Fresh local food and a menu full of surprises is what you will get at the Crystal Lake Café at Americana Vineyards in Interlaken, New York. Americana is one of fourteen wineries on the Cayuga Wine Trail in the Finger Lakes Wine Region of upstate New York. Billing itself as America’s First Wine Trail, I’m not sure if being first matters. It’s simply a very enjoyable way to explore this often-overlooked region of the United States.
Location: The Crystal Lake Café is located on the property of Americana Vineyards, 4367 East Covert Road, Interlaken, New York.
Menu: The casual menu is designed to pair nicely with Americana’s moderately priced wines. The café uses fresh local products including meats, cheeses, produce and ice cream.
Yancey’s Fancy Cheese is the provider of a variety of cheeses. You might not think to order a grilled cheese sandwich when dining out, but when your choices are to have your sandwich made with cheddar, gruyere, goat cheese, smoked gouda or gorgonzola with a slice of tomato on sour dough bread, this ain’t exactly your mama’s grilled cheese sandwich!
The 7 oz. grilled burger is large and hearty, served with mixed greens, tomato and red onion. A close cousin is the 7 oz. lamb burger served with the traditional lettuce, tomato and onion as well as the additions of kalamata tapenade, rosemary aioli and feta. It is sort of the burger version of a Gyro.
The Smoked BBQ pulled pork looked delicious, as did the Vegetable Quesadilla, which probably varies depending on the availability of seasonal vegetables.
I like eating light at lunch, so I ordered a salad. I was pleasantly surprised to see my salad topped with sweet potato fries. It is a gluten free option to croutons, and still provides a bit of crunch and texture to a simple salad. I could not resist the homemade beef chili, with large chunks of local beef. The flavor was hearty and filling, giving me some sustenance with my salad. A New England Clam Chowder is also a house favorite, reminding me how close we really are to the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to the casual menu at lunch and dinner, dinner specials are offered with suggested wine and beer pairings.
Mussels steamed in Dry Riesling with smoked lemons and onions, bay leaf, garlic and tomato are served with garlic bread and paired with a glass of the Dry Riesling.
An open-faced steak sandwich, a grilled New York strip steak with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, gorgonzola and demi-glace on toasted sourdough pairs with a Cabernet Franc.
Panko crusted fried haddock with French fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce go well with the Pinot Gris.
The menu changes weekly to accommodate the seasonal availability of local ingredients.
Thoughts: The Finger Lakes Wine Country is the perfect region to spend some time living life in the slow lane. This rich farming region lends itself so well to the farm to table movement. The region grows grapes for the wine and hops for the beer. Vegetable gardens supply the produce. There are plenty of fields to graze the livestock that produce the meats and cheeses. There’s no guessing where your food comes from around here. The neighboring farms and gourmet producers work well together, buying and selling from each other to support the local economy. The tourists benefit, experiencing a variety of local delights.
It’s probably not a good idea to try to visit all 14 wineries in one day. The Crystal Lake Café is a delicious way to slow down, try some local wines with local food, and enjoy the fresh air and scenic views. Seating is available inside and out, weather permitting. I visited on a beautiful Fall day, and the outdoor patio was definitely the best choice.
We began in the tasting room with a sampling of the local wines, learning the history of the winery and a bit about the varieties of grapes. Then, it was time for lunch.
The café hours are limited, changing seasonally. You can most likely count on the café being open on the weekends but check the website or call to confirm the schedule during the week. The café also offers special events on holidays, so be on the lookout for a special menu or public event. Reservations are only taken for special occasions, so eating early or late might help avoid busy times. Then again, when you are on a wine trail, who worries about the time?
In addition to operating a winery, the proprietors began growing hops on the property, a trend that died in New York during prohibition, but has seen a recent resurgence. Besides being able to pair your lunch or dinner with an American wine, you can also pair your burger with a local Bacchus beer or visit the tasting room on the property.
After lunch, we stopped in the tap room for a sampling of beer.
A deliciously simple but filling meal at Crystal Lake Café keeps visitors balanced amidst a day focused on sipping. Children are welcome at Americana, and a Kids Menu is available, with lots of games to keep the kids entertained while the adults study the wines.
Maverick and Lilly, two rescue pups, are the canine wine ambassadors. They keep interested patrons up to date on happenings at the vineyard on Instagram @AmericanaPups.
Price Range: $5-$20. Dinner entrees priced to market. Menu prices vary as the menu changes weekly. Prices are fair and what you would expect to pay in the moderate range. Most Americana wines are reasonably priced at $10-$20 per bottle.
Disclosure: The author was a guest of the Finger lakes Tourism Alliance.
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