Glens Falls, N.Y. is a lovely town in northeastern N.Y. State, a bit north of Saratoga Springs, a bit south of Lake George and right on the southeastern cusp of the Adirondack Park. Dating back to the 1940's, it was christened "Home Town USA" by Look Magazine, then one of the most influential photojournalistic magazines in the country. It remains, in many respects, an archetypal American small city, with many of the good and a few of the bad things present in most small American cities. Above all, it is a lovely area in which to live and raise a family. It has not, however, despite access to some of the finest seasonal produce in the country (as this blog has hopefully demonstrated), been much of a mecca for top notch cuisine. That is not to say that there haven't been good eateries and excellent cooking, both in restaurants and in homes. In the 18 years that I have lived in this area though, neither Glens Falls, nor its surrounding towns, have housed a truly world-class culinary destination. Saratoga has and does (Mrs. London's comes immediately to mind) and there have been a number of such places in and around the Adirondacks such as The Friends Lake Inn back in the 1990's and The Inn at Erlowest, when Matt Secich was the chef and the product and delivery was first rate. It appears though, that Glens Falls may have its first truly world class culinary destination, at least since I have been here.
The Chocolate Mill, a small patisserie, confectionery and cafe featuring breakfast and lunch items, opened last weekend. Owned and run by Frank and Jessica Vollkommer, the product that they have put out in their first week of business has been wonderful and unlike anything this town has seen from within it's limits.
Frank Vollkommer, 39 years old, has serious credentials and experience in both pastry and savory cooking. A graduate of Saratoga Springs H.S. and The New England Culinary Institute, Vollkommer spent 8 years (1998-2006)as a chef/instructor at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. In 2005 he earned the very difficult and prestigious title of Certified Master Pastry Chef, at that time becoming only the 13th person in the world to have done so and only the 4th American born pastry chef. he is also the most recent to have achieved this high honor.
Vollkommer's wife, Jessica, is no slouch either, having been the valedictorian of her class at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. and along with Frank, until recently the principal culinary team at The Saratoga National Golf Course.
Credentials are one thing, but as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding…or the bon-bons, or the eclairs or the mousses. Over the past week, i took the initiative to try a number of items from the shop as well as a breakfast. Amongst the treats I sampled were various bon-bons, malted milk balls, a Peach Melba mousse cake, "Eggs Boursin", almond and chocolate croissants, an apple pie and some tea. I am thrilled to say that the quality of the product lives up to the quality of their resumes. The "Eggs Boursin", an over easy egg on Cottage Cheese Herb Toast with bacon, baby spinach, Boursin cream, tomato & red onion relish, is a play on the theme of "Eggs Benedict," breathing new life into that classic. It is simply delicious.
The Peach Melba Mousse Cake incorporates raspberry along with peach to provide exquisite balance of sweet and tart along with an ethereally light consistency. The chocolate items provide great chocolate depth, beautiful workmanship and exquisite combinations. A quick favorite in my house are the passion fruit bon-bons. I found nearly all of the items I tried to be delicious with the sweetness well balanced to my taste. The almond croissant, for example, had terrific balance, whereas most in my experience lean towards being too sweet. There were a couple of exceptions, though, where the sweetness was greater than my preferred levels, the beautifully crafted malted milk balls (I brought a container in to work and they were quickly devoured) and an apple pie, upon which there was a coating of sugar crystals. I dare say, that I prefer my desserts to be less overtly sweet than most and opinions may vary.
When I first heard that the Vollkommers were coming to Glens Falls and what they were planning, I was a little concerned that perhaps there wouldn't be a sufficient market in Glens falls for their special talents or that their prices would make it untenable. For their first week at least, the area's residents have allayed my concerns. The biggest issue at the moment is for the Vollkommers to keep up with the incredible demand that has materialized. So far, it is proving to be impossible for them to keep their pastry cases stocked as many items appear to sell out almost as quickly as they are restocked. It beats having full cases at closing time!
While visiting the Cafe, I had the opportunity to observe and photograph the Vollkommers along with their assistant, Diane Fehder, work in their kitchen. I will detail that soon!
For the record, all of the items I sampled and described above, were purchased by me or my wife. The only items I sampled that were not paid for were a few tastes of what was being worked on in the kitchen, none of which are mentioned in this post.