Rochester's High Falls, once the cradle of the region's industry, now the cradle of a green movement

The High Falls district is a wonderful historic area of downtown Rochester that has long struggled for an identity.  During the 17th and 18th Century, it was the cradle of Rochester’s industry as the mighty Genesee River was funneled off into Brown’s Race, powering gristmills that led to Rochester being christened  the “Flour City.” Soon, other businesses cropped up around the gristmills, such as one of the world’s largest button factories, the Eastman Kodak Company and the Genesee Brewing Company. Click here for the history  and a walking tour of the High Falls and Historic Brown’s Race District.

In recent years, the district no longer had the same high traffic it once did, and excluding a recent attempt to turn it into an entertainment district, it has lain fallow, waiting for the right opportunity to flourish.  Recent endeavors to renovate buildings there and turn them into mixed-use complexes offer encouragement that this will be one of Rochester’s next growth districts.

One visionary company that has seen the possibilities of this district is the Philipson Group, a  marketing, design and  event planning group that is the driving force behind the upcoming Greentopia Festival taking place on September 17-18 in the High Falls District.  This will be an event unlike any other you’ve attended because of its focus on ecology, sustainability and environmental best practices. This event will also become  a “launchpad” for a new initiative to transform the Pont de Rennes Bridge into a suspended arboretum and park. “GardenAerial,” its prospective name, will be designed to encourage foot and bike traffic, showcasing the district’s history and its beautiful 96′ urban waterfall.

It is exciting how many organizations have gotten behind and are partnering on this initiative, demonstrating this region’s commitment to the environment.

There’ll be an exciting lineup of speakers both days.  Saturday will feature an array of Eco Quick-Talks, and on Sunday, keynoters Ed Begley Jr., Actor and Activist (live via Skype), Bill McKibben, Author, Educator and Environmentalist, Paul Watson, Animal Rights Activist and Conservationist (via skype), Patrick Cullina, V.P. of Horticulture and Park Operations (via skype) and Michael Cooper, Civil Engineer at Bergmann Associates will share insights. During the afternoon on Sunday, a variety of enviro-mentor panels gather speakers discussing green topics and issues.  All  speakers are encouraged to use a “TedTalks” style of fast-paced engaging presentation and the topics cover everything from waste reduction, urban living, health and wellness and alternative energy to green homes and more.

Attendees are also invited to “Bike the Bridges” on Saturday, September 17 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for a scenic tour of the area (be sure to see brochure and to sign waiver), and there’ll be plenty of music (more than a dozen groups will be performing), food (including culinary demonstrations by local chefs on the use of regional products) , kids’ activities, exhibitions and vending of consumer-oriented green products and technologies, and a showcase of alternative fuel low-emissions vehicles.

This event is free and open to the public and takes place in the High Falls Historic Browns Race District of Rochester.

I hope you’re as excited about this event as I am and I look forward to seeing you there.

P.S. If you’re there on Sunday, September 18, I’ll be participating on an enviro-mentor panel from 4 to 5 p.m. in the main room at the Center at High Falls.  The topic I’ll be covering will be “Sustainable Finger Lakes: The Greening of a Tourism Treasure.”  Check out my “video postcard” that will be part of the presentation and that offers a snapshot of a longer piece I’m working on that will include interviews and more tourism-oriented businesses.

Photo and text copyright 2011©Carol White Llewellyn.


Last year, when Carol Fingar of the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce set out to invent a signature event that would showcase the Finger Lakes region’s restaurants and wineries, Finger Lakes Cork & Fork was born.

Chef Suzanne Stack, Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine, Lodi

This year’s foodie extravaganza will bring together more than 60 of the region’s agricultural, viticultural and culinary stars in an interactive “field to feast” event that offers demos by wineries and chefs, tastings and an opportunity to purchase everything needed for your favorite dishes, including accompanying wine.

Finger Lakes Cork & Fork begins on Friday, September 16 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. with the “Partners and Pairings” VIP event, a fundraiser in memory of  the beloved Red Newt Cellars Winery & Bistro Chef and Co-owner, Debra Whiting, who recently passed away in a tragic auto accident.

The Partners and Pairings evening will feature regional chefs and winemakers offering 15 pairings of Finger Lakes wines or beers and Tapas prepared with a bounty of local produce.  There will also be a lively assortment of regional cheeses, dips, veggies and salsas at tasting stations. Guests can mingle to the sounds of  live jazz by the Cool Club of Hector, they will be able to purchase wine by the bottle and they can also participate in a silent auction sponsored by and benefiting the Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty.

Montezuma Winery’s Booth

Tickets to this event are $50 (advance purchase only) and are limited to 250 people so guests will enjoy dedicated time with the winemakers and chefs. Each attendee will receive a commemorative re-usable shopping bag, glass and plate.   A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier in honor of Debra Whiting.  Attendees are also invited to bring a donation of non-perishable goods to be donated to the same Food Bank, which was one of Ms. Whiting’s interests.  Donor’s names will be entered into a drawing for an “Epicurean Experience Giveaway” that includes overnight accommodations, Calphalon Cookware, an assortment of Finger Lakes delicacies and a surprise from Mackenzie Childs.

Chef John McNabb, Knapp Vineyards Restaurant

At Saturday’s Main Event, in addition to the opportunity to taste and purchase wine, beer and participating chef’s signature dishes, guests will be treated to “Preparing and Pairing” seminars where a food producer or farmer will team up with a local winery and chef to demo the creation of a dish using local ingredients. Participating chefs include 2011 James Beard semi-finalist Suzanne Stack from Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine, Chef John McNabb from Knapp Winery & Vineyard Restaurant and Mary Reed, personal chef and editor of Tastes of Wine Country. There will also be short seminars on subjects like “Pairing Principles,” “Proper Wine Tasting”, “CSAs”, “Chocolate Making”, “Eating for Allergies” and “Canning Techniques.”

Tickets for the Main Event on Saturday, September 17 are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. The first 1250 attendees will receive a commemorative re-usable shopping bag, glass and plate.  Guests who bring non-perishable food items that will be donated to the non-profit organization, House of Concern and will have a chance to win the “Epicurean Experience Giveaway” described above.

Both the Friday Partners and Pairing VIP Event and the Saturday Main Event will be held at the Rodman Lott & Son Farms located at 2973 State Route 414, Seneca Falls, NY.

CLICK HERE  to order tickets to either the Friday night Partners & Pairing VIP Event or to the Saturday Main Event.

All photos courtesy of the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce and Finger Lakes Cork and Fork.

Cool-climate garlic has small cloves and intense flavor

When I asked Fox Run Winery Owner Scott Osborn, “Why a Garlic Festival?” he was quick to explain, “Garlic is a key component of almost every great meal, and wine should be too.”

When you think about it that way, the two make the perfect pairing.

Scott went on to explain that most who cultivate the highly aromatic and flavor-intensive cool climate garlic here are artisans, growing it on small plots of up to an acre in size.  Who knew this favored cooking condiment is an unsung spice of the Finger Lakes region?

So what can attendees at this year’s Glorious Garlic Festival expect?  Not only will they have an opportunity to meet a dozen specialized garlic purveyors and sample their savory food products, but they can also taste homemade ice cream, dipping and hot sauces, marinades, maple syrup, farmstead cheeses and locally-roasted coffee produced by carefully-selected exhibitors from the Finger Lakes region.

In case you’re looking for new recipes on how to use this regional delicacy, garlic-inspired cooking demonstrations and lectures will certainly make your mouth water and encourage experimentation.

In the Finger Lakes, a Festival has to have music, so the sounds of Dee Specker & The Lone Rangers and  Geneva’s Castle Street Band will fire up the festivities on both days, as will the glass blowers from the Corning Museum of Glass who always put on an amazing show.  If you’ll have children with you, there’ll be fun activities for the kids as well.

And lest you think I’ve forgotten about the pairing of garlic and wine, Scott assures me that wine will be flowing in the Grand Tasting Tent where Fox Run’s Wine Club Members will be able to taste for free a variety of Fox Run’s hand-crafted, award-winning wines that non-members will pay $20 to sample.  Evan Dawson, author of Summer in a Glass, is also scheduled to pop in for a visit.

Fox Run’s 19th Annual Glorious Garlic Festival will take place at 670 State Route 14 in Penn Yan on August 6 and 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.  The festival is free to attend, but there is a fee for some of the activities.  Go, and enjoy this glorious Finger Lakes Festival that celebrates the fruits of the land!

Lone Rangers Video courtesy of FLrec and Youtube.

You may also be interested in Visiting Corning NY – Corning Museum of Glass.

Farmers Markets and Roadside Stands offer bountiful choices

When I was growing up, my grandfather was an avid gardener.  He had a planted lot behind his house in Auburn, NY that to me, as a child, seemed to go on for miles. The corn, tomatoes, peppers, beets, squash and even horseradish were strung in rows, waving like laundry on a sunny day.  I can almost smell the rich earthiness of the corn or tomatoes he would pass to me as made his way down the aisles, picking only the best and ripest for me to take home that day.

Sadly, I did not inherit his skill or zeal for gardening.  I love the idea of it, but I didn’t spend enough time there learning the tricks of the land, so my attempts at gardening have ended in woefully withered, barren or bug-infested plants.

I did, however, inherit his love of fresh produce, and fortunately, one of the things this region is known for is its agricultural bounty. From May through October, you can find some of the most delectable delicacies of the earth here.  Below are resources where you can find a list of farmers markets for each Finger Lakes County where farmers gather on various days of the week to sell succulent produce to local resident.  As you travel throughout the region, also be sure to visit the roadside vegetable stands  where local farmers and entrepreneurs offer some of their finest fare to neighbors, friends and lucky passersby.

Cayuga County Farmers Markets – Listing of 14 markets including Greater Auburn, Aurora, Locke, King Ferry and Weedsport. Courtesy of the Assemblyman Gary Finch. Note: list is from 2010 but should still be in effect.

Chemung County Farmers Markets – Listing of 4 farmers markets, including Big Flats, Elmira and Horseheads. Courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Cortland County Farmers Markets – Listing of 5 farmers markets, including Greater Cortland, Cincinnatus, Homer and Virgil. Courtesy of BDC/IDA of Cortland County.

Livingston County Farmers Markets – Listing of 7 farmers markets, toward bottom of page including Avon, Dansville, Lima, Mt. Morris, Nunda and Geneseo. Courtesy of Finger Lakes West.

Monroe County Farmers Markets – Listing of 20 farmers markets including Brighton, Brockport, Chili, East Rochester, Fairport, Greece, Hamlin, Irondequoit, Penfield, Pittsford, Greater Rochester, Rush and Webster. Courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Onondaga County Farmers Markets – Listing of 8 farmers markets and 10 mobile markets including Camillus, Liverpool, Skaneateles and Greater Syracuse. Courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Ontario County Farmers Markets – Listing of 5 farmers markets including Canandaigua, Geneva, Naples, Phelps and Victor. (Please note that the location of the Canandaigua Market has changed to167 Mill Street.) Courtesy of Ontario County’s Agriculture.

Schuyler County Farmers Markets – Listing of 2 Farmers Markets including Montour Falls and Watkins Glen. Courtesy of Beautiful Finger Lakes.

Seneca County Farmers Markets – Listing of 4 Farmers Markets including Seneca Falls and Waterloo, toward bottom of page. Courtesy of Finger Lakes Central.

Steuben County Farmers Markets – Listing of 3 Farmers Markets including Bath, Corning and Hornell. Courtesy of American Towns.

Tioga County Farmers Markets – Listing of 4 Farmers Markets and multiple other farms, including the towns of Owego and Waverly. Courtesy of Assemblyman Gary Finch.

Tompkins County Farmers Markets – Listing of 9 Farmers Markets including Caroline, Groton, Lansing Trumansberg and Greater Ithaca. Courtesy of Ithaca’s Food Web.

Wayne County Farmers Markets – Listing of 6 Community Farmers Markets including Clyde, Lyons, Macedon, Newark, Palmyra and Sodus.  Courtesy of Wayne County Tourism.

Yates County Farmers Markets – Listing of 3 Farmers Markets on page 18 including Penn Yan and Dundee. Courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension. (Note: This is a fabulous downloadable pdf guide to a variety of food products in and around Yates County and includes wineries, the cheese trail, various beverages, U-pick produce, harvest season, etc.)

Another terrific resource for Farmers Markets throughout New York State is the New York State Department of Agriculture.

Did you know that the very first County Fair in the U.S. took place almost 200 years ago in Watertown, NY?


Although almost two centuries have passed, a lot about a county fair remains reassuringly the same.  Initially, they were started to gather county residents together to share information on agricultural and horticultural practices, once the mainstay of this country.  Today, these festive annual events still include livestock shows and horticultural exhibits, but many have expanded to include such activities as concerts, competitions, car shows, monster truck rallies and demo derbies, rides and let’s not forget about the food.  I can almost see the lights of the ferris wheel and smell the cotton candy being spun!

The New York State Fair has many aspects of a county fair, but on a much larger and grander level. Last year’s attendance was just shy of a million people who came to see the entertainment, enjoy the rides, food and entertainment and see the livestock, produce and competitions.

There’s no doubt about it…a county or state fair is still an entertaining way for a family to spend a fun and educational day!  Check below for the dates of fairs in the Finger Lakes region:

  1. July 7 – 10 – Cayuga County Fair – Free admission and parking. Located on Rte. 31, 1/4 mile from Rte. 34, Weedsport.
  2. July 12 – 16 – Cortland County Junior Fair –   Located at Carroll Street Ext., Cortland.
  3. July 12 -16 – Yates County Fair –   Located at Old Rte 14 A in Penn Yan.
  4. July 13-17Monroe County Fair Adults 18-59 $6, Seniors (60+) $4, Teens 13-17 $5, Kids 12 and under FREE (gate admission only). Parking is FREE!   Located at 2695 East Henrietta Road, Henrietta.
  5. July 18 – July 23 – Seneca County Fair– Free admission. Located at the Seneca County Fairgrounds, corner of Swift St & North Rd. (Route 96 N) in Waterloo, NY.
  6. July 20 – 25 – Tioga County Fair– General Admission $9 (includes rides). Free Parking. Children 5 and under Free (does not include rides, Ride all day with a $9.00 ride pass! Weekly General Admission Pass $30. Located on W. Main Street between William Street and Water Street, Owego.
  7. July 26 – July 30 – Ontario County Fair – Admission is FREE but a vehicle parking fee of $5.00 will be charged daily. Grandstand admission will be in effect depending on the event. Located at 2820 County Road 10, Canandaigua.
  8. July 28 – 31 – Onondaga County 4H Youth Fair–  Free admission. Located at NYS Fairgrounds 581 State Fair Blvd. Syracuse.
  9. August 2 – 6 – Livingston Agricultural Society and County Fair– Pricing to be announced. Located at 310 Leicester Street Caledonia.
  10. August 2 – 7 – Chemung County Fair– Adults $5, Children 6-12, 5 and under Free.  Located at 170 Fairview Rd. – Horseheads.
  11. August 8 – 13 – Wayne County Fair– Adult (ages 17 & up)$5, Youth (ages 6-16) $3, Ages 5 & under with adult Free. Week-long passes (please contact by August 1 for passes) Adult (ages 18 & up) $15, Youth (age 6-17)$8, Exhibitors $8. Located at 250 W. Jackson St., Palmyra.
  12. August 16 – 21 – Steuben County Fair –  Admission $5 (12 yrs. & under free). Parking $3. Located at 15 E. Washington Street, Bath.
  13. August 25 – Sept. 5 – New York State Fair –  Daily admission $10, Children 12 and under free. Seniors 60+ are free on Mon. Aug. 29 and Tues. Aug. 30. Students 16 and under are free on Fri Sept. 2, 2011. Tickets purchased for any grandstand show includes admission on the day of that show for the ticket holder. Open Located at NYS Fairgrounds 581 State Fair Blvd. Syracuse.

Please note: Where information was available via web or phone, pricing is included.  In general, admission does not include midway rides or grandstand events, which are usually additional.

Looking for information on the 2012 Maple Sugar Weekends? CLICK HERE to read “A Sweet Time at NYS Maple Sugar Weekends 2012” on our new Finger Lakes Travel Maven blog.


Warming weather causes maple sap to flowWhen I was a kid, my family occasionally vacationed in Vermont. A treat I always looked forward to were the little packages of maple sugar candy found in most gift shops that were formed into shapes. The heavenly taste melted on my tongue, all too fast. Fast forward many years, and I realize we could as easily have purchased the candy here in New York State, since we're the third largest producer of maple products in the U.S., following Vermont and Maine.

Thinking about maple products, who would imagine you could get a sweet tasting liquid from a tree? According to Iroquois legend, it happened by accident one spring when Chief Woksis planted his tomahawk in a tree above a spot where the family always left a container for water. Sap from the gash dripped into the bucket and when his wife retrieved it, she thought the liquid it contained was water. When she  cooked with the unsuspected ingredient, the family discovered the delightful sweet taste of maple sap.

Now, maple producers across New York State celebrate the arrival of spring and maple sap collecting season with Maple Weekend, which will be held this year on March 19-20 and March 26-27.  The event is free, fun and educational for the whole family because at each participating producer, you’ll have a chance to watch the process of maple sugaring, from tapping the tree through to boiling the maple sap down into syrup. This is a long process because it takes 45 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup! You’ll discover that some producers continue to use the traditional method of bucket and spigot, called a “spile”, while others have adopted more contemporary and efficient methods involving vacuum pumps and plastic tubing that leads to a central collection location.

Many of the locations also offer traditional pancake breakfasts with prices varying by location.

Because there are over 100 participants across the state, I won’t list them here, but you can discover the maple syrup producers nearest you by clicking on the following link and looking up participants in your county: Maple Weekend Participants by County.

Click on the following link to discover the closest pancake breakfast: Maple Weekend Pancake Breakfasts.

The event runs on March 19-20 and March 26-27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, but times for some participants may vary,  so be sure to confirm hours for the destination you plan to visit.

When Ed Kwiek’s sister gave him a wine making kit 12 years ago, I bet she never dreamed it would launch her brother’s second career following his retirement from IBM.  After making his first batch of wine, he was hooked. The one concord grape vine that twined so gracefully along the trellis in his back yard inspired him to plant 50 more by year 2000, and now he’s up to 100. Although he has all the necessary equipment in his cellar, complete with a 750 bottle wine rack, wine making is strictly a hobby and he reserves the 500 or so bottles he makes for the pleasure of family and friends. The business he started on Ground Hog’s Day three years ago is consulting on backyard vineyards.

Ed Kwiek's 3-part course begins at NYWCC March 12

I learned of Ed when I discovered a 3-part course he’s teaching at the New York Wine and Culinary Center called “The Backyard Vineyard,” so I gave him a buzz to learn more about this fascinating business that is such a perfect fit for the Finger Lakes Region.

“When I had friends over and invited them into my back yard where I have a vineyard about two blocks long leading to a small fruit orchard, they were always so interested about the vineyard, that I began giving advice. Then I approached the Wine and Culinary Center about teaching a class there. The class was very popular and they asked me to develop a course.”

The first class led to a full-fledge consulting business called Woods Wine Backyard Vineyard Consulting that has attracted clients from the Finger Lakes region, the Hudson Valley, the Thousand Islands, Ohio and even Maryland to learn how to cultivate a backyard vineyard.

“I usually do private consulting in my home, but sometimes I travel. My client from the Thousand Islands came, picked me up in his plane and flew me to his island,” Ed laughed. “He’s planting 500 vines.”

Over the years, Ed has planted about 8 or 9 different varieties of grapes, but the three he’s settled on for his wines are hearty Cornell hybrids including Traminette, Corot Noir and Noiret. The traminette produces a light white wine with a fruity finish that’s good for the summer. The Corot Noir offers a tasty all-purpose red wine that offers a hint of black cherry, and the Noiret delivers a hearty red with black pepper overtones, similar to Shiraz, that’s good for winter.

Unfortunately, his clients never get to sample his wines.

“I’m very strict about that,” Ed stated. “I don’t have a permit to serve wine and if I served wine, I’d risk losing my whole business.”

Although Ed prefers to consult and offer classes in his home where he can give a tour of his vineyards and his wine making facilities, he will also do consulting over the phone and via email, as he did with the client from Maryland.  Ed’s product is knowledge and he doesn’t provide the labor, but he often works alongside a crew to make sure the process goes smoothly.

“From the diagrams sent by my client in Maryland, I learned that the backyard was very shady, so he ended up having to de-limb some of the trees, and some clients have to cut some down to put in a backyard vineyard if the yard is too shady. I tell people it’s like family…you can’t always pick your backyards,” he jokes.

“This is the  best job,” he exclaimed. “Consulting on vineyards is like delivering flowers. People are always excited to see you show up!”

Ed’s “Backyard Vineyard” course at the New York Wine and Culinary Center is given in three parts and those who are interested may take one, two or all three of the following classes:

  1. Backyard Vineyard: Introduction and Planning – Saturday, March 12 from 9 a.m. – 12 Noon.  $45
  2. Backyard Vineyard II: Installing and Maintaining Your Vineyard – Saturday, March 26 from 9 a.m. – 12 Noon.  $45.
  3. Backyard Vineyard III: Harvest, Crush, Fermentation and Press – Saturday, April 9 from 9 a.m. t0 12 Noon. $45.

Those who take all three classes will receive a $15 discount and a Certificate from the NYWCC, located at 800 South Main Street, Canandaigua.

For a man who aspired to become a vintner but who was concerned about the investment needed to launch a winery, starting a backyard vineyard consulting business was the perfect way to have his wine and drink it too!

If you are interested in consultation on planting your backyard vineyard, Ed suggests you check out his website and blog, then call him at (585) 730-2681.

Photos and video courtesy of Ed Kwiek.

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