Wisconsin going smoke-free

MADISON, WI -- If you're a smoker, Wisconsin no longer is your kind of place.

Gov. Jim Doyle signed a smoking ban Monday, making bars, restaurants and other workplaces smoke-free starting next summer.

"Today is a day that we all can take a deep breath and enjoy the accomplishment that will occur here today," Doyle said just before signing the bill in the Capitol.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed a compromise last week that bans smoking in virtually all workplaces but delays the start date until July 5, 2010, later than Doyle and other supporters wanted.

Indian-run casinos are exempt from the ban because lawmakers do not have the power to fully regulate them under federal law. Also exempt are existing cigar bars and specialty tobacco shops.
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NC joins neighbor in restaurant smoke ban

North Carolina is the latest entity to join the growing global ban on smoking in restaurants.

The state legislature this week passed House Bill 2 to ban smoking in restaurants, and a spokesman for Gov. Bev Perdue said the governor is expected to sign it into law this coming week.

"The General Assembly finds that secondhand smoke has been proven to cause cancer, heart disease, and asthma attacks in both smokers and nonsmokers," according to the final version of the bill. "It is the intent of the General Assembly to protect the health of individuals in public places and places of employment and riding in State government vehicles from the risks related to secondhand smoke."

Neighboring Virginia's legislature passed such a law in February, and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine signed it in March. It is scheduled to take effect in December.

About 60% of Virginia's full-service restaurants already are smoke-free, according to statistics compiled by the Virginia Department of Health from restaurant inspections.

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Waterside dining history on Long Island

GREENPORT, NY -- A recent Business Week magazine compilation of the oldest restaurants in the U.S. didn't rank as No. 1 the very establishment recognized as the one that has been operated the longest by the same family since inception.

It's Claudio's, located harborside in Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island. The National Restaurant Association authenticates it as the oldest, same-family-run restaurant in the United States.

This charming, maritime restaurant was established in 1870 by Manuel Claudio, a Portugese merchant sailor who gave up the whaling life to establish a presence in this fishing-and-tourist village that now extends to Claudio's Marina, Claudio's Clam Bar, Claudio's Liquors, Claudio's T-Shirts & Souvenirs, and even Crabby Jerry's, which inexplicably eschews the Claudio name.

One side of the establishment looks out over the harbor. The "blind'' side is dominated by a Victorian-style bar salvaged in 1886 from a New York City hotel being demolished. The romantic days of Prohibition rum-running and America's Cup sailing competition touched Greenport heavily, and there is pictorial evidence of those days all around the walls.

The food? Wonderful clams casino using tiny local Little Necks with bacon, garlic, cheese, peppers and spices. Succulent broiled fresh swordfish steak with herbed butter, and an equally succulent fresh flounder in white wine sauce. Pepper-and-herb crusted mahi-mahi. A true New York-style cheesecake. A tangy key lime pie. Good coffee, fine drinks and good service.

Tempted to visit? The restaurant is open from mid-April to December 1st at 111 Main Street. Phone (631) 477-0627.
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Kentucky Bourbon Trail re-launches

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail today marked its 10th anniversary by unveiling a new logo, brochure, souvenir passport and commemorative T-shirt.

“This is a significant milestone for one of Kentucky’s most popular tourism attractions,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. “It’s also a perfect opportunity to introduce a fresh new look that reflects the growing bourbon revolution.”

The association created the Trail in 1999, inspired by the tourism and marketing opportunities in California’s wine country and Scotland’s whisky trails. The Trail features eight historic distilleries located in the Bluegrass country:

• Jim Beam
• Maker's Mark
• Buffalo Trace
• Four Roses
• Heaven Hill
• Tom Moore
• Wild Turkey
• Woodford Reserve

Visitors who collect stamps on their souvenir "passports" at all eight distilleries can redeem the passport for a free Kentucky Bourbon Trail T-shirt. This year’s shirt commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Trail.

The Trail also has added a Facebook page, and a revised Web site and Twitter page are due to be launched soon.
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Maine Beer Trail unveiled

PORTLAND, ME -- Most states have wine trails. Some cooperatively operate a whiskey trail. Maine now has a beer trail.

The Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Brewers Guild today announced the unveiling of the Maine Beer Trail.

The purpose is to attract visitors to Maine to enjoy the micro- and craft-brewing industry found throughout the state. A brochure (seen at right) provides a guide to more than a dozen of the state's breweries and brew pubs. Brochures can be downloaded and also will be available at Maine Visitor Centers and participating breweries and brew pubs.

Maine ranks fourth in the nation in the number of breweries per capita, with one brewery for every 42,000 residents, according to the Brewers Association.

It is home to New England's first microbrewery, D.L. Geary Brewing, established in 1986 in Portland. Gritty McDuff's opened its doors in 1988 and became the first brew pub to open in Maine since prohibition. It has sites in Portland, Freeport and Lewiston/Auburn.
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Vermont broadens wine, spirits tastings, sales

MONTPELIER, VT -- Vermont winemakers and distillers got good news Tuesday when Gov. Jim Douglas signed a bill allowing them to sell more products on-site.

Previously, wineries could offer tastings or sell bottles of wine. Distilleries could do neither.

Now, wineries also may sell glasses of wine on-premises, and distilleries can offer tastings and sell bottles of their spirits.

In addition, wineries will be allowed to sell and offer tastings of other winemakers’ wares, rent their sites for events such as weddings, and produce and sell fortified wines such as ports.

Vermont’s first winery was founded 25 years ago, and the state now is home to 20.

Ed Metcalfe, of Whitingham, told the Associated Press he was on the fence about opening a distillery in Vermont if he couldn’t sell his vodka and specialty liquors on site. He said the new law cinched it for him, allowing him to sell and offer tastings at the distillery he plans in Marlboro.
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It's Opportunitini summer in Las Vegas

Introducing The Opportunitini.

The 20-gallon, gin-based martini was created at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas as a fundraiser for Opportunity Village, a local not-for-profit that provides vocational training, job placement and respite to people with intellectual disabilities.

Proceeds from sale of individual drinks made from the giant cocktail were raised Tuesday with Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman pouring in the final bottle of gin.

The Opportunitini was created by bartenders at the Hard Rock and will be on the menu, in standard size, all summer.
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Trader Vic's re-emerges in LA

From the Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- There was much sorrow among history buffs and tiki aficionados alike when the iconic Beverly Hills bar Trader Vic's shut its doors in spring 2007. The old-school watering hole, which opened in 1955, had fostered a sense of L.A. history despite the perpetual renovations and changes happening all around its location at the intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards.

After months of rumors and speculation, Trader Vic's returns Saturday to Southern California with an expanded and updated version in downtown's sprawling L.A. Live entertainment complex on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Figueroa Street. With picture windows looking out onto Olympic, this super-sized version of the classic Polynesian experience is essentially two places in one.

The front half is a party-ready bar area, complete with a wrought-iron enclosed patio outside. But deeper inside is the plush, wood-paneled dining room, where booths line the custom tapa cloth-covered walls, with everything focused around the giant Chinese wood-fired oven located at the back of the room. There is a posh private event room adjacent to the dining area, with an impressive outrigger imported from the Dallas Trader Vic's hanging above the room's huge communal table. And, of course, there are tikis, large and small, everywhere.

[Go here for the full story.]
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