Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fear and Loathing at Saranac Lake

Majestic mountains, heartbreakingly romatic lakes, a remote and mysterious wilderness, are these the memories we take with us as we leave Adirondack National Park?

Is it buggery.

Welcome to the worst meal I have ever eaten in my life. So bad that even JB felt complaints were justified. “This is as bad as Warsaw in 1990, and actually that was better.”

It started innocuously enough. We arrived at the famously picturesque Lake Saranac after a long day of driving. Although it was a holiday resort, it had less in way of eateries than one would expect. I guess people mostly rent houses and barbecue, with the occasional pizza night thrown in. We didn’t fancy pizza and the retaurant at Hotel Saranc had an empty and sad feeling. But just across the road Il Corvo looked cheery and had people in it.

The first bad sign was the filthy carpet. But being down at heel doesn’t necessarily mean terrible food. After all, we were in a national park. Buisiness is seasonal and small restaurants can’t always renovate when they want to.

I’ll pass over indifferent bread and watery salad. Problems started, appropriately anough, with the starters. Mine was a portobello mushroom sodden with Balsamic vinegar. I had one bite and then gave it to JB and asked him what he thought. ‘Hmm…Vinegary’.
‘How’s your soup?’
‘Shall we cut our losses and send just go?’
‘No. We’re tired and want to eat now. Send the mushroom back and move on. They can’t do much to eggplant and pasta.’

Little did we know. The proscuitto billed in my eggplant rollini was, when excavated from the thick layer of Ragu covering the entire plate, thick slices of leathery, surgical pink ham. After one bite I pulled the rest out and pushed it to the side of my plate. Some pork products are not worth taking the risk on. I contemplated the slimy mess that was left with distaste. Across the table, JB’s was dubiosly cutting into some evil-smelling meatballs that turned out to be cold in the middle. That’s it, we thought, we’re out of here. We sent back our plates, from which only one bite had been taken and asked for the bill. ‘We’ll pay for the beers and the soup,’ I told the supremely uninvolved waiter. ‘But nothing else has been edible.’ We waited and waited. When the bill finally arrived it was 28 dollars. I took it to the bar to sort it out. Our waiter ignored us and finally a subdued waitress took the bill and disappeared with it.

Out from the kitchen came a short, mean-faced, East-European woman with straw-coloured hair. She immediately launched into an attack:
“12 years I run restaurant and you first that ever complain! What’s wrong with meal?”
We explained that the meal was inedible.
“Eat whole meal and then say not edible!”
No, we had one bite and sent 3 of four dishes back to the kitchen. We will pay for the 2 beers and the soup but nothing else. At that point, she began to shout at us, accusing us of trying to cheat her and demanding payment of the bill.
“You eat meal and cannot pay! I phone the police.”
Go right ahead, phone the police.
“I’m phoning the police now, but first leave restaurant! You’re distubing my customers!”
No, we’re waiting right here. You’re the one screaming and making and scene.
At this point, she made a great palaver of asking all her waitpeople to gather around her and asking for the number of the police station. Realising we weren’t about to meekly leave the premises she changed her tactics.
“You’re so mean and petty you cannot pay $20 bill? You fight over tiny bill?
Weren’t you going to phone the police?
“You so poor, you’ve never eaten at a fancy restaurant! You don’t know what good food is! Get out of my place now!”
This is not a fancy restaurant, it is not good food, we did not eat the food, and we are not going to pay for it. Call the police if you want.
What then followed was a farrago of threats and insults screamed at the top of her lungs. We were poor, we were Canadians, we were cons and finally, to JB: “I feel sorry for you, you spend all your life with her!”
And then to me: “I have good looking husband! You want, he will sleep with you!”

Then she crumpled up the bill and we left. The original plan had been to make our leisurely way through the Adirondack Park but after that experience I drove through as fast as I could. The next night we left stayed in a motel off the highway and went to a truckstop place. The food was excellent.