Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Equinox

Some thoughts about spring on its first day:

I love how it is often warm and rarely humid.

I love that bright, shimmering shade of green that new leaves give to old trees.

I love how wildflowers turn ordinary roadsides into vivid profusions of color and life.

I love going swimming with my daughter again.

I love sitting outside in the afternoon and drinking a margarita beneath a cloudless blue sky.

I love spring training baseball.

And finally, I am riveted by the most intense pursuit in all of sports: the NHL playoffs.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Great Places To Drink An Adult Beverage

Back in November, I wrote about great places to enjoy an adult beverage and said I would make it a recurring topic, each time offering up five recommendations in alphabetical order. Here, finally, is installment number two.

Over the past few days, as I went through my mental list of drinking spots I have been, a common theme emerged: Most of the ones that came immediately to mind have outdoor spaces. I don’t know why that is -- maybe it’s just because this winter has been especially cold and everyone is ready for spring to arrive -- but whatever the reason, there is no denying that enjoying a drink outside is a special treat, and no denying that most of us are eager for temperatures to warm up so we can do it again. So, here are five places sure to please:

The Balcony Bar & Restaurant; Eureka Springs, AR

I mentioned another merchant in Eureka Springs during a previous post, so you might say this Arkansas town has become something of a recurring topic all by itself. One of these days I will devote a post to the town as a whole, but right now I’m praising the simple charm of The Balcony Bar & Restaurant, which you will find on the second floor of the 105-year-old Basin Park Hotel. To get the full effect, grab a seat on The Balcony’s balcony and down a cold beer while the sun kisses your face. Look down at this view of the spot where Spring and Cushing Streets split, and watch as pedestrians scurry toward the town’s many shops. If you are into people-watching, this vantage point is meant for you.

Benziger Family Winery; Glen Ellen, CA

You have probably seen Benziger’s wines in your grocery store, and may have bought some to drink at home, but it is an entirely different experience when you consume their wine on their Sonoma Valley estate. You drive past terraced hillsides and an inexplicable replica of the Parthenon to arrive at the tasting room. Once there, you get to sample hard-to-find, limited production offerings you probably haven’t heard of before. After you buy a bottle, treat yourself to a drink while walking the grounds, which offer up views of trellises and tended vines and the low ridges which enclose the valley. Benziger is everything a winery should be.

Chowning’s Tavern; Williamsburg, VA

Josiah Chowning (pronounced chew-ning) opened his tavern in 1766, and today it continues on Duke of Gloucester Street in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. The inside of Chowning’s has rustic appeal with pine floors and low beams, but for the purposes of this post, you need to take advantage of the large patio out back. There, you can sit beneath an expansive grape arbor while enjoying locally brewed ales. Butterflies flutter among the foliage in spring, clusters of grapes hang from it in early fall, and afternoons are pleasant either way. If you’re hungry, gobble down a pit-cooked barbecue sandwich...and if you feel you must spend time inside, come back at night when you can dine by candlelight and partake in 18th century games.

Forsyth Park; Savannah, GA

Savannah owes its reputation as America’s best walking city to its lush squares, tree-lined boulevards, stately architecture -- and also to the fact you can drink on the streets. Occupying a two- by six-block green space at the southern end of the city’s historic district, Forsyth Park is crisscrossed by paved paths that slip beneath oak branches and lead to a large Parisian fountain. Fill your cup with pale ale or chardonnay, then sip away as you meander. Lie on the park’s lawn with your lover, sipping together, and you will never want to leave.

The Mill Top Tavern; St. Augustine, FL

Situated atop a water mill that was built in 1888 on the oldest street in America’s oldest city, this tavern is small and unpretentious. Yet at the same time, it knows its atmosphere can not be beat. There is live music every day, and from the tavern’s open air deck you can see the Castillo de San Marcos, a fort that has been standing since the 1600’s. Whether you are here in the afternoon or late in the evening -- whether you are drinking a bottle of Sam Adams or sharing a pitcher of Bud Light -- The Mill Top will not disappoint. And as you can see, kids are welcome, at least during the day: