After you’ve seen the breathtaking natural wonder that is Niagara Falls, you might find yourself ready for a beautifully crafted dinner. Do as I did: head out into Niagara County to the charming town of Lewiston, New York’s Carmelo’s. I’m glad I got the opportunity to experience it.
Created out of a historic tavern building, the restaurant is small: definitely make reservations! Alternative ambient rock and international music plays in the background and there’s a bar that’s a popular hangout. Carmelo’s also has some outdoor seating. Dress seems to be dressy casual.
Carmelo’s may be in vintage surroundings, but their food philosophy is modern: produce and meats from several local farms, as well as local microbrews are part of the menu. Seasonality reigns. Another important aspect to Carmelo’s is a commitment to head-to-tail eating.
If you have 6-8 people in your party and make reservations at least a week ahead of time, they have a “Butcher’s Supper,” featuring a whole roasted pig from T-Meadow farm as the centerpiece of a 3-course menu, served family style, with antipasto, sides and dessert.
I started the evening out with a New York state apple wine: Leonard Oakes hard cider, Steampunk.
With bread service comes an olive salad with pickled celery, something a little different.
A great starter course is the squid ink tagliatelle, with Maine lobster, corn, mint, guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon) and sea urchin-butter sauce. The tagliatelle is thin enough to still be an attractive choice for summer. There were big hunks of fresh seafood and little touches of corn, so the dish wasn’t overly starchy. There was a little touch of spice, along with aromas of fresh mint and crispy lardons.
When in New York, I couldn’t resist ordering the duo of Long Island duck. It had a pan-seared breast and duck leg sausage, served with potato rosti, grilled tomato and blueberry-duck jus. The sausage was very tender, lacking the tough casing that so many artisan sausages seem to have. It was flavored with herbs and a little black pepper. The blueberry works with the duck, much like a more traditional cherry duck sauce would. There were also pickled strawberries on the plate, for a little bit of tang. The duck breast was thick and juicy, with crispy duck skin. The rosti potato was a Swiss side dish, flavorful and fully seasoned with onion and salt.
The grilled Creekstone Black Angus ribeye with creamed shallots, duck fat roasted potatoes, salsa verde and demi-glace was a rich cut of beef, quite well marbled and tender. The salsa verde gave a piquant and fresh flavor as counterpoint to the richness. It’s a decadent entree!
I also tried a side dish of creamed corn, which was full of sweet cream flavor without being soggy or drippy. It was flavored with house-smoked bacon lardons and fresh basil.
It had been a warm evening with a rich dinner, so I was open to trying a different kind of dessert than I normally have: blueberry and apricot semifreddo with wildflower honey and mint. It was a cold, creamy concoction, but light and refreshing for summer. It was creamier and less icy than ice cream.