OLD FORGE The summer tourists are gone, but Old Forge hasnt quite rolled up the streets yet.
Old Forge is a quaint community nestled in the Adirondacks. Its main street is lined with tourist shops, eateries and the iconic Old Forge Hardware Store.
In the middle of it all theres a modest yet lovingly restored Victorian house thats home to Sisters Bistro. The restaurant was started four years ago by two sisters, Jeanne Selander Miller and Susan Hazard Rimato, both with the maiden name Selander real sisters!
Tables adjacent to the sidewalk await diners, as well as tables on the spacious front porch. But on a chilly evening recently, we chose to eat indoors. Its a charming setting of original dark woodwork, burgundy walls, crystal chandeliers, oil paintings, Oriental rugs and happy faces.
The main dining room includes a fireplace and several tables tastefully set with designer silverware and boasting hickory bark-on chairs with woven splint seats. Picture rustic sophistication an Adirondack eclectic design exuding warmth while creating an elegant ambiance.
If the food was as good as the decorating, we were in for a treat.
Our welcoming, cheerful server, Tracy, offered to start us with wine and cocktails. The wine list offers a fine selection of wines by the glass and even more variety by the bottle.
With summer left behind, the restaurant was paring down its menu slightly. In lieu of printed menus, Tracy read us the evenings offerings from a handwritten list tucked in her order pad and left the paper on the table for us to digest, so to speak.
We learned that the bistros food is more or less tapas style small plates but far from tiny, perfect for sharing. And the makeshift menu was true to form, offering about 20 items priced no less than $8 and no more than $15.
Two soups, a couple of salads, a flatbread, a cheese plate, bruschetta and hummus were offered, as well as a few dishes that could be considered light entrees, including choices of salmon, scallops, crab cakes, ahi tuna, duck and lamb.
Order entered, wine delivered. Let the culinary fun begin.
It began on a high note with the arrival of an amuse bouche, a tasty treat from the kitchen: red pepper tapenade with warm, bite-sized pita wedges to snack on with our drinks.
An autumn salad ($9) of bibb lettuce with apple slices, shredded carrots and blue cheese was lightly dressed with white balsamic vinaigrette and topped with a fig. A delightful combination of textures and flavors.
Roasted mushroom risotto ($8) was perfectly prepared and richly flavored, then presented in a sculptured white bowl with a high side and a swooped lower side cradling the creamy rice. It was simply delicious.
Soups included a vegetarian tomato bisque and an intriguing-sounding Terlingua chili.
I didnt want to sound dumb and ask what Terlingua chili was, so I discretely consulted my smartphone under the table and learned that theres an annual fall chili festival in Terlingua, Texas a festival that attracts more than 10,000 chiliheads.
The chili ($8) appeared as a rich, dark, rust-colored paste, obviously tomatoes and what must have been pureed beans. It was dusted with some grated Jack cheese and lacked visual appeal some chopped cilantro or green onion would have helped.
It was spicy but not too hot, and the overall consistency was a little weird, making the consensus at the table that this would be a rather odd entry in Terlinguas chili contest. Or any chili contest, for that matter.
Entrees were enticing, and with the knowledge that they were smaller-than-usual portions, we ordered a battery of contenders.
Crabcakes ($12) had a little more filler than we would have expected but nonetheless were very good, with an ingenious red cabbage and bacon slaw as the center of attention, flattering the crisped crab and breadcrumb cakes.
Duck breast ($14) was skillfully sliced into quarter-sized rounds and carefully placed over saffron rice and watercress. Without our asking, the duck was cooked to our liking, medium-rare. A sauce of bing cherries complemented the duck.
Shrimp and grits ($13) was a special the evening we were there. Three nicely sauteed shrimp were placed over grits flavored up with specks of prosciutto, green onions, corn kernels and cream, all very good.
Lamb chops ($15), three small chops from a rack of lamb, were presented at a medium temperature and were succulent, tender bites rubbed with Moroccan spices, showcased on a bed of couscous. The dish was taken a full step beyond the ordinary with the addition of a remarkable apricot sauce, apple pieces and sautéed shallots a real spectrum of flavors.
Pan-seared and baked salmon ($14) was a real winner, cooked about medium-rare, light as a feather and full of juice, packing a wonderful punch of flavor. It was paired with a mélange of thin-sliced fingerling potatoes, avocado and mandarin oranges. Scrumptious.
The entrees we sampled were all delicious, perfectly seasoned to accent their individual attributes, one great bite after another.
Desserts were a crowning achievement following a superb meal.
A mixed berry cobbler ($8) was lovely, berry rich, served warm, crusted with a granola topping and cooled by a dollop of berry sorbet.
A delicate strawberry-rhubarb sorbet ($8) was plated with mint leaves, a sweet taste of strawberry-rhubarb preserves and crunchy granola, all homemade and heavenly.
Truly outstanding was an upscale smore ($8) interpreted as a soft chocolate/gooey ganache-type brownie enveloped in a marshmallow-meringue-like cloud, broiled to a campfire brown and nestled on a bed of graham cracker crumbs.
Dinner for four came to $128.83 before tip.
Wines by the glass a way-better-than-average selection were priced at $7 to $9. We enjoyed an Educated Guess chardonnay from Roots Run Deep Winery and a zinfandel from Napa Cellars, both from vineyards in California.
Tracy provided great service throughout the evening. Questions were readily answered, wines were replenished and varied to suit the courses. Water glasses were kept full.
The sisters, Jeanne and Susan, didnt seem very associated with the kitchen as they strutted about the restaurant, greeting and meeting guests, making sure everyones dining experience was up to par.
The only snafu took place when the bill arrived. We were charged for five bowls of chili for a total of $46. First of all, $46 is not easily divisible by five and secondly, we only had one bowl of chili.
Tracy tried to explain the billing something about two of the desserts were not programmed into the computer and neither was the shrimp and grits special. So it all seemed to add up. But it was a slightly awkward finish to what was a darn near perfect evening in an exhilarating restaurant.
Following desserts, we retired to the quiet, gorgeous bar, where Midnight Mike, a bartender of local fame, was holding court, flanked by lovely stained glass and a rich wood-back bar. We enjoyed after-dinner drinks along with quiet conversation before we tackled the return trip over the weaving and winding Moose River Road.
Sisters Bistro is a veritable oasis of dignified, refined dining. All aspects of this restaurant appear well thought out and expertly executed. The setting and the food were as good as it gets for most north country restaurants, making it well worth the trip and well worth returning for more.
Make this spot a destination for a fall-foliage outing. You are guaranteed to enjoy both brilliant scenery and dynamic cuisine. But be sure to hurry Sisters will close for the season following Columbus Day weekend.
Burrville Cider Mill is open for the season. Watch them make their own sweet apple cider on their old-fashioned press, pick up some local cheese and local honey and their own homemade fudge. And apples. Lots of apples.
But dont miss out on their fantastic doughnuts, fresh from the fryer. I picked up a dozen of the cinnamon-sugar variety the week before last and there were only four or five left in the bag when I exited the parking lot.
Learn more at www.burr villecidermill.com.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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3046 Main St.
Old Forge, N.Y.
A veritable oasis of dignified, refined dining in a setting of rustic sophistication
FALL HOURS: Dinner served from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closing for season after Columbus Day weekend.
APPETIZER PICKS: Autumn salad, roasted mushroom risotto
ENTRÉE PICKS: Baked salmon, duck breast, lamb chops
DESSERT PICKS: Mixed berry cobbler, smore