Plum Market, Zingerman’s, Papa Joes and now…Leo’s Coney Island – fine dining at the Detroit airport

With four hours to kill between puddle jump flights (Des Moines to Detroit, Detroit to Ithaca) we discovered all kinds of dining options to make a former a Michigan native and her Kansan happy. Leo’s was the latest discovery, a favorite in Royal Oak Michigan. During our outbound four hour layover, we tried both Papa Joes (perhaps the smaller of two outposts) and Plum Market/Zingerman’s (which had a much bigger but pricey selection, compared to Papa Joes).

The gift shop was also full of Michigan goodies from Cherry Republic to Sanders to Made in Detroit tees.

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And the best part of Ithaca…lakeside with our friends at their cottage

“And some days, they last longer than others
But this day by the lake went too fast
And if you want me, you better speak up
I won’t wait
So you better move fast.” (Rilo Kiley)

Lest I forget to mention, it is the people and the lakes of the Finger Lakes which remain our biggest draw, especially since our dear pals have bought a cottage on Cayuga Lake, near where we used to vacation together with our young kids! On this trip, we visited new-to-me Finger Lakes to the West – Seneca, Keuka, Canandaigua – all with their own charms. The shores of Seneca and Cayuga are particularly well-populated with wineries, cideries, breweries and more foodstuffs. None are more beautiful than my forever favorite lake: Cayuga.

in the garden at Ithaca Beer

Nut ridge

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Taughannock Park rim trails, South Hill Cider, Hangar Theatre/Dar Williams – Ithaca

We went to our first live music concert since the pandemic in Ithaca, where we saw the wonderful Dar Williams at Ithaca’s Hangar Theater, an intimate space where Dar was singing in what felt like our living room. But we had to show proof of vaccination (fortunately I brought our cards) and ID plus wear masks. We self-social distanced by moving to seats not next to others. Dar Williams was as charming as ever, telling long rambling funny and/or poignant stories before her songs, and her voice was in great shape. It felt like fate that we were there when she invited the audience to sing along during her last song and we people did, belting out through our masks: Iowa…(One of our favorite songs as Iowans but we didn’t know it was so well known by others.)

The last time I was at Taughannock state park 2 1/2 years ago, walking the ground-level gorge trail, I saw a few people walking high above me. Who knew? This time, we walked 3 miles up the north rim trail and back along the south rim trail, seeing the falls like I’d never seen them before, from on high and above, birdseye, and from flat rocks leading to the astonishing drop of the falls. Gorgeous. I have been to taughannock many times but never knew about these trails!

At the bottom of the South rim trail, we passed through a wrought iron gate on a dirt path leading to the Inn at Taughannock Falls, a beautiful old gingerbread mansion where I used to go as a treat with my parents when we visited Cornell. The place has been gussied up with a new events space but looks as lovely as ever. We stopped at a little wooden stand in the woods for excellent fresh squeezed lemonade. Nice touch.

Dinner was unexpectedly on the side of a hilltop south of Ithaca at sunset with a bluegrass band playing under a gazebo and diners scattered in clusters of lawn chairs and picnic tables near apple orchards. We were at South Hill Cidery, which happened to have a fried chicken benefit supper for Hurricane Ida survivors. The chicken was slow to arrive, cooked by volunteers, but surprisingly delicious. And talk about chicken with a view.

A loyal reader of the blog asked how many waterfalls/gorges we visited this trip: seven – and all beautiful in their own way. Treman is my sentimental favorite, the one I visited as a child and associate with my parents. Buttermilk is in that category too – I have fond memories of swimming in the icy water of the pool at the bottom of the falls. Taughannock is the highest, I think, and perhaps most dramatic. Watkins Glen is very tight, winding and mysterious. Cascadilla leads to Cornell, my alma mater and Fall Creek Gorge, is on the Cornell campus, with several spectacular places to view it (the suspension bridge, Thurston Avenue bridge). Letchworth was a whole other beast, with a much larger volume of water crashing down its falls, Niagara-like.

Picnic at Taughannock on Cayuga Lake
South Hill cider

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Andersonville #2 “coolest neighborhood in the world” – Chicago

Bit stunned to see the neighborhood we may move to in this article…but I did write a travel story about it in 2019 for the Minneapolis Star.

The 49 coolest neighbourhoods in the world
We polled 27,000 city-dwellers and asked local experts to rank the greatest places for food, fun, culture and community

Read in Time Out Worldwide: https://apple.news/ArShGeWW4TtGEnSbAUCufyQ

The city’s historic Swedish enclave (take note of the flag on the neighbourhood’s iconic water tower), Andersonville is now better known for its LGBTQ+ nightlife and the bars and restaurants that line the Clark Street corridor. Over the past year, the area has bounced back in a big way, welcoming new bars (Nobody’s Darling, the Bird Cage) and restaurants (Parson’s Chicken & Fish), while events like the Taste of Andersonville have done a top job of showcasing beloved local institutions. The district has always been a desirable place to live, but its proximity to beaches and coastal parks has only made it more appealing during the pandemic. Andersonville is also a community that’s looking forward, launching initiatives like Clark Street Composts – a pilot programme that could serve as a model for eco-friendly composting throughout Chicago.

The perfect day: Start off with coffee and pastries from Scandi-inspired bakery Lost Larson, before checking out the vintage knick-knacks at Woolly Mammoth or feminist literature at Women & Children First. Next, stroll along the picturesque Foster Beach, then snag a table at Hopleaf and enjoy mussels and Belgian beer. Round off your day with a drag show at the Bird Cage or a surreal performance of the Neo-Futurists’ Infinite Wrench.

Plan your trip: For Andersonville Midsommarfest, an annual street festival (June 10-12 2022) that serves as a celebration of the area’s Swedish heritage, local businesses and LGBTQ+ culture.

🗺 Take a look at our Andersonville neighbourhood guide

🏠 Discover more great neighbourhoods in Chicago

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Apple Fest, Sew Green, Ithaca Farmers Market, Collegetown Bagels downtown – Ithaca, NY (Finger Lakes)

Turns out all the cideries and apples I have been looking for in the Finger Lakes were all in one spot on the Ithaca Commons during a three-day event called Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival. It rained off and on but it was warm out so we were just fine traipsing though the intermittent rain. I had a nice chat with the young guy at The Cornell Orchards tent where I found Snap Dragons, my new favorite apple, and a Japanese variety (Shizuoka) that is akin to my old favorite, Mutsu (rebranded as Crispin.) No russet apples there but I found them later at The Ithaca Farmers Market and Green Star Co-op.

We had delicious apple crisp with vanilla ice cream although the line was longest at the cider donuts, a student favorite. The Commons looked healthy, with lots of storefronts occupied. There’s also a spanking new Collegetown Bagels, new building, same bagels and funky looking sandwich board describing old standbys. (The Collegetown bagels location in Collegetown also has new digs, hopping across the street.) Just off the Commons, I also stopped in at Sew Green to check out the used Eileen Fisher clothes. No great finds, unlike my last visit.

The Ithaca Farmers Market is unchanged, amen. Lots of alternative types playing the fiddle, fresh-faced farmers selling organic produce (and russet apples!), happy dogs.

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Letchworth State Park/Mt. Morris, Ardennes Brewery/Geneva NY

As advertised, Letchworth State Park turned out to be part Grand Canyon, with water rushing way below huge chiseled rock canyon walls, and part Niagara Falls, with high wide falls, the water at full volume after several rains, crashing down into the canyon, kicking up mist that the sunshine turned into rainbows. We came in from the Mt. Morris entrance, which seemed the closest from 390 driving up the southern route from Ithaca (slightly longer than the northern route especially if you take I-90, which we didn’t on the way back, opting instead for scenic country backroads. We had to drive about 11 miles inside the park to get to the Upper Falls where we trekked up stone steps to the top and then walked a short gorge rim trail to the middle falls. We skipped the lower falls but did stop briefly at the lovely old Glen Iris Inn. As recommended by the guy at the entrance, we picnicked at Eddy’s Tea Table, the name of one of several overlooks into the canyon and also stopped briefly to admire the view from Inspiration Point. (Never skip an inspiration point,)

At Upper Falls

On the trip back we stopped at the remarkable Ardennes Taproom and Brewery outside Geneva near the west shore of Cayuga Lake, located at a former sheep barn that looked far too fancy for sheep, made of stone, brick, wood and stucco. We sat at a picnic table, one of several dotting a long emerald green lawn with shady trees and tried a flight of Belgian beer and delicious frites. The rest of the bites menus looked great – mussels, lamb sliders.

Not your everyday Sheepbarn

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Trumanburg Farmers Market, Sundrees, Old Rongovian Embassy/Garrett’s Brewery, Hazelnut Kitchen – Trumansburg, NY

I first arrived in Trumansburg blindfolded, about 43 years ago. It was my 19th birthday and new friends in my freshman dorm at Cornell kidnapped me for a celebration. They blindfolded me in my dorm room, walked me into a car and we drove for about a half hour. The blindfold came off inside The Rongovian Embassy, an atmospheric bar in the small village of Trumansburg on Cayuga Lake’s western shore. The Rongo is gone but not forgotten. The name is etched into a stone plaque embedded in the pavement at the entrance to what is now Garrett’s Brewing, where we duly had a beer.

Before that we shopped, people-watched and listened to a folk band play inside a gazebo at The Trumansburg farmers market (Wednesday nights). Dinner was fantastic at Hazelnut Kitchen. We had an 8 p.m. reservation, thankfully or we would not have gotten in. Low-key atmosphere with mismatched plates and napkins, hardwood floor and very ambitious food. No room for dessert after sharing a hearty appetizer with crispy fried polenta w/ chicken confit, roasted shiitakes, moochego and entrees (steak with frites, apple cider-braised pork shoulder with spaetzle.) We contemplated getting the “Let the Kitchen Decide” entree but chickened out.

I also managed to find a dress to wear for a NYC bar mitzvah at Sundrees, a gift shop with a few well chosen clothing items and work by local artists. Next door is The Gemm Store, resale and vintage stuff (not gems) that was worth a wander.

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Gimme Coffee, Cascadilla Gorge, Fall Creek Gorge, Forest Home, Cornell Botanic Gardens, Cornell Dairy Barn – Ithaca

Busy day, exploring Ithaca and Cornell. I forgot how easy it is to entertain yourself here when the weather is half way decent. (Today it was cloudy but no rain and oddly warm, in the low 70s.)

Suspension Bridge

This morning we met an old friend from Des Moines (who now lives here part-time) at the Gimme Coffee near the foot of Cascadilla Gorge (There are now so many gimme locations that our friend initially went to another one). We walked up and down the gorge, which was full of water thanks to recent rains. A strenuous and very scenic hike. Nets are now strategically placed underneath the bridges high above the gorges to prevent jumpers. I also was pleased to see some repaired steps which makes the trip slightly less nerve wracking. As a student I walked up and down those slippery wet, leaf-strewn rugged stone steps without a care. Not so much now having broken two arms and my foot on occasion.

Collegetown Bagels is relocated across the street from its old location but still has the same alternative vibe and good sandwiches. There are almost no old buildings left in Collegetown, all of them replaced by bland modern buildings, several housing Asian restaurants of one sort or another. Are there any bars left? Not that I care.

We went over to the suspension bridge across Fall Creek Gorge, which was closed last time I was here two years ago. I forgot how much higher that gorge is than Cascadilla and can’t remember how we managed to get down in it sunbathe on the flat rocks as students. But I did see there is now an informational sign with some suggested hikes along the gorge. Next trip.

Next stop, Forest Home, one of my favorite tiny neighborhoods with narrow winding streets and a one-lane bridge. We ended up across the road at what used to be called the Cornell Plantations but that’s not PC these days so it was rebranded as Cornell Botanic Gardens. It’s huge and lovely. We drove around a bit and then wandered on foot among the wildflowers and herbs by the visitors center. And who could resist Cornell ice cream, located nearby at the Cornell Dairy Barn, also a new glass building completely changed from what I vaguely remembered from my years here as a kid. The ice cream was still excellent. I recommend Chocolate Gorges, chocolate cream with fudge swirl and bits of Oreos.

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The Lake House on Canandaigua, Penn Yan – Finger Lakes, NY

We explored the northern route for the Finger Lakes west of Cayuga today, primarily on Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua Lakes. In Geneva, I got some helpful suggestions of where to stop from a woman at the N Y Visitor Center and duly went onto visit Red Jacket Juice along Route 20/5 west of Geneva, a city with a remarkable nimbler of grand and well-preserved mansions along the west shore of the lake and a one-block groovy section downtown on Linden Street, including most notably FLX Provisons, a wellknown restaurant. (FLX Fry Bird, which serves fried chicken is less pricey and easier to get a reservation. Actually I don’t know if it takes reserved.)

The Lake House

In Canandaigua, we had lunch outdoors overlooking the water at the swanky Lake House of Canandaigua, recently named best hotel/resort or some such in the Northeast by Travel and Leisure. We had a salad and sandwich in “Rose Tavern” and watched people swimming in a pool near the spa. Yes, it was warm enough for that. The popular Sand Bar restaurant on the resort wasn’t opened nor was NY Kitchen,a culinary center and restaurant. Stately Sonnenberg Gardens also wasn’t open on a Tuesday.

Following my welcome center guide’s suggestion, we drove on Highway 364 south along Canandaigua lake to Penn Yan, passing Star cidery. Penn Yan was not as charming as envisioned. More a worn New York State Toen, but we stopped at the nicest shop, the Starving artist Woodworks. Driving on highway 54, we passed the recommended Spotted duck creamery (closed) and up along Seneca Lake’s western shore on Highway 14, Brewery Ardennes Taproom and kitchen (closed but looked amazing), Bellhurst Castle, and in Geneva, Kindred Fare – a well- regarded Restaurant. We also didn’t make it to the Seneca Falls National Women’s Hall of Fame, but visited years ago.

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Corning Glass Museum – Corning NY

Rainy weather and a thumbs up from my Cornell friend John got us to go to the Corning Museum of Glass and I am sooo glad we did! The new contemporary wing, a high-ceilinged white glass box, is stunning, both the architecture and the contemporary glass artwork. What a perfect place to go, especially on a gloomy day. I recognized several artists whose work is at The Des Moines Art Center (Fred Wilson, Judith Schaechter) and the omnipresent Chiluly. But there is so much more going on in the glass art world beyond Chiluly, I learned.

We also went to the exhibit tracing the history of glass, which was fascinating and to a glassblowing demonstration. The latest clever pandemic-induced accommodation: instead of blowing the glass, the glass artist used some sort of foot-peddled contraption so he could keep his mask on. Whatever works. The weather cleared enough for us to eat lunch outside on the cafe patio. (Good southwest salad, tuna sandwich). We also spent a lot of time in the huge gift shop and I found a wonderful glass jewelry maker from Bridgeport Connecticut, conveniently located near Myra, who also liked his work.

We spent 3 1/2 hours at the museum and could have stayed longer but we wanted to check out downtown. Glad we did. Corning is a very well -heeled town with a healthy historic district with massive two-story elegant brick storefronts filled with galleries, restaurants, antique shops (including an outpost of FLX Provisions, the well-regarded restaurant in Geneva).

Do not pet this dog (made of glass shards)
Betsy and Fred (Wilson, the glass artist)

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