I had this friend, an actor, who loved to look through people's closets and medicine cabinets. We'd moved people back in my starving artist days in New York. We'd rent a truck for 23-and-a-half hours and try to move as many apartments and offices as we could in less than 24 hours and before the rental would switch into a second-day rate.
In a way, the Lake Placid Center for the Arts dine-around on May 19 was a bit like that, a moveable feast that moves from closet to closet. You get to see all the backstage spaces, studios, dressing rooms, hallways and other places the general public rarely sees. Best though is the feast part, the array of food to taste prepared by many of the village's best eateries and the selection of fine wines provided by Terry Robards Wine & Sprits.
Each chef and his or her team put their best plate forward. They want to serve you something that will get your attention and want you to come back to their establishment for more. Another nice feature is the array of mostly locals who were there. It's like throwing a cocktail party for all your friends, and some of those you have not seen in a year or two - but somebody else is organizing and hosting it and will clean up after.
Bogdan, Logan and Ania Polak of the Redneck Bistro (Photo — Naj Wikoff)
The movable feast starts off the main stage, then moves backstage, and from there down into the dressing rooms, on the ceramic and arts studios, dance studio and so on. My first encounter was Diane Gronlund of Lake Placid Gourmet serving mushroom Gruyere cheese tartlets, and mozzarella cheese balls with fresh basil and cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.
"We are here because the Art Center is a big part of and does a lot for the community, Joy to the Children for one, a program that lets children come for free, and because it is just nice to have an arts center," said Gronland.
Across the stage, Eileen Black of Saranac Sourdough had partnered with Katlin Aherne from Asgaard Farms.
"We are serving our breads and relishes and teaming up with their local cheeses," said Black. "We are offering a chevre with honey and lemon, as well as a feta with different Mediterranean relishes. We are right next door, so we are big supporters of the Arts Center. When John organized this last year, I might have been one of the first people he called."
"I milk the goats and make the cheese," said Aherne. "I do everything. We make a bunch of different cheeses, and we do beef and pork and chicken and eggs - a little bit of everything. We have a great following here in the community, so it is exciting to be here."
With a nice crisp white Bordeaux in hand, thanks to Julie Robards, I headed off soon to meet John Donk, the mastermind behind the dine-around, who had created something similar in Sarasota, Florida, where he and LPCA Director James Lemons had met.
"When we got here, we realized how much programming there is throughout the whole building and most people in the Art Center only know about where their daughter takes ballet or they saw opera, just that part of the facility," said Donk. "So we thought this would be a great opportunity to lead people through the whole building and since theater goes with restaurants, so wow. We have 16 restaurants this year."
Next Jason Stoltz of Smoke Signals Restaurant with Ramsey Manning were serving up a smoked chicken salad as well as a brisket shepard's pie drizzled with their homemade mac and cheese sauce.
"I am on the board of the Art Center," said Stoltz, "so of course we had to be here, but really because it is a nice event and we are passionate about the Art Center."
It continued on like that. Early on, I met Larry Master, who had set a goal of trying everything. Jean Brennan said her reason was "to have great taste of Lake Placid and wine and contribute to a great cause. This event has everything we need in Lake Placid."
"We love the LPCA and all the events they have throughout the year so anything we can do to help," said Tim Loomis of Liquids and Solids, there with Keegan Konkoski serving a kielbasa in a blanket, arugula sauerkraut vinaigrette and pickled mustard seed rhubarb mustard jam.
A passion for barbecue was certainly on display, some from the Polish team of Ania and Bogdan Polak of the Redneck Bistro. "Barbecue was always big for my husband, who cooks," said Ania. "We are helping out because we just love this place. We have kids who are very talented and interested in art. I grew up in Warsaw, and my aunt was an opera singer, so I was constantly around art and music. The Art Center is a really impressive operation. We are lucky to have it here and we all enjoy it."
"I think the Arts Center and the community have a very reciprocal partnership," said Lemons. "Each relies on the other quite a bit. The Arts Center helps make this community really unique and different than any other place in the Adirondacks. We rely on the community for its support and as much as we can we try to pay the community back."
"In a sense, and in a way, isn't that exactly what this event is about?" I said. "It's like you are a marriage broker between these restaurants and your audience."
"Yes," said Lemons. "We have a lot of people coming tonight trying out the restaurants for the summer season and picking their favorites. We tell people the best way to say thank you to all these restaurants is to patronize them, increase their business in the coming weeks, and tell their friends. Locals run all the businesses here year round and this is a great way to kick off the summer season, and for them to meet each other, before it gets too crazy busy for them to do that. It provides them an opportunity to check in, really start to show off, and try out some of their new ideas."
"I am here supporting the Art Center because I am an actor and a musician," said Sue Berkowitz of the Breakfast Club. "I'm actually going to be in a Pendragon show this summer. I am going to work during the day and do 'Harvey' in the evening. Theater is my love. So tonight I am combining my two passions here."
"Larry, here you are half way through. How are you doing?" I said.
"I am surviving," said Masters. "So far I have been able to sample everything. Last year I couldn't finish. Today I skipped lunch so I'd have room for all these great dishes. I am fortunate that I have a good metabolism."
"You may have to run around and chase some hawk tomorrow or try to catch a pig to wear some of this off."
"Chasing a pig would be especially effective," he said.
"We have had a great time tonight," said Garrick Smith of the Northwoods Inn. "It's been a great collection of local eateries displaying their culinary arts. I have been so impressed in my limited time here by what James and his team have put together, their spirit of community. It feels to me like they are absolutely following in the true mission of a community art center should be."