North Country Fare: A Passion for Food, Wine and Conversation Turns Into a Business
Eating in the North Country has always been a social, sometimes festive occasion. Think of those pancake breakfasts in the logging camps or the farmers’ tables heaped high with chickens and steaks, not to mention election night dinners in the church basement and potluck suppers at the fire hall.
Megan Diehl and Anna Bowers, of Bolton Landing and North Creek, respectively, are well aware of those local culinary traditions, which by necessity featured locally grown and raised herbs, vegetables, eggs and meats. Now they’re updating them with a new venture called Whisk n’ Wine.
“What exactly do you do?” we asked.
“We can do everything and anything,” replied Anna Bowers.
They’ll cater small parties and intimate dinners, host wine tastings, and even operate a pop-up restaurant in a temporarily vacant storefront, if asked.
This summer, they’re focusing on cooking classes and demonstrations, in which those attending can try their hands at everything from whisking batter to baking chicken “en papillote” or they can just watch and enjoy every individual course as it appears. (And no course goes unaccompanied by thoughtfully selected wines.)
Last week, the two invited friends, colleagues in the hospitality business and media representatives to Bar Vino in North Creek, where they previewed their classes and let slip the engaging banter that’s sure to be part of their draw.
Guests were greeted like old friends, rather than as customers. “My philosophy is, ‘kill with kindness,’” said Bowers.
With her parents and brother, Bowers is a part owner of Bar Vino, the North Creek wine bar and restaurant that opened in 2008.
Bar Vino’s atmosphere “reminds me of my family’s dinner parties,” said Bowers. “Bar Vino is based on our family, how we cook, how we entertain, even how we set a table.”
“And we treat people as we like to be treated,” said Bowers. “We want to make people feel welcome.”
That relaxed, unpretentious attitude toward food wine is one shared by Megan Diehl, a Bolton Central School graduate who’s a familiar sight at Bolton Landing restaurants, where she’s worked, off and on, since she was a teen-ager.
“I emulate my mother, who’s an amazing cook,” said Diehl. “Her secret is that she’s never followed a recipe in her life. 90% of the time, the results are great. The other 10%… are learning experiences.”
Diehl is both an experienced and trained chef, so it’s she who brings the whisk to the partnership, while Bowers brings the wine.
The partnership grew out of a late night conversation about the potential impact of the new excursion train on North Creek’s economy, which in turn led them to offer to stage a series of cooking classes on the train as it rolled between Saratoga and North Creek.
“It was a wonderful experience, and the response was great,” said Diehl.
Diehl grew up on her parents’ Sweet Pea Farm in Bolton Landing, so it’s not surprising that she uses fresh herbs and vegetables in her dishes and salads.
She also makes imaginative use of local products, like Bixby’s Best maple syrup and her mother’s Sweet Pea Farm jams.
Like Bowers, Diehl associates food with good company and good conversation.
Those Bolton Landing restaurants, after all, are centers of the town’s social life, and as a private chef, she’s seen houses come alive as families and friends gather.
“There are few times when you see people sharing food who are not happy,” said Diehl.
Whisk n’ Wine will conduct cooking classes and demonstrations in June, July and August in both North Creek and Bolton Landing. The North Creek sessions are held at Bar Vino, those in Bolton, at the Conservation Park. For more information, visit whiskandwinenewyork.com