An Adirondack Culinary Tale: Part Two

The most important factor for these early visitors when it came to food was quantity. Temporary or permanent, young or old, these early Adirondack residents worked hard and required lots of calories to stay productive.

Paul Sorgule

In the mid-1800's, transportation to the Adirondack Region was not easy. Of the few roads in place, many were mere dirt paths. Traveling on horseback was prevalent and challenging.

At this time, most of the visitors to the region were either lumberjacks or guides for the adventurous fishermen and hunters coming to the region for sport. The food that these rough-and-ready woodsmen consumed was hearty and simple: fish fresh from Adirondack streams, venison from a recent hunting trip, and a few staples from the more civilized areas of the northeast.

The most important factor for these early visitors when it came to food was quantity. Temporary or permanent, young or old, these early Adirondack residents worked hard and required lots of calories to stay productive.

By the end of the 19th century, a few crusty individuals decided to hunker down and build destination hostels, hotels and resorts to provide creature comforts in the middle of the wilderness.

These hoteliers included Paul (Apollos) Smith, who built The Paul Smith Hotel – later to become one of the country's first colleges for hospitality and forestry – and Melvil Dewey of The Lake Placid Club fame. These resorts allowed affluent urbanites to "rough it" while enjoying many of the amenities available in cities. Trains would bring visitors to their northernmost stations, and from these outposts, the journey continued by stagecoach and, in some cases, by guide boat or canoe.

Dining at these resorts remained true to the culinary foundations established at the logging and fishing camps of just a few decades prior. Hearty comfort food became the quintessential Adirondack cuisine, a culinary approach that can still be found at restaurants throughout the Park.

Adirondack Hospitality, A Centuries-Old Tradition

Trout, venison, and duck; roasts, braised meats, smoked meats; fresh breads, homemade pies, and wild blueberry pancakes are common staples on many Adirondack restaurant menus. But in recent years, the modern culinary scene in the Adirondacks has been elevated to new heights. A migration of exciting culinary talent is raising the bar without sacrificing tradition.

Today, the Adirondacks are alive with an evolving food culture that is unique, exciting and full-flavored.

 The essence of Adirondack cuisine is morphing with the addition of contemporary presentations, the farm-to-plate movement and the integration of locally raised vegetables, meats, and artisan cheeses. The new standard in the Park is elegant comfort food.

It could be argued that the Adirondack Region would not be the destination it is today without hoteliers like Smith and Dewey, and their introduction of hospitality to the area. Menus from restaurants invite today's visitors to explore the Adirondacks, from Blue Mountain Lake to Ticonderoga, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. It is this hospitality that continues to welcome millions of visitors to the Park.

This is the place for chefs, cooks and diners alike. Visit the Adirondacks and nestle up to our tables. Come hungry and come often.

Take a look at some of the other posts in the series "An Adirondack Culinary Tale: Part One" and "An Adirondack Culinary Tale: Part Three"

Find more to tantalize your tastebuds at: and

Photos courtesy of Kristin Parker Photography and Curtiss Hemm.

About the Author …
Paul Sorgule
Paul Sorgule is a seasoned veteran of the food business and the current president of Harvest America Ventures, a consulting and training firm for the restaurant industry. He lives in Saranac Lake with his wife, Sharon, where they raised three kids.
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