Craft Beer in Glens Falls

Photo courtesy of Davidson Brothers
Photo courtesy of Davidson Brothers
If you love craft beers, Glens Falls, NY is the place to go. This walkable downtown seems to have become a hub for beer lovers. There are two that have been around for quite some time and there are a few more that have recently joined the scene.

Davidson Brothers on Glen Street is probably the most well known. In spite of the the controversy surrounding their tipped employee policy the last few months, they are a destination for many tourists and regulars alike. Their signature beers include their IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Scotch Ale and traditional Brown Ale. They also have a rotation of Specialty Brews that appear seasonally. They have a full upscale pub menu and on the weekends they add live music into the mix. Davidson Brothers also has a brewery and tasting room on Route 9 in Queensbury.

Coopers Cave Ale Company also has their signature brews and a rotation of specialty ales. They also make their own sodas and ice cream. The food at Cooper’s Cave is outstanding and it’s a great place to bring families. They are located on Sagamore Street.

Mean Max, located on Glen Street across from Davidson’s, is one of the new kids on the block. Beer is their thing. They don’t serve food, but the good news is you can bring your own food or order food to be delivered there. In addition to the beer brewed on site, you can also enjoy wines from a local, Washington County winery, Amorici Vineyard. Wednesday is Trivia night and they also have a dart league.

If you venture just over the bridge into South Glens Falls, you will find Common Roots. Like Mean Max, they don’t serve food, but they do have an outside area in the warm weather months. Thursdays is Trivia Night for Common Roots and the first Sunday of the month they have a donation based yoga class. Every Monday, they share a new cask beer.

These are the breweries you can walk to from Glens Falls, but there are plenty more within a 20-25 minute drive. You can check out some of the others on the Glens Falls Beer Trail You can also ride the Hoppy Trails Brew Bus for a safe way to enjoy.

If you’re not still feeling the effects of St. Patrick’s Day, The Glens Falls Beer Festival in March 19, 2016 beginning at 4 pm.

Bourbon and Bitters

Bulleit Bourbon with orange bitters.
Bulleit Bourbon with orange bitters.
I know lots of folks who are into the craft beer movement and that is a topic for another day, but I like my whiskey. In the past few years, I have become especially fond of bourbons. I love the subtle nuances of bourbons. And I love unlocking some of those nuances with flavored bitters. There are quite a few brands on the market and the flavors are limitless. There are even books on making your own bitters. I am a fan of Fee Brothers Bitters . I currently have seven different kinds at home. I have lemon, peach, grapefruit, orange, cranberry, mint and of course the traditional aromatics. Bitters impart flavors without the sweetness of most mixers and they don’t dilute the bourbon. It only takes a few drops of bitters to do the trick.

I have a few of my favorite combinations. My top choice is Basil Hayden with lemon bitters. It’s a lighter bourbon and the brightness of the lemon is perfect. I like to pair Bulleit with orange bitters. For a reasonably priced bourbon, I like Buffalo Trace with grapefruit bitters. I’m not a fan of overly sweet drinks so a great substitute for a Mint Julep is bourbon with mint bitters.

There are some bars that carry flavored bitters, not as many as I would like! Liquids and Solids in Lake Placid is one of my favorites. Keegan at the bar makes some of them herself. Morgan and Company in Glens Falls has a small selection. The Bourbon Room in Saratoga Springs also has a few.

Bitters also have medicinal benefits and mixed with club soda or seltzer is great for settling an upset stomach.

I’d love to hear about other bars that carry a selection of bitters or different combinations of bourbons and bitters.

Morgan and Company

One of the best things that has happened to the culinary scene in this area is Morgan and Company, just a few steps outside my door in Glens Falls!

We ventured in on a weeknight and it was packed. I’ve been there before, but it was my companion’s first time. Our server, Joleen, was an incredible resource to navigate the intriguing menu.

We couldn’t decide on appetizers so we chose quite a few to sample. The Hummus Platter is a must have. It should be called the Mediterranean Platter. There is a little bit of everything. Carrot Puree, Hummus, Spicy Whipped Feta, Fried Chick Peas and Pureed Lentils and my favorites, the Babbaganoush and the Red Pepper and Sun Dried Tomato spread, served with perfectly seasoned pita as vessels for these delicious spreads.

The Lamb Cigars, amazing, seasoned with curry with a spicy Harrissa dipping sauce that was “to die for”! We also had to have the Deviled Eggs, made with Truffle oil and a sprinkle of Truffle salt. The flavor is incredible and you can not go to Morgan and Co and not order them. The Chef, Rebecca Butters, (a Food Network Chopped Champion) sent us out a complimentary order of the Fried Calamari. It was crispy and not at all greasy with the calamari so tender. We also had the Candied Garlic Spare Ribs. I am not a rib person and I could not stop eating them. The ribs were both tender and crispy and we just pulled the meat off the bone. There was just enough kick to keep it interesting but still allowed the meat to be the star of the dish.

Then it was on the the entrees. I chose the Picnic Fried Chicken. I think there was at least half a chicken, so crunchy it had to have been double breaded. I think I could have easily eaten just the outside, but then I would have missed the moist fleshy inside that was packed with flavor, even the white meat! If that wasn’t enough it was served with old fashioned Potato Salad and and a Strawberry Fennel Salad dressed with a Poppy Seed dressing. There was easily enough there for two or three meals. My companion chose the Inca Bowl. A signature concoction with Adobo-spiced Quinoa, Possole ( a Mexican dish that contains Hominy), Kale, Corn and Roasted Vegetables. You can top it with your choice of Chicken, Steak, Shrimp, Scallops or Blackened Swordfish. My companion chose the Steak. It was spicy but the kind of spice that brought out the flavors of the components instead of over powering them.

We enjoyed out appetizers and entrees so much, we had little room for dessert. We decided to split the Chocolate Pot de Creme. It was just the right ending. A little sweet, a little chocolate. I have to admit, with just a short walk home, my dessert included a glass of my favorite bourbon, Basil Hayden on the rocks with a few shakes of orange bitters. They have several different bitters at the bar. If you haven’t tried bitters in your bourbon, you are really missing out!

Watching the Adirondack Balloon Festival from my rooftop
Watching the Adirondack Balloon Festival from my rooftop
September is Balloon Festival in Glens Falls. It is a not to be missed weekend. Make sure to include Morgan and Company in your Ballon Festival plans. I’ll be watching from my roof top.

Ok. I’m a tea snob

I am a self proclaimed “Tea Snob”. I have never had a cup of coffee in my life, I don’t drink soda, ever, so my daytime beverages of choice are water and tea. (My night time beverage of choice is clearly wine!)

I have an entire cabinet in my kitchen devoted to tea. I have loose tea, tea bags, tea pots, tea balls, tea mugs. You name it, I have it. When I am home, it’s easy to have a perfect cup of tea or glass of iced tea. I have a large choice of tea, the right tools to brew it and the right vessel to store it and serve it. The challenge becomes having the perfect cup of tea or glass of iced tea when I am away from home.

It’s not that hard really. Yet I can’t tell you the number of times I have a bad tea experience. Let’s start with the tea itself. Plain Lipton in the white envelope to a tea drinker is like giving Taster’s Choice to a coffee drinker. There doesn’t have to be a huge variety, just a decent brand in a black tea, a green tea and an herbal infusion. Harney and Sons is the best but Republic of Tea or at the very least, Bigelow. Next, do not use the same pot or machine that is used to make coffee. The vile coffee odor and taste over powers the taste and aroma of the tea. If I wanted the flavor of coffee I would have ordered coffee.

Refills- the best way to handle this is to give me a pot of water with my tea bag. Then I have my own back up. If that’s not possible, a new cup with a new bag and new water is essential. After the tea bag cools down, it doesn’t work as well the second time around.

If I ask if you have fresh brewed iced tea that means did someone who works at the restaurant brew it. That doesn’t mean the sitcker on the side of the soda machine says fresh brewed. Fresh brewed iced tea needs to be stored in the refrigerator over night. If you leave it out, it tastes old and moldy. If your iced tea is fresh brewed, you need to completely fill the glass with ice. It melts quick.

Here are some of the places that get tea right. Whistling Kettle. Starbucks. Panera. Uncommon Grounds. Prime at Saratoga National. Fortunate Cup. Poopies, Rockhill Bake House. Mocha Lisa, except for the ice in the iced tea. I know there are others. I would love to hear places you have found with good tea. I am always in pursuit.

Salad Art

Usually I make a lot of salads for dinner in the summer months. For some reason, last night I was craving a salad. I grabbed some organic free range chicken and some hearts of romaine on my way home. From there I just let the ingredients I had at home inspire me. I rubbed the chicken with himalayan salt, course black pepper and some chili powder and onto my cast iron grill pan it went.

A few of my favorite eggs went into some water for a quick hard boil. I found a few mini seedless cucumbers and some grape tomatoes and I was almost there. But I needed cheese. I remembered this delicious goat cheese I picked up at the food co-op.

Salad Art.   Looks as good as it tastes.
Salad Art. Looks as good as it tastes.
As the chicken was ready for slicing and the eggs for peeling I began the assembly process. For me this is where the fun begins. I take my food plating very seriously. I feel like an artist and the plate is my canvass. First I sliced the heart of romaine down the center and laid it “wedge style” on the plate. next came the diced eggs, bright orange and white cubes. Next the bright green peeled and chopped cucumbers followed by the vibrant red tomatoes. A few little dollops of goat cheese and then the succulent chicken. No dish is complete without the kiss of kosher salt and fresh black pepper. We dressed the salad with a sesame vinaigrette and it was time to dine! It was almost too pretty to eat!

Bar Vino, North Creek

First thing I need to tell you about Bar Vino in North Creek is that there is no way I can tell you about all the amazing things to eat and drink at Bar Vino. You just have to go there. So where do I begin?

Authentic Log Cabin, minutes to Gore Mountain.
Authentic Log Cabin, minutes to Gore Mountain.
I could start with the charming ambiance, the over 70 types of beer or more than 30 wines available by the glass. But instead, I am going to skip right to the food.

Bar Vino serves an incredible Tapas menu. The best way to enjoy Tapas is to share with a large group, everyone orders something different and everything is passed around. My five companions and I ordered one of everything!

My favorite small(ish) plate, was the Gnocci. Little morsels of potato filled pasta, deliciously tossed with pancetta and almonds, perfectly finished with a Brandy Cream Sauce. The contrast of the creamy Gnocci and sauce with the crisp pancetta and crunchy almonds was so popular we insisted on a seconds.
Our server informed us that Hummus was a specialty of the Chef. Hummus needs to be creamy, but not runny and this Hummus was perfection. Seasoned with Garam Masala, what a flavor explosion! The Hummus was complimented by spectacular red onion chutney and dill yogurt dip. I couldn’t decide what to put on each piece of the warm, soft flatbread triangles.

Bar Vino serves 3 different versions of Prince Edward Mussels. Our group chose the Abbey Ale, spinach and bacon combination. Well over a dozen mussels, tender, flavorful, so much so, that a few members of the group were looking for spoons to enjoy the rest of the broth!

Many of the menu items boast locally source ingredients. One such treat is the Soy Marinated Kilcoyne Beef Skewers with Peppadew peppers and almonds. Grass fed beef is so flavorful, but if not handled properly can be tough. Not here. The beef was so tender, it melted in your mouth. The combination of the soy sauce and the Peppadew peppers really allowed the flavor of the beef to come through.
My dinner companions would never forgive me if I didn’t mention the Petite Maryland Crabcakes. These crab cakes achieved perfection! Complimented with a surprising leek beurre blanc, this dish was outstanding.

Our ambitious group decided to sample three desserts. I could not pick a favorite. You’ve heard the saying it’s like comparing Apple Pie and Chocolate Cake? Well in this case it is comparing Apple and Sweet Cream Tart and Frozen Spicy Chocolate Tart (and Pumpkin Marscapone Cheesecake!) All three were prepared by a neighboring business, Café Sara. The Apple Tart was not too sweet. The apples were sliced paper thin and struck an ideal balance with the sweet cream and flaky pastry. The Spicy Chocolate Tart follows the trend for the sweet and savory desserts. Just enough heat to bring out the gooey chocolate flavor. I enjoyed the cheesecake so much, I think I will make the drive to pick one up for Thanksgiving!

Whether you are headed to Gore Mountain or just want to wander off the beaten path, Bar Vino is well worth the trip to North Creek. You can feel the warmth of the family that owns Bar Vino in every bite and every sip.

My new favorite eggs

The Glens Falls food co-op has moved into the Arcade Building on South Street in Glens Falls. Conveniently this is only a block and half walk from my loft. I couldn’t be happier! I visited for the first time last week. There were so many amazing things there. I felt like a kid in a candy store! I bought this terrific lip balm that finally cured my chapped lips and “Mary’s Hand Gathered Eggs”.Label of Mary's Hand Gathered Eggs I was so amused by the label I had to try them.

The eggs were beautiful to look at but truly amazing to eat! I like my eggs poached so there is nowhere for a bad egg to hide. The yolks on these eggs were huge and so dark, they were almost orange. I ate the last of them this morning for breakfast and I knew I had to have more. Mary's Hand Gathered Eggs

This afternoon I took a break from a crazy day of real estate and walked over to the co-op. This time I got two dozen of Mary’s eggs and a pound of butter made from the milk of grass fed cows and a wedge of corn bread that I plan to have with Mary’s eggs for breakfast tomorrow!

Top of The Park, Lake Placid, NY

TOP OF THE PARK
Top of the Park in Lake Placid hits all the marks. This welcome new addition to the Lake Placid restaurant scene is located on the second floor of 2047 Main Street overlooking Mirror Lake. Every detail is so well done. Cherry woodwork, french doors opening onto a spectacular deck, even the lighting set the perfect stage for an incredible dining experience.

cropped-547225_3196584875199_234330192_n-1.jpgMy companion and I were presented with two menus. One of course was the food, but the other was a well chosen selection of wines, beer and inventive cocktails.

The menu is a true tapas menu. All small plates, all meant for sharing. We began our meal with a fantastic cheese selection. Artfully presented on a wooden slab, were three cheese selections accompanied by diced dried apricots, poached pear, dried cherries, candied nuts, balsamic reduction and a generous portion of thinly sliced baguette perfectly toasted. I loved creating different combinations of flavors with the fruit and nut accouterments. We also enjoyed the Almond Encrusted Chèvre Fondant. The creamy goat cheese was rolled in almonds and served on top of a shallot marmalade. I could have eaten either component alone and would have been content, but the two combined, finished with a thin slice of truffle and accented by a balsamic reduction, this dish was over the top.

Our second course was equally impressive. We sampled the Roast Quail. It was moist and flavorful, served with a mouthwatering mushroom ragout and a nutty wild rice. I really loved the red wine reduction that delicately laced the plate and provided just the right finishing touch. We also enjoyed one of the daily specials. It was Wagyu Beef and Boursin Rangoon. The beef and cheese were expertly blended and nestled in wonton wrappers and lightly fried. The flavor of the rangoon was perfectly matched with a Sweet Thai Chili Sauce.

As amazing as everything was to this point, the winner of the night was dessert. We ordered both the Poached Pear and the Aged Chocolate Balsamic Glazed Strawberry. The poached pear had a great consistency, not mushy or grainy, served with a vanilla ice cream that you could see and taste the vanilla bean in it, plated with a thick caramel sauce that I could have eaten all by itself. The absolute must have is the strawberry dish. Sliced berries in a chocolate balsamic vinegar. I am usually good about being able to predict a how something will taste by the description, but this exceeded all of my expectations. I am a fan of pairing balsamic vinegar with fruit, but this chocolate balsamic opens up a whole new world. It was served with the same vanilla ice cream as the poached pear, but I just couldn’t stop eating the strawberries.

Top of the Park has an impressive selection of Scotch and Bourbon. On a previous visit for a Cigar Dinner, I sampled a few of the Bourbons and Scotch. I was also impressed to find a decent selection of bitters. My favorite night cap is a Bourbon on the the rocks with a few shakes of flavored bitters. The combinations here between the bitters and the Bourbons is endless, so I know I will be back.

My experience at Top of the Park was flawless. From the food to the service to the atmosphere and the view, there wasn’t a single thing I would change.

As Published in HerLife New York.