Before the rest of the bridal party joined us, Mary and I did lunch at Tin Pan Galley, in Sackets, but I’m actually going to elaborate on that at the end of the post, since it’s the most traditional, review-adjacent portion of the post today. In the mid-afternoon, we all gathered at The Point Bar at Bonnie Castle Resort for some food, drinks, and an informal shower for Mary. They put us in a quiet, riverfront corner, doors open to the water, and served an impressive spread:
As the organizer, I chose the food off Bonnie castle’s expansive catering menus, and was pleased with the level of customization Angie Cobb there enabled us to achieve. Going back-to-front, the duck confit flat breads were my favorite thing, because you know how I love the duck. This was very mild, not gamey, and super tender, matched with a bit of mild boursin cheese and a scant amount of caramelized onions on pita bread. The menu named shitakes, but if these were present, they were not plentiful, because the shredded duck meat was really the star here. I loved this creamy, rich, unique appetizer.
Next up, two for the people: pizza bites and shrimp cocktail. These were pedestrian, and rightly so. The shrimp was chilled and crisp, super fresh, and surprisingly large for the price we paid; the pizza bites had a nice sausage flavor, but were most likely a frozen, packaged product. My sister and her friends are in their mid-20s - packaged is fine for them, and these disappeared, along with the shrimp, quickly.
This antipasto platter also answered the mail for a lot of people. It’s nice to have an option with some greens that’s also lousy with cheese and meats. Everybody likes meats. Moreso than this, I liked the chicken wing bruschetta, which was a kicky little mix of French bread rounds topped with diced chicken and tomatoes, and others with a blue cheese and celery mix, all drizzled with a hot sauce and balsamic combo that was different and fun. Some of the less adventuresome members of our party felt it was too spicy, but I say: bring on the heat! But best of all was the hospitality we received from the terrific barkeeps at The Point, and it’s not too shabby to have what is essentially a private party, directly ON the River, for less than $300. I would do this again in a heartbeat.
If you can’t tell, our little area opened up directly to Bonnie Castle’s docks, and from those docks, we next boarded a chartered, private wine and cheese cruise courtesy of Jeff Garnsey’s Classic Island Cruises. Hear me now, Hungries: YOU. MUST. DO. THIS.
I don’t know how to even tell you about all the rad things jammed into this deal. For four hours, Captain Jeff cruised us around the St. Lawrence River in a classic wooden Criss Craft boat, entertaining us with stories about the islands when we wanted, but backing off and just letting us laugh and carouse when that seemed more appropriate. We gorged on Coyote Moon wines, River Rat cheese, and Croghan Bologna, and when the wine ran low, Jeff docked us in Clayton so we could use the restrooms and he could buy more for us. We saw the backside of Calumet Castle, all lit up at night, and the Thousand Islands Bridge both in the daytime and after dusk. We saw a truly breathtaking sunset, and laughed until our cheeks hurt. Jeff could not have been any more gallant, and his boat, the Muskie, could not have been more perfect for such a luxe outing.
Now how much would you guess a private, utterly custom, four-hour boat cruise, with food and wine for six raucous ladies would run? $800? $1,200? Yeah no, I paid $350 for this insanely awesome evening. I want to do it again this weekend, and next weekend, and for my birthday. We were treated like absolute royalty for less than $60 a person! That’s $14.50 per hour, per person, for enjoying The River not as a tourist on an Uncle Sam boat tour crammed with people peering at islands from far away, but in a small boat capable of getting up close, and obtaining gorgeous views like this:
If you’re not already booking your cruise, then what ARE you doing? Maybe you’re spending your entire summer on the patio at Tin Pan Galley in Sackets? If so, let’s chat. Because not only did Mary and I hit it up for lunch the day of her party, but I met my buddy Sam there for breakfast the next morning as well. My feelings about Tin Pan are complex, if you haven’t sensed that before reading through my Sackets harbor obsessions. The owner, Andy Taylor, was a member of the Sackets Chamber of Commerce when I worked there back in 1999/2000, and back then, Tin Pan was a favorite lunch spot. The had a chicken sandwich back then that I craved and ate about once a week. But more recently, I’ve had some really negative experiences with service there, and I fail to understand the hoards of people clamoring to eat in this one place, when there are other good eats to be had nearby.
Bad service also haunted Mary and I during our Saturday lunch, which I was informed by the hostess when I called for a reservation, could not even begin at noon – the generally accepted lunch time here in the Americas – due to the fact that they would be changing over from the breakfast menu at that time. She said we could order at 12:15, which seemed odd, but acceptable. In reality, we waited until about 25 past the hour to order, and the maple syrup spill on our table took three requests made to two different wait staffers to address. I do not understand why this kind of service is condoned by the line of people I see standing to get in this place every weekend in the summer. Yes, the patio is enchanting, and the food is above average – but honestly, great brunch food is now cooking at the Hops Spot, and both Ryan’s and the Brew Pub are serving great dinners.
|I do like to take pictures of my sister chomping on a tasty burger, I admit|
Anyhoodle – Mary had the TPG Prime burger. It was juicy and large, and the brioche bun is always a good, rich, buttery choice for a beefy, salty burger. It was a good base upon which to build a day of drinking and boating, and she loved it. Those fries were brew city-style, crunchy and golden yummy.
I went for the ahi tuna tacos, as raw or rare fish has totally been my jam this summer. I very much liked the just-seared tuna, which was fresh and tender,and the asian slaw was crunchy and refreshing, but both the sriracha aioli and wasabi guacamole were lacking in sriracha/wasabi heat. Crank it up, guys. If I order a dish with two kinds of heat, I’m ready to taste them!
I also enjoyed the four onion and garlic soup. I don’t think it was particularly garlicky, nor was it the best French onion soup I’ve ever had, but it was chock full of oozy, caramelized, sweet onions, and the cheese on top was broiled to gooey perfection and added the right amount of salt to the dish.
The next morning, Sam and I did indeed wait in line for the privilege of a garden table at the most popular breakfast spot in the North Country. Frankly, I’m not sure it was worth it. Due to the previous day’s partying, I was hungry enough to order a massive platter, but nothing on it was particularly outstanding. At least our service was better than the inattentive, vague, snotty-ness of the previous day.
I chose the sausage poblano gravy and biscuits, with a couple eggs over easy and home fries – a heavy dish, again, without much of the kick I’d expected from a dish billing chiles right up front. Not that poblano chiles are particularly noted for their off-the-charts heat – I find the large green chile peppers a bit more smoky with a mild, pleasant heat – but I expected a more savory, spicy delivery from the gravy instead of an almost overwhelmingly creaminess. Mostly, this dish was heavy, which satisfied my post-party hunger, but not so much my foodie cravings.
I will not deny that TPG sets a lovely scene, but I promise I am not exercising any sort of sour grapes when I wonder why it enjoys season after season of crowds and endless, almost dogged enthusiasm from its fans. I wish Andy well, and I quite like most of the food there, but to wait in line for food on par with a lot of other great New York eateries continues to befuddle me. I award Tin Pan a seven on the BHS scale – above average, but nothing amazing to see here, folks. I’d much rather cruise the St. Lawrence in one of Jeff Garnsey’s fabulous boats, thank you very much. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!