Adventures beyond time

Adventures beyond time

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Weekend in Star Lake

Labor Day Weekend has brought a mini-crowd back to Star Lake for an end of summer get together. We had dinner at the Twin Lakes Hotel Friday night with 8 friends and at the Windfall Restaurant on Saturday night with 18!

Windfall is a crossroads three miles off Route 3 with a handful of houses. It is named for a huge blowdown of trees cut by a tornado in 1845. At Windfall is a chef-owned restaurant, by the same name, featuring local foods…to the degree possible in this region where the growing season is really, really short. It is at the crossroads of the Tooley Pond Road, with its six waterfall hikes in 12 unpaved miles, and the road to Newton Falls, where the paper mill that was closed for years recently reopened...despite which, the town continues to look quite ghosty. The place seems an unlikely location for a successful restaurant, proving that reality can beat likeliness in the Adirondacks.

In the bar, folks played darts and a jam session was getting started. A frosty mug of Stella or IPA cost $2.25. Better yet, we got “premium mystery beer” for $1. The first two bottles were a Red Stripe and a lemonade-flavored beer (not quite as bad as it sounds, sort of like a wheat beer.) The next round included Sam Adams and Yuengling. Good food too. Go chef!

To counterbalance the beer and food, we have been hiking. Here are some pictures from along the Oswegatchie River trail between Inlet and Wanakena, and on the Old Wanakena Road to the Big Fill.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dog Days of August, Adirondack Style

Even though it is too cold most days for the water to tempt a Floridian in for a dip, getting on or near the water every day has been part of the North Country adventure. We have been kayaking and canoeing on Star Lake, watching fall color arrive along the Little River Falls and Heath Pond, scaring the loons despite best efforts not to, and walking to Save Our Schoolhouse.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dinner at Longview Farm

Dave and Liza were the most wonderful hosts. They fed us at the end of a long day of learning about cheese farmsteading. We feasted on a chicken from their farm and salad from their garden. We had a marvelous dinner table conversation about the growing and consuming of food. We met their goats, learned about their cheese, and hated to leave.

Visiting 3-Corner Field Farm

This was the largest farm we visited so far, and the first sheep farm. Hundreds of acres, pastured-fed sheep, cheese, meat, wool…an amazing enterprise to see.

Visiting Nettle Meadows Goat Farm

I never knew how much fun a porch store could be for browsing. You have to have the right porch, which we found at Nettle Meadows Goat farm. The goats and cheese makers were fantastic hosts. You should try Kunik and Honey Lavendar Frommage Blanc for sure, and Crane Mountain Chevre is hard to pass by.

Adirondack Authors Night

Hoss’ Country Corner in Long Lake has an annual Adirondack Authors Night. Hoss and family throw a picnic for all the authors and their families at the big pavilion over looking Long Lake. The cool mountain breeze assures the hot dogs and hamburgers will be winter cold the minute they jump from the grill to your bun…no cold ketchup needed to help the process along. But you also need not worry that the mayo on the potato salad has been warming for too long. Great party! For dessert we each get a double-dip of ice cream from their stand back down on Main Street.

The event runs from 7 to 9. Several hundred people come through the tent and talk to the 70 or 80 authors who sign books for them and tell stories about their writing. People pile on more sweaters as the sun sets, but no one leaves. This year we drove back to Star Lake after the event ended. The clear night sky held the sun’s light until moon shadows began falling on the hillside trees.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Visiting Farmstead Cheese Makers near Canton, NY

While we are here, we are interviewing farmsteaders for our Cheese Project. We had a wonderful visit to County Meadows, winners of many awards, including the 2004 Overall Champion Cheese at the New York State Fair.

This farm home seems to qualify as a “third place”—a welcoming and neighborly place where once can always enjoy good company. As we sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and learning about goat farming and cheese making, neighbors stopped by, poured coffee and joined the conversation. Our hosts shared the story of their farm and their cheese. It was a new story for us.

“Are you doing this because you love cheese?” we asked.

“No, we love raising the animals,” they replied without hesitation.

The neighbors added pieces of the story of farms and cheese in the area. One of them had worked for Kraft cheese in nearby Ogdensburg until the factory closed fairly recently. Another told us about the impact of consolidation of farms in the area. Lands merged, but homes and barns were sold off so that a return to smaller, more family-centered farms seems impossible now. This neighbor had been a state trooper and knew Russ’ uncle Charlie, who was the oldest trooper when he retired and the oldest former trooper when he died a few years ago.

The conversations were open, friendly, and welcoming to us Florida strangers. It was a fantastic morning for us.

We visited the barns, met the Nubian ladies, and tasted their cheese and milk. Our hosts sent us back with samples of chevre and feta. The dill chevre was a particular hit at “happy hour” with the camp neighbors that evening.

Notice how in the special cooler, cold water flows onto the cans of warm milk to cool it quickly.

Our hosts could not have been nicer. What a way to spend a morning!


Peg and Pam had two kayaking adventures while she was visiting during our first weekend here…adventures because the clouds were threatening both times. We borrowed the neighbor’s kayaks. The first time, we paddled along the shoreline staying close to camp. The Adirondacks have had their rainiest summer ever and the rains didn’t stop when we arrived. But, the second day had clear skies and we ventured farther. We were chased back by a storm that caught us…happily not on the water, but, as we climbed the hill back up to the camp.

Rock Hunting

Pam wanted some Star Lake rocks to use in her landscaping back home. Here we are gathering them.

Tasting the Cheese Russ Has Been Aging Since September

As indicated in last year’s posts we made two cheeses in the fall—one cheddar and one Monterey Jack. Both cheeses have been aging in our improvised “cave” (an old refrigerator set for 50 degrees) ever since.

Star Lake seemed like the right place to crack into these classic experiments on our learning curve about cheese. So on August 9 we opened and sampled the cheddar, made on September 5th. Here are photos of the big event.

Clifton-Fine Central School Reunion—Classes of 1950 to 1968

Friday’s dinner was at the Twin Lakes Hotel.

The main event was Saturday’s get-together and buffet at the Clifton-Fine Arena.

Nine of Russ’ 47 classmates came this year, including Bonnie, John, Karen, and Russ in the photo. Great fun!

For those of us who grew up in cities, the fact that 18 years of graduating classes produces only about 350 alumni of the school is a surprise. That about 100 of them come to the Reunion is no surprise, I suspect for those who grew up in small communities like Star Lake.

The annual Reunion helps us pick the time for our trip to the North Country. Each year one more class is added to the invitation list as it achieves the 40 Year Reunion mark. But no class is eliminated from the list.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Arriving in the Adirondacks

On Thursday August 7, we arrived in the Adirondacks at 4:10 P.M. after 22 hours and 40 minutes of driving, with a wonderfully refreshing overnight at Pam’s in the middle. Jake slept most of the way. We had pretty good driving weather and conditions in general, but it is still a very long trip.

We had a nice warm welcome from our friend Pat and her brother Don. This is our 6th visit here in 7 years. Star Lake has captured us, which is a good thing because today we awoke to a cool and rainy day. We drove to Cranberry Lake to check email at the library, but the satellite downlink wasn’t quite strong enough in the rain. So along with dozens of other camp (the word Adirondackers use for cabin) dwellers and tent campers, we just shot the breeze for a while and gave up on connectivity. There is something quaint about a place where you really cannot get on the internet.

Until this year we also really could not get cell phone connectivity. This year we can sometimes get one little green bar, when it isn’t raining, if we stand at the far end of the camp’s driveway, right near the Lake Rd. As far as we know that spot and another one near the school are the only places in the vicinity where one can get even a hint of a signal. Great! It makes texting possible, and occasionally voice mail too. We even got a brief call through to Pam. Progress… although now we cannot claim to be totally off the phone/email grid while we are here. Our isolation is a bit less splendid, and that is a bit of a psychological loss.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Encore: Our 2nd American Cheese Society Conference was July 22-27

Why go, you ask? We cannot resist following our curiosity about the phenomenal growth of American artisan cheese, and tracing the historical threads that link our New York state roots and families to cheese making.

Last year, we drove from the Adirondacks to Burlington Vermont for the 2008 conference. It was lovely, quaint, and too small for the crowd. Some of the sessions had to be held in tents, outdoors…picture HOT.

The 2008 conference was in Chicago…picture PRICEY. The weather was perfect. We were right downtown on Michigan Ave, with only parks between us and the Lake—we had great views of both from our 21st story room. There were grand fireworks over the park both Wed and Sat nights. Summertime in the city. It made me nostalgic for Prague, my only real city living experience. The meeting rooms were all indoors and convenient. But the tradeoff between adequate space and cost was a hard one.

This year’s events got underway on Wednesday with all day pre-conference tours, and continued with sessions through until the Saturday evening Festival of Cheese and Sunday morning cheese sale.

The Pre-Conference Tours

We arrived Tuesday night and started our week with down-home Chicago-style deep-dish pizza and locally brewed beer at Giordano’s. Nice. The Metro wasn’t running from O’Hare to the Chicago Loop…meaning a $50 taxi ride instead of $2 for the metro. Luckily, we flew to into Midway and that branch was running. But for a lot of folks, the glitch was a major inconvenience.

Wednesday I went on the Tour of Retail Cheese Shops. Two of the shops were especially great… Pastoral Artisan Cheese Shop and The South Marion Street Market and Café. I am posting photos from them.

Maybe as many as a third of the attendees were artisan cheese retailers. Everyone was sharing information on pricing, marketing, and equipping their shops. I almost got tempted to open one! It was an opportunity to rub elbows with some really nice people and a great way to spend the first day.

Russ and Meg toured the Roth Käse specialty cheese factory in Wisconsin…very brave of them because it meant a 3.5 hour each way bus trip after traveling to Chicago the day before. The photos show the facility, and the conference attendees done up in their laboratory finery.


Just to give you a flavor of the sessions…how about these?
  • The Role of the Government as a Business Development Partner
  • How Retail Stores Train Their Cheese Employees
  • Town Hall Meeting of Cheesemakers and Retailers
  • Is Cheese the New Wine?
  • Sell Them or Smell Them!
  • European Forbearers: Reinventing the Classics
  • Creating a Successful Restaurant Cheese Program
  • Strategies in Retail Cheese Pricing
  • Coffee and Cheese Pairings
  • Beer versus Wine Smackdown: Which Goes Better With Cheese?
  • Is Selling to Big Box Stores Selling Out?

Amazing passion in these discussions. The folks from Costco, Kroger, and Kraft must have felt badly outnumbered, although they carried their senses of humor with them when they came to the discussions.


It difficult to get one’s mind around the fact that there are so many different varieties of cheese; nearly 1100 types of cheese were entered in the competition for Best of each of the many categories. We had cheese at every meal, yes including breakfast. And, there was cheese to eat at the sessions…you can’t discuss coffee and cheese pairing, or have a wine and cheese smackdown, without tasting the coffee, wine, beer and the cheese.

At lunch there would be a normal conference meal, plus a tray of cheese samples in the center of the table.

Wednesday evening was a “dine-around.” The conference arranged with about 10 Chicago restaurants to have a prix fixe meal with cheeses from one company paired with each of the multiple courses. We went to Bin 36. Beehive Cheese, from Utah, did the pairings. Their “Barely Buzzed” was a 2007 competition winner…hand-rubbed with Turkish grind and lavender buds. Fantastic food!

At the Meet the Cheesemaker session we went table to table talking with cheesemakers and eating their cheeses.

A 25th Anniversary of the ACS Reception featured…cheese! Tables and tables of cheese with an open wine and beer bar.

The finale was the Festival of Cheeses where all the cheeses were on display and the 2008 Award Winners were displayed with their ribbons. Eleven hundred kinds of cheese to eat in one room at one time! Tables heaped high with cheddars, bloomy rinds, blues, butters, fresh cheeses, chevres, sheep cheeses, on and on, all to admire and eat. There was even a skyline of Chicago carved in cheese, as the photo shows.

The photos will help you get the feel…but you really do need to be there. Seeing is neither smelling nor tasting nor believing.

The photo above is of the Festival of Cheeses. If you look hard you'll see all the tables hidden among all the eating people.

The photos below show:
  • The Pastoral Cheese Shop
  • The tour group eating lunch at South Merion Street Market and Cafe
  • Cheese being sorted at Russ and Meg's tour
  • Meg in her factory finery
  • Cheese drying

The photos below are:
  • many tables full of cheese to eat
  • The cheesey skyline