Touring the Thousand Islands with Miss TI

A couple weeks ago, my parents and I welcomed our new Miss Thousand Islands, Lonna McCary, up to Watertown for a get-to-know-you weekend, and also, for her headshot sitting with new photography sponsor Priscilla James of High Key Photo. Because my trips up to the Northcountry have been hampered this year by near-constant travel, I couldn’t miss getting out and about and reviewing a tasty spot for my Big Hungries, of course.

We kicked off the weekend with dinner at The Fireside at Partridge Berry Inn with old friends. I use the term “dinner” loosely, as it was simply terrible. My goodness, how this place has gone downhill the past two years! Consider this fair warning: don’t eat there.

We also had a chance to tuck into some solid breakfast fare at The Clubhouse at a meet and greet for Lonna, with a bunch of our Miss TI pageant peeps. Several of our former beauty queens joined us, and we crowned our new Star Princess, Veronica Neff:

Who says upstate girls aren’t gorgeous?

After that, it was a stop at the wonderful A Touch of Grace shop to peruse pageant gowns with Lonna and bridal gowns with my sis, Mary, followed by a fun jaunt to Alex Bay and a ride aboard Uncle Sam Boat Tours with Lonna and her sweetheart Joe.

High atop Boldt Castle, Miss TI surveys her queendom

After all that fun, we met up with my parents at The Edgewood Resort for dinner at Oscar’s Harborside, a restaurant I hadn’t given a thought to in about 10 years, but which has received some good press this summer. Granted, we’re now well past summer’s golden season, but the views just a couple weeks ago were yet unmarred by winter’s icy grip, so you may yet have a few weeks to fit this in.

I won’t set you up for undue excitement. Oscar’s is not setting the world on fire with its pristine dining room and cutting edge cuisine. However, Edgewood’s mix of Adirondack chic and TI-tinged nautical bric-a-brac is comfortable, and as usual, you just can’t beat a view of the St. Lawrence River. The menfolk and I chose the prime rib buffet for our dinners, while Lonna and Mom ordered off the regular menu, giving us a good sampling of Oscar’s offerings at our table.

We started with a plate of pretty solid flatbread, abundantly cheesy and kissed with fresh basil and garlic. This dish went a long way in making up for our flaky waitress, who flubbed wine orders, completely confused Mom and Lonna concerning whether or not their meals came with a salad starter, and had no idea what beers were on tap. She was spacey, but nice, I guess. I will say that every other member of the staff I encountered went out of their way to try and be helpful and courteous.

You don’t see a lot of salad bars these days. They’ve gone the way of ashtrays, Tang and phone booths, I guess. Chefs want to make you a salad themselves, combining de rigeur spring mix with tomatoes shipped in from Chile, a couple insipid cuke slices, impossibly wee strands of julienned carrot, and either some sliced almonds or dried cranberries given a cursory dollop of the all-pervasive balsamic vinaigrette. I wish what we had instead were more modern, tricked out salad bars, with various greens, some Mediterranean olive bar-inspired toppings, and lighter, homemade dressings. Alas, Oscar’s was fairly plain. No bacon bits or cheese, even, just a bare bones selection of iceberg lettuce, sliced, canned black olives, tomato wedges and the like. My vegetable beef soup, also on the buffet, was better – a nice tomatoey beef base, not too salty, with tender crisp vegetable chunks.

Instead of grabbing my prime rib off the buffet, I took advantage of our hostess’ offer to special order a medium-rare slice from the kitchen. It was cooked perfectly, and hit all the proper prime rib notes: yummy, beefy, salty. I’ve had better, and much, much worse (Ahem, Fireside), but this passed muster quite nicely.

Mom had had an alfredo primavera dish at a special event she attended at Oscar’s in June, and while that exact dish wasn’t on the menu, and our waitress had a bit of difficulty understanding what Mom was requesting, she ultimately liked it very much. The alfredo was more of a cheese-enhanced veloute sauce, lighter and less cheesy than a traditional alfredo, but still velvety and rich. It may have been finished with a touch of sherry or brandy, and the pasta was pleasingly al dente. The well-seasoned vegetables in this were standouts: big chunks of wild mushrooms, fresh broccoli and zucchini – no frozen veg used here. Bonus points for that, because so many kitchens are taking that shortcut today, and it’s a disservice to us Americans who need more vegetables in our diets.

Miss Lonna ordered the gnocchi, and I don’t know if it was house-made, but it was among the more successful of restaurant-variety gnocchi: big and tender, like potato pillows. The red sauce enveloping them was earthy, well-seasoned and chunky.

Well-seasoned and chunky would be a hilarious album title

You know what marks a good buffet, when you come right down to it? Good bread and good desserts. Oscar’s has both, and I found myself partaking not only in the cheesy flatbread I showed up above, but also some soft, yeasty rolls on the buffet. The dessert buffet was replete, verging on grand. I sampled the pecan pie, which has an almost maple flavor to the corn syrup layer, which gave it a pleasant twist.

Earth-shattering, ground-breaking, avante garde gastronomy is not to be found at Oscar’s Harborside. There are no fried chicken skins here served with housemade hot sauce. Then again. I’m not sure a menu full of parmesan foams and beef disguised to look like a rock would really play in Alexandria Bay, NY. I did, however, overhear a man at the table next to ours declare, “This is the best meal I’ve had at the River this year!” While I wasn’t blown away, per se, my fellow diners were happy, each giving Oscar’s a seven on the BHS scale, while I’m going with the somewhat more muted six. There’s good, solid food to be had here, and it’s above average on the Northcountry scale, but I really would have liked to see more thought put into the salads, and better service would have helped.

Let me state for the record that the veggie mix, on the left, was really delicious

I am heading up to Watertown this weekend, Big Hungries, so hopefully we can squeeze in a visit to the new Italian place on Arsenal St., or maybe The Gill House, if it’s still open? Or maybe I’ll throw caution to the wind and go for an old favorite I haven’t visited yet this year, like CafĂ© Mira or the Hops Spot, which is now doing what I suspect is a killer Sunday brunch. In any event, I can’t wait for next week’s post, in which I’m taking you with me to Amsterdam (in Holland, not NY) for a series of international delights, followed by my review of a dinner with my colleagues at a delightful martini bar and upscale comfort food joint in Manchester, NH. And don’t forget you can always catch up with my global gallivanting on our Big Hungry Shelby Facebook group or @BigHungryShelby on Twitter. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Oscar's Harborside on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment