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!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Newcomb House

We heard muffled voices in barroom debate as we entered the Newcomb House. As the bartender hustled our way with her cheerful smile and greeting, we took a seat at the end of the bar, a spot we find best suits our need to observe, and settled into the beverage selection tête-à-tête. As we admired the unique bar top, the six or seven men occupying the far end, one next to the other, stole curious glances at us. We did the same. They seemed paired off - talker, listener, talker, listener. With seating for up to 14, the bar was comfortably occupied. Christian, the bartender, seemed to know each of them, but it was difficult to discern whether they all knew each other.

The Newcomb House barroom is sufficiently sized with room for a pool table, a built-in bar on a far wall, darts, scattered tables, a juke box and a little alcove for entertainment, with open floor space for dancing or just general milling about. In the subdued natural light from various windows and indoor lighting and fan fixtures, we quickly noticed how clean the Newcomb House is. The paneled ceiling and the butcher-block bar top’s alternating strips of stained hardwood fairly glow and the linoleum-tiled floor is spotless and shiny.

Owned by Mike Garrand, The Newcomb House has been in operation for 21 years. Christian tells us that Mike is an avid outdoor cook and enjoys putting on pig roasts and cookouts for such events as Customer Appreciation Day, a Teddy Roosevelt commemoration, and for various fundraisers to benefit Toys for Kids. A year-round destination, the Newcomb House is well known as a poker run stop for motorcycle and snowmobile clubs. As a popular spot for bikers, campers, hunters and snowmobilers, our visit in April was probably the only lull in activity they get all year. Given the fact that the Newcomb House only closes on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, it's admirable that they are able to keep it clean somewhere between closing hours anytime after 10 p.m. and re-opening between 11:00 a.m. and noon daily. In Newcomb, with a permanent population of around 500, and a few hundred privately owned camps, it’s also the only game in town.

They offer no Happy Hour or other drink specials, but their prices are befitting Happy Hour all day long. Well drinks and domestic bottled beers are in the $2.50 (Genny Light, the house favorite) to $4.00 range. Draft beer is not an option, and the liquor selection is no-nonsense. We didn’t see any Grey Goose or flavored vodkas, though there is a varied array of schnapps flavors.

Like the liquor lineup, the food menu is simple. Pub fare consisting of pizza, hot dogs, sandwiches and appetizers are available at very affordable prices. At 6 p.m. on Thursdays, patrons can enjoy a full home-cooked dinner for just $7.00. Just looking for a snack? Pickled delectables from the Adirondack Pickle Lady bathe in brine in huge jars behind the bar.

Park policy, the hiking permit debate, and Winchester rifles were among topics steadily bantered between patrons. Kim, not one to mind her own business, interjected her agreement to a comment. If you’re going to butt in, it’s always best to be agreeable – at least at first. Soon we were down at the other end of the bar, talking about our mission, handing out our cards, and trying to convince the skeptical clientele we were not up to evil doings.

The Newcomb House is one of those nondescript hometown taverns you’ve driven past a hundred times, maybe wondering if you should stop in. To the inexperienced, a strange bar can be intimidating. To a couple of seasoned veterans like us, it’s all in a day’s work. If you've passed by the Newcomb House once or on numerous occasions and wondered if you should stop in, Happy Hour in the High Peaks encourages you to do so.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Basil and Wick's Encore

The banner beneath Basil & Wick’s trail marker sign read Roadkill Throwdown. To the uninitiated, Throwdown is a Food Network show in which chef Bobby Flay challenges a chef in preparing a specific food. Throwdown in North Creek? How did we not hear about this? And what roadkill would be coaxed into fine cuisine? We were on our way to Long Lake for Happy Hour, but vowed to stop in on our way back through, hoping we’d see Basil & Wick’s chef Chuck Jennings take Bobby down.

A few Happy Hours later, we pulled into Basil & Wick’s partially filled parking lot, thinking we’d missed the competition. Glancing again at the banner, which did indeed say it was today, Pam noticed the unfortunate typo: Throwdown with Bobby Fray. Fray? Isn't it Flay? How embarrassing to misspell the name of a celebrity chef. Disappointed, and never really needing a reason to stop at Basil & Wick’s, we went in anyway, hoping to hear the buzz of excitement that would surely continue for weeks. Nothing. No buzz, no commotion, no hullabaloo. “Did we miss Throwdown?” Pam innocently inquired. Sneaky sidelong glances and smirks ensued, then a few giggles. It was April Fool's Day, and we’d been punked! Well, we might as well stay for a drink and start a fresh review. We reviewed Basil & Wick's in the earliest days of this mission, though we feel it didn't do the justice they so deserve.

Located on Route 28 (across from Stewart's in North Creek), Basil & Wick’s casual cedar shake, clapboard, and rustic log exterior and spacious wraparound porch suggest a casual, relaxed experience. The uncluttered post and beam structure, reminiscent of a remodeled barn, with natural finish knotty pine cathedral ceiling, is warm and inviting. Not overly-decorated, typical icons such as an old sled, snowboard, skis and antler chandelier create a rustic, outdoorsy theme. In the Lodge or bar area, three 52-inch TV's are unobtrusive but visible if desired. The curved bar is a remnant of the famous horseshoe bar, once the social hub of the Colonial Arms Hotel in Warrensburg, now just a fraction of its original size. Several tables and booths provide seating if you can’t get a seat at the bar, and a flagstone fireplace occupies part of one wall. In homage to Basil & Wick’s humble beginnings, mural-sized black and-white photo collages hold subjects prisoners of time, depicting scenes from Gore Mountain, Whitewater Derby and the original Basil and Wick's. A chrome and vinyl barstool, enshrined in plexiglass like a rare museum artifact, stands in reverence near the entrance, a relic from the early days. Backless and tattered, its emerald green seat bulging flesh-colored stuffing like an aging but sturdy sex symbol in a too-tight dress who’s seen better days but refuses to succumb to the ravages of age. While sentimental, it represents a future with a gracious nod to the past.

Basil and Wick’s, too, has refused to become a “has-been”. After several changes in ownership and unsuccessful attempts to make a comeback under various names, Jane Peter has taken the director’s seat and introduced a rising star. Not one to leave the running of things to someone else, she is a tireless presence, greeting and seating, running between the bar, kitchen and dining room, often taking a quick break to visit her regulars. Jane and her well-chosen staff are really what have put Basil and Wick’s on the path to success.

The well-stocked bar and a creative staff are the perfect combination. The specials board often features a clever martini or seasonal cocktail. The draft beer offerings are broad and well selected. Among the most recent inventory are local favorites Lake Placid Ubu and Adirondack Brewery Dirty Blonde. PBR is an economical choice at $2. Not one to pass up an opportunity to try a new brew, Kim recently indulged in a Duvel, a single fermented Belgium golden ale. Served in an 18 oz. tulip glass, with an 8.5% alcohol content and an $8.50 price tag, this beer is more like an event - meant to be sipped and savored. Basil & Wick’s serves 18-20 bottled beers in a range of choices, including gluten-free Red Bridge. The wine selection varies, but lists a modest variety of red, white, rose and sparkling, ranging from $5 (house) to $10 a glass, and $22.50 to $58 a bottle.

Basil and Wick’s is open Thursday through Monday in the spring. The bar opens at 3 p.m. serving from the pub menu, which offers bar food favorites and some creative surprises. Happy Hour is from 3-5:30 daily. The dining room opens at 5p.m. and features traditional beef, seafood, poultry, ribs and pasta, as well as some more imaginative dishes, mostly in the $15 to $25 range. On Thursdays, Chef Chuck’s Pasta bar is an economical $14.

Not destined to fall into a routine, something fun always seems to be in the making. From occasional musical entertainment and holiday celebrations to Wii Mondays and the annual Donegal Beard Contest, the staff's innovative and clever ideas ensure the future success and continuity of this revived landmark. A homogeneous blend of local, regional, seasonal, and recreational clientele make Basil & Wick’s perfect place to end the day, whether coming off the slopes, out of the woods, off a whitewater rafting trip, or just down the road. If you haven’t “liked” them yet, you will. Basil & Wick’s Facebook Page is a good source of up-to-date specials, happenings and shenanigans. And when you do go, say hi to Jane and Jeannie and Emily and tell them Happy Hour in the High Peaks sent you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Recipe Day at Pammy's At-Her-On-Deck Pub

It was such a beautiful day today that we decided to work. A Recipe Day was just what we needed. Still working on our Adirondack drink line and inspired by the ferns just beginning to poke their curly little heads through the ground, we thought we'd try to create a drink called the Fiddlehead. Off to the liquor cabinet we went. No Midori. With its sweet, delicate flavor and spring green color, our minds were firmly made up to include Midori in the recipe.

Never send two thirsty adults with no definite plan into the liquor store unattended. Like the starving grocery shopper or an artist in a paint shop with no budget, we got creative on the spot, grabbing pretty bottles with funky flavors and anything the clerk suggested. We got the Midori, alright. And wine, three new flavors of vodka, and a bottle of Limoncello. Then a stop at the grocery store for a couple of melons with which to garnish.

Ok, we'll cut to the chase. Our first cocktail is a keeper; a smashing success. This is one of our best, if we do say so ourselves.

Boreas Pond
2 oz. Midori melon liqueur
1 oz.Triple Sec
1 oz. melon vodka
2 oz. water
1 pkg. sour mix
1 lemon wedge, squeezed

Shake with ice and strain over ice. Garnish with melon balls and lemon slice. This is best made by the pitcher. You're gonna want more!

With all that Midori and no particular desire to do anything else, another cocktail was in the works. We hadn't used the Caravella Limoncello yet, and why let the effort go to waste?

Sweeter, mellower and not quite as taste bud tingling, this would make a flavorful fall accent to sip with a salad.

2 oz. Midori melon liqueur
2 oz. Limoncello lemon liqueur
4 oz. ruby red grapefruit juice
rim glass with salt
garnish with lemon slice

Mix ingredients and pour over iced cocktail glass.

Before we pack up and put everything away, we had to make just one more with the ingredients at hand.

Limon Cooler
2 oz. Limoncello lemon liqueur
2 oz. white grape vodka
top with seltzer
garnish with lemon slice

Stir ingredients and pour over iced glass.

Pub on 9, Bolton Landing

Having only been open since January of 2012, the Pub on 9 is the youngest pub we have had the privilege to review. So far, they seem to be doing everything right. Located south of the village of Bolton Landing, the Pub on 9 is on Route 9N, or Lake Shore Drive, between Diamond Point and Bolton. Operating as the Wooden Barrel in past years, new owners Bob and Noelle Schwab eagerly wait to see what their first summer will bring. Set back a comfortable distance from Route 9N, with plenty of parking, a large deck offering sunshine or the shade of table umbrellas, the pub is a perfect spot for entertainment, indoors or out.

The bartender, Jon, is an enthusiastic, attentive, personable (and did we mention very handsome) guy with tireless energy and humor. His animated nature and quick wit kept us amused as he exchanged barbs with another patron, who asked that we not divulge his affiliation with the aforementioned bartender. He also told us a little about his participation in the Fire Tower Challenge, suggesting it as a theme for our next book. Hmm... The Firewater Challenge? We chatted with Noelle, who took a break from her daily chores to talk about the pub’s future plans.

Currently open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m., the Pub on 9 will add Wednesday and Sunday this summer, and plan to continue with Sunday operation through football season. This year they closed for the month of March and anticipate closing on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The generous dance floor rocks with musical entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, and Noelle hopes to add a Karaoke Night on Wednesday nights for the summer, as well as live music on the deck when weather permits. The deck currently offers picnic table seating, but will have patio tables in the summer season. Suggesting that the cook probably doesn't have much of a social life, the kitchen usually stays open until just before the bar closes, so don't be afraid to stop in for a late-night snack. The restaurant will also be offering delivery to nearby motels this summer, something that is sure to boost their notoriety.

The Pub on 9’s huge (by our standards) three-sided bar seats 24 and is stocked with all of the necessities: an abundant draft beer selection (10 flavors!), coolers full of bottled beers, and much more than the basics on the liquor shelves. Pine predominates, from walls to ceiling. The spacious floor plan flows seamlessly from bar to dining to a large game room, creating separate but inclusive spaces throughout. Three TVs suspended stadium style above the bar allow viewing from all sides and there’s another in the game room. The 70-inch monster flat screen may be best viewed from a comfortable club chair in the dining area, but can be seen from pretty much everywhere. The atmosphere is simple, clean and spacious. Decoration mostly consists of mirrored beer advertisements and a neon Welcome to Bolton sign (which Jon took pains to point out, so we felt we should mention it). Happy Hour is from 5 to 6 p.m. daily with $1.00 PBR drafts, $1 off well drinks and 1/2 off appetizer pricing.

Already known for the hand cut fries and homemade soups, the menu also features signature specialties, the 9 Burger and the 9 Dog. Plenty of options are available on their menu and range from $7.99 to $12.99, but they already expect to expand their summer menu. Hopefully they'll be breaking out the blenders too for margaritas and daiquiris on the deck. Pam suggested adding a nine-shot cocktail (the 9 on 9?) as a signature bar offering.

It’s difficult to describe a bar based merely on having had a good time. From Jon’s greeting as soon as we walked in, to introductions to anyone else who entered or passed through, we were made to feel like invited guests and familiar friends. As the conversation turned to the mild weather and early emergence of mint and rhubarb, we swapped drink recipes (our Rhubarb Margarita) with celebrity bartender Kate (her Summer Squeeze). Kate, of Frederick’s in Bolton Landing, offered her endorsement of the Pub on 9 as a keeper, and a definite contender for the top 46. It’s places like this, where drink recipes are exchanged and rhubarb plants are procured, that remind us that the Adirondack region is just one big neighborhood.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Adirondack Hotel, Long Lake

Even if there weren’t a gift shop lined with books of local interest, the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake would be a contender on our list of the "46 High Peaks" bars in the Adirondacks. The hotel, with its rough slab siding, gabled shingle roof and sprawling porches stands overlooking Long Lake, separated only by a two-lane road. The original hotel opened in 1879 as Kellogg’s Lake House, which was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt and opened as the Adirondack Hotel in 1904. Surviving devastating fires and, most recently, the flood of 2011, the Adirondack Hotel still speaks of its original grandeur in a place where its history, and its people, endure.

Accosted by wildlife of impressive proportions, we were greeted by a six-foot-tall black bear on the left as we entered the hotel, and a moose head overseeing check-ins at the antique hotel reception desk. The bear was shot in Long Lake in 1978; the moose head hangs on the wall at what would be its actual height were the body still attached, its antlers just touching the ceiling. Victorian antiques accent the light and airy sitting and dining rooms. Simple, two-bulb pendant chandeliers suspended from white painted tin ceilings cast their light on several Adirondack paintings, including two portraits of Noah John Rondeau, famous hermit.

We stepped from the worn linoleum tiles to the aged hardwood floors of the Tap Room, tucked away in a far corner of the hotel, and were enveloped in the history of the bar at the Adirondack Hotel. Rustic and dim, the rough pine walls, polished bar, and rich, dark barstools presented contrast to the sunny lobby and dining areas. Peering from between three televisions, the taxidermied eyes of many animals looked on. Hoping we didn’t appear as glassy-eyed, we approached without caution as the bartender's eyes locked ours. Warmly greeted by Colleen, we surveyed the options and ordered the 74th first drink of our quest. Offering a diverse microbrew selection which varies seasonally, the Adirondack Hotel's signature drink is the modest but well appointed draft lineup: Switchback Vermont Ale, Lake Placid Brewery Ubu, Blue Point Toasted Lager, Harpoon IPA, Budweiser and Coors Light. Standard liquor and bottled beers are also available, at about average prices. Happy Hour is when you’re there, but no special pricing applies.

The Tap Room can seat approximately 30 people. A deck off the bar, overlooking the lake, has a variety of seating options for fair weather overflow. Although bar service is not offered outside, drinks are welcome on the deck and on the front porch. The front porch offers six rockers, four tables for two, two tables for four and two picnic tables on the grounds.

Colleen imparted the following facts pertinent to our research. The Adirondack Hotel is open year-round. The Tap Room closes for Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, but the hotel remains open. The Tap Room hours of operation are generally from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. with closing extending later as dictated by the season and the number of patrons. Entertainment is featured throughout the year in the form of open mic night and a variety of musical entertainers.

Carol and Carmine Inserra have owned the Adirondack Hotel for the past 21 years. We had an opportunity to meet Carol, a lovely and gracious woman with a relaxed and pleasant demeanor. She shared with us some of the hotel’s history, as well as the story of how it came into her and her husband’s possession, starting with a phone call on April Fools’ Day. Carmine handles most of the maintenance himself, but is rumored to take as much interest in the chicken and ribs barbecue he hosts every Wednesday and Saturday all summer long. The hotel offers 18 rooms, an apartment and a suite; some with private bath, and none with phone or television, though a television can be found on each floor in the common rooms. Cell service and open WiFi are available for those who want to stay connected.

The bar entertains locals all year and tourists in summer and winter, and lists Helen Keller, Jack Dempsey, Mick Jagger and Mickey Mantle among its famous visitors. According to the Adirondack Hotel’s website, “Before you leave, everyone will know your name.” We had the opportunity to meet two locals. We don’t know if they caught our names, but Mike and Bill highly recommend the Tap Room at the Adirondack Hotel. So do we.