Welcome to our list of favorite dining destinations in New York's Hudson Valley and Adirondack regions. We visit restaurants, wineries, barbecues, and a smattering of off the beaten path culinary destinations like maple sugar shacks and fromageries. My friends and I have been dining out together weekly for over twenty years. The locations we write about are our favorite destinations. We are not claiming they are the best, just our favorites. The posts are not "reviews" in the classic sense. - we offer only our picks, not pans. We will leave the criticism to others. We are a happy blog. We much prefer a good bistro to "haute cuisine", especially if they also have a nice bar. We prefer a crock of cassoulet and a bottle of Beaujolais to just about anything else. If you enjoy simple home style rustic cooking with a decent (but not too expensive) bottle of wine, then pull up a chair and join us.



This Month's "Well Said!"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

Ferran Andria

Friday, May 30, 2014

North Country ~ Adirondacks ~ Top 10 Favorite Restaurants

The following restaurants are our favorite North Country dining destinations. Most would be classified as "bistro style". Two - in Glens Falls - are slightly outside the Adirondack Blue Line, but are still an easy drive from Lake George. I am not suggesting these are the "ten best restaurants"in the Adirondacks. They are "our favorites" for a variety of reasons - a solid kitchen that thinks local and fresh, comfortable casual space, maybe a friendly bar or a well chosen reasonably priced wine list (and ideally all of the above). Click through the links for more details, reviews, and links to menus and restaurant websites.

barVino, North Creek
Great food, great bar, great people. Your home away from home.

Bistro Tallulah, Glens Falls
Classic bistro menu with small plate offerings.

The Owl at Twilight, Olmstedville
Intimate romantic setting. New owners this year (2014). Seasonal

DaCy Meadow Farm, Westport
Why bring the farm to the table when you can go right to the farm? Seasonal

Bistro Le Roux, Lake George
Fun bistro style menu, nice bar & wine flight offerings

Farmhouse at the Top of the World, Lake George
These folks are serious about their produce, and wow - what they do with it!.

Friends Lake Inn, Chestertown
A prettier place (or better wine list) will be hard to find.

Turtle Island Cafe, Willsboro
Extraordinary kitchen in a casual setting.

The Uptown, Hague ~ Lake George
A newcomer, but it was love at first sight. Seasonal

Paradox Lodge, Lake Placid
I saved the best for last. Don't miss it (but watch out for the guy in the kitchen).

If you do stop in please let our other readers know about your visit in the comments section.
I hope you'll "Like" Rambler on Facebook  
Ideas? Recommendations? Email me at NorthCountryJoe@gmail.com

Hudson Valley New Openings ~ Gusto in Arlington, Poughkeepsie

Gusto
15 Collegeview Ave.
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603

845.454.8200
Website: www.gustopk.com

Open 7 days ~ Lunch & Dinner

It's only taken twenty years, but the Banta's finally have a new restaurant on Collegeview in Arlington. The space that had housed Angelisa's (I know, I'm dating myself) has been completely renovated and expanded. The Banta's partnered with Gianni Scappin, who brought you Market St., in Rhinebeck, and Cucina in Woodstock. The new space is expansive, with off street parking and outdoor seating overlooking the Vassar campus across the street.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Uptown ~ Lake George ~ Hague, New York

The Uptown
9819 Graphite Mountain Rd. (Rte 8)
Hague, NY 12836

Open Seasonally for Dinner ~ Tuesday through Saturday
Reservation strongly recommended
Phn: 518.543.6202 or lizuptown@gmail.com

Website


The Uptown will be opening for the 2014 season on June 24th. 

We were most fortunate to find out about the Uptown Restaurant last summer in a blog post on DocSconz.com. I am embarrassed to say that I had not heard of this Adirondack gem, even thought they had been open for years. After reading the post, and realizing that they were about to close for the season, we immediately made a reservation for dinner.

The Uptown bills itself as a "greenmarket restaurant" a reference to New York City's farmers markets. I am immediately suspicious of such marketing terms, because too many restaurant operators use "farm to table" to describe their Sysco delivery. My fears were unfounded. What we did find was a passionate focus on local and natural products, prepared with a reverence for those ingredients. (We were also treated to one of the best meals we have ever eaten in the Adirondacks.)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

DaCy Meadow Farm ~ Westport ~ Adirondacks ~ New York


7103 US Route 9N
POB 323
Westport, NY 12993

Reservations: 518.962.2350

dacymeadowfarm@yahoo.com

Sunday Brunch: Memorial Day ~ Columbus Day

Four Special Event Dinners each summer

North Country diners looking for a truly unique and very special culinary experience will want to add DaCy Meadow Farm to their summer calendar. There were only four evening events last summer, in addition to the Sunday brunch served at the farm. (Sunday Brunch starts next Sunday - Memorial Day weekend) DaCy Meadow is a small 72 acre farm, just east of the Northway at exit 31, run by David and Cynthia Johnston (DaCy - get it?) raising heritage breeds of cows and pigs. It is the quintessential North Country "farm to table" dining experience - but in this case the table is at the farm. At meal time the farm's livestock offerings are complemented with local vegetables from two of our favorite growers - Fledgling Crow Vegetables in Keeseville, and Juniper Hill Farm in Wadhams.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friends Lake Inn ~ Chestertown

Friends Lake Inn
963 Friends Lake Road
Chestertown, NY 12817

Reservations: 518.494.4751
Website



Friends Lake Inn is one of our favorite dining destinations. Hidden away on a quite country road above Friends Lake, this luxury inn also offers one of the Adirondack's premier dining opportunities. The top notch kitchen is complemented by one of the area's most extensive wine lists, and a service staff that balances professionalism with some down home, north country hospitality. One of our favorite ways of spending an evening at Friends Lake is to attend one of the wine themed dinners they host during the off season. (Off season for the wineries - not for the inn, which attracts a loyal following of skiers when the snow flies.) Last weekend they hosted a dinner designed around the wines of Napa's Grgich Hills Estates.



Wine buffs will remember the story of Mike Grgich, then the winemaker at Chateau Montelena, who showed up at a Paris wine tasting in 1976 with a bottle of his chardonnay, and blew away the competition - including the grand dames of Burgundy and Bordeaux. Sacre Bleu! It was the seminal event that quite literally put Napa on the map, along with the soon to be famous wine maker. Fast forward a bit and the unknown vintner had his name on the label (along with his new partner from Hills Brother coffee (Grgich Hills - get it?). His wines, particularly his chardonnay, are still considered by many to be some of the best produced anywhere. I wholeheartedly agree. 
I envy Chef Matthew Bolton and the kitchen staff on nights like this, when they get to pair their creations with such a wonderful selection of wines. We were treated to five accompanied courses, with a running commentary by Robert Gerkin of Lauber Wines, who represents Grgich in New York. 

The Grgich selections started with 2011 Fume Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc), which the kitchen paired with an arugula salad plated with luscious slices of grilled cantaloupe and star fruit. Next a glass of 2010 chardonnay showed up with a slice of lobster and scallop terrine. It was a masterful pairing if for no other reason than the dish held its own with the winery's signature wine which we were all there to taste. It was also a fabulous terrine, smooth as velvet and scented with tarragon. Two meat courses were prepared to show off the winery's big guns. Offerings of both merlot and cabernet arrived with plates of rare beef tenderloin and a wild boar chop encrusted with pistachios and hazelnuts. Wonderful stuff indeed. 


Pistachio & Hazelnut encrusted Wild Boar Chop

A creme brulee for dessert brought another special treat, but not from Napa this time. Just over the Canadian border above Lake Champlain in south central Quebec you will find a collective of dozens of cideries along the "Cider Route". These artisanal producers make delicious apple ice wines and hard ciders with the frozen fruit left on the trees to concentrate the sugars. It is very similar to the process used with grapes for making dessert ice wines. The evening's selection of Neige Cidre de Glace was a great match for the creme brulee!
You do not have to wait for a wine dinner to enjoy an evening at Friends Lake Inn. You can view the regular dining menu here. For a more casual bistro setting the restaurant also offers a bar menu in the tavern, and reduced rate dinner specials on weekends during the winter. 


If you do stop in please let our other readers know about your visit in the comments section.

I hope you'll "Like" Rambler on Facebook  

Ideas? Recommendations? Email me at NorthCountryJoe@gmail.com
If you enjoyed visiting the blog, please pass it along:

Friends Lake Inn on Urbanspoon
   


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Eat 'n Meet Grill and larder, Saranac Lake NY

Eat 'n Meet Grill and larder
139 Broadway (Route 86)
Saranac Lake, NY 12983

Reservations: 518 891 4139
Eat 'n Meet Website

Open 7 Days
Monday from 5 PM
Tues - Sunday from noon

Chef John Vargo came to Saranac Lake by what can only be described as a circuitous route. His CV includes stints in some of my favorite Hudson Valley venues (The Thymes, Gadaleto's) and an apprenticeship in France after formal training at the New England Culinary Institute. At the point where many people on that career path would be sitting on Daniel Boulud's steps angling for a position, Chef Vargo decided to take the path less traveled. Actually not less traveled, he chose the path not traveled at all, unless you know anybody else operating a 3 star kitchen in what appears to be a 1950's general store (all original parts) with a grand total of twelve (yes, 12) seats.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Brunetto's, Warrensburg N.Y.

Brunetto's Restaurant
3579 Route 9 (@ Northway Exit 23)
Warrensburg, NY 12845
(518) 623 1041 (no reservations)
Dinner: Thursday through Saturday

It has now been twenty years since Brunetto's in Warrensburg opened its doors. The restaurant quickly became a North Country favorite with visitors and locals alike. A seat in the dining room is a very hard ticket to score during the summer tourist season, and securing a seat at the bar is even harder. 
The restaurant does not take reservations, but we crossed our fingers and stopped in last night for dinner. At 5:30 the parking lot was already full, and our request for two seats at the bar for dinner was greeted with a skeptical smile. After checking for available real estate with our favorite bartender Liz (not a chance), we were offered the last table in the dining room (and were happy to get it.) I remind readers that this story takes place on a Thursday in March. Not only is it not tourist season, it's not even mud season yet. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Opening: The Huguenot Restaurant ~ New Paltz

The Huguenot by Karl Family Farms
36 Main Street
New Paltz, NY 12561

Wed ~ Sun, 5 - 10 PM
845.255.5558
Website

Fans of Nathan and Bonnie Snow will be happy to hear that you will now have one more venue in which to enjoy their talents.  The team that brought us A Tavola Trattoria in New Paltz has teamed up with the owners of Karl Family Farms in Modena to open a new "small plate" wine bar and restaurant. The Karl family focuses on organic pasture raised livestock and their products are featured on the menu. They have made more creative use of the space that most recently housed Il Gallo Giallo, and the eponymous 36 Main before that.


Chicken Hearts
The new owners have taken the (beloved) bar and moved it towards the rear of the dining room where  it eliminates the inside corner and works much better, and also creates some much needed space for additional seating. The bar can now accommodate a few extra stools, and the small plate / gastro-pub theme will put that extra bar seating to good use.

The menu is not the Italian theme I was expecting, but more of a classic American / wine bar / gastropub. The apps are too formidable to be called tapas, and we each mixed and matched a few to build our own personal tasting menu last night. I was thrilled to see the Basque classic baccala brandade on the menu. I have very fond memories of the first time I tried this dish - at the long shuttered La Rive in Catskill in the late 70's. Just a peasant blend of re-hydrated salt cod and seasoned potatoes, the kitchen here plated it with crimini mushrooms and brioche points for schmearing. A very nice walk down memory lane for me.    

A platter of roasted marrow bones was another bistro classic, very nicely done and served with some house made brioche. There are plenty of heartier dishes to choose from, from burgers to bouillabaisse. You can view the entire menu here. I was very happy to see wild salmon on the menu, instead of the farm raised stuff that most kitchens pass off.  I award the kitchen one gold star from the Atlantic Salmon Federation for the effort on their behalf.
The chicken hearts pictured above were served with shaved pear, endive and a bleu cheese mousse. I have had similar dishes with chicken livers (boring), and with chicken oysters (killer) but this was a first.  
The restaurant just opened this month. The wine list was very much a work in progress with much stock still in transit at this writing. While it is too early to comment on the food and the service at this newly opened venue, given the management team, the menu, and the newly reconfigured space and bar, I'll make you a lunch bet that this will be one of your new favorite New Paltz destinations.  I'll be the tall one with the Pinot.

If you do stop in please let our other readers know about your visit in the comments section.
I hope you'll "Like" Rambler on Facebook  
Ideas? Recommendations? Email me at NorthCountryJoe@gmail.com
The Huguenot Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Schroon Lake Chili Cook Off ~ February 22, 2014

Schroon Lake Chili Cook-off
Benefit for Schroon Lake EMS
11:30 AM ~ 1:30 PM  
Saturday, February 22

Mountainside Gymnasium
Route 9 at Northway Exit 27
Schroon Lake, NY

Unlimited Tastings ~ $15

Who makes the best chili in the Adirondacks? Find out next Saturday!

Fired up north country chefs from area restaurants and fire companies will compete for trophies and bragging rights next Saturday at the Annual Schroon Lake Chili Cook-off. There are eighteen entries in this year's tournament, according to event organizer Shelby Davis.

Entrants will be competing in multiple categories, including classic red meat recipes in addition to vegetarian entries. Fire and Rescue Squads compete in their own section. A panel of judges, including your's truly, will be judging all entries. The winning dishes, which will also include a "People' Choice" judged by all of the patrons in attendance, will be announced at 1:30 PM.
Mr. P's Mountain Smokehouse Chili
Last year's champions will have plenty of competition. Defending champions include the  Ticonderoga Volunteer Fire Dept. for best Fire & Rescue Squad entry. Patty Christian of Witherbee's Carriage House is scheduled to return with her winning vegetarian chili recipe, but Morningstar Bistro's Myriam Friedman wants the trophy. Mr. P's Smokehouse will have to defend their award winning recipe against newcomer Sticks & Stones and Flanagan's Pub, among many others.  The hometown favorite Schroon Lake EMS took home the People's Choice trophy least year, and will be defending their title next Saturday.

If there is a category for best chili name, my vote will go to the Adirondack Shakespeare Company's "King Henry's Great Meal of Beef and Iron and Steel" chili. How could one not vote for that?





If you are unable to attend but would like to contribute, you can do so at www.schroonlakechilicookoff.org



Friday, January 10, 2014

SushiMakio ~ Kingston, NY

SushiMakio
1088 Morton Blvd.
Kingston, NY 12401

Dinner from 4 PM 
Closed Monday
Reservations: 845.853.8078
Website: www.sushimakio.com

This new gem of a restaurant is going to be a little hard to find, but I promise you it's worth the effort. 

In his book Outliers, author Malcom Gladwell posited that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at your craft. Last night as we watched our dinner plates being prepared, I calculated that in the last twenty five years the owner, Makio Idesako, has accumulated something more than 50,000 hours honing his craft, more than qualifying for the honorific, Itamae, or master chef, literally translated as "behind the board". 
Makio (Mike to his friends and the regulars) opened his first restaurant, Sastsuma - Ya, in Mamaroneck in 1989. His creations there inspired two write ups in the New York Times, and a loyal band of followers. He worked there with his wife until 2005, after which he made his first attempt at retirement.  He was lured back to work by his friend, John Novi, of Depuy Canal House fame, where Makio presided over the sushi board at Amici Sushi. I met Mike a few years later working at the Bull & Buddha in Poughkeepsie, now shuttered. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Openings ~ Mill House Brewing Company, Poughkeepsie

Mill House Brewing Co.
289 Mill Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

Reservations: 845.485.2739

Lunch & Dinner ~ Wednesday through Monday
Closed Tuesdays

Website

Today, Poughkeepsie's Mill House Brewing Company officially opened the doors, and the taps.  The highly anticipated opening had patrons three deep at the bar and waiting briefly for a table.  We managed to secure a "high top" in the open kitchen area, so we could watch Chef Dan Crocco and his crew try to keep pace with the turnout as we enjoyed our meals.

Fans of the original Mill House Restaurant will appreciate the effort that the new owners made to preserve the original architectural themes of the site, but they will also not recognize much of the new space. Stylistically the rooms reflect the bare brick, old mill flavors, but after millions of dollars of improvements and additions, the new restaurant's scale and gorgeous attention to detail overwhelm the original. The restaurant can accommodate over two hundred diners on three floors, in addition to an outdoor patio. These people have made a huge financial commitment to the new business, and it really shows.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Hudson Valley "Top 10" Favorite Restaurants

My "Top Ten" favorite restaurants in the Hudson Valley as of November 2013.  They all serve great home style cooking using local farm products, with a decent bottle of wine, in a comfortable and casual atmosphere.  No haute cuisine here, just basic good cooking.  
All of the listings are links to the full blog post 
with hours of operation and contact info. 


My favorites are listed in alphabetical order.




Aroma Osteria, Wappingers Falls
Mom's best recipes (if your mom was from Naples).
My "home away from home".

A Tavola, New Paltz
Rustic Italian at its best.

Basement Bistro, Earlton
If you can get a reservation, you have to do this. 
Just incredible.

The most fun you can have in a restaurant
(And the food is great too.)

Fish & Game, Hudson
When a restaurant says it's "Farm to Table", 
this is what they want you to believe. 
Here they walk the walk. (Actually they dance!)

Il Barilotto, Fishkill
An Upper East Side Aroma Osteria

The one that started it all.

Le Canard Enchaine, Kingston
Our local Paris bistro. (Save the air fare.)

Rustic pastas and a great wine bar.

Mountain Brahaus, Gardiner
Just a nice neighborhood restaurant  
(if your neighborhood is in Bavaria).


Baby octopus at Aroma Osteria


Why would our "favorites" not necessarily be "the best"?  
Read about that here.  
Do you think we left someone out?  Please email me!

If you do stop in please let our other readers know about your visit 
in the comments section.
If you enjoyed visiting the blog, please pass it along:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fish & Game ~ Hudson, NY

Fish & Game
13 South 3rd St.
Hudson, NY 12354

Reservations: 518.822.1500
email rsvp@fishandgamehudson.com

Dinner Thursday through Sunday
Dining Room from 5:30 PM
Bar opens at 5 PM


Our plan to dine at Fish & Game, as we passed through Hudson on a Sunday afternoon, came together quickly when an email from the restaurant asked if we would be willing to come at 5:15 PM. An earlier email had apologized for the fact that the dining room was fully booked, but a quick follow up offered an early table, actually fifteen minutes earlier than the restaurant's posted hours. We jumped at the opportunity.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lombardi's ~ Gardiner, NY

Lombardi's Italian Restaurant
2808 Rte 44/55
Gardiner, NY 12525

Reservations: 845.255.9779

Dinner Wednesday through Monday
Closed Tuesday
No Credit Cards
Restaurant Website

Pasta doesn't get any more "homemade" than this. Right next to the bar, out in the dining room, a long wooden farm table was set with a stand mixer and pasta roller attachment. As I sipped on my wine, kitchen staff emerged to take turns using the roller. The first batch of pasta was stretched out for rows of ravioli, squeezed from a pastry bag, dollop by dollop, teasing me before I even had a chance to look at the menu. Morgan came next, with her own ball of semolina dough, feeding it through the roller, over and over until she was happy with the dimensions. It was hung on the pasta drier when she finished, waiting for the knife that would coax it into delicate strips of fettuccine. I was in heaven, and I did not expect to find it here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Schatzi's Pub & Bier Garden ~ Poughkeepsie, NY

Schatzi's Pub & Bier Garden



202 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 2601

Phone: 845.454.1179

Schatzi's Facebook Page



In days of yore, Hudson Valley diners had many choices for good German fare. Just in the city of Poughkeepsie we had the Brauhaus in Arlington (now the Dubliner) and further down Main Street was the Auffarth family's Congress Tavern (in the late 70's) , both of which served up Karl Ehmer's wieners and wursts with platters of spaetzle and kraut. Those were the days. It was just such a longing for my traditional family fare that caused my heart to skip a beat when the news came of a new German restaurant on Main Street Poughkeepsie, in the site that formerly housed Karma Lounge.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nic L Inn Wine Cellar on the Hudson ~ Poughkeepsie

Nic L Inn Wine Cellar on the Hudson

135 N. Water Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

(Phn) 845-452-5649
Lunch & Dinner ~ Wednesday through Sunday

Restaurant Website



The Deluccia name will be familiar to many Hudson Valley diners. The family that brought you the Nic L Inn on Rte 55 in Lagrange, and the Lynick House on Rte 376 is back, with a bistro - wine bar in Poughkeepsie's Waterfront district. They opened this week, and our Wednesday night dining crew stopped in last night for dinner to check it out.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hokkaido ~ New Paltz, NY

Hokkaido Japanese Restaurant
18 Church Street
New Paltz, NY 12561

845 256 0732

Dinner 7 days
Lunch on Weekdays

Hokkaido Website

There is a reason for the line out the door.  Do not let the line dissuade you from choosing Hokkaido for dinner, despite the fact that there are two other sushi restaurants nearby. This is the place.

Every now and again our Wednesday night dining crew gets a hankering for sushi. It is not our typical bistro fare, but seafood cravings strike on occasion, and we have a few sushi restaurants that we visit a few times a year. When dining in Ulster County, that destination is always Hokkaido. Judging by the comments on my Rambler Facebook Page, we are not alone in that assessment. Hokkaido has a large following, and for very good reason.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Paradox Brewery ~ Schroon Lake ~ Adirondacks ~ New York

Paradox Brewery
154 US Route 9 at Northway Exit 27
Schroon Lake, NY 12870

(518) 351-5036


The logo is a play on the traditional
yellow and brown Adirondack "trail marker"

I am very happy to report that the Paradox Brewery, our very own local craft beer microbrewery right here in Schroon Lake, New York, has opened the taps and the beer is flowing. After many months of planning, construction, and sorting out licenses and permits, co-owners Vaughn Clark, Paul Mrocka, and David Bruce have thrown open the doors to the new tasting room. We stopped in last night on a "research mission".  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In praise of the (long lost) "Tossed Salad"

And why I hate those portion control dressing cups. 

It has never been the purpose of this blog to use it as a forum to complain. I never write about a restaurant experience that we did not enjoy, at least on balance. My topic today is not inspired by any particular restaurant, but rather from what I see as a collective trend in (too) many restaurants. It started slowly in less expensive venues - fast food establishments, then "casual dining" restaurants. Now it seems to be spreading to more expensive dining rooms, where prices hardly justify allowing for this to happen. The dining public's preferences are being totally ignored, patrons are being forced to fend for themselves with plates sent from the kitchen unfinished, all for the sake of a few pennies of labor costs.  I am, of course, talking about serving salads with portion control cups of salad dressing "on the side". 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sticks & Stones, Schroon Lake, NY

Sticks & Stones Wood Fired Bistro & Bar
739 US Route 9
Schroon Lake, NY 12870

Reservations: 518.532.9663
Open for Dinner 7 days from 5 PM
Restaurant Facebook Page

In my book the quintessential rustic comfort food is wood fired brick oven pizza. Stylistically it is in a class by itself, decidedly different in flavor and texture than a traditional New York "slice" or Chicago's "deep dish" iteration. More often than not you will see "Neopolitan" attached to this thin crust style of Italian flat breads, but the genre is not limited to Italy. Many cultures offer their own versions and I would not even attempt to declare my favorite. Corsican's top their thin crust pizza with a sunny side up egg, and drizzle it with olive oil laced with hot pepperflakes and sprigs of the rosemary that grows wild all over the island. In Alsace it is called flammekuchen - "fired cakes" - and is traditionally topped with roasted onions or better yet forestiere style -with wild mushrooms. A French Florentine variant topped with sauteed spinach, creme fraiche, and escargot will be forever etched in my memory as one of the best meals I have very experienced. But that might have been the wine. But back to Schroon Lake, and why I'm talking about thin crust pizzas.