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Epicurean in Upstate - New York

Epicurean in Upstate - New York
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  • Epicurean in Upstate - New York

    Post #1 - September 8th, 2005, 4:43 am
    Post #1 - September 8th, 2005, 4:43 am Post #1 - September 8th, 2005, 4:43 am
    It was take the daughter to college week, as well as 20th wedding anniversary week, so the bride and I took some time to dine well along the way. For those reasons and more, we pretty much stuck to finer dining establishments in our outing, which I will record for your enjoyment.

    Day 1: Syracuse

    My experiences with upstate New York cities has been one of places that saw their peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and are mostly hanging on today. Perhaps not quite as grim a situation as Toledo or Akron, but nothing one would call vibrant. Syracuse surprised a bit, as in addition to the landscape I expected there was a very lovely and lively area called Armory Square, which even on a Monday in late August was humming with restaurants and bars. As luck would have it, we also arrived during "Dining Week" - 3 courses for $20. We settled on PJ Dorseys, a nice old bar with a white cloth dining room next to it, tho that did not seem open that night. My meal was actually 4 courses and more than I really wanted to eat, but a good deal I could not turn down. Started with Escargots in a mish mash of stuff, pine nuts, herbs, butter and more - nicely done, reasonably tasty. A passable salad with some blue cheese crumbles followed, then roasted chicken with a nice mix of vegies. The bride started with a massive order of some artichoke dip, then a rilet wrapped, nay swaddled, in bacon (overuse of cured prok was a recurring them, more on that later) all quite serviceable. We finished with the tollhouse pie, which was as subtle and light as a ton of bricks - cookie dough pie. Sort of surprised I had not seen that creation earlier, but I guess it is not something I would have looked for. Satisfying meal, done competently if not really well. I would go back but probably look to their sammies without the special. Bass on tap.

    PJ Dorsey's
    116 Walton St , Syracuse, NY 13202

    The next day we stopped at Nick's in Schenectady, pictures from an earlier visit are here: Since then I have made Nick's, and Capiello's down the street, regular stops. Nick's is a basic diner with decent food and great folks, both staff and customers. Going there always makes me happy. Homemade sausage bread with eggs is one good option, gut busting pancakes another, but this time I had the lunch special: meat loaf and mashed. I waddled out happily.

    Nick's Cafe
    578 Broadway
    Schenectady, NY

    The next meal was the anniversary extravaganza, as well as the almost empty (one down, one to go) celebration/wake, and the meal was the best of the trip: Cafe Capriccio in Albany. Have gone once before, but it was a big family dinner and I was not as focused that time. My previous Albany favorite, Yono's, is on hiatus having lost their lease, but a reopening is threatened next month (October, 2005). But Yono's is more upscale, French and Indonesian, while Capriccio is determinedly old schoold Italian.

    One enters down the stairs into a middle area - old wood paneling, a slightly musty smell. There is a bar and some tables on the left and a small dining room, perhaps 12 tables at most on the right. Booths on the walls, tables in the middle, old Italian posters and some other pleasantly idiosyncratic decor. Decent wine list with regional, and reasonable Italian choices. We started by sharing a steak and mushroom risotto special. Toothsome, creamy, warming risotto with slices of grilled steak on top. I moved on to a grilled veal chop. Unfortunately (?) I got royally drunk and did not take notes, so I cannot say exactly what everyone had, but the meal was quite good, and definitely a good stop when in Albany. They have jazz on Fridays, and a picture of Frank Zappa on their web site, so what more could you want?
    Cafe Capriccio
    49 Grand Street Albany, New York 12207

    On to the Finger Lakes next for a food and wine extravaganza, but I will leave that for a follow up posting, this has been long enough.
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #2 - September 9th, 2005, 4:36 am
    Post #2 - September 9th, 2005, 4:36 am Post #2 - September 9th, 2005, 4:36 am
    In the Finger Lakes we stayed in Geneva, at White Springs Manor, the overflow for Belhurst Castle.

    Belhurst, we found, makes pretty decent wines. This turned out to be a lot less unique than I expected, and we found a lot of pretty good wine in the area, and many, many wineries. Mostly Dry to sweet whites, made in a German style, and some light reds, the best of which were made of Cabernet Franc, but there were also some semi-sweet to sweet reds made with a variety of US grapes. In addition to Belhurst, we enjoyed wines from Anthony Road, Fox Run, Dr. Frank, and a few others.

    For food, we started with the fancy dining room at Belhurst, Edgar's. A strange thing happened here, which was repeated a bit less aggressively the next night - when we mentioned we were from Chicago, the server became almost apologetic about the food, and the provincial aspect of the place. Won't speculate on the reasons for this, but it did happen.

    Edgar's was not good. Everything was a bit overblown, overdone, and overreached, so I advise you not to go. I ordered a chop with wild mushrooms and pancetta. What I got was a reasonable, but not great, piece of meat completely buried under shreds of ham. I could have made a meal out of a sort of mushroom ham hash, but I ended up scraping it off because it was not good pancetta, and even if it was, I did not want a mound of it.

    The next day, after some wine, and a haul up the Glen in Watkins Glen, we were wandering around the east side of Seneca Lake, and passed a farmhouse with a sign saying, simply, "Suzanne [i]Fine Regional Cuisine[u] 5-9 Thursday-Sunday." It had me hooked, and tho it was Friday at 4, the bride and I agreed to return after a short detour.

    Before we return, the high point of this trip was actually a visit to the Glen Curtiss museum, in Hammondsport. The museum itself was a bit overwhelming, sort of like visiting someone's attic if they happened to be an aviation pioneer, who also set land speed records, invented the motor home, was one of the first developers of Florida, etc. It could use a good curator, who would whip the mementos of this larger than life life into some form of organized narrative, but the place was full of lots of cool toys from the bicycles he started out by racing, to the motorcycle he set the land speed record with, to the first flying boat, to the first motorhome. Basically, the guy liked going fast and building things. He parlayed that into becoming the high speed motor guru, and a few other things. It is worth the trip. More here: and here

    On our way back to Suzanne, we stopped by Cowlick's Cheese, also near Lodi. Nice guy, has just been making cheese for a year or so. Nothing exciting, tho, his best cheese being Alpine Lace, creamy and bland. He makes gelato, too, which was much better and besides visiting with Andrew and the cows, that would be the reason to stop by. We did pick up some pretty good butter from Hillcrest Dairy in Moravia, and he was selling some other local products including some more flavorful cheeses, but Suzanne was calling me.

    Cowlick Farm
    1 mile south of Lodi (adn a couple of miles north of Suzanne)
    Route 414
    Lodi, NY

    Turns out Gourmet had done a piece in July featuring many of the places we visited, including Suzanne. Still have not seen it, but if you can find it there may be more. Suzanne has a catering business in Jersey, and this is her summer country home. Beautful house on a hill looking west over Seneca Lake (which afforded us a beautiful sunset while dining). As fervently hoped, the cuisine was a minimally interventionist take on the glories of local produce and wine. The high point, by far, was a golden gazpacho - pulp of heirloom tomatos with the slightest touch of seasoning poured over a small pile of diced herbs (cilantro, parsley, mostly) and vegetables (onion, cucumber, etc), with a dollop of cream in the middle. Rather than mixing, I enjoyed the tomato bliss (what a great year for tomatos this has been), and then picked up bits of other flavors when I wished to. The Bride's take on a Caprese was also a tomato celebration, but the tomatos were not as perfect as I would have hoped, and someone had gotten carried away with the vinaigrette. For the main courses, the protein was also surrounded by perfectly and lovingly prepared vegetables. Suzanne's website also provides a decent guide to some area places if you want to go.

    I will go back.

    Continuing this theme, we next headed up to the Lake Ontario shore west of Rochester the next day, and wandered through fruit orchards and farmstands for a couple of hours on our way to Niagara, which the bride had never visited. I am still working my way through the plums, blackberries and peaches we secured. Somewhere around there, west of Niagara on the Lake on route 18, north side, an old West Virginia hillbilly (moved there in '59, but you wouldn't know it by speaking with him) named Murph has a farmstand that you should stop at. Great variety of produce he grows there, often you can catch him hauling in a load to put on the stand. You will recognize it: cause the front yard looks like the hills, a jumble of tables, chairs, coolers, and just junk. This was my second visit to Murph, and I plan to always stop when passing through.

    Brief travel tip - if you can, approach Niagara from the north and east. Hit the farmstands, visit Fort Niagara, wend your way down the parkway, and up the gorge. No crowd, and so much more scenic than the highways through Buffalo.

    The trip ended with disappointment. I had been anticipating a stop at Beirut in Toledo for a week, but was not sure how the schedule would work. We managed to hit Toledo around 7pm on a Saturday, so I was worrying about how long we would have to wait for a table. As we approached I was eyeing the parking lot for an indication, hoping it would not be totally full on a holiday weekend, and it was totally empty. Confusion, then recognition, and despair - the sign said, closed for the holiday. We stopped at a place called the Pita Express, because I wanted something Middle Eastern :cry: . Think Subway, with pita. I ordered the chicken gyros pita with tomatos, onions, feta and tzatziki. Hard to understand how it was so bland, but stay tuned, because this concept may be coming soon to a corner near you!

    Since we had not dined excessively and taken our fill of Lebanese wine, we just drove straight through to home, apparently providing an unpleasant surprise for the son, who was planning on one more night of solitary splendor.
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #3 - August 29th, 2006, 3:25 pm
    Post #3 - August 29th, 2006, 3:25 pm Post #3 - August 29th, 2006, 3:25 pm
    In the spirit of keeping it all together for future travelers, here is the link to the other Suzanne's thread, and here is my report from my most recent trip.

    We spent a couple of days around the Finger Lakes this time. For better and worse, they were a Monday and Tuesday in late August. This worked out well for avoiding crowds, but badly in that all the good restaurants were closed, including Suzannes and Ports Grill on Route 14 south of Geneva which had been highly recommended and I hoped to try. No luck.

    Somehow I was enticed into dining at the Geneva on the Lake Resort. It is a pretty building, the night was beautiful and the dining room exuded a certain turn of the twentieth century charm that the Bride and I found irresistible. And it was all that. Unfortunately the food was mediocre and laughably overpriced. A painful error that we repeated the next two nights in East Aurora at the Roycroft Inn because the combined room and dinner package was less expensive than the room by itself. So, having paid for a dinner, I felt compelled to eat it. Again the location - a peristyle in a beautiful arts and crafts style inn - was lovely with cool evening breezes and the late summer chorus of crickets, frogs and birds filling the air, but the food was a waste of good calories.

    Oh well. Both places are quite lovely, even if the food is not.

    Lunch in Watkins Glen was a bit more successful at
    Wildflower Cafe
    301 North Franklin St
    Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

    Good pub food, interesting wine list, good selection of beers. Not worth a detour, but I would happily go back.

    In addition to Ports, another place I would like to try is at Red Newt Cellars.

    The Bistro is open Wednesday - Sunday, of course, just like almost every other place that serves good food.

    Happy to say the fellow at Cowlick Creamery has made good progress with his cheese, the high point for me being some very serviceable gouda.

    Also hit some good wineries on our arc around Seneca and Keuka Lakes. The best were Standing Stone, Dr Frank, Anthony Road and Fox Run. But we also enjoyed some things at Lamoureaux Landing, Red Newt, and Belhurst.

    There also is a new Wine and Food center in Canadaigua that has a restaurant and wine tastings for those too pressed to go to the actual wineries. It has gotten some good press, but we skipped it. I fear it most likely would have been closed on Monday and Tuesday.

    We did find time to wander around Seneca Falls a little, visiting the National Women's Rights Park, or whatever the heck it is called. This may have been a strategic error on my part for the Bride took to referring to her hopes of emerging from my oppression soon for the rest of the trip. I was unsure how to reply to this gibe, and it soon lost its charm, becoming, dare I say it, a bit oppressive.

    But it was a lovely trip in a beautiful area and I look forward to my next visit - hopefully Wednesday and Thursday, thank you.

  • Post #4 - August 29th, 2006, 3:59 pm
    Post #4 - August 29th, 2006, 3:59 pm Post #4 - August 29th, 2006, 3:59 pm
    I've found, as a rule of thumb, that the food at any "resort" or "country club" is to be avoided. Of course there are exceptions, but they are few and far between.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #5 - August 29th, 2006, 4:23 pm
    Post #5 - August 29th, 2006, 4:23 pm Post #5 - August 29th, 2006, 4:23 pm
    If you get the chance, head down 414 from Watkins Glen to Corning and visit the glass museum. The term "world class" is overused but not here, it's probably the finest museum of its type in the world. Also in Corning are a number of artisan glass shops where true bargains can be found on pieces from (currently) unknown artists. Back in 1981 I fell in love with a piece and spent the insane-at-the-time amount of $600 to buy it. The piece (a large bowl) was from an up-and-coming artist by the name of Dale Chihuly. While I have never again repeated that stroke of good fortune, I have been pleased with every purchase I've made since that time.

    The drive down 414 is quite scenic and takes you past the Watkins Glen race course. Drive time from the glen to the glass museum is about 30 minutes.
  • Post #6 - August 30th, 2006, 11:31 am
    Post #6 - August 30th, 2006, 11:31 am Post #6 - August 30th, 2006, 11:31 am
    stevez wrote:I've found, as a rule of thumb, that the food at any "resort" or "country club" is to be avoided. Of course there are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

    Yup. I knew I was a sucker, but sometimes I just gotta be one.

    If you get the chance, head down 414 from Watkins Glen to Corning and visit the glass museum.

    Okay, will put that on the list, though I somehow get stuck visiting wineries and want to hike further up into the Glen, too, so it has competition.

    You have reminded me of one other place we visited in East Aurora (Buffalo area) - the Toy Town Museum, located in a Fischer Price plant, as it happens. If you love old toys, it is probably worth an hour or so, but I was fairly underwhelmed. They also have an annual Toy Fest - we left the day before it started. It looks amusing, but I doubt the food is very good, so what's the point, really? :wink:
  • Post #7 - September 3rd, 2006, 7:01 pm
    Post #7 - September 3rd, 2006, 7:01 pm Post #7 - September 3rd, 2006, 7:01 pm
    Hey I wish i knew you were going to saraycuse I could have sent you to Dinosauers Bar B Que . I think its as good as it can get . I live in Loudonville NY . The suburbs of Albany and there is a place on central Ave in Albany called Cafe Italia thats fantstic or D'Raymonds in Loudonville. In Schenectady the best is El Divino and Cornells and Ferraros .
    Roy Kennedy
  • Post #8 - September 3rd, 2006, 9:14 pm
    Post #8 - September 3rd, 2006, 9:14 pm Post #8 - September 3rd, 2006, 9:14 pm
    When in Ithaca, NY, (tip of Cayuga Lake) try:

    202 E Falls St
    Ithaca, NY 14850
    (607) 272-0656

    Lovely, upscale dining. My SIL is a student in Ithaca, so we go there often. I've eaten at Willow many times. Very good wine list. Try the calamari salad. The menu changes seasonally, and they buy locally. The restaurant shares a parking lot with a movie theater, and it has a special deal for customers: Dinner and a movie (pick from 3 entrees) for $25; a decent bargain.

    Moosewood is there, of course.
    215 N. Cayuga St., Ithaca, NY
    607 273-9610

    Taste of Thai
    216 The Commons
    Some of the tastiest Thai food I've ever had. There are 2 restaurants by this name. I haven't eaten at the other one -- I think it's mostly carryout -- so make sure you go to the one on The Commons.

    If you happen to be there on a weekend, plan to eat lunch at the Farmer's Market, Steamboat Landing/Third St. There's a Vietnamese couple who have a stand there and serve up fantastic food (they offer only a couple of things every week) but it's a plateful of rice and vegs and curry or other dishes (varies) plus some fried bananas or other little desserts, all for about $6, that they cook right there. (There are other food vendors there, too.)

    There's a good Indian restaurant in Ithaca, New Delhi Diamonds, 106 W Green St, Ithaca, 14850 - (607) 272-4508. Get takeout, though; they never have enough waitstaff and there's always a wait. Food's worth it, tho.

    And for some of the best wine in the area, IMHO, Six Mile Creek Vineyard, 1551 Slaterville Road (Rt 79 east), Ithaca, 607 272-WINE. (It's a couple of miles out of town.) We buy a lot of their Ithaca Red, Odyssey (rose), and Cabernet Franc.

    And for java and tea:
    Gimme Coffee, 506 W. State St., Ithaca 607 273-0111
    Carriage House Cafe 607-645-0152, 305 Stewart Ave Ithaca, good sandwiches and very nice pastries.
  • Post #9 - September 4th, 2006, 9:50 am
    Post #9 - September 4th, 2006, 9:50 am Post #9 - September 4th, 2006, 9:50 am
    There is a plethora of good eating to be had in Saratoga Springs. Walking up and down the main drag, Broadway, yields such gems as:

    Ignore the daily specials, focus on the homemade soups and great sandwiches.
    Scallions Restaurant 404 Broadway Saratoga Springs, NY
    Phone: 518 584-0192

    Cafe Gelato: The best gelato this side of Rome. No, seriously. Don't miss the pumpkin pie gelato in the fall
    518 691 6000
    419 N Broadway

    After strolling around, settle in for a great Italian meal at Chianti. Homemade pasta, great steak, great wine list
    208 South Broadway
    Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

    I lived in Saratoga for five years, so if anyone finds themselves there, feel free to PM me for even more suggestions.
  • Post #10 - August 7th, 2009, 8:36 pm
    Post #10 - August 7th, 2009, 8:36 pm Post #10 - August 7th, 2009, 8:36 pm
    We are going to be in the Corning/Finger Lakes/Niagara/Buffalo area week after next; any updated or more recent dining experiences/recommendations?
  • Post #11 - March 26th, 2018, 9:00 pm
    Post #11 - March 26th, 2018, 9:00 pm Post #11 - March 26th, 2018, 9:00 pm
    Going to be looking at some colleges in Hamilton NY, Annandale, Saratoga Springs and Middlebury VT. Any suggestions for interesting places to eat in those areas would be of great assistance.
    "I live on good soup, not on fine words." -Moliere
  • Post #12 - April 4th, 2018, 11:44 am
    Post #12 - April 4th, 2018, 11:44 am Post #12 - April 4th, 2018, 11:44 am
    Well, this trip has taken place and overall it was a very good trip, but from a food perspective it was pretty dismal. Food choices are pretty comparable to northern Wisconsin without the benefit of Supper Clubs. To give you an idea we had a meal at a self styled "Cantina" and were served refried beans that were liberally spiced with . . .Rosemary. Not a good combination and one I, unfortunately, cannot forget.

    One very bright spot was Hattie's Chicken Shack in Saratoga Springs - This was very good, carefully prepared, fast food fried chicken. The day we were there they had Nashville hot fried chicken, which I had. My only exposure to Nashville hot fried chicken was at the Budlong at the Revival Food Hall. My experence there was that the piece of chicken I received was a piece of spicy perfection. Hattie's was not quite at that level but was, indeed very, very good. Well above anything I have had at Popeye's and approaching Evanston Chicken Shack, but much, much spicier. In fact, I would say that the Nashville hot chicken there was probably the hotest fast food dish I have ever had. They did bring the heat. Red beans and rice were also very well spiced and included very good rice - close to the quality rice you would expect from a good Japanese restaurant. Sweet potato fries tasted very fresh and crisp. If in Saratoga, this place is worth a stop.
    "I live on good soup, not on fine words." -Moliere