In the Adirondacks, The Farmhouse Restaurant Does It All
Of the many great restaurants we discovered in the Adirondacks last Summer, there was one that really impressed me. It's owned by a husband/wife team with culinary backgrounds. They are fighting the odds against success in an off-the-beaten-track, five-year-old business. They strive to produce everything they serve, and when they cannot, they're committed to working with local sources to serve the best regional food available.
As with most small businesses, this team struggles with unrealistic time constraints, weather, and the vagaries of the economy. In their success, they represent destination dining at its finest.
A Family Operation
The Farmhouse at Top of the World Resort is located 2.5 miles up Lockhart Mountain Road, high above the heavily populated tourist destination of Lake George Village. Kevin London’s and Kimberly Feeney’s restaurant is in the gracious old main house of what was once a thriving farm.
Condominiums, a small B&B, and an 18-hole golf course on site, as much as the tourists in the valley below, assure sufficient traffic for their survival, but the seasonal nature of the other businesses allows them to be open only a few months a year.
They’ve got the restaurant down pat, but how to support a family, a chemical-free farm, and a CSA on a seasonal income remains a constant question. Because it’s all a family operation (Kim’s side of the family owns and operates the other businesses) the dynamics of everyone’s needs play a role in their success.
The Farmhouse faces a situation unique to its location, but shares a common goal: to serve the best locally grown food possible.
A Country Commute
During our visit the young couple drove us the half-mile to the cultivated acreage of the old farm. This is where the golf carts come in handy.
It is a beautiful commute beyond the bordering trees, through several holes of the golf course, to their greenhouse, barn and future home in the original tenant house now under much-needed renovation. They have almost two acres under cultivation. Next year, they plan to add more for better crop rotation and winter cover crops.
I am amazed at all they’ve decided to tackle in such a short time. They seem to have an unlimited supply of energy, enthusiasm and optimism. On top of all his other chores, Kevin just built a new electrified fence around his chicken-run to protect the 40 new free-range birds from marauding vermin. So far, even the hawk that was responsible for the loss of several fowl a few weeks before hasn’t been back, so it seems to be working.
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Growing Their Own Produce
We toured the greenhouse and checked on the seedlings coming along for planting, then went into the fields.
Kevin and Kim are growing 15 varieties of tomatoes, nearly all heirloom, and eight varieties of beans. Lettuce was getting ready to bolt, the leeks were ready to harvest, and the tomatoes ripened as a gentle rain fell.
Their one concession to time management allows them to purchase potatoes from nearby Sheldon Farms. Kevin feels the restaurant is about 90% sustainable now, but they both realize that tackling that last 10% is a formidable task.
In response to a question about when they might begin a family of their own, Kevin chuckled, "A few beef cows and some sheep would be nice first, but it took me four years to convince Kim we should bring in the chickens. We aren’t at a place where we can even consider kids."
Growing Is Their Business
"We met at Cornell," Kim told me. Her studies in Agricultural Economics are a perfect match for the task before them. "Kevin has some part-time help in the kitchen," she added. "We have about 30 hours of help each week in the fields, and everyone spends their free time weeding."
They can handle up to 110 meals a night, averaging 55 a night through their May-to-October season.
They work together smoothly. Kim harvested thyme and some Mexican cucumbers with only my hat to carry them in; Kevin ducked into the barn and brought out 25 fresh eggs, and, done foraging, took us back to the Farmhouse with a lapful of eggs and a hatful of vegetables. You can’t get any fresher, or more local, than that.
Ordering The Sampler Dinner
That evening we were seated in the large dining room at a table set with flowers, cloth napkins and placemats. The view out the many windows looked over the links.
Chef Kevin served us a creative series of small dishes from their sampler menu. The wine list was deep and impressive, heavy with good vintages from the best wineries around the world. The food was varied and delicious. Both the wine and the food reflect the high level of dining sophistication shared by his cosmopolitan patrons.
We started with a glass of a 2008 Gravino Bianco Botromagno from Puglia. It was young and fruity, perfect with an appetizer of prosciutto, homemade zucchini pickles, and black olives. The menu also recommends it for the scallops, and it served us well with the local farmstead cheeses.
Their Nettle Meadow Crane Mountain Chevre was plated simply, with dried figs, allowing the pure brie-like flavor to shine. Then we switched to an Italian red wine, a Ramitello Di Majo Norante, 2003. This smooth and full-bodied wine was strong enough to compliment the hearty dishes to follow.
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Home Cured Meats
The pork on the menu came from the Flying Pig Farm, in Shushan, NY. Chef Kevin butchers and smokes the meat himself, taking care to use every cut.
One interesting small dish was pork bellies served with a baby head of lettuce on slices of heirloom tomatoes. With the extra virgin olive oil, it tasted like a very refined BLT, only without the bread.
For an entree, the pork was cider brined, roasted and served with greens, carrots, and local heritage potatoes. The quality of the local pork, succulent both smoked and brined, made for fantastic dining! Each of the dishes was prepared and presented so well that it is impossible to declare a favorite.
CSAs & RSAs - Supporting Agriculture
Consumer Supported Agriculture groups (CSAs) and Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSA) share the same goals and have parallel philosophies; both foster farmers and a continuation of farming in their communities through the purchase and consumption of locally grown food.
Individuals can belong to a farm-run CSA, committing a fixed amount of time and money for a percentage of the harvest. Restaurants adopt the principles of RSA when they actively plan their menus around available local farm products.
The Farmhouse combines the best aspects of both CSAs and RSAs. Together, Kevin London and Kimberly Feeney prove how committed businesses can improve the quality of life in their communities as they serve some of the best locally grown food in the Adirondacks.
That philosophy will help to insure the survival of the farmers and the growth of sustainable communities.
Farmhouse Restaurant At Top of the World Resort
Lake George, NY
Lockhart Mountain Road
Harvest dinners are a family-style seven course tasting menu at a communal table. They are a great way to taste new food and meet new people. The price is $45 per person every Thursday at 7pm. Once a month we pair with wines at a Harvest Dinner and once a month we bring in a farmer.
The Farmhouse Restaurant -- Lunch will be served daily beginning on Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day. Dinner will be served Wednesday-Sunday
Wines: $5 - $9 glass / bottle $22 - $120
Sampler Dinner $55 (add $25 for wine pairing)
Appetizers $3 - $17
Entrees $19 - $32