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One Tank Trip: Combat cabin fever with a visit to Chautauqua Lake

Football is over and we cannot bear to clean another closet. Suddenly we find ourselves with free time, but what to do?

Our first inclination to eat and drink, so we headed on a drive to Chautauqua Lake to Reverie Creamery and Southern Tier Brewing — two places we’ve been meaning to check out for some time.

The beauty of going this time of year is a just-long-enough-ride and the absence of summer crowds.

Those familiar with Route 394 along Chautauqua Lake will note Reverie Creamery (reveriecreamery.com • 3943 Route 394, Mayville) occupies what was once that quirky bookstore.

The entrance to Reverie (Emeri Krawczyk)

Co-owned by Riko Chandra and Jim Howard, this small scale artisan cheese making operation opened in July 2015 and produces a variety of cheeses using cow and goat milk from local small-scale dairies.

Chandra studied cheese making at several institutions, including Cornell University. For Chandra, it’s all about the process of taking a perishable food like milk and giving it new life as cheese — amazing considering the hundreds of distinct and different cheeses produced around the world.

Reverie first produced fresh cheeses that didn’t require aging. Aged hard cheeses followed this past spring and summer and are available now.

Because of health regulations, tours are not offered, but visitors can often see the process through the front windows. In the meantime, there is plenty to see and taste in the shop, which carries cheese from around the world as well as Reverie’s own creations.

The shop’s selections change seasonally and take into the account the “expression of the terroir,” weather, climate etc., and if the cheese are better eaten in the summer or winter.

Getting ready to sample some cheese (Emeri Krawczyk)

To help us wade through the cheese, the lovely Mary Stineman fed us samples of the various cheeses Reverie produces, plus others the shop carries. Reverie’s delicious “Tommie” style table cheese with its salty taste and dark gray rind won gold at the New York State Fair for best artisan cheese. We also loved the buttery “Palomino.”

In addition to fabulous cheese, the shop is filled with goodies like specialty olive oils and vinegars, Bemus Bay buckwheat honey, gourmet crackers, coffees, teas and jams. We nearly died and went to heaven sampling a soft cheese on a chocolate cracker topped with local honey. Of course, we had to buy the combination for home along with some of the Tommie cheese.

The the shop also sells wood cheese boards made by Bemus Point artisan Terry Saye, pottery from the Portage Hill Art Gallery (6439 Portage Road, Westfield • portagehillgallery.com) and goat milk soap from Chautauqua Soap (CHQ) in Jamestown among other things.

Working up a thirst from our cheese appetizers, we headed down the road to Southern Tier Brewing (2072 Stoneman Circle, Lakewood • stbcbeer.com) to its Empty Pint tavern.

If you are a fan of Southern Tier Brewing, it’s worth the ride to the mother ship.

 

The interior of Southern Tier Brewing (Emeri Krawczyk)

The entrance to the Empty Pint is a little confusing. Don’t mistake it for the sign to the tasting room which overlooks the brew house. Open from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays, the tasting room serves only flights of beer. And speaking of flights, there is a long flight of stairs to get to it. Several young lads embarked on the trek as we old folk made our way to the doors of the busy Empty Pint farther down.

Of course Southern Tier’s shiny taps serve its many beers, including favorites and seasonal. For non-beer drinkers there are wines and sodas (root beer, cream soda, black cherry).

Tables and chairs are first come, first serve. We snagged a few seats along the window overlooking the production area. Some folks in coats sat out on an enclosed patio with heaters.

We were tempted by the limited release Manhattan ale brewed with cherry juice then aged in a bourbon barrel, but instead went with the double IPA Tangier and a refreshing Raspberry White.

The Empty Pint keeps the food basic with interesting sandwiches from grilled cheese and three types of meatloaf to pulled pork, specialty wraps, pastrami and tacos.

There is no table service; order at the food kiosk and they’ll find you. Cleanup is on you too. We had three starters — loaded pub chips with cheddar, bacon and chives, pretzel sticks and Buffalo chicken meatballs. It was more than enough beer-friendly food to fill our bellies for the ride home. Empty Pint hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

 

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