Paired to Perfection

Wine First 1

With an award-winning restaurant and wine cellar, Friends Lake Inn takes gourmet culinary experiences

to new heights in the heart of the Adirondacks.

By Stef Schwalb

At the historic Friends Lake Inn in Chestertown, N.Y., food and wine come together in the most enticing and well-devised way. This should come as no surprise to guests, considering one of the co-owners just happens to be a sommelier himself, but it's still an extremely pleasant one nonetheless.

Nestled within the midst of upstate New York's majestic Adirondack Mountains, overlooking a beautiful and bucolic lake setting, the inn features an in-house restaurant that's recognized as one of the best in North America (DiRONA) and a wine cellar honored as “Best of Award of Excellence” by Wine Spectator. The former serves exceptional New American cuisine rooted in the French style within the rustic grandeur of its 19th-century dining room, while the latter is home to 25,000 bottles of wine from around the globe with a focus on French, Italian, and Napa, California.

Owners and innkeepers John and Tammy Breymaier make use of all their resources and expertise through the restaurant's daily menus, as well as numerous special events held throughout the year. "The inn hosts wine and food pairing dinners six times per year. We start developing the dinner by having our sommelier select the wines. He picks food-friendly wines that have variation in body and flavor profile to build from light to full body," explains Tammy. "Then our executive chef Scott Dewar and sous chef Patrick McQueeney taste the wine and develop the menu. This process puts the wine first. While many restaurants build the menu then select the wine - that puts the wine as a bit player. When you put the wine first and build your menu around the tastes, you can develop a more sophisticated pairing for the taste palate." 

Refining Palates

Taking place September through June, the wine pairing dinners are sumptuously themed four-course dinners paired with four wines, which are part of a package that includes a one-night stay for two in a romantic guest room; signature turndown service; and a full country breakfast for Wine First2two in the morning. During the event, guests partake in a vibrant discussion with the inn's owners and the winemakers of the selections showcased that evening. "One wine dinner per year is dedicated to showcasing New York wines," notes Tammy. "Last year we introduced a grape varietal new to New York - Saperavi, which the winemaker at Standing Stone Vineyards (Finger Lakes) has turned into a very intriguing New York wine."

To help continually refine the palates of food and wine lovers visiting the property, Friends Lake Inn also offers to host private pairing dinners that include three- to five- course meals in a private dining room, masterfully paired with three to five glasses of wine, beer, or spirits, which includes expert tips and insights on the process. "We offer a 'Cooking with the Chef" course as well, where our guests can learn from executive chef Scott Dewar, then spend an hour with our sommelier learning about food and wine pairings," Tammy says.

It's ideal for those who want a hands-on experience in the kitchen. Aspiring chefs participate in a 90-minute cooking lesson where they will prepare their own three-course lunch and indulge in a glass of wine to toast their sumptuous success. The package also includes a one-night stay for two, a Friends Lake Inn apron, a three-course candlelit dinner for two, signature turndown service, and a full country breakfast for two.

Authentic Experience

The inn is adamant about working with area purveyors as well to ensure that the menus reflect regional flavors, which helps enhance an authentic local dining experience for their guests and event attendees. "We buy as much food product locally as possible. We have partnered Wine First 3with a local farmer who not only provides farm-raised poultry, but also works with our chef to grow vegetables and herbs that meet his cooking needs,” Tammy says. “Our guests love the gourmet food! They use words like 'sumptuous, fantastic,' and describe it as 'the best I have ever eaten.' The list goes on.”

Friends Lake Inn is conveniently situated with access to numerous New York State destinations. It's just 30 minutes north of Lake George, an hour-and-a-half north of Albany, three-and-a-half hours north of New York City, and an hour south of Lake Placid. Renowned as a peaceful respite from everyday stress and strain, the inn was built in the 1860s and has been carefully restored to its original beauty and refinement. It is celebrated for providing travelers with more than 100 years of top-notch cuisine and hospitality.

Friends Lake Inn also offers lavish accommodations, an onsite sauna, an outdoor heated pool, a billiards room, and a private beach for swimming, canoeing, kayaking or fishing. In the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are available on its signature trails at Snowshoe Center onsite.

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