'Outlaw' sangria legalized in Virginia

That old evil sangria will become legal in Virginia on Tuesday, July 1.

Sangria? Evil? An illegal drink?

True. Since the 1930s, the wine- and spirit-based punch has been illegal under state regulations forbidding the mixing of wine with distilled spirits. The law was changed, thanks to state Delegate Adam Ebbin (D-49th District).

The Alexandria Gazette Packet, which inadvertently kicked off the campaign, reports:

"The time was 5:20 p.m. on a gusty December afternoon in 2006 when Special Agent Katherine Matikonis walked into La Tasca Restaurant on King Street in Old Town. She sat down and ordered sangria, a cocktail that was illegal at the time — forbidden under 1930s regulations encouraging temperance.

"Matikonis charged the restaurant with multiple code violations, initiating a widespread confrontation between regulators and restaurateurs that would culminate in a statewide legislative effort earlier this year. Fortunately for La Tasca and every other restaurant that wants to serve the traditional Spanish drink, the sangria legalization effort of 2008 was a success."

Richard Jarrouj, manager of the Piola Pizzeria Pizzaria in Arlington, told the newspaper. "This whole thing has been just totally absurd."

His restaurant had to take sangria off the menu earlier this year after getting a cease-and-desist letter from state regulators. "Our customers thought it was totally ridiculous when we told them ... ."

After being asked by the newspaper for his reaction to the ban, Ebbin met with several restaurant operators then crafted language that became House Bill 1269. It was passed by the General Assembly with little opposition.

As the Web site WineIntro.com explains it:

"Sangria recipes are the inspiration for many red wine punch styles. Sangria was created in Spain and made popular in the U.S. at the 1964 World's Fair. It normally has red wine, brandy, and fruit. However, it can be made in just about any style you can imagine. Sangria is based on the traditional red wine punch popular across Europe for hundreds of years. ... Sangria can be made in any number of styles, from spicy to mild to rich to bubbly. You can make sangria with red wine, white wine, and even sparkling wine. ..."
Sangria Recipes
Visit Alexandria
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Motorcycle museum set to roll out

Thousands of people will be in hog heaven when July 12 rolls around.

That's the opening date for the new Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

The 20-acre complex includes the 130,000-square-foot museum itself as well as indoor and outdoor event spaces, a restaurant, cafe and museum store.

Stories are told to visitors through a variety of media, including photographs, videos, apparel, rare documents and other artifacts. The H-D Archives, open to the public for the first time and home base to more than 450 motorcycles, and hundreds of thousands of artifacts will be utilized for museum exhibits.

Hours: May through October, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., till 8 p.m. Wednesdays; November through April, weekdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Dowd's Guide to Classic Car Collections
Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau
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Colorado blue law fading away

If you're in Colorado and find yourself in need of a bottle of something alcoholic on a Sunday, July 6 will be your lucky day.

That's when the state's blue law ban on liquor stores operating on Sunday goes away. That brings to 35 the number of states now allowing liquor sales on Sunday. A dozen of those states have repealed their blue laws since 2002.
Colorado DOT Travel Info
Colorado.com Vacation Planning
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Photo grab bag: Waterford, NY

William M. Dowd photos

The pleasure boat "Bandwagon" emerges from under the Union Bridge on New York's Hudson River. In the background is Waterford, the oldest incorporated village in the United States.

It sits in the southeastern corner of historic Saratoga County, across the river from the city of Troy, and is located in the Town of Waterford at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, and the junction of the Erie and Champlain canals. It is the home of the “Waterford Flight,” the highest set of lift locks in the world.

Broad Street, which runs through the center of the village, has a variety of antique shops and dining spots.

One of the monuments in Soldiers & Sailors Park

In honor of an iconic swimmer

The Village of Waterford
Waterford Tugboat Roundup
Champlain Canal Tours
Erie Canal
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Peru's Incan ruins under seige

Andean Travel Web photo

The ruined Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman

If you've always had a craving to visit the ancient Incan wonders of Peru, better hurry. And, if you go, please watch your step -- in every sense of the word.

While the financially depressed South American nation has only recently begun being noticed for its upscale spa and resort facilities (see stories here and here), the effects of years of unthinking tourism have begun to be spotted as well.

The ruins of the famous Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman, for example, have been defaced with a large accumulation of modern graffiti, much of it with indelible-ink pens.

"Its sad that these things happen," Park Director Washington Camacho told the newspaper El Comercio. "Our security covers 80% of the park and we're getting better at it, but there is also a lack of respect" from visitors.

The ruins are located on a hilltop above Cuzco, the ancient Incan capital. Archaologists say the fortress was built in the 1100s by the Killke culture and later enlarged during the Inca empire, which flourished from the 1400s until the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s.

Cuzco is the center of Peruvian tourism today, a starting point for tours and individual visitors to begin their treks through the Andes mountains to the famous Machu Picchu jungle ruins.

David Sheppard, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), told the Reuters news agency, "Machu Picchu faces a lot of ... challenges relating to tourism, uncontrolled growth of urban settlements, landslides, fires, etc."

He said the IUCN wants Machu Picchu, built in the 15th Century, to be added to a list of about 30 endangered sites worldwide among a total of 851 properties overseen by the United Natrions Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A danger listing can help mobilize donors but can be seen as criticism of current protection policies, Reuters noted.

"We haven't heard from Peru," he said. "We're not trying to blow a whistle. We're trying to identify the practical responses."

He cited an alleged lack of sufficient control over the number of visitor as well as building expansion of the town of Aguas Calientes in the valley below the Inca site among major threats.

"There needs to be a much tighter tourism management plan," Sheppard said. "Some of the urban planning needs to be much more tightly controlled."

Scattered citizen protests have popped up around Peru, opposing two new tourism laws that would ease restrictions on construction -- mostly hotels -- near archeological sites and historic zones.

The Congress responded in February by modifying the laws to allow regional and local governments more power in determining private development around cultural treasures, including Machu Picchu.
• Sacsayhuaman
Machu Picchu
Andean Travel Web
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Ecuador drops visa requirement

Ecuador has discontinued the need for foreign vsiitors to have a travel visa to enter its mainland and the Galapagos Islands.

President Rafael Correa ordered the change in an effort to promote tourism in the South American nation. Until now, citizens of 130 different nations, including the U.S., were required to have visas in addition to passports.

A statement from the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry said the order will allow foreigners to stay in the country up to 90 days.

The change makes travel to the nation of 13.1 million people even simpler for American citizens since Ecuador several years ago began using the U.S. dollar as its official currency.
Ecuador.com -- The Official Gateway
Galapagos islands
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Air travel baggage, surcharge woes grow

If you purchased a ticket on Delta Air Lines prior to April 9 but didn't fly until May 4 or after, you may be in line for a refund.

Delta is offering rebates on its $25 second-checked-bag fee to customers in such circumstances.

Said spokesman Kent Landers, the carrier "heard from enough customers that we decided this was the right thing to do. Since it was a new fee, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt."

Most airlines instituting the same policy gave a specific date in advance for when the fee would be applied. Delta, however, implemented it on April 9, the day it was announced.

However, that's merely a one-time quick fix for one group. Other Delta news is not very positive for consumers. The airline is adding a "fuel surcharge" for frequent-flier tickets -- $25 to redeem award tickets for U.S. and Canada travel, and $50 for international flights. That goes into effect Aug. 15.

Meanwhile, US Airways is ending curbside service at 34 airports and imposing a $15 fee for the first checked bag. And it, too, will add a processing fee in August on frequent-flier tickets -- $25 in the U.S. and Canada, $35 in Mexico and the Caribbean, and $50 for Hawaii and international destinations.

American Airlines already charges a $5 processing fee for award tickets handled in person, $20 if handled by phone. It earlier had imposed a $15 charge for the first checked bag.
Delta Air Lines
US Airways
American Airlines
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Algeria to police tourist beaches

Ever mindful of the impact of tourism on any nation's economy, the government of Algeria has announced plans to establish a 1,000-man police unit to protect tourist beaches and road safety.

Algerian Public Security Chief Commander Muhammad Hamiti was quoted in local media as saying the plan is to secure important security hubs and tourist destinations.

There have been no incidents on the North Africa nation's beaches, but there are fears about the threat posed by armed Islamist groups which oppose women wearing bathing suits in public.

Neighboring Morocco and Tunisia, which like Algeria have extensive Mediterranean coastlines, historically had the lion's share of Western tourism. However, a sharp decline in Islamist-group violence in recent years in Algeria has allowed the country to begin concentrating on the tourism industry.
CIA World Factbook: Algeria
• Arab Net: Algeria
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Lake Placid/Olympic Region has its own style

William M. Dowd photos

A white sand beach glistens on the shore of Mirror Lake.

Lake Placid village is on Mirror Lake.

Saranac Lake village is on Lake Flower.

Tupper Lake village is on Raquette Pond.

If all that doesn't evoke the image of a region of New York State that does things its own way, you haven't been paying attention.

Welcome to the Lake Placid area, or the Olympic Region, or the heart of the Adirondack Park. Whatever you choose to call it, it is an area with its own special character and attractions.

Just an easy 2½ hours north of Albany, the state capital, it's a straight shot up I-87, the Adirondack Northway, then hang a left for less than 30 miles to end up in downtown Lake Placid.

The area is one of only three in the entire world that has hosted the Winter Olympic games more than once. (St. Moritz and Innsbruck are the others.)

It will forever be known as home to the 1932 and 1980 Games, the latter probably the final time a community so small ever will host the gigantic undertaking that has financially ruined many a more prosperous place.

But the transient population actually is highest in the summer months when, for example, the numbers in the immediate Lake Placid area go from 3,000 hearty year-rounders who brave the lack of jobs and the excess of cold weather to 10,000 or more looking for a relaxed pace.

Everything from leisurely strolls through idyllic downtowns to more vigorous hikes, climbs and cycling activities attract the crowds to the heart of the 6-million-acre Adirondack State Park, which contains one-fifth of all the land in the state and is the largest park in the country.

Olympic ski jump towers loom above the woods.

Some of the attraction stems from leftover Olympic venues -- you can take a professionally handled sled down a bobsled run during the summer; skate at both indoor and outdoor spots in warm weather where shivering Olympians once competed; go up to the soaring ski-jump towers via chairlift or elevator to get a bird's-eye view of the area; ski the imposing slopes of Whiteface Mountain.

All depending on the season, of course.

But, long before there was the Olympics here, there were the High Peaks, 46 of the Adirondack mountains that present a special and varied challenge to climbers. They range from the formal, groomed snowshoe and cross-country ski trails in the Mount Van Hoevenberg Cross-Country Center in Route 73, to the less-formal but well-marked hiking trails, and informal spots that vigorous individualists like to use for rock-climbing, boating and camping.

A typically busy day in downtown Lake Placid.

Lake Placid is the only village of any real size. It likes to brag that visitors don't need to make the hour's drive to Plattsburgh to get their mall shopping fix, but they do.

While the village has a few name-brand stores (Starbucks, Izod, Ben & Jerry) it has mostly locally owned craft shops, antique dealers, bookstores (two are next to each other, just five doors down from the public library), real estate agencies, restaurants and lodgings.

However, it has come a long way since it was called the Plains of Abraham, moving into the big time in 1811 when the Elba Iron & Steel Manufacturing Co. was founded and swelled the population to 300. After that it was a mere 89 years until it became an incorporated village, and just another 32 to become an Olympic town.


• Main golf courses
: Crowne Plaza Resort & Golf Club, Lake Placid, (877) 570-5891; Whiteface Club & Resort, Lake Placid, (518) 523-2551; Saranac Inn Golf & Country Club, Saranac Lake, (518) 891-1402. Go here for others.

Olympic Regional Development Authority, Lake Placid: Seasonal activity listings for summer (mountain biking, bobsled rides, gondola, skating, figure skating, hiking, etc.) and winter (cross-country skiing, skating, biathlete lessons, skiing, luge, etc.)

• Performing Arts (plays, dance, concerts): Pendragon Theatre, 15 Brandy Brook Avenue, Saranac Lake, (518) 891-1854; Lake Placid Center for the Arts, 17 Algonquin Drive, Lake Placid, (518) 523-2512.

Adirondack Museum, Routes 28 & 30, Blue Mountain Lake, (518) 352-7311: Open daily from May 23-Oct. 19, closed Sept. 5 and 19. Family-oriented facility that mixes exhibits with special events (barn raising, whimsy and play, harvest festival, rustic fair).

• Lake Placid Horse Shows, Route 73, North Elba, (518) 523-9625: The two-week equestrian competition is scheduled for June 24-July 6 this year on the sprawling grounds just outside the village. Also scheduled: jumping events, shows and children's events.

• The Wild Center: Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, Tupper Lake, (518) 359-7800: A 31-acre complex offers live exhibits, hiking and exploring venues. With naturalist guides or self-guided treks. Family oriented.


• Charlie's
, 2543 Main St, Lake Placid, (523-9886): Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner indoors or on the lakeview deck. Particularly good fusion cuisine on the dinner menu, and a nice Adirondack-style cocktail lounge called T-Bar.

• Blue Moon Cafe, 55 Main St., Saranac Lake (891-1310): Comfy local spot for a snack, breakfast or lunch. Very reasonable prices.

• Milano North, 2490 Main St., Lake Placid, 523-3003: A 110-seat bistro patterned on the original Milano in Newton Plaza in the Albany suburb of Latham, this one is located above a Starbucks and an antiques shop. Good grilled Italian specialties, plus children's menu, and outdoor patio dining.

• Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, 813 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid, 523-3818: The brewpub is upstairs and has a deck overlooking the lake. Downstairs is P.J. O'Neill's, an Irish-style pub. The pub, which gets its beers from the company brewing facility near Plattsburgh, is popular for locals and visitors alike and serves a wide range of craft beers.


• Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort
, 2559 Main St., Lake Placid, 523-3353: If you're environmentally aware, you'll be right at home at this iconic hotel that recently unveiled many changes that make it a true sustainable "green" experience: allergen-free rooms, recycled building materials, It's among a small handful of facilities in North America that hold the Audubon Societies' 4-Green-Leaf Eco Rating. From its comfy rooms to its white-sand lakeside beach and a 3,000-square-foot green roof that insulates the facility and acts as a storm water management system that catches pollutants as they drain off the roof, this is a clever hotel.

• Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, 77 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid, 523-2544: When you stroll on the long brick village sidewalk, you may be excused if you think you'll never get to the end of this sprawling inn. It includes a few lakeside buildings but 95 percent of it sits on a rise that allows an unimpeded water view. It has won about every luxury hotel honor available and advance bookings are strongly suggested.

Note: For listings of more than 300 regional lodging possibilities, go here.

A dilapidated barn adds to this rustic Olympic region scene.

Visitors spend a tranquil moment in a Lake Placid village pocket park.

• Land of Plenty
Raising the bar in Lake Placid
Dowd's Guides

Arts under pressure on Cape Cod

William M. Dowd photos

ORLEANS, MA -- The arts scene is as much part of the soul of Cape Cod as are its fishing fleets and sprawling beaches.

However, a bit of soul-searching unveils an insidious problem: The nationwide economic downturn coupled with the rising cost of living often inherent in a tourist haven is hurting established artists and scaring off the next generation of them.

From Sandwich, the first town a landlubber hits after leaving the mainland, to sandwiches at the iconic Portugese Bakery 75 miles away in Provincetown, there is no lack of creativity anywhere along this storied jut of land that extends from the lowlands of eastern Massachusetts into the stormy Atlantic.

P-town, as it is locally called, got its first formal hold on the arts world more than a century ago when painter Charles W. Hawthorne (1872-1930) established the first summer arts colony in the United States. That helped make the small fishing village a worldwide arts icon by the 1930s, with such painters as Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell summering there.

Eugene O'Neill was involved with the Provincetown Players beginning in 1916 and wrote many of his earliest plays there. Best-selling novelist Mary Higgins Clark today maintains a home on the Cape. The likes of Bette Davis (Cape Playhouse in Dennis) and James Stewart (Falmouth Playhouse) got some of their early acting training locally.

But economics are chipping away at this heritage. Beginning artists are shying away from the pricey Cape to ply their work elswehere, perhaps in hopes of making an affordable somewhere else "the next Cape.''

"You can still make some money in the arts,'' said Joe Realbuto, a professional photographer who moved here from the Albany, NY, area a decade ago, "but the cost of living has gotten so high it really makes it a slim margin. It's scaring off a lot of younger artists who might otherwise have come here, especially if they don't have other means of income.''

Kely Knowles, a 20-year Cape resident who is well known as both a watercolorist and teacher, agrees.

"At arts meetings I attend I rarely see anyone who isn't in my age group, 50 and up,'' she said. "Maybe a couple of 40s, a rare one in their 30s.''

Realbuto, a board member and past vice president of the Artisans' Guild of Cape Cod, said the organization is considering changing its membership requirements to accept non-Cape residents to keep the organization viable.

Visitors may not immediately see a falloff in arts offerings. As a community, Cape Cod today has a huge investment in the arts with more than 300 galleries -- including the Cape Cod Museum of Art (top photo) in Dennis -- devoted to paintings, sculptures, glasswork, wood- and metal-craft, handicrafts, pottery and photography studios, art museums and community arts organizations whose periodic shows pepper the local social schedule.

Venues for theater, writing workshops, dance and the whole range of music from classical orchestral works to Irish pubs also abound, especially during the main tourist season from Memorial Day to the Labor Day weekend. Hands-on classes in many fields are available to residents and visitors alike. As just one example, the Truro Center for the Arts near Wellfleet offers arts and crafts lessons for adults and children. Other facilities cater to summer visitors anxious to dabble in the creative world.

The laid-back atmosphere of much of the Cape, the range of natural light affected by the flat horizons and light from both the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay, and the rough beauty of the salt marshes, dunes, beaches and rocky shores remain a powerful lure for artists of all stripes to spend time here. In some cases, that time stretches to permanent residency.

Realbuto is a prime example. A decade ago, he and his family, longtime Cape visitors, moved to Pocasset on the Outer Cape as fulltime residents. While he still makes his living as an executive in the field of health care for the disabled, the move enabled him to embrace his passion.

"I'd been a photographer most of my life, and I always knew I would come to the Cape to be an artist,'' Realbuto said. "You can't find the beaches and this light anywhere else.

"Sometimes when I get that light, that incredible light, I just jump up and down,'' he said with a chuckle.

Realbuto has gotten heavily involved in the arts scene as a businessman with interests in several galleries and as a volunteer with the Artisans' Guild. The group acts to promote professional standards and growth, schedules professional arts events and awards scholarships. In fact, when the Guild needed a new logo, brochure and various other materials put together earlier this year, 30 graphic art students from Cape Cod Regional Technical High School submitted their ideas. Senior Ben Hughes, 18, of Dennisport won the contract.

That's just one example of real-world commercial success for the students, the next generation of local artists. Support from the Guild, the school and individual artists has helped nurture the small surge.

Adding up his fulltime work, his volunteer efforts and the time spent involved in digital photography and shows seems to come to more hours than there are in a day.

"I spend anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week just shooting before the season because I like to add five to seven new images to my offerings every year.'' Realbuto said.

"Most people who are at the level I am in pursuing their art are semi-retired, so they have the time to do it. But, if you have the passion you can make the time.''

Knowles is another such passionate artist. She has owned the Rock Harbor Gallery in Orleans since 1995. She credits her husband, David Knowles, with helping make her endeavors work. Besides being an artist himself, he's a flooring contractor and a skilled builder who constructed her gallery.

"I'd love to be involved with other galleries as well,'' she said, "but there's not enough time to do that and run this place and find time to paint. Plus, I'm still teaching and teaching keeps me above water.

"To make things work financially, you have to do a lot of marketing, too. I know a lot of the younger artists don't know how to do that very well, and that hurts their chances to succeed.''

Nevertheless, there remain many persistent artists of all sorts on the Cape, perhaps laboring under the same mantra expressed by the late French writer/philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus (1913-1960) who said, "It's not the struggle that makes us artists, but Art that makes us struggle.''

Cape Cod Museum of Art
Cultural Center of Cape Cod
Cape Cod Writers Center
Arts Foundation of Cape Cod
Cape Cod Dining Guide
A Chowder of Attractions
Dowd's Guides


Scottish whisky museum in trouble

From the Northern Scot newspaper:

DUFFTOWN, Scotland -- A showcase for Speyside’s proud whisky heritage could be under threat unless new museum premises can be found.

The Dufftown Whisky Museum is living on borrowed time and this summer is set to be the last in its present town centre location. The lease is up early next year and local promotion group Dufftown 2000, which currently pays a peppercorn rent for the former undertaker’s premises, has been told it will not be renewed.

The bombshell could not have come at a worse time with museum visitor numbers booming and two major events due in 2009.

The "Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival," which is one of the museum’s main crowd pullers, will be doubled in size next year to 10 days and 2009 is the "Year of Homecoming" when visitors from all over the world will descend on" the country.

Go here for the rest of the story.
Spirit of Speyside Festival
Dufftown: Malt Whisky Capital of Scotland
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V.I. protest causes airline to retreat

American Airlines has announced it will not apply its new checked baggage fees to boxes of liquor purchased in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The U.S.V.I. consist of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.

Boxes of liquor bottles are a common take-home item for tourists taking advantage of the fact the Virgin Islands sells liquor at duty-free prices that are usually much less than in the mainland U.S. Because federal regulations prohibit carrying liquids into the cabins of passenger aircraft, boxes for the alcohol bottles must be checked.

Last month, when American announced it planned to charge all passengers for each checked bag, rathering than allowing one free bag as has always been commonplace in the industry, Virgin Islands officials "bristled at the potential impact it could have on duty-free liquor sales," reported the Virgin islands Daily News.

Go here for the remainder of the story.
U.S.V.I. Department of Tourism
• Virgin Island Travel Guide
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Slow Food Nation event fast approaching

Slow Food Nation, the largest celebration of American food in history, will take place in San Francisco over Labor Day weekend, Aug. 29-Sept. 1.

The event will bring together tens of thousands of visitors to experience a range of activities "highlighting the connection between plate and planet," as the public relations people like to put it.

The majority of the events will be free and open to the public. However, some events require tickets, which are available in advance online. Prices vary per event.

The event is more than just a stream of food vendors. As the press release notes, "Slow Food Nation will bring together local citizens and visitors, farmers and food artisans, political leaders, environmental advocates and health care experts, community educators and artists.

"Participants will savor food from across the U.S. at Taste, a 50,000 square foot pavilion; meet farmers and producers at a marketplace surrounding a 10,000 square foot newly-planted urban garden in the heart of the city; learn from visionary speakers; and engage in political discourse to shape a more sustainable food system. Slow Food Nation will also feature a music festival, workshops, films, dinners, hikes and journeys."

Anya Fernald, SFN executive director, isn't shy about sharing the organization's lofty goals:

"Slow Food Nation will catalyze a huge shift in how Americans perceive and prioritize food. Through the four-day event, we hope to build momentum and demand for an American food system that is safer, healthier and more socially just.

“Our founder, Alice Waters, has set the stage for a delicious revolution through decades of leadership and advocacy and our parent organization, Slow Food U.S.A., has built a wide membership base across America. By creating a framework for a deeper environmental and community-based connection to our food and farmers, Slow Food Nation will help participants learn how everyday choices affect our well-being, our culture and the health of the planet.”
Slow Food Nation official site
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Raising the bar in Lake Placid

April Dowd photo

Cocktails guru Tony Abou-Ganim (left) and drinks writer Bill Dowd work out behind the bar during a Lake Placid workshop this week.

LAKE PLACID, NY -- Tony Abou-Ganim, the celebrity mixologist who helped the cocktail culture return nationwide with a rush over the past decade or so, was in fine form during an hour-long cocktail-making workshop at T-Bar on Thursday night.

T-Bar, a ritzy Adirondack-style cocktail lounge within chef Charlie Levitz's eponymous Charlie's restaurant on Main Street, was briefly turned into the kind of classroom no one wants to avoid.

Abou-Ganim splits much of his time between Las Vegas and New York -- he's a partner in the recently-opened Manhattan spot Bar Milano -- but pops up all over the country for trade shows, training events and special occasions. He'd just appeared at the annual Santé magazine industry trade show in Manchester, VT, and was returning to a place where he'd personally trained Levin's bartending staff a year ago in the fine points of cocktail making.

This workshop preceded a cocktail-pairing dinner prepared by Charlie's head chef Lendell Eaddy and Levitz, who oversees the Charlie's kitchen but spends much of his time at his other Lake Placid restaurant, Chair 6, and with his extensive catering operations.

During the show-and-tell, Abou-Ganim invited several onlookers to step behind the bar to help him make some basic drinks -- Cosmopolitans, Marqueritas, Martinis. He also challenged yours truly to a "Manhattan throwdown" since both of us are fans of the historic drink. I, in fact, consider it a food group.

He laid down the ground rules: The same recipe had to be followed — bourbon (we both liked the sweetness of Maker’s Mark), Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth, Angostura Bitters and a maraschino cherry. The catch was that Abou-Ganim preferred to shake his concoction over fresh ice — which I normally do for a straight-up cocktail — while insisting I stir mine with ice to properly chill each drink.

He shook.

I stirred.

We poured.

The audience voted on the cocktail with the most alluring appearance.

Modesty prohibits revealing the voters results. Let's just say I won't ask for a recount.
Lake Placid and the Adirondacks
The Olympic Region
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