The Friend’s Lake Inn is a little spot kind of in the middle of nowhere (although that kind of applies to most of the Adirondacks). I guess technically, it’s in Chestertown, NY. It’s been around for a while (since the 1800s, I believe), and as a result of that longevity, it has a warm, cozy ambience that went well with the ugly weather. Definitely on the upscale side (S and I had fun watching patrons come in; the people wearing jeans were seated in the back, while the jacket and tie crowd was put in the front of the dining room – whether it was intentional or not, it provided some entertainment).
Its real claim to fame, and probably why many people dine here, is because of their wine selection. For the past several years, they’ve received the Grand Award from Wine Spectator Magazine (never heard of it), which is apparently quite prestigious, and only given to a handful of places in the entire country. They claim to have more than 25,000 bottles, encompassing 2200 different varieties, in their wine cellar. Who knew there were that many different kinds of wine? I skimmed through the wine list, and saw one that went for over $20,000 a bottle. I guess if S and I were wine aficionados, we would have been more impressed, but alas, we’re not, which seemed to surprise our server. Whether it was due to this or something else, our server was a little… snooty? He was polite enough, but I didn’t really get a warm and fuzzy vibe from him.
On to the food: we started with Scallop and Lobster Stuffed Corn Crêpe, which came decorated with vanilla bean beurre blanc, pecan and pistachio praline with chopped scallions. No further description necessary – it was as good as it sounds. We also split a fall harvest salad, consisting of fresh greens & roasted root vegetables tossed with pumpkin seed oil and cinnamon dusted pumpkin seeds. Yum again.
For a main course, S chose Oven-Roasted Trout with Lump Crab, with caramelized apple cream sauce, farro and butternut squash. It was a solid dish, combining several fall flavors over a light, flaky trout. The one problem with this is that it was sent out without the crab, which definitely detracted from the overall experience. When the server tried to amend the oversight, the chef insisted he had included the crab, and it took another trip from our server (after confirming for himself that there was no crab) to secure the requested crustacean. It did come out, but it was simply some meat in a small bowl, and once the crab was added to the rest of the dish, there wasn’t enough sauce for everything. Good selection, but for the price, the situation probably could have been rectified a little smoother.
I had the Autumn Bouillabaisse – scallops, shrimp and Prince Edward Island mussels and lump crab, with saffron beet beurre blanc, root vegetables and pumpkin risotto. That’s the second instance of beurre blanc we have – for those unfamiliar with the term (as I was), it’s more or less a rich butter sauce, which is all you need to know about it. Again, a plate with a good combination of fall flavors (we love fall food), and the seafood was all very well done. There were only a couple mussels, but plenty of the rest. The scallops were quite possibly the most tender I’ve ever eaten.
Finally, for dessert we ordered a sweet potato cake with cider ice cream. It was more like a pie consistency, and the ice cream didn’t have the level of cider flavor that we were hoping for, but it was still tasty.
No pictures from this one – I would have felt a little awkward pulling out a camera in this setting.
The Verdict: Friend’s Lake Inn gets somewhere around five-and-a-half stars out of seven. The food was all very good, the prices were on the higher side of what we usually pay (expect somewhere between $25 and $45 for your entrée), service was pretty good, and the only negative mark was the crab ordeal. And since we’re not budding sommeliers, the wine awesomeness was a non-factor. I’d recommend it, but for the price, I’d probably recommend others first.