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