Loons, Leccinum & Leftovers — Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Big Wolf, NY


It was our fifth night at the Buck Summerhill Camp in Big Wolf. And they were sick of my cooking, I could tell.

“We’re going to have a fridge tilt tonight!” Nancy announced, explaining the camp tradition of a big dinner to clear out leftovers and uneaten stuff. “So you can have a night off.”

I imagined them whispering in the bedroom:

Nancy: “Can you possibly choke down another of his ‘gourmet’ dinners??”

Chuck: “OMG! I’d give my left kneecap for a simple plate of pasta or a hunk of meatloaf.”

Black trumpet mushrooms found on my morning walk

Black trumpet mushrooms found on my morning walk

More likely than not, they really were just wanting to give me a break. But I had stuff planned to cook that evening: a thick porterhouse, some beef marrow bones, little potatoes I’d intended to smash and cook in some bacon fat, tagliatelle I’d rolled out and cut, and a glorious bunch of mushrooms — black trumpets, boletes, leccinum…

However, the night off was welcome — particularly with an ice cold Black Fly, the final of our three entries into the Big Wolf Centennial Cocktail Contest, expertly mixed just like the instructions said by Chuck  — and I would have other opportunities to use up my groceries, including an upcoming visit from pals Paul and Lori fortuitously up from Florida exploring the Adirondacks at the same time as us (stalking a good meal, perhaps?).

*    *    *

We headed to Lake Placid where we gazed in terror at the Olympic ski jump and watched a young skating hopeful flop her double lutzes and get an animated recrimination from her Bond-villainesque Soviet-era Russian coach at the Olympic skate facility.

On the way home, we stopped at the Little Italy pizzeria in Tupper Lake, where I met local lumber guy Tim Larkin at the bar while we waited for our table. He showed no reaction to my close-encounter-with-a-bear story, told us about growing up in the Adirondacks in a family of nine kids, recalled the three moose he’d seen in his five decades living in Tupper Lake and the luge event he’d attended at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, and offered up his desire to one day visit California to see the giant redwoods and the Golden Gate Bridge. “Yep,” he finished, “that’s about it,” raising his beer to me, and our conversation turned to the Greek debt crisis.

Jon with his beaver stick, hunting the glacial erratics

Jon with his beaver stick, hunting the glacial erratics

The following evening, after whipping the kids about the lake on a tube and exploring more of the surrounding woods in search of glacial erratics, I cooked my planned dinner. Jon had taken the boys out fishing, and they’d come back with two beautiful fish — a yellow walleye, and a mystery fish.

“I’m not sure what it is,” Jon said. “A guy told me it might be a sucker fish.”

Flynn and his mystery fish

Flynn and his mystery fish

I cleaned and filleted the two fish. The perch meat, a beautiful pearly white, I set in a dish with salt and dill to cure for the following day.

The mystery fish I cut into segments and dusted with flour. Pan-fried in butter, it would make the perfect canvas for a sauce of scallions and the fresh black trumpet mushrooms I’d found earlier in the morning. The fish was delicious, light and flaky — I would recommend it to you, but I still don’t know what it was.

Mystery fish with black trumpets

Mystery fish with black trumpets

Tagliatelle with porcini and beef bone maple sauce

Tagliatelle with porcini and beef bone maple sauce

The rest of the meal consisted of toast batons with beef marrow and fried cilantro, the tagliatelle I’d made a few days before with fresh porcini mushrooms and a beef bone maple sauce, and grilled porterhouse steak with smashed fingerling potatoes and crispy asparagus.

Our last full day in Big Wolf was finally at hand. Today, we would hang around camp, do water sports, hit the beer tap in the afternoon, maybe drive into town and see if we could catch some of the opening ceremonies of Woodsmen’s Days or catch a glimpse of the carnies dining at McDonald’s. For dinner, Nancy was hoping I might teach her an easy camp dinner that she could repeat in the future — the local IGA market had good lamb, she told me. And I began to contemplate that.

A butterfly on Coney Mountain

A butterfly on Coney Mountain

As our time in the Adirondacks drew to a close and we prepared for our scenic drive through Vermont back to Boston, I thought about some of the things that were different here than at home in Topanga, California, things I would remember most: the unearthly coyote-like nocturnal howls of the loons; early morning mist hovering on the glassy lake; eating wild blueberries on a mountaintop with Imogen; boating around the lake after a mating pair of bald eagles; beaver dams and chewed trees; biting black flies that made bleeding incisions in your skin; my close encounter with a large black bear while mushroom hunting (“You’re not planning on taking those, are you, partner?” I imagine the bear saying, inexplicably in a Southern drawl); carnivorous pitcher plant-lined frog-filled bogs; water, water everywhere.

Most of all I would miss Chuck and Nancy, their beautiful Summerhill Camp, the gracious hospitality that enables slow time spent together to transform into the magical amber of memories.

Frog in a bog

Frog in a bog

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Jul 10, 2015 @ 13:57:42

    Great post as usual Sean. Glad you all are well and enjoying your East vacay!


  2. Bruce
    Jul 10, 2015 @ 18:01:52

    What a magical experience for everyone.


  3. pal-O
    Aug 06, 2015 @ 22:42:30

    The Gin & Tonics were terrific and the cabin company that night delightful! How wonderful that we all converged on one place for one evening with out even a thought to a plan–just the casting of fortune by the god of good friends!


  4. Trackback: The Immortal Cheesesteak | skinny girls & mayonnaise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: