culinary tourism

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.

When the late Barbara Adams, former Executive Director of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, came up with the idea of the Golden Nose Award, her goal was always for it to encompass all of the Finger Lakes Wine Trails, according to Shannon Brock, Wine Coordinator at the New York Wine & Culinary Center.

During the competition, judges typically taste between 25 and 30 different wines

In the first years, it was primarily the wineries of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail that participated. After the event went on hiatus for one year, the New York Wine and Culinary Center took it over in 2010, and the dream of a regional event came true.

The Golden Nose Award is an annual event designed to give wine enthusiasts an opportunity to learn about wines at the elbows of some of the region’s finest winemakers. After an intensive session where participants are taught the “ins and outs” of tasting, spitting and assessing wine, the newly-trained   judges will be separated into panels of four or five individuals and paired with a pro. Each panel then evaluates 25 to 30 wines.   This year, over 200 wines will be showcased representing all four Finger Lakes Wine Trails. This is the only consumer contest of this sort on the entire East Coast.

The event “officially” starts with an informal social on Friday, June 3 with a Golden Nose Meet-and-Greet kitchen social from 7 – 9 p.m.  Saturday morning kicks off with registration, continental breakfast, then the following schedule:

9:00-9:30am: Judge Welcome and Introduction to Judging Session
9:30-11:20am: Judge Training
11:20am-12:00pm: Buffet Lunch
12:00pm-4:00pm: Golden Nose Competition
4:00pm-5:00pm: Riesling Champion Judging
7:00pm-9:00pm: Golden Nose Award Celebration

“One of the first sessions will be on wine spitting,” shared Shannon Brock. “Most people aren’t very comfortable with it at first, but if you’re tasting as many as 25 wines, you better learn how to spit!” she laughed.

New judges are paired with seasoned pros to assess the wines, and majority rules!

During the wine tasting, the judges will select first, second and third place in multiple categories.  Majority opinion rules.

“Most people come in with an idea of what they like,” Shannon explained.  “This event opens their minds and teaches them how to evaluate other types of wine.”

Because the Finger Lakes region is so well known for its Riesling, there is a  separate award for Rieslings, and most wineries would love to win the coveted first place award in this category.  In 2010, it was Thirsty Owl Wine Company that walked away with the Gold Golden Nose Award in the Riesling Category.

The fee for the entire event, including the Meet-and-Greet Kitchen Social, the training, lunch, dinner and the tastings is $250. The New York Wine and Culinary Center has been able to expand the number of judges over last year’s number, but as of this post, there are only 16 “Beginning Judge” seats left, and 19 “Returning Judge” seats, so if you’re interested, better sign up quickly!

The New York Wine and Culinary Center is located at 800 South Main Street in Canandaigua.  For participants coming in from out-of-town who need lodging, there are plenty of nearby hotel, motel and B&B accommodations.

P.S. If you’d like to join in the award celebration on Saturday night, tickets are $ 40 and may be purchased online.

Bob White captivating a family at last year's event

For those looking for a fun night out on Thursday, May 12, check out City Newspaper’s Best Busker Contest taking place from 5 – 9 p.m. in Rochester’s East End District.

This is the second year that City Newspaper has held this event and if last year’s Contest holds any clues, you can expect a “sell out,” according to Eric Rezsnyak, City Newspaper’s Features Editor and Director of New Media.  In his prior position at a Syracuse paper, some of their community events had been very successful, so he was keen to launch similar types of events at City Newspaper that would involve the community in Rochester.

Because of Rochester’s rich musical heritage, they chose to do a Best Buskers Contest of musical performances. This year’s 30+ performers  will line the main and side streets of East Avenue from Alexander Street to Chestnut Street. In addition to great music, this event also offers the opportunity to visit your favorite restaurants and sample new fare at some that are new to you because most area restaurants are offering specials that’ll make your mouth water and your tongue tingle, such as: $2 for British chips and gravy from The Old Toad (277 Alexander St.), $2 for 6″ chicken or hummus pitas from Pita Pit (311 Alexander St.), $1.50 for two spring rolls (meat or veggie) at Golden Port (105 East Ave.), $5 for chicken or beef quesadillas and $3 margaritas at Mex Restaurant (295 Alexander St.), $5 for 10 wings and 2-for-1 pitchers of Labatt Blue and Labatt Blue Light at Anchor Bar (355 East Ave., $2 shots of Jameson and $2 bottles of Bud and Bud Light at Dub Land Underground (315 Alexander St.) and many more.

This is an event that the whole family will enjoy! Get there early to pick up guitar picks at City Newspaper’s Tent to drop a pick in your favorite busker’s basket.  Not only do the winners of this contest get some great prizes (First prize winner receives a $500 gift certificate from event sponsor, Bernunzio Uptown Music) but you win a great  evening of music, food and fun on the town!

P.S. After 7 p.m., there’ll be free parking at the East End Garage, bordered by Main Street and Scio Street.

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry

The Finger Lakes is so well-known for its wine that we sometimes forget what a great region it is for other beverages such as beer and…cocktails!  In fact, one of the most famous international purveyors of cocktail ingredients is a company that started on North Water Street in Rochester almost 150 years ago. The four Fee brothers who originally owned the company – Owen, John, James and Joseph – used the slogan “The House of Fee by the Genesee since eighteen hundred and sixty-three.”  The business began as a liquor store and winery, but in the 1950’s, the family discontinued alcohol sales and began to focus exclusively on cocktail mixes, bitters, flavoring syrups and beverage products.

Today, Joe Fee and his sister Ellen own and operate Fee Brothers. When asked what it is like to run a company over 150 years old, Joe replied, “It’s a hoot!” at the same time as he wondered whether his ancestors would say “What is he doing?!”

Joe went on to share the history of bitters which were originally invented by a British Doctor in the 1800’s who was treating malaria. He developed bitters, derived from the angostura plant as a way to entice his patients to eat by stimulating their digestive juices – and it worked. One evening when he went back to his tent to relax, he saw his bottle of gin and, out of curiosity, added several drops of bitters to his drink…and a new drink was born. Ever since, bartenders have been adding bitters to alcoholic drinks to give them a distinctive background note of flavor.

Simon Ford has trained bartenders and opened bars across the globe

When Prohibition became entrenched in the U.S., from 1920 to 1933, many seasoned bartenders moved abroad, and the art of the cocktail disappeared from the U.S. for many years.  Once the internet became robust around the mid-1990s the Classic Cocktail Movement arose and cocktails returned as an art form.  They then slowly evolved into today’s growing international “Craft Cocktails” Movement. In this environment,  micro distilleries have flourished, as have the Fee Brothers and their products. To answer the international, and now domestic, demand for new and creative drinks, the Fee Brothers have grown their line to include such delicacies as peach, celery, mint, cherry, lemon and rhubarb bitters. Joe calls their products as “the spice rack behind the bar.”

This craft cocktail phenomenon has also given rise to a new career… that of celebrity mixologist, prompting the Fee Brothers to bring in three “shaker jockeys,” as they’re often called, for a 2-part event that will give new meaning to the expression “cocktail party.”

On Tuesday,  March 29 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. celebrity mixologists Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Simon Ford and Allen Katz will give a Masters Level Class for bartenders on the topic of “International Trends in the Craft Cocktail

Allen Katz, host of "The Cocktail Hour" on Martha Stewart's Radio Station

Movement.” Berry is the world expert on Tiki drinks, Ford is a guru on training bartenders and has opened bars across the globe and Katz is host of The Cocktail Hour, a weekly program on Martha Stewart’s Sirius Satellite Radio.

That evening, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the public will have the opportunity to hang out with the three cocktail specialists while sampling a variety of showcase cocktails, noshing on “heavy hors d’oeuvres” by Madelines Catering, groovin’ to the music of Club and Radio DJ, Sgt. Pepper, and bidding on a fabulous selection of silent auction items.  Both of these events will take place in the intoxicating surroundings of ARTISANworks, and proceeds will be donated to ARC of Monroe, whose clients hand wrap and label the Fee Brothers’ products.

ARTISANworks is located at 565 Blossom Road, Rochester.  Tickets for the “International Trends in the Craft Cocktail Movement” Master Class are $30. Tickets for the evening extravaganza are $45, and if you would like to attend both events, the fee is $70.  CLICK HERE to purchase tickets or call 1 (800) 961-3337 to order via phone.

For information on ARTISANworks, read the Finger Lakes Travel Maven’s post, “ARTISANworks, an Art Lover’s Treasure Hunt.”


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The flavor of maple enhances many foods beyond pancakes

I was engrossed in writing yesterday’s post about Maple Weekend when I suddenly had the sensation of smelling a maple scent.  Still engrossed, I had the fleeting thought, “how odd that writing about maple sugaring creates a sensation of smelling maple…I never had that happen before.”

Just as I was finishing the post, my husband came and sat near me at his computer with a big bowl of – you guessed it – maple-flavored oatmeal!  Now I know what it’ll be like when computers produce scent as well as visual and sound.

After this experience, I decided it was only appropriate to celebrate the production, taste and smell of maple this week with a list of some terrific resources where you can find recipes using maple syrup, one of New York’s sweetest agricultural products.

  • About.comDozens of recipes using maple syrup, including lobster, couscous cake, frozen maple mouse and Emeril’s Favorite French Toast.
  • Cornell Sugar Maple Research & Extension Program – A wealth of recipes that includes everything from main dishes using ham, chicken and pork or vegetables to dressings, sauces, candies and desserts.
  • Epicurious – A dessert-oriented listing of recipes featuring walnut maple torte with maple meringue frosting, maple walnut pound cake with maple glaze and maple and chocolate chip shortbread.
  • Maple Weekend – A variety of recipes including maple cheese cake, bacon-wrapped scallops with mango maple glaze, maple custard with sugared pecans and maple espresso cake.
  • New York State Maple – A selection of  13 recipes that includes such treats as Maple Syrup Salad Dressing, Maple-Baked Pairs, Maple Monkey Bread (I have to try that one!), Maple Lava Cakes, Maple Apple Pie and Gluten/Dairy/Egg-free Ginger Peach Pie.

If you have any maple recipes you’d like to share with Finger Lakes Travel Maven readers, I’d be happy to post them, giving you credit.

I know there are a lot of foodies out there who love cheese because of the number of visitors reading my post on last year’s October Artisinal Cheese Open House.  Now cheese and wine lovers will rejoice to hear that the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is pairing with the Keuka Lake Wine Trail in what promises to be a delectable weekend that’s sure to please every foodie’s palate!

Attendees await a delightful wine and cheese pairing at each winery

On April 9 and 10, participants on this Artisan Cheese and Wine Weekend on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail will receive a souvenir glass, food and artisan cheese samples as well as 32 wines to taste along the trail. They’ll also have the opportunity to meet the cheese makers, learn about the process by which the cheese is made and purchase samples of their favorites! All ticket holders will also be entered to win a one-night stay for two at the charming Inn at Esperanza Mansion, a sightseeing cruise aboard the Esperanza Rose, and a bottle of wine from each winery on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and ticket prices are $25 for participants or $18.75 for designated drivers. On Sunday, the day starts at 11 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. and tickets are $19 for participants and $14.25 for designated drivers. They may be purchased through the Keuka Lake Wine Trail, at your local Wegmans service desk or by calling 1(800) 440-4898.

To read the full press release, visit Finger Lakes Wine Country.

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