Table Talk: New Year’s Eve at Friend’s Lake Inn
Some things get better with age, including wine, cheese, fine art, classic automobiles, David Ortiz and yes, the Friend’s Lake Inn.
Built in 1860 and known as Murphy’s Friend’s Lake Inn, it became a popular watering hole and “home away from home” for men working in local tanneries. Vacant for several years, Greg and Sharon Taylor purchased the Chestertown landmark in 1989 and completely refurbished the 17 room inn from top to bottom.
Sitting proudly on a hill with a glimpse of Friend’s Lake, they created an Adirondack Inn with a bar on the porch, a wine cellar, and 25km of cross country trails. It immediately became a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
In June of 2004, they turned ownership over to John and Trudy Phillips who retained much of the staff, and continued to upgrade the Inn into one of our regions premier dining and accommodation destinations.
The Friend’s Lake Inn is in the middle of nowhere, perfect for a relaxing dinner or stay, but just minutes off Route 28, turning just before the river at The Glen. Up a lonesome country road, past a beautiful horse farm and you are there!
Guests can park on either side of the Inn and enter a large foyer, up a staircase and into the stately small lobby. Wonderful, enticing gifts are scattered about, many highlighting the Friend’s Lake Inn logo. There’s the dining hostess stand and a small check-in desk. The entire Inn is definitely Adirondack, rustic but quietly elegant and cozy.
Friend’s Lake Inn offers three dining areas plus a private table downstairs in the award-wining wine cellar. The inviting bar area, with couches, lounge chairs and a large TV, now serves a light menu as well. There’s also an adjoining dining room for larger private dinners as well as the main dining room and glassed-in porch.
Constant Companion and I were there for New Year’s Eve as well as dinner and our overnight stay. We reserved the Fieldstone Room which deserves a whole column unto itself.
We came down for dinner in advance of our reservation time and were treated to live music by Richie Ortiz, one of our personal favorites, strumming away on his guitar. Rich has been playing the Inn’s New Year’s Eve celebration for several years and he is perfect for the room and the appreciative crowd.
We were seated promptly at our reserved time in what I must describe as one of the area’s most comfortable, romantic, casual dining rooms. Here we were, in front of a huge, stone fireplace blazing away, at a table for two with fresh flowers, candlelight, exquisitely decorated dinnerware and real crystal wineglasses.
We drew Joyce as our server and gazed together at the Inn’s extensive and varied wine list. Tonight the Inn had John, a local lad and well trained sommelier on duty to assist us in our choice for this special night.
I had tried a wonderful crisp Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc at the bar but our dinner choices called for a red. Constant Companion chose an Elude Pinot Noir that exuded hints of cherry, cedar and long on aftertaste. It met all expectations.
Ice water was poured as we perused the menu and a basket of warm, French bread came with softened butter. The dining room was full, and in walked Richie to serenade us at our table. What a thoughtful and appreciative touch.
The Inn’s new American cuisine is distinctly different, creative and takes advantage of local farms and produce as well. Chef Matthew Bolton uses only fresh, organic ingredients and over the years has achieved perfection without pretense. His presentations are not overbearing, but are ample and not complex.
Appetizer choices include a scallop and lobster stuffed crepe, Hudson Valley foie gras, a green apple fig tart, squash ravioli and Prince Edward Island Mussels with Italian sausage. Tonight’s soup was a lamb and celery root.
Entrées ranged from cast iron seared elk strip loin to seared pork tenderloin. In between a herb-roasted chicken breast, grilled beef tenderloin, a Scottish salmon filet, and a special chef’s vegetarian combination.
We opened with a simple platter of artisan cheeses chosen from the Inn’s list of local and international cheeses. A very strong, creamy goat-like and mild cheddar were our choices all served with a house chutney and baguette. All were wonderful with our wine.
Our salads included diced beets, toasted pumpkin seeds, and Nettle Farm’s fromage Blanc over tiny spinach, all doused with rich balsamic vinaigrette.
Companion finished off 2013 not with her usual entrée of salmon but instead a grilled 16 oz. ribeye, served with a spicy roasted demi-glaze, roasted red bliss potatoes and sautéed spinach. It was prepared perfectly medium rare and lived up to its reputation as one of the most flavorful cuts of beef.
Yours Truly chose a lamb osso bucco, slowly braised, fall off the bone tender in a succulent au jus, garlic mashed potatoes and caramelized mire pox. The latter, a mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery and herbs sautéed in butter. A fabulous accompaniment to this wonderful dish.
Now, usually here I would say we were full and would normally pass on dessert. We were, but this was New Year’s Eve and it’s the Friend’s Lake Inn. Their specialty; tableside flamed Bananas Foster.
Created in the 1950’s at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, this desert consists of lengthwise sliced bananas quickly sautéed in a mixture of rum, brown sugar and banana liquor. It was named after Richard Foster; a regular at the posh New Orlean’s restaurant. At the Inn, it comes with two huge scoops of vanilla ice cream while expertly prepared tableside by Joyce.
This was our third New Year’s Eve dinner at the Friend’s Lake Inn. John and Trudy Phillips, the owners, are in evidence throughout your stay, insuring high quality service, not pretentious but genuinely friendly and helpful. It’s so near perfect, it’s a bit scary.
It was a wonderful way to end 2013; watching the ball drop on the Inn’s huge plasma TV, Rich Ortiz doing the countdown, sipping a glass of champagne, and dancing away the ninth year with my Constant Companion.
Have a great New Year everyone!!
963 Friend’s lake Road, Chestertown, NY 518-494-4751