Thursday, June 21, 2007


Upstate New York doesn't exactly have a signature dish. Unless you count salt potatoes, which, for those who don't know, are small potatoes cooked in enough salt to pickle a horse. They are quite good, but if eaten too often they will burn the taste buds off your tongue. I didn't have any salt potatoes on my return trip to Upstate. Growing up, I ate a lot of Italian sausage. Good, spicy sausage, packed with fennel. I figured this type of sausage was common everywhere. It wasn't until I moved to the Midwest that I discovered that we in Upstate had something special on our hands. The night Edan and I arrived we had grilled sausage and peppers. It was the perfect welcome home, even though my father's twenty year old grill has only one hot spot left, and it's roughly the temperature of the sun.

For our second dinner, we drove into the big city -- Syracuse. Another long-standing Brown family tradition is the trip to Cosmos Pizzeria on Marshall Street. A popular campus pizza place for about as long as Syracuse University has existed, Cosmos serves something like New York style pizza. The crust is fairly thin, but not crisp, and the sauce is sweet, with a fair amount of oregano. It's the best sauce I've ever tasted, and other than getting our wings at the same time as our pizzas, I had no complaints about the meal.

After two days of lounging about, doing laundry, and walking my parents' dog, Talulah, Saturday arrived, and we all headed to the Finger Lakes for a little wine tasting. I know what you're saying, Wine tasting? In Upstate New York? Well, yes. Despite what must be the shortest growing season of any wine region (unless there's some Siberian Sauternes being produced that I don't know about), the Finger Lakes turns out some very fine wine. Almost all of it is white (they make some reds, but the weather really prohibits much in the way of good reds), but it's not bad.

For lunch, we met my friend Lucia, who happens to live on the coast of Seneca Lake. She knew of a little cafe a few miles from her house. I wish I could remember the name (I'm almost certain it was Full Moon Cafe, or maybe Blue Moon Cafe), but it was very quaint and very tasty. I had a hot roast beef sandwich with grilled onions, and we all split some cookies afterwards. If you ever find yourself on the East coast of Seneca Lake, I highly recommend it.

With our bellies full, we were ready to do some serious tasting of wine. The first winery we stopped at was called Lakewood Vineyards. We had a free tasting of some good dry wines, some white and some red. The highlights were definitely the Pinot Gris, which was a perfect summer afternoon wine, and the longstem red. We tried their Pinot Noir, which was bad. It tasted a little like wood, and not in a good way.

The second stop on our wine extravaganza was Glenora Wine Cellars, a bigger winery that initially reminded me of Frass Canyon, from Sideways. Thankfully, their wine was up to snuff. We went on a tour of the winery, where they showed us the oak barrels in which the wine ages, and the expensive and complicated piece of Italian machinery they use to bottle the wine. After the tour, we sampled a good selection of wines, including two Chardonays, one aged exclusively in oak and the other aged in stainless steel then finished in oak. I preferred the oakier Chardonay, which probably means I'm a heathen. Also at Glenora we saw a bachelorette party, most of whom looked fairly sauced. One of the girls was wearing a dress so tight I could see her digesting the wine after she drank it. Just thought I'd share.

In Syracuse, we ate dinner at a tapas place called Dante's. The atmosphere was cozy, lots of exposed brick, and a little basement area that reminded me of a European restaurant. The tapas was mostly good, although too many dishes were served in one large piece, making sharing them difficult. At dinner, we talked about a lot of things, including Syracuse food critic Yolanda Wright, who once reviewed the Olive Garden.

I probably gained five pounds on this trip, despite all the walking I did in New York. We lucked out with the weather, we didn't miss any of our flights or trains (despite Amtrak and American Airlines best efforts), and I'd say we lucked out on the food, too. Except for Les Halles.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Patrick, I'm a big fan of NY State wine too! If Max and I can convince you and Edan to come east to visit us sometime and make the trip past my parents' house on Long Island, there are some great wineries on the North Fork. My favorites serve a couple of Rieslings that my dad introduced me to a few years ago.

On the way we're always sure to stop at Lobster Roll restaurant to grab a (you guessed it) lobster roll for lunch... yum...

After the wineries we'll buy a fresh berry pie at Briermere full of pickings from the local farms. And sometimes, if we're lucky, we'll pass an 'honor system' farm stand where we deposit our money into a locked box in exchange for a great array of heirloom tomatoes.

This is making me hungry for summer fare!