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A Tale of Two Gems
The Gem, a smokehouse and craft cocktail bar in Bolton Landing, celebrates 1 year in biz, while the newly renovated FWH Carriage House debuts. Plus: Shaggy, opera, volleyball & more.
While The Gem is the perfect name for the Bolton Landing craft cocktail bar/barbecue joint that’s celebrating one year in business today, it’s also a pretty spot-on description for Bolton Landing as a whole.
Just a few minutes past Lake George Village, you can find a picturesque town—without a Dilligaf store—complete with fine dining (Loda), best-in-class hospitality (The Sagamore), top-notch beer (Bolton Landing Brewing Company) and tastefully curated gift shops (Trees Adirondack Gifts & Books). It’s not necessarily a hidden gem—Bolton Landing’s no secret—you just have to be willing to put in the extra miles, whether you’re coming from Saratoga or even New York City, to get there.
Having opened just last year, The Gem, on the other hand, is a bit of a hidden gem, but only because it’s fairly new to the scene. It’s located right at the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and Sagamore Road, in a blue-green building that looks like a house. To the left of the restaurant, in the same building but with a separate entrance, is The Little Gem, a liquor store that carries the same specialty bottles its big brother stocks behind the bar.
This past Thursday I bellied up to that very bar and quickly caught onto the fact that it’s not your average Warren County watering hole. When my friend Andy ordered a gin and tonic, it arrived a shade of reddish brown, as it was made with tonic syrup rather than the carbonated soft drink. I ordered a mule, thinking Moscow was the only variety, only to learn from co-owner and ruler of all things booze Richard Boccato that he could make it with any spirit. I stuck with what I know and got it with vodka. It was the best Moscow Mule I’ve ever had.
Clearly, this isn’t Richard’s first rodeo. He and wife Paty own Dutch Kills Bar, a Long Island City hotspot that in 2021 was named the best bar in New York City by Time Out New York. While Richard has lived in the city his whole life, Paty grew up spending summers in Bolton Landing. After teaming up with another husband-wife duo, Chef William K. Farmer and Kristan C. Keck, who own Wm. Farmer & Sons in Hudson, the two couples began their three-year journey to open The Gem. The process involved a complete renovation of the space, overseen by Paty and Kristan; recruiting staff, many of whom are Bolton locals and some of whom are seasonal workers from eight different countries; and training (the Boccatos brought bartenders up from their NYC bar to train The Gem’s bartenders for three months).
After our cocktails, Paty showed us The Gem’s quaint outdoor dining space, with covered patio seating, a fire pit and the Julep, a working title for a mint green trailer that will soon play host to the restaurant’s takeout food and drink operation. (BBQ and cocktails on the boat? Say less.)
Back inside, our food arrived. We hadn’t so much as “ordered” as told Richard to bring us what he thought we should have. He returned with a watermelon slab salad with portabella mushrooms and pickled onion with a side of sweet garnet yam cottage fries for me, and for Andy, the non-vegan, a platter of meat: St. Louis ribs, black angus brisket, free-range chicken wings and Baltimore black angus pit beef, served with bourbon baked beans and steak fries. A basket of homemade sauces came with the meal, and Andy’s favorite combo proved to be the brisket with a vinegar-y barbecue sauce.
We didn’t get a chance to leave a message in the “field notes” journal that the check came in (if we did, we’d have thanked Paty, Richard and the rest of the staff for their warm welcome and impeccable service) because we were late for a party at yet another Lake George gem…
Carriage House Opening
Gala guests were ushered to the party from Fort William Henry Hotel either by stroll across the gorgeous lawn with its pristine lake views, or via golf cart through the parking lot—past the actual horse drawn carriage that was a pretty next-level detail for the grand opening gala for the hotel’s—yup—newly renovated Carriage House. If the party was any indication of what weddings there will be like, there will be a lot of very happy future brides.
Sushi, oyster, charcuterie, hummus and stir fry stations fed the crowds, while an easy bar along the back somehow never developed a line of those wanting a glass of wine. It was a gorgeous night for mingling along the back patio, overlooking the beautiful Queen of American Lakes. That’s where Mark Behan and Leigh Hornbeck held court, having helped put on the whole affair. FWH Chairwoman and CEO Kathy Muncil made the rounds at such lighting speed that I somehow missed saying hello.
“This turned out much better than we thought it would,” cracked FWH President Sam Luciano at the mic, addressing the $3 million renovation before thanking the team and everyone involved in the reno. When Muncil took the stage, her passion for the project shone through during her poetic speech. “Thank you for celebrating this 1856 grand dame with us and our bringing her back to her glory,” she said, a reno journey that had “a sparkle.” “Our forefathers are in heaven, but their vision continues.” She referred to the Carriage House as a national treasure and said she looked forward to creating magical moments there, with all of the guests. “You really are the community VIPs,” she told the crowd. “Each one of you lifts up the community in some way.”
Back inside, I bumped into Steve Thurston, the newly minted managing editor of the Post-Star. (RIP Foothills Business Daily—you’ll be missed, but Steve promises that his reporting will now simply move to the Post-Star.) “You came up here?” he questioned when he saw me. Dear Saratogians, our reputation for never leaving Saratoga has got to change. At least head to Lake George more often—a gem indeed.
Quote of the Week
“I don’t turn down warm bread.” —Dan Graham defending his decision to order the warm bread appetizer at last night’s soft opening of Kindred
Boom, Boom, Boom
This July 4th, fireworks will once again light up the sky over Saratoga Springs. After a four-year hiatus, Saratoga’s All-American Celebration will once again culminate in a glorious fireworks show. The festivities begin with the Firecracker 4 road race in the morning, and at 6pm, Big Sky Country will perform outside the Saratoga City Center. At 9pm, the fireworks show begins atop the City Center parking garage.
Volleying for a Cause
If the rain lets up today, make your way over to East Side Rec to watch some of the best volleyball in the region. The 2nd annual Great Saratoga Block Party will take over the football field, with 240 athletes coming out to compete (rain or shine) in three divisions. The event is raising money for Saratoga Springs Friends of Recreation, an organization that helps finance youth sports programs, fund camp scholarships for kids in need, and improve playgrounds and sport facilities in Saratoga. There will be concessions!
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It Wasn’t Me
Live Nation kicked off the season with a (watery) bang last night, as the masses descended on SPAC in the rain to see Sean Kingston, Shaggy, TLC and En Vogue (!). (According to the videos I found on Insta this morning, the show was AMAZING.) I’m slightly ashamed to admit that if you thought you saw me in the crowd, well, “it wasn’t me”…exhausted deadline brain kept me from braving the rainy masses—and the two-mile drive that Waze said would take me 55 minutes. Shaggy, I’ve seen you before and I’ll see you again, buddy. (And yes, this is Abby; Natalie would have never wimped out.) So if you see me this weekend, I might be singing “Mr. Boombastic” to myself in rather sad tones. Unless of course, my favorite Mr. Lover Lover songs are replaced in my brain with show tunes because…
Life is a Cabaret
…Today is Opera Saratoga’s “A Broadway Cabaret” at the Mansion of Saratoga. Shows are at 2pm and 7pm rain or shine, and this year’s theme is “The Golden Age of Broadway.” There’s a cash bar, and tickets ARE available at the door. It’s such a great show, and for many, this might be the first chance to meet the company’s new director, Mary Birnbaum—she’s amazing. I’ll be at the matinée, so if you come on down, please say hi! And if you can’t make it today, join us July 7 at UPH—we’re taking our popular Singles Night to the opera. Tickets include a cocktail party AND entry to the show (a comedic “rom-com” of an opera that even has what we now call cat-fishing). The price cannot be beat.
This Week in Saratoga Living After Hours
On Tuesday, we published On Deck, our weekly calendar of Saratoga events, including tonight’s Saratoga Bridges fundraiser and tomorrow’s Opera Saratoga Sings! Juneteenth Eve Celebration. (Today’s Cars on Union car show has been postponed due to weather.)
Then on Wednesday, we shared Zach Skowronek’s photos from last week’s Saratoga 25 party.
Next Week in Saratoga Living After Hours
The White Party Vibe Check, Kindred, The Coat Room and more…Be sure to subscribe to not miss a minute of the After Hours action.