Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Fair Day, Kind Of

I headed out to a neighborhood not too far from where I live in Downtown Brooklyn. This neighborhood is called the Waterfront District, and for good reason. It is a narrow neighborhood bordered by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) to the east and the New York Harbor to the west. It used to be a really rough and tumble area and not too many years ago it wasn't a place you felt comfortable in after dark. Now it has become a fairly hip neighborhood where a lot of East Village types have migrated too when the East Village became a bit pricey and, some would say, a bit plastic. For the record, I still think the East Village is cool, but then I am a bit of an old fart. There was supposed to be a small street fair but it had been canceled due to the threat of rain. It was a bit overcast and drizzly.

I could see from a distance that there wasn't any fair, but of course I also saw something that caught my eye.

Gosh, Could That Be A Bar?

It Was!! It Was!! Actually, it was Moonshine, the bar at 317 Columbia Street that was supposed to be sponsoring the fair.


Well, fair or not, I was going to stop in and have me a beer.

Marni was the friendly and very busy bartender who poured me my Brooklyn Brown Ale in an old mason jar. Get it, Moonshine, mason jars. Cute, but effective. The Brown Ale is a nice dark creamy concoction that is a bit hoppier than most brown ales. Very drinkable and not so heavy that you couldn't have a few.

Barman and Marni

They also sold buckets of four cans of beer for five bucks. A great place to go to basically get hammered.

There was a bit of an assorted crowd hanging out here on a dreary Saturday afternoon.

Sonia and Orion

Sonia was the one with the visible tattoos. I don't know if Orion had any yet. Sonia used to live in the East Village and had recently moved to Redhook, an adjacent neighborhood. I don't know if you are allowed to have children in the East Village, but there were plenty of them in here. It was a true neighborhood bar in the style of the pubs you find in Ireland where the whole family hangs out.

A Good Spot To Just Hang Out

They have a pool table in here and darts and the obligatory Big Buck Hunter game. They also had a really neat area out back.

The Back Yard

The really cool thing was that they had a couple of nice grills and you could use them to fix whatever you brought.

Community Grill

Considering that Barman loves to grill but lives in an apartment this place rates a return visit. Next time with a slab of ribs or something.

All in all it was a very friendly place with a nice crowd and I could easily have settled in for a long stay. But, I just had my one beer and toddled off down the street. Maybe I could have taken their limo, a nice touch.

The Moonshine Limo

Not too far away was Sugar, a bar I hadn't previously visited.


I can't say they spared no expense on their window decoration, which was basically just packets of sugar.

Sugar at Sugar

No kids in this bar but, interestingly, except for me everyone in the place was there for a baby shower.

The Party Room

I was offered a piece of cake but because I was watching my girlish figure I settled for a Brooklyn Pennant Pale Ale 55 instead. This is a nice English style ale the color of honey with a nice malty flavor. It is named in honor of the Brooklyn Dodgers who won the pennant in 1955.

Barman Wins The Pennant

Heading on home I had to pass, or at least try to pass, Pete's Waterfront Ale House. They were running the Preakness today but I decided to hit a trifecta of my own by having a Brooklyn Blast.

Barman Having A Blast

Brooklyn Blast, which I have written about before, is a strong (8%) ale with some notable hops to it, but not at all over-the-top. Dangerously drinkable.

The bartender also gave me a taste of Sly Fox Amarillo IPA and I liked it so much I had one of those as well. Amarillo is the type of hops that they use to make the beer and it gives it a bit of a pine flavor. Nothing overpowering though and this is an excellent IPA with a crisp citrus flavor. Sly Fox started out in 1994 as a brew pub and restaurant just outside of Philadelphia but has since added a full brewery. You don't see too many of their beers here in New York but if I ever get out their way I will certainly stop in. They put out a large selection of beers and I would like to try some of their other offerings. The Jake's ESB sounds like it would be mighty tasty.

I often mention about how the food at Pete's is well beyond the usual pub grub so I decided to take a look at today's specials.

Today's Specials

The Wild Boar Meatballs sounded interesting as did the Braised Buffalo Short Ribs with Asian Blackbean Sauce. Tempting, but the Asian Blackbean Sauce reminded me that the Mysterious Chinese Woman was fixing duck legs for dinner and I dared not linger.

The talent behind the food at Pete's is Jim who, busy as he is, always has a bit of time to chat with the customers.

The Talented and Creative Jim

As always, if you are in the neighborhood you should stop in for a beer and, time permitting, a bite to eat. You can't go wrong.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Like Ike's

Interestingly, I live in New York which, arguably, has more great restaurants and bars than any other city in the world. On the other hand, the bars in the airports leave a lot to be desired. On the other hand, I grew up in Minneapolis and return there on a regular basis. Although Minneapolis has a number of very good restaurants and bars, its airport really shines. In terms of bars and restaurants it is easily one of my very favorite airports. If I have the time I may do a whole blog on them. Of course the big problem is that you actually have to go through airport security, which means having a ticket, to visit them. This is a pity, really. With the new light-rail system that goes right downtown you could easily visit the airport just to have a few drinks and dinner. But I am not going to buy an airplane ticket just to do that.


Ike's is a recent addition. They first opened a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis that I visited (not for the first time) back on September 19th, 2005 when I was hitting my 1000 bars. It was, in fact, bar number 800 and you can see that I liked it. I spotted the one in the airport when I flew into Minneapolis on Thursday but didn't have time to stop. Luckily I did have time to stop before I headed back to New York.

In fact I had enough time to have a wonderful steak dinner with a half-bottle of a nice red wine. Again, most definitely not your typical airport food. Before dinner I did hit the bar for a beer.

Barman at Ike's Bar

A tip of the hat to Betsy Grierson who recognized my tee-shirt in the above picture and wanted to know if I had actually gotten buzzed at the Chainsaw Sisters.

I had a local beer, Summit Extra Pale Ale, brewed by Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul. Crisp, hoppy, and quite delicious. Minneapolis and St. Paul are known as the Twin Cities and, of course, are the home of the Minnesota Twins who actually play in Minneapolis and really should be known as the Minneapolis Only Child. Now the New York Jets and the New York Giants both play in New Jersey. Go figure. We won't discuss why The Twins are the only baseball team that I can think of named after a state instead of a city. The New York Mets and Yankees are named after the city of New York, not the state, and actually play in the city. But anyway, I digress.

Note: The Flower Guy from Miami Petal pointed out that the Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins, and Arizona Diamondbacks are also baseball teams named after states and not cities. Barman should stick to what he knows best; bars, not baseball.

Michelle Doyle also pointed out that I forgot about the Colorado Rockies. Damn, I could have sworn they were a hockey team.

If you get a chance, be sure to stop in at Ike's. You can do this even if you are a Democrat because Ike's is named not after Eisenhower, but a relative of the owner's.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brokeback Cabin

We managed to get back to Brokeback Cabin before dark and immediately set out to do the important things. First on the list was setting up and testing the beer station.

Rico and the Beer Station

Some of you may know that my friend Bruce is an excellent brewer of beer and he was the one who came up with this excellent device. It incorporates a five gallon container similar to the one that dispenses soft-drinks and another container of pressurized gas of some sort that keeps the beer under pressure. A lot slicker than trying to keep those kegs pumped up. Plus, the container is insulated enough so it keeps the beer cold for a long time without having to submerge it in a bucket of ice. Who says you don't get smarter as you get older?

The next step was to break out the supplies make a mess inside the cabin. We are very good at this.

The Mess

By this time it was getting late and we were privileged to a beautiful sunset, or maybe a sunrise. It gets a bit confusing.

Sunset or Sunrise

The first night we usually have something quick to eat, sauerkraut and sausages this time. As the weekend goes on, however, we have more interesting fare. Wonderful beef shanks braised by my brother, an excellent cook, braised venison shanks prepared by yours truly, linquini with an anchovie, butter, and honey sauce (my brother's creation and much better than it might sound), and much more.

Barman Preparing Venison Shanks

There were more snacks than you could imagine and two of the favorites were pickled pike and pickled peppers prepared by Bruce.

I slept a bit fitfully that first night because there was a big lump right in the middle of my fairly small bed. In the morning I found out why. My "buddy" Rico had placed a can of beans under my mattress to get back at me for grabbing one of the beds in the main cabin. This is considered a coup because the majority of the group has to sleep in a separate guest cabin. You can imagine what it is like in there with six guys who have had sauerkraut and sausages for dinner washed down with copious quantities of beer.

Rico and Beans

Bright and early the next morning Chris and Cubby could be found on the deck studiously attacking crossword puzzles and having their morning beer.

Chris and Cubby

We don't actually spend too much time on the lake, but my brother, Marty, brought up a kayak and Jerry, the owner of Brokeback Cabin, took it out for a spin.

Jerry Kayaking

Others were content to lounge on a raft that remained securely on shore.

Barman, Cubby, and Marty Safely on Shore

We did do a bit of fishing off the dock. Some attempts were more successful than others.

Unsuccessful Attempt with Chris and Cubby

Jerry's Success Story

Amazingly, this rather pathetic excuse for a fish, which we released, drew an amazing crowd and for most of the rest of the weekend there were other fishermen in boats hovering around our dock. And, alas, nobody brought a potato gun.

The Poachers

Some people preferred just hanging out:

Marty, Jon, and Gus

Or practicing their martial arts:

Marty and Cubby with Bruce Refereeing

On Sunday a friend of ours, Skippy, who lives on the lake dropped by with his new bike. With his leather jacket and slicked back hair he looked like he was trying out for the part of the dentist in the movie Little Shop Of Horrors. The one where Steve Martin played the part, not the one featuring Jack Nicholson. You can see why.

Skippy, Barman, and Bike

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Chris had left earlier in the day so he didn't make this group picture.

The Gang

And so ended yet another Fishing Opener at Brokeback Cabin.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Opener

As many of you may know, the Fishing Opener in Minnesota is a big deal. I usually go back every year, primarily just to hang out with my friends at Brokeback Cabin. The year I actually hit my 1000 bars I didn't go back because the friend Jerry canceled so he could help his daughter move back home from her dormitory when school let out. That is why some of the bars you see here weren't included back then.

My trip started, where it often does, in an airport bar. In this case it was Shannon's at JFK.


It looked promising enough and, I wonder why, I thought I might be able to get a nicely poured Guinness for brunch. It was almost 10:00 AM, after all.

Faux Guinness

Well, there was no brunch Guinness to be had. I was informed that the bar didn't open until 3:00 PM. When I asked why, using a bit of Monty Python logic, I was told "just look, no customers." Well, duh, the bar isn't open. Why would there be customers. However, even though the bar wasn't open, you could buy a beer from a nearby cooler, carry it over to the one person working at Shannon's, pay for it and then sit down at the bar to drink it.

Pseudo Bar

Making Do

For this privilege I was only charged $6.38 for my beer.

Things got better on the trip of to Jerry's cabin though. Although not everyone going up rode together (there were nine of us) I am sure that most of those coming up from Minneapolis stopped at The Muni. A few people came down from more northern cities; International Falls, Ely, and Brainerd.

Hinckley Firehouse (AKA The Muni) and Rico

This is a great old bar typical of those you find as you head up north in Minnesota. It also has an attached liquor store so we generally stock up on supplies here as well. They make a dynamite Bloody Mary served with a snert, or snit, or whatever you want to call it. Just a small beer, really, but is the perfect touch. The bartender, Mary, is a gem and keeps us apprised of who of our group has already passed through. After as many years as we have been going up there for the opener (except for one year, that I may have mentioned) she knows us all by name, and probably by smell.

Barman and Mary

Our final stop before actually getting to Brokeback Cabin is traditionally The Blue Max.

A Welcoming Sign

Despite what the sign says, we didn't enter the Karaoke Contest. Everyone wanted to sing soprano.

The sign on the door is a bit more indicative of what you might expect to find inside than the one on the pole.

Enter At Your Own Risk

My buddy Rico and I got off to a bit of a late start (he had to wash his car before we left) so by the time we got to the Blue Max almost everyone was already there. For me, who doesn't get back to Minnesota too often, this is like a great reunion and a great tradition, one that has been going on unbroken (except for that one year) since, I believe, 1981.

I settled in and ordered a Blue Moon and was then ridiculed by most of my friends who were drinking more manly beers like Bud Lite. Of course I had to add a slice of lemon just to provoke the crowd.

Barman, Blue Moon, and Lemon

Considering that Blue Moon recommends you drink it with a slice of orange, I thought I was pushing the edginess envelope.

Blue Moon with a Slice of Orange, Not

Blue Moon is made in the Belgian style, but it is made by Coors so if they recommended you add maple syrup I wouldn't be terribly surprised. At least they don't make a big deal of saying "Man Rules" prohibit you from "fruiting your beer" like Miller does (which sells Chill, a beer with lime flavoring added).

After we all had a couple of drinks (except for the designated drivers, of course) we headed down the road a bit to Brokeback Cabin for the rest of the weekend. I will be posting more on that tomorrow but, in the meantime, here is a preview.

Brokeback Cabin

Be sure to check back for the rest of the story.