A Mixed Bag for Summertime

What are you doing this weekend? My parents and I, along with the Ferrises of Watertown and the Schindlers of Cape Vincent, are trekking to Albany to root for Miss Thousand Islands Kristina Ferris and Miss TI’s Outstanding Teen Kaili Schindler as they vie for the state titles of Miss New York and Miss New York’s Outstanding Teen, respectively. I’m hoping to eat here and here while we’re out there, so I can tell you all about the tasty treats in our state capital.
But what I’m hoping you’re doing this weekend is finding a primo spot on a deck somewhere with a view like this:

…knock back a few icy beverages and some good grub. The weather on Friday night is supposed to be gorgeous…74° and sunny, so make the most of it! If you live in Watertown, Lowville, Lafargeville, or Adams, and it’s been awhile since you’ve been to the River or the Lake, for shame!! Northern New York is blessed with some of the most beautiful topography in the state – why aren’t you enjoying it? LOOK AT THAT SUNSET. There are plenty of places where you can sit, breathe, eat and drink in that unique waterfront bliss.

One of those places is Bill Saiff’s Westview Lodge, in Henderson Harbor. Henderson is one of my favorite spots on the Lake, from way back, but the restaurant scene there is not so hot this year. The Gill House is currently closed, as is the joint across the street from the Westview. The fishermen who crowd into HH in the summer must be desperate for good eats! My parents and I hit up the Westview last Saturday night. We had just finished hosting the send-off party for our Miss TI contestants, and were craving rest and relaxation with our dinner. We got that – with hearty portions of food and friendly wait staff to boot.

The Westview Lodge, as you can see from the photo above, has prime real estate with a western view (DERR) of Lake Ontario. It also has ample deck seating, as well as a big bar and plenty of indoor dining. The menu is predominately seafood, including local trout, but also includes burgers and Italian. I talked Dad into starting with the steamed clams, which I’m sorry to say were not the best choice (Mom totally warned me, to her credit). Out of the portion of 12 we were served, five were not open, which means they never should have been served to us in the first place. Our waiter was a great sport and fetched us another serving, but these, too, were poor. You might want to skip this option, no matter how tempting steamers seem on a gorgeous night overlooking the water. I’m thinking the cook on duty that night must not have watched the hours upon hours of Food Network I have in the last few years, or he would have known better.

He totally redeemed himself with our next course, which was New England clam chowder. I was literally shocked with how good this was – and he served us huge bowls instead of little skimpy cups, before our dinners! The chowder was not overly thick – a sure sign that potatoes and reduced cream are the thickening agents rather than flour – and the flavor was given a kick in the side with huge chunks of bacon. It’s BACON! Yay! It was clamy without being fishy, and creamy without being loaded with too many potatoes. This is a must-have at Westview.

Mom enjoyed her cheeseburger, which was on a nice, toasted roll. She wanted me to tell you that it was juicy and cooked perfectly, and that the cheese was melted. Apparently, Sue doesn’t like it when the cheese on her cheeseburger is just plopped there, all cold and sad. Dear hamburgers of the world, when you see my Mom coming, melt your cheese, please. I will also tell you that the burger was nice and thick, which is kind of a rarity in a casual bar and grille, where you’re usually getting those frozen disks of beef-like wonder that have little to do with real burgers. I thought her fries looked kind of lackluster, and for sure, they came from the freezer, but both she and my Dad insisted they had good flavor. Not hand-cut, and they could have taken another minute in the fryer for some extra golden love, but not a miss, either.

The menu told me that The Westview has the best prime rib in the county. Well, would I be Big Hungry Shelby if I didn’t test that out? I ordered mine medium, and honestly, it didn’t look like much when it came to me. The au jus was in a tiny little plastic cup perched on top of the slice, and it all looked a little sad. Boy, can looks be deceiving! The huge slab of delicious meat was moist, tender and super flavorful. I went through that tiny sip of juice in record time, and our kindly waiter got me a proper cup of it – I was pleased. It was probably a 12 or 13 oz portion, and I think it was $16.99? A great value. Unfortunately, the baked potato on the side, which I consider a must-have with prime rib, wasn’t as well cared for. It was undercooked for me. A baked potato should be fluffy inside, with a crispy-baked outer skin. This guy just seemed a little neglected, and it took me some time to work in the appropriate amount of butter and sour cream – precious time I could have been using to enjoy my delicious entrée!

Dad went for the gusto and got the fried perch – this was, after all, his Father’s day dinner! Way too much food for one mortal to eat, his plate was heaped with strips of golden local freshwater fish and French fries. He reported satisfaction with the moist fish, even as he rolled his eyes at the sheer amount of food. All in all, while the food was a bit inconsistent, the environment was so blissful and relaxing, we were smiling like fools.

Never mind how zaftig I look in this photo – I have been on constant business travel in balmy Austin for the past month, and my treadmill is weeping from neglect.

Now, on to other summertime niceties…should you find yourself this season on a deck you are lucky enough to own yourself, you may wish to create your own festivities via a delicious and intoxicating beverage. I’m sad to say I cannot take credit for this recipe myself. I believe it originated with a certain Food Network queen of semi-homemadeness. All the same, at this point, I’ve made them enough that I think I can pass it along to you with copyright immunity. Behold, my friends, this is Beergarita:

1 can frozen limeade – don’t thaw
1 can silver tequila (not premium – I like Cuervo Traditional for this)
2 bottles Corona beer
Lime juice, to taste

Don’t wait for the limeade to thaw – and once you’ve dumped it in a pitcher, just fill that same can right on up with tequila. Add in the two beers, and you’re on your way to a good time. Look, there’s no need to discuss how many pitchers of these I’ve taken part in over the last three years, all that’s important is that they’re light, refreshing, fizzy, icy…the perfect summertime beverage. I know the beer and tequila together sound dangerous, and if the new dent in my Blackberry and the huge bruise on my shin are any indications, that would be a correct assumption. Try them anyway. You can thank me tomorrow, or maybe the next day?

So enjoy yourself this weekend. Find a table overlooking the bounty of our homeland, grab the most refreshing bevvie you can find, surround yourself with people you like, and just sit for a couple hours. It’s the Big Hungry way, dotcha know? My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!!

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