By Chris Lavin
GENEVA -- GENEVA -- Brud Holland is not the kind of chef that likes walking through the dining room, chatting with his customers.
In the Food Channel age of open kitchens and celebrity chefs, Holland prefers his closed, a private space to work his craft. Just gather the best local ingredients, create a menu, pair it smartly with local wines, and work with a team to deliver a culinary experience on the plate.
But when the spring of 2019 arrives, Holland will be taking a more public step into the Finger Lakes culinary scene. Partnering with Geneva developer Dave Bunnell, Holland will bring his farm-to-table cuisine right to the shores of Seneca Lake and in the process help close a significant food gap along Seneca's western wine trail.
Holland, who will continue to manage the Fox Run Cafe, is expanding his role to manage the new food operation at Bunnell's Plum Point Lodge on Seneca. The Plum Point Lodge, formally known as the Rainbow Cove Hotel, is nestled along the shore at about the halfway point between Geneva and Watkins Glen. It is currently undergoing a complete renovation. When it re-opens in May of 2019, it will boast a complete Brud Holland daily menu and will host events managed by Natalie Travis, a veteran of the Finger Lakes food and event scene and, like Holland, a recent addition to the Plum Point team..
"Our goal is to make the Plum Point Lodge a hub for food, wine and lodging on Seneca,'' Bunnell said. "With Brud and Natalie joining our Inn Keeper Chad Kayser, I think we've taken a big step to that goal.''
Holland was trained at the New England Culinary Institute. His well-traveled life as a Navy kid exposed him to many regional cuisines, but for some time now he has focused his professional efforts in the Finger Lakes. He founded the Glen Mountain Market in Watkins Glen, worked at Red Newt and is a leader of the Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty. Most recently, he put Fox Run Winery’s creative lunch offerings on the regional map, winning Fox Run’s Café a prized 3rd Place in the USA Today national ranking of the country’s Best Winery Restaurants.
While other chef's have built their reputations solely on the restaurants where they hang their names, Holland has created a reputation for both his restaurant work and his itinerant special events and catering efforts, proselytizing for true farm-to-table cuisine throughout the region.
At a recent wine-pairing event at the Bellangelo Winery in Himrod, he demonstrated his ability to pair local meats, vegetables and cheeses with local vintages with such virtuosity, the patrons at this $85 event left having learned as much about the region's bounty as its fine wines.
Holland finds the unique, listing locally sourced bison, lamb and red deer as ingredients he hopes to serve to customers who will be surprised they are all Finger Lakes products. Not quite a food chemist, Holland does go beyond the usual chefs in keeping track of the latest, at times discussing new “A-2,’’ milk he says is being sourced locally from specially fed cows and is producing dairy products that the lactose intolerant can handle.
“You would be surprised how rich this region is,’’ Holland says.
When asked what attracted him to this new assignment, Holland simply points out the dining room window at the nearby waterfront.
"That right there,'' he said.”I've always wanted a place on the water here.''
Holland and Travis will give locals a sneak peek at their talents on Oct.21 when they host what they are calling a “Yurt Dinner,’’ a wine and food event that will be part coming out party for this new culinary team and a celebration of the hotel’s new “glamping” yurt rooms.
The menu and wine pairings they are planning for the event give a sense of what Plum Point visitors can expect starting next spring, featuring four select local wines, two local meats and a new signature Plum Point Frozen Custard created by the Spotted Duck Creamery. The dinner is $75 per person; $260 per couple with an overnight yurt rental included.
Travis too is a well-traveled convert to the Finger Lakes. Born in Stuart, Fla, and raised in North Carolina,
she attended college in Las Vegas and has worked in Key Largo, the Caribbean and Vegas before stints at the Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen and the Lakeside Restaurant and Tavern near Hammondsport. Like Holland, the waterfront location and the unique setting for events attracted her to this challenge.
“We don’t have the size for large weddings,’’ Travis said. “But we do have the setting for very special ones.’’
Holland and Travis’ operation at Plum Point certainly helps remedy what has been a thin area for food on Seneca’s west side, but now may become a bit of a destination.
In addition to Plum Point, Tabora, a new Napa Valley quality wine and food bistro opened this year in nearby Lakemont, joining Christopher Bates’ now famous “Weinery” on nearby Route 14. Tabora also features a full-fledged bakery that has people driving from Watkins Glen and Geneva for their cookies, pies and breads.
“Food on the wine trail has always been a challenge,’’ Bunnell said. “We’re hoping we’ll push this part of the lake past the tipping point to ‘destination’ status for food and wine.’’
Wine Dinner Menu
Plum Point Lodge—“Yurt Dinner”
OCTOBER 21st, 2018, 6PM
@ THE FORMER RAINBOW COVE RESORT
$75 / person
Call (607) 243-7535 for dinner reservation.
Roasted Buttercup & Hubbard Squash Soup with Brussels Bacon “Hash”
Wine: Keuka Spring Vineyards Gewürztraminer
—2018 Governors Cup Winner
Warm, Fall Vegetable Salad
Lively Run Goat Feta,
Stony Brook Squash Seed Oil Dressing
Wine: Forge Cellars 2017 Dry Riesling Classique
—Wine Spectator No. 31 Top 100
Cold Smoked, Bonfire Strip Steaks
Apricot Stomp Glaze
Roasted Pumpkin Polenta
Wine: HJ Wiemer 2017 Cabernet Franc
Plum Point Tartlet
Plum & Port Spotted Duck Frozen Custard
Muranda Raw Milk Blue Cheese
Wine: Fox Run Tawny Port