I realized I forgot to post after my trip last year. I did go to Suzanne based on the above recommendation and we really enjoyed our meal. It is perhaps trying a bit too hard to be a fine dining experience, but our dishes were outstanding and we enjoyed a lovely Heart & Hands pinot while we were there. We also had an outstanding group meal at Stonecat (8 of us in total) keeping it again as my favorite restaurant in the area.
Unfortunately this year our dining experiences weren't as rewarding. We went back to Red Newt on Friday evening to learn that since our visit 2 years ago, the chef had left and the owner was now in the kitchen again. The story we were sold was that they had decided to return to their roots and revert to a bistro style menu. Instead of the previous menu that offered many small and large plates of outstanding and beautiful food, we were presented with a small menu containing a few small plates, about 3 large plates (a pasta, a gnocchi, and a pork chop), and grilled cheese with a few options for filling additions. They also offer a tasting of their "favorite" menu items along with small pours of 4 wines for $25. The tasting plate, which one person had, included a square of grilled cheese, a shot glass of tomato soup, a bit of one local cheese, a bit of a pork pate, a small black bean cake with some sort of riesling sauce and a small portion of kale salad.
Grilled cheese got ordered by quite a few people and reports were that they and the tomato soup were good, if basic. The gnocchi, which I ordered was another popular item. Both the gnocchi and the cream sauce it was served in were surprisingly light and I really enjoyed it. The ground sausage promised in the menu description was sparse, but there was also kale that had been added at the end and was just wilted that was nice. Carrots and sliced fennel were a nice addition, but chunks were often too large and too raw so some of those got pushed aside.
The other disappointment was that their by the glass wine list now includes only their own wines. I was able to find a dry riesling (the 2012 reserve at $11/glass) that I enjoyed once the server and I got it straightened out that she had poured me and my friend the wrong wine (she started to tell me how riesling had a fruity component that makes it taste sweet when I asked her how they could call what she had poured a dry riesling, but when I pushed her on whether the wine contained residual sugar she realized she had made a mistake and poured us one of the barely semi-dry rieslings accidentally). The cabernet franc wasn't as enjoyable, with an odd effervescence when first poured.
On our previous visit we also sat on the deck, enjoying the beautiful view and weather. This year we were unfortunately seated inside (I don't recall if they just moved tables outside for us last time, but this time we only saw round 4 tops so we didn't ask to be put outside like we would have liked as we were a party of 8). The inside is in need of a total redo. There is old dark carpeting, plain tables with no tablecloths, no decorations to be seen, and it's dark. It's a real disappointment when you can see what you could be enjoying if you were outside. Service was also much less attentive than I would have liked, but I can hardly blame our server as some in our party weren't exactly quiet about their disappointment when they saw the menu changes.
Overall, some of us were more disappointed than others, partially because we had quite different expectations. I would probably go back there for a snack or light meal only if I knew I would be able to sit outside, but I think they have some work to do before becoming a destination restaurant again.
Stonecat held its own disappointments for us as well this year. The biggest was that after we had been left to peruse our menu for quite some time and had already had a cheese plate delivered we were told that they were out of 3 entree items, including one of the 3 specials, as well as a dessert ice cream. With such a small menu already, those 3 menu items, which many of us had already decided to order were really missed. To the kitchen's credit, when they heard that 2 of the vegetarians had been planning to order the mushroom risotto again this year, they created an impromptu alternative, a thai dish with lots of fresh vegetables and tofu that at least smelled amazing, but by then, I think the damage was already done. I had been planning to order the duck confit and sausage dish, but that was also one of the dishes that was gone. There wasn't much that appealed on the remaining list and not wanting to spend $30 on a ribeye that I could potentially cook at home, I went for the scallop special despite my hesitation about the mixed berry sauce. I was pleasantly surprised that the sauce was more savory than sweet, but the berry flavor was very strong and not my style. The accompanying barley/spelt/pecan mixture and grilled squash were frankly boring accompaniments. Having seen the ribeyes that a few friends ordered come out cooked perfectly I wish I had just ordered one. The field greens salad with added chevre I had beforehand however was delicious. I think there's a ceiling on how good a salad can be, but Stonecat pushes the limits with theirs. The ricotta pie served with a berry sauce that I had for dessert was also delicious. Their wine by the glass list still has a nice selection and they continue to have interesting cocktails, some that deliver on taste better than others, but I recommend avoiding the Hector late harvest chardonnay if they happen to have it when you go.
We also had some slight services issues and of course were told we couldn't sit on the deck because we were a large party (8 again) who would "ruin the flow" outside. It's understandable I guess, but it was torture to sit inside for the second night in a row seeing the fine weather and sunset view we could be enjoying. I've been to Stonecat enough times to know I will go back again, but unfortunately some in my party were turned off enough this time that they've decided they won't. It's a shame, especially since last year we were the party buying the kitchen a 6-pack because we were enjoying ourselves so much.
Other meals included Seneca Harbor Station (after 2 meals here, it's just really not worth it, even for the dog-friendly deck or views), lunch at 2 Goats (the roast beef sandwich is still worth a trip, but this year I found the meat drier and a little less generous than usual), and lunch at a new spot, FLX Wienery. If you are in the area, GO! It's not too far up on the west side of Seneca, offering smoked hot dogs and white hots, housemade sausages, and burgers with various fun toppings. If you're having trouble deciding, there are also recommended topping combos that you can order with one or 2 meats. I went with one of those, "The Kraut" with the smoked hot dog and a housemade brat. When I placed my order and the girl asked me if it was going to be a problem that my order would take a few extra minutes because the chef was making the brats fresh at the moment I knew I was in the right place. We finished placing our order and sat to watch him stuffed the brats. The hot dog and brat arrived, both topped with stone ground mustard, fresh kraut, fried onions, and fresh herbs. The fried onions alone were outstanding and deserving of being ordered as their own side and the combination was nice with the brat. The smoked dog was so good that I mostly ate it alone with a bit of mustard and ketchup and did indeed eat those onions as a side.
The poutine was also phenomenal. Thin cut fries that were perfectly crispy topped iwth an outstanding creamy gravy, cheese curds that appeared to have been grated to give them a finer texture, and fresh herbs that brightened an otherwise heavy dish. Even though the focus here is on the meat, I think it's worth going to have the poutine alone. If you are there, you MUST, and I do mean, MUST indulge in a milkshake as well. They often have a special or two featuring local berries (we had a taste of the blueberry as they were already out of the black raspberries when we arrived), but my friend opted for the bacon brown sugar and despite being ready to bust, we couldn't stop drinking it. The girl who took our order also mentioned her favorite, the salted caramel pretzel and I still remain a little sad that I didn't just go ahead and order it.
When you're done, head up the road just a bit to Starkey's Lookout and take in the gorgeous view from their deck while trying a sample of their beers. I really enjoyed their belgian amber, the IPA, and surprisingly the pilsner, which had a hoppy quality and a citrusy brightness that I really enjoyed (prior to this I had never had a pilsner I enjoyed). The scotch ale and porter were also nice options. Avoid the tangerine wit unless alcoholic tang is your thing.
I can also second Porcupine's comment about the coffee program at Glen Mtn Market. It's been my go to place for years because the coffee served with breakfast at the Seneca Lodge is basically water, but this year I noticed an improvement, even without knowing why. The biggest perk for me (pun intended, heh) was a macchiato on the menu that is actually a real macchiatto. They also make a delicious Americano with the proper ratio of water. While I didn't partake this year, if pastry is your thing, they always have a large selection of pastries as big as your head, including some vegan and gluten free options.