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Thousand Islands’ Thousand Island

My husband was predictable when it came to food choices. He chose green beans and corn when available; any dessert was just fine as long as there was plenty of it; the coffee should be served hot, preferrably in a heated cup; the dressing for a green salad–a “little dab of ‘Thousand Island’.”

I must confess that since I never eat that particular dressing (my choice is vinaigrette or a rich, creamy bleu cheese) I hadn’t given its origin any thought whatsoever. However, some friends of mine recently visited Thousand Islands, New York, and brought back information about how the salad originated. I got to keep the information and to look at the jar of dressing.

The Thousand Islands Inn graciously gave me permission to tell the story of the true origin of the dressing as found on the back of the menu of the Thousand Islands Inn located in Clayton, New York as well as to post a picture of bottles of the dressing. My sincere thanks for their prompt and positive response.

Thousand Island Dressing, made in Clayton, New York, is the only salad dressing named for any region of the United States..the dressing was first made by Mrs. Sophie LaLonde whose husband was a popular fishing guide named George LaLonde, Jr. He, as his father before him, guided tourist fisherman through the 1000 Islands waters for northern pike, muskie, black bass.

These fishing excursions could include shore dinners which were prepared on the surrounding islands, and  were popular then, as now. George, Jr. served a different and unusual salad dressing at these dinners. George was guiding a prominent stage actress, May Irwin and her husband who was impressed with the distinctive taste of the dressing. She asked for the recipe and Mrs. LaLonde, flattered by the request from a New York celebrity, who incidentally was a renown cook and cookbook authoress, gave it willingly to Miss Irwin, who in turn gave it to at least two other people, the Bertrand family and George C. Boldt.

Miss Irwin named the dressing “Thousand Island Dressing.” It was first served to the public in the dining room of the Herald House owned by the Bertrands. George Boldt, owner of the Waldrof-Astoria Hotel in New York and the Bellview-Stratford in Philadelphia, directed his world famous maitre d’, Oscar Tshirky to place the 1000 Island Dressing on the hotel menu at once. Thus Oscar earned credit for introducing  the dressing to the “world.”

The dressing is still served at the “Herald House” which is now known as the Thousand Islands Inn. “Patrons continually comment about the remarkable flavor and, as May Irwin did, request the recipe. In 1990s the Inn began to bottle the dressing  from their “Original” for sale to the public. It is available at the Inn and on line at www.1000-islands.com/dressing.

When you come to Gourmet Gallery, ask me for a taste. I’ve ordered some. My husband would have loved it!!!! I think the complex flavors of the dressing are perfect for a simple salad of Romaine or the not-so-favored in gourmet food circles, a wedge of iceberg lettuce. Chef Juanita suggested using it on a Cobb or grilled chicken salad. One of our customers, after a taste, said, “Roast beef sandwich. My mother always put mayonnaise and sweet relish on our left-over roast beef sandwiches!!”

Do you have other suggestions?

Be advised that the original has little similarity to many of the Thousand Island Dressings you will find on the grocery store shelf. Come by and taste. If  you want to have the original, go www.1000-islands.com/dressing.

2 thoughts on “Thousand Islands’ Thousand Island

  1. In the past few years I have been reading up on the origin of the dressing as I am part of the Bertrand family that first served it to the public.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your comment! We are and always will be grateful for your family’s contribution to the culinary world. What a legacy!

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