Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Apologies and lamentations...

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Baby born, fieldwork is at a standstill (and fairly local), so posts are slow in the making. Sorry for the lack of content, but we haven't been eating or digging!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Slickers (Old Forge, NY)

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Yessah, That's Right Slick

It's time for the digging and eating season again. I want to kick off the new season with a one of my all-time favorite places to eat in NY, Slickers. Since I finally got the chance to do a few projects in the Old Forge area in the last few years, I am now allowed to include Slickers as full-fledged field-friendly fodder for review. Old Forge is the first town I visited in the Adirondacks after I moved to New York from Maine, and I got the chance to eat at their local pub, Slickers. Situated on the East edge of town, the restaurant is sheatged in electric yellow; hard to miss. The hand-drawn menus are charming, and the small selection of cheap beer on-tap includes both Saranac Adirondack Lager and Black Forest (hard to find on tap anywhere).

My favorite thing on the menu is the fried Haddock Sandwich, one of the very best (and largest) in the state. Their big menu of Pub-style food is actually really good, and they do offer slightly more inspired specials for dinner. My wife really enjoyed a seared tuna soft-taco the last time we were there. I seem to always find myself in Old Forge in late fall, right before and during the Moose River Festival, and during the Red Sox' annual playoff series (at least most of the last 6 years). Slickers tends to be the place a lot Kayakers congregate the first night of the festival, though a few decent bars downtown have drawn away a little of the crowd in recent years.
Slickers isn't the only decent place in town to eat, but it should be your first, in any season.

Bonus Old Forge mention: On the West side of town, The Muffin Patch. Excellent Muffins, and Bananas Foster Pancakes. Double Awesome on a plate.

They have a site! Slickers

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lisa's Pane Di Casa (Cortland, NY)

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Light at the end of the tunnel

This might be the best week ever: I am working on local projects; The US Men's National team clinched their spot in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and I got to eat at the best little bakery in Central New York for lunch yesterday. I can't believe I haven't devoted an entry to this place yet!
This place is such a hidden gem that my crew didn't even believe me that I knew where I was going while I dragged their questioning, soggy, sniffling, incredulous butts through the hallway from the front of the building on Main St to the back where the bakery faces the rear parking lot. I never remember to park back there, since the main street in Cortland is Deathrace 2000.
I can recommend everything they make. No, really. Crispy oatmeal scones (with or without cinnamon glaze), cookies of all types, fresh artisan breads, three daily soups, a few Green Mountain Brews, and even some simple sandwiches. The dining room is small, but inviting, and the atmosphere makes you really think you've found the best new secret place to eat, even if the line is 20 deep, snaking out the door and down the hallway. The best bet is a cup of the tomato soup, which has a brilliant tangy wine finish, and a slice of soft white bread to boot.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Silo Restaurant and Country Store (Queensbury, NY)

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The Silo Restaurant and Country Store
Queensbury, NY

The hungry archaeologist rarely turns her nose up at a free hotel breakfast no matter what the menu. But sometimes the same stale starch gets a little humdrum. Fortunately, for guests of the Quality Inn in Queensbury, The Silo restaurant and country store is steps away.

Hooray for adaptive reuse!
The building looks out of sorts on this strip of common stores and chain restaurants. This structure was created from the framework of two barns and a 19th century silo relocated from Saratoga County. The National Park Service has noted that silos, which only became regular features in the last decades of the 19th century, have become so closely associated with barns that they have lost their separate identities. Looking around the restaurant area, diners will see several hand-hewn timbers. While no specific information surrounding the history of the silo was readily available at this time, the restaurant is currently updating the “history” page of it’s website: Here you can find some images of the silo move and restaurant (re)construction – more detail is promised in the near future.

The food was delicious, creative and plentiful. While their menu offers a fairly standard (yet oversized) selection, our waitress revealed that The Silo’s chef goes all out to create inventive daily specials. On this day’s menu I found the Farmer’s Crepe with Chipotle Hollandaise: a perfectly crafted crepe stuffed with fluffy-light scrambled eggs, ham, cheese, peppers and onions accompanied with hand-cut, perfectly seasoned potatoes. Although not having quite the same appetite, we were lured back the following day for a lighter breakfast and we brought friends. And from the bakery case a triple berry apple muffin cried out to be grilled. Yum.

Ten dollars for a full breakfast can seem a bit shocking, but the portions provided a more than adequate breakfast as well as satisfying dinner that evening. Together with the bottomless quality coffee – which included a very large cup to go – The Silo breakfast is a decent value. I was truly enamored with the paper place mats. Printed with over a dozen illustrations of barn varieties and brief descriptions for each, they were effective in both absorbing coffee rings and evoking a sense of time when “the farmer was king and barns were the palaces of America” (as one description states). This, I found to be a quote from An Age of Barns by Eric Sloane.

With three floors of trinkets and treasures in addition to the restaurant, The Silo experience lies somewhere between The Vermont Country Store and Cracker Barrel. Cleverly located between the restaurant and its exit, the candy counter offers a selection of handmade candies and favorites. This reviewer recommends the monstrous cashew caramel turtle (note scale).

As for the spaces beyond the candy counter of the country store, you’ll have to find out for yourself. However, The Silo claims, “Our products are as unique as the history of the Silo itself!” I anticipate the posting of this Saratoga County silo’s elusive history . . .

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kebab's (Aviation Mall, Queensbury, NY)

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Dr. Besom's Haiku Revu

yummy lamb kebab
with tasty basmati rice
served up with a smile

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Common Man's Bistro (Lake George, NY)

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No Instruments on the walls, thankfully.

I am not sure why this restaurateur thinks he can draw in the common man by joining the words "Common Man" and "Bistro." I know a few people, food-lovers even, who would never eat in a self-described Bistro. Though I have a hatred for anything described as sumptuous, decadent, sinful, or classified as Tuscan, a bistro is ok with me, as long as the food is good. This place serves some pretty good food, and I can recommend it without reservation.

Inside the place, it seems to be a mix between an authentic bistro and a Panera Bread, and I couldn't figure out if this were one of a few semi-local chain establishments. Research on google maps shows it is one-of-a-kind. I usually wouldn't say much about the finer points of a restaurant's decor, but I have to say, it looks like it was finished by one of the teams from Trading Spaces. On the surface, it looks like a classy place, but upon closer examination, it looks a little low-budget and cobbled together. That's all the negative, I promise.

Beer, wine, co-opted Starbucks coffee, fresh-baked goods, Panini, and full entrees can be found here. They serve breakfast on the weekends, and lunch and dinner every day. Prices are very reasonable for such a tourist trap as is Lake George, and most plates come with CMB's homemade chips, which are quite excellent. They brought to mind the eating of McDonald's fries when I was very young, when nothing in the culinary world could bring more joy to my heart. They must use an oil and cooking temperature similar to the old ways at McD's. This might seem like a negative comparison, but I really mean it in the most complimentary of ways, I assure you. I ordered the veggie sandwich, which came on a choice of fresh baked breads (I chose sourdough, and correctly) with cucumber, lettuce, tomato, onion, grilled portobello, a cucumber-wasabi dressing, and a little hit of Balsamic Vinegar. Truly it was the best thing I ate last week, and it came after two annoying interactions with pizza-centric salespeople down the block.

Sad is the town that is abandoned by the summer crowds, and many people have written essays about the end of summer, the lonely winds of fall, the twilight of an age, etc. I will just say that if you are stuck looking for a place to eat in Lake George late in the evening, go to the Common Man's Bistro for some faux-chain restaurant good eats.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Union Hall Inn (Johnstown, NY)

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Old Building, Good Food

Yes, I admit we snickered at the date posted on the building as we entered. It was built in 1798, but has the bold roof-line styling of the Italianate, which would date to mid-19th century. That makes us jerks, and nerds, at the same time. Looking at the building from a distance, though, and it's definitely solidly Federal style, and at a grand scale, too.

these people look excited to respresent the rich history of Johnstown.

Six newly washed archaeologists walking into a fine establishment, we were a little self-conscious, and rightly so. The inn is well preserved and appointed, and we almost didn't belong. Thanks to a small tap-room to the side, we felt comfortable enough to stay. Seated along the bar was a foursome of well-to-do locals, fresh off the links. Thankfully they looked upon us with interest and not disdain, and even engaged us with some friendly drunken banter. The prices on the pub menu were a little shocking, and out of our usual range, but we had already walked around town for 45 minutes and could not suffer another minute without dinner.

Sometimes it is frustrating when everything on a menu looks like a winner. Beet salad, Macaroni , Cheese and Crispy Prociutto (or was is Pancetta?), Sirloin Stew with Root Vegetables, some tasty application of Gnocchi. I ordered the Sirloin Stew and spent 30
happy minutes picking through sirloin tips, beets, carrots, potatoes, onions, and asparagus bathing in a brilliant gravy. With positive reactions from the rest of the table, I knew we picked the right place, even if our bank accounts cried out in pain from the funds withdrawn to cover the bill. The most remarkable thing came at the end, when most of the table ordered strawberry-rhubarb crisps, served fresh-baked in tall ramekins, resembling a muffin, with a scoop of ice cream on top. It was the best dessert I will ever get the chance to enjoy, hands down.

Some other local distraction. . .

Before dinner, we stopped by the town father William Johnson's home, a massive Early Federal built in 1762 to reside in and host the regional chapter of Freemasons. Johnson, the British liaison to the Native American people, hoped to extend the network of Freemasons westward into the Mohawk Valley. The first thing I noticed about the massive slab of a house as we approached from the parking lot was that none of the clapboards overlapped. Actually, there were no clapboards, but a flat-fitted siding that was grooved with lines to approximate the look of a stone-block house, as was all the rage in Albany. According to one of the Historic Preservationists that was on hand to chat, the wood was even prepared to look like weathered grey stone. Whether it was due to lack of local material, or lack of the financial means to acquire it, Johnson felt he needed to keep up appearances with his rich social equals in the capital. To me, it stinks of 1970's wood paneling, or faux brick tar panel siding.

One of the more interesting things, other than the painstakingly restored interior of the house (which you can learn more about), the director of the park delighted us with a peek at the interior of one of the stout stone outbuildings. Among the intact and stalwart wood framing and the tantalizing peek into the partially filled cellar, we got to see a section of the main house's original timber frames. As they were restoring the house (which had seen some very bizarre transformations in the Victorian Style, and in the early 20th
century) they found a beam from the side of the house with an intact gutter carved in one piece! What was really interesting is how much this gutter from the 1760's (we presume) looks identical to the shape of the plastic gutters we hang on our homes today. The beams were probably half a ton each, which would be a lot harder to replace. One can imagine how easily organic matter would have built up and started the rot. If you are ever looking for something to do, give them a ring at Johnson Hall, and try to stop by from Thursday to Saturday to get a look inside the house and outbuildings. The collection of personal effects (including an arsenal of muskets, wigs, wall hangings, clothing, toys, and more) in the house is mind-blowing, and was collected and purchased over many years by the director of the park.