Aug 25, 2010

Visiting Sackets Harbor in the Winter

There are times when I find a tourist destination is more enjoyable in the off season. In December John and I spent a night at Ontario Place Hotel in Sackets Harbor. The village was even more picturesque in the snow. We opted to have a chef come into our room to cook our dinner. The hotel has several rooms with kitchens suitable for an ensuite chef. Chef Jim prepared a wonderful meal of filet mignon. It was just one of several options on the menu. It was great not having to leave the room and leave the cooking to someone else. It is the perfect option for a special getaway not far from home.

I love it when old buildings are saved and put to a new use. The building that houses Ontario Place hotel was built in the early 1920s as a dog biscuit factory but by the 1970s it was used as a date packing plant. The dates were imported from Iran until the Shaw of Iran lost power and an embargo prevented importation of dates so production was moved to California where the dates were also grown. The structure stayed empty until it was purchased by one of the present owners and turned into a hotel. Today it is completely owned by the Maxon family.

We have been places where ensuite chefs are available but never in the United States so we were surprised to find one so local. I always like cooking related experience when we are traveling. Cooking classes are available in many hotels in foreign countries but hard to find in the United State. Locally River Edge Mansion in Pennellville offers cooking demonstrations.

Genesee Country Village and Museum has Pioneer Family weekends when visitors dressed in period costumes prepare their meals over open hearth. They also have cheese making, confectionery cooking, and wild game cooking experiences.

New York State has a great food-related history. It is where Jell-O, Thousand Island Dressing, and Buffalo Wings originated. They are world famous. Many people are surprised to find that there is a Jell-O museum. It is located in LeRoy where “America’s Most Famous Dessert” began in 1845 when Peter Cooper patented a gelatin product. It didn’t become popular until a fellow townsman bought the patent for $450 and sent out salesmen in fancy horse drawn rigs to promote this new product. He found that knocking on the back door while the housewife was preparing a meal was the best way to promote the easy dessert that was easy to prepare. Wings, usually designated for the soup pot, became a favorite snack when late one Friday night in 1964, friends of Dominic Bellissimo arrived hungry while he was tending bar at the Anchor Bar Restaurant. Teressa, Dominic’s mother, deep fried the chicken wings and flavored with her secret sauce. Buffalo wings were an instant hit.

According to local legend Sophia LaLonde, the wife of 1000 Islands fishing guide, developed Thousand Island Dressing. It became a favorite of local residents including George C. Boldt, owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York and of Boldt’s Castle fame. Boldt instructed that it should be included on the menu at his hotel thus introducing it to the world.