Belated Birthday Outings

As I mentioned on Saturday Luke was out of town for his birthday so we put off birthday celebrations until he got home on Friday. On Friday I made him one of his favorite desserts: cinnamon rolls (see Bread of the month: Irish Cinnamon Rolls). Then to continue the celebration had him open b-day cards and presents.

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Then on Saturday we enjoyed a morning/afternoon of lazy sleeping in (and cinnamon rolls) at home then drove up to Dryden NY. Why Dryden? It is the home of a new hop farm and microbrewery: Hopshire.

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Outside of it’s awesome name, Hopshire serves high quality brews made with local honey, grains, and their own home-grown hops. We discovered them at the Ithaca Chili fest (see Ithaca chili Cook Off) where they were giving away samples of two of their brews: a light honey beer called :Beehave and a spicy brown ale called: Round Yon Virgil.

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We pulled up to the brewery and stepped into their taproom:s a cozy room  with a bar and a spare room with a large dinging table. Each door way was framed with  ornately decorated wood framing  carved with leaves and hops and the taproom walls were decorated with vintage beer advertisements.

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Luke decided to try a flight of what was on tap starting with the lightest beer and ending with their IPA’s. His thoughts: they revile the northwest’s beers  (which if you know anything about beer that is saying something). The favorite picks included: Fiddler’s Grain a red ale and their best seller the Shire a darker scottish ale. Even though I am allergic to barley there were one or two tasters I couldn’t resist doing more than smelling. For more on this see (Wait Barley-Free means no beer right?). After signing the guest log Luke decided to use some b-day money and take home a growler of the Fiddler’s Grain and a new hat.

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To finish of our birthday outing we drove into Ithaca for dinner at Maxie’s Supper Club a cajun/southern inspired restaurant serving: blackened fish, gumbo, jambalaya, BBQ,  grits, and more. They offer their full menu every-night until 11pm and in addition to their 4-6pm happy hour they are also an oyster bar.

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As we were brought to our seats I could see that even though it was early on a Saturday night the place was getting busy.  Decorated with new orleans style color themes and decor it wasn’t long before our water glasses were filled and cornbread with honey butter was brought to our table. After glancing at the menus Luke ordered the shrimp and cheese grits with their tasso gravy sauce and I got the house jambalaya.

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As we tried not to fill up on cornbread we watched other people receive delicious looking dishes of ribs, shrimp skewers, green fried tomatoes, and crabcakes.

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And our dinner? Amazing, Luke’s shrimp ‘n grits came with an open face andouille sausage on top and had an awesome  texture, and kick and so did my jambalaya filled with chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp. We quickly filled up and never had to wait for service; our water glasses were always full as were the multiple baskets of sweet corn bread.

It was a perfect birthday dinner out.

Apple Fest

Last Saturday Luke and I drove up to Ithaca for their annual Apple Fest ! As you may know from past posts (cinnamon oatmeal apple muffins) I love apples, really I do.

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I know that it is typical to think of pumpkins come autumn, but first in my mind is apple season. Growing up my family  each year would escape from LA’s heat and drive up to Oak Glenn to get apples at a local orchard. We would sample the year’s variety and pick a bagful of apples and other treats then head to one of the several area restaurants serving  apple pie. Last Fall before our wedding, we took my Dad up to Serendipity to see where we would be getting married. Then we drove minutes down the road to the Oak Glenn apple orchards to pick out local apples to decorate our wedding venue, and afterward as is tradition, we went to get apple pie.

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With that background, let me share about this years apple experience. We arrived downtown Ithaca around 2pm and paid an event parking fee of $5 then set out to find a map and explore the festival. The first we notice was how crowded it was!! This was obviously a very popular event,, especially with the local college scene.

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We started this multi-street venture with exploring apple vendors, bakers, and ciderys on Aurora st. It was difficult to maneuver through the crowd of people, some standing in front of vendor booths, other waiting in lines for hard cider tastings or to buy carmel apples or  kettle corn.

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When we came to the end of the row we noticed a long tent so packed with people you couldn’t tell what was being sold.  As we got closer we saw table after tables overflowing with local amish baked goods including pies, cakes, fudge, brownies, crisps, and cobblers. Rounding the booths we priced some of the apples per their pecks and shared a hot spiced cider for $1.50.

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We then took a break from the crowd and turned onto E. State street where a parking lot had been reserved for more vendors. In this lot were several more orchard/apple vendors, wineries, breweries, baked goods, and a live music stage.

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A line the length of the parking lot had formed at the end of Little Tree Orchards s waiting for a new batch of their apple cider doughnuts. Considering their popularity, we decided to buy a large bag of Northern Spy apples. We tried several of the wines and beers and Luke discovered one of the companies’ coffee stout was eerily similar to his own first brewed beer (for more on this see The home-brewing has begun).

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Taking turns carrying the bag of apples, we walked through the commons and to cayuga street to check out the craft vendors. We saw much of the same vendors or goods that were available at other festival throughout the summer/spring the usual: clothes, jewelry, photography, paintings, and custom wood or metal work.

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We also toured a smaller simultaneous festival occurring in Dewitt park called “The First People’s Festival.” The highlight of this seemed to be for children who were given the opportunity to make native crafts or hear traditional tribal stories. There were not many distinctive cultural crafts being sold that I could see and I was disappointed to walk away not feeling like I learned much about the four to five local tribes in the area.

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Last but not least we explored the food vendors on W. State st. which were all the cheap and unhealthy fair foods we’ve seen at every fest or carnival. But on the south side of Cayuga street was the international food market. From vietnam,  to India, to Cuba or good old American with a twist they had it all! Although it all looked and smelled delicious, we decided to just grab an iced chai tea and head back to the car. We had a beautiful sunny drive home and enjoyed watching the hills filled with fall foliage color, it was the perfect ending to a great fall festival day.

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So what did we do with all of those apples? Stay tuned to find out later this week. . .

Taste of Ellicottville

After a week back home re-seettling into our normal routine, we realized we had an long standing plan to go with a co-worker of Luke’s and his wife to a tasting festival Saturday in Ellicottville.

We had high hopes for this tasting event, enough to make it worth getting up early on our day to sleep-in. After an hour drive during which we fueled up on to-go cups of coffee, we met Jon and Cathy and carpooled with them for another hour before reaching Ellicottville.

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We arrived around noon and stood in line to buy 20 dollars worth of tickets. Ellicottville is  located between two large ski resorts and boasts several well known festivals year round. With it’s own brewery and winery and unique stores it is obvious it is used to tourism year round.

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After getting our tickets we took a look at our menu map indicating where each local restaurant had set up their booth, what was being offered, and how many tickets each tasting would be. The variety and options were amazing. There is no way that even if Luke and I got different things to eat the we could have sampled everything.

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We decided to start with Centerplate mahi mahi fish taco with a mango salsa and habenero cream sauce.  It had a great sweet, tangy start with a kick. We realized quickly that at each booth there was plenty of time to  socialize, we would need to got accustomed to waiting in lines today.

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Next we crossed the down town block to Balloons where we sampled some of their buffalo and sweet thai chicken wings.  In heighn sight I think we got too many of the tangy vinegar wings (6 for 4 tickets) the name of the game here is to take tiny portions so you can sample more before getting full.

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After a hearty snack (the portion of my normal lunch) we headed to the Ellicottville Brewing Co. Stepping onto their crowded back patio we found some benches around the fire pit lit to keep the bugs away in spite of the warm weather. Luke ordered a sampler and Jon and Cathy enjoyed some light brews.

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Then we moved on in search or more delicious treats. Heading up the main street we got bacon jalepeno slices from Katy’s Cafe  that definitely had the expected warm after-burn. Crossing the street we then got in line for Dinas who had both a dessert and food table. Luke and I decided to share a sample of their spinach ravioli. Their red sauce was fresh, simple, and very authentic Italian.  (Let’s just say Luke and I both had planned to scrape the remaining sauce from it’s container.)

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We walked a little further down the street and came across Watson’s Chocolates. For 3 tickets I bought a chocolate covered salted carmel pack of two dark chocolate and two milk so Luke and I got one of each. They were chewy, creamy, and just the right combo of sweet and salty.

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By now I was getting beyond full and I could tell so was everyone else. So we decided to walk around and explore what other restaurants we hadn’t tasted from. We spotted a kebab and curry place, a place selling mexican and smoothies, another selling shepherds pie and Guinness mac ‘n cheese . They all sounded wonderful but we were full and decided to save our last few dollars for some take-away dinner.

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But we weren’t quite ready to leave. After picking up a few more tickets for dinner food, we decided to check out a few of the stores including a three story narrow storefront devoted only to selling socks. We then crossed the street and did a wine tasting at the Winery of Ellicottville.

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After this we decided we were done exploring and ready to pick up our dinner from Riley’s : two servings of large portioned ribs and blueberry cheesecake.

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Overall for about 30 dollars, Luke and I got lunch, dinner and dessert for both meals. Any of these foods would have costed much more in the restaurant, even if ordered a la carte. As we headed back to the car, we decided this was one festival we would be more than willing to explore again next year.

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Jon had mentioned the Cuba Cheese Shoppe on the trip to Ellicottville earlier in the day to which Luke (the cheese lover) perked up. So on the way back we took a country route that led us through Cuba.

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Once inside we started of course at the sampling table which included local sharp chedders, amish swiss, and surprisingly Tillamook cheese (a cheese factory located on the Oregon coast Luke and I went to on our honeymoon -told you Luke was a cheese guy).

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We wandered their store full of sauces, candies, dried fruits and nuts, and of course plenty of cheese wedges, slices, curds, and spreads. Luke and I picked up a few goods and we were once again on the road.

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By 5pm we were back from our all-day outing.  An hour or two later Luke was ready and excited for our dinner. We split the juicy ribs and made a spinach salad topped off with some sharp cheddar cheese  balsamic vinaigrette. We ended it all with our blueberry cheesecake.

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What did you do last weekend?

Cabin Fever

Every year during the dead of winter the Gaffer District hosts Cabin Fever: a wine/beer tasting event hosted  in the storefronts along Main Street.

This year Cabin Fever was postponed because of a snow storm, leaving us stuck inside for the month of February (ironic ? yes). So we anxiously waited for the chance to get out this past Friday. We arrived around 6:30pm to the information center, when we showed our IDs we received our purple wrist-bands and souvenir miniature beer/wine  glasses. Taking the program list, we briskly walked in the cold passing parties of college students, old friends, and couples laughed as they strolled down the street.

Some of the wineries at this event were also at the Corning Glass event we attended in January (2300 degrees). Thinking ahead, we brought along our list from the previous wine tasting so we knew which wineries to try something new from, give a second chance, or skip all together.

Going with a Mardi Gras theme, each location gave a string of beads to guest so that by the end of the night people were decorated in green, yellow, and purple. Many of local businesses also provided food/chocolate samples, live entertainment, or coupons/ give-aways for their stores.

Still this will probably not be an annual event for us. We knew that rescheduling would changed a few elements such as which wineries/breweries would participate. Yet there was no effort to make changes based on the new date. For example, it was a little odd to celebrate with a Mardi Gras theme so close to St. Patty’s day. As well as, the brochures were not updated; so which stores were open or which wineries/breweries were present at the event was inaccurate.

The tickets were 15 bucks a person but the number of winiers/breweries participating was substantially less than the free event we went to in January. A downside to using local storefronts was the line out the door; you felt rushed at the one-at-a-time-line for each tasting. This is why I didn’t take a single picture! The samples were also communion-size, far less than the free samples at 2300 degrees. Because Luke works late we didn’t arrive at 5pm when the event started, so by the time we had arrived to some stores the brewery/winery they hosted had already left (apparently out of samples).

Cabin Fever gave us an excuse to step into some of the local businesses we haven’t  visited yet.  It also gave us the opportunity to try samples from several new wineries and confirm what we liked/did not like from before. In addition, Luke was able to sample local beers and check out some of Corning’s pubs/bars.

Our souvenir wine and beer glasses, wrist bands, and Mardi Gras beads
Our souvenir wine and beer glasses, wrist bands, and Mardi Gras beads

Still, there is no limit to the year-round wine/beer tasting events in our area and next year we will check out a different February/March event.  

How about you? Are you out of the winter slump yet?

What post/Christmas winter activities are in your town?