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DANO’S AND SUZANNE FINE REGIONAL CUISINE
 
December was a good month for fine dining on Seneca Lake. Two of my favorite chefs put on great feasts. On December 6th Dano hosted a Turkish Night with his friend Oya Reiger working along side. She is a very talented Turkish cook and put on an elaborate spread of authentic dishes. Many of the ingredients needed to be special ordered and so there is little hope of every recreating this feast. Some of the highlights were a carrot dip made with cooked carrots, mint and yogurt that was unique and delicious. That was served at the table with homemade Dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and olives. Following was a creamy red lentil soup cooked with a special bulgur and mint butter. The only complaint was that it came in a tiny tea cup. It was perfectly spiced and flavorful.
 
The main buffet had an assortment of salads, a lamb stew and a chicken prepared in a walnut sauce. Everyone had favorites but I particularly liked the butternut squash borek with black sesame: a stuffed fried pastry which was creamy, sweet, salty and crispy all at once. Dessert was also buffet style, fortunately since it would have been impossible to decide. This way I could try everything and all were amazing and totally new taste experiences. My favorite was a semolina cake with orange and  lemon. The cake had been soaked in the citrus juice which resulted in a moist cake bursting with  flavor. I’m sure very few people have enjoyed a strudel of carrot, quince, chickpea and pine nut with orange honey. Not easy to describe but delicious nonetheless.
 
Dano and Karen really know how to throw a party. Their food is always delicious: creative and expertly prepared often with local seasonal ingredients. The original Turkish music was performed by Atakan Sari and friends and contributed nicely to the festive cultural experience. Keep checking their website and you’ll find that Dans’s Heuriger on Seneca offers several special dining events a year. 
 
Suzanne from Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine also puts on quite a show at her yearly Winemaker Dinner. Last years’ was so good that I made sure to sign up early for her December 12th Dinner this year with guest winemaker Steve Shaw from Shaw Vineyard. Shaw’s is a relatively newcomer on the winery scene but he is certainly among the top winemakers and one to keep a close eye on. 
 
Suzanne offered some nice appetizers as we waited to be seated. The Old Townsend home was built in 1903 and has been lovingly restored into this elegant, warm and cozy restaurant with panoramic views of Seneca Lake. I was particularly enamored of the tiny crab cakes, some of the best I’ve every eaten. I asked Suzanne how they were made and she divulged the secret was a mousse of heavy cream, shrimp and a touch of gin is the binder that holds the crab together. No peppers or breadcrumbs to dilute the crab flavor. Once seated we were first served a creamy butternut squash soup that was poured into your soup bowl that had been adorned with ginger shrimp. The soup was outstanding and I will be posting a close version of the soup that I made at home a few days later. A 2005 Reisling was served with this course and though it was not a “dry” it actually was as dry as most of the dry Rieslings one finds in the Finger Lakes: a very good pairing and an excellent wine
     The next courses: a porcini dusted diver scallop with an herb potato crisp and cauliflower puree with a red wine butter sauce was a beautifully composed work of art, each element perfectly cooked. Scallops do not get better than this. Suzanne found extraordinary Baja diver scallops from California for this dish. The 2002 Chardonnay again was a very nice pairing.
 
The Pinot Noir (2002) was a wonderful surprise. It had body and complexity not usually found in Finger Lakes reds. It paired beautifully with the grilled quail with fig risotto, another elegantly prepared dish with a wonderful rich flavor. For dessert we had a warm chocolate cake with Belgian Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla bean ice cream. Suzanne’s desserts are all spectacular to see and to taste. This did not disappoint. 
 
I would strongly recommend keeping your eyes open for these special chef dinners. It provides an opportunity for chefs to showcase their talents and it makes for a special  evening of feasting.
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