Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve at Felicia's Atomic Lounge

Like every other bar in town, we are open tonight until about 2am. Earlier if it turns into an amateur drunk fest; then we'll just toss everybody out and drink by ourselves, dammit. Cleaning vomit out of the back of the television (last year's entertainment), is, well, not on the list of things we'd like to do tonight. We do plan, however, to enjoy show tunes and jazz standards with pianist Lisa Bloom and soprano Sharon Costianes, who was also voted "best bartender in Ithaca" during her stint at Felicia's. Show time is 6:30pm-8:30pm. The rest of the evening will be filled with champagne cocktails, oodles of people and general merriment.

Now let's talk about the New Year's Eve poster above. Leah found this photo of the orange kitten a few months ago and decided to incorporate it into a poster for the lounge. She tried to slip the kitten into the Halloween poster, but I protested that it didn't fit the "haunted cocktail party" theme (we settled on a creepy clown drinking a cocktail), so she based the New Year's Eve poster on it instead. Not that a screaming kitten has anything to do with New Year's Eve. Somehow, I don't think the angry kitty is going to be a recurring theme.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eating Ithaca Podcast

Eating Ithaca celebrated their 25th podcast by recording live at Felicia's Atomic Lounge on December 16, 2008. Dave and Andrea Cameron interviewed Felicia's master cocktail mixologist, Leah Houghtaling, as well as Seth Gregory, the chef from Fine Line Bistro. The interview with Leah is fun, with lots of cocktail taste-testing spiked with Leah's spicy sense of humor. Since Felicia's focuses on using fresh, local ingredients, the Felicia cocktails reviewed included the Spiced Beet Bubbly, Loco Hot Cocoa, fennel-infused vodka, and Hot Spiked Cider. Live music was provided by the Dave Yantorno Band, whose next show at Felicia's is February 22. CLICK HERE to hear the podcast, or you can go to where you can also catch up on Dave and Andrea's regular podcasts as they eat their way around Ithaca. Thanks, Eating Ithaca! Here's to another year of great food and drink in our little city. Photos by Mark H. Anbinder.
Eating Ithaca PodcastInterviewing LeahLeah jazz handsDave Yantorno and his band

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Year's Eve Champagne Cocktail

What are your resolutions for 2009? Forget the typical eat less junk food, exercise more, keep a journal. What if everyone made meaningful New Year’s resolutions this year? What if the people in power watched the ball drop on the telly on December 31 and turned to their loved ones/advisors/body guards and said, “Let’s resolve to make a difference in 2009. Let’s stop global warming. Repair the financial markets. End poverty. Achieve world peace.” We can make powerful resolutions as individuals, too. We can vow to walk instead of drive. Buy locally. Hug the people we love. Act compassionately toward strangers. Laugh more. Yell less. Recycle our batteries. Bring our own mugs to the coffee shop. Plant trees. 2009 brings with it a lot of anxiety about the state of the world. But it also brings hope that things can get better. Let’s raise our glasses of bubbly and toast together to make a difference in 2009. Cheers!

State Street 75
½ ounce Citrus vodka
juice of ¼ lemon
¾ teaspoon of sugar
champagne or sparkling wine
orange twist

Shake citrus vodka, lemon juice and sugar with ice. Strain into chilled champagne glass. Sloooowly top with champagne. Garnish with an orange twist. *For a slightly different flavor, try adding a dash of angostura bitters. Yum.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Recurring "I Missed the School Bus" Nightmare

You know what I am talking about. You suddenly realize you aren’t wearing any pants, in the mall. Your teacher throws a pop quiz on a subject you know nothing about. You are onstage and you forget your lines; in fact, you don’t even know what play you are in. Your mouth is full of pounds of stretchy gum that you can’t pull out. You try to run from a dangerous person and you can only move in slow motion. You have to pee real bad and all the toilets are clogged and overflowing so you have to go in the sink (this one runs in my family). You try to dial 911 when someone attacks you and you keep hitting the numbers wrong or no one answers.

Twenty years after graduating high school, I still have dreams where I am running to catch the school bus as it pulls away, or I get on the wrong bus and it drops me off in a strange place. A few weeks ago, I experienced one of these unfortunate nightmares while I was awake.

It was about 7:30pm when I sat down by the fire to read the newspaper, specifically the Ithaca Journal business section that had come in the mail that day. As I sipped my bourbon and flipped through the pages, I saw a blurb on the blogging workshop that I would be teaching next month in Trumansburg. “That’s advertised about four weeks early,” I thought. “Wow, those T-burg Chamber people really plan ahead.” I turned the page and started reading another article. Leah came in from the kitchen. “Look, honey,” I said. “My blog class is advertised in the paper already.” As I flipped back to the page to show her, my eye caught the date of the workshop: November 17. I stopped breathing. “What’s today’s date?” I asked Leah. “November 17,” she said. My heart turned to ice. I looked at the article again. The workshop starts at 7pm, it read. I looked at the clock. 7:36pm. Sh*t! I had missed my own workshop.

But not totally. Though I didn’t know it in my moment of panic, the blogging workshop technically was scheduled for December 17; it was just advertised wrong to, say, around ninety thousand people.

The “Blogging for Business” workshop will be held this Wednesdsay, December 17 at 7pm at the Trumansburg Public Library. It is free and open to the public. I swear I’ll be there this time.

To read the funny details on how this nightmarish evening resolved, you can check out the longer version of this story at my other blog,

Beets and Champagne in a Festive Cocktail

I can’t say that I am fond of beets. It’s not that I mind eating things that taste like dirt; I am a self-proclaimed potato whore. I just think beets taste odd. I can accept a handful of shredded beets in my salad, and I’ve always had an affinity for tangy Harvard Beets. But beets in a cocktail?

Unfortunately, if you want to use local produce to make cocktails in the winter, your options are limited. So beets it is. Suck it up.

Now for the good news: This sparkling cocktail tastes amazing. The essence of beet is there, but it blends seamlessly with the warm, comforting flavors of cinnamon and maple syrup. A hint of cayenne pops in your mouth with each bubble.

It’s a lot of work; the beets need to be roasted, shredded, simmered and strained. The end result is worth the effort. I recommend the Spiced Beet Bubbly in place of your standard brunch mimosa to add some color to your morning, or as a festive addition to your afternoon holiday party where it is sure to extract some oohs and ahhhs.

Oh, and the color: A deep fuscia. Which means it will stain your clothes/carpet/counter. My own personal motto is, “If it stains, I will spill it.” Don’t wear white when preparing or drinking this cocktail.

My hesitation about beets? Gone with the first sip. The Spicy Beet Bubbly is shamelessly loved by beet whores and non-beet whores alike.

This post is written as part of Mixology Monday, whose December theme is "spice." You can check out more spicy recipes at this month's host's site, Tiki Drinks and Indigo Firmaments.

Spiced Beet Bubbly

750 ml bottle of champagne, sparkling wine or sparkling cider
20 ounces fresh beets (2 large)
20 ounces water
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/8 tsp cinnamon (1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp)
1/4 tsp cayenne
pinch mace

Roast beets:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce beets six or eight times with a fork or knife and wrap in aluminum foil. Place foil-covered beets on baking sheet in center of oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and allow beets to cool fully in the foil.

Spiced beet syrup:
Unwrap beets and shred with food processor. Place shredded beets in sauce pan, including all of the juice. Add enough water to cover beets (about 20 ounces of water). Cook uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes. Do not boil. Add maple syrup, cinnamon, cayenne and mace. Simmer uncovered over low heat for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool fully. Strain, and compost the beets (or taste them - maybe you can use them in another recipe! For this cocktail, we use the syrup.)

To make cocktail:
4 ounces champagne, sparkling wine or sparkling cider
2 1/2 tablespoons spiced beet syrup
twist of orange peel

Pour sparkling wine into a champagne flute. Slooooowly add spiced beet syrup. Garnish with orange twist.

Serves 8. Beet syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Recipe created by Leah Houghtaling , cocktail chef at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, Ithaca, NY with taste-testing input by her sidekick, Amelia Sauter, who also authors this totally awesome Felicia blog plus a humor blog of her own.

Photo by Leah Houghtaling.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Organic Hot Dogs

REWARD: $50 Felicia gift certificate to the person who obtains a photo – yes, a photo - of the dog that is pooping daily in Felicia’s alley. It’s a little early for Christmas, but Felicia keeps finding these warm little gifts. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of your shoe sinking into a soft, fresh turd. Here’s the hitch: to get the reward, the photo needs to capture the dog in the act of lightening his load. No photo? Verbal information on the culprit will be received with a hug.

Speaking of dogs, would you pay more for an organic hot dog? Cast YOUR vote to the left:
a. Yes, definitely.
b. No, a plain old dog suits me just fine.
c. No, I’m vegan.
d. Maybe, I’d want to taste one first.
e. Hot dogs are stupid and I won’t eat any of them, even with Felicia’s delicious homemade toppings.
(f. No, thanks to your previous paragraph, the word “dog” is making me a little nauseous)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Road Trip! Canandaigua

Restaurant: Rio Tomatlan
Location, Canandaigua, NY
Cuisine: authentic Mexican

Amelia's highlights: Excellent refried beans. The red sauce on the chile rellenos was sweet and smoky. The zingy fresh salsa had an abundance of cilantro. The bartender knew how to make a good margarita when we requested an upgrade.

Amelia's downsides:
There were peas in the Spanish-style rice. The tilapia ceviche looked and tasted like tuna salad. The house margaritas were made with bottled margarita mix. An hour's drive to get there.

Mom and Dad's opinion:
M & D loved both the house margaritas and the rice. Dad got the same creamy-style chopped chunk tilapia in his tacos that I got in my ceviche and thought it was great.

I would rate Rio Tomatlan 3.5 out of 5 jumping beans.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Road Trip! The Berkshires

I uploaded this photo of Thanksgiving dinner and realized that you don't need teeth to eat most of the items on the plate. Mashed pototoes, mashed turnips, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry jelly, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie. You probably need to chew the turkey, but I'll bet you could get away with barely chewing the cole slaw (who eats cole slaw at Thanksgiving? Now really). Just need a nice bottle of wine (or two) to wash it down. It was a senior citizen's dream meal.
campari and soda
Leah and I trekked to the Berkshires, Massachusetts for our mashed feast this year. We arrived the night before so we could have a little alone time and see what's happening in the culinary scene in the area. We ended up in Great Barrington, one of the hipper towns in this uptight community of NYC whitehead second homes. There we found Allium, a locavore's dream. They didn't have much of a cocktail list to speak of so we partook of Campari and Soda (Allium, call Felicia. We can help you get that fresh local produce into some creative farm-to-glass cocktails).
spaghetti bolognese
Leah ordered a lovely farm salad and cod fritters and she liked them both. I started with apple-celery root soup. The soup ended up having cream in it, which means I shouldn't have eaten it, but being a pig and since it tasted soooo good, I sucked in every last drop. This bloated me into a false sense of fullness, so the half order of excellent spaghetti bolognese that followed was plenty. The bolognese had local carrots, kale and fennel as well as neighborhood pork and lamb. Sigh. I hate eating lamb. They are just so cute and fuzzy and innocent looking. And delicious. Two thumbs up for Allium.

Every time we go to the Berkshires, we say at one of those big hotel chains. Every time, they upgrade us to a kick-ass suite for no apparent reason. Every time, we sneak the dog in. (Every time, I leave a big tip for the housekeeper. They must know the dog is with us. How could they not know?) Every time, we have brunch at Martin's in Great Barrington, where you will find the best brunch in the Berkshires. Flavored coffee (pumpkin spice this week), great eggs florentine, and my new favorite, eggs scrambled with grits, cheddar cheese and spinach. Yes, more cheese.

Add in the butter and cream in the Thanksgiving mash, and I am now a big walking itch. Might as well splurge and put some whipped cream on my irish coffee this morning.
allium restaurantcod fritters

Monday, December 1, 2008

Espresso Martini

Ok, this one probably falls into the category of why-would-you-drink-that-preflavored-stuff-when-you-can-make-it-fresh. But it tastes soooo good, and unless you happen to have an espresso machine in your home kitchen or you live next door to Gimme! Coffee, you most likely will not have access to a freshly pulled shot of piping hot espresso. For recipes using fresh espresso, check out Michael Turback’s latest book, Coffee Drinks. There is even a fancy-shmancy real deal recipe by Felicia in it.

Espresso Martini

1 ounce Van Gogh Espresso vodka
1 ounce Baileys Irish cream
1 ounce Starbucks liqueur (Gimme doesn't make liqueur yet)

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Stay up all night.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Road Trip! Elk Creek Cafe

Recently Leah and I took a road trip to Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim, Pennsylvania for a music festival. "Where is Millheim?" Leah asked. "Must be in the middle of nowhere," I answered. And it was. Twenty-or-so miles from Penn State, Millheim is in the heart of farming country. We awoke Sunday morning to the sound of pigs squealing and the clop-clop of Amish buggies heading to church. Our breakfast at a friend's farm house consisted of sausage, eggs and veggies from their own pigs, chicken and fields. And smack in the middle of Millheim, where all you would hope for is a general store, we found the Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks.

The Elk Creek Cafe is a bustling, high energy cafe and brewery with locavore bistro-style food and a whole lot of amazing brews on tap. On both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, the cafe was packed with people who appreciated good music, good food and damn good beer. I sampled every one of the beers from my friends' glasses, and I settled on the Double Rainbow IPA which had a generous amount of hops and a tantalizing fruity aroma (IPA has been my beer of choice these days). Leah, not one to be tied down, danced from beer to beer and enjoyed the Great Blue Heron Pale Ale, Elk Creek Copper Ale and Brookie Brown.

Yes, it is in the middle of nowhere, about a three hour drive from Ithaca. But the Elk Creek Cafe is good enough to be a destination by itself. The cafe has music most weekends, with Ithaca favorites the Horseflies, Hank Roberts and Wingnut all making appearances there in November and December. Local band The Jive Bombers are also a must-see. Need a place to stay? Check out The Three Porches bed and breakfast. And when you go, be sure to bring me back a growler of that IPA.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Alpha Cook

A few months ago, I mentioned Nat in one of my blog posts. Nat bartended at Felicia's for a year, i mean, two years, maybe three; it's a bit of a drunken blur. Upon her hire, at least once she started speaking to people and making eye contact with her co-workers (which only took a few short months), Nat quickly made the successful transition from coffee wench - ahem - barista - to become a real-deal bartender at Felicia's. While she was shy about creating new drinks, Nat was a true connesseiur of classic cocktails as well as high-end scotches and bourbons.

Which is why I was shocked at the crap she gave us when she abandoned us for a "better life" in San Francisco. First, let me explain to you that Nat may have loved all of us, but she hated Ithaca. She could never clearly explain why, other than the usual complaints about the cold, snow and lack of sunshine. Maybe that was enough. C'mon, Nat, three inches of ice encrusting the windshield, gray skies every day and little frostbite never hurt anyone, did it? Nat's going away present from us was an "Ithaca is Stupid" t-shirt. Our good-bye gift from her was a box of useless crap.

You can see some of it in the photo above. This stuff was in Box of Crap #1. Nat had asked earlier that day, "Would you like a French press?" and we received an entire box of crap with the French press. The box's contents boasted florescent red Creme de Almond, a virtually empty bottle of Creme de Cacao, a little Carolans Irish Creme, an evil bag of ready-to-bake muffin mix, some Blackberry Brandy, a small bottle of sake, a container of ground cinnamon, and a handful of miniature Three Musketeers. We graciously accepted the whole box, mainly because of the Three Musketeers. When I asked Nat why she had all of these cheap bottles of Creme de Crap she answered that she and Kelly had bought them during their "creamy dessert drink phase," which would have caused me severe indigestion had she divulged any more details.

The next day when I arrived at the Lounge, I found Box of Crap #2 waiting for me. In addition to a bottle of limoncello, its contents included half-used condiments, like olive paste with truffle oil, horseradish mustard, Hershey's Syrup, Thai chili paste and butter. This was my reward for being gracious the day before. I do know this: we gave her a damn good bottle of scotch that certainly did NOT get left behind, at least not in one of the Boxes that was left for us. Dang.

Do I sound bitter? Maybe I am. We lost a great bartender and two of our good friends moved far, far away to the West coast. But I should not complain about the Boxes of Crap. We got a solid French press out of the deal, and I enjoyed the sake. I re-gifted a few things: Mum got the Blackberry Brandy. Michelle took the ready-to-bake muffin mix (which Nat likes to refer to as "the gift that keeps on sitting," perhaps better called "the gift that keeps re-gifting.") Nat also redeemed herself by leaving a few cigars on the office desk, which disappeared quickly, probably into the pocket of Guy. We miss Nat, and we can forgive her for leaving us with her excess crap. Why would one bother to haul a half-empty bottle of Hershey's Syrup from New York to San Francisco? And yet one feels guilty throwing away something that someone else could eat. Or drink.

So Nat, we will not hold it over your head that you dumped Boxes of Crap #1 and #2 on our laps. However, the demise of the beloved coffee maker at the Lounge is another story altogether, that shall be told on another day, over a bottle of expensive scotch, and held over your head with much weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth until you beg for mercy. Then we will all hug.

You can read all about Nat's warm and sunny adventures in San Francisco on her blog, Alpha Cook. Nat has promised us that she will never visit Ithaca, which means Road Trip! San Francisco is in our future.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Baracktail

The Baracktail

1 1/2 ounces of Bombay Dry gin
1/4 ounce sweetened lime juice
two dashes of Angostura Bitters
pineapple juice
lime wheel

Fill a double rocks glass with ice. Add gin, sweet lime and bitters. Top with half tonic, half pineapple juice. Garnish with lime wheel. Celebrate. Yes you can.

Halloween at Felicia's

Felicia's Haunted Cocktail Party was a blast! Fresh out of rehab, Amy Winehouse won best costume.

Barbara Bush won scariest (see how real she looks?), and Elvis (not pictured) got an honorable mention.
Special kudos go to one of Felicia's dearest friends, Bacchus, for his handmade alcohol-themed costume. You can see more Halloween photos here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes We Can

Felicia would like to personally congratulate our next president, Senator Barack Obama! Come celebrate with us on Wednesday, November 5th and drink the newest Felicia creation, the Baracktail. Yes we can!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Road Trip! Brooklyn

We took a wild road trip to Brooklyn last weekend with our band, the Black Eyed Susies. Did we have fun? Let's just say that watching the sunrise in the city is a beautiful thing. Leah and I stayed in Park Slope and after dragging our citygirl a**es out of bed, we got to visit some restaurants in the neighborhood for the most important meal of the day: brunch.

Ithaca is painfully short on brunch spots, so it was a thrill to have so many places from which to choose. Our good friend and fellow musician Jan Bell guided us to Little D's on 7th Ave on Saturday. As a potato pig, I felt a bit unsatisfied with my generic hash browns and soggy toast, but Leah's biscuits with sage-mushroom-sausage gravy were brilliant. On Sunday, we hit up Steinhof's cafe at 7th and 14th Streets for a hearty serving of German sausage and some well-endowed potatoes that really put out, perfect for a potato whore such as myself.

Our band played at two DUMBO establishments: 68 Jay Street Bar and Superfine. We ate dinner twice at Superfine and enjoyed super entrees including Mexican chicken-lime soup, penne with garlic and squash, and my favorite, bucatini with bolognese sauce. We can't report on any cocktails (booze+banjo+bass=bad) but the beer of the weekend was definitely Sugar Hill Ale from the Harlem Brewing Company. It was malty, well-hopped and all around tasty. Highly recommended by each one of the Black Eyed Susies, and those girls know beer.
The Black Eyed Susies

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Strange Dreams: You Can't Complain If You Don't Vote

I dreamed last night that I was Obama’s running mate for VP. It was Election Day, and John McCain and I had a go-cart race through the streets of Philadelphia to see who would take Pennsylvania. I kicked his butt. We ended up back at headquarters where there was a final debate. I broke out into a sweat and prayed silently, 'Please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me' since I pretty much know diddly about politics. I lucked out; all we talked about was John Travolta. I retired to bed at about midnight with Obama winning 55% of the votes. Sarah Palin woke me up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and told me, ‘It’s 50-50 now. The difference is crow’s feet.’ They were going to have to manually re-count all the votes, a task that would take days. I sat up in bed and said, ‘Sarah, we are two powerhouse women. Shouldn’t we be on the same team? What we need is a bipartisan effort to do what is right for this country.’ I think she tried to get one of my own secret service men to assassinate me after that. I woke up before the story ended. Author’s note: I’m not making this up. Now get out and vote on November 4. And remember Felicia’s motto: You can’t complain if you don’t vote.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hot (Spiked) Mulled Cider

Is there anything better in the fall than fresh pressed apple cider? There sure is: hot apple cider mulled with spices and doctored with a shot of liquor. Now that you have pulled your wool sweaters out of the closet, cleaned out the birdhouses and removed your air conditioner from the window, you can turn your attention to your favorite fruit of the fall season. Felicia buys both her apples and her cider directly from Kingtown Orchard, off of Route 89, a few miles past Taughannock Park. Their cider is tart and full of flavor (and for pie baking, Felicia recommends the Twenty Ouncer or Northern Spy apples). The cider recipe below hints at subtle spices and a touch of sweetness. It is guaranteed to warm you up after a cold day of raking leaves, especially with a nip of rum or whiskey added. Oh- and just a note to all you local folks - this is slightly different from the mulled cider at the lounge. That recipe will remain top secret until Felicia's cocktail book comes out.

Hot Spiked Cider

1 gallon apple cider
8 cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole allspice
the peel off ¼ of a lemon

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Bring almost to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain. Serve in a mug with one ounce of rum or whiskey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mixology Monday: Guilty Pleasures

What do you get when forty or so expert mixologists get together online to blog about cocktails? Usually some truly amazing, over-the-top drink recipes. Today, not so. October's Mixology Monday, hosted by Stevi at Two at the Most, has brought out the shameful secrets of what some of the world's top mixologists drink in the closet. The theme? Guilty Pleasures. In other words, what do you love to drink that you don't admit that you love to drink? What is your "comfort drink?" Your Kraft macaroni and cheese of cocktails? Your tuna noodle casserole of martinis? Your tater tots of spiked beverages? Your grilled American cheese with Campbells tomato soup of drinks? You get the picture.

Some familiar themes have been popping up today on blogs all over the web: the fuzzy navels of our younger years, pina coladas, anything mixed with Coca Cola, anything blended with ice cream. Personally, I left all of my drinking guilt behind when I turned 21. My guilty feelings are currently reserved for making my girlfriend cry, or running over a squirrel. I do, however, enjoy some beverages that would fall into the "I don't get no respect" category.

Like vodka, for example. I love vodka. Dirty vodka martinis or orange vodka and tonic, love 'em both. You might think drinking vodka is nothing to be embarrassed about, but you would be surprised to see just how many fancy-schmancy mixologists turn up their noses in vodka's presence.

My most cozy flannel shirt of the alcohol world, however is Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jack Daniels. Let's face it. It is not always safe to order a martini or even a mixed drink at an unknown bar. How often do you pick up a cocktail menu and see ingredients like Smirnoff Cherry or Sour Apple Pucker? When in doubt, I order some Mr. Daniels and a PBR (I prefer it in a bottle but it is more hip to be seen with a can). I actually really like them both a lot, and they are easy on the wallet. And if I want to keep my cocktail artist facade, PBR looks great in a martini glass.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Road Trip! Adirondacks

Imagine the scene: A lakefront rustic cottage accessible only by boat. Loons, beavers, bald eagles, and the occasional bear sighting. Pure wilderness. One would think that a paddle into the nearby middle-of-nowhere town would find a snack shack or maybe a diner. But instead, the only restaurant for miles is the upscale Lodge on Lake Clear.

The Lodge on Lake Clear in the eastern Adirondacks is owned by husband-wife team Ernest and Cathy Hohmeyer. Cathy's ancestors built the lodge in 1886; Ernest's European family bought it in 1965. Together they fuse fresh Adirondack produce and local game with old world dishes.

Dining at the lodge is more than a meal; it is a whole body experience. Guests start their evening in the "rathskeller", which is German for "I have a selection of 150 rare imported beers in my dark basement where there is a big, stone fireplace and overstuffed chairs." Unable to choose, Leah and I decided to split the smoked beer sampler.
First up was the Saranac Rauchbier. It proved to be a pleasant lager, with only the slightest hint of smoke. Next was the Schlenkerla Rauchbier Maerzen. It was by far the most phenomenal of the beers, and definitely my favorite flavor of the night. This hearty beer had the aroma of smoked bacon with a light fruit flavor in the background (I could have had a few more of these. Would go well with breakfast, too). The last beer was Aventinus Weizen Eisbock. This complex, slightly sweet ice bock tasted of toasted malt and barley and was a great beer with which to wrap up our beer hour.
It was almost disappointing when it was time to leave the rathskeller and venture upstairs for dinner, but the aromas coming from the kitchen quickly made me forget my hesitation. Let me warn you: If you do not eat meat or game, the Lodge is probably not the restaurant for you. You will be happier buying a box of pasta and a jar of Ragu from the nearby general store to take back to your camp. As a recovered vegetarian myself, I overwhelmed myself by ordering the sauerbraten, local beef that was marinated for three days in a crock before being cooked in a wine sauce. It came with killer dumplings. Next time I would try their vegetable strudel.
Leah got the game sampler which came on a loooong platter with cornish hen, quail, and what she referred to as "the most beautiful sausage balls I have ever laid eyes on," which the waitress later told us were made with cute furry woodland critters such as rabbits. The sausage hopped quickly into her mouth. Though the quail was headless, Leah was convinced it was staring at her and for some reason could not bring herself to eat it. This is the problem with eating game: frequently it is served still resembling its natural state in the forest, making you honestly face up to exactly what you are eating. Kind of like frog legs.

Our prix fixe meals also came with hearty beef dumpling soup, salad and a side of fermented red cabbage; appetizers and dessert cost extra. We were too full for dessert, but if we had room for anything else, it would have definitely been more beer. My only complaint of the evening is that the coffee (which we took back down to the rathskeller to drink by the fire) was lukewarm at best, and i prefer mine hot enough to burn the flesh off of my tongue and require asbestos gloves to pick it up. Total cost of the meal: $120 before tip.
While I personally would not consider the Lodge on Lake Clear a destination all by itself (though they do have some fantastic lodging), if you are in the Adirondacks, it is worth at least an hour drive (or paddle) to get there, even if all you did was drink beer in the rathskeller. Remember, it is so dark at night in the Adirondacks that you can't see your beer in front of your face when you are paddling home. Be prepared for some good arguments (-Where the hell are we? -What do you mean where are we? I thought you knew where we were!) and make sure you leave your cottage light on.

Best Of Ithaca

Gosh-golly, thanks to all of you who voted for Felicia in this year’s Best of Ithaca put out by the Ithaca Times. Felicia’s won – surprise – Best Cocktail Selection. What with Leah the Mad Scientist constantly making strange elixirs in the kitchen, this accolade is not fully unexpected. Ask Leah about her recent experiments with pumpkin and cayenne, or about the exploding cantaloupe incident. If you are lucky, you have been around to witness (and taste test) the development of all kinds of wacky and amazing drinks. Felicia also won Best Underrated Hangout. Not sure exactly what that one means, but ya’ll are always welcome to hang out here to your tipsy hearts’content. Previous years' awards include Best Friendliest Business Owners and Best Bartenders. A special thanks to Felicia’s most excellent bartenders who channel the ever-flowing spirit of Felicia. Without them, you would be, well, really thirsty.

Big Melon Cocktail

The Big Melon Cocktail is based on using an entire melon, but that does not mean that you are required to get drunk. You can certainly cut the recipe in half or quarter it, or share with some friends. Another alternative is to enjoy this beverage without alcohol. Chock full of vitamin A and vitamin C, you can drink it for breakfast or as an afternoon smoothie snack.

Big Melon Cocktail

3 ounces cantaloupe mixture (see below)
1 ½ ounce vodka
lime wedge

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add vodka and top with cantaloupe mixture. Garnish with a lime.

Cantaloupe Mixture:

1 large cantaloupe (about 5 lbs)
4 ½ ounces lime juice
2 ounces simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
3 teaspoons ground coriander

Whirl up cantaloupe in food processor until smooth. Add lime juice, simple syrup and coriander. Mixture will keep refrigerated for about three days.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Felicia's Tomato Zinger

At this point in the harvest season, you may have grown tired of eating cherry tomatoes. But have you tried them in a cocktail yet? Felicia’s Tomato Zinger is a version of the Sungold Zinger, initially designed by Carlos Yturria at a San Francisco bar called Range. Felicia used Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes from her dad’s garden and Oregon Growers and Shippers Wildflower Honey purchased at Ithaca Coffee Company. The result was a pale orange, half tangy-half sweet martini. One sip and Felicia was smitten, just like her San Francisco blogging pals at Married With Dinner. It is hard to pick out the individual flavors of the tomatoes, honey, lemon juice or gin. Rather the drink takes on a unique - and incredible - flavor that is all its own. If you make only one of Felicia’s cocktail concoctions at home, the Tomato Zinger should be the one that you try. At least for this week.

If you order one of these at the lounge this week, Felicia happens to be using Sungold tomatoes. Everyone who has tasted the cocktail so far has exclaimed with pleasant surprise, "Oh my god! This is great. " People are now ordering this drink by its new nickname, "I'd like another 'OMG', please."

Felicia's Tomato Zinger

5 small Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes
pinch of sea salt
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
1 3/4 ounces gin

Muddle four cherry tomatoes, sea salt, honey syrup and lemon juice. Add gin and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the remaining cherry tomato. Note: if you use Sungold tomatoes instead of Sweet 100s, Felicia recommends 3/4 ounce of honey syrup.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bar Incident: Five Manhattans

An Open Letter to the Guy Who Got Shut Off Last Night:

You were wondering why we refused to continue to serve you last night after you finished your fifth manhattan during your hour and a half marathon at our lounge. While we were most impressed with your consumption abilities, 'tis a lot of booze. Five manhattans. That's like 12 shots of bourbon. 12 ounces. A cup and a half. In an hour and a half. Followed by a few sneaky shots after we shut you off. You rascal, you. Felicia bows before your liver of steel.


Bar Incident: The Chipotle "Accident"

An Open Letter to the Guy Who Steals Drinks:

We have seen you chug other people's cocktails - even strangers' drinks - when they are not looking. Last week, did you think that full-to-the-brim martini was sitting abandoned on the bar by accident? Tempting you to sneak the whole thing? Inviting you to slug it down? We made it just for you, with our chipotle-infused tequila. The look on your face as your mouth burst into flames was simply classic. We notice that you aren't stealing drinks anymore...


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Real Deal Espresso Martini

Last year, Leah was approached by Michael Turback and asked to design an espresso cocktail for his upcoming book. The book, Coffee Drinks, is now published and available at Ten Speed Press. With the assistance of Gimme! Coffee barista/Felicia's Atomic Lounge bartender Colleen Anunu, Leah experimented with orange peels, vanilla beans, Grand Marnier, cinnamon sticks and various types of espresso. After sipping the cocktail she made with Gimme! Mocha Java, muddled lemon balm (from Felicia's garden, of course), an orange wheel, vodka and lavender whipped cream, Leah exclaimed, "Now this is the real deal." Hence the drink was dubbed The Real Deal Espresso Martini. The recipe for Leah's cocktail is side-by-side in Coffee Drinks with recipes by other talented coffee-loving mixololgists including Paul Clarke (The Cocktail Chronicles) and Jeffrey Morganthaler . Want to taste it? For now you will have to buy the book.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

White Sangria

When most people think of sangria, they usually picture it being red. Though not as famous as its red sibling, white sangria is a perfect beverage for harvest season. The combination of wine, fruit and sugar results in a lightly sweetened flavor rainbow for your mouth.

The best part about sangria is that it is virtually idiot proof. A cheap bottle of wine works just fine (Felicia is currently using the practically undrinkable Rene Junot white) and you can try adding whatever fruits you have on hand, such as peaches, melon, grapes or berries. As autumn falls upon us, you can add apples and cinnamon. Keeping the skins on the fruits enhances the flavor. If you like carbonation, serve it with a splash of Sprite or seltzer. Because Sangria is punch-like, you can mix it up in larger batches if you are having friends over. If you do not drink all of it at once (which could prove challenging since it is so good), it keeps in the fridge for a few days or up to a week if you strain out the fruit.

White Sangria

1 bottle of white table wine
one peach sliced thin
one orange sliced thin
4 large sage leaves, ripped into pieces
1 ½ ounce Cointreau
1 ½ ounce simple syrup OR 2 tablespoons sugar

Mix all ingredients in a large glass jar. Add more or less sugar to taste. Let sit for a few hours. Serve in wine glasses over ice, with a splash of Sprite or seltzer added if bubbles are desired. Number of people served varies, but Felicia advises you to share or you will end up with a bittersweet sangria headache. Salud!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Road Trip! Collegetown

While Collegetown is technically a part of the city of Ithaca and only about a quarter mile up the hill from the Commons, this neighborhood feels miles away from downtown. Many Cornell students never venture beyond the invisible boundary at the top of Buffalo Street. When I was a Cornellian (two decades ago!), I had no idea downtown existed until I was a senior. I'm serious. Common sense is not a requirement for admission to Ivy League colleges. In the same vein, townies often choose to avoid college hangouts and the steep hike up the hill, made pseudo-famous by early Little Rascals episodes involving go-carts careening out-of-control down this very slope.

That said, the Chapter House is a great excuse to give your thighs a workout. In fact, they were featured in this month's Imbibe Magazine in the article "100 Best Places to Drink Beer in America."

Our reason for visiting the Chapter House last night was to have a final toast with our former bartender, Nat, on the eve of her embarking on a permanent journey to foodie heaven (San Francisco) with her partner, a fully loaded moving van and two mentally unstable cats. More on Nat in my next post.

Chapter House has one of the best beer selections in Ithaca, with over 30 brews on tap. Leah and I both started with a pint of Wachusett Blueberry. Leah went back for a second. Unfortunately, my sense of taste has been off since I had a cold a few weeks ago, and the blueberry flavor was too mild for me to completely appreciate. I chose the more burly Saranac Black Forest as my second pint. Our friends were drinking Victory Golden Monkey (which tasted remarkably like bananas), Rogue Dead Guy and a lot of pints of Strongbow Hard Cider.

Having not eaten since breakfast, Leah and I then set out on foot in order to find somewhere in Collegetown that was open at 10pm on a Monday night. Our usual haunts, the ABC Cafe and Vietnam Restaurant (best Vietnamese we have ever had), were sadly closed, as was Nat's favorite Korean place, Four Seasons. We ended up at a Japanese restaurant we had never been at before, Miyake. We were a little nervous that we were the only people in there, but decided we were up for an adventure. Here's our review: excellent food with artful presentation, a little pricey for C-town, but the service was exemplary. Leah had the avocado salad and a something-dragon roll (it included shrimp tempura) and I had the spicy tofu appetizer followed by a yam roll. We liked all of it, and it was easy on our beer-filled late-night bellies. They were out of the 375 ml bottle of sake that we ordered so the owner gave us the chilled house sake for free. Nice touch. Total for dinner before tip came to $38 for two. We will definitely go back to Miyake, as long as we can get our lazy booties up the hill again.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Foodie Detour: Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes

I eat this almost daily during the late summer, sometimes even twice a day: tomatoes plucked from the garden moments before consuming, white peasant bread, mayonnaise and a sprinkle of salt. One of the delicious satisfactions of tending a garden.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bar Incident: The angry European guy

About that European guy who had a fit in the lounge last night while the Horse Flies were playing, Felicia did not see that one coming. Maybe he was angry before he arrived, or maybe he just felt small, since he was on the puny side and carrying a shih tzu. He had ordered a flatbread and then told the bartender, "you bring me pizza in alley." Leah was sitting next to him at the bar and she said, "there is no table service in the alley tonight." He proceeded to explode like someone set off a fire cracker in his groin. He yelled, cursed, jumped up and down, waved his arms around, screamed, attempted to suck hapless bystanders in as his allies, and according to Jennie Stearns, he even insulted Leah's knees. One of his friends emailed Felicia today with an apology, "If I hadn't had to pee so much [and stepped away before the incident], I might have been able to put the kibosh on my pal's situation." Sorry you had a bad day, Mr. Angry European Guy. Felicia still loves you, but only from far, far away. Feel better soon, and be kind to your shih tzu.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


With harvest time in full swing, Felicia will dedicate her next few columns to cocktails one can make with local ingredients. Felicia likes to think of herself as a locavore, a person who buys her fruits, vegetables and other items from farmers near her home.

Today’s choice of beverage fruits: peaches and blueberries. Unable to make it to the Farmer’s Market this week, Felicia bought her peaches at Brownies produce stand on Route 96 near Perry City Road. Brownies has amazing fresh-picked corn and a variety of other local or almost local produce. One bite of a peach, and Felicia had an obscene amount of juice running down her chin. Felicia found equally juicy (though not as messy) large, plump blueberries at Grisamore Farms in Locke.

After eating a few peaches and most of the blueberries, Felicia turned herself to the task at hand: the Bellini. The Bellini was created in the 1940’s in Venice, Italy and traditionally uses white peaches. The peaches (white or yellow) can be whirled up in a food processor with the skins on, and Felicia recommends trying one of the many local sparkling wines available in our region. The blueberries can be pureed with the peaches, or added as a garnish. This Bellini makes a lovely addition to brunch, or can be served before dinner during cocktail hour.

Felicia Bellini

1 ounce peach puree
3 ounces sparkling wine

Pour peach puree into champagne glass. Slowly add champagne. Garnish with blueberries.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Road Trip! New York City

Felicia is freshly back from her road trip to the Big Apple. While we claimed the purpose of the trip was to see Oatmeal and a Cigarette at the NYC Fringe Festival, the unspoken reason for all road trips, as you know, is food and alcohol.

Accolades for best cocktails of the weekend go to Tailor. We tried the Lovage Sour (gin, lemon and lovage-infused aquavit), Paprika Punch (rum and red bell pepper lemonade) and the Kumquat Caipirinha (kumquats and cachaca with a caramel rim). Each cocktail had a delicate, balanced flavor. They were simply stunning.

Our favorite culinary experience was Caracas Arepa, a 15-seat Venezuelan food shack next to Caracas Arepa Bar. We spent $24 before tip for two authentic arepas and two Tona beers. Note: There is supposed to be a little squiggle over the 'n' in Tona but darned if Felicia can't figure out how to add that thingy in Blogger.

Thanks to Ruthie Collins of Hip Girl Entrepreneurs, the best surprise of the trip was the opportunity to network with some creative, inspiring women entrepreneurs during a business dinner in Brooklyn.

By the way, the cast of Oatmeal and a Cigarette gave a fabulous performance. The show runs in NYC through August 22.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Oatmeal and a Cigarette

Felicia will be in NYC this weekend. Any recommendations for where she should go for a cocktail? She prefers fresh, creative ingredients to old-school strange liqueurs whose names she cannot ever remember.

Felicia will be in NYC to see Oatmeal and a Cigarette at the NYC Fringe Festival. OAC won Critics Pick at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival a few months ago. That crazy guy in the photo above is actor Karl Gregory, pictured at a fundraiser at Felicia's Atomic Lounge. In OAC, Karl plays "mommy" to a 30-year-old guy who thinks he is 3. If you are in The City, you can catch Oatmeal and Cigarette from August 17-August 22.