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 29, 2012

Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar, Lake Placid

What was beginning to feel like a wasted (no pun intended) trip to Lake Placid finally began to take a turn for the better. Originally arriving too early, we returned to Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar close on the heels of the 4 p.m. (opening time), at the recommendation of the staff at a previous venue. We had considered skipping it to continue exploration of Tupper Lake after two of our three previous bar visits proved to be disappointing, but it turns out we weren't sorry we backpedaled to give Liquids and Solids a proper review.

The long bar stretched out a hand in greeting, which we accepted. Lights with bare bulbs, painted dark, hung over the bar, adding a mysterious light for early afternoon. Eggplant colored walls breathed calm as they showcased their quirky and intriguing artwork. Random details added a tasteful touch of whimsy to the simple shapes and spare ornamentation in the dining area. Plants and fresh flowers popped their lively heads from artfully labeled beer bottles, a theme we were later to discover was carried into the ladies' room. Beer and wine menus, handwritten in wide black marker on large paper grocery bags, hung from clipboards behind the bar.

The bar seats 15, a little too closely, but it wasn't crowded at the time of our visit.  The barroom is cozy, with pub tables strategically placed near the bar, and standard tables for four were scattered toward the back. They offered privacy in their sparseness and an opportunity to enjoy the varied artwork on the walls.

The liquids, of course, were what we were after and we fairly drowned in the deluge. A selection of more than 20 red, white and sparkling wines from France, Chile, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, Australia and California are listed at $8 to $11 a glass. The cocktail menu features more than a dozen fresh and creative specialties, priced between $8 and $12 and lists ingredients from fresh herbs to vinegar. Draft and bottled beer prices vary from $3.50 to $27.

Pam immersed herself in the cocktail menu. Painstakingly prepared with many fresh and homemade ingredients, the potent concoctions include the Cilantro Daiquiri, Guava Margarita with a lime sugar rim, the Balsamic Fizz featuring basil and balsamic vinegar, and Smoked Lemonade and Bourbon Tea. She decided on the Rum and Raisin, a cocktail of generous proportions made from The Kraken black spiced rum, lime juice, raisin clove apple juice, and orange and pineapple juice garnished with raisins and an orange slice.

Meanwhile, it was Kim's turn to suffer indecision as she examined the beer list consisting of six drafts, several cans, and well over 100 bottles in various serving sizes. There are 22 IPAs alone! Also, a dozen or so Belgian strong ales, a bunch of stouts, and multitudes of others - trappists, triples, porters, reds, browns, lagers, saisons, Italians and Belgians to list just a few. Unable to resist a Belgian ale, or her curiosity, she settled on a Delirium Tremens, served in an oversized wine glass for $6.

Liquids and Solids, owned by Keegan Konkoski and chef Tim Loomis for the past two years, has been transformed from a local dive to a gastropub of constantly changing culinary surprises featuring homemade sauces, purees, stocks and syrups using whatever the local farmers have to offer. Making nearly everything themselves and using locally produced ingredients allows the pair to keep their prices down. Featuring mostly small plates of such ambitious offerings as charcuterie, ratatouille, barbecued sweetbreads, fried pork liver, polenta, and saffron cavatelli, the restaurant offers a handful of full-sized entrees and some daily specials at fairly small prices. They are open all year, but close for Memorial Day weekend annually. The bar is open from 4 p.m. until midnight Tuesday through Sunday in the summer and Tuesday through Saturday in the winter months. 

Outside, up a small flight of stairs toward the back, the rooftop deck feels more like a garden than a deck. Potted flowers and herbs abound and color pervades. Stripes provide a backdrop on a wall of window frames, whimsically placed. No service is offered from the bar, but patrons are welcome to bring their drinks and enjoy the scenery here. Tables on a patio in front do receive service from the bar and restaurant, but the tranquility is sacrificed.

The creative juices are flowing at Liquids and Solids. In both menu and venue, enjoy the whimsy that the name invokes.

Thirsty Moose Pub & Grub, Childwold

Where have all the young people gone? Having spent 19 months reviewing bars, taverns and dives in the Adirondacks, the thought had crossed our minds, but we never vocalized it. We just assumed they came out later. Like vampires. Not during the afternoon and evening. Not during Happy Hour. Or maybe they just restricted themselves to larger venues like Lake Placid and Lake George. We found them one Wednesday afternoon in July, at the Thirsty Moose Pub & Grub in Childwold, somewhere between Cranberry Lake and Tupper Lake.

Seated at a picnic table outside, several of them greeted us on our way into the Thirsty Moose, then joined us at the bar. Except for one man in his seventies or eighties, who disappeared shortly after our entrance, the patrons and the bartender, Crystall, were all younger than 30.  As we began talking about signature drinks with Crystall, which led to a brief synopsis of our quest for the 46 best bars (the “High Peaks”) in the Adirondacks, they became animated and inquisitive. We shared some of our own drink recipes with them, and before we knew it, Crystall was taking orders from Christie, eager to bestow some of the Thirsty Moose’s favorites on us.

We started with the Tic Tac - orange vodka and Red Bull, the orange vodka shot separately contained within a rocks glass filled with Red Bull (a bomber shot). Pam tried to suppress the hiccup that always accompanies her quick consumption of carbonated beverages, let out a loud one, and finished the drink, shooter style. Mickey Sylvester, owner of the Thirsty Moose, joined us and wanted to share his favorite, the Washington Apple, a tradition at the Thirsty Moose. Christie got the disco ball going and a memorable Happy Hour was underway. The jukebox played in the background, mostly 70’s rock, the mood one of ageless camaraderie as we joked about the disco ball.

The Thirsty Moose Pub & Grub is open year-round, at 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and at noon Friday through Sunday.  It’s closed on Monday. Though no formal Happy Hour designation exists, the drink prices are very reasonable. Regular domestic bottled beer (20+ flavors) is $2.75.  Higher end bottles are $3.50, and draft (Bud Light) is $2.25. Red and white wines are available for $4.00, and shots and mixed drinks vary in price.

The dining room, with its red tablecloths and neat white chairs, is in an adjoining room away from the bar. A menu of burgers, steaks, seafood, chicken and more lists prices from $7.95 to $24.95. Bar nibbles of the mostly fried variety range from $2.50 to $11.95.

Formerly known as Dumas’s, Mickey and Jan Sylvester bought and renamed the Thirsty Moose ten years ago. The building appears to have been remodeled or upgraded inside and out fairly recently. A semi-circle of dark mahogany or cherry, the handcrafted bar is the focal point of the room, and perfectly conducive to conversation. Worth mention is the ladies’ room, which Pam described as “impeccable”.

In the rare event that the staff and clientele aren’t amusement enough, Quick Draw is on site along with a pool table, dartboard, several televisions and a jukebox stocked with non-disco music. The ring game, best described as a ring on a string attached to the ceiling, challenges expert and novice to get the ring on the hook on an opposite wall. Those who have mastered it make it look easy. Five cabins are available for rent, if you want to stick around until you master the game.

As a meeting place for so many, the Thirsty Moose entertains bikers, vacationers, seasonal hunters, snowmobilers and, of course, everyday fun seekers. The Childwold Snopackers meet at the Thirsty Moose monthly, either planning or relaxing after grooming the nearby snowmobile trails.

A “For Sale” sign is inconspicuously on display outside, but we got the impression that Mickey would be hard pressed to let it go. It seems his staff is more like family than employees, and his customers more like friends.

“This is Cheers,” is how Alex, a not-so-local from Lake Placid, described the Thirsty Moose Pub & Grub.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

P-2's, Tupper Lake

The brick building, trim and neat, stands just feet from the sidewalk on Main Street in Tupper Lake. P-2’s Irish Pub, illuminated in red and green neon, replaces its former moniker, Al’s Lounge. Inside, a suit of armor standing guard at the pool table silently observes our entrance. Dimly lighted with amber pendants and recessed spotlights, the interior’s Irish pub characteristics gradually come to light. The curved bar a rich, dark wood with red padded front, shows signs of its age and character. Old cigarette burns mar the top, scars of forgotten conversations and decades of good times. Arrow back bar stools match the studded green faux leather walls, padded for comfort. Tin ceiling, oak woodwork, worn wood floor and round, solid oak pub tables surrounded by sturdy backless stools all lend warmth, character and charm in this intimate space.

Our last stop on day one of the Happy Hour in the High Peaks 2012 Summit Tour, we found P-2’s Irish Pub living up to its motto: The Place to be in the Adirondacks. Two couples were eating, drinking and relaxing at a pub table to the side. A half dozen women clustered at the end of the bar, laughing, drinking, and engrossed in conversation appeared to be well known to Debbie, the bartender. Debbie greeted us right away, ready to take our orders. Beer selection was a no-brainer for Kim, who spotted among the eight draft handles a Plucky Rooster (Plattsburgh), as yet untapped in her repertoire, and with an interesting history. Tired after four hours of pub crawling, Pam fell into her usual safety net – a vodka and grapefruit.

One by one, people just kept arriving. Clientele is mixed between locals and visitors, but you might find it difficult to discern the two. Behind the bar, Debbie was friendly and attentive to both. A local named Dan summed it up as a regular pub with good people, good staff, good music and open to visitors. Pam accosted two couples from Canada as they prepared to leave on their motorcycles. They shared their thoughts about their first visit to P-2’s, reporting good food, friendly service and added that Debbie was extra helpful with information about the area. We spoke with a number of regulars who had nothing but praise for P-2’s and its staff. When we started asking questions, Debbie pointed out the owner, a woman gradually making her way down the bar, stopping to greet every patron along the way. We were told she’d eventually get to us. We were talking to Henry, our bar neighbor (and the Patriot Chef), as Michelle approached. Henry has created a line of seasonings and sauces, which P-2’s uses and Michelle wholeheartedly endorses. Thanks for the Loyalty sample Henry!

We finally introduced ourselves and our purpose to P-2’s owner, who filled us in on the pub’s history and took us on a tour. Al’s Lounge was founded in 1966 by Joseph “P-2” LeBlanc, but its history really dates back to 1949, when it was known as Ivan’s Lounge. Six years ago it was acquired by Joseph’s daughter, Michelle LeBlanc Blair, and revamped into P-2’s Irish pub, named in honor of her father.

P-2’s has since expanded with the opening of the Franklin Dairy Music Hall, a converted barn located behind the pub.  The barn was home to the Franklin Dairy until the 1980s and had been used for storage. Following much restoration and renovation, P-2’s hosted its first concert this past July. Deemed a smashing success, the old dairy aroma was replaced with the essence of stale beer!

It’s a small pub but seems able to handle any amount of activity. The full size bar seats 10 to 12. Six tables accommodate at least two dozen more patrons, and P-2’s still has room for a pool table and darts. Two large screen televisions are enough to follow your favorite game, but not be consumed by it. Team photos and collages attest to P-2’s community spirit. They seem to sponsor a team for everything! Open WiFi is available to customers. An ATM is on site, possibly for Quick Draw enthusiasts, but Visa and MasterCard are also accepted. Parking is available in the adjoining lot, or on the street, and P-2’s is located just one block from the snowmobile trail.

P-2’s is open year round, opening at 2 p.m. in the summer and closing at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. They are closed on Sunday. In the winter, they open at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Happy Hour is daily from 4 to 7 p.m all year long. Music is a staple at P-2’s with open mic night most Thursdays, featured artists in the pub on Friday and Saturday, the Outdoor Summer Music Series under the tent, and more in the works in the music hall! See their website and Facebook page for up-to-date listings.

Drink specials range from the signature Blue Margarita to a P-2’s style Black & Tan, with spontaneous drink options in between. And it’s the only place in town that serves Guinness on tap. In addition to the draft beers, an interesting array of bottled and canned varieties rounds out the rather nice selection. All of their food is rumored to be the best, but their chicken wings, chicken breast dippers and sweet potato fries are favored among some of the patrons on hand. Pricing is quite modest, as most menu items are priced under $10.00.

Offering outstanding service, loyal and happy customers, modest prices, and a musical hotspot, we found P-2’s claim as The Place to be in the Adirondacks to be accurate. At least in the Tupper Lake region. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

HHHP's Vacation Souvenirs

It may seem like Happy Hour in the High Peaks is on permanent vacation as we tour the Adirondack Park in pursuit of the best bars the region has to offer, but sometimes we just need a change. It was time to replace the mountain peaks with a flatline view of the edge of the earth and the sharp, briny scent of the sea. The Atlantic was calling.

I left Pam, my HHHP partner in crime, behind for a few days while I went camping with my family (remember them?) on the "other" cape in Massachusetts, Cape Ann.

Souvenir shopping, a ritual endured for years while camping with kids who bled our finances dry for such nonsense as beach buckets, slurpies and trashy trinkets, is now a pleasure. Skipping the gift shops and tee shirt stores (with the exception of Gloucester's Harbor Goods) led me to more creative and tasty treasures.

Beer, wine and liquor, particularly regional, is a practical and greatly appreciated gift to bring back to the friends (or yourself) at home. What better way to relive some vacation moments from the doldrums of your own home? With the doldrums of your own family.

My haul began in the New Hampshire liquor store, conveniently located at a rest area (!) along route 93. Armed with my list, compiled weeks before, I shopped the liquor aisles with glee. First I got the staples Pam requested for Pammy's Pub. Then a look at the vodka aisle to see what new flavors sparked creativity. The liqueur lane held such delicacies as limoncello and maple liqueur, though I was disappointed not to find the promised Sapling Maple (Vermont) that I simply will not go without. I chose a bottle of Fabrizia Limoncello, since it's made in New Hampshire (buy local!) and the price was drastically low.

Not really expecting to find it anyway, I saved the best for last. I was looking for a bottle of Laddie 10 Scotch. Pam and I had learned of its existence while reviewing the Cowboy in Lake Placid and its name dictated that we must own a bottle. I do like sipping scotch on occasion; it's my winter comfort drink, but flavor was not a factor in this purchase (I had never tried it) but it was the name I was after. To my astonishment, I located the coveted jewel and gulped at the price (apparently also not a factor). "What the hell, I'm worth it!" I thought to myself, hoping my husband was nowhere near the cash register to witness the final total. I look forward to the occasion which prompts the opening of the Laddie 10 ten-year-old single malt I will report when the seal is broken and the contents have been sampled.

Another must-have is something from the Cape Ann Brewing Company, and the Fisherman's Catch collection of Fisherman's Brew, Ale, IPA and Sunrise Saison serves multiple tastes. On impulse, just because they were there, I also selected a Shipyard Brewing Company's (Portland, ME) Smashed Pumpkin Ale (9% ABV) and Blue Hills Brewery's (Canton, MA) Watermelon Wampatuck Wheat. Again, I look forward to reviewing each and every one of these when I hold the beer session.

Always on the lookout for cocktail glasses, I found a nice old copper pitcher for Pam and some daisy wine glasses in a consignment shop. Four glasses for eight bucks! Can't beat that. We'll need them for the recipe section of the book.

Souvenir shopping is all about what you put into it. Do you really need another shot glass or tee shirt with "Atlantic City" or "Lake George" emblazoned on the front? No. Better to contribute to the local economy by supporting local companies. Think about that as you peruse the shops in the next tourist trap. Reflect on craftsmanship and product pride. Buy the wine, beer, liquor, food, candy, books or other products readily available and made wherever you go. You won't be sorry.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Trails End, Tupper Lake

Trails End is a classic roadhouse bar located just outside Tupper Lake on Route 30. Step out the front door and look around. Surrounded by mountains, water and trees, a few barely discernible dwellings dot the landscape. Located at the convergence of Tupper Lake, Simon Pond, Raquette Pond, and the Raquette River, Trails End earns the distinction of being the bar with the best view in Tupper Lake, with some of the nicest people.

As we stepped from our V-6 (not our V-twin), we received a friendly greeting from the pair of musicians seated with their guitars on a long bench on the porch. Thursday is open mic night at Trails End and some like to get there early to warm up, be it musically or otherwise. Trails End is a self-proclaimed biker bar, but don’t think non-bikers are not welcome.

The bartender, Christine, greeted us right away and made us feel at home with her polite, hospitable and professional manner. She prides herself on making the best Bloody Mary in the Adirondacks. When Pam told her that Sporty, of Sporty’s Iron Duke Saloon in Minerva, has the best she has encountered, Christine begged to differ. Pam was enjoying her ruby red and vodka beverage too much to make the switch, but vowed to be back for a taste test. Maybe stop at Sporty’s for a re-taste, then on to Trails End for the comparison. Perhaps Sporty will come along to see for himself?

Inside we found the standard roadhouse attractions – pool table, dartboard (Trails End has a winter dart league), one television, and, mounted on the wall beside the door, the first breathalyzer machine we’ve encountered in our travels. Photos, pins, patches, posters and bumper stickers hang on the walls where the biker theme prevails. Seating at the bar is plentiful enough to accommodate 12 stools with lots of elbow room for pint lifting, and plenty more room for standing or circulating. A long counter sits along the front row of windows overlooking Route 30.

The liquor selection is more than the standard fare, and some trendy flavored liquors make an appearance. Beer is pretty straightforward - several primarily domestic bottled brands (with a couple of surprises) and Yuengling and Switchback draft. The bar food is of the roadhouse snack persuasion, with bagged chips and nuts, smoked meat sticks, and maybe a jar of pickled something too.

The nicest feature we found at Trails End was the people. At first reluctant, curiosity soon coaxed a few of the patrons out of their shells and they were soon telling their stories. We spoke at length with Darcy, a regular who shared her views on Tupper Lake politics and expressed frustration over the land development controversy currently driving a wedge between the residents. She also spoke of some of the more positive aspects of this town of roughly 4000 inhabitants mired in a long economic downturn.

Kenneth, one of the musicians who greeted us, invited Kim and her camera on a sunset tour of the multiple views from the Trails End’s vantage point. Delicately placing his guitar on the bench outside, he pointed out the various bodies of water and distant mountains, naming them all like a proper tour guide, his words bathed in the gilded warmth of the setting sun. He spoke of friends and neighbors who look out for one another and lend a helping hand when needed. Whether it’s funding for medical bills or stocking the food pantry, Kenneth reports that the owner organizes poker runs and is always quick to prompt his customers to contribute what they can.

Owned by biker Mark “Beard” Sutliff since the early 1980s, the business has been in operation since the 1920s. After a journey of miles of winding wilderness, its corner position and log exterior make it a visible and welcome sight for the weary traveler. Trails End is open year-round, from noon until as late as 3 a.m. seven days a week. Happy Hour is offered from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Though we didn’t get to meet Beard, we shared the story of our quest for the best 46 bars in the Adirondacks with our new friends. We had lost track of the exact number, but mentioned at the time that we had visited ninety-something bars. Later, while tallying our spoils, we learned that Trails End was actually the 100th bar visited since we started in January, 2011!  In retrospect, it’s probably best we didn’t know at the time because they would have wanted to celebrate that milestone as much as we would have! 

If you’re a biker, you most likely already know about Trails End. If not, stop in anyway. It’s easy to find, the view is spectacular, and the people are some of the nicest you’ll meet. Just don’t forget your Good Bar Attender manners.