by Ron Bernthal
When I first visited the Oneida Nation’s Turning Stone Casino in 1993, the year it opened, this central New York State property consisted of just one building containing a small casino with 130 traditional gaming tables, a buffet and a coffee shop. I returned four years later, when a 268-room hotel was built above the casino floor and recently, thirteen years after my last visit, I drove through the lovely rolling hills of upstate New York to find an almost unrecognizable resort property.
During the past decade Turning Stone has added a 19-story tower, a moderately priced Inn, a 25,000 square-foot Conference Center, a large Event Center, numerous dining facilities, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, and three nationally-ranked, 18-hole championship golf courses. The nicest addition, however, is The Lodge at Turning Stone, a 93-suites Lodge with an AAA Five-Diamond rated restaurant called Wildflowers.
The Lodge is a magnificent, Adirondack-style building with a great lobby that includes a 26-foot ceiling, stone fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows over-looking a golf course and a fieldstone dining patio surrounded by a colorful quilt of tulips. There is cherry wood everywhere, and extremely comfortable reading chairs which make it difficult, but not impossible of course, to actually get out of this comfort zone to enter Wildflowers, the fine dining restaurant just off the lobby.
Fortunately, the ambience in the restaurant is no different; calm and refined, with soft classical music in the background, and the same pleasant view outside. There are two dining areas, each with about 12 tables set with white linen, candles, and Villeroy & Boch cutlery and dinner ware. Within a few minutes several servers are attending to the table, bringing mineral water, a basket of warm bread, and a glass of wine.
The lobster bisque had nice chunks of lobster, and the Caesar salad was created fresh at the table. A pan seared Dover sole was cooked simply, with beurre noir, lemon juice, parsley and capers. Included with the fish were potatoes and roast vegetables. I decided to forego dessert for the cappuccino with a double shot of espresso, with steamed and frothed milk, which was wonderful. I was surprised when the waiter brought over a small dish of dark caramel ice-cream, a pecan cookie, and a chocolate candy filled with cherry pop tarts, a gratis dessert that was sweet to eat, and sweet to receive.
After dinner, as I was leaving the restaurant, the manager handed me a beautifully wrapped, small homemade pound cake loaf, about the size of a Twinkie. I wasn’t sure how good it would taste until later that evening, in my hotel room, when I enjoyed an incredible lemon frosted gourmet pound cake. I could have eaten several more. I did not have to enter the casino that night to get lucky during my visit to Turning Stone, Wildflowers seemed to do everything right, from ambience, to entrée, to gifted mini pound cakes.
Turning Stone Resort & Casino
5218 Patrick Road
Verona, NY 13478
© Ron Bernthal – No editorial content, portions of articles, or photographs from this site may be used in any print, broadcast, or Web-based format without written permission from the author or Web site developer.