I met a woman last week who is everything I used to wish I could be. She's a ski instructor, a river guide, a Mt. Rainer tromping mountaineer – you know, your all around buff, outdoors type. As my brother used to say, in what was his highest form of adolescent praise, she's the kind of woman who can carry her own canoe.
I spent a good many years wishing I could be such a woman. If I could have chosen another life, it would either have been as a husky voiced blues singer or some kind of super tough Outward Bound girl. But, it was not to be. I am tone deaf, for one. And also, while I love the mountains, I never have been nor am I ever going to be tough.
In my 20s, this bothered me a great deal. Not anymore. One of the things I really enjoy about aging is that I spend a lot less time worrying about all the people I’m not. Which is why I have no shame in admitting that one of my favorite parts of our week at a lakeside cabin – a pump-your-water-and-don’t-flush-too-often kind of place -- was discovering that we were walking distance from hot lattes and ginger-lemon scones.
The Lake Effect Café is just a short walk up from Canada and Green Lakes in Fulton County. (The lakes are about an hour and 20 minutes from Albany.) It is a tiny, one-stool place, tucked into the corner of the Canada Lake Store and Marine.
When we arrived at the cabin, I discovered that although I'd managed to bring three kinds of meat, two pasta sauces, a huge bag of freeze pops, marshmallows, tuna fish and four different green vegetables, somehow I'd forgotten the coffee. Lucky me.
After my first stop at the Lake Effect Café, I decided to forgo buying coffee for the cabin and make the café part of my vacation routine. There is something about wandering down to a café to be greeted by the scent of coffee and the same friendly person everyday that puts one's soul at ease.
Between daily walks to the store and the way our cabin sat swaybacked atop a crumbling foundation, its paint peeling somewhat romantically, I caught myself imagining that our misty lake was somewhere in Europe.
It's funny how relaxation -- with all its inherent lollygagging and aimless imperfection -- has become so foreign feeling. Especially when you pair that relaxation with hot drinks and pastries.
Heather Fielding runs the Lake Effect Cafe. Her family owns the larger store that it's attached to, and she grew up on the lake, coming back from school and rushing to put on her ice skates in the winter. Now she splits her time between winters in Utah, where she is a ski instructor, and summers on Canada Lake, where she water skis in the morning before opening the café at the civilized, vacation-spot hour of 8 am.
By the second day, she knew that I preferred milk instead of half-and-half in my coffee. Yeah, she is good at what she does. And although I have a hard time imagining myself slogging up Mt. Rainer or barreling down a series Utah mountain moguls, if I were to attempt such madness, I would want an instructor like Heather.
She has all the moxie of a woman who can fend for herself. When I asked about her upcoming wedding, she told me she'd finally found a man who could keep up with her. But somehow she manages all this super-girl stuff without being the least bit intimidating. Perhaps it's because she also loves to cook, and she is just as happy to discuss the secrets of a great piecrust as she is to regale you with tales adventure.
And should you pay her café a visit, it would do you well to spend a minute or two discussing piecrust. Heather makes some of the best I've tasted.
Pie is my favorite dessert (not counting cookies, which are really more of a food group than a dessert), and I come at it with an Oregonian's passion for flavor and freshness. But, to tell the truth, I've never much cared for crust. There are so many things that can go wrong, and they usually do. And even when everything is technically right, not burnt, or soggy, or dried out, or whatever, the crust just seemed to be beside the point for the most part, a necessary evil if one wants all that great filling to not pour out on one's lap. In general, if there is a crumb topping to be had, that's my game. But Heather may have changed my mind on this.
Her crust is exceptional. It can hold it's own as a moist, buttery pastry. The filling is like jam on a really good croissant, wonderful but not necessary. I usually eat pie starting in the middle and abandon the big chunky crust part at the end. With slices of Heather's pies, I found myself letting my children eat the middle section and saving the crusty end bits for myself, a first.
Here is where she gets her crust recipe.
We sampled blueberry, apple blueberry and summer berry pies. Her spicing is also distinctive. When I first tasted them, there was just a hint of something that reminded me of the mince pie that always makes an appearance at my mother-in-law's holiday table. Allspice. It isn't overwhelming, but it makes the flavors more complicated.
I can also recommend the ginger scones with lemon icing and the cherry and cinnamon-chip scones. Two words: dense and moist.
We liked these better than the butterscotch scones. My husband gave several appreciative nods to the cinnamon buns, and the rice crispy treats sent me right back to the best of my childhood memories. The coffee, while not being something I'd rave about on its own, was much better than anything I was hoping to find on our trip to the lake.
I'm not a big fan of wraps, but she makes a great one with goat cheese, asparagus, roasted red peppers, red onion, avocado and goddess dressing. All the wraps are $5.00.
The café also has free WiFi for customers and a computer you can use to check you email.
It's taken me a long time to accept that I'll never be one of those mountain climbing girls that I've always admired, and, yes, envied. But I'm wondering if it is too late to set out learning to make a decent piecrust. Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows what could happen when you turn 40.
The Lake Effect Café
Hours: Open Memorial Day through Labor Day. 8 a.m - 5 p.m. daily. Closed Wednesdays.
Canada Lake Store & Marine
103 Old State Road
Caroga Lake, NY 12032
I'd very much like you to join the conversation. The only rule: treat everyone else in the conversation with kindness and respect. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks!