On day two of wandering in NYC, my favorite city activity, I set out for Fotografiska, the New York City outpost of the famous avant-garde photography museum I loved in Stockholm but the weather was walkable, despite a little wet snow, so I opted to neighborhood wander, this time through Gramercy Park, which I haven’t been to in years. Lovely old townhouses surrounding an elegant gated park. Reminded me of London. I ended up in the East Village where I found more empty storefronts than I’d seen in other neighborhoods, perhaps not surprising. But several little independent shops, including one full shop full of lovely Japanese paper products, have survived Covid, so far. Good to see. I had the six-piece sampler (seared) at Dumpling Man, a hole-in-the-wall spot on St. Mark’s Place, perhaps in the same spot where my London friend Anne had a gift shop, The House of Uncommons (geddit?) in the mid-1980s. (Francine, are you still reading?) My favorites were the shrimp (with corn) and the pork. The spinach-green veggie dumpling with a vague green tea flavor won the “most different” prize.
In addition to dumplings, another perhaps more unlikely trend appears to be something familiar to Iowans or any visitor to the Iowa State Fair…
Monday was Myra Day, one of my favorite days in NYC (or anywhere else). We met at Grand Central, which looked a bit diminished without its annual holiday market and the Scandinavian food court, both presumably casualties of Covid, but the rest of the city was hopping with holiday cheer. We wandered through Soho and NoLita (north of Little Italy, east of Sogo, primo streets:Mott, Elizabeth), both pleasant backgrounds for our annual epic get-together. I returned to Dominique Ansel Bakery, this time for a light lunch (chicken salad with pistachios on a delicious croissant) and these crazy “milk shots,” little chocolate-lined “shot glasses” made of pastry dough, filled with milk. They got a bit soggy but were a delicious take on milk and cookies.
The holiday market was ON at Union Square, and full of good gift options, from Scandinavia hand towels to Turkish pottery to Ecuadorian scarves. Dinner was at the very chic Sona, a very different Indian restaurant on 23rd street, with different takes on traditional dishes (and much higher prices.) The butter chicken looked the most familiar and was delicious. The chicken korma was unrecognizable – three conical shaped fried dumplings in a shallow pool of creamy green -colored sauce, served with a cheese-filled naan reminiscent of a quesadilla. The best innovation was the saag paneer made with Swiss chard rather than the usual spinach. All served by attentive staff in stylish surrounds with tables that quickly filled with chic New Yorkers who apparently thought nothing of dropping considerable cash on fancy Indian food on a Monday night. I ❤️ NYC.
P.S.across the street from Sona: a popular new Italian restaurant called Rezdora.
I’m on the Metro North Hudson Line train heading back to NYC after a quick but lovely and overdue visit with my old friends Merida and Chip. I’ve been visiting their charming 1840s farm house on a hill overlooking a rolling wooded valley for almost 40 years, lucky us.
The train trip is about 2 hours hugging the Hudson which looked stunning yesterday in the fall sunshine. I got off at the end of the line in Poughkeepsie and Merida picked me up and whisked me off to the country where we took long walks through the woods and pastures, past ponds and streams, tromping in the muddy grass in borrowed Wellies with two sweet white dogs who reminded me of my lab Millie. Chip took me over to visit the rescue horses at 13 Hands equine rescue center he volunteers at on a spectacular hillside overlooking a wooded valley with a sweet white farmhouse.
“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.
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.
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,)
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.
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’sBrewing, 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.
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.)
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.
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).
It was a veritable Cornell reunion on the trail hiking down spectacular Enfield Glen gorge from upper to Lower Treman Park in Ithaca. We kept bumping into my old college friends who were attending the same wedding we were later in the day. All of us up early to get in a hike. So Glad we did. Watkins Glen is lovely but I still think Treman’s gorges and waterfalls are more spectacular, with more water cascading down high rocky cliffs and barreling through channels cut into the rock, opening into deep pools of water before yet another waterfall. (We did the two-car trick where we parked Noah’s car at the bottom of the falls and ours at the top so we could walk one way, down the falls, hop into Noah’s car at the end and drive back up to pick up our car at the top. Saved time and exertion.)
Next stop Ithaca Beer, conveniently located very close to Treman and our Airbnb on Route 13A/Floral avenue. It has a great outdoor eating area carved into farmland overlooking cornfields and a big vegetable garden. The beer and food was good too (fried chicken sandwich with a kick, grilled cheese). perfect still-pandemic dining.
Dan and Elizabeth’s wedding was held high above Seneca’s waters st the Wagner Winery on the east shore of the lake. Fortunately the weather completely cooperated with dry weather and a spectacular sunset. The guests were all bused out from Ithaca to the winery, which was very thoughtful of the hosts and saved us having to drive in the dark on winding country roads for 40 minutes at midnight. Good good, fun band, lots of dancing, great people and a lovely married couple.