Chef's Best The Park Inn Hammondsport
“Life is better at the Lake” or so the saying goes. I prefer dry land, so for me, life is better around the lake. For those of us lucky enough to live in the Southern Tier, we have the Finger Lakes, and life is good.
Do yourself a favor and try to take one weekend day per month to visit one of the Finger Lakes. Hike. Bike. Boat. Swim. Just explore. Taste the food, the wine, the craft beer and the cocktails. Before you know it, you will be taking a weekend, then a week.
My wife Marisa and I traveled west on I-86 and eight miles north on State Route 54 to Keuka Lake, landing at The Restaurant at the Park Inn for this month’s edition of Chef’s Best.
Yes, a restaurant and an inn. Count us in. Dinner turned into a day trip with an overnight at a charming five-room inn right in the center of town.
Before visiting I had a great exchange with Katrina Wright, marketing manager for Point of the Bluff Group. The Park Inn is part of their portfolio, along with Point of the Bluff Vineyards, Crooked Lake Ice Cream and the Glenn Scott Farm. Talk about a dream job, wine, ice cream, food and lodging. She assisted with the reservation at the Restaurant and gave great recommendations on places to go along Keuka Lake.
“I highly recommend visiting our winery for a tasting prior to dining,” Wright said.
And so we did.
The Point of the Bluff Vineyards offers wine and cheese as well as wine and chocolate tasting pairings. This is where it pays to have a partner in crime. My wife Marisa chose the cheese and I took the chocolate. We shared tastings and had the best of both worlds.
“A couple of my personal favorite spots are Krooked Tusker Distillery and Keuka Brewing, both of which are just seconds down the road from our tasting room,” Wright said, pointing out a couple of other spots along the way.
With exploring behind us we were ready for another “Chef’s Best” adventure.
Once at The Restaurant at the Park Inn, we were greeted warmly by Jason Ferris, restaurant manager and sommelier. We were seated at a window table overlooking Pulteney Square and encouraged to try one of their featured crafted cocktails (did I mention we were staying upstairs in the Inn).
My choice, the “Arrival Thyme” featuring bourbon, with the sharpness of lemon perfectly offset with smooth maple syrup. Marisa opted for the “Amelia Earhart,” a drink she describes as a prelude to summer. The fresh cucumber juice tied this gin and sake cocktail together.
Before rolling through details of an exquisite meal, a word about the chef at the Park Inn.
Admittedly I stay out of the kitchen on these “Chef’s Best” adventures. In my opinion, a chef is working hard enough without having service interrupted with a reporter’s questions or having to visit the table. However, had I known our chef was an Upstate New York celebrity, I would have found a way to say hello.
(Photo Credit: Lyndsi Stoltzfus Photography)
For years I would pause my channel surfing when I stumbled upon a “Cooking at Home” with Chef Dan Eaton segment, aired on Time Warner Cable News. Eaton created more than 3,000 recipe segments for television over 12 years.
Do not let his TV chops fool you, Eaton is a serious chef, having cooked in prestigious kitchens such as Bouley in New York City and The French Valley in Napa Valley. At the Park Inn, he prepares the menu daily to celebrate all the flavors that the Finger Lakes Region has to offer. The food is complemented by a 200-plus selection wine list directed by Ferris.
My “Chef’s Best” experience began with Roasted Butternut Squash “Bruschetta”. Squash is not at the top of my vegetable list, (yes, technically it is a fruit).
In this dish the squash was roasted to perfection, caramelized just enough and opposed by toasted pumpkin seeds. The creamy ricotta base absorbed the crunch from the crisp toast. An earthy kale pesto balanced the bright balsamic reduction.
It truly was a symphony of flavors and textures. The thought was echoed by Eaton in his description of why he chose this appetizer as “the textural and flavor juxtapositions all complement one another.”
Not to be forgotten, the wine. Ferris paired the bruschetta with a Keuka Spring 2018 Gewurtztraminer.
“The grapes baking spice notes pair so well with roasted winter squash.” Ferris said.
The entrée continued to showcase Eaton’s talents; Pan Roasted Duck Breast.
“The duck was chosen because it utilizes three different parts of the animal and three different techniques,” Eaton said. “The pan roasted duck breast, the duck leg cured and cooked by confit and the duck skin rendered into cracklings as a garnish.”
My thoughts on the duck in a sec.
Eaton forgot to mention the parsnip puree surrounding the beautifully presented duck. Cloud-like in texture, with a subtle sweetness. A perfect pairing for the rich duck.
Duck breast cooked to perfection with a duck confit sidecar and topped with duck crackling crumbles. Duck on duck on duck. Cut with cranberry compote and tart cherry demi-glace, floating on parsnip puree and rounded out with sautéed kale.
The wine pairing for the duck was unique, a 2018 Roof Top Reds Blaufrankisch.
“The tart red fruits are great with duck’s nuances while the acid structure of that style is more subtle for this leaner style of duck breast,” Ferris said.
You know you are in good hands when the wine selected for you comes from a rooftop vineyard in New York City. Great wine, from the top of a building in New York City.
I encourage you to visit Hammondsport in the off-season and any season.
Take in all that surrounds Keuka Lake, highlighted by The Restaurant at the Park Inn. Make a reservation and experience the best of the Finger Lakes with Chef Dan Eaton and Sommelier Jason Ferris.
When you dine just ask for the Chef’s Best!
About The Restaurant at the Park Inn
Address: 37 Shether Street
Hammondsport, NY 14840