game of Liar's Poker and lined Kim up with a "coach" to help her in understanding the nuances of lying. Poker-face Pam ended up winning, but Kim is better educated now. And poorer.

Owned for the past 43 years by Pete and Debbie Smith, the East Cove has changed very little since the late '70s, when we would stop in for breakfast at 4 a.m., but has obviously been very well maintained. Dinner is the main attraction here, luring local and seasonal residents and visitors. Early eaters can enjoy special pricing ($11.99 to $14.99 including soup and salad) from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. The East Cove also caters and hosts banquets with a number of menu plans. The dinner menu, moderately-priced for the area, is most noted for its seafood and includes steaks, chicken and pasta dishes, a vast selection of desserts, and a kids' menu.

The East Cove is another of the pleasant surprises we've discovered nearly in our own back yard. Patrons are welcoming and sociable, and Shannon's easy-going, warm personality and sense of humor undoubtedly contribute to the comfortable atmosphere. When she asked if we were looking for help, as people often do, we were tempted to take her aboard. The pay is lousy, but the benefits are well worth the effort. And places like the East Cove really do make work easy for us.

Cheers & Bottoms Up!
Kim & Pam