1.03.2012

Chaumont V. Sackets?

If you’ve been reading Big Hungry Shelby with any regularity, you know that my Mom and I run the Miss Thousand Islands Pageant, and that our Miss TI this year is named Morgan Bocciolatt. You may not know that Morgan was born and raised in Chaumont, a tiny village on the shores of Lake Ontario that boasts many cottages and seasonal inhabitants. It also used to be home to That Borden Thing, one of the more renowned eateries in the Northcountry, though I never had the opportunity to eat there. On the premises of the dearly departed Borden now sits The Blue Heron, which is on my list of places to go sometime soon.
Another place on the Chaumont hit list is Wise Guys Pizza & Pasta. And the best part is, you would never know by driving by this place that it was worth a stop. The outside is utterly unremarkable: another generic pizza shop in a small town. If you’re smart (or hungry), you won’t let that plain exterior fool you: Wise Guys is real deal Italian served in a chic little setting just a stone’s throw from Lake Ontario. The cute dining room features faux-marble-topped tables, dark cherry wood, wrought iron accessories and lots of greenery.

Things get even better when you move along to the fare. I couldn’t resist the siren’s call of the specials chalkboard, which hawked sangria! I mean, if it has an exclamation point, who am I to refuse it? I suspect this red beauty’s base was lambrusco, and it was enhanced with a prodigious amount of sliced citrus fruit.


Sangria!

Both the salad and bread courses at Wise Guys are enough to write home amount. The bread, made onsite, has an incredibly soft crumb that you only get from hand-kneading. It was served warm, and made a happy home for the smear of butter with which I adorned it. Along with the salad came a fancy little bottle of house Italian dressing, unbelievably savory without the pronounced vinegar bite you so often get. This was either made with high quality balsamic, or some other alchemy is at work that I could not detect. The salad also boasted feta cheese for a salty punch, black olives, pepperoncini, onions and grape tomatoes over romaine lettuce. It was big, and it was delicious. So much more than you usually get from a plain, old restaurant side salad.


Salad extraordinaire

My Dad went with the special of the house: a pizza with sausage, pepperoni, peppers and mushrooms. Yum, right? Well, hold on to your britches. This is not just yummy, it is fantastic. The sausage is bursting with fennel and flavor, the tomato is assertive without being acidic, the crust is chewy yet light and just a little sweet, and the entire amalgamation is savory with a hint of oregano. Get in your car, drive to Chaumont, get this pizza. Seriously. Seriously? Seriously!


These guys are so wise

Mom chose the rigatoni with broccoli, which was served in an olive oil and garlic sauce with plenty of salty, rich parmesan and a hint of red pepper flake. The broccoli was bright green and crisp-tender, and the whole dish was soul-satisfying without being heavy.

Mama Mia

The piece de resistance, my beloved dish, was the DeAngelo pasta: tiny pasta purses graced with a velvety wine cream sauce, portobello mushrooms and sea scallops. This was a masterpiece; completely unexpected in such a tiny establishment. Usually, I only like my purses made by Coach, but these gorgeous little babies, filled with silky ricotta and a touch of nutmeg, kissed with the creamy marsala-like richness of the sauce, were perfection. The scallops were cooked properly, though they did still have the little connector muscles attached (the only flaw in the dish, as far as I was concerned). The earthy mushrooms and a touch of sliced scallions over the top countered all the lushness of the sauce, and the entire thing was delicious decadence.


I don’t know this DeAngelo, but I’d like to meet him

Wise Guys is doing things right, from everything I could tell. The pasta purses may not have been made in-house, but the bread and pizza dough are, the sausage on the pizza certainly tasted as if it was, and the fresh parmesan and house-made dressing elevated the whole meal to a much finer-dining plane. There is a good family feel to Wise Guys without any hint of pretension, but it’s still nice enough to take a date or your Grandma for her birthday. The Pepsi cooler near the front may be a little at odds with the funky, multi-shaped, mismatched serveware, but who cares when you’re eating this well? We scored Wise Guys an eight on the BHS scale, with a bullet. I swear, Chaumont is trying to rival Sackets Harbor for the “it” spot on our lovely Eastern shore of Lake Ontario. And on that fateful day, when Chaumont is the chic hot spot, the good people of Wise Guys will enjoy the fruits of all their labor.

But of course the real allure of Chaumont is its waterfront, and there’s no better way to enjoy that than securing a coveted invite to someone’s cottage. Because Morgan has been our titleholder since last August, and because my parents and I have done nice things for her like feed her breakfasts from Watertown’s Clubhouse and buying her pretty baubles, her parents invited us to dinner this past Saturday at their little slice of lakeshore Heaven on Three Mile Point.


Is this Heaven? No, it’s Chaumont

Mike and Julie, our gracious and fun hosts, insisted that I evaluate their spread for BHS. I tried to tell them I wasn’t judging their cooking for the blog, but they wanted to feel that Big Hungry Love, and who am I to refuse? Mike happens to be a maestro of meat, smoking a huge hunk of beef and slicing it thin, producing a juicy, intense roast-beef-like product that was scrumptious. Maybe, if we’re good kiddies, Mike will post a comment below and reveal his secrets to fabulous smoked beef. He also makes his own sausage, which Julie transformed into stuffed mushrooms that were earthy, juicy and cheesy – terribly good. She also chimed in with a bunch of delicious dips and sauces: guacamole, salsa, hummus, and particularly good black bean and corn salsa bright with cilantro, and a bodacious pesto Genovese that absolutely rocked spread on the multi-grain bread she served. It was a golden evening spent with lovely people, exactly the kind of hallmark-card occasion you wait for each summer. And exactly the kind of evening you pray to be invited to when you reside in land-locked Watertown or Binghamton!

I also had a disappointing dining experience while up in the Northcountry last weekend. While I have been a loyal, if not always frequent, patron of Tin Pan Galley for more than 10 years, this past Saturday was not their most shining hour. Mom and I stopped in Saturday, for lunch and to pick up a gift card for a pageant buddy. Arriving at 11:45, we were told it was still breakfast and we needed to make 12:30 reservations for a lunch seating. No problem, we had shopping to do on Sackets’ main drag. Returning at 12:30, we waited more than 15 minutes to be seated, while the visibly harried hostess attempted to transition from breakfast to lunch. But that quarter of an hour proved to be the lesser of our waits, as the clock stretched to 1:45 before our food was ever served. Typically, that food was impeccable and delicious, but honestly, we were so aggravated by that time, we were barely in the mood to eat it. By the end of July, any summer restaurant worth its salt should have a transition like this hammered out; Tin Pan wasn’t even all that busy for a Saturday. For the amount of buzz and press Tin Pan gets as the premier Sackets Harbor dining locale, I think better service is in order. But that’s just my two cents: My personality is big, my hunger is bigger!

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