LET THEM EAT TREES
January 1, 2015 – Chair 6-Lake Placid NY
The Adirondacks of New York state are known for many things-countless lakes, rivers and mountains; endless outdoor activities and the village of Lake Placid which played host to the 1932 & 1980 Winter Olympics. Those are the good points. Unfortunately it rightfully has a less distinguished reputation when it comes to weather. It’s best summed up by a t-shirt I once saw in a Lake Placid clothing store, “The Weather of the Adirondacks-Black Fly Season, July and Winter” So unhospitable that the Algonquian and Mohawk used the region only to hunt as they obviously realized living anywhere-including a frozen moon of Jupiter-would be infinitely more desirable.
While there have long been some good and even a few great restaurants and chefs in the Lake Placid region, there have never been many chef-driven eateries focusing on local and seasonal ingredients. If my recent visit to the Olympic Village is any indication, this trend is now thriving and will be so for some time to come. Chair 6 is just one example. Located in a non-descript house a minute off Main St., enter through a porch adorned with the obligatory vintage skis and the like into the “take out” area. In addition to dinner, the restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, catering, consulting, provisioning…..move into the small dining room decorated with local art and prepare yourself for nearly perfect experience. To be honest, I was a little less than optimistic when the menus arrived as there were twelve specials that accompanied the small but interesting regular menu. Generally this many choices is recipe for disaster as it’s hard enough to prepare a few items correctly let alone so many. My fears were unfounded. Not to mention I found all the items on both of the menus quite appealing. From pork, to beef, to fish to pasta there were none that I didn’t want to try. There was also a sufficiently deep wine list although we opted to pay the reasonable $25.00 corkage fee.
Smoked Trout, Green Bean & Almond Hash topped with crispy fried onions. This was far too good. Smokey and moist yet crunchy and firm. Everything from the flavors to the mouth feel couldn’t have been better. Yes, it was unusually large for a first course but I could have devoured even more.
Line Caught Scottish Salmon served with blood orange, toasted pecan and Bing cherry quinoa salad, arugula cream. A simply seasoned filet, perfectly cooked and laid on top of the quinoa preparation. The arugula cream was better than expected. The quinoa picked up the orange, and cherry with losing its texture or flavor.
Rack of Wild Boar served with creamed red cabbage, sweet corn and bacon with roasted red pepper coulis. Two ample chops roasted to a perfect medium rare plus with a firm natural crust on the ends. Not always an easy task given the thickness of the meat and pork’s tendency to go from juicy to dry very quickly. The red pepper coulis was a good accompaniment to the full flavor of the boar while all the ingredients in the cabbage blended well for a stratifying bite.
Ginger-rum Crème Brulee Rich and creamy without being too thick or sweet. The rum and ginger flavors clearly evident without overwhelming the dairy.
The evening came to a close too soon which was my only criticism. While our server was attentive, friendly and appropriately relaxed for the setting, the kitchen was a touch too quick for my liking. However, this didn’t detract from the experience in any meaningful way. Chef-owner Charlie Levitz and Executive Chef Andrea Degain have a great talent. In addition to what I see as nearly flawless technical skills, they are able to blend an array of strong textures and flavors without any getting lost.
Oh yeah, for those you wondering about the title of this piece. Adirondack is the Anglicization of a Mohawk word meaning “tree eater”. There may have been a time when tree bark kept you alive in these parts but thankfully now that’s just something for the history books. If there was only some way to do something about the weather….. Well guess that ain’t gonna’ happen so I’ll just pass the time with another maple syrup sweetened Old Fashion. Yep, that did the trick…not so cold anymore.