Kayakers & Cooks on Cayuta Lake
Story and photos by Janet McCue
At 9:00 am, the kayaks were on the car, the sky was blue and there was no wind. By 10:30 am, both Cayuga and Seneca were filled with whitecaps. Either we could bag the kayaking plan or we could look for an alternative spot to put in. Having hoisted the heavy kayaks on the car, my sister Sheila and I weren’t about to give in so easily to the zephyrs.
Instead we headed over to Cayuta Lake, a few miles outside the village of Odessa in the town of Catherine. Not as deep as either Seneca or Cayuga, the 380-acre lake is also much smaller. Most of the Cayuta lakeshore is lined with private cottages or campsites but there is a public boat ramp off of Loch Heid Road (seasonally lined with a vivid display of yellow flag iris). We were surprised to find so many boat trailers at the launch but it looked as if the fishing was good in Cayuta.
A southeast wind whipped the water into white caps as we paddled hard to hug the shore. We were heading to the inlet cove, where we were knew it would be protected. Blankets of water lily, mostly Yellow Pond Lily–a.k.a. Spatterdock or Yellow Cow Lily–dotted the waterscape but we spotted an occasional fragrant white lily (the Latin name, Nymphaea odorata, sounds more elegant and captures the essence of this fragrant aquatic) interspersed among the lily pads. Soon the purple spikes of the Pickerel Rush with its arrowhead shaped leaves will decorate Cayuta. “It feels like we are paddling through a Monet painting,” Sheila said. She was right. The blue sky, the profusion of greens on the shore, Connecticut Hill looming in the background and the Nymphaea in the water made for a spectacular setting.
We drifted in the cove through tufts of ferns, past clusters of forget-me-nots on the shore, blue iris in the shallows, to the beaver dam that blocked our passageway on the left and downed trees that blocked the right. As we turned back, we ran into other paddlers who were enjoying the morning as much as we. I recognized one of the paddlers as Katie Rehner from Word of Mouth Catering. Katie and her catering partner, Tina Podkaminer, do all of their business through old-fashioned word-of-mouth communication and they are very much in demand. The previous day they had catered a beautiful June wedding at the historic Fontainebleau Inn on the western shore of Cayuta Lake. In 1814, Samuel Lawrence built his homestead large enough to hold his family of 11 children. Now the sprawling Inn is used solely for weddings where 150 guests can be accommodated. Occasionally we’ve spotted newlyweds in their wedding finery step into a canoe from the Inn’s dock. Adding to the romance of the moment was a solo piper on the sweeping lawn of the Inn playing the Scottish tune “Mairi’s Wedding.”
After our paddle on Cayuta we were heading home to a self-catered lunch of leftovers. Sheila had brought the fruit salad and my refrigerator held an orzo salad that I dressed up with asparagus from my neighbor’s garden, Lively Run feta and some leftover salmon. Although we weren’t at a wedding reception at Fontainebleau being served by my favorite caterers, our leftover lunch on this sunny Sunday wasn’t too shabby! Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Feta & Salmon
1 small bunch of asparagus, trimmed & sliced into ½-inch pieces
1 leftover cooked salmon steak cut into small pieces
8 ounces orzo pasta (tri-color from Greenstar makes it colorful)
1/2 cup Lively Run feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 tablespoon plain yogurt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Make dressing. Whisk lemon juice, yogurt, sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, pepper and oil. Reserve 1/4 of the dressing to use right before serving.
Bring large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Blanch asparagus for 2 min; remove asparagus and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Return water to boil and add orzo. Cook for 8-9 min, drain and rinse with cold water.
Toss pasta with lemon zest, parsley, dressing, remaining salt, asparagus, feta, and salmon.
Right before serving, add the reserved dressing to the pasta salad. Taste for seasonings.
Serve at room temperature (or chilled).
Note: Try chicken if you have no salmon; snow peas if asparagus season is over.
Janet McCue is an avid hiker who enjoys both the beauty and the bounty of the Finger Lakes. Her website follows her six-day culinary trek through the Finger Lakes, a journey that Edible Finger Lakes covered in its July/August 2014 issue (“Hike to Eat”).
For more of Janet’s work, click here.