There are two seasons of the year that make me joyous with wonderment. The first is spring, with all of the new blooms and their emergence from winter’s frost. The other is fall. It is the season that completes the circle of life with the most masterful foliage and crisp air. Any opportunity to see this season before it hands off to the next should be treasured and appreciated.
For some reason this fall seems to be even more magical to me, almost like I’ve never experienced it before or at least in a long time. So when the opportunity comes to get in a car to drive upstate past all of the vibrant saluting arbors, I must go. I played chauffer to my good friend Jason, as he required a good drive out of the city. We headed about an hour upstate to Greenwood Lake, N.Y. The drive was just spectacular. Lush fall vistas against a bright blue sky were everything! Not even the armada of passing luxury cars got our attention.
Once we arrived at the lake and all of its gloriousness and took some pictures and some selfies, we had a “Thelma and Louise” moment: “Keep going.” Now it was time to eat! Some quick sleuthing led us to the exact place we needed to be at the Helm (@The_Helm649, 649 Jersey Ave., Greenwood Lake, N.Y., 845-477-3073). A seat by the window with a view of the lake and the sun shining in meant everything was all right.
The menu of this young new eatery highlighting local farmers and purveyors read like a hip, new gastropub in Williamsburg. Their charcuterie program of house-cured meats set the stage for some high-end pub food from small plates, such as Canadian poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds) to inventive sandwiches to hearty main dishes. The menu was filling before the first bite.
Jason and I kept it simple for our first meal at the Helm. We started with house-made cold cider and a virgin bloody mary (we were driving), the latter of which was garnished with pepperoncini, giardiniera and mortadella. I mean, fuggedabouttit! I was hooked.
For food we thought we would begin our meal with a healthy serving of Boston bib salad with heirloom tomatoes … and bacon lardons … and aged blue cheese. OK, so it was health-ish but really delicious with those large pieces of bacon, and it was nicely presented, too.
For our main course we split two of their sandwiches, their take on the NOLA muffaletta and the Cuban pressed sandwich, plus buttermilk cornmeal-battered onion rings with house-made ranch dressing. The muffaletta came piled, PILED, with meats, including mortadella, ham, prosciutto and salami with sharp provolone, house-pickled giardiniera and olive salad on herbed foccacia. They are certainly not shy about the meat. I removed some to get my mouth around it (and to take some home, which I used to season some sauteed kale I made).
The country Cubano sandwich filled with hickory-smoked pork loin, maple country ham, swiss, Dijon mustard and house pickles is brushed with pork fat before being pressed to crisp goodness. You can’t be mad at that, and we were not! Every little smoky bite was eaten.
Although the onion rings were a little greasy (perhaps from frying at a low oil temperature), the ranch dressing was bright and light. I appreciated partner Mark Palmieri receiving my feedback with great hospitality.
SCHOP! Tip: Should you have questions or an opinion about your food when dining, politely engaging with your server or manager about it is never wrong and informs them that you value what they do and you are interested in being a loyal customer.
I am looking forward to returning again to the Helm. Partners Palmieri and chef Jennifer Abelton have a gem on their hands in Greenwood Lake. Heavy are the heads that wear the crown. Wear it well.
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl and on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.