The Five Best Music Venues Around NYC

March 17, 2012

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Whether checking out a friend’s band or going to see our favorite artists, the venue can be hit or miss. Many rock rooms of all sizes can be the kind of places you’d never want to be unless you had a reason to go there. Let’s take a look at our five favorite live music venues around New York City that bring sound quality, decor, presentation, talent and the overall live experience to the next level.

Union Hall | 702 Union St., Brooklyn | Take the R to Union Street
The folks at Union Hall care deeply about what they do. This translates to every aspect of their esteemed live room. The sound is top notch. The staff is hospitable and on point. The booking team brings the best in local, national, and international up-and-comers in music and comedy through the space on a nightly basis. With a standing room capacity of 100, you’re always close to the action. The Ting Tings, Fleet Foxes, David Cross, Fred Armisen, and Janeane Garofalo have all graced the Union Hall stage. You can get the party started upstairs with a bite to eat, a round of bocce ball, or a drink at the bar. Their larger sister venue, The Bell House, is another gem for live music and even bigger acts.

Brooklyn Bowl | 61 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn | Take the L train to Bedford Avenue
Opened two years ago near the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl has raised the bar across the board. The venue books a diverse line-up that ranges from big name national acts to thriving local talent. Such luminaries as Adele, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Snoop Dogg, Big Audio Dynamite, Dinosaur Jr, Hot Chip, Gogol Bordello, John Legend, and Sharon Jones have all graced their stage. Questlove mans the wheels of steel for a weekly Thursday night residency called Bowl Train. Brooklyn Bowl pours an impeccable selection of local brews, serves up delicious Blue Ribbon fare, and offers classy yet unpretentious rounds of bowling. Unlike so many music venues, the décor is impressive and the sound is impeccable on a stage high enough to guarantee quality sight lines. Most evenings require a cover charge or advance ticket purchase for entrance, which is used to fund the bands rather than acting like an exclusivity tactic that ultimately pads the owner’s pocket.

Waltz Astoria | 23-14 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria | Take N or W to Ditmars Blvd.
This coffee shop and wine bar strikes the balance between fostering new artistic talent and curating slightly more established performers. With weekly Open Mic Nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you never know what might come your way between comedy, music, spoken word, magic, and many other mediums. As exhilarating as it can be to see a polished big name act, there can be a unique kind of thrill witnessing artists in their infancy. There’s a rawness and honesty that can often disappear with experience. It’s a charming and special time in performance that can be spied regularly at Waltz. Thursdays through Sunday host touring performers, songwriter competitions, and rotating themed music series. They even offer morning Kids Sing-A-Longs on Mondays and Thursdays to get musical with the whole family.

Maxwell’s | 1039 Washington St., Hoboken | Take the PATH train to Hoboken Terminal
A short jaunt from the Manhattan PATH stops, Maxwell’s has been serving up quality grub and the finest in indie rock since 1978. When quality bands breeze through the likes of Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, and Terminal 5, many often hit Maxwell’s the night before. What that means is a chance to see these groups at a smaller venue. Maxwell’s has a 250-person capacity room that ensures this intimacy. A never-ending who’s who list of rock has ripped the Maxwell’s stage a new one including The Replacements, Nirvana, Joan Jett, The Pogues, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Buzzcocks, Fugazi, John Cale, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Strokes, and on and on we go. Their reputation in the music community attracts the continually excellent roster. The cozy restaurant offers a high quality diner-style menu that oozes personality.

Midnight Ramble | Levon Helm Studios, 160 Plochmann Lane | Woodstock | Rent a Hybrid
Levon Helm is widely considered a national treasure. As drummer for The Band, he also carried lead vocal duties for classics like “The Weight” and “Up On Cripple Creek.” A true original in music and classic rock, Levon has been hosting his Midnight Ramble, on periodic Saturday nights since January 2004 in his barn. Named for the traveling minstrel shows of his youth, the Ramble has featured special guests like Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, The Black Crows, Norah Jones, My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello, and Willie Nelson, sometimes unannounced. The intimacy of these performances at Levon’s hearth offer a hospitality and warmth found in no other venue. Tickets run you between 100 and 150 clams. It’s pricey, but not considering that you get to see a living legend in an intimate setting who has a wealth of famous friends who like to drop in and jam. Levon also fosters the up and coming talent of the area, having Brooklyn’s local heroes, Spirit Family Reunion, join in on the fun on a recent wintry Saturday night. New Midnight Ramble dates are added throughout the year, usually a month in advance. Keep checking the site or subscribe to their Newsletter for future shows. This kind of retreat to rootsy Americana surrounded by the secluded wilderness of the Catskills Mountain Region is the perfect antidote to urban intensity.

About the author: In addition to writing for offMetro.com, Chris Brunelle plays in New York band, The Whisperians, who will celebrate the release of their latest single “Life Is Coming True” with a show at Union Hall on Leap Year, February 29, 2012.

Photo of Brooklyn Bowl by Adam Macchia

Originally published here.

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Things to Do on Maui, Where It’s Easy to Be Green

March 10, 2012

Mai Tai by the shore (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Whether we’re working in San Francisco or New York, at offMetro.com, we often find ourselves dreaming of sun, sand, and bath-temperature seas. We recently flew (yes flew, but we offset our carbon footprint; $23 to ameliorate the 4,000 lbs of CO2 emitted) to the Hawaiian island of Maui, where we discovered a dynamic range of comforts, eco-friendly eats, activities, and accommodations that can be enjoyed amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Pacific Rim.

What to do
1. Drink: Get a taste of one of the island’s best Mai Tais—and have a chat with one of its most famous bartenders—at the beloved Tiki Bar and Grill.

2. Take in Hawaiian Culture: Ka’anapali Beach Hotel takes Hawaiian cultural preservation seriously and warmly welcome all into the festive spirit of Aloha. Beyond the myriad classes and activities offered to hotel guests is a free nightly Hawaiian live music and Hula show open to all.

3. Swing a Club: The courses of Wailea capture Maui’s lush green space and stunning views in a world-class golfing experience. Each of Wailea’s three courses offers a unique outing. It has earned recognition from Maui Historical Society for its preservation of prehistoric lava rock walls during construction, and is considered a thinking players course where skill and strategy are consistently tested. As you work you way through any of the courses, keep an eye out for the wild onlookers; birds, geckos, mongoose, and other creatures are sure to be on the sidelines, as are the stunning views of Mount Haleakala and neighboring islands of Molokini, Lanai, and Kahoolawe.

4. Snorkel: On the north-western shore of the island, Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach and Napili Shores are great places to spot sea turtles, butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, trigger fish, and the former Hawaii State Fish Humuhumunukunukuapua. Excursions to the tiny crescent-shaped island of Molokini and the aptly-named Turtle Town are among the most popular snorkel and dive destinations in the world. If you didn’t come with gear, 5 Star Scuba does rentals for $10 per hour.

Where to eat
1. Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Some Sushi restaurants specialize in tradional and some in modern fusion, while Sansei excels at both. What sets Sansei even further apart from any other sushi experience is the innovation they’ve brought to Maui-inspired seafood cuisine. On an award-winning menu full of rock stars, one stand out is the Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi with shaved Maui Onion, Red Jalapeño, and Yukke sauce. The Mango Crab Salad Hand Roll won top marks at the Taste Of Lahaina Festival, showing how well Sansei can capture the excellence of local flavor. Chef Kaipo Nakata cultivates relationships with local vendors to procure the best available products. This translates to premium fresh ingredients across the board. The level of culinary quality and innovation is upscale while staying competitively affordable. All this inviting excellence is wrapped in a décor that is relaxed, simple, and comfortable to fully enhance the vacation vibe. As the weekend dinner hour fades and nightlife descends, Sansei transitions to a festive atmosphere, holding host to a variety of nightly events like Karaoke Thursdays.

2. Mama’s Fish House
Widely considered as possibly the best restaurant in Maui by locals, travelers, and press from around the globe, Mama’s has been serving up fresh and inspired seafood dishes since 1973. They build their menu daily based on what delights they’ve pulled out of the ocean. The fishermen responsible for each particular catch are credited throughout the delectable menu. One dish that gets a lot of deserved attention is the Mahimahi stuffed with lobster, crab, and Maui onion, baked in a macadamia nut crust. Equally impressive is the location, just steps from a secluded beach on Maui’s North Shore. The décor embraces old Polynesia with class and comfort. They’ve used their success to re-invest in environmentally friendly business practices. In talking with Head Chef Perry Bateman, it’s clear Mama’s treats the employees, community, culture, ingredients, cuisine, and environment with love, care, and respect. The ongoing green efforts are spear-headed by Chief Engineer Scott Burns. To date, a giant food processor allows consolidation of eight barrels of food waste, tin, cardboard and other such materials into two barrels of usable food waste pulp. With this, Scott grows beautiful vegetables and herbs in his garden in Haiku, which are used daily to bring local flavors and freshness to the cuisine. (Scott also used this pulp to raise a pig that was ultimately served in the restaurant.)

Where to sleep
The various corners of Maui display a range of flavors for travelers. Hana is a bit hippy, Wailea’s upscale, the Front Street area of Lahaina is packed with nightlife, shops, and bustle. We were drawn to the northwest coast of Maui extending from the world famous K’anapali Beach to the Shores of Napili. Nestled aside neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai, this ocean corridor ushers in a constant flow of breeze that mellows the sun more than any other part of Maui. As the whale watching season eases in with the beginning of Winter and escalates through the peak months of February and March, you can spy these magnificent creatures from shore. This classic Hawaiian destination truly strikes a perfect mix of the Maui experience.

1. Ka’anapali Beach Hotel
Recognized as Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel, Ka’anapali Beach Hotel is on a mission to preserve Hawaiian culture and spread the customs and traditions with their guests. Through their Po’okela program, they have become a major leader in cultural tourism today. Offering daily classes and activities, ranging from Ukelele Lessons to Hula Dancing to Language and Leigh Making, Ka’anapali will immerse you in the Hawaiian experience. As for sourcing local, they grow the Taro on their grounds to make the Poi in their Tiki Terrace restaurant. They also grow the Kukui nuts used in the traditional leis they adorn on all their guests. The commitment to their culture, employees, and guests spreads the warming glow of Aloha Spirit throughout everyone who passes through their doors. The Hawaiian experience they create culturally is matched by the comfort of their rooms and the impeccable service and hospitality extended by the staff. The excellence is no fluke as it comes from the central guiding goals and initiatives that have made KBH a traveler’s favorite since the 1950’s. Check the site for frequent special deals.

2. Outrigger Napili Shores
Outrigger has lodging locations throughout Maui. At this location, the mere steps to Napili Shores showcase beautiful views and top notch snorkeling. Outrigger saves all the leftover soaps from guests and donates them to the Clean The World recycling program that redistributes these anti-bacterials to impoverished countries where it can prevent disease and save lives. Their suites come fully equipped to prepare your own island feast. The property saves thousands of gallons of water by using Xeriscaping landscaping, as well as low-flow toilets and shower heads. Photovoltaic solar panels power the entire common area. Energy-efficient pool and spa pumps are used for its solar-heated pools. They have a recycling program and even composts its lawn debris. Outrigger is constantly running specials and have locations scattered around Maui if you’d like to experience a few different areas.

3. Honua Kai Resort
Go green with upscale modern elegance at Honua Kai. Pass through the courtyard of winding pools, water slide, lounging cabanas, and hot tubs to step onto the beach. The stay at Honua Kai is so elegant and comfortable in every detail, that the experience is truly therapeutic. Their suites are fully equipped to create your own meal in a state of the art kitchen. Or you can head downstairs to ‘Aina Gourmet Market or Duke’s Beach House for a delicious convenient bite. Just off the beach you will notice the Sustainable Dunes project that centers on preserving a vibrant system of indigenous plant and wildlife. Other efforts include energy saving appliances, heat generated from ventilation systems to warm pools, solar-powered trash compacting, and a sprinkler system that measures rainfall in order to only the water the grounds when needed. Of course, the water used in landscaping is recycled. All their green efforts not only soothe the soul of the green-minded traveler, but also enhance the lodging experience by preserving the natural wonder that makes us want to visit a place like Maui in the first place. Honua Kai proves that sustainable initiatives can only serve to heighten a luxurious getaway experience. Ultimately, more green equals more Maui.

Originally published here.

Getaway to Maui
Ka'anapali Beach<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Ka’anapali Beach
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Napili Shores Beach<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)

Napili Shores Beach
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)
Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
At the entrance to Mama's Fish House<br /><br />
 (Photo provided by Mama's)

At the entrance to Mama’s Fish House
(Photo provided by Mama’s)
Bench overlooking Molokai<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Bench overlooking Molokai
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Black Pearl dessert at Mama's<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Black Pearl dessert at Mama’s
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Coast on Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Coast on Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Dukes Beach House<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Dukes Beach House
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Egret by the shore<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Egret by the shore
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Gecko<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Gecko
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Honua Kai Pool<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Honua Kai Pool
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Honua Kai Resort Sunset<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Honua Kai Resort Sunset
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Ka'anapali Beach Hotel Courtyard<br /><br />
(Photo provided by KBH)

Ka’anapali Beach Hotel Courtyard
(Photo provided by KBH)
Ka'anapali Beach Hotel Hula Show<br /><br />
(Photo provided by KBH)

Ka’anapali Beach Hotel Hula Show
(Photo provided by KBH)
Mama's Dining Room<br /><br />
(Photo provided by Mama's Fish House)

Mama’s Dining Room
(Photo provided by Mama’s Fish House)
Mama's Mahi Mahi<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Mama’s Mahi Mahi
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Outrigger Napili Shores Dining<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)

Outrigger Napili Shores Dining
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)
Sansei Sushi Bar<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei Sushi Bar
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sansei's Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei’s Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sansei’s Shrimp Dynamite<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei’s Shrimp Dynamite
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sunrise on Mount Haleakala<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sunrise on Mount Haleakala
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
The beach in front of Mama's Fish House<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

The beach in front of Mama’s Fish House
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
The rock from the beginning of Jurassic Park<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

The rock from the beginning of Jurassic Park
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
View from downtown Lahaina<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

View from downtown Lahaina
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
View from Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

View from Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Wailea Emerald Course<br /><br />
(Photo courtesy of Wailea Golf Club)

Wailea Emerald Course
(Photo courtesy of Wailea Golf Club)
Wailea Old Blue Course<br /><br />
(Photo provided by Old Blue)

Wailea Old Blue Course
(Photo provided by Old Blue)
Waterfalls on Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Waterfalls on Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Things to Do in Nova Scotia: 18-Hole Journeys and Beyond

August 13, 2011

Nova Scotia golfing

The charms of Nova Scotia are endless and hold an understated elegance and simplicity that is the perfect remedy for a New Yorker’s urban hangover. With a flight from JFK clocking in just over two hours and the convenience of being only one time zone away to keep your jet lag in check, rest assured Nova Scotia will decompress your city-brewed stress. The true allure of this destination lies in the activities involving Nova Scotia’s lush natural landscape. The greenery doesn’t end there. Nova Scotia boasts the best recycling system in all of Canada, while government legislation ensures sustainability and green initiatives.

Meandering through the golf courses of Nova Scotia provides endless views of gorgeous grounds nestled amidst vast expanses of nature that truly remind us where the inspiration for going green starts. I went to Atlantic Canada to golf but discovered much more.

I was bowled over by the lush landscapes, excellent local cuisine and what is considered to be rush hour here, a small collection of cars politely commuting at a relaxing pace. The locals won’t plow you over, make you feel in the way, or pressure you to do anything faster. They never interact socially without a smile and warming disposition giving the whole country an atmosphere of welcoming hospitality. Nova Scotia is the place to trade in a New York minute.

Cape Breton Island
Cape BretonCape Breton Island
makes up almost a third of the province and serves up gorgeous coastline, sublime green spaces, lakeside vistas, and abundant wildlife.

Outdoors Activities
Beware of Moose crossing as you loop around the northern tip of Cape Breton Island. The Cabot Trail scenic roadway allows you to tour gorgeous panoramas that join coast and forest throughout Cape Breton Highlands National Park ($7.80/adult admission). Even non-golfers will want to strap on a bag of clubs to enjoy the views found at Highland Links (from $65.93/green fees). The style of a links course attempts to recreate the original terrain at the birth of the sport in Scotland. Set along the water, these challenging holes provide breathtaking views of a sparkling sea and Bald Eagles. If this style of golf terrain tickles your fancy, Cabot Links ($82/20-hole rate), set to open this summer, has ocean views at every hole that will surely leave you slack-jawed. Or consider Bell Bay (from $65/adult fee), along Cape Breton’s inland sea, and has earned top marks across the board for its service and greens.

Food And Spirits
Glenora Inn & Distillery
($5/tour) Releasing their first batch of whiskey as recently as the mid-90’s, Glenora garnered much attention as North American’s first Single Malt whiskey distillery. The attention was both positive and tumultuous as the Scotch Whiskey Association of Scotland contended that the use of the terms “single malt” and “glen” would be misleading and potentially tarnishing Scotland’s world renowned stamp on whiskey. Glenora won the battle and boasts a product that drinks like a true champion. This scandal of the spirits has inspired their truly delectable 15-year single malt whiskey named Battle Of The Glen in honor of their Scotland scandal. Tour their distillery, enjoy the delicious whiskey-infused culinary delights in their dining room or pub, and if you’ve enjoyed their product a little too much, relax in one of the rooms in their cozy inn.

The Lakeside Restaurant at Inverary Resort (from $189 per person/Golf Packages) plates locally sourced cuisine in a laid-back atmosphere right on the banks of the Bras d’Or Lakes. The serene outlook doubles as a perfect natural digestif.

Local Intel
Hiking L'Acadian Trail in CheticampSituated on a 350-acre hilltop property, the Gaelic College overlooks the picturesque St. Ann’s Bay. The focus of this summer college is to promote, preserve, and perpetuate the culture of the Scottish highlands through course offerings, museums, and special events. Indulge your Gaelic interests through studies of craftsmanship, music, dance, history, and performance.  Their calendar of events provides a nice window into all they offer whether you are just passing through or planning to study for a longer term.

On the western end of the Cabot Trail, the small fishing community of Cheticamp is home to Les Trois Pignons, which is a museum of Nova Scotian Acadian Culture. The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled primarily in the Canadian Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Les Trois Pignons features a collection of artfully crafted rugs, antiquities, and a genealogical resource library. The respect and enthusiasm for heritage throughout the province is strongly woven into the modern culture and is an integral part of the Nova Scotia experience.

Digby
Digby
boasts the title, “Scallop Capitol Of The World,” so sampling the fresh buttery morsels of seafood takes on global significance. Digby’s port offers year round ferry access from New Brunswick. This quaint fishing community offers views of the charming Annapolis Basin and is outdoor oasis of activity.

Outdoor Activities
whale watchingDigby is home to some of the best whale watching in all of North America.  The Dockside Inn, Petit Passage ($55/adult) and Brier Island ($219/Stay & See package) offer a variety of whale excursions from Digby Neck, which is the thin peninsula of land that juts out along the Bay Of Fundy from the small downtown.

Digby is proud of its Stanley Thompson-designed Digby Pines Golf Course ($67/18 holes), and in nearby Weymouth right along St. Mary’s Bay, you can embark on all types of kayaking and canoeing to take in the magnificent waterways.

Food And Spirits
En route to Digby on the winding Clementsvale Road, a pleasant stop off with a free tasting bar is the Annapolis Highland Vineyards. This newcomer to the Nova Scotia wine scene has already garnered many awards at worldwide competitions throughout North America. Stop off and sample their delicious wines to take the travel edge off, tour their grounds, and learn about the romantic process from vine to wine.

Scallops at Churchill RestaurantFor a true culinary delight, Churchill’s Restaurant at the Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa offers a tantalizing menu including those world famous local scallops. Award-winning Chef Dale Nichols serves up an eclectic menu that is sure to delight a wide range of palates.

Local Intel
The Digby Admiral Museum offers a window into the past and heritage of this maritime area.

Halifax
If you’re already traveling around Canada, you can access Nova Scotia via ferries from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The direct flight from New York lands at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Just outside of the city, you can then venture downtown, brimming with culture, heritage, and shops.

Glen Harbour's hole 8Outdoor Activities
I set my sights on the gorgeous greens of Glen Arbour ($105/day rate). This stunning course takes its name from the Scottish translation for “a valley of trees.” Sculpted by famed Canadian architect, Graham Cooke, Glen Arbour’s greens are designed with much reverence to the natural landscape of the area. Natural lakes and streams scatter throughout the grounds within the mature forests surrounding. The exquisite variety of terrains, obstacles, and scenery are myriad.

Food And Spirits
MacAskill’s Restaurant
sits across the water from Halifax in Dartmouth and overlooks spectacular views of Halifax Harbor. It is accessible from Halifax by ferry.

Open everyday of the week, The Halifax Farmers Market, sits on the Halifax side of the harbor. There you can feast on a wide array of food, spirits, arts, crafts, and a whole host of other goods from local vendors.

Local Intel
Shakespeare by the SeaYou could spend the better part of a day scanning the bins at Taz Records Inc, which offers up 50,000+ titles of new and used records in all formats. Many annual events color the Halifax calendar including the TD Halifax Jazz Festival, Shakespeare by the Sea, Halifax Pride Week, Halifax Seaport BeerFest, Atlantic Fringe Festival, Halifax Pop Explosion Music Festival, and many more.

This author is already crafting a return trip to Nova Scotia, and its coves along the coast of Chester and the 365 small islands scattered throughout Chester Bay. The Highland Games in Antigonish offer another festive Scottish heritage experience from pipers to pork pies. I’ve got my sights on world class Fox Harbor Golf Resort And Spa ($389 per person/Stay and Play Package), which attracts annual visits from the green-minded golfer Al Gore and his buddy Clinton. The list goes on and on just like the rolling green fields and endless serene coastline.

How to get there: Fly into Halifax International Airport. There are shuttles from the airport to many hotels. Since the province is so large and taxis can be a bit pricey ($50 from the airport into Halifax, this is one place where it might make sense to rent a “green” car for navigating between the regions. The bright side is that once you reach whatever destination you have in mind, you won’t be needing much of the car, since there are so many places to walk and bike and hike.

Photos: All courtesy of the author and respective destinations, except for Cheticamp by pixonomy

This article was originally published here.

 

Nova Scotia Getaway
Nova Scotia coastline

Nova Scotia coastline
Cabot Links

Cabot Links
Highlands Links

Highlands Links
Cape Breton beach

Cape Breton beach
The grounds at Glenora Distillery.

The grounds at Glenora Distillery.
The distillation kettles at Glenora.

The distillation kettles at Glenora.
Whiskey in the making.

Whiskey in the making.
A lighthouse on the Bras d'Or Lake.

A lighthouse on the Bras d’Or Lake.
Halifax Harbor at dusk.

Halifax Harbor at dusk.
Digby Pines Resort

Digby Pines Resort
Digby Harbor

Digby Harbor
The Bay of Fundy meets Digby.

The Bay of Fundy meets Digby.
The ferry from Dartmouth to Halifax.

The ferry from Dartmouth to Halifax.
Houses overlooking Digby Harbor.

Houses overlooking Digby Harbor.
The coastal view in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The coastal view in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Tee off at Highland Links.

Tee off at Highland Links.
The Keltic Lodge

The Keltic Lodge
Horses on the shores of the Bras d'Or Lake.

Horses on the shores of the Bras d’Or Lake.
Brunch at Inverary Resort

Brunch at Inverary Resort
Acadian, Canadian, and Nova Scotian flags.

Shop Right: 5 Local Artists and Designers Help Japan

April 14, 2011

Nisshoki Bath Bombs

1. Monkey Bar Soaps of Sunnyside crafts all natural, 100% safe, vegan, and wonderfully fragrant soaps and bath products. Monkey Bar makes earth conscious cleansers and has concocted the Nisshoki Bath Bomb. Meaning “rising sun” in Japanese, the $4 Nisshoki is modeled after the Japanese flag and will clean and moisturize your skin while you soak away your stress. All proceeds from Nisshoki Bath Bombs will go directly to Doctors Without Borders

Clam Lab Mixed NEsting bowls

2. Clam Lab of Brooklyn offers hand constructed ceramic tableware for people who love to cook, eat, and entertain. Clam Lab brings a simple elegance to their take on the pottery arts. They have created a set of four white stoneware and porcelain Nesting Bowls that can be used for prep, mixing, and serving. The proceeds will be donated to UNICEF’s efforts for Japan’s Earthquake Relief.

3. I Like You As A Friend Jewelry has been crafting unique charming treasures for a few years in our fair city. They bring a thoughtful creativity and refreshing spin on necklaces, rings, and the like. For the Japan relief efforts, they have created a custom piece to raise money for the Red Cross. They have designed a hand carved and cast sterling silver Ginkgo Leaf, which is a Japanese symbol of longevity, heartiness and hope. The gingko tree can live for thousands of years, and seven million- yea-old fossils of their leaves have been found. They have been known to survive all sorts of disasters, including the atomic bomb. A mere $20 will satisfy your style for a good cause.

oktak

4. Oktak offers a large array of bags and pouches from local Japanese-born designer Aki Takada. Oktak’s style will add a dash of cute and colorful panache to your accessorizing. Many of her items can be ordered with personalized features like your name or initials. Takada is donating 20% of her sales on all products to the Japanese relief efforts of the American Red Cross.

5. Afterzine is a bi-annual arts and culture journal, curated by Hamish Robertson, comprising a collection of invited works upon dictated themes. The theme for their debut issue is negative space. Contributors include Peter Saville, Alexa Chung, Thurston Moore, and many others. Afterzine will donate $5 of every copy sold here to the Red Cross Japan Relief efforts.

 

Originally published here.

Shark?

April 11, 2011
Image

Hip Hop Hooray/You Don’t Love Me

[Oops Baby Records]

By Chris Brunelle » Shark? have released a slew of excellent digital EP’s over the last few years and have finally taken their garage pop to its rightful format of vinyl. Shark? kick ass. The songs are strongly written and effortlessly delivered. The vocals soar with unique character over a band that rocks in service of the greater good. There’s no bullshit.

A-side “Hip Hop Hooray” draws you in before you even drop the needle. Is this a Naughty By Nature cover? If not, what would a rock song sound like with that title? This gem starts with gnarly chord riff then leads into the grand full-band entrance as a snake charmer of a guitar line entrances, the bass rips under the bellow like a speedboat cutting through turbulent surf, and the drums rumble insistent on getting you out of your seat. Then Kevin Diamond modestly unleashes his vocal prowess. This guy can sing. His voice is full and strong while having that tinge of something a little strange and alien that sets it apart from your average bro crooner.

The B-side competes with the A-side. It may even beat it. If the A-side finds Diamond urging his love interest to own up to their feelings and run away with him, side B shows our hero accepting she’s lost that loving feeling. He plainly mulls over the relationship carnage with muted power. We’ve all been there, and Diamond paints it simply and perfectly. It’s understated yet speaks the whole story.

“Paramour” finds the band lying back during the verses, allowing the vocal to meditate over a propulsive rhythm section. The choruses explode with instrumental interplay. As the song closes, Diamond shows his bird can sing as he unleashes the true power of a howl, belting, “See me hidden in the shadows!” The hair on your forearms salute. Buy a copy of this very limited run before they’re all gone.

Originally published here.

Astor Bake Shop: Raising The Baking Bar in Astoria

April 4, 2011

Astor Bake Shop

Tucked down Astoria Boulevard, within a 15 minute walk of cultural hot spots like Socrates Sculpture Park and the Noguchi Museum, Astor Bake Shop opened its doors just under a year ago to the mouth-watering neighborhood locals. Sliced Red Velvet, Double-Chocolate, Carrot, and Coconut cakes sit in stands above the illuminated cooler. Within the cooler, Seasonal Baked Fruit tarts sit along Tahitian Vanilla Bean Éclairs, cupcakes, cheesecakes, Crème Brûlées, Valrhona Chocolate inspirations and a whole host of constantly changing upscale foodie-enticing sweets. Further down the Carrera marble counter, the best almond croissant I’ve ever tried mingles with muffins and biscotti.

mocha pastry

Astor is indeed a bakeshop, but it also offers an appetizing menu of savory soups, sandwiches, and brunch delights. Don’t miss the slow-baked chicken sandwich cooked with Mediterranean spices and topped with caramelized onions, avocado, and Swiss cheese atop a house-baked Portuguese roll. The brunch Two Egg Sandwiches can be made on their Honey Herbed Buttermilk Biscuit, which can be served with Hog Case Pork Sausage, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, and a variety of cheeses.

Astor sources their java from Stone Street Coffees of Brooklyn, NY for you carbon-footprint conscience. Their house-made Gingerade will quench your thirst in the oncoming sunny weather. They’ve recently added a nice collection of beer and wine to the fold. The décor has an old European charm with exposed brick walls, open kitchen, vintage barbershop style floor tiling, and handcrafted tabletops made from reclaimed farmhouse wood. Proprietor and lead culinary specialist, George McKirdy has cut his teeth over 22 years as pastry chef at Regine’s, TriBaKery, and more recently at Blue Fin. Everything about this place has such attention to detail and classy panache while retaining a truly relaxed, comfortable, neighborhood atmosphere. Meet with a friend, bring your family, or lug your laptop and enjoy the free Wi-Fi while you tour the never-ending delights on their menu.

How to get there: Astor Bake Shop is located at 12-23 Astoria Boulevard on the corner of 14th Street. Take the N or Q trains to the Astoria Boulevard stop. Walk down Astoria Boulevard till you hit 14th street just past the public library. For more information, visit astor-bakeshop.com.

Originally posted at offmanhattan.com.

17 Holiday Music Events Near NYC

December 1, 2010

matisyahu

While it is true that Hoboken’s indie-rock institution, Yo La Tengo, has already sold out their 9th year of shows celebrating every night of Chanukah, there is still a stellar lineup of concerts worth waiting out in the cold for this winter. In 2010, Matisyahu is following suit with his Festival of Light tour hitting four dates in the outer boroughs during Chanukah. Prince will gear you up for your New Year’s celebration with three mid-December dates in East Rutherford, NJ where you will party like it’s 1999. Cheers to a whole host of holiday-themed musical happenings that will help you celebrate the season.

Tuesday, November 30, December 4, 5 | Matisyahu Festival Of Light | Music Hall Of Williamsburg | with Tally Hall, DJ Rekha, Moon Taxi

Thursday, December 02 | Citizen Cope’s Holiday Party | Brooklyn Bowl | featuring Gary Clark Jr, Citizen Cope DJ Set, Frozen Files, followed by DJ Questlove

Thursday, December 02 | Cherish The Ladies “A Celtic Christmas” | Tarrytown Music Hall

Saturday, December 04 | The Figgs Christmas Show | Bruar Falls

Thursday, December 09 | 2010 Major League Spin The Dreidel Tournament | Knitting Factory, Brooklyn | with Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, Category Sixx – World Greatest Air Band, and Hanukah gone Metal with Gods of Fire

Sunday, December 12 | The Suzi Shelton Band’s Rockin’ Holiday Party | The Bell House | with Kira Willey

Sunday, December 12 | Eugene Mirman’s Pretty Good Friends Holiday Blowout | The Bell House | with Kristen Schaal, Jon Glaser, and more

Tuesday, December 14, 15, 17 | Prince | Izod Center | special guest tba

Saturday, December 18 | Harry And The Potters’ Yule Ball | The Bell House | with Draco and The Malfoys, Uncle Monsterface, The Macaroons, and MC Kreacher

Saturday, December 18 | Zine Therapy and Holiday Sing-A-Long | Pete’s Candy Store | with Friend Roulette

Monday, December 20 | Brooklyn Songwriters Exchange Holiday Show | Union Hall | with Tim Drinan, Sharon Goldman, Sean Bartlett, Dan Shuman, Sarah Donner, and more

Saturday, December 25 | Jolly Bowl | Brooklyn Bowl | with Days Like Months, Pey Dalid, and J. Viewzf

Friday, December 31 | Brooklyn Soul New Year’s Eve | The Bell House | Marva Whitney – aka James Brown’s “Soul Sister Number One,” Billy Prince (of The Precisions), The Sweet Divines

A Very Merry Gift Guide for New Yorkers: What the offManhattan Staff Wants for the Holidays

December 1, 2010

The writers at offManhattan came up with one gift item from a local store in the outer boroughs (plus Philly!) that would make their season brighter. Whether you’re shopping for a photographer, vegan, guitarist, cheesehead, or greenie, these nine staff picks offer something for every New Yorker this holiday season.

Hand-crafted from used sailboat sails by Katherine Rasmussen out of her Brooklyn studio. Also check out the Christmas stockings for an especially nautical Noel. Got old sails lying around? Donate them and get a free bag or pillows made out of your sailcloth.Vince’s Pick | The Recycled Sail Messenger Bag | Reiter 8 | reiter8.com | $145

Hand-crafted from used sailboat sails by Katherine Rasmussen out of her Brooklyn studio. Also check out the Christmas stockings for an especially nautical Noel. Got old sails lying around? Donate them and get a free bag or pillows made out of your sailcloth.

For the New Yorker who can’t leave home without their nook or kindle in tow, this collection by Ann Beattie, spanning more than three decades of writing, is a reminder of how great literature was meant to be packaged. Not trapped under an electronic screen, but tucked inside a bright red book (perhaps made using 100% recycled post-consumer materials), velvety to the touch. When you finish one of Beattie's beautifully moving short stories, you want to begin flipping through the next 47. Enjoy fondling the pages, and getting lost in them this winter.Lauren’s Pick | Ann Beattie: The New Yorker Stories | Greenlight Bookstore | Fort Greene | greenlightbookstore.com | Scribner, $30

For the New Yorker who can’t leave home without their nook or kindle in tow, this collection by Ann Beattie, spanning more than three decades of writing, is a reminder of how great literature was meant to be packaged. Not trapped under an electronic screen, but tucked inside a bright red book (perhaps made using 100% recycled post-consumer materials), velvety to the touch. When you finish one of Beattie’s beautifully moving short stories, you want to begin flipping through the next 47. Enjoy fondling the pages, and getting lost in them this winter.

There isn't really anything I wouldn't want in this lovely artsy shop, Cog & Pearl. This beautifully curated store is so zen that even when it's crowded it takes the headache out of holiday shopping. Everything is handcrafted, a lot of it by NY artisans and more of it made sustainably. I adore their gorgeous wallets made from repurposed leather, but my heart belongs to the one-of-a-kind book journals, made from (shocker!) book covers, with a few pages of the actual book inside. Take the M or R to Union Street, the 2 or 3 to Bergen Street.Suzanne’s Pick | Book Journals | Cog & Pearl | cogandpearl.com | Park Slope | $13

There isn’t really anything I wouldn’t want in this lovely artsy shop, Cog & Pearl. This beautifully curated store is so zen that even when it’s crowded it takes the headache out of holiday shopping. Everything is handcrafted, a lot of it by NY artisans and more of it made sustainably. I adore their gorgeous wallets made from repurposed leather, but my heart belongs to the one-of-a-kind book journals, made from (shocker!) book covers, with a few pages of the actual book inside. Take the M or R to Union Street, the 2 or 3 to Bergen Street.

It's the holiday season. Time to get frisked at an airport to get back to your family so you can argue about each other's life choices. You can make the dinner table more palatable by buying this limited gift bottle of Baltic beer. The Mikkeller Holiday brew is a perfect serving gift for friends and family. The dark brown porter uncorks an aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and gingerbread, true to the season. A sip invites a crisp, roasted coffee taste that has some hop at the end. It's a perfect dad gift—a grown up call that implies maturity. Best of all it comes with its own gift label. All you have to do is fill in the names. Once at Bierkraft, you'll find this gourmet marketplace offers hundreds of specialty beers, arranged by region. There's a tasting room for the uninitiated, and a snack/sandwich menu to fully compliment ones taste buds. Take the M, R to Union St.Mikkeller Holiday Ale | Bierkraft | Park Slope | bierkraft.com | $19.95

It’s the holiday season. Time to get frisked at an airport to get back to your family so you can argue about each other’s life choices. You can make the dinner table more palatable by buying this limited gift bottle of Baltic beer. The Mikkeller Holiday brew is a perfect serving gift for friends and family. The dark brown porter uncorks an aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and gingerbread, true to the season. A sip invites a crisp, roasted coffee taste that has some hop at the end. It’s a perfect dad gift—a grown up call that implies maturity. Best of all it comes with its own gift label. All you have to do is fill in the names. Once at Bierkraft, you’ll find this gourmet marketplace offers hundreds of specialty beers, arranged by region. There’s a tasting room for the uninitiated, and a snack/sandwich menu to fully compliment ones taste buds. Take the M, R to Union St.

Stinky Brooklyn is one of the smallest stores on Smith Street, but it's the only one I could easily spend an entire afternoon in. At any given time, they have hundreds of varieties of cheese on offer, with an emphasis on local dairies from around the area, but of course some French and Italian stinkers, too. The smell of the store alone is worth the trip for any serious cheesehead, but even better is that they're loose with the samples and happy to let you stand there forever tasting the wide array of cheeses. I can't imagine a better gift for a foodie than Stinky's Cheese of the Month Club. Every month, you get three different half-pound chunks of some of the store's rarest finds delivered to your home (starting at $180). For those who want more of a give-me-it-all-right-now kind of gift, Stinky has an all-made-in-Brooklyn gift basket filled with goodies from local foodmongers like McClure's Pickles, Brooklyn Brining Company and Mast Brothers Chocolate. Take the F, G train to Carroll Street.Brendan’s Pick | Stinky’s Cheese of the Month Club | Stinky Brooklyn | Cobble Hill | stinkybklyn.com | $180

Stinky Brooklyn is one of the smallest stores on Smith Street, but it’s the only one I could easily spend an entire afternoon in. At any given time, they have hundreds of varieties of cheese on offer, with an emphasis on local dairies from around the area, but of course some French and Italian stinkers, too. The smell of the store alone is worth the trip for any serious cheesehead, but even better is that they’re loose with the samples and happy to let you stand there forever tasting the wide array of cheeses. I can’t imagine a better gift for a foodie than Stinky’s Cheese of the Month Club. Every month, you get three different half-pound chunks of some of the store’s rarest finds delivered to your home (starting at $180). For those who want more of a give-me-it-all-right-now kind of gift, Stinky has an all-made-in-Brooklyn gift basket filled with goodies from local foodmongers like McClure’s Pickles, Brooklyn Brining Company and Mast Brothers Chocolate. Take the F, G train to Carroll Street.

This sustainable basket woven from actual chopsticks looks like a Campana brothers design. The versatile, flexible shape makes it mighty enough to hold piles of fruit, vegetable, and bread, or stand alone as a chic centerpiece on a table. If you're feeling really crafty and happen to have a draw full of take-out chopsticks, you could make it yourself. Glue sticks together in two sections and interlace the edges to create a true DIY original.Kari’s Pick | Recycled Bamboo Chopstick Basket | The Big Green Earth Store | Philadelphia | biggreenearthstore.com | $24.99

This sustainable basket woven from actual chopsticks looks like a Campana brothers design. The versatile, flexible shape makes it mighty enough to hold piles of fruit, vegetable, and bread, or stand alone as a chic centerpiece on a table. If you’re feeling really crafty and happen to have a draw full of take-out chopsticks, you could make it yourself. Glue sticks together in two sections and interlace the edges to create a true DIY original.

What do you give the chocoholic on your gift list? Gnosis Chocolate not only tastes good, it’s good for you. It is an organic, refined sugar-free (sweetened with agave or palm nectar) vegan treat made by hand in Long island City, using ethically-sourced cacao from around the globe. The chocolate bars have a complex flavor profile that will keep even the most sophisticated taste buds happy. Try seasonal favorite Sugarplum Gingerbread for a potent combination of spices. The packaging is made from 100% recycled materials and printed with vegetable inks. They are available around town and on the web for under $10 for a two-ounce bar. Take the subway to Pacific Street, Atlantic Avenue, Bergen Street or 7th Avenue at the Flatbush stop. There is also a branch in Cobble Hill at 269 Court Street.Allison’s Pick | SugarPlum Gingerbread Chocolate Bar | The Chocolate Room | Park Slope | gnosischocolate.com | $9.25

What do you give the chocoholic on your gift list? Gnosis Chocolate not only tastes good, it’s good for you. It is an organic, refined sugar-free (sweetened with agave or palm nectar) vegan treat made by hand in Long island City, using ethically-sourced cacao from around the globe. The chocolate bars have a complex flavor profile that will keep even the most sophisticated taste buds happy. Try seasonal favorite Sugarplum Gingerbread for a potent combination of spices. The packaging is made from 100% recycled materials and printed with vegetable inks. They are available around town and on the web for under $10 for a two-ounce bar. Take the subway to Pacific Street, Atlantic Avenue, Bergen Street or 7th Avenue at the Flatbush stop. There is also a branch in Cobble Hill at 269 Court Street.

We, the green shoppers of the world, are always looking to think global and act local. In thinking global, I’m reminded of a great Radiohead lyric where Thom Yorke sings, “I wanna be in a band and when I get to heaven, anyone can play guitar.” Imagine an entire world of guitar players all jamming at the big gig in the sky. For us locals, Main Drag in the musical Mecca of Williamsburg can equip you with a whole slew of sweet guitars, drums, basses, amps, mics, and pedals to get your rock rolling. Friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful folks staff Main Drag and carry no traces of any elitist snobbery or rocker attitude that can plague music stores. They carry the full line of Brooklyn’s own Death By Audio pedals. Death By Audio pedals offer an extreme sonic assault that will take your fuzz intensity to a whole new territory. They are designed and built just around the corner from Main Drag. Performers like Nine Inch Nails and A Place To Bury Strangers use DBA pedals to achieve their signature sonic domination. The Fuzz War pedal rips such thick distortion, the Big Muffs of the world cower in defeat. The pedals come in unique hand-silk-screened boxes. So personal, so local, so delicious, let there be rock! Take the L train to Bedford Avenue. Walk down Bedford to South 1st Street and take a right. Main drag is on the Corner of Wythe and South 1st Street.Chris’s Pick | Death By Audio’s Fuzz War Distortion Pedal | Main Drag Music | Williamsburg | maindragmusic.com | $150

We, the green shoppers of the world, are always looking to think global and act local. In thinking global, I’m reminded of a great Radiohead lyric where Thom Yorke sings, “I wanna be in a band and when I get to heaven, anyone can play guitar.” Imagine an entire world of guitar players all jamming at the big gig in the sky. For us locals, Main Drag in the musical Mecca of Williamsburg can equip you with a whole slew of sweet guitars, drums, basses, amps, mics, and pedals to get your rock rolling. Friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful folks staff Main Drag and carry no traces of any elitist snobbery or rocker attitude that can plague music stores. They carry the full line of Brooklyn’s own Death By Audio pedals. Death By Audio pedals offer an extreme sonic assault that will take your fuzz intensity to a whole new territory. They are designed and built just around the corner from Main Drag. Performers like Nine Inch Nails and A Place To Bury Strangers use DBA pedals to achieve their signature sonic domination. The Fuzz War pedal rips such thick distortion, the Big Muffs of the world cower in defeat. The pedals come in unique hand-silk-screened boxes. So personal, so local, so delicious, let there be rock! Take the L train to Bedford Avenue. Walk down Bedford to South 1st Street and take a right. Main drag is on the Corner of Wythe and South 1st Street.

Swans

October 15, 2010
Image

My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky

[Young Gods]

Swans never do what you’d expect. They are a band of sonic liberation. They’re unshackled from the rest of the music world and even from themselves. They don’t stick to a sound or style, as is the case on their latest effort, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. They embrace brash, violent, and heavy tonalities. They attack their music like it’s their enemy, like it’s the world around them for which they seem to have such disdain. But like any good paradox, with their music, they also find solace. There are many gentle numbers on this record that hold the same equilibrium of passion and worldly disdain.

The nakedness of the instrumentation on the softer songs yields to the vocals and lyrics, which ultimately give Michael Gira’s sentiments a more immediate, direct power. Indeed, My Father Will Guide Me… includes many pieces written within a traditional structure that at their core recall some variant of the Nick Cave songbook.

The album opens with “No Words/No Thoughts”, with chimes beautifully clanging like the dawn. Epic power sludge interrupts, conjuring the primordial soundtrack to the world’s birth. As the heavy-osity dissipates, the verse pulses and builds and slowly returns to power drenched heights. “Reeling The Liars In” plays like a Woody Guthrie campfire sing-a-long with near religious solemnity, while Michael Gira ringing out like a march to the gallows on judgment day for sinners of the tongue. “You Fucking People Make Me Sick” centers on the interplay of dulcimer and call and response vocals between Gira and the voice of a child, which mixes with haunting effect.

The closer, “Little Mouth”, plays like a sea shanty. The whimsical sway of the tide that drives the tune is a proper send-off for Swans, and reminds us that their journey is a tumultuous one.

 

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

Off-Season Adventures: Things to do on Block Island

October 15, 2010

Old Harbor

As we move away from summer, many local destinations are fading out of peak season. Before the winter chill hits the air, consider a weekend away on New England’s most intimate and pristine island.

Forgoing the stuffy upper crust vibe on Nantucket and the more popular and thus more crowded Martha’s Vineyard, I set my sights on Block Island, R.I. My interest in a visit during the off-season turned out to mean lower rates, less people, sales at the shops, no waits for restaurant seating, and ultimately more peaceful seclusion.

With close to 50 percent of its landmass designated as protected green space, Block Island is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery. So much so in fact, that The Nature Conservancy named Block one of the 12 “Last Great Places” in the Western Hemisphere. In recent years, the Nature Conservancy has joined forces with the Block Island Land Trust to ensure its green tradition, charging a 3% sales tax on all property sold on the island that is re-invested in purchasing, expanding, and protecting the island’s green space. The island is also currently researching possibilities of offshore wind turbines that would contribute clean and sustainable energy to the island.

A Room With a Sea

Deck at Avonlea! Sifting through many inns, hotels, and B&B’s. Two Victorian properties caught my eye. The Blue Dory Inn and Avonlea, Jewel Of The Sea boasted the convenience of being close to the Old Harbor and the highest concentration of restaurants on the island, while also being steps to the beach. Which one to choose? I believe this is what they call a win-win situation. We arrived at the adorable pet-friendly Blue Dory Inn and couldn’t have been happier with our experience. We had a private porch and private entrance that overlooked the ocean. Sleeping with the windows open, we could hear the waves lapping on the beach. The décor was quintessential charming New England. Staying in a private entrance room, I was impressed by how clean the space was—and not a trace of discouraging smells or pet wear and tear. Cheers to their impeccable staff on that one, and to the hotel for the quality and comfort of the mattress, something that is an oft-overlooked detail at even the most respected hotel and is a real drag when your vacation is less comfortable than your life.

The neighboring Avonlea is equally impeccable and has been recently voted as the inn with the best view on all of Block Island. Both properties serve a breakfast buffet and a pre-dinner wine hour with hors d’oeuvres and their signature Block Island Barnacle Cookies. Coffee is available all day long, which is a nice treat especially in the off-season when many of the local business have limited hours. It’s a rare gift when your room is as appealing to spend a day in, as it is to go to the beach.

Nibbles and Bits

The Oar Restaurant Once settled at the hotel, it won’t take long before the cravings for New England coastal food arrive. Our innkeeper suggested Finn’s and it did not disappoint. We ordered up a feast of New England Clam Chowder, a pint of Steamers, two lobsters, corn on the cob, and some wine. Finn’s keeps it simple with their cooked seafood, serving either steamed, broiled, or fried accompanied with dipping sides of the natural juices and drawn butter. Another culinary highlight was the restaurant at the Manisses Inn. They have the kind of menu that makes you want one of each. We narrowed it down a tad with Roasted Garden Beets, the Duck Confit Tamale, Oysters on the Half Shell, the Seafood Shephard’s Pie, and finally the Jumbo Wild Shrimp Fra Diavlo. They offer both half and full portions of most of their items, which enables more taste testing of their exquisite menu. For more casual fare The Mohegan and Sharky’s offer a varied and satisfying menu. For lunch, Three Sisters and The Oar are great spots for a bite. The Oar, with its ceiling surprises, has a stunning view of New Harbor whether your craving a lobster roll or a just a beer at their cozy bar.

Where to Relax in New England Paradise

Koru Eco Spa With a full belly, you may need a little down time before setting off to the hiking trails and walks along the beach. Koru Eco Spa delivers first class rejuvenation and bodywork and lives up to its name with a strong commitment to the environment. Affiliated with carbon-fund.org, they use energy efficient appliances, furniture made with reclaimed wood or re-used antiques. Their paint, uniforms, and t-shirts are organic. All products are organic and vegan. As we sat and enjoyed our superb pedicures, our eyes wandered out the window that overlooks the Old Harbor, where passengers leisurely come and go on the ferry. The spa produces many of their organic products, some of which have celebrated attention at NYC Fashion Week. The atmosphere is serene, the staff impeccable, and the results not lacking from their animal-tested and chemical filled counterparts.

Exploring the Island

Clay Head Trail After full rejuvenation and recuperation, the true allure of Block Island lies in its landscape. The island is quite small at almost 10 square miles and is easily traveled by bicycles that are available for rent at the Old Harbor, which offers great discounts on half and full day rentals. There are also Smart Car and moped rentals if you need to rest your legs and seek fuel-efficient means to cruise along. The popular beaches are steps from the main roads. Many hiking trails lead to secluded beaches with stunning cliffs, rocky shores, and the splish splash of waves.

We ventured on the hike to Clay Head. A ¾ of a mile trip down to the beach from the roadside trailhead delivers you to the beach. Take in a truly breathtaking beach. The trail continues from the beach for another three miles that take you high along the cliffs along the ocean, continually opening up to amazing vistas of raw ocean. The trail passes equally serene inland reserves where one can spy deer and quail playing hide and go seek from us humans. After leaving the main road in pursuit of the Clay Head Beach, we didn’t see another person until we returned back to the main road four hours later.

An equally lovely hike to shoreline solitude is the trail that meanders through Rodman’s Hollow towards the beach at Black Rock. For less demanding access to the raw and breathtaking shores, a convenient stairway through a cliff ravine leads to Mohegan Bluffs. These bluffs seem to be home to the largest concentration of sea stones that many travelers have stacked along the beach into little natural temples. The effect is near spiritual. With the convenience of the access comes more presence of other people, though still very few.

What to Know When You Go

Rainbow at Clay Head Beach If the secret season on Block Island lies between Labor Day and Columbus Day, we are entering an even more off off-season on the Block. The fall still has many great days in store and so will the island. In the quiet season, the restaurant hours are more limited. When you arrive, take a little time right when you settle in to call all the restaurants in the area and get their hours so you can map out your food itinerary depending on the days and hours they’re open.

How to get there: During off peak season, you can only take the Block Island Ferry departing from Point Judith. The ride takes 55 minutes, consult the schedule here. Take Amtrak from Penn Station to Kingston, Rhode Island. Then take RIPTA bus 66 to Great Island Road Far Side Coast Guard and walk a couple minutes to the Pier for the ferry. In peak season, you can take Amtrak to New London, then walk a few steps to the high speed ferry or take the LIRR to Montauk, and take the ferry to Block Island. Or take Megabus from NY to Providence from Port Authority or an Amtrak train from Penn Station. Once in Providence, you can hop bus number 60 run by RIPTA from Kennedy Plaza towards Newport to catch the Block Island Ferry.

Photos: All Courtesy of the author, except photo courtesy of Koru Eco Spa

Where to Book in Block Island

The Blue Dory Inn | 68 Dodge Street | 401.466.2254

Avonlea, Jewel Of The Sea | 68 Dodge Street | 401.466.2254

Koru Eco Spa | 232 Water St. | 401.466.2308

Finn’s | 212 Water Street | 401.466.2473

Manisses Inn | 5 Spring St | 401.466.2836

The Mohegan | 213 Water St | 401.466.5911

Sharky’s | 596 Corner Neck Rd | 401.466.9900

Three Sisters | 443 Old Town Rd | 401.466.9661

The Oar | 221 Jobs Hill Rd | 401.466.8820

An Off Season Getaway to Block Island
Enjoy an adventurous escape to an island in Rhode Island.
Black Rock 

Black Rock
Private Porch at Avonlea Hotel 

Private Porch at Avonlea Hotel
Clay Head Beach 

Clay Head Beach
Koru Eco Spa 

Koru Eco Spa