Monday, August 9, 2010

Oriole 9 (Woodstock, NY)

I had no illusions about what Woodstock would be. I did not expect to see Dylan at the post office or Van Morrison walking his dog. But I was, wishfully thinking I now see, hoping that some of that spirit would still linger, that Woodstock would not be like Carmel or Cambria. That seems like a silly thing to hope for, as those are two of my favorite towns in California and I love visiting them, but I was hoping Woodstock would be a little more rustic. It was not. It was very similar to at least a dozen towns I have seen. Beautiful, yes, but full of tourists (including, of course, me) and stores selling items that I would never want to own.

After walking around for a bit we settled on a restaurant Elizabeth likes, Oriole 9. It's a cute place, the walls lined with the work of local artists. We were shown to a booth in the corner when I noticed, up on a partition next to our booth, a Baltimore Orioles cap. Wait a minute... is this a baseball themed place? Who was #9 for the Orioles? Ripken? No, he was #8. Brooks Robinson? I don't remember.

I got really excited for a minute. Would they have a "Roberto Alomar Burger" that the cook has spit on? Or a "Tony Tarasco Burger," where, right when you're about to eat it, a 12 year-old Yankees fan runs out and steals it from you? The possibilities were endless.

But, as it turns out, the hat merely belonged to the guy at the next table, who had removed it while eating.

Oh.

While sipping a regualr iced tea (although the picture is of Elizabeth's mint iced tea, which was much prettier), I read a little about the restaurant. They started a farm at a local school, which provides a learning experience for the students and fresh produce for the restaurant. There are restaurants I can think of that would make me roll my eyes if I read something like that, but at Oriole 9 it seemed sincere.

Elizabeth and her mom weren't terribly hungry, so they decided to split a pressed sandwich of mozzarella, tomato, pesto and arugula. I needed more food than half a sandwich. After considering the "tapas platter," I decided to get the "Cuban press" sandwich - braised pork, smoked ham, provolone cheese and house made pickles.

While waiting for the food I looked around the place. Something about it seemed very familiar, and not in a good way. Then I placed it - it reminded me very much of Mike & Anne's in South Pasadena. Nobody was in a good mood. All of the patrons were glancing around the room disapprovingly and impatiently, seemingly laboring with the task of enjoying lunch. It was a very attractive room, filled with light, which made the cold vibe of the place stand out even more.

The sandwiches came out in just a few minutes, accompanied by small salads with a very tasty balsamic vinaigrette. My sandwich was delicious. Too often a Cuban sandwich is either very dry or is drenched with condiments like mayo and mustard. This sandwich was juicy, and all of that came from the flavor of the ingredients. I tried a bite of Elizabeth's sandwich as well and I liked it, and I'm not usually a fan of pesto.

Oriole 9 is a cute place and I can see how a lot of people would find it charming, but that escaped me. It seemed to me like a place that wants to get you in and out quickly, possibly sell you a piece of artwork on the wall, and not remember you the next time you come in. Now, that's not necessarily a terrible thing; the food is 90% of what I care about at a restaurant, and Oriole 9's food was good. But it fit in perfectly with what I felt of Woodstock: beautiful, and an enjoyable enough place to visit once, but not very welcoming and not anything I can recommend with much enthusiasm.

Now, happily, after lunch we drove through the woods to a property just off the highway, and it was one of the truly great places I have ever been. It is called Crafts People, and Elizabeth has been telling me about it for years - over 500 local artists have their handmade wares on display in four structures spread across a couple acres. The place is owned and run by a couple of aging hippies, friendly people who pour you wine and chat with you while you browse. Now this was everything I had hoped to find in Woodstock. Elizabeth bought a gorgeous, handmade necklace and I bought my brother a compass in a hand-painted wooden box. (I have not seen my brother since returning, I suppose I just ruined the surprise.) If this wasn't a food blog, I would probably do a post just on Crafts People.

21 comments:

Michelle said...

Seems like a pretty small menu, no?

PulledPorker said...

Yes, very small. But a small menu of good stuff is better than a Cheesecake Factory or Claim Jumper-size menu of crap, right?

Diana said...

Do a post just on Crafts People!

PulledPorker said...

My mom called me this morning, she said the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I received the compass 10 minutes before reading the blog this evening so the surprise was intact. Thank you very much. It seems to work better than the compass on my iphone, although I still haven't figured out where the batteries go...

Anonymous said...

please tell us more about craftspeople, i will be visiting woodstock from the uk and we are always looking for the quintessential woodstock experience. we were in woodstock not so long ago and have to say that oriol 9 did serve great food, pronto, fresh and with a big smile and we bought two of fionn rielly's sensational prints of london suburbia that were on show. more on craftspeople please, where are they located and who are the patrons ?

JustinM said...

I realize I'm in the minority with not loving Oriole 9. I merely liked it.

Here is a link to Crafts People's website. I've decided not to do a post on it, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the link, we made it to woodstock from the uk and visited craftspeople, just loved the place. rudy and mary are the delightful owners of this aladdin's cave, what a joy it was to meet them. they were very busy tending customers but still found time to spend with us and share stories, anectdotes, insights, laughter and a little wine. got to love those hippies

o0angie0o said...

Woodstock is great to visit but I agree, you cant spend more than a few days there. It is pretty nice around Lake George though especially in the summertime, even though it gets crowded...hopefully you guys get a chance to make it out there as well.

Anonymous said...

Crafts People has been my reason for returning to Woodstock year after year. So happy you've found it, too. Rudy and Mary are gems. But their prices are amazing. The last time I was there I bought my very favorite pair of earrings for only thirty dollars, silver with amazing inlay work. The prices are more than worth the visit.

JustinM said...

My better half's mom has been going there for decades; she remembers when the only building in which stuff was sold was the owner's house. I met Rudy and Mary briefly and they seemed like great people. I bought a necklace for myself and the compass I mentioned. The total for both items was just over $30.

It is so rare these days to find a place that is unique and timeless. Certainly the town of Woodstock did not have any of that. Crafts People is about as good as it gets.

Anonymous said...

I won't go to the Hudson Valley without visiting Crafts People. Crafts People is like coming home, only better. I get to drink my favorite: white wine with a splash of lemonade and a sprig of fresh garden mint. The conversation is great, punctuated with gales of laughter, AND I get to buy truly beautiful and unique gifts for myself, my friends and my family. Rudy and Mary are truly special people. Why don't more people know about Crafts People?

JustinM said...

I don't know. I do know for a fact that a lot of people don't want something that's unique - they want something from Restoration Hardware or Anthropologie that their friends will immediately recognize and know the value of. Seeking out places like Crafts People takes effort, something a lot of people don't want to make.

martha frankel said...

hey asshole, don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out of woodstock. i love tourists complaining about other tourists! and not being remembered at oriole 9? never happen, even if you shouldn't be. jeez

JustinM said...

I love people who are so threatened by other people's opinions. I didn't like the place. If you do, great. I would never tell you that you're wrong.

nina said...

Oriole 9 is a cute place and I can see how a lot of people would find it charming, but that escaped me. It seemed to me like a place that wants to get you in and out quickly, possibly sell you a piece of artwork on the wall, and not remember you the next time you come in. Now, that's not necessarily a terrible thing; the food is 90% of what I care about at a restaurant, and Oriole 9's food was good.

It's this part that bothered me. Breakfast and lunch places are generally fast, otherwise, well, people complain. Mostly guests come in hungry and sometimes even irritably hungry and they want food, fast. Hence the get em in get em out feeling that you had. If you looked around really well you could've seen David at table 5. He eats oatmeal every morning with a cup of coffee. He prefers his small coffee put in a large cup because he likes more milk. You may have also missed Dan who sits at table 7 and gets 2 scrambled eggs and toast and writes for about 3 hours on his laptop. There's Lenny and the poker gang, oh, you would've missed them, they come in Monday at noon. You were probably there on a weekend day as most of the tourists are.These people are just a few of our regular guests that come in daily( except for the poker gang who go to Maria's on Wed. and Joshua's on Tues.). We know what they like, what they don't like and we know the names of their kids and even their birthdays for the most part.
And did you miss the prices of the art on the wall? that's because there are no prices. The art is there to enjoy. We like that all of the amazing artists in Woodstock come out every month to put their work on our walls. It is for sale but frankly, we've sold 3 pieces in 3 years.
I realize that you feel entitled to your opinion, and you are, it just wasn't a very well informed one.

JustinM said...

That's cool - if I'm wrong about the place, I'm wrong. I admitted in an earlier comment that I am clearly in the minority in my views of Oriole 9 - including in my own household.

However I did not find it or Woodstock to be a friendly place, and the reaction of people in the comments is only reinforcing that opinion.

nina said...

I totally get that you feel as if Woodstock were an unfriendly place. I often go to visit a place and wonder how people live there and what they do with their time. I felt that way when I moved to Brooklyn in 1995. It took me all of a few weeks to have a new community. To say hello to people by their name and learn about who people are and how they spend their days. It may possibly be the preconceived ideas one has when they go to a new place. I feel people are disappointed when they come to Woodstock because even if you know Dylan isn't going to be at the post office, there might be a little place in them that hopes that SOMETHING is there. It is there, you just have to spend the time getting to know your neighbors. I'm not condemning you at all. I truly find it interesting what and how people form their impressions on places.
Don't be reinforced in mine or others opinions because you might miss something amazing!

JustinM said...

I was also reluctant to write this, but the server was not friendly in the slightest. I am friends with many people who are servers and I know it's hard work and sometimes you are dealing with high-maintenance people, so I don't write about service unless it's egregious. But she did not smile once, and when I asked a question about the art she grunted "go check it out" and walked away.

That, combined with the fact that not a single other patron was smiling, is what killed the place for me. That's why I wrote "it seemed to me like a place..." not "it is a place..." I allowed for the fact I may be wrong. On that day (it was a Monday around 1) I was not wrong.

At any rate, thanks for taking the time to leave your comments.

nina said...

I appreciate your comment and I also know that serving is not an easy job but that is never an excuse to be unfriendly. Thanks for letting me know.

robin kramer said...

It's amazing the conclusions that people jump to, when visiting a place for a few hours.

Oriole 9 usually takes a while for the service, and the waitstaff knows who everyone is

Rudy is an asshole, who beat his kids. You can't tell that after a little while.