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Finger Lakes / Catskills ramble report (long)

m
mrsx Jun 22, 2009 02:06 PM

Summary of a recent 7 day spin through the above… thanks to the board for some great suggestions…

A quick lunch stop at Jumpin’ Jack’s just outside of Albany in Scotia yielded two tasty Jack Burgers – double cheeseburger topped with cole slaw. Nice big shards of cabbage kept things nice and crunchy. The skies threatened to open up any minute, but that didn’t stop the locals from crowding the picnic tables on a Friday afternoon.

Arriving in Skaneateles… spent most of our time at a weekend wedding with just enough time for a quick stop at Doug’s Fish Fry for one of the largest fish sandwiches I’d ever seen. Fish was easily three times the size of the bun and nice and crispy outside and moist inside. Coleslaw side was also good. Would pass on the seafood chowder next time, split one sandwich, and thus save room for a fresh strawberry sundae!

Headed up to Syracuse to see the folks post-wedding… squeezed in a quick lunch splitter at Dinosaur BBQ. Pork ribs and pulled pork combo with mac & cheese and mashed and gravy sides arrived super quick but less than hot. Gravy had a nice black peppery kick, but otherwise the food was nothing out of the ordinary. Who’d have thought you could get better BBQ in Boston?

Screamed into Heid’s in Liverpool for a nostalgia dog before skipping town – can’t beat the snap of a natural casing dog, and the coney never disappoints. Washed it down with a refreshing birch beer. Great building too.

Time and distance prevented us from dinner at Dano’s Heuriger in Lodi on Monday night, so we hit Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg near Ithaca instead. Great space, staff and emphasis on local ingredients. We kicked things off with a smoked trout and beet appetizer – huge portion, which we found a bit overly smoky. I think I would have preferred the inverse of proportions – more beets, less trout. I moved on to a chicken fricassee type dish, again, huge portion, with two bone-in pieces of chicken atop a large mound of shredded chicken with a creamy tarragon sauce, peas and a biscuit. It was good and homey. DC went for the burger with blue cheese and spinach as the local beef tenderloin special had run out. Cooked medium rare as requested, but the bun the size of a basketball made it a bit challenging to eat without resorting to the knife and fork. Side of grilled local asparagus was fresh and bright.

Hopped across the street to the Rongovian Embassy for a casual nightcap amidst a few locals and a very friendly bartender and was informed that new management will be taking over soon and they hope to be serving food again soon. Cute space, I can imagine it’d be a great space to catch some live music.

Split a very good sausage gravy and biscuits breakfast at the State Dinner in Ithaca the next day, which carried us through the day until “lunch,” which consisted of an enormous strawberry shortcake sundae at Cayuga Lake Creamery, enjoyed while eyeing the bullfrogs hop to and fro about the small pond adjacent the picnic tables. As good as it was, I now lament not going with the Mexican sundae, an elusive upstate phenomenon. Who knew it would prove to be the only ice cream stop of the trip!?

One short hike to the Taughannock falls and a few winery stops later, we were ready for an early dinner at the Glenwood Pines. Tried one each of the Pinesburger and the Fish Fry and definitely think the fish came out on top. Pinesburger had a good grilled taste, and I enjoyed the French bread, which seemed more of a sub roll to me, but no matter. The fish, though, was perfectly golden brown and delicious, and the coleslaw had just the right amount of sweetness and crunch. Boston and its scrod has nothing on this!

Passed a low key evening at Felicia’s Atomic Lounge in downtown Ithaca, enjoying a few gin and tonics with locally produced Seneca Lakes gin. Holy juniper!

A quick pit stop at Collegetown Bagels got us fueled up for the next leg of the journey. Your basic bagel shop, with its most distinctive feature being the trash/recycle/compost area. It was entertaining to watch those unfamiliar with the concept decide where to place things.

Phil’s Chicken House in Endicott was a nice stopping point for lunch. As a native upstater, I admit I have an occasional craving for places like this. Places where you see three generations dining together hunkered down over what I like to call, with no amount of disrespect, large quantities of pleasantly mediocre food. That said, we opted for the buffet and enjoyed some incredibly delicious roasted chicken and chicken & biscuits alongside the usual suspects: vapid green beans and instant mashed potatoes. With endless (unsweetened) iced tea and a plastic “bone bucket” on the table, I could have sat there all day. Again, I was remiss at not having saved room for the strawberry pie.

Rolling into sleepy midweek Mt. Tremper, we ended up at La Duchesse Ann for dinner. Cute building (also an inn), with an unfortunately intense feline smell dominating the entryway. It was seriously off-putting, but dissipated as you entered the bar and dining room area. The dining room was shockingly formal in a Victorian parlor meets shabby chic kind of way – upholstered chairs, white linens and roses in vases on every table – and empty save for a lone solo diner in the opposite corner of the green papered room. Despite my initial concern, we started with the escargot (where did it come from and how long ago, I wondered?), which was delicious, but I can’t recall specifically why. We moved on to the French onion soup, which we found too sweet and lacking any beefy flavor to balance things out. We split the trout almandine entrée, and were rewarded with the best meal of the trip. The (two, large) fillets were flaky, light and deliciously buttery, and accompanied by a very nice assortment of perfectly cooked vegetables… peas, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, scallions and I can’t remember what else, and a simple baked potato. The French chef-owner and his wife (the server, who had also made the desserts we skipped) were beyond kind and attentive.

We rounded out the trip with a final stop at Sweet Sue’s in Phoenicia, where we followed instructions and went with an order of pancakes – the blueberry strawberry combo. Not normally a pancake eater, I enjoyed the ten to one fruit to batter ratio immensely. We also got an order of the shrimp and grits, a slight disappointment given the army of superfine green peppers that burrowed their way through the entire bowl, and my immense personal dislike for them. Lesson learned: always inquire if there are green peppers in the shrimp and grits!

Looking back, it appears that the dominant themes were fish, biscuits, coleslaw and strawberries. Looking forward to enjoying the wines we purchased in the coming months as reminders of a great trip with lots of good eats and drinks!

  1. s
    Solstice444 Jun 27, 2009 06:07 PM

    I really enjoyed reading your review, as I went to college in Ithaca and now live in Dutchess County. Thanks for taking the time to write it up! I hope to make it to Sweet Sue's sometime in the not so distant future.

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