Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Adirondacks Blaze New Culinary Trail ; Long Known for Its Simple, Down-Home Cooking, the Region in Upstate New York Takes on More Sophisticated Flavors

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Adirondacks Blaze New Culinary Trail ; Long Known for Its Simple, Down-Home Cooking, the Region in Upstate New York Takes on More Sophisticated Flavors

Article excerpt

When Greg and Sharon Taylor bought a ski lodge in the Adirondack mountains, one of their favorite tasks was planning the restaurant menu. Natives of the mountainous region in northeastern New York, they reveled in the idea of using the area's fish, such as trout, salmon, catfish, and crawfish, and smoked meats and game, which they knew paired perfectly with local sweeteners - maple syrup, wild honey, and berries.

So these local foods featured prominently on the menu at their Friend's Lake Inn in Chestertown, N.Y. But since the inn's opening in 1984, the owners have also given the restaurant cuisine a modern, New American touch that keeps dishes simple but incorporates some of the techniques and flavors carried to the area by an influx of Europeans over the years.

Although local staples have not changed much from those used by early settlers, says Ms. Taylor, the region's cooking could not help but be impacted by the varied tastes of European immigrants and tourists who have come to the area.

"It is a melting pot, as is cuisine in America today," Taylor says.

But cookbook author Armand C. VanderStigchel also points out there was a period in the 1990s when many chefs in the Adirondacks rebelled against European techniques, choosing to focus on local ingredients and traditions.

At the same time, they became more confident, enlivening their cuisine with stronger flavors. In "Adirondack Cuisine," (co-written with Robert E. Birkel Jr., Berkshire House, $24.95, 237 pp.), Mr. VanderStigchel compares changes in Adirondack fare to Cajun cooking, both of which emphasize bold flavors.

More intense flavor was a new development in a region where cooking once consisted mostly of meat and potatoes. Steve Parisi, who grew up in Warrensburg, N.Y., and now owns the Country Road Lodge with his wife, Sandi, remembers, "Local people didn't know how to cook. My mother was Scandinavian, and she didn't know what garlic was."

Adirondack cuisine was once designed to be more filling than flavorful. When compiling their book, the authors made this point and based their recipes on traditional ingredients, while infusing them with exciting new flavors.

VanderStigchel, who did not grow up in the Adirondacks, sought regional recipes through newspaper advertisements and interviews with local chefs and bed-and-breakfast owners. He also drew from his own European training and experience as executive chef at the Miller Place Inn on Long Island to create such recipes as Wild Mushroom Strudel, Chateau Filet Mignon Chowder, and Lobster & Scallop Corn Crepe With Vanilla Bean Sauce.

In addition to the ingredients central to Adirondack cooking (smoked meats; game - boar, venison, and hare; and fish), corn, wild mushrooms, and pumpkins are plentiful. In the autumn, orchards burst with apples and cider. These flavors tend to naturally complement one another.

"I love currants, blackberries, lingonberries, which I use in the book," VanderStigchel says. "The combination of tart and sweet is perfect with game, duck, venison, or hare."

One flavor prevalent in local recipes is the honey-cured bacon and smoked ham used to season and fortify everything from vegetable side dishes to stews. Adirondack chefs swear by meats smoked at Oscar's Adirondack Mountain Smokehouse in Warrensburg, where meat is flavored with family history.

The smokehouse is run by Joel and Joq Quintal, who calls himself a third generation "smokologist." Its signature meats are smoked in two brick smokehouses their grandfather built in 1946. "The bricks pick up all the creosote," Joq says. "Over time you get better flavor."

Smoked meats not only impart a rich taste, but are an easy way to season cuisine that VanderStigchel calls "rustic gourmet." He emphasizes that the recipes in the cookbook are simple, comforting, and filling. He also gives careful consideration to the local lifestyle - both of residents and vacationers who come to ski and hunt. …

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