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Jeff Kapell, South Shore cranberry farmer

Jeff Kapell, South Shore cranberry farmer

Where do Your Thanksgiving Cranberries Come From? Lake George Visitor Tells All

By Paul Post

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Jeff Kapell makes a living at one of the oldest forms of agriculture in North America, in the place Pilgrims first landed almost 400 years ago.

Kapell Cranberries in Plymouth, Mass., is one of the Bay State’s many farms that raise this tart tiny fruit, which adorns Thanksgiving tables throughout the U.S. each year in a variety of forms including sauces, juice or served fresh to accent tasty salad dishes.

It’s a demanding, labor-intensive industry fraught with many challenges such as this year’s drought that has affected all types of Northeast agriculture.

“Berries are smaller than normal this year because of the drought,” Kapell said. “It’s a good crop, but probably about 15 percent less than it should be.”

Before the busy harvest season, he and his wife, Alex, vacationed in Lake George this summer and were so impressed that they came back for a second visit during the Adirondack Balloon Festival.

“We have already booked a week stay for next summer,” Kapell said. “Upstate New York has always been a favorite area for me and the Lake George region provides a beautiful setting with plenty of potential activities to choose from when the motivation to pursue something strikes.”

“Vacations for us there are RV camping-based, so obviously relaxing in nature is the first priority,” he said. “But we bring road bikes and did the Warren County Bikeway from Lake George to Glen Falls. Next year we intend to take in a race at Saratoga Springs and a boat ride on Lake George in addition to the camping, biking, sampling local fare and relaxing. The combination of proximity, beautiful country side, family and availability of a variety of activities is extremely appealing.”

Kapell has been raising cranberries for more than 40 years.

Recently, he served as a guide for the thousands of visitors who braved Hurricane Matthew to attend the 13th annual Cranberry Harvest Festival in Wareham, Mass. The storm put a damper on the event, but provided welcome relief to growers, as precipitation in their region was 10-12 inches below normal this year.

“Festival organizers aren’t too happy, but ask any grower and they’ll say, ‘Thank God!’” Kapell said.

As with all types of farming, raising cranberries is weather-dependent and water is essential. With cranberries, water not only nourishes plants, but is also critical to harvesting.

Well into the 20th century, cranberries were largely dry-harvested by hand.

Beginning in the 1960s, growers developed a system of wet harvesting with machines. First, man-made bogs are flooded with a shallow amount of water. Next, a picking machine goes through the bog, knocking berries off plants.

The bogs are then flooded with more water. As berries float to the top, they are corralled using a large boom.

Powerful pumps draw berries up through hoses to a sorting machine, which separate the berries from plant debris. A steady stream of water cleans berries during this process.

From there, the fruit is trucked to a nearby processing plant — Ocean Spray in the case of Kapell’s Cranberries — where it’s used to make juice, sauce and other value-added products.

A small percentage of berries sold for fresh fruit are still dry-harvested, with machines.

Ocean Spray has processing plants in Pennsylvania, Texas, Nevada and Wisconsin, the latter of which has far surpassed Massachusetts as the nation’s leading cranberry producer.

“There are about 800 cranberry growers in the world,” Kapell said. “There are 400 right here in Massachusetts. Wisconsin is fewer in numbers, but they have much larger and newer operations.”

However, the Bay State is celebrating the commercial industry’s 200th anniversary this year. In 1816, retired sea captain Henry Hall first cultivated cranberries in Dennis. Before this, they simply grew wild.

One year, strong winds covered plants with sand and Hall thought they were ruined. Instead, the plants did better than ever.

Picking up on this, Hall realized that sand helps the plants thrive by covering their woody stems, thereby supporting a healthy root system, allowing fruit to grow from each year’s new green shoots above ground.

Today, growers apply sand regularly. Every few years, in winter, plants in large man-made bogs are covered with water. When ice is 4 to 6 inches thick, water below is drawn off for safety reasons, in case someone falls through, and workers haul and distribute sand on the frozen surface.

In spring, as the ice melts, plants benefit from a fresh layer of sand.

Bogs are built at slightly different elevations — water flows from one bog to another as needed through a series of sluices — so water is re-used efficiently.

“Because water is so critical to what we do, we work very hard at creating and maintaining water resources — reservoirs and ponds — and an ability to reuse water we are storing so we can be as efficient as possible with that resource,” Kapell said.

Growers also depend heavily on water to protect plants from harmful autumn frosts, which can devastate the following year’s crop.

“We do that with sprinklers,” he said. “In the old days they had to flood the bogs, which took a lot of time and water. The advent of the sprinkler system has really been one of the major steps forward in the ability to protect cranberry crops.

“In summer, we use this same system to irrigate with,” he said.

So while Matthew devastated Haiti, the Bahamas and coastal regions of the Southeast, its rains were quite welcome to Massachusetts cranberry growers.

“It gave us a small amount of relief from what has been a long period of drought,” he said. “We welcomed the rains and they provided relief, but they didn’t end the situation we’re in. We would love to have five more nor’easters with an inch-and-a-half of rain spread out over time.”

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Jesse and Jessica Foy, new owners of the Diamond Point Grille

Jesse and Jessica Foy, new owners of the Diamond Point Grille

New Owners for Diamond Point Grille

By Anthony F. Hall

Friday, July 15, 2016

There can’t be much that Jesse Foy doesn’t know about restaurants. He’s cooked, waited, hosted and tended bar. He’s managed restaurants in New York and Bolton Landing. His three small sons took their first steps in Cate’s Italian Garden, their grandparents’ restaurant and their father’s workplace for the past fifteen years.

Now Jesse and his family have a restaurant to call their own. He and his wife Jessica have just purchased the Diamond Point Grille, which they will operate together and which is now open six days a week.

After working with his parents for so many years, “it was time to spread my wings, to do my own thing,” said Jesse.

But, he adds, “I learned from the best. Every year I worked at Cate’s, I took on more responsibilities. I’m grateful to my Mom and Dad.”

Among the things he learned from Cate and Buddy Foy, Jesse said, “is to treat your restaurant like your home, and because you hardly ever have the time to entertain in your own home, to treat every customer as your guest. Jessica and I want to create an atmosphere like that here in our own restaurant.”

Peg and Mark Turner purchased the restaurant building in 2004, renamed and rebranded it the Diamond Point Grille and were soon attracting locals and tourists alike with their nightly specials, home style cooking and well-crafted cocktails.

“Mark and Peg built a successful business here and developed a great clientele, which we hope we’ll keep. Their menu was classic American: steaks, burgers, chicken pot pie, prime rib. We’ll stick with that. Once we get our feet wet, we’ll tweak the menu and step things up a notch,” said Foy.

He’s hired Ray Baehm, a chef with thirty five years experience in Florida and te Adirondacks (including a stint at Buddy Foy’s old restaurant, E.P. Foy’s) to help in the kitchen.

Jessica Foy, a Bolton Central School teacher who’s completing a Master’s Degree at SUNY Plattsburgh on top of raising three boys, will manage the front end, time permitting.

More local residents will be found tending bar and waiting tables, contributing to the atmosphere of a neighborhood pub or bistro.

And for the moment, at least, Jesse and Jessica will be happy with that.

“This feels right for us; it’s the right scale, a restaurant that can be operated by six people,” said Jesse.

Active in the community, having both grown up on Lake George and having graduated from local high schools, the couple can expect ample local support.

But given their skills, don’t be surprised if a local favorite quickly becomes a destination, with crowds lining the parking lot waiting for a table.

You can avoid the crowds by trying the Diamond Pointe Grille now. It’s open every evening except Monday and is located at 3721 Lakeshore Drive, Diamond Point. Call 668-4800 for reservations.

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A vintage poster reminds us of the celebrity of W.H.H. Murray

A vintage poster reminds us of the celebrity of W.H.H. Murray

Adirondack Murray Inspires Creation of Native Whiskey, Rye and Vodka

By Anthony F. Hall

Friday, July 8, 2016

Randall Beach, an Albany attorney who grew up in Plattsburgh, has always been fascinated by W.H. H. Murray and the role that he played in opening the Adirondacks to tourism.

And with good reason. The New England cleric was a great-great grandfather on his father’s side.

With access to family papers, many of them never seen before, Beach is writing Murray’s biography. The last biography, published in 1905, was written by Harry Radford, better known for his efforts to re-introduce the moose and the beaver to the Adirondacks and for his death at the hands of his guides in Alaska.

Beach is also exploring the feasibility of bringing Murray’s Adirondack writings back into print.

But his more immediate goal is to re-introduce W.H.H. Murray to the Adirondacks through a new business venture, which he has just launched with his wife Sarah: Murray’s Fools Distilling Company, the first legal distillery in Clinton County since prohibition.

Randall Beach, the great-great-grandson of W.H.H. Murray with his wife and business partner, Sarah Callan Beach.

Murray’s Fools, of course, were the hapless dudes drawn to the Adirondacks in the 1860s by Murray’s most famous book, “Adventures in the Wilderness.”

But, says Beach, they didn’t remain fools for long. Many, like Murray himself, established camps on Adirondack lakes and became expert sportsmen, tireless hikers and the region’s first conservationists.

“Murray’s Fools Distilling Company seeks to create and provide fine spirits fashioned for those who, just as the original Murray’s Fools, have independent streaks, courage, adventurous souls and live for nature’s quiet moments,” says the Beaches marketing material.

Beach, a partner in the firm of Whiteman Osterman and Hannah, has not given up the law.

But he is clearly enjoying this sideline, as he refers to it, with his wife, at least in part because it enables them to spend more time in the North Country.

Their first product, a vodka, is named for an oyster bar Murray operated in Montreal: the Snowshoe Café. The Snowshoe is Clinton County’s first locally made vodka.

“My wife and I became interested in establishing a distillery in part because we appreciate really good whiskeys, so our long-range goal is make small batch ryes and handcrafted bourbons. In the short term, our focus will be on the craft vodka brand,” said Beach.

Their distillery is located in the Town of Altona, outside Plattsburgh. A grand opening is planned for a date later in the summer.

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10-year-old Yerin Chang, a student in Queensbury and the daughter of Danny Chang. Photo by Buzz Lamb

10-year-old Yerin Chang, a student in Queensbury and the daughter of Danny Chang. Photo by Buzz Lamb

Hold on to your Chopsticks!

By Buzz Lamb

Friday, June 17, 2016

After A Year’s Absence, Asian Fusion Restaurant Returns to Bolton Landing                 

If you thought Asian Fusion Cuisine in Bolton Landing was gone for good, hold on to your chopsticks.  Here’s some news guaranteed to shake you out of those winter doldrums: master sushi chef Danny Chang announced earlier this week that Mikado Sushi will reopen its doors this week in time to meet the culinary demand of the summer high season.

Chang first opened the 40-seat restaurant in 2014.  “We had a very successful season and wanted to reopen in 2015 but the owner of the building wanted to sell.  He had an offer but it fell through.  He offered to lease the building to me again but it was too late in the season,” Chang said.  “We’re happy to be back in Bolton Landing and we look forward to another great summer.”

The Chang family members are not strangers to Korean/Japanese cooking as they have successfully operated the Mikado Restaurant in Glens Falls since 1998.  The Bolton location features the family’s sushi and sashimi a la carte menu plus New York City-style “Creation Dishes” prepared fresh daily by Danny, his wife Choi and his brother, sushi chef Jay Chang.

Danny Chang, 43, says his family emigrated from Seoul, South Korea and his father worked as a chef in New Jersey for over 30 years before they moved to the area.  Danny said the decision to open a Korean/Japanese restaurant in Bolton Landing 2014 was “because there wasn’t one there.”

Danny says Japanese sushi is distinct in many ways. It is often highly seasoned, including combinations of garlic, ginger, red or black pepper, scallions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and sesame oil. Blander grain dishes such as rice, barley, or noodles offset the heat of the spices.

Danny made it clear that sushi is not raw fish, but rather vinegary rice that is mixed with other ingredients, which may or may not include raw fish.  “We also offer deep-fried sushi such as our fried oyster roll, a shrimp tempura roll and a chicken tempura roll which is filled with chicken tempura, crab and lettuce,” he said.  Danny said sashimi on their menu is thinly sliced raw meat – usually fish, such as salmon or tuna – that is served without rice.

Mikado’s Bolton Landing bill of fare includes a selection of soups, salads, appetizers and Asian dinners.  “Sushi is our major menu item,” he added.  “We’re offering something relatively new … cooked sushi.  I call it Americanized sushi,” he said. Danny has made some changes to the menu as well. “The focus will be Asian Fusion,” he said.

Danny said customers are given a pad to place their orders.  “They check off what they want, give it to a server and the server brings them their selections,” he explained.  “We’ll have take-out available as well.” A full-service liquor bar includes selections of hot and cold sake, cocktails, mixed drinks, wine and beer.  “We might not have our (liquor) license as soon as we open but we’ll have it soon,” he said
Some of the sushi rolls on the menu include the Bolton Landing Roll (shrimp tempura, avocado and white fish on the top w/mozzarella cheese and spicy mayo), the Sagamore Roll (tuna, salmon, avocado, mayo tempura crunch w/soybean paper) and the New Yorker Roll (California roll w/apple, crab, crunch and mayo on the top).  Danny says that true to its origins, the correct way to eat sushi is with your fingers. Chopsticks are typically only used to eat sashimi — raw slices of fish.

Danny said what sets the Mikado apart from other Asian restaurants is that “we give bigger portions at less cost and our sushi is the freshest.  It is delivered every other day direct from New York City.”

Danny said the restaurant will seat 40 people inside “and we have space for 40 more on the outside deck.”

The restaurant will be open seven days a week from 11:30 am to 10 pm from mid-June through Labor Day Weekend.  “Right now we’ll be open five or six days a week,” Danny said.  For more information or to order take out call 518-644-2060.

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Organic Farming on a Super Small Scale

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, November 9, 2015

The only certified organic farm in Warren County may be the smallest commercial farm in the county as well.

Operated by Rand Fosdick and Nancy Welch in Chestertown, the 10,000 square foot Landon Hill Estate Farm generates enough produce to stock the farm stand, provide weekly harvest baskets to subscribers and feed the couple and their friends.

Now in its second year of production, the farm is expected to register a profit next year, said Rand Fosdick.

“The farm supplements our incomes from other sources, but not everything can be reduced to economics,” said Fosdick. “There are social rewards, too. People appreciate the food we grow, they trust it, and they also appreciate the environment we’ve created here.”

To be certified as organic, farmers must demonstrate they have never planted genetically modified seeds or used synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, which certifies Landon Hill Estate Farm as organic, is a bit more verbose than Fosdick when enumerating the benefits of organic farms. “A sustainable food and farm system is socially just, humane, community-minded, ecologically sound and healthy for people,” the organization states.

It also reminds consumers that “the act of transporting food and farm products over long distances requires lots of packaging and contributes to global warming.  If we make a commitment to buying organic food and farm products produced locally, we are safeguarding our planet.”

Local organizations also appear to appreciate the benefits of organic farms.

Last week, Fosdick and Welch were informed by the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play program at the Glens Falls Hospital that they have been awarded a $5,000 grant that will help more people, including those on physician-recommended diets and those who could not otherwise afford fresh produce, take advantage of their products.

“The program has supported community gardens in the past and we’re anxious to increase yields on organic farms like this one. Our goal is to get people on healthier diets and living healthier lives, and the Landon Hill Estate Farm furthers that goal,” said Bert Weber, a horticulturalist who’s a consultant for Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play program.

Apart from securing economic and social benefits, the farm is rewarding in other ways as well, the couple said.

“I never have to mow the lawn again,” said Fosdick.

Indeed, instead of a lawn or backyard that would be mown every week or so, the couple’s 19th century farmhouse is surrounded by their vegetables, herbs and wildflowers.

That’s not only a better habitat for pollinators, the gardens’ curb appeal constitutes the couple’s sole marketing effort.

“People driving by were struck by the changes; we intentionally planted corn next to the road to attract attention, which it did and the word got out,” said Fosdick.

But perhaps the couple’s greatest incentive, said Fosdick, “was just to see if we could do it.”

“There’s a misconception that organic farming is more difficult than other types of farming because you can’t use pesticides or fertilizers.  But if you create the right environment, it can be done,” he said.

Wildflowers, for instance, attract bugs that feed on pests, making pesticides unnecessary.

Treating the soil properly, including planting the gardens with cover crops in the fall, which stifle weeds and blight and enrich the soil with nutrients, removes the need for synthetic fertilizers.

“Organic gardening is something everyone can do if they have the dedication and can find the time. We’re in the garden three hours a day in July and August. That’s manageable,” he says.

The farm, which is located at 95 Landon Hill Road, opposite the intersection of Routes 9 and 8, sells 31 types of vegetables and seven kinds of herbs. The farm stand is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm in July and August.

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Cook indoors

Cook indoors

Adirondack Bookshelf: Cooking at Camp in the Adirondacks

By Mirror Staff

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Spring Trout & Strawberry Pancakes: Borrowed Tales, Quirky Cures, Camp Recipes and the Adirondack Characters Who Cooked Them Up by William J. “Jay” O’Hern is not your ordinary cookbook.  His addition to the mix of choices on the market serves up stories and recipes with a distinct woodland flavor.

Thanks to his enjoyment of history, he has created a blend for the reader of history, the home cook and anyone who enjoys first-rate period photographs that transport the viewer to an earlier time in American history.     

Or out

Fall back in time with “Roselle Putney Was a Lumber Camp Cook” to Cold River-Style Corn Chowder and Hermit Corn Bread” to “After Federal Tax Navy Bean Soup,” all great tasting foods that also foster an interest in history.

There are hand-picked recipes, background stories of old camps in and out of the Adirondack Mountains, old-time ways, colorful characters, historic photos, tales, time-tested household cleaning tips and old-fashioned remedies for common ills.  This is the must-have resource for its collected history as well as recipes for cooking.

Each chapter highlights appealing recipes and a charming look back from before the 1900s to the present, featuring tried-and-true recipes for breads, pastries, soups, casseroles, stews, goulash, practical main meals, desserts, beverages, picnic menus, camping trips, and holiday gatherings.  There is even a “Pioneer Bread Made of Wood” recipe that is not recommended, found in the Farmers’ and Emigrants’ Handbook, 1845. Some examples of tempting fare are Anna Brown’s Seven Layer Meat and Vegetable Dish, which originated in an Adirondack homestead, Ma Getman’s Blueberry bread, Marie’s Campground Zucchini and Sausage Stew, Panther Spring Chicken, Sausage and Potatoes, Bette’s Country Skillet Garden Medley, and Lake Placid Blueberry Buckle.

Enjoy an Old Fashioned on your way to camp!

Author William J. O’Hern has put together a nostalgic combination of information and entertainment that is something like a combination of the Old Farmers’ Almanac and Readers Digest, and a lot like the Adirondack histories which have distinguished the author in the past.  This is not a book you read and put away, but a handy reference for daily living to be brought out and consulted often. A perfect addition to any modern home kitchen, library bookshelf, camp, or backpack.

Food is a wonderful way to teach history and to introduce people to history.  Each chapter makes the reader hungry for another…and perhaps a piece of Strawberry Rhubarb pie to go with it.

This book is available at TREES in Bolton Landing.  A complete selection of the author’s earlier titles are available at www.ADKwilds.com, by phone at North Country Books at 1-800-342-7409 and at www.Amazon.com.

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George’s Steakhouse

By Mirror Staff

The long awaited reopening of George’s Steakhouse is here!

Damaged by fire in April of 2014, this popular east side dining destination is back and better than ever!

Opening under new ownership and with almost an entirely new staff, the Adirondack atmosphere exudes warmth and energy under the leadership of Ted Bearor, a former food and beverage manager at the famed Sagamore Resort.

Originally owned by Charlie Wade in the 50s and 60s, the site prospered as The Airport Inn. An actual tiny Piper Cub hung from the ceiling and sounds of Otis and the Elevators drifted nightly, entertaining the throngs that made “The East Side” famous.  Route 9L drew thousands of revelers weekly to Walt Barnes’ Canteen Inn, Nick Spagna’s “Spagna’s Crosstrails,” Jim Usher’s “Ushers,” and the Garrison, as well as the Orchard House and Wade’s Airport.

All of the nightclubs fell victim to the state’s raising of the drinking age to 21, the so-called riots of the 60s and the town’s open container ordinance. Pete and Debbie Smith came along and purchased the Colonel’s Table, now the East Cove and rescued The Garrison as well. The Luzerne Road suffered the same demise with the Silver Dollar, Potash Inn, Cabin in the Pines, and Totem Inn amongst others.

The nightclubs on the East Side were transformed into condos or private homes.  Ushers became the Town of Lake George’s beautiful park. The Airport lived on when George Patrick decided to move George’s Place for Steaks from downtown Glens Falls to Lake George.

He packed up his huge collection of Tiffany lamps, his staff, restaurant expertise and his love of rescuing cats and George’s in Lake George was born. Every morning George would jog along the highway and be there at night to greet you at the door.

Today the beat goes on! The Adirondack theme provides customers with a cozy, casual atmosphere. Huge trophy heads of moose, deer and buffalo stare down at a bar located on a lower level below the main dining area.

Ted Bearor has placed a beautiful painting of Lake George behind the bar to separate the main dining area. He’s also moved the grand salad bar to the middle of the restaurant, and of course built an entirely new kitchen space. Outside, a tiny deck will accommodate the expected diners-in-waiting.

New chef, Mickey Hopkins, has joined Ted from Six Flags and the Sagamore to create a menu that offers traditional American fare featuring steaks, chops and seafood.  Many of George’s most popular items return for an encore as well.

Companion and I decided to visit within five days of their soft opening and were pleased to be greeted by longtime hostess Faith Best. Americaders had most tables occupied so we chose to stop at the bar while a table for two became available. We requested a young friend of ours, Alyssa, as our waitress.

The Tiffany lamps are all there! I am impressed at the number of round tables throughout the dining room, conducive to conversation, spacing and service.  Equally impressive is the new elongated, lighted salad bar with a personal attendant station.

We ordered a bottle of Stags Leap chardonnay to bring to the table and were seated promptly as promised. Our next request for Alyssa was also fulfilled as she arrived beaming at finding us at her table while handing us menus and delivering glasses of ice water.

Chef Hopkins’ menu begins with a great looking raw bar consisting of shrimp, oysters, clams, crab claws and lobster claws.  There are also steamed littlenecks, fried calamari, Ahi tuna and chicken brochette.

Early diners (4:30 – 6pm) can enjoy shrimp scampi, eggplant and chicken parm, prime rib and a top butt sirloin. All offered at only $19.95.

Steak lovers can rejoice with a 24, 16 or 12 oz. prime rib of beef. Also offered are 12 and 16 oz. N.Y. Strips, 24 oz. Porterhouse and baby back ribs.

Out of the sea and fresh come a salmon filet, seafood cioppino, sea scallops, halibut Oscar and a seafood platter with the whole ocean included!

Diners also can choose from chicken or eggplant parm, duck two ways, grilled veggies and goat cheese or just the salad bar with soup du jour choices.

Companion and I had ample selections at the bountiful, fresh salad bar with two soups, an abundance of condiments, romaine and iceberg lettuce and fresh cut bread.  Also on the line were potato, macaroni, coleslaw, black bean and pasta salad, and my favorite, sliced green and red peppers. No skimping here!

I settled in with a huge, yes huge, bowl of chicken penne ala vodka. Two generous medallions of breast meat lightly breaded and smothered with fresh spinach, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and a creamy tomato vodka sauce. The soft mozzarella and roasted red peppers boosted the flavors and was a very creative touch to the ordinary.

Companion has craved king crab legs since our Alaska sojourn, and here she chose to make the leap of faith. Along with a side of steamed broccoli came four huge legs and two enormous claws perfectly steamed with drawn butter and lemon wedges.

There were smiles and expressions of joy between bits of succulent, sweet and tender crab in a plentiful portion. My miniscule permitted sample affirmed her joy. Memories of Alaska right here on Route 9L in Lake George.

Diners from near and far rejoice! The long list of really good restaurants in the Lake George region has added another, the newly reopened George’s Steakhouse.

A not to be missed dining experience!!


George’s Steakhouse

3857 State Rt. 9L, Lake George, (518)668-5482, open 4:30pm – 9pm,

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Dave Bannon and Ken Rohne

Dave Bannon and Ken Rohne

There’s Something in the Water

By Anthony F. Hall

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery, New York’s Newest, is Already a Prize Winner

When orthopedic surgeon Dave Bannon and his family bought a farm a few miles from Lake George some twenty-five years ago, generations of people from surrounding farms and communities had been bringing jugs to its springs, filling them up with drinking water.

“It’s perfect water; no iron, no sulphur,” said Bannon.

So after retiring a few years ago, while he was casting about for a new direction, a craft distillery, producing spirits from the farm’s unprocessed spring water, was one good option.

“No one else has water like ours, and water matters. If you’re a distiller without the right water, you’re out of business,” he said.

Helping the decision-making process along were reforms in New York State regulations that have given rise to a thriving, locally based craft beverage industry.

For instance, the new laws permit a small distillery like Springbrook Hollow Farm to serve drinks without having to obtain a separate license. And that makes it possible for it to host events such as a Prohibition-themed bridal shower, which it did recently.

Springbrook Hollow Farm also had the perfect building in which to situate the distillery: a 19th century barn.

Bannon still had to convince his family and friends, his potential business partners, in other words, that a small batch distillery was a sustainable business.

“I thought he was out of his mind; you could have knocked me over,” said Ken Rohne, one of those friends and potential partners. “But we started researching craft distilleries, learning about the distillation process and developing a business plan. We started making the products last summer and we opened our doors in December.”

A formal, grand opening ceremony attended by New York State Senator Betty Little, among others, was held on May 23.

Rohne, curiously enough, has a background in the liquor business.

His family owns Mohan’s. Though he built a career elsewhere, the liquor business, as family businesses have a tendency to do, or so they say, dragged him back in, just when he thought he was out.

Rohne supervised the renovation of the barn into the combined distillery, bottling plant, tasting room and retail store.

He also helped choose, assemble and install the custom-built equipment, which includes a 275-gallon, German-made copper pot still.

According to Rohne, 75% of the distillery’s grains are grown in New York, a requirement of the Craft New York Act. Springbrook Hollow Farm supplies the fruits.

Moreover, said Rohne, “Everything is recyclable; from the corn mash to the bottles. We’re even powered by solar energy.”

Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery has a bourbon in the works; it’s now aging in white oak barrels. It currently offers an un-aged bourbon which it calls Howl at the Moonshine and three flavored moonshines: apple, coffee and maple.

Also available are Sly Fox Gin, Two Sisters Vodka, Limoncello and an Orangecello.

Because of its water, ingredients and recipes, the Distillery’s products are already winning awards, beating even Hendrick’s Gin in one contest, said Rohne.

The spirits are also winning fans at farmers’ markets, in local bars and at events such as Adirondack Day at the state capitol and at Good Spirits Brooklyn, a pairing of “acclaimed spirits brands with celebrated local restaurants,” as the event’s press release put it, held in a 19th century factory building in Cobble Hill.

Springbrook Hollow Farm’s retail shop is open everyday except Tuesday from 12 Noon until 5 PM. Tours and tastings are available upon request. Events can be arranged by calling the distillery at 518-338-3130.

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Bob Lagas of Bob’s Ice Cream

Bob Lagas of Bob’s Ice Cream

Could Classic Vanilla Get Any Better?

By Buzz Lamb

Thursday, July 23, 2015

According to Ice Cream Maker Bob Lagas, It Could, and He Makes It

Bob Lagas, born in Rochester, N.Y., moved to Warrensburg with his family when he was 13 years old. He graduated from Warrensburg High School and then went on to college. After college he worked at C.R. Bard from 1978 to 1984. “I didn’t know any better, so I decided to go into business for myself,” he said.

In 1985 Bob Lagas became self-employed. “I got into popcorn,” he said. “Caramel corn, regular popcorn, cotton candy and all that sort of stuff. I went to popcorn school to learn how to make the caramel corn,” he said. Lagas ran his business in a kiosk in Aviation Mall for four years. “Business was good in the summertime. January, February and March were like a slug in the sun,” he said with a laugh.

In 1988 Lagas said he thought ice cream and popcorn would be a good fit.  “So, I said ‘let’s see how this will go in Lake George (Village).’ I didn’t go to ice cream school, I was self-taught.  Norman Dobert helped me a lot … he was a good source of information.” Apparently, it was a good idea. Lagas operated Bob’s Ice Cream at 289 Canada Street for 25 years. “Things became too intense in the village and I was out-bid on my lease at the end of 2013,” he said.

Lagas and his wife Gayle contacted a local real estate agent to help them find a new location for their business. “They found a location in Bolton Landing that was suitable,” he said. “By August 15, 2014 we had all the permits in place and we re-opened our business (across from Tops Market) in Bolton Landing.”

Lagas said last summer he had to purchase ice cream from area distributors. “Now we make our own ice cream on site,” he said.  Lagas makes 23 flavors of ice cream. “I make very good vanilla.  I worked hard on this recipe and nobody can duplicate the flavor of my vanilla,” he said. “Right now mint-chocolate chip seems to be the most popular flavor.”

Lagas serves soft ice cream as well. “Ours is 90 percent butterfat.  People like the high content,” he said. Lagas sells sugar and waffle cones with one, two or three scoops of hard ice cream packed on top. “Our three-scoop cone contains over 12 ounces of ice cream … that’s a lot of ice cream.”

Lagas said he will hand-pack pints of hard ice cream on request. “If there’s a line out the door, don’t ask me to do it,” he said. “It’s really hard to do if you want to do it right … and I want to do it right.” In addition to ice cream and popcorn, Bob’s Ice Cream also offers frozen bananas, pretzels, yogurt, sundaes and soft drinks.

Lagas said if business becomes overwhelming when schools are on summer break he plans on hiring a couple of people to help at the ice cream shop. Lagas says he won’t comment on how business has been so far. “That’s not fair … I don’t have a full year to compare it to,” he said. “I have a three-year lease here and I plan on staying here for the full three years, no matter what.” The shop is open seven days a week from 11 am to 10:30 pm.

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Garnet Hill Lodge: Dining on the road less traveled, and well worth it

By Niki Huus

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Friday night after a long week, we’re heading to North River from Lake George for a chance to relax and enjoy a night out. The ride, admittedly long, could be seen as a downside, but in fact was the upside. It was a chance to unwind and, like a good hors d’oeuvre, to anticipate. We follow the Hudson, through the Glen, past Gore Mt., on through swatches of white water and wild cherry blossoms. About five miles later, we turn onto 13th Lake Rd. Winding our way up, following wooden arrows like trail markers, the sense of adventure deepens, until we crest the hill and pass through a stand of white birch to a clearing dressed in spring yellow and green. The lodge appears with a panoramic view of mountains behind and 13th Lake below. Our first big sigh.

 Entering the lodge, it feels homey and authentic. The Hoopers, owners of the garnet mine, built it in 1936 for extended family and as a retreat for artists. It became public and evolved into a Nordic ski center and base for hiking, biking, water and wilderness activities. Mindy Piper and Don Preuninger, the current innkeepers, had a long history as guests before purchasing the property four years ago. With their upgrades and additions, the lodge remains true to its history, of the outdoors without the Adirondack clichés – unpretentious, appealing and comfortable. There are a variety of gathering places including a main room with the original stone fireplace, a cozy pub, a screen room perfect for private sittings, and the fire pit or gazebo outdoors look just right for an after dinner drink and some star gazing.

We sit in the porch dining room where the décor is the view. Throughout the meal it changes, capturing the ending day, from chartreuse pops of sun tipped buds to slate blue waters and twilight skies. Diners were entertained by flocks of crazy yellow birds swooping around and the wild turkey that joined them on the deck. I think I could have been served a leather boot and been happy in that setting, but I’m glad to report that was not the case. The menu offers lite fare and dinner entrees that could be described as “modern American meets traditional lodge.” The food, locally sourced when possible, feels homemade, yet is presented and served with sophistication. Our waitress Lucy is genuine and, like the rest of the staff, welcoming and knowledgeable. Everything from the tableware to the music to the garnish seems chosen with care, the service and timing well organized. There is an atmosphere of calm. Our neighbors, a mix of locals and out-of-towners, a happy blend of the stylishly dressed and those fresh off the trails, of families gathered and romantic couples, all are clearly sharing our enjoyment.
We begin our four courses with the soup du jour. I found out later the Log House prides itself on its seasonal soups, and rightly so. It is the high point for me. Chef Tom Deciantis’ Corn Chowder is light, velvety and the essence of fresh corn. The recommended Charcuterie Sampler Platter followed. This appetizer is generous and could easily be shared by more than two. It features sausages from Oscar’s Smokehouse, including a chicken, a bratwurst, garlicky Hunter’s, and a rich venison. There is homemade mustard and pates, both smoked trout and chicken, a pot of creamy horseradish cheddar cheese, and good bread and crackers on the side. After leisurely sampling these tastes between sips of a good wine, we exhale our second big sigh. My dinning partner’s Chicken Marie, a recommended pasta special, is fresh and flavorful with mushrooms, spinach and sun dried tomatoes. I had the Sugarhouse Pork, a lovely frenched loin chop brined in cider and grilled just right. It is finished with a maple barbecue glaze which I found disappointing. While I can appreciate restraint as maple can take over a dish, the flavor was lacking, leaving something just a bit too sweet. Overall, still enjoyable. For dessert Lucy said we must try the pie and, while it’s not usually my choice, I’m glad we did. Mary Jane Freebern, who also supplied the fresh rolls, has been baking there for forty years, and Mindy says her pie is more about her touch than the recipe. Ours was a blast of blueberry in a melt-away crust. Outstanding, bringing on another and very big sigh.

Traveling home, the feeling was like we had been on a mini-vacation. Like we had been somewhere else, and it had been special. The most memorable aspect to the evening was an overwhelming sense of peace. That everything experienced was relaxed and natural. Pick a date and travel this road. I think you’ll feel rewarded.

The Log House Restaurant at Garnet Hill Lodge

39 Garnet Hill Rd.

Price: lite $9+, entrée $14+

North River NY 12856

Accessible: all aspects For reservations call 518-251-2444.

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