by: B.A. Nilsson
Mann Tory Tavern
Routes 30 and 443, Schoharie, 295-7128. Serving dinner
Wed-Sat 5-9, Sun 1-7. AE, D, DC, MC, V
Entrée price range: $19.50 (all entrées); $35 for a five-course
Ambiance: American colonial
Clientele: American gourmet
Ralph Buess wasn’t crazy about the idea of this write-up.
“I like things the way they are,” he told me. “Quiet. Peaceful.”
He’s a modest person who gets a little embarrassed by the
acclaim, but I believe he’s sincere in his wish to keep the
business on its even keel.
say he’s a hands-on chef-owner is to put it mildly. Twenty
years ago I visited the 18th-century building he was restoring
and witnessed Buess at work, finishing room after room with
a level of craftsmanship you’d be hard-pressed to find in
new construction. With walls and woodwork, furnishings and
fixtures all handcrafted, it’s no surprise to find food that
gets similar attention.
George Mann lived there in the late 18th century, at a time
when the Mohawk Valley became an important factor in the Revolutionary
War. Initially sympathetic with the war, Mann switched sides
and paid for his Tory sympathies with a jail term in Albany.
Thus the restaurant’s name.
Its heritage is reflected both in the building, an imposing
brick structure just north of Schoharie, and on the floor,
where the servers sport Colonial garb and the menu rethinks
traditional American fare.
I dread to think what we’d be eating if the menu actually
were based on 18th-century dining practices; even Colonial
Williamsburg cheats. Buess makes no apologies about his menu,
which uses local foodstuffs where possible and takes a conservatively
creative approach to how those ingredients are prepared.
Conservative also in the sense of avoiding waste. That’s why
you’ll often find sausage listed on the menu. Bockwurst, for
example, was offered as an appetizer during one of the visits
I paid, a just-right portion of grilled sausage that didn’t
even need the tomato relish served alongside. It was in the
company of kielbasa and a smoky country sausage during another
visit, this time served with a cream sauce spiced ever so
slightly with mustard.
Four appetizers, two soups and eight entrées is a standard
number of items, and there’s no pricing guesswork: they cost
$4.50, $3.25 and $19.50 respectively. A complete dinner, which
adds salad, coffee and dessert, is $35, which saves a couple
It’s tempting to go the complete dinner route, but it’s a
lot of food. . . . On the other hand, it extends the amount
of time you’ll sit in one of the lovely rooms. . . . so we
got complete dinners. The emphasis is on domestic wines, which
befits the heritage, and they’re well chosen whether you’re
ordering by the glass or bottle.
The beer-drinking, poker-playing part of me digs the spinach-artichoke
dip that shows up in a hollowed-out bread loaf; what’s served
at the Tory Tavern is a richer brew with far more complex
flavors, including the influence of chilies and parmesan cheese.
Four buttery croutons aren’t enough, especially when your
daughter surreptitiously swipes them, but the basket of warm
rolls then comes in handy.
Buess does his own smoking as well as everything else, and
the trout that is so prepared has the added hints of the blue
cheese and pepper used in the curing. It’s still a fairly
mild flavor, paired with a horseradish cream for added accent.
My wife was reluctant to share the compote of wild mushrooms,
which I suspect was due to the presence of thyme, her favorite
herb, adding its own personality to the vinegar-scented earthiness
of the dish.
The four soups I’ve sampled were uniformly superior to what,
as we say in our house, “comes off the truck.” It’s nice,
for instance, to sample a cream of potato that rounds out
the flavor without excesses of flour and salt. Especially
nice was a smoked-chicken-and-corn chowder, in which the smokiness
blended seamlessly into the rest of the brew.
A dish like George Mann’s Tavern Chicken is a colossal no-no
on any reasonable diet. The tarragon cream sauce hugs the
chunks of grilled chicken, shrimp, artichoke hearts and mushrooms
like an old friend, escorting them across the palate with
a happy hello. Chicken also features in a saltimbocca preparation,
this time as sautéed breast medallions topped with prosciutto
and mozzarella in a splendid Marsala sauce.
Marsala also flavors the osso bucco sauce, accompanying a
classic veal-shanks recipe that slow-cooks the meat into tender
submission, accompanied by a mirepoix to intensify
Sauces show the measure of a chef, and the demi-glaze on which
the grilled rack of lamb was served was another excellent
example of Buess’ work. Ginger and peppercorns add sparkling
hints of their own personalities, but it’s difficult to tell
where one flavor ends and the next one begins. The lamb itself
was presented just as we ordered, on the rare side of medium
rare, holding its own against the sauce.
Of all the entrées we sampled, the only disappointment was
in the pork tenderloin diablo, where the sauce—a dijon- and
horseradish-flavored cream—was delicious, but the meat itself
proved a little too chewy.
Tossed salad and a sweet intermezzo are features of the table
d’hôte dinner, which also requires you to order homemade desserts.
How to choose among a triple-layer mousse cake, a tea-flavored
flan, a hot fudge sundae or an ice cream-free sundae built
of various types of chocolate mousse? Or the other items we
didn’t order? It’s best simply to make sure you’re part of
a large party so you can try them all.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Saratoga Lake Bistro (Route 9P, on Saratoga Lake)
will hold its first fall wine tasting dinner from
tonight (Thursday) through Sunday (Sept. 26).
The event starts at 5 PM, with a 3 PM start on
Sunday. The four-course meal with three glasses
of wine is $49 (minus tax and tip), and lets you
select among such items as Coquilles St. Jacques
au Safran, Casserole d’Escargots aux Champignons
des bois, Coq au Vin Maison, Saumon
poché au Beurre d’Anis and Jarret d’Agneau
à l’ail et Romarin (which are, respectively,
wonderful preparations of scallops, escargot,
chicken, salmon and lamb). Rooms at the Inn will
be able available at a reduced rate starting at
$65. For dinner, reserve seats by calling 587-8280;
you can reserve rooms at the inn by phoning 495-7408.
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..