Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tricoastal Holiday Fun and Nostalgia

  The name of this blog reflects my and my family's love of the Atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes coasts.  On Christmas Eve, all these coasts came together in Pasadena's branch of  Cost Plus World Market, a retail chain that is part Pier One Imports, part Trader Joe's and part "je ne sais quoi." 
  We had a delightful Christmas Eve morning at the store, looking at: housewares and glassware from places such as India, Tunisia and Portugal; chocolates from Canada; wines from California and Italy; and an excellent series of dog cards not found in the malls. 
  Although all of this food, drink and merchanidise are incredibly fun and wonderful, Pasadena World Market often hits the highest numbers on the eclecto-meter with its beer selection.  In September, they had a pumpkin beer made in western New York that had a connection to the Buffalo Bills, the only real New York football team - - which is destined for Super Bowl glory.
  Yesterday, the store hit another high on the beer ecleto-meter.  World Market now offers its customers the chance to assemble a six pack from a great assortment of imported beers and micro-brews. 
  Their inventory includes Genesee Cream Ale, in the short, iconic brown bottles that the Rochester, New York beer company used in the 1960's and 1970's. 
  Genesee was a strong regional beer brand.  At one point, it had a series of witty commercials that were narrated by the late Fred Gwynne.  Then it dropped out of sight.
  Now, Genesee is back.  I do not know how it will do with a new generation of beer drinkers and a new market on the West Coast, but seeing it in the World Market was a pleasant reminder of past travels. 
  My father took me on a college trip to Syracuse in April, 1972.  While we were stranded in a rural motel, waiting out a spring blizzard, we saw these television commercials with upstate expatriates in places such as Oregon, and ending with the comment, "I miss my Genny." 
  On one fishing trip to the Delaware River in the Catskills, my friend Bryce Butler and I fished this trout stream on a humid summer night.  Afterward, we found a restaurant open late in Hancock, New York that had organic cheeseburgers, before the concept was fashionable.  We had Genesee beer in long neck bottles with these excellent burgers.  The beer's taste and coldness made it one of the best beers I have ever had.
  Some years earlier, on a trip along the Great Lakes, I came to Sodus Bay, in Wayne County east of Rochester.  The Bay had a large building and dock complex which was Genesee's malt house.  At the mouth of the Bay was two long, sturdy breakwaters and a lighthouse. 
  While Sodus Bay was more neglected and used for recreation when I visited it, it was amazing to see that this place was once a major Great Lakes port.  In my mind, I could hear the sounds of railroad locomotives and cars banging in the yard and the sounds of ship whistles and horns in the bay.
  Genesee Beer is hardly one of those far madeleines that inspired Proust's personal associations that made him a best seller and staple in literature classes.  But seeing Genesee in the World Market this week was a surprise gift.  It reminded me of friends, family and travel in the past, present and future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eastern Sierra Eateries

Whether you are in a blizzard of mayflies on a trout stream or a blizzard of snow on the ski slopes, you will find lots of great, reasonably priced food in the eastern Sierras.

If you leave Los Angeles early in the morning for the Sierras, you are likely to feel hungry about the time you reach the village of Lone Pine.

Just off Main Street is the Alabama Hills Café, with a breakfast worth the long drive. The Café, named after the hills to the west of Lone Pine, serves traditional, innovative and healthy breakfasts. My friend Dennis and I both tried pancakes: Dennis ordered them with fresh blueberries, I tried honey wheat nine grain. All around the room, we saw happy eaters enjoying fruit salads, waffles piled high with toppings healthy and decadent and home-made pastries with a cup of coffee.

The Alabama Hills have been the setting for many movies, from early westerns to Star Trek episodes. I wonder if they came for a meal at the Café; oops, many of the films appeared before the Café was open . . .

For more about the region’s movie history, visit http://www.eugenecarsey.com/camp/alabamahills/movies.htm.

For anglers a key requirement of a good restaurant is that it is open before or after the fishing trip. After some action-packed fishing on the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, Dennis and I were driving through Mammoth, seeking a restaurant still serving at day’s end. Through the surprisingly dark late summer night, we found Thai’D Up. We both enjoyed Pad Thai with a rich, brown sauce and two different beers from a local microbrewery.

The next day, we ate a competent breakfast at the MacDonald’s in Mammoth. The food was a capably rendered MacDonald’s breakfast. What was noteworthy about the experience was how attractive this restaurant was. It looked more like a Victorian mansion than a fast-food outlet.

We had lunch in June Lake, at the Tiger Bar and Cafe. We had great sandwiches, a French Dip with roast beef and a Reuben. The server was capable and friendly; the food arrived just in time for several tired anglers.

After staying later on the stream the next night, even fewer restaurants in Mammoth were open. So, we went to a Von’s and got an assortment of appetizers, salads and cold cuts. We had these back at the hotel and accompanied them with one of the last bottles of Steelhead Red wine on the West Coast.

Before returning to LA, we had breakfast at The Breakfast Club. We had meals, excellently cooked and capably served. Sometimes simple foods, grilled steak, home fries or yellow cake, are the hardest to cook right. The Breakfast Club got the basics exactly right.

It was sad to leave the Sierras. However, I plan to return next year. It will be great to dine at these favorites again - - or to experiment and enjoy new restaurants.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Milano Restaurant in suburban Albany

The dining room and some dinner treats!
 Milano Restaurant, in Latham New York, is a warm, attractive place, in a suburban shopping center. It is a large-ish restaurant with lots of tables. Thanks to good interior design, the place feels busy but not crowded.

The restaurant kitchen is open to the dining room. My life dining out often includes regret, wanting to order something else about just after a server brings another dish to a neighboring table. Milano’s open kitchen offers a non-intrusive view of menu options.

Milano has excellent staff. The maitre d’ was welcoming. Kimberly, our waitress, was attentive without being intrusive. She was knowledgeable about the different menu entrees.

We started with cocktails. The Milano bartender knows that a person can never make a gin martini, served up with a twist, too cold. He or she is gifted at making a Manhattan straight up with Wild Turkey. The drink was so nice that I tried to duplicate it at home - - but had no luck.

The only drinking concern was the restaurant’s house Pinot Grigio, Santi Sortesel. It was drinkable but did not have any personality or zing.

The menu is appealing, with a nice selection of traditional and innovative Italian dishes. It has a variety of items depending on a person’s appetite and price; you can order a complete dinner or a pizza.

Milano’s opens dinner with warm and fresh bread with a dipping sauce. I started dinner with an Insalata Milano. The salad was generous and was filled with fresh vegetables.

For entrees, we had linguine all’ Adriatica and linguine with white clam sauce. The linguine in both dishes, spinach for the Adriatica and regular for the clam sauce, appeared to be homemade. The linguine all’ Adriatica had scallops, shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams, red peppers, leeks and tomatoes in a white wine sauce.

The linguine with clam sauce was capably prepared. The linguine was cooked just right and the sauce had a generous amount of clams in it.

There was a small dinner party next to us. We had a short chat with the two couples about the menu. It was nice to have people nearby but not intruding, as happened at one dinner at another restaurant, where an over served guest in an adjoining booth was declaiming loudly about special male medical afflictions he was experiencing.

This was a delightful dinner and we plan to return!


Milano is located at 594 New Loudon Road, Latham, New York. 
The telephone number is 518-783-3334

What's next?

In the next few days, look for posts on dining in Albany and the eastern Sierras.  Two posts are almost ready to roll, they just need pictures. 

Hope everyone is having a great holiday so far.  Boy, 2012 rocketed by, didn't it?