Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blue Moon – A Café in the Adirondacks

Continuing with our late summer vacation… (We did so much and ate at so many different restaurants, mixing it in with more current events, this saga could go on until the end of the year!)

Once again, it was time for dinner… We’d rejected Lake Placid New York as being too touristy and crowded for us, so we were staying in Saranac Lake.  I’d done some research and I found our first night’s choice for dinner via Trip Advisor…and after a quick check of the on-line menu.

The Cold River Coffee Company owns and operates the Blue Moon Café in Saranac Lake.  This is a quirky place…with a bakery counter, specialty coffees and upscale sit down casual dining.

The Blue Moon Café is open 7 days a week for Breakfast and Lunch and the restaurant serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday.   

As you can see, this is a very laid back restaurant.  One would never suspect that the menu includes quality gourmet cuisine…in addition to a large breakfast menu and of course, sandwiches at lunch.  Taking casual upscale dining one step further, a selection of gourmet cheeses is also available.

The waitress started us out with some really nice homemade bread and butter…

Then I followed it up with this nice Sausage en Croute on a bed of lettuce with coarse stone ground mustard. (I failed to note the price and this appetizer isn’t on Blue Moon’s current menu).  This was both an imaginative and a flavorful dish.  Fortunately for me, Laurie was saving her appetite for her entrée and I was ‘forced’ to eat more than my share of this plate of goodness! 


Laurie ordered the Thai Duck Noodle Bowl. ($17.00) This entrée consisted of a lightly marinated pan seared boneless duck breast served in a miso broth with Shitake mushrooms, scallions and Asian noodles.  She loves duck and this dish received 2 thumbs up!

For part of my dinner, I ordered the Grilled Lamb Skewers.  They were lightly marinated Greek style, grilled fast and hot, then served over greens on a homemade flatbread with chopped romaine, tomato and tsazki sauce.  ($16.00) It also comes with red onion but I as I’m not much of an onion fan, I had them left off.  The lamb was very nice but, coming from Chicago, I expected a little more zing in the tsazki sauce.  I also thought that looking at this from a cost/volume ratio; this entrée was a little light.  We finished off our meal with a cup of very nice robust coffee for myself and an enjoyable cafe latte for Laurie.

Blue Moon Café has a broad and imaginative menu.  Dinner items include: a Cassoulet with sea scallops, chorizo and chickpeas ($11.00); Thai Red Snapper ($17.00) and; Chicken and Shrimp Chimichurri. ($17.00) Several vegetarian entrees are also on the menu.  These include: Ratatouille ($10.00) and Roasted Stuffed Portobello ($13.00) Breakfast and lunch also offer a few surprises… How about a tortilla ‘bowl’ filled with goodies and topped with eggs!
We would recommend this restaurant as it offers quality and a change of pace from the ordinary.  Blue Moon Café is located at 55 Main Street in Saranac Lake New York.  Phone: 518-891-1310.  Website: http://bluemooncafe-adk.com.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Breakfast and the St. Lawrence Seaway

Continuing with our late summer vacation, Laurie and I cruised into Massena New York, first planning on a late breakfast, stopping by the Remington Art Museum and then planning to visit the Eisenhower Locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway.  The Remington Museum was closed for the day so it was on to breakfast!

For breakfast, we stumbled across the Phillips Diner near downtown Massena.  It looked and felt like a real diner and it was busy…key traits that we look for when searching for something to eat.  Using an $80,000 Main Street Grant, Phillips façade, roof, sign, doors, etc. were totally rebuilt right after the Labor Day weekend. 

This is the interior of the restaurant.  The photo was taken from our booth.  This is definitely a local joint!  Everybody knew someone and the waitresses knew everyone…

We went with the basics.  Laurie had 2 eggs over easy with toast and bacon.  Good bacon always makes her breakfast right…and she liked this bacon!

I also got 2 eggs over easy with toast…but can you believe that my breakfast came with four (4) sausage patties!  We enjoyed our breakfasts… Although I can’t remember the pricing, it was very reasonable.

I did go on line and I noted some negative comments about this restaurant.  They mostly pertained to the changes in the Poutine they serve and the current use of canned products instead of homemade. (The founder had used homemade products)  Another complaint referred to a hateful waitress.  Breakfast is breakfast…canned goods aren’t usually involved and our waitress was just fine.
For those of you who don’t know about Poutine, just go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poutine.  
Phillips Diner was founded in 1948 and it’s still being run by the same family.  It’s located at 415 Ford Street in Massena New York.  Phone: 315-393-9738.  Apparently, they don’t have a website.

So next it was on to the Eisenhower Lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway.  This lock is one of only 2 on the American side of the Seaway and it’s the only one open for public viewing.  This is the Algowood, one of several ships plying their trade on the Great Lakes and beyond from Algoma Shipping, Inc.

The Algowood is entering the lock from the Wiley-Dondero Canal on its way west to Lake St. Lawrence, the Thousand Islands and Lake Ontario. 

I ‘borrowed’ this photo from Wikipedia.  This is an arial view of the Eisenhower Lock.  The lock can accommodate ships up to 740’ in length.  This lock and the St. Lawrence Seaway were completed in 1959, and on April 25th of that year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth presided over the dedication of the St. Lawrence Seaway System.

The Seaway is now outdated.  Only about 10% of the ocean going cargo ships or tankers sailing today are small enough to fit through the locking system. In addition, “Lakers”, ships like the Algowood or the one shown above in the lock, have been limited in size by the length, width and depth of the locks. 

The Algowood is a self-unloading bulk carrier and she was built in Collingwood Ontario by Collingwood Shipbuilders, Inc.  The Algowood was compled in 1981, she has 2 5,100 HP engines, can carry 31,750 tons of product and she cruised along at about 13 knots.  The ship is fairly unusual in that she was built with a bulbous bow so she can operate in early winter and early spring when there is still a little ice around.

In this photo the ship has been raised up 38’ to the next level of Lake St. Lawrence and the westbound Seaway.  Her screws are churning in an effort to get her moving forward.

The St. Lawrence Seaway System cost Canadians a total of $336.5 million and Americans paid $133.8 million.  At it’s peak back in 1965, the Seaway experienced 10,558 ship transits up or down the system.  In 2010, that count was down to 3,925 transits.  

This is the Algowood leaving the Eisenhower Lock steaming west toward the Great Lakes and whatever port was her final destination.  In it’s lifetime, the Algowood has had 2 major accidents.  She ran aground on a rock shoal in the Ste. Mary’s River near Sault Ste. Marie.  She’s also suffered a hull breach and sunk at dockside while taking on cargo.

There have been 2 notable downsides to the Seaway and it’s related power system.  For one thing, over 6,500 people were displaced when the dams were built.  The other problem is that zebra mussels hitchhiked on oceangoing ships and they are now doing considerable damage to the Great Lakes fisheries and to various municipal water intake facilities. 
The visitor’s center at the Eisenhower Lock is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Times are posted for any ships passing through the locks each day. 
Curiously, you do have to pass through a very laid back secuity checkpoint to reach the viewing platform.  From a Homeland Security standpoint, this doesn’t make much sense when you consider that there is an unrestricted tunnel that passses directly underneath the lock itself.  That’s where real damage could be done… That’s our government at work!
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, November 25, 2011

2011 Road Trip – Railroad Depots (#6) NY

Here I am again with photos of active, ‘repurposed’, deserted and derelict railroad depots that we encountered during our late summer vacation.

So, let’s start with a combination ‘derelict and ‘repurposed’ passenger depot…

This is the former New York Central Depot in Hammond New York.  As you can see by the design and by the center chimney, it’s an old building.   It was built in 1894 by either the Black River & Morristown Railroad or by the New York Central.  The information I found on the Internet was conflicting. 

Hammond was on a spur line with limited rail traffic.   Although the building is still in use…it’s obviously in poor condition.

The Freight House Restaurant, (and former railroad depot), is located in Ogdensburg New York.  This repurposed building used to be part of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg railroad.  The New York Central took over the line in 1910 and that company probably built this depot.  I couldn’t find out much about this depot, other than the fact that many local groups and gatherings use this restaurant as a gathering place.

The last Passenger train to or from Ogdensburg came through here in 1961.  The last rail service in the area was to service a paper mill…and that closed up in 1985.
In the interest of keeping the Freight House Restaurant functioning…and the depot preserved, here’s a little information for those travelers among us.  Address: 20 Market Street, Ogdensburg, New York.  Phone: 315-393-9088.  Website: http://thefreighthouserestaurant.com/aboutus.htm.   They are open for lunch and dinner only…

This little depot in or near Massena New York has seen better days.  It was indeed ‘repurposed’ at one point in time…but the ‘Land – Mark’ Diner didn’t survive.  Although the building isn’t in bad shape, without an occupant, it’s just a matter of time before the structure will become derelict…

The last passenger train from Syracuse to Massena came through here in 1965.  Both Canadian Northern and CSX railroads are still serving this market area with freight trains…

The Massena depot looked a little different back in the days of the steam locomotive!

My last offering for this edition of my blog is this old freight station located in Winthrop New York.  It’s been repurposed for storage by a private owner.  It formerly served as the area’s freight depot for the Rutland Railroad.

Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fine Dining in the Thousand Islands

Continuing with our late summer vacation…

After a meal a night earlier that can best be described as unsatisfying…fuel only…Laurie and I went into search mode for somewhere else to eat.  That objective fit nicely into our penchant for exploration.
So, we decided to explore Wellesley Island, one of the largest islands in the 1,793 islands that comprise the ‘Thousand Islands’.  To get there, you have to get on I-81 and take the toll bridge that leads over the St. Lawrence River to Canada.  There is an exit to Wellesley Island after you cross the main span of this multi-span bridge.

After exiting the bridge on the island, we turned south, (right), to take a look at the shorter end of the island.  That’s when we discovered the Thousand Islands Park Historical District.  This amazing area is comprised of 294 buildings, many of them homes such as pictured above.

This area was originally founded as a Methodist Retreat or Camp back in 1875.  It quickly changed over from camping in tents to the construction of these ‘cottages’.  For many years, before the bridge was completed, there were no ferry boats allowed to operate to or from the island on Sunday…

This is the commercial ‘heart’ of the historic district.  There is an ice cream parlor, a small grocery store and, down toward the end of this building, you can see the fire department.  This whole historic district is an amazing collection of late 19th century and early 20th century resort architecture.  It is a beautiful community of preserved gingerbread ‘cottages’, actually relics of a Victorian-era ‘camp meeting’ religious retreat.

This is the Wellesley Island Hotel.  This grand old hotel was built in 1903 and it continues to offer modest, (simple), lodging and fine food.   Patrons can dine inside the hotel or on the porch.  Entrees are served with a family style salad and a vegetable.  The Backdoor Bakery is located at the back of the hotel.  Their offerings include cookies, cupcakes, pies, bread, pizzas, etc.   

But No!  This isn’t where we ate… It was still a little early for dinner and we decided to explore the rest of the island before eating.  We would definitely try this restaurant if we return to this area of the country.  The Wellesley Island Hotel & Restaurant is located as 42809 St. Lawrence Avenue in Thousand Islands Park.  Phone: 315-482-3698.  Website: http://www.wellesley-hotel.com/.

This is the front of the building housing Joey’s Thousand Island Club Restaurant.  The Thousand Island Club was started by George C. Boldt, (Waldorf-Astoria, Stratford Hotel & the Boldt Castle), back in the late 1800’s.  It was completed in 1918 by his son-in-law, The Canadian Steamship Lines, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and Edward John Noble, the inventor of Lifesavers.  For many years, it was known as a palatial playground for the very wealthy.

The club, with its efficiency villas, suite lodging, 36 holes of golf and 100 slip marina, is located right across the St. Lawrence River from Alexandria Bay New York.  Joey’s Thousand Island Club Restaurant is a fairly new addition to this upscale facility.

When we entered the restaurant, they were still working on setting up for dinner.  However, we noted that the bar was open and we decided that we’d just work off the Bar Menu.  We’d neglected the fact that it was Labor Day weekend, the end of the boating season, and we’d bypassed the empty hostess station.  We’d grabbed a table in the bar…eventually upsetting the hostess as we didn’t have reservations.  She conceded that we could stay and from there on, the waitress was very pleasant and competent. 

This was the view from our window seat in the bar… Not too bad!  The boating crowd kept building…everyone obviously knowing everyone else.  Joey himself eventually made the round at the bar, shaking hands and making nice to his regular summer crowd.

Laurie ordered a small Garden Salad, ($2.95) and the Tuna Sashimi with pickled ginger, grated daikon radish, wasabi and soy sauce. ($13.95) The salad was great…lots of fresh ingredients…and the Sashimi was top drawer, i.e. excellent!

For my entrée, I had the Balsamic Romaine Salad with a seasoned, grilled salmon filet. ($16.95) It was very, very good.  This was a nice change from the dinner we had the previous night over in Alexandria Bay.

We were both full…content even.  However, when we learned that they offered Tiramisu for dessert, we gave in and shared one… ($6.95) It was excellent!  As you will note, we’d already taken a bite from it when we remembered to take a picture.

We would definitely recommend Joey’s Thousand Island Club to our fellow travelers!  Joey DeCuffa has been operating a very well known Syracuse restaurant, Joey’s of Syracuse, since 1982. 
Joey’s Thousand Island Club Restaurant is located on Club Road in Alexandria New York.  Phone: 315-482-9999.  Website: http://www.joeysitalianrestaurant.com/ticlub.html.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cruising the Thousand Islands

Between our little cruise in the $200,000 replica antique power boat from the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton New York and our “Millionaire’s Tour” on one of the Uncle Sam’s Tour boats based in Alexandria Bay New York, we were able to see quite a few of the Thousand Islands.  As I previously mentioned, these islands are scattered along the St. Lawrence River on the border between the USA and Canada.

I wish that the sun had been out when we were out on the river checking out the ‘Thousand Islands’.  As luck would have it, while the weather was warm, it was mostly hazy, with only sporadic sunshine.  This photo is of just one of the many houses or cottages that dot these islands…not a bad summer time life style!

This is the old US Post Office on Round Island New York.  Mail service was discontinued in 1918 with the demise of the Frontenac Hotel, but the old post office is maintained by island residents as a small museum.  The guide on the tour boat implied that it was still in operation, stating that “It’s staffed by volunteers in season”.

Just to provide historical reference, this is an old photo of the Frontenac Hotel back around the beginning of the 20th century.  This huge summer resort must have totally dominated Round Island and it’s easy to see why the Post Office was designated as the Frontenac Post Office!

Here are two additional homes on one of the larger islands comprising what is termed, ‘The Thousand Islands’.  Actually, there are 1,793 islands in this stretch of the St. Lawrence River.  They are located in both Canadian and US waters…

This is another of the larger island ‘cottages’ as seen from the top deck of the Uncle Sam’s tour boat.  Actually, some of the island homes are occupied year around.  It must be challenging to live here in the winter.  Between the excessive snowfall recorded in the area and ice on the river, travel has to be difficult.  Nearby Alexandria Bay averages 9.5’ of snow each winter!

Here are 2 more classic Thousand Island cottages…with a nice little yacht docked just down from one of the houses.

This photo of another of the islands was interesting because of the little side island on the left…with the bridge over to it…and because it shows an old boathouse or cottage that has just collapsed over time.

I liked the setting for this cottage.  It sits on this nice little wooded island with some nice rocks and its own stone pier. 

The St. Lawrence River is also the St. Lawrence Seaway.  This river ‘highway’ combined with a series of Great Lakes, rivers and locks, allows ocean going ships to move freight to and from the Atlantic Ocean, serving ports as far inland as Green Bay Wisconsin, Chicago Illinois and Duluth Minnesota.  Big ocean going ships as well as Lake Freighters pass close by many of the Thousand Islands.

This is Zavikon Island…another pretty little island with a very nice cottage… Note that it is connected to another little island via a bridge.  As per the tour guide, the island on the left is in Canada and the island on the right is in the USA.  They describe it as the “shortest international bridge in the world”.  As it turns out, this popular tale is incorrect…both islands are in Canadian waters.

The smaller island is sometimes called Little Zavikon Island.  It has a US-Canada Boundary Commission reference monument, from which, along with other reference monuments on the shore and islands, surveying measurements are used to calculate the international boundary line turning points in the waterway. 

Many of the 1,793 islands that dot the St. Lawrence River in this area are little more than rocky outcroppings.  Others, like this one, are too close to the Seaway’s main channel and building a home on them is forbidden. (The thought is that homes too close to the channel might distract the helmsmen on the ships and that could lead to an collision or a shipwreck)

This is probably my favorite little island.  I borrowed this photo from the Internet as ours was taken from just too far away.  This island is appropriately named “Just Room Enough”. 

One more sunshine based photo…also borrowed.  Note the wall/breakwater designed to minimize the impact of the wake from passing boats and ships.

I was curious as to how the number of islands comprising the 1,793 ‘Thousand Islands’ was determined… The count was all over the place until the word ‘island’ was defined to everyone’s satisfaction.  Finally, the criteria was established that defined an island as any bit of land that stayed above water all year around, had an area of more than 1 square foot and it supported at least one living tree.  I wonder…do they reduce the island count when the only tree on a small island dies?
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Road Food along the Way

To visit family and friends, we drive back and forth to various cities from time to time.  These trips are focused and we usually make the trip in one day.  While we don’t like driving on them, we do use the expressways, super slabs, freeways, tollroads, etc., just a convenient means of getting to these destinations in a reasonable period of time. 

Consequently, one critical piece of information that we accumulate for these trips are the midpoints or exits where one can find a decent place to stop for gas and for something satisfying to eat.

So, we were on our way to St. Louis and we decided to check out the amenities at the exit off of I-24 in Kuttawa Kentucky.  Laurie spotted this restaurant, The Oasis Southwest Grill.  It wasn’t part of a national chain and it was new to us…so it was the perfect place to try!

The ambience inside the restaurant was warm and friendly…very casual with lots of wood and brick to make guests feel comfortable. 

As we'd skipped breakfast, we both ordered dinner.  They started us out with 2 nice warm rolls with honey butter…and then, when these were gone, the waiter offered us a couple more just to tide us over.

Laurie had the ½ rack of Applewood Smoked Pork Ribs. ($14.99) Entrees come with 2 sides.  The fries were good, the potato salad was even better and she really liked the ribs.  This was worth noting because we’ve had a lot of good…and not so good…pork ribs in our travels. 

I went with the Country Fried Steak. ($11.99) The meat was thicker than most country fried steaks and it was very nice.  The potatoes were OK and the cole slaw was very good.  I’d order this meal again!

So a few days later, on our way back to East Tennessee…can you guess where we stopped for lunch?  Right you are!

We both ordered the same thing on our second visit…the Oasis Hot Brown Sandwich. (This was a bargain at $6.99!) This traditional Kentucky favorite consists of sliced turkey and ham served over Texas toast, then smothered with southern cream gravy, bacon, tomato and cheeses.  This is real comfort food!

I’ve started posting our restaurant reviews/experiences on Trip Advisor.  The Oasis was my 11th review.  I would recommend Trip Advisor or a similar site for trip planning… Although you sometimes have to dig a little beyond the initial reviews, perhaps pulling up a website or looking at other reviews, these travel websites provide a great starting point for trip planning.
There are 3 Oasis Southwest Grills in operation with another scheduled for opening soon.  The current locations are all Kentucky…Franklin, Madisonville and Kuttawa…with another restaurant scheduled to open in Owensboro Kentucky.  The Kuttawa restaurant is just off of I-24 at exit 40.  The address is 42 Days Inn Drive.  Phone: 270-388-0777.  Website: http://www.theoasissouthwestgrill.com/.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands

Whenever we travel, I research the area or areas that we’re visiting to learn about the big attractions…and then we decide what we’d really like to see.  Sometimes the setting is just as stunning as is the attraction we’ve focused on…

We obviously didn’t take this picture!  This is an official arial photo of the Boldt Castle on Heart Island in the St. Lawrence River between the USA and Canada.  While it is a great picture of the island and it’s castle, it also provides an image that explains the visual attraction to the Thousand Islands portion of the St. Lawrence River.  The photo is from the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority’s Boldt Castle website.

This photo shows the upper deck of an Uncle Sam’s tour boat as it approached the Boldt Castle.  We took a pleasant St. Lawrence River/Seaway cruise/narrated tour that ended by dropping us off at the Castle. (In the near future, I will post photos from the cruise)

Laurie took this shot of the front of Boldt’s Castle.  The story of the Castle is a really sad love story.  Boldt had a home and a large farm on nearby Wellesley Island.  But, in 1900, George C. Boldt began construction of this 6-story, 120 room castle on Heart Island for his wife Louise.  George was the proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.  Over 300 craftsmen worked on the Castle, the powerhouse, tunnels, children’s playhouse, dove-cote and gardens.  Sadly, Louise died suddenly in 1904…before the Castle and its grounds were completed.  George Boldt then lost interest in the project, he stopped all construction and he abandoned the Castle…

Note: Much of the interior has been restored and it is impressive.  Construction and restoration is underway in other portions of the building as well.  Every year of work on the Castle and its immediate environs will provide something new for visitors to experience…

This is a view of the Boldt Castle powerhouse that Laurie took from the garden path leading from the Castle itself.

For 73 years, the partially completed and abandoned Castle was exposed to the weather and vandals.  Then, in 1977, the Thousand Island Bridge Authority took possession of the island.  Their plan was to open it up for public viewing with all net revenues going to the maintenance, restoration and continued construction of Boldt’s Castle.  In a very real sense, this is an ongoing construction project.  The Bridge Authority had just finished the master bedroom shortly before we toured the Castle. 

Here’s another view of the Power House.  This structure, as well as the main ‘house’, are particularly evocative of the castles along the Rhine River in Germany.

One item of interest is that Heart Island with Boldt Castle is an Official Port of Entry into the USA from Canada.  Tour boats from Canada bring thousands of passengers to the island every year…and the island is in the USA.

This is another borrowed photo… Ours came out too blurry to use.  This is the Boldt Castle Yacht House.  It’s located on Wellesley Island, just across the channel from Heart Island and the Castle.  To say that it is huge is an understatement!  The Building is 64’ high and it’s inside boat slips are 128’ long.

Why such a big ‘boathouse’?  Well, it’s known that George Boldt owned over 60 boats in his lifetime.  When his estate was settled in 1917, his inventory totaled 47 ‘boats’, ranging from skiffs to large motor yachts.  The photo shown above gives you a feeling of the size and capacity of the boathouse.  In the background you can see the, 63’ Steam Yacht Kestrel.  It was donated to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority in 2009.  Many of the boats on display in the Boldt Castle Yacht House are ‘on loan’ from the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton New York.

Bolt Castle is open for visitors from mid-May until the end of September.  For further information, call 800-847-5263 or visit the official website at http://www.boldtcastle.com/visitorinfo/.  The Yacht House requires a separate or add-on ticket.  Shuttle boats regularly move back and forth between Heart Island and the Yacht House or the Yacht House can be accessed from Wellesley Island.
Bolt Castle and Love Island can be reached via any of the following tour operators: from Alexandria Bay New York - www.unclesamboattours.com; from Clayton New York - www.claytonislandtours.com; from Gananoque, Ontario Canada - www.ganboatline.com; or from Rockport, Ontario Canada - www.rockportcruises.com.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave