You know when you first meet someone in a professional setting, and they start to say things that are the same things you believe not only in your mind, but also your heart, so much so that you begin to think of lines from Will Ferrell movies that you wouldn't ordinarily spit out in such a setting?
"Did we just become best friends?" Indeed. So when I interviewed Christian Ives, the new executive chef of the soon-to-open The Chateau at Saint Lawrence Spirits, and he peppered his responses with words like, "fresh cut potatoes," "candied bacon buttermilk ice cream," and "truffle consommé," I struggled to maintain my composure.
The new restaurant also occupies a building I've been dying to get inside for years: Fairview Manor on Rte 12E in Clayton. It's a structure out of a fairy tale, but set against the gorgeous River rather than in the English Countryside. I cannot wait to eat there, and talking to Chef Ives about his plans for the place did little to quell my impatience.
The Chateau is tentatively set to open this coming weekend, and it's bringing a true farm-to-table concept to NNY, something that's been tried and dabbled with, but not fully realized in that area quite yet. The owners of Saint Lawrence Spirits, Jody and Doreen Garrett, already had set up in this idyllic building, and have been restoring it since 2014. Now it's ready for its big reintroduction to the dining public.
"Since I first met wit the Garretts, we've stayed on track with our farm-to-table concept," said Chef Ives. "We are currently stocking native Rainbow Trout in one of the many ponds at the Garrett's Lucky Star Ranch for use in the restaurant. We're also looking into...what protocols we will have to follow to be able to utilize the red deer and whitetail deer from the ranch as well."
A commitment to using not only farm-raised proteins, but local game and fish is music to my ears, but what about the rest of the menu? Ives told me that 26 craft beers will be offered at The Chateau, most from New York breweries, and that his favorite dish on the new menu is the crispy pan-fried Lake Ontario walleye with wild forest mushrooms and braised leek risotto, served with truffle consommé and wilted frisée. Now that is some delicious sounding grub, but may be challenging for more conservative north country palates.
Chef Ives had an answer for this concern: "I've been offering menus of this caliber for years in the north country," he said. "Our brunch, lunch and dinner menus are priced in the same range as numerous local restaurants, and in some instances cheaper."
I want to drive home that point, because while a lot of local restaurants are taking all the help they can get from the food service truck, Ives and his team are crafting their food from scratch, including house made chorizo and breakfast sausages, ice creams, mozzarella, and a lobster bisque that requires 48 hours of cooking time over four days. So do your research before you assume that fine dining means a heftier check than you'll incur at a national chain.
Like fresh ground burgers made from Angus beef? Ives has got your back. Pining for a tasting menu close to home? He's planning one and will even customize it to your table. Love foie gras and don't want to go all the way to Montreal for your fix? Try The Chateau's foie pate with black pepper lavash, caramelized onion chutney and lavender scented duck egg ice cream with sauternes wine.
I talked to Ives about consistency in his kitchen, the lack thereof something I've found to plague Upstate NY restaurants. He told me that he and his seasoned crew have worked together for years, and he will personally be on the line and tasting his cooks' food throughout service. He intends to work brunch service and lunches as well until the kitchen is running up to muster. I like that kind of commitment; it's what it takes to do it right.
I won't be able to get up to The Chateau to try it for a few weeks, but if any of you hit it up before then, please let me know! Chef Ives and I may never have met, but if culinary kismet is a real thing, and these dishes turn out to be as delectable as they sound, I suspect we'll be fast friends.