Our Winter CSA from Main Street Farms ended in February, but we are still reaping the benefits. Vegetables like carrots and beets keep for a long time, and we loaded up on onions and potatoes at our final Saturday pick-up at the Central New York Regional Market.
All that's left to do until spring, then, is cook! Here's a look at some of the things we have made and enjoyed with our winter bounty. (We never did try the kohlrabi, but there's always next year. We will DEFINITELY sign up for the winter CSA again.)
Note: Now is the time to sign up for Main Street Farms' regular-season CSA. Pick-up is available all over Central New York -- in Syracuse, Liverpool, Onondaga Hill, Fairmount. Elbridge, DeWitt, Fayetteville, Homer, Cortland and Binghamton. Those who prefer a market-style CSA (with eight selections, like the one we enjoyed this winter) can pick-up at several locations rather than receive a box share. Vacation stops are available, and new payment options include weekly billing for those who do not wish to pay for the whole season upfront. CLICK HEREfor more information.
Carrot and Fennel Soup
Main Street Farms salad greens with roasted beets and walnuts
'Tis the season for cookies and candy and rich meals. But vegetables can be in short supply. That's one of the reasons we decided to sign up for the Winter CSA offered by Main Street Farms, in Cortland.
Main Street Farms offers a "market style'' CSA that runs six weeks -- every two weeks from December to February. In Syracuse, pick-up is at the Central New York Regional Market, where Main Street Farms owner Allan Gandelman and his team set up each week. While there, we can pick up our favorite yogurt and cheese curds from Wake Robin Farm and check out all the other offerings at the market.
The winter share isn't a typical box share, with the contents selected for you. Instead, bring your shopping bags to the Main Street Farms stand and make eight selections from what is available. On December 1, our first week, we came home with onions, carrots, kale, cabbage, beets, Brussels sprouts and spaghetti squash. I used the carrots to make one of our favorite soups. And a recent dinner at Moro's Kitchen in Skaneateles inspired the beet bruschetta appetizer (below), which we enjoyed with a side dish braised kale and fried potatoes.
Each week of the CSA share includes a "value added'' local product. The first week, it was naturally fermented sauerkraut from local producer Food and Ferments -- look for them in the market's C Shed each week. On subsequent weeks, we're told, we'll enjoy local pasta, pesto, goat cheese and more.
This is our first experience with a CSA and we're loving it so far. Every two weeks works well for us -- the vegetables keep well and there isn't the pressure to do something with them immediately. We can always use things like carrots and onions and Main Street Farms grows salad greens year-round in greenhouses and using aquaponics -- a definite plus. I am not a turnip fan, but we'll give them a try, roasted with beets, onion and potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Did I just Google kohlrabi? Yes, I did! This member of the cabbage family looks like a pale green alien from outer space. The CSA is an opportunity to try new things. Maybe a slaw with apples and toasted walnuts? Or stir-fried kohlrabi seasoned with chili powder or crushed red pepper?
The six-week CSA costs $150, or $25 per week. Considering what we come home with and what we could/would spend at the grocery store for food that has traveled thousands of miles, it's a great value.
We'll keep you updated on what we're doing with our winter CSA produce. For more information on Main Street Farms, CLICK HERE or call 607-218-2101.
Roasted Beet Bruschetta Salad for Two
(Inspired by an appetizer at Moro's Kitchen, Skaneateles)
Diced, roasted beets (roast in advance; see below)
8 slices from a baguette of your choice, sliced diagonally
Goat cheese (I used Lively Run Goat Dairy)
2 cups arugula for salad
Balsamic vinaigrette dressing (see below)
To roast the beets: Wash beets, trim them if necessary and dry lightly. Pierce the beets with a fork. Place in a foil-lined pan and roast, covered, in a 450 degree oven. This will take an hour or more, depending on the size of the beets. Cool beets, remove skins and dice a couple of them -- how much you use depends on how much you like beets!
For the vinaigrette: Combine one-third cup olive oil and one-quarter cup balsamic vinegar or blended balsamic vinegar (like fig balsamic) in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Place the arugula in a bowl and toss lightly with dressing.
For the toast: Heat a skillet or griddle over moderate heat on the stove. Butter both sides of the bread slices and grill until nicely browned. Remove grilled bread from pan and spread one side generously with goat cheese.
To serve: Place the arugula in the middle of a medium-sized plate. Arrange the cheese-topped bread slices around the salad and top each slice with a spoonful of diced beets. Drizzle a little vinaigrette on top of the bruschetta. Enjoy bites of the bruschetta with bites of the salad.
Photos courtesy of Matt Peirson and Simple Roast Coffee (Facebook)
It has been a busy year for Matt Peirson. In the last couple months alone, he purchased a business property in Auburn, married the love of his life and said so long to his job in "corporate America."
In the next week or two, he will take Simple Roast Coffee Company to the next level, opening a double-window, drive-thru "coffee hut" on Grant Avenue (Route 5), in Auburn, near the Movieplex Theaters and Tractor Supply Co. The small building, which now wears a fresh coat of green paint, was formerly Nana's Cafe. You'll be able to pull in and order a Simple Roast espresso, cappuccino or cold brew (and more) for the road. "The building was pre-existing and actually perfect for setting up a double drive-thru,'' Peirson notes. He says he took some inspiration from Coffee Mania, a roaster with two drive-thrus in Cortland and a coffee cafe (Origins) in Homer owned by his friends Craig and Michelle Brooks.
"It all happened very fast,'' Peirson adds. "Auburn doesn't have its own coffee roaster, to my knowledge. And there are thousands of vehicles on that road every day.''
At the Simple Roast hut, Peirson plans to offer a selection of baked goods from Half Moon Bakery and possibly other bakers in the region, depending on demand. Hours will be 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and will be adjusted as needed as business moves forward and he gets to know his customer base.
My mother's mother had a teeny-tiny garden in Olean, NY, where lily of the valley, peonies, bachelor's button and rhubarb grew in the spring. Growing up with a grandmother and mother who loved rhubarb and loved to make rhubarb pie, I thought everyone had an appreciation for the red- and green-streaked vegetable. Yes, vegetable. Not so. It's so tart and fibrous some people just can't get their head and taste buds around it.
Rhubarb is sometimes called pie plant, because it is so often used in pies. I use it to make muffins and coffee cake and simmer it with a little water and generous scoop of brown sugar to make a sweet-tart sauce to spoon on yogurt and over vanilla ice cream or to just eat on its own. A recipe for rhubarb scones appeared on my radar this week. Those will be next.
Rhubarb is one of the first plants harvested in Central New York in the spring. Like everything else, it's a little late this year. I got the rhubarb craving last weekend but didn't have the opportunity to get to the Central New York Regional Market on Saturday to pick some up. I called Henry's Farm Stand in Chittenango, figuring they were open for the season. They're open Fridays only until strawberry season and warmer weather arrive, but owner Michele Henry offered to go out and pick some for me and meet me at the stand. I happily took her up on the offer. I paid $6 for a huge bunch of long, fat stalks. A pound of it went into the Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake featured here. About two more pounds are stashed in the freezer for use in sauce, scones and some strawberry rhubarb jam when strawberry season arrives in June.
Henry's Farm Stand is at 2313 Genesee St. (Route 5), Chittenango. It will be open 3 to 6 p.m. Friday with freshly picked rhubarb, asparagus and green garlic and John's Seafood Truck on site and open for business.
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake From Real Simple Magazine
10 ounces (1¼ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 4-inch pieces 1½ cups granulated sugar, divided ½ cup packed light brown sugar, divided 2 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour 1¼ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon fine salt 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon) 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 4 large eggs, at room temperature ⅓ cup full-fat plain or vanilla yogurt Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and line an 8-inch square pan with parchmen paper. Butter the parchment, then lightly flour the parchment and the pan, shaking out any excess.
Toss the rhubarb, ½ cup of the granulated sugar, and ¼ cup of the brown sugar together in a bowl. Layer the rhubarb across the bottom of the pan in a grid pattern, adding any remaining sugar mixture to the pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, remaining sugars, and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about four minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the yogurt on low speed. (The mixture may look curdled.) Gradually add the flour mixture and stir to combine.
Spoon the batter over the rhubarb and spread evenly. (The pan will be almost full, literally). Place the cake pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips or put baking sheet on low rack to catch any drips. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour, 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert the onto a platter, rhubarb-side up. (Discard the parchment paper.) Cut the cake into squares and serve warm with vanilla or strawberry ice cream or frozen yogurt. Makes about 9 servings (or more, depending on size).
If you're among the thousands of drivers who travel along Route 5 near Elbridge, you've no doubt been watching the big, red, contemporary barn-like structure taking shape across the road from Tessy Plastics.
That's Bailiwick Market & Cafe and it brings to Elbridge a combination of many things under one roof: a cafe serving breakfast, lunch and supper; ice cream parlor with soft serve and (eventually) homemade hard-pack ice cream; coffee bar and drive-through (coming soon) serving Cafe Kubal coffee; local goods marketplace featuring locally produced foods and locally made art; and, most important of all, a community gathering space.
The business is owned by Nancy Hourigan, of Hourigan's Dairy Farm, who has been supported in the project by an all-woman team, including assistant manager Meg Schader, co-owner of Wake Robin Farm, Jordan, general manager Nona Gormley and head barista Jo Ann Schneider.
I stopped at Bailiwick Market & Cafe for lunch last week, during its "soft opening." Head chef Susanne "Cookie" Wheeler, who for many years served as executive chef at Pumpkin Hill Bistro, in Aurora, has put together a seasonal and local-inspired menu of soups, sandwiches, salads, entrees (like chicken pot pie and beef stew) and grab and go items.
Bailiwick is a destination worth checking out. Bring a cooler: A refrigerated case is stocked with local eggs, cheeses, cheese curds and yogurt from Wake Robin Farm, 4 Tin Fish Farm (goat dairy) and others.
THE VIBE: Casual country chic, with vaulted ceilings, lots of light and seating for about 50, including a comfy sofa and chairs in addition to tables. Seating is available outside in warmer weather. Place your order at the counter and grab a seat. You'll be given a number and your food will be delivered to you.
CHOWING DOWN: The Seymour Loft Spinach Salad ($8.49) features spinach, local apples, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and New York cheddar cheese, served with a bacon maple vinaigrette. The spinach was fresh as can be and the salad also contained bites of bacon. Had I realized that, I probably wouldn't have ordered it with chicken ($3 extra), which made the salad into a meal.
WHAT'S A VEGETARIAN GOING TO FIND? Grilled cheese, harvest garden salad and the Vinegar Hill Veggie sandwich, which contains grilled vegetables, spinach and feta topped with balsamic glaze, on ciabatta bread. Look for more vegetarian options as the local growing season kicks into full gear.
SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT? Yes! Chef Wheeler clearly loves to bake and the bakery case is filled with giant cookies, cupcakes, lemon bars, cinnamon buns, muffins, scones and other treats. I skipped dessert and tried a maple latte, flavored with maple from Skaneateles Sugar Shack. Dessert in a cappuccino cup - maple and coffee go together just fine!
WOULD WE GO BACK? Absolutely. It's a must stop when in the Elbridge, Auburn and Skaneateles areas.
NEXT TIME: Maybe the chicken pot pie. That sounds so comforting. Or the Hamilton Ham sandwich, with apple butter and gouda cheese. In summer, when local tomatoes are in season, we'll try the Bailiwick BLT with applewood smoked bacon.
Bailiwick Market and Cafe is at 441 Route 5 West, Elbridge, across the road from Tessy Plastics. From downtown Syracuse, plan on a 25 minute drive Soft open/interim hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Grand opening weekend is this Saturday and Sunday (May 14 and May 15). Hours both days are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Information: 277-5632, http://bailiwickmarket.com
Spring is here. It's time to lighten up our wardrobes, menus and beverages.
If you're a red wine drinker in the winter and a white wine drinker in the summer, it's time to bridge the gap and drink the pink. By that I mean dry Rose from the Finger Lakes region. This is the season the pink- and cherry- and salmon-hued wines are released and celebrated. There are plenty of new choices each year, as more and more Finger Lakes winemakers embrace this style of wine and put their best red wine grapes into it -- Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Lemberger, Merlot and others.
Finger Lakes dry Rose doesn't threaten to topple Riesling from its throne any time soon, but it is gaining momentum and appreciation. The Discover Dry Rose promotion was introduced in 2013 with just over a dozen participating wineries. This year, 30 wineries are represented -- from Anthony Road Wine Company, near Penn Yan, to Zugibe Vineyards, in Geneva. Click here for participants and visit the individual websites for promotions and deals.
I visited the New York State section of one of our neighborhood liquor stores (Liquor City) recently to see what they had in the way of Finger Lakes dry Rose. Unfortunately, the answer is: not enough! They did have dry roses from Fox Run, Anthony Road and -- happy surprise! -- the signature label dry Rose by Kelby James Russell, the winemaker at Red Newt Cellars.
The best place to find these wines is at liquor stores with excellent regional selections, like Ryan's Wines and Spirits, in Canandaigua, and directly at the wineries. Spring is a great time to hit the wine trails -- there's elbow room in the tasting rooms and the busy tourist season is just gearing up. Billsboro Winery, five miles south of Geneva on the west side of Seneca Lake, offers a rose of Merlot and rose of Pinot Noir. Silver Thread Vineyard, on the east side of Seneca Lake, has an off-the-beaten path location and tasting room that is well worth a visit. Through the end of April, enjoy a complimentary sample of Silver Thread's rose of Pinot Noir, paired with a local cheese.
If you think white zinfandel when you think of pink wine, think again. Dry Rose from the Finger Lakes isn't sweet. These wines are crisp, refreshing, fruity and a friend of all foods. Try them with cheeses, cured meats, salads and vegetables, poultry, shellfish, seafood, pizza, pasta, paninis, fruit desserts -- just about everything.
They would be perfect for a picnic. Don't forget the corkscrew.
I've never met a chip I didn't like. And I also love salsa. I almost always have a jar or two of Primo and Mary's salsa on the pantry shelf. It's a great local product created by Tina Conte McPherson, of Cazenovia, who works tirelessly to develop her recipes and products and sell them at local markets and in stores.
SalsaCuse (all-natural premium salsa) is one of Tina's newer products. I hadn't tried it yet and thought about opening a bag of chips -- but decided to go down a healthier road and make some Southwest-style stuffed peppers with it. The recipe is below.
In addition to the original (black bean and corn salsa, the Primo and Mary's line now includes Three Sisters (black bean, corn and squash) and the SalsaCuse. Find them at local markets and stores, including 20/East in Cazenovia, Side Hill Farmers in Manlius, Natur-Tyme in DeWitt and others. It's on deck to be carried at Wegmans soon, too.
Southwest-Style Stuffed Peppers with CNY Flavor
6 large green peppers or a mix of colors, seeded and cored (save the tops for other use) 1 cup brown rice, prepared according to instructions on package 1 medium onion, diced 1 pound ground beef 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground in mortar and pestle 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (optional) Crushed red pepper to taste (optional) 1 16-ounce jar Primo & Mary's SalsaCuse (divided use)
1 14.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed well and drained 1/2 to 3/4 cup corn kernels 2 small Roma tomatoes, diced 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 cup Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Optional: Steam the peppers for a few minutes if you prefer a stuffed pepper without much crunch. The only drawback to this is the peppers will lose some of their vibrant color.
Otherwise, Place peppers in a lightly oiled 13-by-9 inch baking dish.
Prepare the rice according to package directions and set aside. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add some olive oil then add the onions and a big pinch of salt. Sweat the onions about five minutes, then add the ground beef. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, breaking it up in small pieces. Add the jalapeño and crushed red pepper (if using) and the cumin and cook a minute or two. Add the garlic and cook it just briefly. Remove pan from heat and add the rice, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes and about half of the jar of salsa. Mix well, adding more salsa as needed. Add about two thirds of the cheese, saving remainder for garnish.
Stuff the peppers with the rice filling, tamping the filling down with spoon and filling to top. Top peppers with a spoonful of salsa and some shredded cheese. Cover pan loosely with foil. Bake for about 40 minutes or until heated through. Makes 6 servings.
I've been to Ireland several times and never had anything resembling what we in the States commonly call Irish Soda Bread. We did enjoy hearty brown soda bread everywhere we went -- with no raisins, no caraway seeds and, I'm guessing, no sugar. It's wonderful -- even more so slathered with that amazing Irish butter. So maybe this recipe should be called Irish-American Soda Bread.
Whatever you call it, this bread is easy to make and uses ingredients you are likely to already have on hand. There is no kneading and no need to run out and buy buttermilk, unless you want to. You can substitute sour milk, made with milk and white vinegar, a trick I learned from my Mother (see instructions below).
When she was still able to bake, my Mother made Irish Soda Bread every St. Patrick's Day -- and made multiple batches for sharing. It smells wonderful when it's baking, thanks to the caraway, which is similar to anise seed, but not quite as strong. It took me a while to make sense of this recipe, found in Mom's recipe file but not in her familiar, tidy script. Far from it.
"I wonder whose handwriting that is,'' my sister Anne said when I showed her the recipe. I keep studying the card and wondering the same thing. The mystery is part of the recipe's allure now, and makes it even more of a treasure. My interpretation/adaptation is below.
Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from a recipe in my Mother's recipe file (but not in her handwriting)
3 cups flour (including half-cup whole wheat flour, if you like) Pinch of salt 3 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 cup sugar 3 tablespoons caraway seeds, plus more for garnish (optional) 1.5 cups plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk or sour milk (divided use; see note) 1 cup or more raisins (mix of golden and dark)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a large loaf pan.
To make sour milk: Add 2 tablespoons white vinegar to glass measuring cup. Add milk to 2-cup line. Let rest for at least 5 minutes. Stir to combine. Recipe uses 1.5 cups. Save remaining sour milk to brush bread (you will not use all).
To make the bread: Combine dry ingredients (including caraway seeds) in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Add 1.5 cups plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk or sour milk; mix gently, scraping down sides of bowl, until just combined. Do not over mix. Toss raisins in a small amount of flour (they should be lightly dusted) and fold the raisins into bread dough.
Scrape dough into prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Pan should be about three-quarters full (see note on using extra dough, below). Using a pastry brush, gently brush/"mop" some buttermilk on top and sprinkle with a few caraway seeds.
Bake on middle rack in oven for 45-55 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. All ovens are different; to check for doneness insert cake tester or toothpick in center of loaf. It should come out mostly clean. The bread will be brown on the outside and pulled away from the sides of the pan. Cool bread in pan for about 15 minutes. Run a thin spatula around the edges and turn bread out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Makes one large loaf.
Note: If you have extra dough, grease a custard cup and use dough to make a mini bread round. Check for doneness at 20 minutes.
These are blackened haddock tacos with Southwest slaw, a recent Friday lunch special at PB&J's Lunch Box on James, the recently opened storefront version of Pat Orr's popular PB&J's Lunch Box food truck.
PB&J's is perhaps best known for Pat's signature grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a gooey, slightly crunchy delight, thanks to the addition of chopped pecans. The sandwich earned Pat the Judge's Choice award in September at the first food truck competition at the New York State Fair.
The "brick and mortar'' location is at 989 James St., in the Imperial Gardens apartment building. It's tucked a little out of the way, in the small space that chef Steve LeClair and Steve's Street Eats called home for a couple years. It later became Paul's Street Eats, with chef Paul Cox at the helm. Pat says she didn't plan to open a restaurant, but when opportunity knocked, she said yes. After Street Eats closed, Orr spent a week cleaning and freshening the space and making the kitchen and counter area more open and efficient. She opened PB&J's Lunch Box in early February, with help from a small team, including chef and kitchen manager Kelly Robertson.
I visited PB&J's Lunch Box on James recently for -- what else? -- lunch. Standing items, like Orr's now-famous grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich, "huge" grilled cheese sandwich, muffuletta and turkey club sandwich are listed on a big chalkboard menu. Daily specials, including soups, plates and a grilled cheese of the day, are posted each morning on the PB&J's Facebook page. The specials when I visited included a shrimp po'boy and the blackened haddock tacos. The tacos were a nice change of pace from the traditional Friday fish fry: two soft tacos filled with spicy chunks of blackened haddock, a zippy Southwest-style slaw, a drizzle of citrus cream and garnish of cilantro. I would order them again, no problem, or try something different, like Pat's "killer chili,'' a Caesar salad or the grilled cheese of the day.
Pat has developed a loyal following with her food truck. She's already rolled it out for a couple of special events and plans to set up at the weekly Syracuse Food Truck Association food truck rodeos when they resume in April at the Lyncourt Plaza, 2301 Teall Ave. The rodeos are held on Wednesdays, weather permitting.
Until then, you can enjoy Pat's food at PB&J's Lunch Box on James. The restaurant is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. Morning offerings include coffee, homemade blueberry muffins and breakfast sandwiches. In addition to lunch specials, a different earlybird dinner special is offered each day. Eat in or get it to-go. There's patio seating in warmer weather -- like today.
PB&J's Lunch Box is at 989 James St., Syracuse. Information: 476-3287, Facebookwebsite
Food trucks ready to roll: Read more about local food trucks in this week's Syracuse New Times.Click here.
I'm not usually a fan of brown liquor. But add some cream and vanilla and a hint of caramel and I'm in.
Blame it on Tina Conte McPherson, of Primo and Mary's Salsa, for getting me hooked on Black Button Distilling's Bespoke Bourbon Cream.
Black Button is a craft distillery (with tasting room) located a stone's throw from Rochester's Public Market and Rohrbach Brewing Company. Its products include gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and moonshine (corn whiskey), made in small batches from local grain. It even makes a limited-edition lilac gin, in honor of Rochester's famous lilacs and Lilac Festival.
Black Button sets up shop each month at the Winter Farmers Market at Baltimore Woods Nature Center, in Marcellus. In January, the Black Button display was next door to Primo and Mary's Salsa stand. "Try the bourbon cream... it's so good,'' Tina said, gesturing to her neighbor.
He poured a small sample. It's creamy and sweet (not overly) and rich -- an easy stand-in for Bailey's Irish Cream in coffee and delicious on its own. I had budgeted $20 for market purchases and had to think about spending $33 on a bottle of booze.
"You're worth it,'' I told myself. "Besides,'' I rationalized, "It's local. Or almost local.''
The first time I served the bourbon cream, I poured it in small sipping glasses, like those you'd use for sherry or port, and served it room temperature. Since then, I've been adding ice to the glass, pouring the bourbon cream over the ice and giving it a swirl. It's excellent that way -- an indulgent, adults-only mini milkshake for dessert.
I haven't tried it in coffee yet, but that's just a matter of time. It also would make an excellent "adult" iced coffee or coffee smoothie. For March birthdays and St. Patrick's Day, I've made chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with Bailey's-infused buttercream icing -- there's no reason the bourbon cream liqueur can't stand in for the famous Irish whiskey cream liqueur.
I'm looking forward to a Rochester road trip and visit to Black Button Distilling some day soon. In addition to the Winter Farmers Market at Baltimore Woods, you can find Black Button products at stores like Vinomania and Harbor View Wines and Liquors in Syracuse and Liquor City in DeWitt, according to the distillery website.
A small, storefront restaurant and take-out operation offering a fresh take on the iconic Central New York fish fry is earning positive word-of-mouth and bringing diners to Solvay.
The Fish Friar opened in late fall on Milton Avenue, across the street from the Solvay Diner. Owners Joel Canino, Giovanni Giardina and Brad Vinciguerra have created a destination for fresh fish -- plus unique side dishes -- that's simply but elegantly prepared. If you like fish fry, or fish prepared more healthily, check it out.
THE VIBE: Clean and industrial. The sleek, stainless steel order counter and open kitchen area feature a series of black and white signs detailing the menu, sides and soups of the day. There's seating for six at a counter along the front window and for about six more at a community table fashioned from an old door and topped with glass. I ate lunch at one of the counter seats and was slightly concerned I might leave smelling of fried fish. Either the place has an excellent ventilation system or I am immune to the smell of fried food.
CHOWING DOWN: The simple menu lists five sandwiches, four "plates," one lunch/supper salad and homemade sides, like macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw, rice pilaf, roasted carrots (roasted carrots!!) and mushy peas. When is the last time you had mushy peas -- or saw them on a menu? Not into fried fish? The menu offers broiled haddock and sautéed shrimp, with your choice of sides. How nice to have some healthy options at a fish-fry!
The Friar salad with crispy shrimp ($12; above) called out to me. It features mixed greens, pickled onions, grape tomatoes, shredded carrots and -- surprise! -- chopped French fries as a garnish. The salad, arranged beautifully and served in a stainless steel bowl, was topped with five large, perfectly fried shrimp. I'm not sure what's in the coating, but it's super crispy. Ritz Crackers? Corn Flakes? The homemade salad dressing was light and fresh. Executive chef Giovanni Giardina, who previously worked at Alto Cinco and Otro Cinco in Syracuse, adds basil, mint and other fresh herbs to his vinaigrette.
I took home a container of the soup du jour, Spicy Sherry Cream Haddock Stew, for my other half to enjoy later. The stew was the consistency of a rich, thick chowder, with chunks of haddock and potatoes, and plenty of heat (with a bit of an afterburn). It was delicious, worth driving out of your way for. It is served every Friday.
SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT: One or two chef-made desserts, like cheesecake and cookies, are offered each day. The chocolate chip cookies ($2) would be easy to fall for.
WHAT'S A VEGETARIAN GOING TO FIND? Not much. French fries and salad. Vegetarians could make a meal of the sides, like roasted carrots, mushy peas and rice pilaf.
NEXT TIME: I'll try the lobster roll (offered both as a cold sandwich with mayonnaise dressing and as a hot sandwich, with butter) or the fried/broiled haddock plate with sides.
THE TAB: $14 and change for the salad and a bottled water, plus $9 for the stew to go.
The Fish Friar is at 2409 Milton Ave., Solvay. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.