You want fries with that museum?

It has been 40 years since the first Big Mac was served at a McDonald's restaurant. To mark that, the Big Mac Museum Restaurant has been opened in North Huntingdon, PA, a half-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

The sandwich was created by Jim Delligatti (above), now 89, at his franchise store. A year later, the chain adopted it. McDonald's says it now sells 550 million B ig Macs annually in 100 different countries.

Among other things, the Big Mac Museum Restaurant has the world's largest Big Mac -- 14 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and a bronze bust of Delligatti. Delligatti's family owns 18 McDonald's franchises in western Pennsylvania and he says he still goes to work every day.

Delligatti's son Mike will run the museum restaurant, which was built on the site of a former McDonald's.


North Huntingdown Township
Larimar House
Dowd's Guides

Wine bar chain takes wings

Bars and beer pubs are commonplace in airports. Now, wine bars are vying for flyers' dollars.

Vino Volo, a true wine bar, opened this week at American Airlines' new terminal 8 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Selections are available by the glass or by themed flights, along with a menu of 14 small plates.

The establishment is the fifth in a chain of airport wine bars owned by a San Francisco company that is aiming for 50 establishments over the next several years. Its first opened in 2005 at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. That was followed by Seattle-Tacoma, Baltimore-Washington and Sacramento airports.


John F. Kennedy International Airport
Baltimore/Washington International Airport
• Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Sacramento International Airport
Dulles International Airport
Dowd's Guides


A new museum of old gems

William M. Dowd photo

CANAJOHARIE, NY -- For more than 75 years, the attractive stone building on Erie Boulevard housed both the local library and a small portion of a stunning collection of American art.

The Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery was built in 1925 through funds contributed by Bartlet Arkell, the man who created the sprawling Beech-Nut food processing plant located right across the street as well as the art collection.

On Sunday, a new incarnation of the building was unveiled to the public -- the spacious new two-story Arkell Museum at Canajoharie that is connected to the original library and holds Arkell's huge collection of late-19th century and early-20th century embracing works by the likes of Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Gay, Childe Hassam, Thomas Hart Benton, Walter Lunt Palmer and the contemporary painter Walter Hartke.

This gritty little industrial village of 2,300 residents not far from Syracuse and Utica is an easy drive from east or west on the NYS Thruway.

From the 1930 bronze sculpture "Humoresque" by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880-1980) that dominates the exterior courtyard (seen above) facing the iconic Beech-Nut factory to grouping after grouping of oils, watercolors, sketches, advertising art and engravings, New York State's newest museum is a joy.

But, like art itself, joy is where you find it. Sometimes it's in humor. The Arkell has that, perhaps unwittingly. As a text board next to a handpainted copy of Rembrandt van Rijn's "The Night Watch" explains, the huge work was renamed "Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch" after it was cleaned of accumulated dust and darkened varnish and restorers realized the depicted scene actually was a daytime event.

Individual art at the Arkell
Canajoharie-Palatine C of C
Dowd's Guides


A touch of Vegas in the Adirondacks

William M. Dowd photos


LAKE PLACID, NY -- Charlie Levitz has been working in this Olympian tourist spot for more than two decades. It's a mere 2½-hour drive from his hometown of Albany, but it's worlds away when it comes to the hospitality industry.

Levitz has cooked at or owned and cooked at a variety of spots here in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, but his latest incarnation -- a four-pronged one -- may be the one that brings him more than regional fame.

Count 'em. He's the owner/overseer of the kitchens at both Charlie's and Chair 6 restaurants, he runs the region's largest catering operation, and he's the man who imported one of America's top cocktail impressarios to train his staff at T-Bar, located in Charlie's, in the right way to create drinks and memories for both locals and the pass-through tourist crowd.

That trainer was Tony Abou-Ganim, whose passion for cocktails combining top-shelf spirits, fresh fruits and clever ideas has made him a guru among the members of the cocktail set nationwide. Abou-Ganim, who is based in Las Vegas, has a touch of the Vegas performer in his drink preparations and serving showmanship. Some of that has been transmitted to the T-Bar staff.

In fact, the word is beginning to get around about T-Bar. Santé, the hospitality industry magazine, has just released its annual restaurant awards and T-Bar was given a regional award in the restaurant bar category.

I visited Levitz (right) and his staff at T-Bar, the Main Street lounge he opened nine months ago in space once occupied by Goldberries. The decor combines Adirondack rusticity in its carved wooden beams with some hip modern touches, such as the tortoise shelled acrylic bar, lit from beneath to create a warm, inviting glow.

But the most inviting thing about T-Bar is the cocktail menu: Only fresh fruits, juices and purees, house-infused vodkas served in infusion jars, cocktails whose recipes take advantage of seasonal ingredients, complemented by a special grill menu served only at the bar. There's a separate upscale menu for Charlie's, the 200-seat restaurant that surrounds it and looks out on Mirror Lake.

Consider: In addition to being able to whip out classic drinks as well as currently in-vogue creations, the possibilities range from an homage to the last great cocktail era (the Hemingway Daiquiri of the '20s, the Tom Collins of the '30s, the Bellini of the '40s) to such specialties as the Cable Car, which Abou-Ganim created at the renowned Starlight Room in San Francisco a decade ago.

"I'm very happy with what we've put together here," Levitz said. "It's a combination I think offers something special, something that's very welcoming whether you live around here or are just visiting."

I was particularly taken by the seeming ease of preparation the bartenders exhibited despite the complexity of many of the cocktails. And the fact that they're not slaves to what Abou-Ganim set up for them. The Gondolettes' Blackberry Caiprosca, for example, has been selling even better since bartender Laura Keaney switched it to a raspberry recipe to take advantage of the availability of plump local berries. It's a simple drink -- mudled fresh lime and berries with citrus vodka -- but provides a complexity of flavors.

I also sampled a lineup of other cocktails to test Laura's abilities: the Cable Car (Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum, Marie Brizard orange curaçao, fresh-squeezed lemon sour, wirth a cinnamon sugar rim), the Negroni (Plymouth English gin, sweet vermouth, campari, served up with a flamed piece of citrus), and the mojito (fresh mint muddled with rum and topped with a splash of soda and a mint garnish).

She gets an A+ for her work, as does Levitz and the whole T-Bar concept. When I mentioned this to Abou-Ganim, his response was typically modest: "I am sure Charlie would be thrilled, and I am very proud."

Lake Placid and the Adirondacks
The Olympic Region
Dowd's Guides


Go tell it on the mountain

William M. Dowd photo

So there I was, blithely heading up the Adirondack Northway in Upstate New York en route to an overnight visit to Lake Placid, minding my own business and just enjoying the scenery.

Suddenly, right around Exit 30, it hit me square in the face.

Not the usual risk-taking deer crossing the road in that semi-wilderness area. Rather, the first real sign that summer is over despite my usual protestations that we tend to rush the seasons around here.

And what, you may ask, was that sign? Just look at the photo. It's not from an earlier autumn day. It was shot today -- Friday, Sept. 7, 2007.

We still have two full weeks of summer left on the calendar, maybe even a little bit of Indian summer after that if we're lucky. But there it is -- swatches of rust and gold and burgundy and lemon among the deep greens and frosted sage greens of the evergreens.

Just a few weeks ago I was driving through the Sierra Nevada mountains from California to Nevada and couldn't help but miss our Adirondacks. Whereas the individual trees in that western range stand out because they're on islands of browned-out grass and well spaced from one another, our eons-older mountains are lush with vegetation. Spaces between trees are difficult to discern, crowded as they are with grasses, bushes and boulders.

There is something about mountains at once new but eternal, inviting but humbling. As the poet Emiliy Dickinson wrote:

"The seasons prayed around his knees,
Like children round a sire:
Grandfather of the days is he,
Of dawn the ancestor."

The Adirondack region
Adirondack Planning Guide
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