My mom didn’t raise an idiot. When Wife L said that her 50th birthday was a big deal and needed to be celebrated in a big way, I listened. I suggested a party, a trip with friends to New York City, a quiet gathering at home. Wife L threw out those ideas after one phone call with Friend J, who also was celebrating a birthday.
The co-conspirators quickly settled on something on a much grander scale: a daylong trip to Turning Stone Resort and Casino that would involve spa treatments, dinner at Wildflowers, and rooms at The Lodge for my wife and I and for Friend J and her husband, Friend F.
The plan was in motion, the wheels were turning, the train was thundering down the tracks. Resistance, as they say, was futile.
That is how we found ourselves in the stunning lobby of The Lodge a couple Saturdays ago. Our friends were already ensconced in their room, which was ready for them at 10 a.m. We oohed and aahed at the elegant furnishings of the first-floor suites. Each included a well-appointed sitting area separated from the bedroom by two doors with frosted glass.
Both rooms had flat-screen TVs, and the sitting room had access to a nice porch that overlooked the beautiful gardens and one of the golf courses. The bedroom with its king-size bed was gorgeous, and the bathroom featured an oversize tub and tiled shower. The towels and robes were so plush they could keep you warm through the fiercest winter storm.
Wife L and Friend J had a schedule to keep, which started with the “balancing waters ritual,” which meant they used the steam room, showers, saunas, and mineral pool. The indulgence continued for the ladies; Wife L enjoyed a Skana Harmony Massage, lunch in her spa robe, and then an Antioxidant Back Treatment.
Meanwhile, because of my fierce devotion to all things unchained and, I’ll admit, my interest in keeping out of debt, Friend F and I headed into Utica to kill a few hours. We found ourselves, after some nice visits with Friend F’s mom and dad, in Tiny’s Grill on State Street. The restaurant/tavern is a neighborhood place that offers live music on occasion.
We had a nice conversation with the barmaid about Utica, the recent departure of Tony Sparagna’s from the local restaurant scene, and how big a deal the Saranac Thursday events are. There is a nice bar up front and a fairly large restaurant in back. I enjoyed my hot ham sandwich and Friend F ordered the fish fry. We were remiss in not ordering the well-known kielbasa sandwich, but next time.
We took a drive down Varick Street and stopped in to enjoy the diverse beer menu at Nail Creek Pub and Brewery. The pub creates its own Belgian-influenced offerings, and offers a wide variety of other brews. It is a comfortable place in dark woods, with a nice deck for the warmer days. Not a TV to be found, though, so be prepared to have actual conversations. I enjoyed a Smithwick’s Irish red ale before we headed back to the resort to prepare for THE dinner at Wildflowers.
This was probably the finest meal I’ve ever had. Everything from top to bottom was wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, it should have been. It’s very expensive. But the overall experience was one to remember. We were served so well by our two waiters, and the hostess checked on us at just the right time. Everyone was attentive and informative about the menu and wine, but never intrusive.
We had opted for a prix fixe dinner that was part of our room package. We started with a dollop of shrimp relish, that we ate with our teeny, tiny forks. Wife L mentioned how she is allergic to shellfish, and the waiter came back with a fried tortellini in a pesto drizzle. My appetizer — Tataki — was incredibly good, rare medallions of bison served with a tomato relish and aioli. A wonderfully tender treat.
Our waiters had fun with our desserts. First, we each got a “shot” of a root beer float with a small piece of chocolate next to it that we were told to eat in one bite. To our surprise, the raspberry flavored chocolate also had what I know as “pop rocks.” Our mouths snapped, crackled, and popped as we paused to finish our cocktails and take a breath before our final dessert: chocolate truffle mousse.
This dessert was the bomb. The mousse was covered in a hard shell of chocolate, which was then covered by a creamy chocolate sauce poured by our waiter. Accompanying all that chocolate were fresh raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. The mousse was rich and smooth and the chocolate shell was crunchy and the sauce was … . You get the idea.
Finally, we were each given a gift-wrapped piece of lemon pound cake to enjoy later, as if we had any room.
It was a wonderful experience. I actually shut my yap and didn’t make one joke all weekend about what living the high life was costing us (several hundred dollars).
So I’d like to wish happy birthday to my beautiful bride, and offer thanks to my mom for not raising a complete idiot.