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Hospitality, comfort food at Towpath in Turin

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TURIN — Driving through a rare January “pea soup” fog, we arrived at Myers Towpath Restaurant and Lodge.

Luckily someone else was at the wheel, a local person who knew where the Towpath was. If I had been driving, we would have ended up in Utica.

Nestled at the foot of Snow Ridge Ski Resort, this charming little inn has warmed the spirits of skiers and snowmobilers for years under a series of owners. Jen and Greg Myers are the current proprietors, former residents of the Poconos who fell in love with the Tug Hill area.

Jen greeted us at the door as we entered the knotty pine-accented bar and lounge. Due to the weather, we were the only customers in the place on this recent weekday evening. We decided to eat in the cozy lounge next to the woodstove instead of the more formal dining room.

The menu serves a dual purpose, with casual offerings like burgers, wings and cheesesteak sandwiches for those stopping by on snowmobile or ATV and more substantial dinner fare for visitors and guests staying at the inn, with upscale entrees that include chicken, beef, seafood and pasta dishes.

We cherry-picked our appetizers from a list that included a good number of fried favorites in order to see what the kitchen could create from scratch. Homemade crab bites ($7.95), stuffed mushrooms ($8.95) and, just for fun, loaded french fries got the nod.

The crab cakes were very good, miniature pan-seared two-bite morsels with plenty of shredded lump crab and just enough binder to hold them together. Although they came with a Cajun remoulade, we found the sauce overpowering and agreed the crab cakes were just fine all by themselves.

The mushrooms were stuffed with the same crab mixture and topped with melted cheddar. We could have used more cheddar flavor, but then, after some discussion, concluded that a sharper cheddar could have overpowered the crab as well. Overall, a very good and satisfying appetizer.

The loaded fries “topped with cheddar cheese, bacon and scallions” read better on the menu than they were in reality. The fries were mushy, the cheddar cheese was yellow and processed and the scallions were scant. The crumbled bacon was quite good, however.

While the fries didn’t appeal to us, they might be like filet mignon to a snowmobiler who’d just put 100 miles on his sled on a below-zero night.

A cup of soup or a salad came with the entrees we ordered.

The soup of the day was lasagna. The homemade soup was thick with flavorful ground beef, tomatoes and pasta, finished with a dollop of ricotta cheese. There was very little broth if any. It was like a square of lasagna crammed into a cup.

It proved to be hearty and delicious fare on a crummy winter night.

We ordered a house salad — crisp iceberg lettuce, crunchy croutons and the usual veggies, with balsamic dressing and crumbly blue cheese. It was very good.

Caesar salad was pretty standard with fresh romaine, crisp and nicely chopped, along with crunchy and flavorful boxed croutons. We asked if there were any anchovies in the house to garnish the salad but there were none. Caesar dressing, served on the side, was nothing special.

We ordered one dinner entrée from each of the four categories, pasta, beef, chicken and seafood.

Towpath vodka riggies ($13.95) was nicely done. Rather than rigatoni, they used smaller ziti pasta which actually proved to be more manageable. The pink vodka sauce was perfectly executed, with just-right creamy consistency along with sautéed sweet peppers, ringlets of pepperoncini and roasted garlic

You get to call the degree of hotness: mild, medium or hot. Being a wuss, I ordinarily would have ordered the sauce mild. But I succumbed to medium after some pressure from across the table from a guy who carries a little bottle of XXX hot sauce in his glove compartment for emergencies.

As it turned out, “medium” was just right for me, and my friend must have been OK with it ’cause he didn’t have to make a special trip out to his car.

The pasta came topped with grilled chicken strips (even though the menu lists it as an add-on), which contributed a lovely grilled flavor and texture to the well-balanced dish.

Other pasta options are fettuccini Alfredo, eggplant Parmesan and traditional spaghetti and meatballs.

Braised beef pot roast ($12.95) arrived with mashed potatoes and a rich brown gravy, a simple yet wholesome dish that brought back memories of family dinners from years ago.

The moist meat shredded when touched with a fork, a perfect vehicle for the robust sauce and rustic potatoes.

Although we didn’t try them, there are two steaks on the menu: filet mignon and New York strip as well as teriyaki-marinated steak tips.

Towpath chicken cordon bleu ($16.95) offered another culinary opportunity to step back in time. This classic dish was well-executed and clearly constructed on the premises.

The breaded chicken was fried to a delightfully crispy golden brown, topped with ham and enveloped in a cheese sauce, making a very positive impact for the eyes and the taste buds.

Broiled flounder with crab stuffing ($21.95) brought the same crab mixture to the table again, but for crab lovers this is nothing to complain about. It was nicely presented, the flavors subtle and sumptuous, enhanced by a delicate lemon-herb-garlic sauce.

Other seafood choices included fried flounder, shrimp scampi and the now ubiquitous crab cakes.

All of the entrees except the riggies were served with fresh sautéed green beans with garlic butter sauce, perfectly cooked and a colorful addition to each plate.

Homemade desserts crowned the meal with mixed results.

Apple pie with its lattice crust was a little undercooked, so the dough did not get a chance to show its flaky potential. Fortunately that did not stand in the way of the nicely spiced and sweetened filling.

For a chocolate lover, chocolate mousse pie was disappointing. The filling was more like watered down chocolate pudding both in color and taste.

We enjoyed the Key lime pie. It was dense and flavorful, not too sweet, with a subtle citrus edge and ample whipped topping.

Desserts were priced at a very reasonable $3.95 each. We were also pleasantly surprised with drink prices. An impressive Columbia Crest Chardonnay was priced at $4.50 a glass, a top shelf mixed drink $4 and a Saranac Pale Ale was $3.

In fact, all the food was reasonably priced. Three appetizers, four entrees and three desserts totaled $108.29 before drinks and tip.

We did have to endure some obviously prepartied gentlemen who arrived at the bar toward the end of our meal. We didn’t mind the volume—they were having fun—but they should have realized they weren’t the only people in the room and cooled the multiple expletives.

Other than that, we look forward to our next visit and the chance to enjoy the Myers’s honest hospitality and home-cooked comfort food.

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: wsiebel@wdt.net.

Myers Towpath Restaurant

4217 West Road

Turin, N.Y.

348-8122

www.towpathinn.com

This charming little inn has warmed the spirits of skiers and snowmobilers for years. The latest owners offer honest hospitality and home-cooked comfort food.

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (dinner till 9 p.m.)

7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday (dinner till 9 p.m.)

7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday (dinner till 6 p.m.)

APPETIZER PICK: Homemade crab cake bites

SOUP PICK: Lasagna soup (if available)

ENTRÉE PICKS: Towpath vodka riggies; chicken cordon bleu; braised beef pot roast

DESSERT PICK: Key lime pie

RATING: 3½ forks

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