Tag Archives: Adventures in the Finger Lakes

Creme de la creme

18 Dec

Homemade triple berry pie brought back the vibrant flavors of summer. Summer in the Finger Lakes is delicious! Wild blackberries, corn on the cob, yellow squash, ice cream, cheese, wine, beer and more.  There is so much to enjoy this time of year one wishes the season would linger much longer. Fall brings a different blend of abundance that is a fine consolation.

Not only are the taste buds happy with premium local food and drink but the visual aesthetics of the Finger Lakes region are satisfying.  In especially rural areas, neat fields cover the landscape in grid-like patterns, only being interrupted by vineyards, dairy farms and the lakes. Keuka Lake proved to be an excellent locale to enjoy scenery, good times with friends and the bounty of the surrounding hills.

Domaine LeSeurre one of Keuka Lake’s newest wineries is producing amazing wine via a blend of New and Old World wine making techniques. Celine and Sebastion LeSeurre originated in France, met in New Zealand and launched their winery in Wayne, NY alongside Keuka Lake. They recently released their first red wine, a Pinot Noir, that I was happy to try during a recent stop to their tasting room.

Domaine LeSeurre released their first red wine earlier this month, a stunning Pinot Noir.

Domaine LeSeurre released their first red wine in 2014, a stunning Pinot Noir.

Visiting friends were thrilled to try this amazing new Pinot Noir! An enormous full moon rose above the hillside to cast its reflection upon the lake as we enjoyed the fine wine of Domaine LeSeure and an assortment of local cheeses from Heron Hill’s Blue Heron Cafe.

The full orange moon begins to rise over the Bluff and reflect upon the water.  Abandoned chairs hold wet towels.

The full orange moon begins to rise over the Bluff and reflect upon the water. Abandoned chairs hold wet towels.

Keuka Lake becomes quiet as the full moon rises and night advances.

Keuka Lake becomes quiet as the full moon rises and night advances.

Colder temperatures helped turn my attention to Coltivare in Ithaca.  This farm to bistro project, launched by the TC3 foundation in downtown Ithaca plans to be a leading example in hospitality and culinary operations.  A sixty acre farm located in Dryden, near Tompkins Cortland Community College, will provide much of the produce used in the restaurant, Coltivare.  The farm will also provide experience for students in the Sustainable Farming Systems and Culinary programs. This unique project emphasizes sustainability throughout the agriculture, culinary and design practices.  Re-purposed barn board and brick dominate the interior of the dining space, while tin and stainless steel lighting fixtures offer pleasant  accents. The inviting atmosphere may help beat cabin fever while the impressive menu is sure to delight.  13 local beers are on tap, and wines from leading local wineries are certainly available too. (Plans for 3 local ciders on tap are in the works too!)

Winter in the Finger Lakes can be rough. Cold temperatures or heavy snowfall make travel brutal at times. Err on the side of caution but consider the changing weather and seasons as opportunities to explore and have new experiences.  Whether you are inspired to read, snowshoe or snowboard, here in the Finger Lakes the options are endless!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

30 Apr

On this wet, last day of April in upstate NY,  I’m pleased to recall an assortment of fun recent events and to forget snow for now, while enjoying the blossoming wild flowers.  Crimson and white trillium brightened my morning last week at a favorite hiking spot.

Trillium bud.

Trillium bud.

Mother Nature offered a bit of warmth and sunshine before many April showers. The peepers came out to close our Saturday barbeque with song, while a hazy moon sat high above our campfire and wooded pond.  We shook off our social skills like our warmer weather clothes, only to retreat once again indoors.

One wet morning I happened upon the Montezuma Audubon Center on Rte. 89 north of Savannah.  My pup and I explored a new hiking trail that looped around north of the center.  Our curiosity was heightened as we looked around each bend, through the trees, at the forest floor and up at the sky.  Our impromptu visit was so refreshing that the center and its grounds may be one of my new favorite places! This Saturday, May 3, a Wildlife Festival will be held at the Montezuma Audubon Center.  Live animals including a Bald Eagle named Liberty will help attendees learn more about wildlife. Find out more details here.

My tolerance for weather may be much greater than many others.  Winter hikes and rainy treks are a reality for some, for others such experiences are far from fun.  Plans for a beach cleanup, 4OG,  along the shore of Lake Ontario were postponed due to rain.  Hopefully a bit of sun and warmer weather will make our event more fun for the little ones and their parents.  Many thanks to GreenStar Co-op for their financial support! It only seems natural to feed volunteers who come together to clean our shores.  GreenStar is committed to sustainability and our local food system.  Apples from Little Tree Orchard in Newfield, filled my basket and I was awarded 2 wooden nickels for bringing my own bags.  I tossed the tokens in bins marked with the names of local charities.  I know the Cayuga Dog Rescue scored 5 cents that trip.

Excursions around the region have offered as much variety as the weather patterns.  “Lean Forward,” a digital art show at The Mill Art Center and Gallery, entranced me with the breadth of techniques and subjects.  Long-time fans of digital art will appreciate the advanced techniques and sentiments expressed via digital media in this show.  A second and third visit are high on my list of things to do.  Dinner at The Rabbit Room made this show’s opening reception even more rewarding.  The Parisienne gnocchi is one of my favorite dishes anywhere.

Ryan William Vineyard was also an unexpected stop yet I am quite thankful to have visited this farm winery on the south-eastern side of Seneca Lake.  The wines offer complexity and flavor that hint at the care given to both the grapes and wine production process. The Late Harvest Riesling amazed with apricot flavor and residual sugar near 17%!  This wine does well in the bottle, making it a wise choice for special occasions.

There is so much to be enjoyed in the Finger Lakes! What are you looking forward to as summer nears?

Tea Time at The Rabbit Room, Annual Mad Hatter Tea Party Mania

16 Feb
James DeMarco striking a pose in his handmade hat.

James DeMarco striking a pose in his handmade hat.

Tamara Stopinksi knows how to throw a tea party! This past Sunday, I entered The Lower Mill in Honeoye Falls, with a feeling of wonder, after following a queen bedecked in black and red with very high silver heels, from the parking area.  Inside, costumes ranged from ridiculous to traditional brunch attire.  The bartender’s ears were ten inches long, the hostess wore a mustache and lime green pants while others were dressed as specific characters from Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis C. Carroll. Alison DeMarco was stunning as the Snow Princess, reigning over a court of Mad Hatters.

Brunch at The Rabbit Room surpassed my many Sunday excursions into breakfast at lunch time.  This annual event infused the cold February morning with zaniness and flavor.  My weakness for French Toast didn’t stand a chance with the Wonderland French Toast! Made with chocolate chip bread and donned in maple syrup, the toast had a slight chipotle kick that balanced perfectly with the accompanying strawberries and pineapple.  A spicy bloody Mary complimented the meal while The Ghost Peppers played nearby, in full costume.

Loose-leaf teas were sipped from fine china tea cups before visiting the upstairs.  At this point, I felt a bit like Alice, with few assumptions, and no idea what I might encounter next.

Artisans had arranged their creations in a crescent shape around the outer walls of the gallery.  Featured artists included Amy Brand, Pam Nakoski of Vintage Soul, Amy Borelli and Janet Zorhorsky. Tamara, the owner of Talulah’s Fancy and Friends, was cheerfully moving about her shop and the gallery as she helped guests and greeted friends.  This Sunday was the 4th Annual Mad Hatter Tea Party and marked the anniversary of her store opening.  The first party was documented beautifully in the Autumn 2012 issue of the national magazine, “Where Women Create” with photographs of Nancy Wiley’s Wonderland inspired creations and the acclaimed doll artist’s

Little Red Riding Hood. By The Brothers Grimm, Illustrated by Nancy Wiley

Little Red Riding Hood. By The Brothers Grimm, Illustrated by Nancy Wiley

interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood.  Mrs. Stopinski looks forward to the appearance of Ms. Wiley’s Cinderella next year at the 5th Annual Tea Party.

Amy Brand’s felt creations, Sweet Pea Felts, continue to steal many hearts! Her interpretations of animals melt away winter blues and conjure images of bliss and wonder.  Her scenes seem to capture moments in the lives of her characters, be it a chipmunk with his acorn or a fox busy painting at his easel.  Cards, characters and 2 dimensional pieces offer a variety of options for her fans, new and old.  Like Ms. Wiley, Amy Brand’s passion for her craft and creations nearly guarantees we will see more from her.

As The Mill Art Center and Gallery and the inhabitants of The Lower Mill attract artists and patrons alike, events like the annual Mad Hatter Tea Party will amaze and inspire.  Many thanks to Talulah’s Fancy for providing a fun, festive family friendly activity during this cold and gray time of year in upstate New York!

WinterFest at PollyWogg Holler

3 Feb

In spite of the brutal cold, WinterFest at PollyWoggHoller was heart-warming.

Having fun at WinterFest

Having fun at WinterFest

This past Sunday, nearly 300 people made the trek to PollyWogg Holler, an Eco-Retreat located in Allegheny County, to enjoy music from Shaky Stage.  Good cheer was in the air as guests danced and enjoyed the afternoon.  Patrons wore multiple layers of clothing, many in full snow suits or down coats. Bonfires burned in a snow covered meadow as the band played from a diverse sound book.

There was much to enjoy at “The Holler” this weekend. One active guest, Jonah DeMarco stayed busy during his entire visit, brushing snow from benches, making piles of snow and sliding down hills.  The warmth of the main lodge beckoned cold guests.  It was an unforgettable luxury to sit in chairs made by Bill Castle, eating fresh wood-fired pizza and sipping Cabernet Franc from Eagle Crest Vineyards with friends.

The extreme temperatures and snowy roads may have amplified the joy of fellowship at this annual event.  It took careful planning and a positive attitude to enjoy this gathering. Like many others, I too, am already looking forward to next year’s WinterFest at PollyWogg Holler!

Proud father, Andy Penner, with sons, Jonah and Jimmy DeMarco.

Proud father, Andy Penner, with sons, Jonah and Jimmy DeMarco.

Eagle Crest Vineyards, A Destination to Discover

5 Jun

A recent trip to Eagle Crest Vineyards was a bounty for the senses.  My GPS made the journey more difficult than necessary, taking me on winding gravel roads, rather than the direct main route.  Oftentimes, the indirect route is much more interesting than “the right way.”  It certainly made my arrival at the winery even more exciting.

Lisa was my gracious hostess.  We concentrated on the important business at hand, otherwise, the day may easily have slipped away in the picturesque setting high above Hemlock Lake.

Questions are the mainstay of conversations in tasting rooms throughout the region.  Climate, topography, travel information, tasting notes and history are all details requested of vineyard staff.  We covered all of those familiar topics and moved deeper into hydrofracking politics and possibilities in the area around the vineyard especially.

Eagle Crest recently had their largest event yet, a “Wine and Wood Fired Pizza Letter-Writing Party,” culminating in 350 hand written letters being sent to NY State authorities.  Their aim? “…to send a voluminous and clear message to the State to PROTECT and PRESERVE the Hemlock-Canadice Lake Watershed.”

As Eagle Crest draws awareness to the need to preserve the pristine lakes beside them, they also pay homage to their history, as one of the oldest vineyards in the Finger Lakes.  Originally founded by a Bishop, the Oh-Neda label began 140 years ago! To celebrate this anniversary, Eagle Crest Vineyards has recently released a Premiere Reserve Cabernet Franc, with the Oh-Neda label.

It all comes together at Eagle Crest.  Not far from the tasting room, The Nature Conservancy’s bright yellow-orange signs announce a nature preserve.  Perched above Hemlock Lake, 2 of New York’s oldest pairs of bald eagles nest.

Not only is this vineyard and winery a special place, but the owners are friendly and generous. Keep in mind the bottles of Semi- Dry Riesling and Premiere Reserve Cabernet Franc as our silent auction and opening reception draw near.

Eagle Crest Vineyards will be in Clayton, NY the evening of June 13th but the tasting room is usually open Monday -Friday 12-5 but it is always a good idea to check their event calendar.

June 22nd will be the first of 3 Grape Jamm events this summer.  Eagle Crest will host an open jam for musicians, offer featured guests, free wine tastings and bottle sales.  Area artists and craftspersons will be on hand with unique items for sale. “Thirst for Art” painting classes will also be available for a fee. Reserve your chance to paint on records in an outdoor classroom setting in the western Finger Lakes.


This Weekend: Ithaca’s Chili Cook-Off

13 Feb

The Chili Cook-Off is my favorite event in Ithaca.  I look forward to it all year long.  Ithaca actually may have won my heart because of this February festival.

Located downtown on the historic Commons, the festival fills the red brick street with competitors, tasters, and activities.  An atmosphere of fun and the smell of delicious chili fill the air.

This year the Chili Cook-Off celebrates their 15th Anniversary with the theme “Giving Back.”

According to their website, The United Way has received a matching grant up to $20,000 for all donations received during the event.

Another of my favorites-the cornbread.  Proceeds benefit Healthy Food for All via a program called Cornbread for Kids.

Each year the offerings at the cook-off change.  Visit the official Chili Cook-Off page for more details.  All activities may not be listed.  No sign of the mechanical bull on the list but I have my fingers crossed.

The festival is Saturday on the Commons, with Sunday designated as a rain date.  It may be cold, so bundle up and wear your Mardi Gras beads if you have them.  I’ll be wearing mine!

Milly’s Pantry Feeds Yates County Youths

28 Jan

Authenticity?  What is it?  Where is it? At Milly’s Pantry in Penn Yan, NY authenticity is in the building!

The second oldest building on Main St. houses the cafe.  As one steps inside a large room with high tin ceilings, one immediately is drawn to explore.  Coffee from Keuka Lake Coffee Roasters greets guests at the entry.  Handcrafted items from local artisans line the wall to the left, while a counter and tables welcome guests on the right.

Ran entirely by volunteers, this cafe and market fills the backpacks of 500 local youths with food each weekend.

Feeding others, supporting artists and creating a place for community to come together is the bread and butter of this nonprofit.

Great care has been taken to display quality artwork and goods in an inviting, orderly manner.  At Milly’s Pantry, the volunteers speak gently but their actions amplify their concern and care for local students.   Quiches, soups and desserts made by volunteers fuel this program, “So Children Won’t Go Hungry.”

If you have time for the short drive to Penn Yan, Milly’s Pantry is a charming destination that truly gives back to the local community.