The Baseball Hall of Fame put Cooperstown, New York on the map. Nowhere else on Earth can you find such a concentration of dads. Everywhere you look: tucked in Mets t-shirts and pleated shorts with (usually) somewhat disgruntled families in tow. I know all this from first hand experience because the quaint town was only a forty minute country road drive from our recent cabin stay.
Surprisingly, beyond the baseball draw, the area boasts a few attractions for fans of food and drink, which we all know I am one of. The first was the Fly Creek Cider Mill, which we found out about in an 11-year-old tourism pamphlet left in our cabin. Happily, it was still there and doing brisk business. Much like the Vermont Country Store, which stocks loads of things to buy that you really don't need but end up with anyway, the Cider Mill also features tasting stations every few feet, where you can dip pretzel sticks in various mustards, jams, and salsas. We were swayed by the spicy and yummy apple salsa, which we just finished off.
Outside at their cafe, we enjoyed more treats. No one (especially me) can resist the lure of a sugared apple cider donut, and their's was particularly good. We also caved in to the interesting combo of vanilla ice cream, apple cider, and ginger ale that made up the Cider Float. Mmmm. The place really is a mill, and their apple cider is delicious (and I'm not even a fan of the stuff). Behind the mill are rows of orchards where nearby ducks sat posing for photos.
For a slightly more grown-up drink experience, we headed to the Ommegang Brewery, the place where our beloved Three Philosophers and this week's Bere de Mars is made. The company was started when two Yale grads became fans of Belgium imports. They started a business selling them, but just couldn't unload the brew. People at that time were less aware of Belgium style beer and the higher price tag was intimidating. So the two ivy leaguers decided to cut out the import costs and set up their own brewery that would make Belgium style beers. Duvel sponsored half of the project and later, when the couple was ready to retire, the company bought them out.
But by no means has the place turned corporate. On the afternoon we visited an Ultimate Frisbee contest had just taken place on the grounds, Phish was playing over the loud speakers, and our tour guide Brian was wearing a hemp green tie dye over sized tee. The tour was brief (I believe Brian was in a bit of a rush to join the other workers at a post ultimate Frisbee party) but we got to smell hops (which smell delicious and surprisingly, due to a blight cannot be grown in the United States).
We got to see all the facilities, which were surprisingly modest, and I got to snag a picture of this rad photo on their wall. We learned that the company lets their beer carbonate naturally within the bottle by adding yeast and keeping it at a warm temperature before shipping. Because of this, their bottles are seamless, blown much like a champagne bottle, because otherwise they would explode.
The tasting was, of course, the most exciting part and it was there we were introduced to the spacial edition Bere de Mars and tried their delicious Abbey Ale for the first time. Inspired to spend money, we got a cute set of Three Philosophers sipping glasses (better for these stronger beers), a couple bottles of the Bere de Mars and a set that included the bottles of the last batch of Chocolate Indulgence, which won't be available again until November. We haven't tried that one yet, but I'll be letting you know.
Ommegang is tons of fun and a must stop if you're in the area. You can also head to Howe Caverns (remember how much fun can be had there) where they are currently cooling off their next batch of Hennepin.
Lastly, Cooperstown holds the dining gem called Alex and Ika, a culinary delight equal to the greats of the city. We even went two nights in a row, knowing nothing nearby was going to come close to this place. The first evening, just as they opened at 6, we were out of luck for a table (all the local olds had beaten us to it with reservations) so we sat and had our meal at the well stocked bar. Jim got to try some new beers, including the great Wiktap-Pater and I enjoyed a strong Swedish Martini.
The staff is comprised of seemingly the area's most (if not only) handsome and hip, and the food was out of this world. A beet and salami salad, a special tomato based shrimp soup, a tangy Asian broth with seafood and udon noodles, a chorizo pot pie, spicy fried shrimp cakes, a “chocolate, chocolate port thing”, and great service. Not a single step, bite or moment was out of tune and it was a perfect place to celebrate our anniversary… and the day after (and if we had stayed longer, the day after that).