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, August 19, 2011

Farmhouse at the Top of the World, Lake George, NY

Dining Out in Lake George
The Farmhouse at the Top of the World

441 Lockhart Mountain Road
Lake George, NY 12845
Reservations: 518.668.3000

Lunch & Dinner, Wednesday through Sunday
Open seasonally – May through October

Finding a great dining experience in Lake George has always presented a challenge. Like most Adirondack vacation communities, business owners have exactly nine weeks to make a living – from July 4th through Labor Day weekend. The majority of businesses shutter soon after, with a few brave souls staying open hoping for enough lake ice for a Winter Carnival, but those are the exceptions. Restaurants face the unique problem of hiring and training a staff for the summer – both a kitchen crew that can prepare the menu, and a dining room staff that is up to the task of serving it. A lot of seasonal places deal with the reality of summer college student help and offer a menu that does not require seasoned restaurant professionals to prepare and serve. The overwhelming majority of restaurants in the Adirondacks go down this road. The Lake George dining experience was the Adirondack experience writ large, with a hundred places suddenly appearing each summer, only to disappear like hibernating bears come fall. Of this group I would classify very few as extraordinary, and most would not compare to their downstate competitors. The Inn at Erlowest is certainly one of the exceptions, but the experience there is a little too formal – and expensive - for our tastes. The Gristmill on Schroon in Warrensburg does a nice job with the short season, and will be the subject of a future post. After spending a day at the track last Wednesday, we stopped in at The Farmhouse at the Top of the World for dinner, and came away thinking that we had found our new favorite Lake George restaurant.
Kevin London and Kimberly Feeney are the husband and wife team behind this six year old venture. While the term “farm to table” is becoming hackneyed with overuse, this is the real deal. The couple operate their own farm on site, raising their own produce and egg laying hens. The chef's stint at Tarrytown's Blue Hill at Stone Barns no doubt provided inspiration for much of the menu, and furthered his passion for farm fresh produce. They supplement their own products with meats and cheeses sourced from local producers, and get their fish Fed Ex'd from Montauk and New England suppliers. On Wednesday nary a single farm raised salmon dish appeared on the menu - gold star for that - but we did try some fantastic Montauk scallops ($13) for an app, served over a roasted corn relish, spiked with some smoky bits of bacon.

The restaurant's menu changes each week to reflect whatever is coming up in the garden, and the Lake George summer season coincides perfectly with that effort. House made pastas are also included on the menu. A hand rolled tagliatelle tossed with golden zucchini and roma tomatoes was right up there with the best I have had anywhere – impossibly delicate, with just a hint of olive oil, and fresh garden veggies sauteed for just a moment - to perfection. The dish could be ordered as an app for $10, or an entree ($18) The true test for the kitchen was an order of duck confit ($9), which was listed as a “snack”, and could pass as a side or an app. We judged the confit against my benchmark favorite duck confit – mine. Our table-mates Pete and Tracy graciously suggested that they still like mine best, but I know they were lying. This dish was just great – a perfectly preserved hindquarter with not a hint of residual duck fat, crisped before serving and plated on a bed of fresh salad greens. Another great starter was a salad of early kale (($7), tossed with a local maple infused salad dressing. Quite tasty. Much to my surprise Mary ordered the Farmhouse cheeseburger ($14), which was topped with some house cured pancetta, a raw milk blue cheese, and served with a wonderful homemade ketchup that we passed around trying to guess the recipe's ingredients. In addition to the obvious tomatoes, we thought we sensed some chipotle and a little ginger. You should try it for yourself; served with a huge portion of frites, it's quite good and it may be the best burger you have this summer (and you won't have to worry about what country the meat was sourced from). I tried a dish of Elihu Farm lamb ($24) – tiny bite sized meat balls served with a hand rolled cavatelli in a lamb ragu, and cherry tomatoes with a hint of harissa – a North African chile garlic spice blend. The dish was reason enough to come back.

The wine list was also a pleasant surprise – an eclectic mix of reasonably priced but well chosen wines including a nice Tempranillo (Dacu Bodegas Emerita, 2008 Ribera del Guardiana) which we drank by the glass for $6. A dozen wines were available by the glass. A glass of Ramitello Di Majo Norante arrived corked, but was quickly replaced and was removed from our bill. You can view the entire house wine list here.

The dining room at The Farmhouse looks out over the Top of the World golf course, and as you might expect provides some spectacular views. The room is furnished with shaker style wooden chairs, generously spaced so you do not feel crowded. Sometimes it seemed that there were too many staff personnel in the dining room, with waitstaff, and runners, and bussers all buzzing about; still at times we had to look for our waitress. The service standards were noticeably higher than most local restaurants – waiting till all diners are finished before removing plates, knowing the wines on the list and knowing the ingredients of each dish on the menu. Grading on a curve - among the best in the area (but still not up to the extraordinary standards set by the kitchen.)
On the Rambler Facebook page last week our friend Jeremy opined that his favorite area restaurants were : BarVino in North Creek, Bistro Tallulah in Glens Falls, The Owl at Twilight in Olmstedville, and Lake George's Farmhouse at the Top of the World. We couldn't agree more.

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