Wednesday, April 18, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Basil & Wick’s, North Creek

The banner beneath Basil & Wick’s trail marker sign read Roadkill Throwdown. To the uninitiated, Throwdown is a Food Network show in which chef Bobby Flay challenges a chef in preparing a specific food. Throwdown in North Creek? How did we not hear about this? And what roadkill would be coaxed into fine cuisine? We were on our way to Long Lake for Happy Hour, but vowed to stop in on our way back through, hoping we’d see Basil & Wick’s chef Chuck Jennings take Bobby down.
A few Happy Hours later, we pulled into Basil & Wick’s partially filled parking lot, thinking we’d missed the competition. Glancing again at the banner, which did indeed say it was today, Pam noticed the unfortunate typo: Throwdown with Bobby Fray. Fray? Isn’t it Flay? How embarrassing to misspell the name of a celebrity chef. Disappointed, and never really needing a reason to stop at Basil & Wick’s, we went in anyway, hoping to hear the buzz of excitement that would surely continue for weeks. Nothing. No buzz, no commotion, no hullabaloo. “Did we miss Throwdown?” Pam innocently inquired. Sneaky sidelong glances and smirks ensued, then a few giggles. It was April Fool’s Day, and we’d been punked! Well, we might as well stay for a drink and start a fresh review. We reviewed Basil & Wick’s in the earliest days of this mission, though we feel it didn’t do the justice they so deserve.

Located on Route 28 (across from Stewart’s in North Creek), Basil & Wick’s casual cedar shake, clapboard, and rustic log exterior and spacious wraparound porch suggest a casual, relaxed experience. The uncluttered post and beam structure, reminiscent of a remodeled barn, with natural finish knotty pine cathedral ceiling, is warm and inviting. Not overly-decorated, typical icons such as an old sled, snowboard, skis and antler chandelier create a rustic, outdoorsy theme. In the Lodge or bar area, three 52-inch TV’s are unobtrusive but visible if desired.

The curved bar is a remnant of the famous horseshoe bar, once the social hub of the Colonial Arms Hotel in Warrensburg, now just a fraction of its original size. Several tables and booths provide seating if you can’t get a seat at the bar, and a flagstone fireplace occupies part of one wall. In homage to Basil & Wick’s humble beginnings, mural-sized black and-white photo collages hold subjects prisoners of time, depicting scenes from Gore Mountain, Whitewater Derby and the original Basil and Wick’s. A chrome and vinyl barstool, enshrined in plexiglass like a rare museum artifact, stands in reverence near the entrance, a relic from the early days. Backless and tattered, its emerald green seat bulging flesh-colored stuffing like an aging but sturdy sex symbol in a too-tight dress who’s seen better days but refuses to succumb to the ravages of age. While sentimental, it represents a future with a gracious nod to the past.

Basil and Wick’s, too, has refused to become a “has-been”. After several changes in ownership and unsuccessful attempts to make a comeback under various names, Jane Peter has taken the director’s seat and introduced a rising star. Not one to leave the running of things to someone else, she is a tireless presence, greeting and seating, running between the bar, kitchen and dining room, often taking a quick break to visit her regulars. Jane and her well-chosen staff are really what have put Basil and Wick’s on the path to success.

The well-stocked bar and a creative staff are the perfect combination. The specials board often features a clever martini or seasonal cocktail. The draft beer offerings are broad and well selected. Among the most recent inventory are local favorites Lake Placid Ubu and Adirondack Brewery Dirty Blonde. PBR is an economical choice at $2. Not one to pass up an opportunity to try a new brew, Kim recently indulged in a Duvel, a single fermented Belgium golden ale. Served in an 18 oz. tulip glass, with an 8.5% alcohol content and an $8.50 price tag, this beer is more like an event – meant to be sipped and savored. Basil & Wick’s serves 18-20 bottled beers in a range of choices, including gluten-free Red Bridge. The wine selection varies, but lists a modest variety of red, white, rose and sparkling, ranging from $5 (house) to $10 a glass, and $22.50 to $58 a bottle.

Basil and Wick’s is open Thursday through Monday in the spring. The bar opens at 3 p.m. serving from the pub menu, which offers bar food favorites and some creative surprises. Happy Hour is from 3-5:30 daily. The dining room opens at 5p.m. and features traditional beef, seafood, poultry, ribs and pasta, as well as some more imaginative dishes, mostly in the $15 to $25 range. On Thursdays, Chef Chuck’s Pasta bar is an economical $14.

Not destined to fall into a routine, something fun always seems to be in the making. From occasional musical entertainment and holiday celebrations to Wii Mondays and the annual Adirondack Donegal Beard Contest, the staff’s innovative and clever ideas ensure the future success and continuity of this revived landmark. A homogeneous blend of local, regional, seasonal, and recreational clientele make Basil & Wick’s perfect place to end the day, whether coming off the slopes, out of the woods, off a whitewater rafting trip, or just down the road. If you haven’t “liked” them yet, you will. Basil & Wick’s Facebook Page is a good source of up-to-date specials, happenings and shenanigans. And when you do go, say hi to Jane and Jeannie and Emily and tell them Happy Hour in the High Peaks sent you.

Throwback and Donegal Beard photos courtesy of Basil & Wick’s Facebook Page.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.

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In 2013, sisters Kim and Pam Ladd self-published Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide and a companion Happy Hour Trail Passport. As they continue to market and distribute their current book, they are back on the trail doing research for their next project – a guide to breweries, wineries and distilleries in and around the Adirondack Park.

In 2014 they created their own drinking event, a bartender competition they call “BARRED!”, which they expect will become an annual event held in the early spring in collaboration with Basil & Wick’s in North Creek.

With the lofty goal of becoming the Adirondack "Drinking Authority," Kim and Pam report on drinking-related topics and events inside the Blue Line here at the Almanack and at their own blog. You can also visit their website, follow them on Facebook, and Twitter.

The pair have spent most of their lives in Warren County. Pam has a degree in Computer Science, but her passion is mixology. She and her family live in Warrensburg. Kim is a freelance photographer with a degree in Advertising Design and lives in Thurman with her husband.

One Response

  1. Tara E. Tooan says:

    Great writing on Basil and Wicks!