Cooperstown, NY (WBNG Binghamton) There is not much better than taking a drive through the hills and countryside of upstate New York ... except maybe driving on a gorgeous summer day, and when your destination is an amazing restaurant.
That's just what Brandi Bailey and I did last weekend en route to Cooperstown. Final destination: Blue Mingo Grill.
The Blue Mingo packs a year's worth of flavors into just 26 weeks; because when you're sitting on the lake shore in upstate New York, seasonal is the only way to go.
And though you can't enjoy the hills in the winter, there is no better spot than sitting alongside Otsego Lake, taking in the view.
"You're definitely going to enjoy the atmosphere," said Blue Mingo Executive Chef Fred Bhend. "As you can see, you're sitting on a lake. You can drive up here on a boat, dock your boat and you're in the restaurant.
Bhend leads the culinary helm at the Blue Mingo, which has called the shores of Otsego Lake home for 20 years.
He offered us some of the more popular items on recent menus, which are changed out weekly.
Hopefully, these items are still there when you are, because they aren't to be missed.
We started with two appetizers: The pork belly lollipops that are fried up crispy, tossed with a mango sambal and topped with golden pineapple salsa and roasted red pepper jam.
Go ahead and indulge, treat yourself. But beware, there are only three servings, and you'll be left wanting more.
We also sampled the ahi tuna nachos, which is a sesame seared diced ahi tuna, fresh crisped wontons, wakame, pickled ginger, ponzu, wasabi crème and green onions.
It tastes like a bite of summer by the water, which made it the perfect complement to our afternoon.
Speaking of the water, our first entrée was the scallops. They're pan seared and served over a creamy roasted red pepper thyme beurre blanc and Mediterranean risotto.
(Needless to say, there was a little competition over who got what.)
We finished with the chicken marsala and wild mushrooms with whipped potatoes and yellow beets, all swimming in one of the best marsala sauces we've ever tasted.
The secret? A veal demi-glace rather than the traditional chicken stock. It's rich, but not overly so.
In fact, all of the dishes we sampled at the Blue Mingo were perfect for the season. In this case, they were bright, not too heavy and extremely fresh. That's something in which Bhend takes a lot of pride.
"This is a dream kitchen for me, especially growing all our own stuff," he said. "I get phone calls everyday that tell me what's going to be available to put on the menu that day.
"It's very important to me, it's very important to the motivation of the staff inside that we're able to use ingredients that are getting pulled from the ground that day and put on the plate that night. It's really gratifying."
The Blue Mingo's address is:
6098 New York 80
Cooperstown, NY 13326
Phone: (607) 547-7496