Naples Grape Festival

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Around this time last year we drove through Naples and noticed several grape pie and grape sellers along the main street. I looked up Naples to find they host a very large fall grape festival and pie contest. If you have never heard of grape pies it’s ok, neither did we, this area is actually where it all started.

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We decided to go to the Naples Grape Fest on Sunday afternoon, hoping this popular festival would be less busy at that time; I was wrong. We parked almost a mile from the vendors and walked in. Unlike other festivals  the main route through town stayed open (although moving at a snails pace). This made traveling along the sidewalks slow.

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There were vendors with everything from clothes, to wood carvings, glass work, candles, produce, and fair food including all things grape flavored. Along the way we picked up local cheese, maple syrup, and grape jam.

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Behind town hall was a fenced-in wine tasting area, with a large selection of wineries and a few breweries present. Next to this was a music tent where we listened to a  folk country/bluegrass group called Ruddy Well. We enjoyed them so much we ended up buying their CD’s.

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About half way through town, we found the main food court. I choose to eat at Effortlessly Healthy a Rochester based food truck that serves dairy and gluten free meals with vegan options. I had a bowl with cole slaw sweet potatoes, ground beef, chicken, and avocado it was perfect. They also have their own store in Rochester where they serve healthy lunch options and provide delivery meal services.

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On our way back  we stopped at grape pie stands. Luke got a slice to-go from one. Fortunately I was able to eat a mini open tart’s filling from another, it tasted like concord grapes (the most popular grape in the Naples area). Some vendors sold pie filling. Too bad they didn’t offering tastings  or I would have bought one to make my own barley-free pie.

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On our way out of town we stopped for dessert at Lynnie Lou’s a homemade ice cream and custard shop . We were happily surprised to see them open; most ice cream stands  close after Labor Day. Luke got a grape and vanilla swirl custard and I chose vanilla custard with warm apple pie filling.

It was another great date day.

Finger Lakes Cheese Festival

So I know that recently it has looked like all we have been doing is house (and car) hunting/shopping but July did hold a few other treats for us- I’m just behind in posting about them.

July 26th we were more than ready for a real date-break from the stress of all of the transitions we are in the middle of. So we went to the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival in Odessa NY. We wanted to attend the year before but were in the Washington for my brother’s wedding. We drove out to this little town right outside of Walkins Glen on a sunny and humid Saturday getting there around one.

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We parked in the field of Sunset View Creamery and paid our $2 each to get into the festival. For only it’s 3rd Annual year it was obvious word had gotten out of about this farmer’s festival and the place was busy. The festival started around 10 with several children’s activities including a dunking booth, petting zoo, guided farm tours, hay rides, and chances to milk a goat.

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But we chose to come later in the afternoon for the grown-up activities; cheese tastings. We just barely missed out on the free wine and cheese paring; the tent was overflowing and they only had 50 samples to go around; but we did snag a brochure. Every pairing was local cheese being sold at the festival by the smaller artisan creameries with wines from Seneca lake wineries.

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We listened in for a while then decided to explore the booths. In order to check out the more then twelve creameries at this festival we had to get in line after line to sample their cheeses and get brochures on where/how to buy their products. There was everything; soft fresh, hard aged, stinky, mild, jack, cheddar, mozzarella, feta, spicy, blue , herb, sharp and more. There was also goat cheese and every place offered slices, wheels, or curds of their most famous flavors. But the cheese booths were also partnered with other local goods such as honey, maple products, soaps, and veggies and fruit.

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As we traveled around the booths sampling cheeses we enjoyed listening to one of three bands playing in the entertainment tent throughout the day. In the entertainment tent also was plenty of shaded seating for people to sit and enjoy their food and the music as well as two local wineries and breweries offering tasting for the adults.

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Other than sample,s there were plenty of non-snacking food options including roasted corn, bbq, popcorn, ice cream, hand pies, and more. As it got to the warmest part of the day we decided to get ourselves a treat: a scoop of local ice cream-and it was good; creamy and flavorful and not too sweet: Luke had mint chip and I had a raspberry chocolate chip cheesecake and it was very good.

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After wandering the farm grounds and festival booths we picked up some iced coffee and staked out our seats under the event tent for the beer and cheese pairing at 3:30pm. We enjoyed watching the people as we waited for this free pairing using local beers and cheeses. Once again this pairing was of only cheeses available to buy at the festival from the local creameries paired with beers from local microbreweries. The cheese were good the beer was decent also. Although the beer trail along the finger lakes area is still relatively new they are definitely growing with more than 60 microbreweries now in the area (or getting started).

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After the pairing presentations and discussion we went up to talk to the presenters and ask about their suggestions for local porters and stouts as well as picked up filers for additional food/cheese pairings with different types of beers.

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Believe it or not we didn’t pick up any cheese; we got out of the beer and cheese pairing around 4:30 and the festial ended around 5pm. Because the festival was so popular this year many of the local creameries had actually run out of supplies and left early. So we have learned our lesson;  next year we come earlier and buy the cheeses we discovered we like.

When we got home we looked up also where we can get the cheeses at local stores for future reference. All in all it was a perfect foodie day-date.

For more on the finger lakes wine trail check out at: http://flcheesetrail.com

or visit them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FLXCheeseTrail

Do you like cheese? What is your favorite kind?

Wine tasting in Ellicottville

This past Sunday we decided to use one of our saved-up groupons and drive out to Ellicottville for wine tasting. If you remember last August we explored Ellicottville for the first time with one of Luke’s co-workers and his wife. What drew us to this ski-town two hours West of us was their annual taste of Ellicottville (for more on this see Taste of Ellicottville). While there we got a chance to check out their local brewery as well as taste some wine at their Winery of Ellicottville’s (EVL for short) store front. So when we saw a groupon for a wine tasting, tour, and cheese plate from two at EVL we thought it’d be an amazing date.

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The drive to Ellicottville is beautiful, especially this time of year as everything has finally turned bright green. We arrived in town and headed straight to the Winery of Ellicottville storefront just on time for our reservation. EVL  is ran by Dominic Spicola and his family. For the past four years they have been experimenting and creating unique and popular wines which of course sell well in the ski-town.

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The EVL storefront’s main wall serves as a long wood bar. It is here that we started our tour tasting more than 6 different EVL wines between the two of us. Dominic’s wife guided us through their options; we began with their light whites then moved to reds, ending with dessert wines. Our favorite picks? their Vidal was good; bright and citrusy; Luke also enjoyed their Noriet; a peppery dry red. We also tried their dessert berry wines Luke found the blueberry  to be too sweet but I enjoyed the red raspberry which was sweet with a good tart kick at the end.

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After trying their variety we were taken to view their wine-making process done in a second separate room attached to their main storefront. We were told that they buy a variety of grapes from neighboring wineries,  rent a local wineries’ grape press to turn their grapes into juice, then drive the juice back to their storefront where they pump it into their processing vats straight from the street.

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After a few other basic questions about the process; we came back out to the storefront and were given our cheese plate featuring local cheeses . We enjoyed the cheeses and garlic stuffed olives with glasses of white wine; a Riesling and a white blend called Franseco’s Reserve . We both were surprised to enjoy the Riesling even more than the Vidal from earlier. Once we were done snacking we were given our groupon goodies: two wine glasses with their wine label on them, and one wine from their selection valued up to $20; we picked up their red raspberry dessert wine and in addition bought a bottle of Riesling.

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We looked at the time and decided to drive to the cheese shop in Cuba. Again if you remember last summer on our way back from the taste of Ellicottville event we stopped in a little town we would have never noticed on our own called Cuba specifically for their cheese shop. About an hour East from Ellicottville this cheese shop provides their own cheeses, other local NY and PA creameries goods, and specialty international cheeses. In addition to the large array of cheeses they also sell local maple goods, pickled vegetables, jams, butters, and jellies and curried meats.

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After sampling a few cheeses we ended up leaving with some of Luke’s favorites: a local smoked gouda, a brie blue cheese, and one we had last time and loved; extra hot horseradish. On our way to the cashier we also found a creamy strong cheese in the discounted section we thought we’d try.

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Overall it was a great Sunday date. We left with full stomachs and came home with plenty of local cheeses and wine. In fact, on Tuesday Luke had a rare lunch hour at home. We enjoyed apples, crackers, and local cheeses together; the perfect light summer lunch and a great option for some upcoming picnics.

Have you explored any local goods or foods recently?