Adirondack Lake Life — Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Big Wolf, NY

We arrived at the lake, the last destination and second half of our epic East Coast road trip, on the eve of Independence Day. It felt uniquely American, crossing the border from distinctly French Quebec, to be winding along northeast country roads, past farms and cottages and through quaint villages, adorned with American flags, one and all.

Sunset on the lake

Sunset on the lake

It had been raining on and off all week in the Adirondacks, and one of the first things I noticed walking the Buck Summerhill Camp at Big Wolf Lake was a mushroom — a surprising revelation for a summer day. On a July 4 morning walk, up with the sun, I found not only Lost Pond but also a bag full of mushrooms — including several birch boletes, some black trumpets and a single lovely porcini.

Big Wolf is a private lake, owned by the thirty-some residents with camps around the lake, some of whom have been coming here a really long time across several generations. Our pal Jon has been inviting us here for the past five or six years; his parents have been inviting us for nearly as long. It was time we finally came. Gliding across the glassy lake in grandma Nancy’s Slow Boat with a growler of Brooklyn Brewing Co. Summer Ale, we were glad we did.

Leslie and Immy sitting on the dock of the bay

Leslie and Immy sitting on the dock of the bay

Staying with us amongst the various houses and cabins at the Buck Camp were Jon’s kids (our kids’  best pals), his parents Chuck and Nancy, his brother Charlie and family, and Charlie’s parents-in-law, Bob and Joy. The afternoon we arrived, the latter duo were in the kitchen massaging a towering bowl of snowy white crab meat into generous and delicious crab cakes that would set the tone for a tasty time in the mountains of upstate New York.

I offered to cook as many dinners as they would let me during our eight days here. In addition, we would be trying the three cocktails I’d come up with for the Buck Camp entries into the Big Wolf 100th Anniversary Cocktail Contest — the Black Fly (blueberry juice, calvados, vodka, elderberry liqueur, lemon juice); the Micro Burst (bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup and sparkling water); and the Lake Effect (gin, calvados, tonic, apple juice and frozen cranberries). The Micro Burst would be my favorite of the three, a sort of North Country mojito.

Chuck Buck and the Lake Effect

Chuck Buck and the Lake Effect

We went shopping at the local IGA grocery store in Tupper Lake, where I found decent chicken and ribs, beef short ribs, frozen haddock from Iceland, some local pork breakfast sausage. On the way home, we also stopped at a new Natural Food co-op, a surprising development I’m sure for a depressed lumberjack town, and found more what I had been hoping for — beautiful thick pork chops from a local sustainable farm; grass-fed farm butter and cheeses; some fine charcuterie and fresh produce. Save for the fresh lake fish yet to be caught, I had everything I needed for several dinners.

Despite protestations from Jon who doesn’t like mushrooms and a tentative curiosity from the rest of the camp who’d never considered eating the fungus popping up around the property, my first night’s dinner put a spotlight on the wild mushrooms I’d found. An appetizer of braised beef rib tart with porcini and provolone was paired with a spring greens salad with bacon and candied pecans. The second course was some pan-seared haddock with a wild mushroom risotto and crispy onions. Charlie helped with the grilling of the marbly Adirondack pork chops, which I sliced and served atop toast points, foie gras mousse and butter-fried Macintosh apples with a maple butter. Dessert was a rhubarb tart with Madagascar vanilla bean gelato.

Pork chop with foie gras, apple and maple syrup

Pork chop with foie gras, apple and maple syrup butter

The next morning, we rose to the scent of Joy’s cloudlike popovers filling the great room. The rest of your day on the lake goes something like this: clean up from breakfast, watch the kids down by the lake, try your hand at waterskiing (and pull something in your thigh making regular walking difficult), figure out what to have for lunch, clean up from lunch, go down to the lake some more, maybe fall asleep on the couch with a magazine, pour yourself a beer from the tap and begin preparing dinner. In other words, a nearly perfect summer day.

There had been a request for barbecue, so I set to crafting a rub from the spice drawer. For my four racks of baby back ribs, I created two sauces — blueberry bourbon and maple tomato. Plain yogurt mixed with milk would stand in for buttermilk for some fried chicken, all of it served with a tasty brussel sprout slaw (they are just tiny cabbages, after all). But before the meat was grilled and the sprouts slawed, we had a delicious poutine made with leftover duck from our dinner at Au Pied de Cochon.

Leftover duck poutine

Leftover duck poutine

After-dinner conversation was winding around to which widowed octogenarian on the lake was dating which, and Jon motioned me to follow him. We set out onto the lake as the light was fading — a fine time for fishing. Mentioning fishing a few days earlier had set 5-year-old Imogen into her sushi dance. I explained to her that you didn’t eat freshwater fish for sushi. But that got me considering, and I decided I might be able to cure some bass or pike and make a lovely salad or appetizer to go with the big porterhouse and fresh tagliatelle pasta with wild mushrooms I had planned for the next night.

We would catch no fish, though the conversation was good and the setting beautiful. My cured lake fish would have to wait for another day.

Willa takes the lake

Willa takes the lake

*    *    *

The Micro Burst
makes one drink

1 oz. Knob Creek or other bourbon
1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. maple syrup
3 oz. sparkling water

Fill a highball glass with ice chunks. Pour in bourbon, lemon juice and maple syrup. Fill remainder of glass with sparkling water and stir. Garnish with a maple branch, if you’d like.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Jul 07, 2015 @ 14:19:03

    Hoping the weather clears and you have some lovely weather to accompany the eight days in upstate NY!


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  4. Barry
    Mar 05, 2019 @ 22:10:15

    Thanks for the story! Big Wolf is a magical place. I have been going for many years. What was the name of the “Natural food store” and was that in Tupper Lake?


    • scolgin
      Mar 06, 2019 @ 15:27:02

      Hi Barry,

      Ah, Big Wolf. Only those that know, know.

      I’m not sure the name of the natural food store, and it moved since I wrote the post you reference. We found it again this past summer, it’s out past the IGA on hwy 3. Okay, I just found it online, it’s called “The Health Hub Real Food Eatery & Market”. It’s run by some Amish or Quaker folks. Good locally grown produce.


      • Barry
        Apr 10, 2019 @ 17:20:00

        Thanks for the heads up! I will go there for sure. The IGA is okay, but I try to eat cleaner food when possible these days.
        We do a guy’s fishing trip each spring and are set for early May this year already. Most of us have been going for 20+ years. We never see the lake in all its summer glory as our trips are always preseason.
        A couple years ago I took the other half because she wanted to see this place, I considered my favorite place on earth. It was the week ending on the 4th of July. I had never seen the lake so “busy” and all those people enjoying themselves. We normally have the lake to ourselves. Well, when she was there it rained so hard for a couple of days, something like I had never experienced. When we could get out to take the dogs for a walk she was devoured by mosquitoes. Poor thing, she must taste better than I do. She had a horrible time and couldn’t wait get out of there even if it meant making out 7+ hour trip home. The camp owner even offered to let us stay the 4th weekend to make up for it. Of course, I was up for it, but she vetoed the idea, blaming work. I will try to get her back again maybe in early fall.

      • scolgin
        Apr 10, 2019 @ 23:50:38

        Hey Barry,
        Yeah, my wife has the same problem w/ mosquitos. She was shocked by the black flies the first year we went up there, which are typically gone by the time we get there but had hung on a bit longer. She has lots of experience with getting eaten alive in Mexico, though, so she’s pretty good now about taking precautions. We’ve been there the 4th both times we went out, and it’s a fun time, lots of fireworks, BBQs, boat cocktail hours, etc. If you’re ever up a little later, boat by the Buck camp and give a wave, they’re the second-to-last camp in the second inlet to the north. Sounds like you’ll be getting ready to go up soon — jealous! Cheers//s

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