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.