The I Love New York Tourism Alliance has a "pseudo-blog" where people can -- and do -- post. And, they post on all sorts of topics --dining, birding, college life at Keuka College, blogging. Blogging? Yes, watch for Bibliochef's post on Finger Lakes blogs!
Some time recently, the anonymous restaurant reviewer and I rediscovered how great it is to go to a movie early in the day -- say in the middle of the afternoon or, even, 5ish. And, we have done so a few times at the Pittsford Plaza, where we often go to Wegman's (aka "the mother ship), eat at its associated restaurant called Tastings, browse and overspend at Barnes and Noble (for local commentary on the Pittsford B&N, click here or here) and T. J. Maxx, and. . . . This time, we saw Judy Dench and Kate Blanchett in "Notes on a Scandal" which certainly provided food for thought. So, we ate at a new place: Black and Blue. New to us, that is -- it has been there for ages. Well, since Spring 2005.
We had some trouble choosing but eventually had:
Appetizers: a 4 oyster sampler with wasabi roe and spicy cocktail sauce as one appetizer (which also came with a half-lemon, tidily wrapped in yellow net, to squeeze over the little wodners and a tiny bottle of Tabasco) and kobe beef meatballs for the second appetizer. The oysters disappeared rather quickly and to some delight. The meatballs -- well, I chose them because I have never had Kobe Beef, even though meatballs on a skewer with a garlic cream sauce sounded odd. They were more oval than round, and a bit more like shredded than ground beef, but their taste was very beefy. In sum, worth the adventure. The presentation of hte oysters was nice; the meatballs, while skwered, not as well thought through.
Entrees: At the start, as diners who had never visited, the waiter told us at some length about the steaks -- in terms of the length of their time wet aging, etcetera. I wasn't in the mood for more beef than the meatballs, though this did make me think of a great meal I had in Philadelphia a while back -- steak and creamed spinach. This affected my ordering! In any case, the top half of this menu was more or less do it yourself, with steaks, sauces and sides to choose among. Below that, there were other entrees, some where you continue to choose your side dish and others where all the choices are made for you. After struggling not to order the trout since Black and Blue is, after all, a steak and crab joint, one of us ordered alaskan king crab legs with cheddar fries (on the waiter's recommendation) and the other (while dreaming of that meal in Philadelphia) ordered Jonah Crab and creamed spinach. Having had the best steak and creamed spinach of my life at Don Shula's Steakhouse in Philadelphia, the creamed spinach did not live up to expectations -- it had a bit of a crust on top and was very salty. The crab, though, was fab and the cheddar fries disappeared. The Alaskan king crab came pre-split -- and a pound was good for one person. The Jonah crab was already taken out of the shell, and was served with a mustard aoili that was so good we asked for extra. Presentation was weak on both entrees and sides.
Dessert: We shared house-made chocolate ice cream variously described (by the same waiter) as chocolate mouse ice cream, chocolate brownie ice cream, and like Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream with the little fishies left out. It was actually amazingly cocoa-y tasting and served at the right temperature (i.e. not so cold as to hurt your teeth and not so warm as to approach soupiness). 3 scoops.
Like many meals, this one came with a bit of miscellaneous stuff thrown in by the restaurant; in this case rolls, a peculiar dip and sweet butter. And, then, to end the meal, truffles to die for. Yes, the truffles were the best part of the meal, perhaps.
DRINKS: They had a piccolo of Perrier Jouet for $15 and a fairly extensive wines by the glass list which appears on the menu itself. They also carry a fairly extensive list of beers which does not. And the wine list itself is robust. Alas, we had to ask for the martini list - maybe you're really supposed to drink those in the bar? I had a martini with my fave blue drink, hypnotiq, and black cherry vodka, called a black and blue as well as a nice glass of pinot noir. As seems to be becoming usual, we were offered bottled or tapwater. We had Saratoga flat water, for circa $2.50, which is a lot cheaper than what some places charge for the identical (yes, wonderfully blue; am I awful for yearning for the return of blue sea glass?) bottle of water. Decaf espresso was both available and adequate.
SERVICE: We were inundated with attention when we arrived (and seated early for our reservation). We had two people devoted to our table and repeated visits until we finally ordered. The appetizers came in a reasonable time, the entrees way way way too fast, and then our servers seemed to disappear. When we eventually ordered dessert, our espresso came immediately and the very good house-made ice cream took so long we thought they might have had to make it from scratch when we ordered it! The waiter sort of redeemed himself by renewing our espresso.
SETTING: Oddly placed (though lots of places to out your car, including valet parking) in the Pittsford Plaza, the interior is understated. We actually ate there partly because we wandered into the bar and found it quite welcoming. Neutral colors, nice chairs, and a nice bar where clearly some people eat.
ON THE WALLS: Hmm. Absolutely nothing I noticed.
BATHROOM REVIEW: The anonymous reviewer gives the women's room zero sheets and I agree. It was cold, one stall's door had fallen off, and, alas, it was not clean.
MINOR QUIBBLE(S): Could they tell you what the "dipping sauce" that comes with the rolls is and why, oh why, is the butter so unduly sweet? The only advantage of the butter -- I ate less bread.
OVERALL: Not as good as I hoped, but better than I expected. Pretty pricey for the $150 we spent. Will we return? Maybe. Maybe not.
ALSO REVIEWED AT: The comments on Rochester Wiki range from "prices are beyond upscale but the food was outstanding" to "a mediocre product presented in a substandard fashion by inexperienced staff."
*A review of Pittsford's Black and Blue (a steak and crab house)
*An interview with a Eustis Florida owner of the Third Place Pub & Cafe
*A rumination on The United States of Arugula
*Another interview with a historian who teaches about plants
*March's foodie dates
*A link to Bibliochef's post at www.fingerlakes.org
When I think Belhurst, I think the old bar, snuggled in a corner, now harder to get to with the new entrance, alas, but still the best of the bars. Right down Main Street in beautiful Geneva. Quiet. Fireplaced. Good drinks whether you're into a manhattan or a cosmopolitan or a nice red wine. Little snackies (mainly cheese cubes with a nice mustard). Cozy and warm. Though I was out for a martini or two a while back, I haven't been to any of their restaurants in ages. So, why am I thinking Belhurst?
Laura Rebecca, of Laura Rebecca's Kitchen, sent me a great article from Slate on Sysco Foods which lists the Belhurst as one of many places that uses Sysco foods on its menu. The author, Ulrich Boser, has a main question: whether we should worry that so much of our food comes through a single source which has reached, in his words, "Walmart-like dominance." Here's what Boser includes about the local place he mentions, the Belhurst:
And then there's Edgar's restaurant at Belhurst Castle, which has won numerous awards of excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. There, the kitchen takes Sysco's Imperial Towering Chocolate Cake out of the box, lets it defrost, and then sprinkles it with fresh raspberries before serving it to diners. "We've had a lot of success with that cake," executive chef Casey Belile says. The Edgar's menu, of course, does not list the dessert as a Sysco pre-made cake, but it does charge $8.95 for the experience.
An important thing to know. Who knew Thomas Keller uses frozen french fries? Boser, it turns out, and others who read the New York magazine reporting he cites! Pre-prepared foods is one emphasis of Sysco's and of the article, but not, of course, the only Sysco product to appear in restaurants, whether high falutin' or not. Reading Boser means, too, we might want to ask which restaurants use Sysco responsibly, an issue that he also considers.
Read the article. It's worth it. And then ask, wherever you are, whether what you are eating was purchased responsibly. And, ask whether what you are eating is made in house -- or not. Maybe it doesn't always matter -- and then again, maybe it does.
Not that is not my kitchen. But I was in my kitchen last night. Last night's dinner menu was a blend of some recipes I make a lot, each modified slightly from a cookbook. Here's what we had:
Roast Rack of Lamb: This is basically roasting a rack of lamb, slathered before hand for a minimum of 1 hour, with a mixture of dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. The proportions for the slathering (aka marinade) are: 2 tablespoons of mustard and olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, some freshly ground pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon of rosemary (unless you are using fresh, in which case use more). The lamb should be roasted at 425 degrees for around 25 minutes. Let it rest a little before cutting and serving. The original recipe is from Joy of Cooking, and is modified because I do not first brown the rack of lamb, and I have adjusted timefor cooking etc.
Okra with Onions: This recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey's pink book (yes, that's how I think of it) on curries and kebabs. Basically, you get some okra and top it and slice it lengthwise in half. You use an onion or two, cut in half and sliced thinly. And you use turmeric (around 1/4 tsp), salt (circa 3/4 tsp), coriander seed (2 tablespoons) and dried hot red pepper (1, seeded and coarsely chopped). Use a spice grinder to grind coriander seed together with hot red pepper. To make the dish: use peanut oil and fry the okra halves until they are starting to brown, add onions and continue until they're browned too. Then, add the salt, turmeric and coriander/pepper mix. Fry for a few more minutes and end by adding a couple tablespoons of very finely chopped cilantro. Not wildly modified, but. . . .
Roasted Potatoes: This recipe is something that enriched my life when I met the anonymous bathroom reviewer whose other anonymous ideas occasionally appear here. Basically, you get nice little potatoes, you wash them carefully, you pour some olive oil over them (not much) and sprinkle coarse salt on them. And then you roast them, covered, for a while until they are done.They're great -- and they make great home fries later (which, when accompanied with cumin seeds and brown mustard seeds and some grated ginger and cayenne becomes lovely lovely. . . . Madhur Jaffrey inspired home fries . . . particularly fun when you use blue potatoes.)
For readers of D.W. Winnicott, the third space is a transitional space, often symbolized by the teddy bear – an alive, but not alive, transitional object that facilitates movement from one to another stage of childhood development. And, the third space is culture. For Ray Oldenburg, it is “the great good place” (also his book title) where regulars arrive and see a set of friends, a place which contemporary American urban planners have near deliberately obliterated to our great detriment. Subtitled “Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community,” Oldenburg’s book is about just that – the places where we build and sustain the third leg of the tripod of our lives – home and work and this third space. They are, to use another of his phrases, informal public spaces. Think Paris, think cafes, for example. Think, in a television form, Cheers (the bar where “everybody knows your name”; to revisit click here or here or, for the site of their exterior shots, here). Think about what those in the UK – and its postcolonial habits – call the local. Often intergenerational and inclusive along many lines that contemporary society currently segregates, Oldenburg argues that third places are important to civil society and democracy, reminding his readers that the American revolution began in taverns, that totalitarians and fascists alike oppose informal public gatherings, and that the best way to do so is to eliminate places to gather. Zoning boards, it turns out are their evil twin in inadvertently – or even advertently – obliterating such spaces and thus routes into civil society. Others oppose them too, under the guide of critiquing – and then eliminating – places to hang out. Alas, this criticism is often about age segregation (not wanting youth to hang out or the elderly to be too visible for example), race, class, etcetera. (In Geneva, for example, the Byrne Dairy comes in for way too much criticism of this sort.) Oldenburg argues, as well, that the elimination of these sites unduly burdens contemporary companionate marriage. Why? Because, he argues, third spaces are often same sex locales that provide much of what a marital partner cannot. (Of course, this does not quite work for same sex partners – indeed, the organization of much of our social order does not, since it assumes that same sex locations are usually couple free. There’s something here to analyze re the support of third places for lesbians. . . . and lesbian relationships but. . . .)
But what, you ask, does this have to do with food? Perhaps nothing -- and perhaps everything. Certainly the slow food movement is more about time and place than food dissociated from time and place. The cafes of Paris are all about food and coffee and hanging out. So while not food focused, Oldenburg's book is a reminder that a hang out can add to the wonders of home. And a hang out with food -- well, that might just be paradise. . . .
What's your "great good place"? And are you protecting the ones around you for coming generations?
A while ago, I went to a pot luck dinner. No, I was not having a flashback to 1970s lesbian culture. But, yes, it was a lesbian pot luck and it was a lot of fun. (And yes, there is even a yahoo lesbian potluck list (looks inactive, but Lesbian culture is alive and well even today. And this despite some representations of lesbian potlucks on other blogs. Turns out there is a video on lesbian potlucks too. Click here for information. )(Wait, I lost track of my parentheses!) Pot luck culture, of course, is not just for lesbians. And not all lesbians potluck. (Can you imagine those L Word women at a pot luck?) Academics live in pot luck land too. It is an interesting country, worth visiting once in a while because you meet totally new . . . food categories.
The food category in question this time is massaged food. In particular, this potluck included a truly swell raw food which was massaged -- yep, massaged kale. Sounds weird. Tasted absolutely wonderful. Kale is, of course, a very healthy vegetable and even, on occasion, tough after cooking. Many recipes call for braising it. And yet, this massaged kale (which also featured some feta and some tomatoes and lemony tastes) was soft and tasty and wonderful. Yes, I am writing wonderful a lot today about kale. Who knew?
How does one make massaged kale? I had --and indeed have -- no idea. Hence this blog: do you? If so, I'd love some help. If not, I will be forced to Google, and we all know where that leads . . . here and there and wow, everywhere!
Pat Heieck is a well known figure at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva. She's always there -- behind all the food we eat at meals before lectures, in the Commons Room (open to Colleges' faculty and others looking for a good mid-day meal), at holiday parties and interviews, meetings and. . . weddings. There is no experience of food at the Colleges without Pat. And, if you do not know Pat you don't truly know the Colleges. Hence this interview. . .
Bibliochef: I know your title is catering manager -- and that folks at Hobart and William Smith depend on you for a lot. Can you describe for us what your job means and how you came to do it..?
Pat: I came to H&WS 30 Years ago (Feb 9th). My husband, Bob, was a Manager at Guilick Dining Hall (SAGA) ..he asked me to help out opening the NEW Faculty Dining Room .. I had no experience but I soon learned the ropes..over the years I found out I really loved the work... In the beginning I worked part time but soon my hours increased and I was given more responsibility...I love my job..I love the people at the Colleges I work with..I have made so many friends over the years...It is not just a job it is a career to me.. (A little editorial voice says, if you'r'e interested in the connection of the Colleges and SAGA the food service corportation acquired by Marriott in 1986, click here or here for obituaries of Bill Scandling, one of SAGA's co-founders and a Hobart alumnus.)
Bibliochef: What's an ordinary day like for you at work?
Pat: I usually get to work at 8:30 am...check all the catering needs for the day..answer the phone for last minute orders for the day..help plan the menu for the Faculty Dining Room..Cost out catered events..work with students planning events at SAGA...etc..etc.. do many events in the evenng..Each and every day is really not the same..I guess that is what I really like..
Bibliochef: How did you get involved with catering as a profession? What was your first job that involved food?
Pat: I think I answered the involvement part of my job in the first question...My first catered food event was at Houghton House for 150 people. I really did not know what I was doing..but decided that day I was going to conquer this new phase of my life..
Bibliochef: What is the best part of what you do? What was the best catered event you ever did?
Pat: The best part of what I do is working with people at HWS and the community..I learn so much from them....The very best catered event I did in my 30 years was the Capital Campaign Launch at the Field House for 1500 people..in NOVEMBER 2006.....I agonized all summer about this event but I truly went home that evening very satisfied about the event..
Bibliochef: Do you have favorite foods that are served on campus or when you cater? Are you willing to share one recipe with us?
Pat: I have so many recipes I truly love...but the peppered beef tenderloin with sautéed mushrooms is one favorite... Another is Marinated Flank Steak with Honey Chipotle Glaze. I will be glad to share the recipe. (So, watch this blog for the recipe, coming soon!)
Bibliochef: What's your advice to people interested in a career in food services?
Pat: First of all..you need to love PEOPLE. Get all the training that is offered...listen and learn from other people... Most of the mistakes I made at events, my customer pointed them out to me..I was angry at first..but I did learn.
Bibliochef: If you were choosing a caterer for an event at which you did NOT have to work, how would you choose?
Pat: I would probably ask many people about the specific caterer...speak to them personally...and LISTEN to what they had to offer.
Bibliochef: What's your best food-related memory?
Pat: That's a hard one...I was at an event in Boston a few years ago..All the foods were passed...I remember this Giant Shrimp I really wanted to get my teeth into..The waiter came to me..I took one and before I got it in my mouth, it slipped down the front of my dress. Of course, people were watching. I did not eat for the rest of the evening. . . I also learned a lesson -- don't pass food that cannot be handled gracefully!
Bibliochef: If you were not a catering manager, what other occupation attracts you?What occupation would you never want to have?
Pat: I was a second grade teacher for 8 years..but I always wanted to be a social worker, working specifically with children.
Bibliochef: I know you also cater weddings on campus. What's that like? If you
could cater a fantasy event, what would it be?
Pat: I think I am very lucky. I have been a part of many magical evenings at HWS. Over the years we have had so many interesting VIPs at our campus. I think I have had it all. I work with mostly ALUMs on ther WEDDINGS. Very fulfilling. I remember them as students and then they come back to plan their weddings at Houghton House
Bibliochef: You work with chefs, right? What makes for a good chef? How is that
different from--or and that similar to --a good cook?
Pat: I work with wonderful Chefs...we have a Master Chef from the Culinary Institute of America...who teaches his cooks to become chefs...they start out as a cook and they become chefs..
Bibliochef: I imagine it is hard to go home after a hard day at work where food is
so important and then cook. It is for me sometimes (though often it is also incredibly relaxing to do that instead of what I do for a living) and I neither cook nor otherwise deal with food for a living. So what are your solutions on those nights you do not want to cook?
Pat: I usually eat at least two to three times a week at work..and when I am home..my husband does all the cooking...He is a great cook..he gets home before I do..so he is the cook of the day.
Bibliochef: How would you describe yourself as a cook? What do you like to eat? How would you describe yourself as an eater?
Pat: As a cook..I love simple meals..pasta..soups..sauces....I love to eat pasta dishes. I do not smoke anymore so I really enjoy my food. I am a very good eater..
Bibliochef: What's your favorite thing to cook? Least favorite? What do you always have in your pantry/refrigerator? Why?
Pat: I love to make soups...meatball.and lentil are my favorites.. In our pantry we always have rice..pasta..tomato products..chicken..and hamburger. You can always make a meal out of those products. I really HATE ham dishes.
Bibliochef: Who would you most like to eat your food? (I don't mean which H&WS person, though it could be, I mean in your imagination. . . .) If you could have any guest at all walk into the Faculty Dining room to eat, who would it be and why?
Pat: Believe it or not I would love to have Neil Diamond come to the Faculty Dining Room for lunch.
Bibliochef: What’s the absolutely best meal you have ever had? What made it the best meal?
Pat: I really can't think of ONE meal as better than others...in this profession there is so much diversity it is too hard to select one...
Bibliochef: What music, films, books related to food would you recommend? Why?
Pat: Music and Film..I don't have a clue. Books..I really love The Flavors of Bon Appetit and Gourmet Week-End. And the editorial voice says: on Bon Appetit books, click here.)
Bibliochef: What do you eat for comfort food?
Bibliochef: Do you have a favorite restaurant in the Finger Lakes?
Pat: I really love Pronti's. (89 Avenue Ein Geneva). I love Italian Foods. (For ohter views of Pronti's click here.)
Bibliochef: What am I not asking that I should?
Pat: I think you have asked every question. You're very good at this. I am not too original ..but I am honest with my answers.
It was in Minneapolis. At the airport. I was out of books to read. I had seen the book before, in hard cover, and rejected it. Food books everywhere and there are only so many I can read, I thought. But this time, Eat, Pray, Love seemed just right. I couldn't resist it any more than I could resist the cookies from the French Meadow Bakery ( a restaurant and bakery at the airport that offers simply the best airport food ever. It is not airport food. It is transcendently good food. Face it: I had an organic martini and it was very very good.) The book is a combination travelogue, memoir, foodie meditation, rumination on the meaning of life. Sounds goofy -- the narrator definitely has a sense of humor --and perhaps even self-indulgent. But Elizabeth Gilbert is better than that -- certainly as a writer and narrator, and possibly even as a person, though who knows what goes on behind the authorial persona. You have to worry --she has a web site (who am I to worry --I have a blog). A fiction writer and former journalist as well, in this book she's a seeker who spends an entire year in a combination of locales beginning with I (Italy, India, Indonesia) -- seeking a way through a difficult part of her life, and encountering meaning making through food, religion and reflection. While the trajectory of the bookends up being one of the plots readily available in the West -- get hurt, go on spiritual journey, face various travails, meet mentors, get balanced, get romance -- it is still somehow worth it -- at least for this reader.
Yes, I like this book. I might even be sort of embarrassed about how much I like this book. It might border on the touchy feely. But that's not the worst of it. There were moments when I thought I was reading about myself. This narcissism is perhaps not unusual, but it bothered me more than usual this time -- especially because those parts of Gilbert's narrative where I saw myself were definitely NOT positive reflections on my best aspects. On the other hand, the foodie reflections -- mainly set in Italy -- are definitely an antidote to foodie guilt even if the enthusiasm for Italy's food gets tiresome, whoever's mouth (orpen) it emerges from. And not just because they are juxtaposed to the remaining two thirds of the memoir, including months in an ashram in India where discipline trumped eating. Gilbert's reflections are a good reminder that there is more to it than love or duty or necessity or even the horrifying politics of it all. And what is it? Life, I suppose.
In some ways, the book made me think of works on religious seekers, or a quest sort of religiosity I have read that are more academic in tone. (Batson et al.,Religion and the Individual, for example. On Batson, click here. On the quest dimension itself, try this.) In attempting to define and figure out how to empirically examine the notion of religiosity as growing, as seeking, Batson et al. treat it as a dimension of religiousness. Others, of course, treat it as religiousness per se. Certainly Gilbert presents herself as searching for more than a repair to self followingon a nasty divorse and for more than her self -- she seeks what she calls the divine even -- in Eat, Pray, Love. Maybe it is ageing, or maybe what some see as some inherent "churchiness" which I reject so hard it defines me, but I do like this book. I envy Gilbert the opportunity --though I suppose those of us lucky to have year long sabbaticals have no right to envy others who create one for themselves and use it well. The book and her year gives me the willies -- and yet I am jealous. And it is not the gelato she consumes in Italy that tempts me. Or the thin pasta sheets hanging over chair backs. So: I would Eat, Read, Think. . . . .
The Red Brick Inn is located at 291 Main Street in Geneva. It's been open for a longish time, but I had never been there until yesterday. We went for burgers and burgers we got: a Spencer burger (which comes with grilled onions) and I had one of my favorite things -- a blue cheese burger with bacon. Our choices were Parker's (right around the corner on Seneca Street) OR the Red Brick Inn and something new went with something blue so. . . . My burger was actually two smaller thinner burgers, with blue cheese between then and on top, with a bit of nice bacon as well. Unlike Parker's, the Red Brick's blue burger comes with blue cheese rather than blue cheese sauce (though that's great to dip french fries). The Red Brick's burgers also taste more grilled than Parker's. Nothing to choose when it comes to french fries; exactly the same big cut ones. The Red Brick Inn burger came with a very nice pasta salad as well -- tasty.
Overall, the ambience at the Red Brick makes up for the not perfect burgers -- great little fire places here and there (though they did not throw heat and given yesterday's wintery temperature, I wish they did!), mustard colored walls, a lot less noise and fewer obnoxious customers than Parkers.
Rumor has it that the Red Brick does a good St. Patrick's Day dinner of cabbage and corned beef complete with comeIrish music. So, plan now for March 17!