Thursday, October 13, 2005

Endless Summer


I'm BACK !!! Where did summer go ?

Well September is suddenly here, hurricane season is in full swing and I must get back into updating my blog. The loss of New Orleans has me greatly depressed. Hurricane Katrina did a number on my second favorite American city. (NY will always be number one!) As I prepare to write this blog ~ her sister Rita is swirling around the Gulf. This is a terrible thing happening to some of my favorite places. In addition to making my living in the restaurant business, I have a personal connections with the south. Prior to being a restaurateur I was a professional musician for fourteen years. During my music days my connection to New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama ran much deeper then a bowl of gumbo. The music was a major part of my life. In addition my Grand Dad was from Mobile Alabama and his influence give me a deep appreciation for jazz, the blues and the foods of the south. There is nothing quite like a glass of wine, some corn bread with my gumbo as I listen to some New Orleans jazz ~ it is something we all should experience once in life.

But enough about the present ~ lets go back to May ~

Yes it was a long hot summer here in the east. (NY / NJ) But then again I didn't spend very much time in the east. I traveled North in May, Northwest in June back North in July / August and South in September. It didn't matter where you were this summer ~ there was no escaping the heat!

Starting in May ~ my travels took me to one of my favorite places on earth,
Lake George, New York. I am one of the fortunate ones, having a boat at Bolton Landing on the upper western shore of the lake. This is a remarkable area for many reasons but the main reason is 'the lake'! This is Mother Nature at her best, it's crystal clear waters are a breathtaking vision stretching out over 32 miles, dotted with a pearl like sting of islands of various sizes all nestled into the majestic Adirondack mountain range.

My summer time escape is half way up the lake in the town of Bolton Landing. This is far away from the maddening crowds and the hustle and bustle of
Lake George Village. It is literally fifteen miles north along Lake Shore Drive and for me heaven right here on earth!

This is my home away from home. Bolton Landing is a quaint country town featuring many lovely shops and restaurants. A visit to Bolton is not complete if you miss the Indian Tepee Shop. This is the most famous novelty store in the Adirondack region. Along with offering authentic Minne Tonca Moccasins, a Christmas shop and other unusual gifts this store is the center of this historic town. Other places of interest along Lakeshore Drive are the
Blueberry Basket and Bolton Bay Traders, both noteworthy stops on your shopping tour.

Now on to the food!

My favorite place to eat in Bolton Landing is Cates Italian Garden. This is casual dining at its best. I love dining outdoors. Cates features a large awning covered sidewalk bistro that allows you to sip wine, enjoy some pizza or pasta and watch the world pass you by. In addition Cates features two dining rooms and a bar but I prefer the outside at least until mid October ~ then its fireside for me!

The owners Buddy (Chef) and his wife Cate bring together an extremely friendly and loyal team to serve you in this simple relaxing setting. The menu offers pizza, mussels or traditional Italian pasta dishes, Cates is a perfect spot for a couple or small group looking to enjoy a glass of wine and simple cuisine in the heart of this quaint little town. Quite simply, Cates is a fun, comfortable place to enjoy dinner and drinks. Be sure to check out Cates herb and tomato plants growing along the sidewalk. They are all a part of Buddy's recipe book. When visiting be sure to tell Cate (she is usually the hostess) or Buddy ~ Bob the restaurant guy from NJ sent you. For a real treat say hello to Cheryl, she too is found at the hostess desk. Cheryl is a friend who has a personality as big as the lake A woman of all trades, hostess, server, bartender, you name it she can do it. Her sidekick Jimmy is usually in the kitchen however in the colder months they let him out as he and Cheryl run the show. Cates is one of those can't miss local Italian restaurant we all long to find. For the record Cates is open most of the year ~ closing around March when it's just to damn cold and Bolton becomes a ghost town!

The crown jewel of Bolton Landing and Lake George is one of America's Grand Hotels ~
The Sagamore! Along with her majestic beauty and old world charm the Sagamore has several quality restaurants. With that said, when at Lake George I prefer a little less formal dinning so my favorite dining experience at the Sagamore is the Lobster Bake. The Sagamore's Lobster fest features 3 pound lobsters, a grand seafood buffet (I usually don't do buffets) along with some specialty items all for only $60 pp. Yes this information is a little late I know ~ but put it on your calendar for next season.

And let us not forget the golfers! The Sagamore Hotel features a classic Donald Ross 18 hole championship golf course. If you golf ~ the Sagamore course is a must play! To really appreciate its beauty play this course in late September or October ~ the colors are soooo beautiful you will never worry about your score. I have a standing tee time for the first Sunday of October. Fore!

On the Sagamore's golf course property sitting quietly beneath the tall pines is another culinary treat, the Sagamore Club Grill. This is a true New York style steak house which featuring several specials. I prefer this over the formal dinning rooms of the hotel ~ but you can be confident that all of the culinary offerings at the Sagamore are first rate.

Another highlight along the lake is the
Algonquin Restaurant. If you can manage to visit this restaurant by boat its even better. The Algonquin features very simple American cuisine with the best items being specialty sandwiches, steaks, and burgers. The Algonquin is all about atmosphere. This is simply one of the most beautiful places to dine on Lake George. Boats of all shapes and sizes pull up to the long docks ~ creating a mini boat show every day and night. On Saturday night boats wait out on the lake for a spot. At times there are dozens of classic mahogany hull boats tied to the docks. The Algonquin also features outdoor dining ~ part under cover ~ part dock side all with a view of the lake. Add to this view the backdrop of Adirondack Mountains, splash in a golden sunset and sprinkle in a few stars ~ and you will have an evening to remember. This breath taking view is frequently replicated in many Adirondack painting which can be seen hanging on the walls at the Lakeshore Gallery.

Need a place to stay ?

I would be remiss to not point out two places that are at the extremes in lodging on Lake George. Less then a mile outside Bolton along Lakeshore Drive) you will find Candlelight Cottages. This is a perfect family place. Innkeepers Heidi and Mark host one of the most beautiful sites along Lake George. Candlelight features lakeside and mountain cabins, boat docks along with a beach and swim area for children. There is something here for everyone and every budget. A huge gas lit candle is on the front lawn to welcome you ~ you can't miss it! Make sure you tell Hide or Mark I sent you and be sure to call ahead ~ this is a very popular place! (518 644 3321)

Now for the other extreme,
The Boat House Bed and Breakfast! This is one of the most romantic bed and breakfast you will ever find. The Boat House overlooks Sagamore Island and the Sagamore Hotel along with the majestic views of "the lake". The Boat House is a multiple award winning property that is second to none. The historic building was constructed in 1917. At one time it was the summer residence to famous speed boat racer and gold cup recipient George Reis. The term, Boat House does not do this beautiful building justice. Some of the features you will find in the rooms and suites included antique furniture, classic accessories and a front balcony with a view to die for! This ultra romantic escape is not for the faint at heart. Rates can be several hundred dollars per night ~ but then youÂ’re worth it! This is really not a place for children. It will surely be an experience you will ever forget. Unfortunately I do not know the hosts, Patti and Joe but I do see them around town and they are very friendly people. I was lucky enough to visit The Boat House and see it for myself ~ it is the perfect romantic escape.

I hope someday you get to experience all of this natural beauty and family fun. The boating, fishing, water sports, fireworks, and shopping just add to the Lake George experience. It is a perfect place to go with the family or for that quiet getaway.

So get on the phone, call Heidi at Candlelight and make a reservation, then call Cate and get an outside table for dinner, rent a boat and enjoy Mother Nature at her very best!

Let me know how you like it!