The French Connection

Four thousand miles due east from the Adirondacks and three hours south of Paris lies the sleepy little village of Entrains-sur-Nohain, a culinary enclave that inspired chefs from across the region.

Paul Sorgule

Four thousand miles due east from the Adirondacks and three hours drive south of Paris lies the sleepy little village of Entrains-sur-Nohain. Walk down the cobblestone streets with a sampling of small shops, bars, boulangeries, a patisserie, and a 14th century church, and you will come upon a stone house with a very familiar name: The Maison des Adirondacks. An unlikely vision in the middle of France, this 16th century pension (a guest house or boarding house) has a strong connection to the Olympic region.

The Maison des Adirondacks served as home base for ten years to nearly 200 people from the Adirondacks as they studied the culture and cuisine of France, worked in Burgundian restaurants, and helped with the vendange (harvest of the grapes) at some of the world's most famous vineyards.

A few of those culinary travelers remain part of the food landscape in our communities. They network through the Sister Cities relationship between Saranac Lake and Entrains sur Nohain, and as a result, there are strong French food influences evident at restaurants and cafés across the Adirondacks.

Life at The Maison

For the ten years of active exchange between the Adirondacks and France, visitors could watch travelers making Boudin Noir (black pudding) with Chef Stefan in his Entrain butcher shop, dine at three-star restaurants such as Chef Marc Meneau's L'Esperance, or enjoy a glass of perfectly balanced Daniel Choutard Sancerre – all touched by culinary students from the Adirondacks.

This life-changing experience translated to the restaurants, hotels, bakeries and wine shops of the Olympic region. Jarrad Lang, chef of the Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa, reflects on his French experience every day through the Inn's AAA Four-Diamond menu, Andrea DeGain, sous chef of Chair 6, places her memories of Burgundian food on every plate that leaves this quaint bistro's kitchen, and Chef Tim Loomis excites the palates of locals and visitors with his classic, yet cutting edge interpretations of French dishes and house made charcuterie at Liquids & Solids. Even the healthy culinary musings at the Scape Café in the Green Goddess Health Food Market are the result of the skills that Chef Kim Scarpa gained working with the traditional ingredients of France.

And there are those who still have one foot in France, including Terry Robards, the former wine critic for the New York Times and owner, with his wife, of Terry Robard's Wines and Spirits, as well as and Roger Steinbrueck, a former Lake Placid chef who graduated from the famous Cordon Bleu in Paris. He and his wife now operate Scott's Florist of Saranac Lake.

Meet Me at the Left Bank Café

The centerpiece of the Adirondacks' French connection, and home to the Sister Cities Association, is the Left Bank Cafe in downtown Saranac Lake. Owned and operated by Kenneth and Noelle Weissberg of Paris, who are the caretakers of the Maison des Adirondacks, this café is a step back in time. Walking through their door is reminiscent of entering a bistro in Paris, and one almost expects to see Toulouse-Lautrec enjoying an absinthe, or Hemingway and James Joyce deep in discussion. The food, of course, is pure French comfort foods and the wines, on occasion, come from the very vineyards where our Adirondack student ambassadors picked grapes and broke bread with the winemakers.

Visit our French connection chefs, and by all means stop by the Left Bank Café and ask for Anne Alsina, the manager and culinary mentor. She will have plenty of stories from France, the country that holds her heart. You might even see me at the bar with a cappuccino and crepe. Join me and experience the rare treat of feeling like you're in France, in the Adirondacks!

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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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