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Category: Checking In At (Page 1 of 4)

Checking in at: Pocono Brewery Company, Swiftwater PA

The centerpiece of Pocono Brewery Company is a gorgeous wood-burning pizza oven imported from Naples. Our brief stop was only for drinks, not pizza, so we have nothing to say about PBC’s kitchen. The 570 Oatmeal Stout we sampled was rich with mouth-filling flavor. A RiseBall raspberry-infused cider, made not here but at Hardball Cider about 25 miles away, was the polar opposite of the stout – crisp and refreshing.

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Checking in at: Apple Dumpling Cafe, West Chenango NY

Apple farm. Apple season. Apple pancakes on the menu. Guess what we ate? The twist? The apples are raw and shredded, folded into the batter. Not served as a goopy apple pie topping. With local New York State maple syrup, it was good enough to finish, which is saying something. A short stack of pancakes at the cafe consists of two, which may not sound like much but they are thick and broad, hiding the plate below. We’d never before finished a pair.

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Checking in at: Phil’s Chicken House, West Corners NY

Through the decades Phil Card’s version of Upstate NY’s famous Cornell chicken had remained a culinary highlight of the state, but it did seem, at times, that the rest of the eatery needed some attention. Now that Phil has turned over the operation to the next generation of Cards, we’ve noticed a distinct improvement across the board. The salad bar and buffet area is kept much tidier and everything seems to be in tip top shape. There’s clearly more attention to detail. Even the chicken, always superlative, seems to be better than ever. We’re not certain but it seems to us that prices have gone up a little. Not that we care; it’s still a bargain considering the great chicken.

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Checking in at: Florentine Pastry Shop, Utica NY

We can’t visit Utica without stopping in at the Florentine in the old Italian neighborhood for our pusty fix! For the uninitiated, pusties are what Uticans call pasticciotti, which are small filled tarts. They’re a Utica passion. The fillings are usually some kind of pastry cream or ricotta cheesecake. The crust is gently sweet and the cream fillings are exquisite, especially when fresh.

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Checking in at: Woodland Farm Brewery, Utica NY

Utica, NY is not a hotbed of microbrewery and brewpub activity, no doubt due to the long-time (since 1888) presence of  Saranac Brewery, formerly known as the F.X. Matt Brewery, originally known as the West End Brewing Company, perhaps most commonly known as the Utica Club brewery. The only other brewer in town is Woodland Farm Brewery, open since 2015. The joint was jumpin’ on a Friday evening, both inside and out on the patio.

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Checking in at: Sharkey’s, Binghamton NY

Through the decades we still maintain that the charcoal-grilled pork spiedies served at the 1947 Binghamton tavern Sharkey’s are the Platonic ideal of the Italian-accented skewered meat dish. Yes, it doesn’t hurt that Sharkey’s almost looks like it’s still operating in 1947, and it’s hard not to love what, to be perfectly frank, can still be described as an old man’s bar with a dining room in back.

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Checking in at: Waterman’s Distillery, Apalachin NY

Waterman’s, open since 2017, is the only distillery in the Binghamton area. What it is they produce isn’t exactly clear to us. They call their signature product, Waterman’s White, a white corn whiskey. In other words, unaged corn whiskey, or moonshine. On the other hand, they also say Waterman’s White is grain neutral spirit. To the best of our understanding, it can’t be both. So is it vodka? Vodka can be made from corn – Tito’s is one example of a corn vodka. We didn’t taste the White straight, but we did sample it in a cocktail and there’s was no mistaking the subtle but distinct moonshine flavor.

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Checking in at: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Virginia Beach VA

Porter Hardy, former home brewer and attorney, began Smartmouth in Norfolk’s Chelsea district, on the west side, in 2012. It’s still their home base today, and it’s there you can learn more on a Saturday tour. They call the branch in Virginia Beach, which opened three blocks from the ocean at the end of 2017, the Pilot House. While most of the brewing is still done in Norfolk, the Pilot House is set up with a small-scale brewing system to produce experimental and limited edition brews. Continue reading

Checking in at: Wasserhund Brewing Company, Virginia Beach VA

Microbreweries tend to produce ales. Many brewpubs begin as home brewing hobbies, and the exacting requirements and cold temperatures required for the brewing of quality lagers are just not for beginners. This means that craft breweries rarely specialize in German brews. Oh, sure they’ll mix a few hefeweizens, weissbiers, and the occasional gose and kolsch in with their IPAs, but you can’t really be said to specialize in German beer without including some lagers. Continue reading

Checking in at: Commonwealth Brewing Company, Virginia Beach VA

The local brewers love to combine fruits with beer, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Commonwealth Brewing in the Chic’s Beach neighborhood of Virginia Beach (just a minute or two off the south end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel). There are brews with peaches, apples, lemons, blackberries, black currants, pineapple, apricots, limes, plums, pomegranates, raspberries, oranges, yuzu, Buddha’s Hand, prickly pear, and pomelo. And those are just the fruits that showed up on today’s menu of 22 beers! Check the website and you’ll find well over a hundred brews listed. Continue reading

Checking in at: Seafood City, Felton DE

Our fried flounder sandwich and crab cake sandwich were quite ordinary but it’s really unfair to judge Seafood City based on that. This place is known for steamed crabs. We stopped in at 11AM, as soon as they opened for the day, for a quick lunch. We were, of course, their first customers. And we weren’t about to tear into a pile of crabs right then – we had to hit the road. Continue reading

Checking in at: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Fairfield CT

Frank Pepe pizza was once the insider’s choice for America’s best pizza, unless that insider professed a love for their competitor down the street in New Haven, Sally’s. Then the pizza renaissance happened. America discovered days-long dough fermentation, Italian double-zero flour, hand-made charcuterie toppings, the freshest of homemade cheeses. They took trips to Naples and wrote volumes on the science and art of “real” pizza. Continue reading

Checking in at: Holmberg Winery, Gales Ferry CT

Holmberg Orchards was started in the late 19th century by Swedish immigrants. The operation is still in the family, run by the third and fourth generations. It’s that fourth generation, Russell, who has introduced fermentation to the family business. They’ve planted grapes and produce both traditional wines and fruit wines from the Holmberg orchard. Those fruit wines are notable for two reasons: they are actually made from the juice of fruit (not grape wine flavored with fruit “essences”), and they have a clear and clean taste of the fruit from which they are made. We find them particularly drinkable and enjoyable, in a country wine sort of way. Continue reading

Checking in at: Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank CT

We had a gorgeous, sunny day for our kind-of-annual visit to Abbott’s on the eastern Connecticut shore. There was once a time, many years ago, when we were able to say that we’d tried everything on Abbott’s menu. No more; they continue to add to their offerings. There’s a steamed artichoke, bowls of pasta, ribs… presumably for fish-frowners dragged here against their will. We sampled the lobster deviled eggs for the first time today: they are fine, the eggs themselves are a little sweet in a Miracle Whip kind of way, and the lobster is totally unnecessary. Which we say about lobster mac ‘n’ cheese as well. Continue reading

Checking in at: Milford Point Brewing, Milford CT

The brewery started last year, and the taproom’s only been open since April. Milford Point is a nano brewery, the term used nowadays to signify a very small scale brewing operation. For most of their first year they gave tastings, filled growlers, and sold kegs to local bars. Finally, with their tap room, folks can stop by for a fresh pint. They are Milford’s first brewing operation and, only a year later, they are, by our count, one of three Milford breweries. It’s a hot time for brewing! Continue reading

Checking in at: Walter’s, Mamaroneck NY

As David Byrne once said, “Same as it ever was.” The beef/pork/veal franks are made for them, the house mustard is dotted with relish, and the dogs are split and then grilled in buttery oil on the flattop. The unique building is a National Historic Landmark. Since 1919. P.S.: Don’t ignore the top-notch shakes! Continue reading

Checking in at: Greasy Nick’s, New Rochelle NY

What once seemed like a temporary but important setback for Greasy Nick’s — they neglected to renew their liquor license a few years ago — is now permanent. There’s no longer beer, cheap or otherwise, available at the roadside eatery! A can of downscale beer was always as integral to the Greasy experience as the fried onions on the cheeseburger and the soggy corn-on-the-cob swimming in a lake of margarine. If you’re the type who prepares for such things, remember to bring your own, or else go with soft drinks. Continue reading

Checking in at: Villa Barone, Robbinsville NJ

When Villa Barone is full, which is often, the place can be deafeningly loud. This evening we discovered a solution: try to secure a table in the corner of the room. With no diners on two of the four sides we found we could actually hear each other speak. This remains our go-to casual neighborhood Italian restaurant. Bonus: BYOB helps keep the prices down. Continue reading

Checking in at: Polish Water Ice, Seaside Heights NJ

Polish Water Ice’s specialty is water ice that’s made in and served from soft-serve machines. It’s a growing chain with two locations on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, where they aggressively offer free samples. The texture really is super-smooth for water ice. All the flavors are based on sweetened, neutral-tasting grape and/or apple juice, with stabilizers and preservatives. There’s no peach in the peach ice or cherry in the cherry ice – the flavors are all artificial. Continue reading

Checking in at: Maruca’s, Seaside Heights NJ

We’ve loved Maruca’s plain slice for many years. With a little more-than-usual focused attention it became clearer to us that mild cheddar is part of the cheese mix. We don’t know that for a fact but our tongues are telling us. We hadn’t noticed this before (or was this slice atypical) but the crust, under the pie but not at the edge, had a croissant-like flakiness that was very appealing. Maruca’s, with no slow-fermented doughs or wood-fired ovens, is non-artisan pie at its best. Continue reading

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