We lost Left Coast Kitchen. We can’t lose Eddie’s. The Kew Gardens antiquity with its homemade ice cream must be preserved on Metropolitan Avenue. Go there! Take out is open! And you can brag next time it shows up on a TV show or in a movie!
A descendant of those New American cuisine restaurants that gave you variations on theme to only occasionally gratifying effect. Except the effect of Left Coast Kitchen, in Merrick, NY, is quite gratifying. As such, the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger actually works as more than the sum of its what-might-be-considered-disparate parts. Brunch is particularly appealing, with the Sneaky Pete slipping in a jolt of spicy flavor, as the image above hints. Highly recommended. http://lckny.com
Clearview: A charming, laid-back, friendly vineyard. Good wines, music, just a great for relaxing, sampling and kicking back with a glass. A southern stop on the underrated Shawangunk Wine Trail.
If you are in NYC around Halloween time you have to visit Abracadabra on 21st St. If you are not in NYC around Halloween time you have to visit Abracadabra on 21st St. It’s magic. And it’s loaded with good taste going in and out.
Portland has a lot of great brewpubs and tasting rooms, and they vary in approach from foundational, Gritty McDuff’s, to traditional, Shipyard, to continental, Oxbow, to outdoorsy, Rising Tide. However, for a distinct experience, try the Urban Farm Fermentory & Gruit Brewing Co., a relaxed, New Agey drinking experience just across the street from the Lone Pine/Goodfire, back to back operations, and despite their good reps, I’ll not direct you to them due to their sin of tapping too many IPAs. The approach to brewing at Urban Farm Fermentory is creative and pretty unique, featuring beer, mead, cider, kambucha and jun. What’s jun? Check out the bottom right corner of the photo. The illustrated explanation may help. Or not. They even had a pettable dachshund at the bar. Is any hot dog safe in a room of people drinking beer…and some other beverages I’ll tentatively identify as related…? Well, the other customers may have been vegetarians. And we’d already eaten, so…Anyway, said dachshund, seemed as chilled as the two-leggers. I particularly like a sourish brew called Biscuit Phrase, which somehow had a yogurt component. Didn’t hurt, may have helped, good beer, whatever the case.
Okay, so it’s a chain restaurant, which I found out after eating, but who cares? Its dining room is casual and comfortable, the staff is attentive and the back and rear deck look out on Casco Bay. They have pies that are effectively pizzas with tomato sauce, but you can go without as well. I stumbled upon Punctuated Equilibrium with Kalamata olives, rosemary, red onions, Sunset Acres goat cheese, fire-roasted sweet red peppers and whole milk mozzarella baked on bread dough with homemade garlic oil and herbs. Ingredients run to the organic, if you are into that sort of thing. Very good and inexpensive.
What the hell, say I, when you’re toutistring about, may the calories burn in the fires of flaky perdition. Or something like that. Ham and cheese croissant: Sinful! Almond croissant, with nice, light whipped cream sandwiched in the middle: Sinfuler! But the Blueberry Violet Cheesecake: Not even Fr. Egan could come up with a penance long, dreary and severe enough to get you off the hook for that one. But you weren’t gonna see heaven anyway, were you? So you better sink your teeth in whilst here. Oh, and the peanut butter sandwich cookie was monsterous.
Outstanding. We ate in the close, cool downstairs bar and dining room part of the historic, building. The almond crusted goat cheese salad and stuffed lobster were excellent but the portobello mushroom Alouette cheese appetizer was out of this world, and I don’t throw around extra-planetary superlatives a lot. They had a prickly pear sour beer from Two Roads Brewing, Stratford CT, that was first rate and quite sour. More on that latter. Best go visit Dan Packer whilst in the vicinity.
The food is great, but, no matter what, get the Verde Margarita!
Hunter Mountain has other than skiing, in part because there ain’t no snow in the summer. The place runs a German Festival, Mountain Jam, Oktoberfest and the Celtic Festival. Sharon and I discovered the Celtic Festival at the last minute a year ago and had a great time, so we decided to spend a weekend checking it out this summer. We stayed at the Scribner Hollow Lodge, fun ol’ place, real ski lodge, a little banged up, but in a kind of ideal way: Old ski posters a little faded, busted but serviceable handle on the screen door to the balcony. That sort of thing. Just enough to give it character, but otherwise, well kept, clean, pleasantly odd. The hallway to the rooms on the second floor was a literal hall, 30 feet or so wide and littered with tables and chairs as if a banquet might kick off at any time. What exactly happens there, I have no idea. Mysteries aside, friendly innkeepers. Really good restaurant that serves, among other things, German sausage from what’s billed as Woodstock’s classic purveyors of pigscumbers, among other dishes. Generous breakfast. All at reasonable prices. To me, a great contrast to the cookie cutter chain hotels that I usually habituate on business trips.
The festival itself is a bargain. Just sixteen bucks and an incredible tumult of music. Main stage in a tent, mountain stage out in the open, main bar stage. You can take the ski lift to the mountaintop where you get ejected to another bar with music. Haven’t gotten there yet. Maybe next year.
So, as to the lowland music, lots of pipe bands. By which I mean bagpipes. Now, I recognize that bagpipes aren’t to everyone’s taste. I love them. As much as I’m Celtic, the affection is in the blood. I do understand how some people liken bagpipes, sound wise, to a cat screaming its way through a wood chipper. I will pause to apologize to cat lovers. However, similar similes have been made before. Similes aren’t to everyone’s taste either, but I like Raymond Chandler, another indications of my tastes. Don’t hate me.
Oh, hate me, I don’t care.
But back to the subject at hand.
Celtica was a band among the headliners last year. Hard rock with bagpipes. Yes, really. Celtica hooked me at the get go. The music is even on my phone. One of the bands that makes running on a treadmill tolerable. Fast paced, rollicking. I am not a fan of the XXX mixed with XXX formula to establish a creative identification. However, the band does cover AC/DC songs. With bagpipes. You get the drift. Celtica also covers show tunes, and any number of other genres. Which proves bagpipes go with everything. Yes, I just wrote that. Who says I don’t have guts.
Celtica frequently refers to fire in its music. This year, the act had an addition. Flaming bagpipes. Flaming guitar.
Flaming base. Most bands just risk the occasional cross-stage fling initiated by a drunken stagehand who incorrectly wires an amplifier line. Celtica takes its chances with back-lashed propane tanks generating flaming amplification of its music. Commitment. John Adams would be proud. Or psychotically enraged. But he only functioned on those two levels, so…
Great stage show. Celtica had a bit of fire dancing, too, thanks to the group’s keyboard player.
The Screaming Orphans were another matter. Not orphans, by the way, but sisters from a musical family resident of County Donegal. That’s in Ireland. It’s a part of a whole country. Mostly. We’re working on that.
Screaming Orphans music reflects the work in progress. The band does traditional Irish music with a kick. It also cranks New Wave-inspired rock. You can here a lilt of Cranberries inspiration in it, although more of the rollicking stuff rather than the tunes where Delores works her substantial pipes. What’s important, though, is the band has its own sound. Percussive and melodic. As for the show, sans flames, the Screaming Orphans like to banter, with the audience, but mostly with each other. The drummer and the guitarist enjoy bickering, to good comic effect. Still, what is most outstanding about the band is the terrific musicianship. Rhythm guitar, keyboards, drums, all outstanding. That being said, the fiddling particularly impressed me. The fiddle sis splits time on the bass, but when she gets going with the bowstrings, she shoots bulls eyes.
Kevin McKrell is a mostly straight up folk singer, and very good at it. Told great stories about his songs, too. Asked about how many people had ever been walking around Dublin at four in the morning. Happy to say, I was among the handful of the audience to raise a hand. Bad Bob’s. But that’s a story for another day. Beyond the songs and humor, he had this guy, who, frankly, looked a little like Uncle Fester, banging away as percussion on this box thing I’ve never seen before, and wonderfully. Made things interesting.
The Fighting Jamesons played on the mountain stage. Almost missed the band being lulled to slumberous by Andy something from Long Island who we stopped to sample in between acts that we wanted to hear. Bleh. All I hate in crappy regurgitated Irishesque music. I’m sure if the Wolftones weren’t getting on in years, the boys would have beaten him silly by now. As another reference, for practicality’s sake, I can mention the Pogues as a Fighting Jamesons inspiration, at least in terms of attitude, but, take into consideration that the reference only provides a rough sense of the music. I really do dislike such comparisons, except in their utility. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the hell out of The Fighting Jamesons for their own music and enthusiasm. The band took risks on stage, even bringing up a little audience member to sing a replacement word in the particular vulgar audience response expected during the performance of the Boston Irish classic The Man Who Never Returned, in consideration of a family audience. The coup didn’t exactly work so much as it added a bit of charm to the show. I also enjoyed the singer/guitarist busting the chops of his uncles in the audience. If you want to have a great time at a pub, and yell the hell out the improper response to the aforementioned song, look them up.
You don’t have to be Celtic to enjoy such illuminate tomfoolery. The Hunter festival, and the range of the venue’s festivals, make for a great weekend. No matter what your ethnicity. Plus, the joint put on great fireworks.