Thousand Island Dressing
Yes! Thousand Island dressing was created here, we just can’t agree on how. And we’re just gonna ignore the impostor by a certain fast-food chain.
There are two prevailing origin tales of the famous dressing and both include George Boldt, who built one of the 1000 Islands’ most famous sites: Boldt Castle.
Legend has it that while cruising among the islands on a yacht around the turn of the 20th century, a ship steward found that the ingredients normally used in his salad dressing were missing. Using locally grown ingredients on board, he created a dressing so impressive that the yacht owner named it after the beautiful region from which it came. That yacht owner, George Boldt, added the recipe to the menu at the hotel he ran, the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The rest is history.
The second tale is a bit more humbling origin. It centers on Sophia LaLonde, the wife of a fishing guide in Clayton, N.Y., who would take clients onto the water to fish similar to how today’s charter captains lead visitors to bountiful catches. Mr. LaLonde would treat his customers to a “shore dinner” of the day’s catch and it included a peculiar salad dressing developed by Mrs. LaLonde from local ingredients. One such customer was silent film star May Irwin, who loved the dressing and asked for the recipe before sharing it with one of her New York City friends and 1000 Islands enthusiast George Boldt. At the same time, the recipe was added to the menu at the Herald Hotel in Clayton where Ms. Irwin liked to stay. The Herald is now known as the Thousand Islands Inn and still stands in downtown Clayton.
Taste 1000 Islands Craft Beverages
Moist, humid air and fertile agriculture land create the ideal climate for growing the grapes and grains that produce the signature craft beverage flavors of the 1000 Islands. Wineries, breweries, distilleries and gastropubs are giving foodies, craft beer fans and wine lovers a whole new way to experience the 1000 Islands.
For far too long, the 1000 Islands was considered incapable of producing wine due to the region’s cold, harsh winters. That changed a decade ago when farmers began experimenting with “cold, hardy” grapes developed in the Midwestern United States. The grapes not only survived but thrived in the cold weather and produced a collection of award-winning wines that have now become synonymous with the 1000 Islands. “Northern grapes,” as they are also known, produce red wines including Frontenac and Marquette as well as whites such as La Crescent and Frontenac Gris.
With an abundance of tillable land spread across the region, it figured to be only a matter of time before farmers in the 1000 Islands began distilling their harvests into spirits and liqueurs. Vodkas, gins, bourbons, brandies and liqueurs made from locally grown products are quickly becoming popular in places like Clayton and Alexandria Bay on the U.S. side.
The same goes for breweries. Gastropubs serving their own brews have stunned visitors and locals alike with how quickly they’ve crafted creative and downright drinkable lagers, ales, stouts, porters and pilsners. Seasonal specials and taps at local restaurants ensure visitors can enjoy whenever and wherever they stop and sip.
The Shore Dinner
Guiding 1000 Islands visitors to a successful day of fishing is a tradition that stretches back more than a century. The first fishing guides rowed wealthy clients to fishing hotspots along the water and would later treat them to a special island meal known as the Shore Dinner. Today’s fishing guides are equipped with more modern fishing equipment but still serve the traditional Shore Dinner and the recipe is almost unchanged in more than 100 years.
Following a successful day of fishing, the guide takes clients to a scenic location – sometimes on and island – and starts a wood-fueled fire to cook the day’s catch. While the guide is filleting the catch, sandwiches of pork fatback (or bacon substitute) and onion are served. The freshly fried filets are served with a garden salad with Thousand Island Dressing, salt potatoes popularized in nearby Syracuse, N.Y., and locally grown sweet corn. It’s a hardy and filling meal.
Dessert is French toast with locally made maple syrup and occasionally cream with a shot of whisky or flavored spirit. It’s all washed down with “guide’s coffee.” The meal will not win any health awards, but it’s a tradition as deep as the channels in the 1000 Islands.
Where to eat?
You’ll find about as many dining options as islands in our region. Check out the links below for restaurant recommendations among the 1000 Islands.
- Alexandria Bay, NY, USA
- Brockville, Ontario, Canada
- Cape Vincent, NY, USA
- Clayton, NY, USA
- Kingston, Ontario, Canada
- Gananoque, Ontario, Canada
- Greater Watertown, NY, USA
- Prescott, Ontario, Canada
- Sackets Harbor, NY, USA
- Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada