Relax and Linger | Fire Mountain
Hello, I’m Tricia Smith, a local nurse practitioner and resident of the Mirror Lake Community in Highlands.
My partner Luke Osteen occasionally mentions me in these restaurant reviews as “my dining companion,” “my Sweetie,” and upon one unforgettable occasion as “my Official Mistress,” an appropriation of Henry VIII’s court title of Anne Boleyn, which was not warmly received by me.
Well, this month I’ve taken the reins and sewn oven mitts onto Luke’s hands so he doesn’t get to tap-tap-tap a review for this month’s featured restaurant – Fire + Water at Fire Mountain Inn.
That’s because Fire + Water is different from all of the 64 places we’ve been treated to over the last five years.
When we visited it for the first time, I was so taken with its menu, with its service, with its overall ambience, that I took over the assignment and wrote my first and only restaurant review.
Here’s what I wrote in those halcyon pre-pandemic days:
“…It’s that very distance from the heart of Highlands that gives Fire + Water its undeniable tranquility. You’re instantly soothed. Part of that is derived from the gorgeous setting atop Fire Mountain. The carefully landscaped grounds create a zen state and the view reveals the ridges of five distinct mountain ranges on the horizon. This was accompanied by the sound of water cascading down a beautiful walled fountain just a few feet from our table.”
See what I mean about tranquility? Can you imagine a more precious commodity in this anxiety-filled age?
But a large part of that soothing sensation is the presence of your hosts, Hiram and Mathew. Both project a sense of warmth and calm (both inward and outside). You know you’re in good hands.
In fact, they’ll enlist your help in crafting your experience. When Hiram asked what we’d like to drink before our meal, I asked him what was available. He took me inside to his bar and took my direction in creating a Tricia Cocktail, unique and as personalized as can be. We both decided that it could be named a Fire + Water Fireball, so give it a shot if you’re stumped on what to order.
Mathew and Hiram have put together a dining room that’s Mid-Century Modern and clean and recalls the ambience of a Danish Seaside Spa. The walls are adorned with striking art, including a pair of George Segal sketches (that’s right, the man whose work is featured in the Guggenheim Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is also on display in Scaly Mountain). And there’s a sensual serpentine sectional that undulates in front of the fireplace. This is a place to linger and unburden and relax, truly relax.
Once safely seated (the dining room is sensibly spaced for eating in peace), I dove into my Summer Tomato Salad, a choice blending of Red and Yellow Tomatoes, Mixed Greens, Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil. I swear, the flavor-packed tomatoes have been soaking up the early September sunshine at Osage Farms just a few hours before they ended up at our table. This is the quintessential summer dish. I stored it away in my mind and I’ll uncork it in February when the days are grey and the tomatoes are sad and tedious and an affront to the national pride of Chile or Guam or wherever they come from.
Luke was treated to Watermelon Gazpacho, a provocative melange of Red Pepper, Cucumber, Basil, Parsley and Red Wine Vinegar, all playing second harmony to the bold taste of a watermelon that’d been pureed but would not be contained. He only offered me a single spoonful.
I’m tempted to say that these were show stoppers, but they were followed by Cornmeal Crusted Trout – a pan-seared Sunburst Trout filet coated with coarse ground cornmeal, served with lemon dill caper sauce, a Tomato-Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Limas, and a Summer Peach and Tomato Salad with Red Onions and Basil for me; and, for My Sweetie, Pepper Crusted Beef Filet with Gorgonzola Cream – a pan-seared Blalock’s Beef Filet crusted with Crushed Peppercorns and topped with gorgonzola cream, shoestring potatoes, and one of those remarkable stuffed Zucchinis with Limas.
I know comfort food is supposed to be the food that you grew up with, that reminds you of good times, when you could use a little boost.
I’d submit that this is comfort food of a higher order. We sure didn’t grow up with food like this, but it’s way up there on the Comfort Scale.
And though it must seem like this edges our meal into the dangerously sybaritic, we found room in our hearts and our supremely happy tummies for dessert. For Luke, that was Chocolate Mocha Icebox Cake with Raspberry Sauce, which he only begrudgingly shared with me.
For me, Apple Cranberry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream. I’d like to vote this as the Official Flavor of Autumn in the Mountains. Again, it goes into the Memory Bank, to be withdrawn and recollected with a wistful longing.
If you’d like to experience this for yourself, make lunch or brunch reservations (they’re a necessity!) at Fire + Water, 700 Happy Hill Road, (800) 775-4446.