Category Archives: Jake

Three Days of Finger Lakes Wineries-Day One

AKA How to not to bruise your palate, get a DWI, and have enough energy for dinner.

Jake’s 40th was supposed to be grander than this. Afterall, my 40th was spent at Victoria and Albert’s eating and getting proposed to; how does one top that? Well, initially I’d planned a few days in Sonoma. We’d never been and in my typically self-serving fashion figured what was good for me was good for Jake! However, some health concerns for my parents meant that we couldn’t be sure Adam would have a place to stay. It seems the authorities and mommy bloggers frown on leaving your four year old alone for several days and get even more angry if you suggest taking them to wineries.

So I revised and decided to spend two nights in Hammondsport on Keuka Lake visiting wineries and restaurants we hadn’t been to before. This post is about the wineries, how I selected them and what we liked and did not like.  The full itinerary is on a weebly site I made for Jake’s birthday–this keeps the links to each destination and daily plan organized in a way that (in a perfect world) would allow me to add content, reviews and pictures. Let’s chuckle about the best laid plans…we both know I never bother with that nonsense!! You want pictures? Go to instagram!

We visit the wineries on the northwestern side of Seneca Lake often; Ravines, Billsboro, Fox Run, Red Tail Ridge and sometimes Hermann J. Wiemer. These are with 60-90 minutes of our house and can be done in day trip while Adam is at daycare or with a babysitter. But we never make it further, mostly because further requires over night or much longer day, and if we’re going to be gone past Adam’s bedtime, we might as well be gone all night, amirite? So my plans were to take us further south and east than we typically go, basing my choices on award winners, interesting stories, and Evan Dawson’s Summer in a Glass.

Our first day started with lunch at the New York State Wine and Culinary Center, where we were able to sit outside and enjoy a bottle of Boundary Breaks Riesling (more on that winery/vineyard later!), a pork belly app, and summer squash pizza. My brief review: I like the dedication to NYS wine, the interesting menu, the good food, and the building; I dislike the amateur service (it’s not bad, but it’s not up to the menu), the view of the parking lot/marina, and the regular ‘we’re out of X’ every time I order something.

The only two wineries on our list today were Dr. Konstantin Frank and Keuka Lake Vineyards. Dr. Frank has a long history in the Finger Lakes, has won many awards and has a breath-taking view. And yet I never really find myself in love with their wine. I’m sure it’s just me, as my palate pretty much stinks, I can’t ever tell you what I smell or taste, and all those somms can’t be wrong. In any case, I will tell you that Keuka Lake Vineyards is AMAZING. Tiny, no view, limited amount of wine but what we tasted we bought (in fact, I just ordered more). I’d recently read Lenn Thompson’s (of the New York Cork Report) brief instagram review of their Vignoles:

Fascinating take on vignoles… Chilled it was just too harshly structured and lacking fruit. At room temp it blossomed with dried pineapple and apricot… Not for everyone. And not going to impressed within 30 seconds. Take your time and tease out the layers and complexity.

Damned if he wasn’t right. We tasted this after it had been opened earlier in the day and at room temp and it was just as he described; we liked it so much we bought a bottle. But what really impressed us was the Leon Millot Fournier 2014, a red that had no business in the FLX, with its deep inky color (picture grape jelly, really) and incredible roundness. Just really impressive. We bought one and ordered two more the other day. Must be those 70-year-old vines…

And that was that for wineries that day. We made our way to our hotel (McCorn Winery Lodging-more later!) and a lakeside dinner (I’ll write about that another day too!) and shamelessly went to bed around 9:30.

Day two, coming up.

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What? Did you just say Applebees?

Yes. I did. I’m not proud. I’m sure you know this already, but I’m a snob. I’ll eat in diners and the like, but something about national chains gets me down. Yet Applebees happens sometimes because it’s easy; say you’re in, oh, Oneonta, NY, and your options are, uh, Applebees and Walmart, you go with Applebees.

And now I’ll go back. Not entirely because of the 9 ounce wine they pour (oenophiles are rolling their eyes everywhere) but because the kids meals and the relatively low calorie plates, but mostly the cheap wine.

We were in Oneonta for one night to watch Jake ride at the New York Safety Track and needed a kid friendly, alcohol serving, sit down meal to get ourselves through til bedtime with our four year old. While the King Suite as the Super 8 provided the weeman with his own space, Mommy was feeling a bit washed out after the four hour car ride that consisted mostly of someone repeatedly asking why. Why, Mama, why do airplanes use jet fuel? Why do dogs have fur? Why aren’t we living in a story right now?

Don’t judge me, you’d need a drink too.

So, Applebees. Where it turns out they have healthy kids choices presented in a way kids would actually consider eating them; crayons that actually leave color on the paper (I know you’ve been handed those cheap ass waxy things that don’t write in other places); a kids cup with a strong lid; and an option to pour 9 ounces of wine all in one glass. Alas, they no longer have balloons after some child somewhere reportedly tried to eat one and choked.

Adam ate chicken and applesauce, the adults shared some spicy shrimp and then had two the lower cal options (mine was steak with articokes and mushrooms, Jake’s has slipped my mind). For dessert we shared Adam’s favorite thing ever–s’mores. Note this is a take on s’mores that involves no fire; just churros, chocolate sauce and some fluff.

Really, it wasn’t amazing and the wine list isn’t great, BUT it was solid, inexpensive and pleasant. I’m really surprised!!

Last Week in Wine

It was a hell of a week. In short, my mother is getting older and has many of the problems that go with that; these things cause me to spend inordinate amounts of time in hospitals and wine shops.

After the first 48 hours had gone by (including on night sleeping in a chair) and things were looking up, I headed home Wednesday to have a comfort meal with Jake. I’m not sure if I was exhausted or just feeling spendy, but instead of picking up a pizza like a normal person, I stopped at Wegmans for charcuterie and cheese, then the wine shop for what I decided was a night worth a “good” wine.

See that box of figs in the background. Insanity.

See that box of figs in the background? Insanity.

Enter Bacio Divino 2006 Red Blend for $50. We often have conversations about the price of wine, mostly wondering if we go upwards from $30 do we gain as much as we spend. Is a $50 red doubly as good as a $25 red? After this bottle, I’d say sometimes, maybe. How’s that for clarity?! We’d recently had the 337 Cab Sav were pretty happy considering the price tag. These two wines tasted side by side really demonstrated what time and cost might get you in terms of wine. The Divino was rich and delicate at once, with a sort of ‘nothing’ start, then the fruit comes but not too fruity (I lack wine words…) with a long finish. That my first thought, actually. A very long finish that I liked a lot (see, poor wine vocab on my part). Overall, it was subtle and I wasn’t entirely sure it was worth it as we were eating the platter of cheese, meat, fruit and bread.

But then. THEN. The dark chocolate covered figs. Mother of God. I’m weak in the knees just thinking about it. It was one of those pairings that makes you remember how wine makes food better and food makes wine better. Just ridiculous. Perfect pairing.

There was more dietary and alcoholic insanity as the week went on. Thursday was a beautiful 65 degree spring day, so again, on my way home from the hospital, I made the decision to get some Rose so I could sit on the porch and enjoy the weather. A wine friend at the shop recommended the Roger Et Didier Raimbault (note: I paid about 25% more than this link suggests) and the L’oliveto. I’d initially ignored the L’oliveto because it was $8 (note: it appears to be retailing at other shops for $14). Live and learn. She raved. I drank. It was solid, especially for wine you plan to drink a bunch of while sitting on your porch. I went back and bought a case. I also told her that we were having oxtail ragu over gnocchi for dinner (Jake is soooooooo good to me….) and she picked a Malbec that was a great match.

Saturday night was Jake’s first attempt at duck confit and it was RIDICULOUS. I picked a young pinot noir, Acrobat, I think (it’s all fuzzy by then) and promised a myself a solid detox this week.

This coming week will likely be devoid of wine (she says on Monday…we’ll see when Friday comes) and devoted to veggies and hopefully movement from the hospital into rehabilitation (fingers crossed). Because my richness and stress quotas have been met via charcuteris, oxtail, duck and old age.

Char

We go to Char entirely too often. Need a quick bite before RBTL? Char. Nightcap after RMSC event? Char. New Years Eve? Char. Date night? Char. Happy Hour before Play Ball at Strong Museum? Char.

See, a long time ago, we had a pork belly app here that still calls out to me. We return in the hope of getting that pork belly again. Unfortunately, it’s not on the menu anymore. But now they have a spicy sausage stuffed calamari and this oxtail gnocchi thing that are easily two of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Please keep in mind there are always many glasses of wine and a baby sitter associated with Char, so I might be biased.

I posted about RMSC Uncorked the other day and how it wasn’t really as, um, good/informative/not crowded as we’d hoped. We arrived there right at 6, after stopping at Hedges (always, it’s just down the road from our house and has a great view, dated everything else, but a great view) AND Char, for a glass of Girard Chardonay and some potato wedges. We knew there would be food at RMSC, but wanted a bit beforehand just in case there wasn’t enough. Well, there wasn’t enough.

Just after 8 we headed back to Char and were seated right away. Our table was one of the less desirable, but no wait is no wait. Overall, excellent again, both service and food.

1. Girard Chard–we like it, it’s not too expensive and pairs nicely with the oysters and calamari we ordered.

2. Oysters–$3 a pop, the special, and I can’t remember what variety they were. Four of the six we ordered were great, but two of them (two of mine) were bad–one had lots of broken shell and the other one tasted like cat litter. We told the server, assuming he’d take the $6 off the bill but instead he took the whole dish off. Great job, Char!

3. The aforementioned calamari stuffed with spicy Italian sausage and bread crumbs, grilled and served over cannellini beans and cherry peppers. This is the full squid, stuffed with the fattiest spicy pork sausage ever. Amazing. In some ways it reduces the calamari to a sausage casing, but I don’t care, it’s delicious and we get it every time.

4. The red wine-braised oxtail ragù with ricotta gnocchi. Do I even need to say anything else?! Tender, fatty, rich, amazing. Surely needs a good red to work with all that fattiness, but we didn’t order one to compliment this. (Are you counting; I’m up to a glass at Hedges, a glass at Char, tastings at RMSC, splitting  bottle back at Char…)

And we were home by 11!

Taking the Scenic Route AKA the Slow Boat to Fort Ticonderoga

We’ve been back from Burlington for over a month and I never wrote about the drive home. East Middlebury is pretty far south and a bit east of Burlington, so our trip home wouldn’t be exactly the same route and we had to continually ignore the GPS in order to stay on rural roads (we heard “recalculating” about a billion times).

And then we got here (I apologize for the shabby iphone pic):

Fort Ticonderoga Ferry: you request it by pulling a rope attached to a sign that flips up…very high tech!

That’s the southern part of Lake Champlain and Fort Ticonderoga is just on the other side. To go around would be 40 miles south, while the longest wait for the ferry is 15 minutes. The whole system is pretty low tech: when you pull up you either board the waiting ferry or stop, get out, walk over to the pole/rope/sign in the above picture and pull. The sign flips and the ferry captain knows to come back. It seems that you don’t really even need to call; there were cars coming back and cars waiting with us in minutes.

You can see it better here:

Fort Ticonderoga Ferry from http://www.forttiferry.com

$9, 15 minutes to cross, April to October. Even better in a convertible!!
By the time we got home I learned that I had placed solidly in the middle at USAT Nationals; not as good as I used to be, but certainly better than last year.

Race Day, Fancy Breakfast, and the Waybury Inn

The race was the largest I’ve been involved in; even Ironman Florida was not quite this big, over 2000 entrants for the Olympic Distance. I finished respectably considering my training is nowhere near what it used to be. Jake stayed with me through my swim start (2000 people in this case means wave starts of 100ish people at a time; I was wave 14 out of 18 or 20) and then headed off to find some breakfast and wander Burlington. I spent the next 2:42:01 swimming, biking and running. He ate eggs benedict (not a traditional version–sourdough bread and spinach added) and pancakes (also not traditional–added oatmeal to the batter!) that were passable. I ate four packets of Power Gel, vanilla flavor.

 

But onto the good stuff! We drove about 35 miles south of Burlington to East Middlebury and the Waybury Inn. This was more a choice of convenience than a rigorous selection process; basically there were no rooms within 100 miles of Burlington and we got lucky with a cancellation. The Waybury is popular without a national race happening nearby, it was the inn used for the exterior shots of the Newhart Show (did I just age myself?), has a pub that Robert Frost spent time in writing, and has a pretty good restaurant.

Check in was a little weird. When we pulled up we could see a wedding that was about to begin and the parking lot was almost full. I was concerned that we’d been overbooked and would not have a room, but was armed with the emails confirming our one night reservation. We entered the lobby, very rustic, and according to Jake, exposing original beams. There was no one at the desk. We waited. We rang the bell. We waited. And finally a women who smelled of booze (seriously!! like she’d just downed a shot behind the counter or something) came out and checked us in. She told us that the wedding would make things a bit crazy and loud, but that we should put our things in our room and go to the pub for a drink.

 

And that is just what we did. After I took a shower and scrubbed my race numbers off we went straight to the bar, the bar we’d been told was open and to go to. When we go there the bartender very brusquely told us that we couldn’t be in there, the wedding had rented the bar and we were going to make the bride mad. He agreed to make us each a drink that we could take out to the porch and he’d send us a waitress. Evidently I took too long to decide (because he didn’t have the first two things I asked for) and he told me I would have to leave.
I was pretty angry, especially since the front desk of this 10 room inn sent us there, it’s not like it was some giant resort where the left and right hands don’t know what each other is doing. This is one small building. Anyway, the porch waitress brought us each one drink and then never came back. Jake braved the wrath of the bartender and got us two more or three more or who knows. I cheered up quickly when I realized the awesome people watching potential that “Rick and Val’s Wedding” was about to provide. Let me just say: lots of tattoos, black jeans, smoking in the parking lot, and at least one ‘dress’ baseball cap. Not to mention “Val” was about 50 and had nine bridesmaids and the full on big dress shenanigans. Priceless.
What the Waybury lacked in service (and it continued to be shabby service but I’m thinking its a problem of having a small pool of people to hire, it was pretty rural) it made up for with good food. We ate dinner at the inn, sharing bacon wrapped scallops and a caprese salad with local fresh mozzarella. Jake had rack of lamb. I assume is was good as he ate the whole thing and I got not even a bite. I had venison and it was perfect. For my life I can’t remember what we had for dessert. I do remember having a Bailey’s though.

 

We spent our after dinner time on the porch again listening to the last wedding guests dance to Bon Jovi…

is it pasta? is it Risotto? I’m not sure, but it’s good.

What you’re going to need in no particular order:
Half of a package of your favorite bacon
6oz cleaned mushrooms
Minced garlic
Olive oil
A lemon
A bottle of cheap white wine
1lb of pasta
2 red peppers
1 onion
1 qt chicken stock (you won’t use all of it)

We know  that we haven’t been posting much at all, almost not at all. It turns out a baby is a lot more work than one would think.  We stand corrected.

On the way home a few weeks ago I was listening to splendid table on NPR.  There was a fellow on that day talking about cooking pasta as if it were Risotto.  Hmm. Interesting.    Lets just get to it.  Please disregard the crappy electric stove, its been 6 months since we moved here and it still just don’t seem right.  (Poor grammar intended). Get yourself a drink, and we’ll start making dinner.

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Where all great dishes start. Guinness and bacon.

We’re  going to start where every great dish starts…bacon.  That’s right I said it, bacon.  “Jake, make me a key lime pie!”  Sure hope you like a crust made with bacon grease, ’cause that’s what you’re getting! Don’t judge me.  One thing before we get started, if you want exact amounts so you can replicate my recipe just go ahead and go someplace else.  Also, when I say tablespoon I mean the one in your silverware drawer, the big one.  Same goes for the teaspoon.  Back to the bacon.  I feel for those of you who live somewhere where you don’t have a Wegman’s grocery store, because you wouldn’t know about the wonderful products they carry.  Their uncured pepper bacon for instance, mistakenly bought by Kim one day.  As I took it out of the refrigerator  that day I looked at her ( it wasn’t smoked) as if she brought me soy milk or some other nonsense.  I cooked it up and after putting it into my mouth, I had to admit that, well she wasn’t wrong.  We haven’t bought any other type of bacon in about a year.  As for the amount of bacon? I don’t know…half the package I guess. Cook it not unlike you may cook it for breakfast, only nice and crispy here. Then pour half of the grease into another pan, and set the bacon aside.  Cut it up so its ready later.

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Peppers onions and tomatoes, who's that lurking behind?

You  may as well chop up a whole onion, two red peppers and slice up about a dozen grape tomatoes.

Now we have two pans.  We’re going to call them left and right.  Were going to add a little more oil to lefty and righty, olive oil will work fine and lets put lefty over medium heat and righty over medium low heat. Maybe a couple tablespoons of olive oil per pan.  Get a pound of pasta, your choice but I like something that will hold the sauce, so for us its orecchiette.  Spirals or any other pasta with some surface area will work.  I’m not sure why, but it seems as though for our purposes it is accepted procedure to coat the pasta in oil. ” If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” I always say. So after coating the pasta in the oil in righty I pour half a bottle of cheap white wine and the juice of a lemon over the whole mess.  This is the Risotto  part.  About now you should have some chicken stock just hanging out on the stove in a saucepan warm. As the pasta absorbs the wine you should turn it over and ladle stock over it as it needs more liquid.  Its going to get a creamy consistency you didn’t know pasta could get.  Throw a little basil over it if the mood strikes you.  It struck me.

While righty cooks nice and slow and turning over, lefty is hungry for garlic  so give it what it wants.  A tablespoon should do.  Let the garlic saute for a minute then throw in a half onion, diced, and a red pepper, diced.  After letting the onion get translucent we add our chopped bacon and about 6 oz of sliced mushrooms and a tablespoon or so (maybe as much as two) of liquid smoke.  Mushrooms are like nature’s sponge; savory goodness ensues.

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Take the mushrooms off the heat after they’ve cooked down nicely.  At this point if you’re using reduced sodium broth you may want to put a pinch of salt into your pasta, and while you’re at it a little garlic couldn’t hurt either.  After a while your pasta will be creamy and start getting soft all the way through.   Toss in a  half onion diced, and let it sit and soften a bit. Follow with a red pepper diced and a dozen grape tomatoes sliced up thin.  If you happen to have fresh basil, cut up a handful and throw that in too.  A word of caution about cheese.  I’ve made this dish a few times and thought melting some cheese in was a must.  The first time we used peccorino (too salty)  and the second time we used soft goat cheese (a little better).   I suggest no cheese.  I know, I can’t believe I just heard myself say it.  The truth is that melting cheese in muddies the flavors. Without the cheese this dish is very bright and the smoky salty bacon and mushrooms play well against the crunchy red peppers and wine /lemon soaked pasta.

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If you must, (and I must) shred a little hard Italian cheese over it and serve it up with some premium box wine!