Monday, September 28, 2009

Ep. 43: Apples and Burgers and Fries

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The Fall fruit season is in full swing in Ithaca, and in this podcast we're visiting the Cornell Orchards, where they've been growing, researching, and developing amazing apples and other fruits for over a century. Our guest, Deborah Clover, is sales manager of the orchard store and she's got a unique behind-the-scenes perspective on how apples get from trees to our tables.

And we've got a review of the newest contender on the local burger scene, as we visit the brand new Ithaca location of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The restaurant chain already has a strong following of devoted burger lovers who rave about the quality and flavor of this food, and we were not disappointed.

Plus we updates on the other new restaurants opening soon, as well as the latest on upcoming events for local food lovers! Be sure to follow us on Twitter for continuing updates throughout the week, and stay in touch: you can write a comment on the blog, leave a message on our voicemail line 607-215-4392, or send an email with your thoughts to: feedback [at] eatingithaca [dot] com.

If you really enjoy what we create here at Eating Ithaca, why not make a donation? Your support goes directly to helping us keep this blog and podcast running, and keep making it even better as we go. Just click on the Donate button on the main page and you'll be helping us keep Eating Ithaca!

Click Play to Listen to Episode 43

Stuff we talked about in this episode:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gary Redmond: Sustainability is Everything

Whenever I record an interview for the podcast, it seems there is always something the person I'm talking to says either just before or just after the conversation that I wish had been part of the actual interview. Sometimes I manage to get it recorded and edit it into the interview anyway, but other times I find myself talking with someone after the recorder has been turned off and then scrambling to hit record again because they've continued to say something special.

That's exactly what happened when I interviewed Gary Redmond for our recent podcast. After we had finished the interview and was preparing to pack up, Gary continued sharing thoughts on some of the bigger challenges we are facing and I managed to catch the best part of what he said. Here's a transcribed version for you:

GARY: ...For a long time, I always thought that human intelligence was this evolutionary dead end, that it really wasn’t working because of what we produced on this Earth, you know? And it seemed like, okay, I think we would have been better off if we didn’t have those choices... and then just a couple, few years ago I realized Oh, I’m not looking at it as a process, I’m looking at it as an endpoint of where we were. You know, the fact of the matter is... intelligence is a process that, once we developed a consciousness and an awareness of ourselves, and we had choices, it’s obvious you’re gonna make BAD choices, you know? And so we have this learning curve to go through... we’d gone to one extreme to where we’d made all these bad choices, we’d made all these decisions, and we’re seeing the results of them right now. And now what we have to do is start making coherent choices, making choices that are sustainable, that have a longer vision... And every decision that you make should be based on that concept of “Does this make sense in the bigger realm of things?”

DAVE: And what you just said, you didn’t even really use any words specific to food -- you could have been talking about the economy as well.

GARY: That’s just it, yeah! It’s... it’s everything. It’s not just food. But the agriculture is such a basic part of it because agriculture, local foods, IS economic, it IS about energy, it IS about the environment, it IS about nutrition, it’s all those things that we’re having problems with and it all can be solved by basically returning to or reinventing a local economy that’s based on sustainability.

You can listen to an MP3 version of the recording here (or right click to download and save).

I hope you find what Gary Redmond has to say inspiring and thoughtful. If you haven't already, listen to our full interview with Gary in Episode 42 of the podcast, and check out the Regional Access website: to learn more about his work.


Friday, September 18, 2009

New Restaurants Opening in Ithaca - REVISED!

In our most recent episode of the podcast, we mentioned a surprisingly long list of new restaurant openings that we were expecting to see open in the coming weeks. Since then, I’ve had a chance to talk with some of the people involved and I’m happy to provide this update of some exciting new dining options about to hit Ithaca in the coming weeks (REVISED 9/21/09):
  • On the East Hill, the Queen Of Tarts on Maple Ave. has officially become the Coal House Cafe under its new owners. They’re working on expanding the menu of fresh daily sandwiches and soups, but be aware that street work is expected to cause closures at different ends of Maple Ave. in the coming weeks so you'll need to plan accordingly. You can get further updates on Twitter at
  • Just down the street on Dryden Road in Collegetown, Xeo’s Cafe (pronounced SAY-ohs) is now open in the space vacated by Cà Phê House last winter. The owner, Sebastian, is preparing authentic Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches and noodle bowls fresh every day, and is committed to using local or handmade ingredients as much as possible, which he updates on a list next to his menu board. We can’t wait to give it a try! UPDATE: I tried his special bánh mì for lunch today. Really tasty and spicy, packed with layers of contrasting textures and flavors. He's still setting up the place and doesn't yet have beverages for sale, but even just picking up a sandwich or noodle bowl to go is worth the trip for now. -Dave
  • Five Guys Burgers and Fries has told us they’re still on track to open on Sunday, September 20th in the Ithaca Shopping Plaza on Elmira Rd (MAP). Regular hours will be 11:00am - 10:00pm every day. Some may wonder why so many of us are making a big deal about this opening. The best answer I can give is that they have a product that is uniquely delicious, an old-fashioned, no-nonsense approach to making and serving the best of only three things: burgers, hot dogs, and fries. And they make all of those things really, really well, fresh to order, with the best ingredients. We’ll have a full review of Five Guys in our next podcast, but if you can’t wait until then, head on down and get in line. You’ll be glad you did. UPDATE: Five Guys told us they served approx. 2,000 people on their opening day in Ithaca! Check out our photos of the first 1/2 hour on our Flickr page:
  • Sammy’s Pizzeria says they hope to open the new Sammy’s Italian Buffet & Grill on or near September 20th October 1st. They’ve been renovating the space formerly occupied by King Buffet in Tops Plaza (722 S. Meadow St. next to Gnomon Copy), installing a new pizza oven and grill, and the updated dining room includes a simulated "starlight" ceiling that will also provide a regular "fireworks" show each night. You can check out a video preview for the new restaurant on YouTube here:
  • Wildfire - An American Bistro is currently on track to open the first weekend in October, taking over the former Ithaca outpost of the Lost Dog Cafe on South Cayuga Street. When I stopped by to peek at the renovation work, owner Teresa Miller told me they’re looking forward to starting some training runs for their staff in a couple weeks, but they’re still testing the menu for now. If the work in progress I saw continues, the space will have a new lighter color and warm feeling that could make it more appealing for brunch hours than the moody darkness of the old Lost Dog. You can find the original announcement about the opening here:
  • Just down the street, Bandwagon Brewery is also nearing completion of their new underground brewpub. Not underground like a secret, but literally underground, as they’ll be in the space below street level on N. Cayuga Street next to the Clinton House that used to be home to the Jamaican restaurant Yah! Mon (formerly Jamaica Pat’s) but has been vacant for over a year. I met one of the owners putting some finishing touches on repainting the space and he said they’re hoping to open in mid-October, perhaps as soon as the 15th. They’ll have a full menu of simple comfort foods, and they’ll also be brewing their own beer onsite. If it lives up to its promise, it will likely become a popular spot to cozy up to the bar and escape from the approaching winter chills.
Other openings are still to come, including the highly anticipated relaunch of the vegetarian/vegan restaurant on Stewart Ave. formerly known as ABC Cafe. The new owners, all former ABC Cafe staff, are still working on renovations behind papered windows and no opening date has been set. In fact, they’re still working on what to call the new place due to the financial troubles associated with the ABC Cafe name. For now, you can follow their progress via their new website and their Facebook group page, or follow them on Twitter at

We’ll keep you posted on these and all other new restaurant openings or closings to come. In the meantime, we hope you’ll get out there and enjoy some of your favorite dining spots as we head into Fall. If you discover something you love, let us know about it. Together, we can all be Eating Ithaca!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

When Frites Compete, Ithaca Wins

Earlier this week, we got a great email from a listener, Sarah, who mentioned her family’s trip to the NY State Fair:
On going to the state fair there are lots of 'fresh' or hand-cut type french fry type vendors, which we were planning on partaking of BUT our 2-year old melted into a puddle of tears at the overwhelmingness of the fair before we could get the fries. Which is understandable as many grown adults also lose their minds after several hours at the state fair. Anyways, when we got to the car we started discussing where we could get really good-not frozen fries in the Ithaca/Cortland area. We couldn't think of any or how to begin searching. I see that 5 guys will be opening very soon, which would fit the ticket, but thought you might know of some other places. Thanks!
Of course, that seemed like an easy enough question, and I have a hands down favorite that I always recommend without a moment’s hesitation: Fine Line Bistro without a doubt has the best fries we’ve ever had in Ithaca. Period.

But I didn’t reply to Sarah right away, because I realized that “fries” actually means something different to different people. When I think of “the best” fries, I think first and foremost of the Belgian-style frites, which have a very specific character and flavor and texture that is, to me, what every Idaho Russet dreams of one day becoming; they taste fried but not fatty, crisp but not stiff, and full of perfectly steamy puffed potato deliciousness. That's because they are cooked in a more labor-intensive method that requires extensive soaking, and two stages of frying, ideally at two different temperatures, something not every restaurant kitchen is equipped to do or has time for. But for anyone who has tasted frites like these, it’s hard to go back to anything less. As far as we’ve seen, Chef Seth Gregory at Fine Line Bistro is the only one in Ithaca serving these authentic twice-fried frites, and the difference is quite clear. Served with an authentic, tangy aioli sauce, there is nothing better.

But I was curious if anyone else felt the same, so I asked our Twitter followers for their favorites. I was a little dismayed that nobody else mentioned Fine Line, but not at all surprised who was mentioned most. Okay, it’s an un-scientific poll to be sure, but here were the replies for favorite fries in Ithaca (click the @names and links to read the original Tweet replies):

Dijon Bistro comes out on top from @sushigrade, @eruditeogre, @munierSalem, @mhaithaca, and @dansr.

Maxie's also got a couple mentions from @natedogreimer and @mhaithaca.

Of course, @mhaithaca is also the foodie behind 14850 Dining who has eaten as many of Ithaca fries as we have, probably more. He also gave nods to Ithaca Ale House and The Nines. Others pointed out more obscure options like Stella’s, The State Diner, and Kilpatrick’s Pub, and even some options that no longer exist.

And while I’m very glad nobody mentioned any of the national chain fast food franchises in town, this creates more complications than it solves, since none of these places even really serve the same kind of fries. Many of these are “seasoned” fries, where the flavor of the spices that coat them are the defining appeal. Others are “sauced” fries, covered in cheese or gravy, perfect for those all night weekend pub crawls.

But none of these options are even what dear listener Sarah wrote us about. She’s looking for the State Fair hand-cut style fries that are something else all together. To me, that means tender, thick-cut fries with strips of skin here and there, shiny and hot from the fryer and covered in salt, served in a paper bag or cardboard boat with a small tub of ketchup on the side for dunking. Sorry Sarah, but the only place you’re going to get those on a regular basis in Ithaca will be when Five Guys Burgers & Fries officially opens on Sunday, Sept. 20th. But oh, will they be worth waiting for...

When it comes to the classic frites I love, Fine Line Bistro will always be tops in my book, and if you have not tried them yet you are definitely missing out. That said, I’ll admit that Dijon comes as a close second to what Fine Line has perfected. In fact, I probably am disappointed by Dijon's fries most because they come so close to getting it right only to fall just short. If only they would stop putting more than just salt on their fries (I’ll never understand the value of parsley on fries) and maybe consider the two-stage frying method, they would be able to finally offer a more authentic moules frites experience for Ithaca diners.

If you'd like to hear more of our thoughts on this, you listen to our podcast review of Dijon Bistro in Ep. 18 and our review of Fine Line Bistro in Ep. 22. Even better, I encourage anyone who really cares about this to try making your own batch of authentic Belgian-style frites (this recipe is fantastic and easy) and you’ll see what a difference the twice-fried french fry can make.

What do YOU think? Something we overlooked here? Agree/Disagree? Bring it on! Leave us a comment below.

Keep Eating Ithaca!

Where to get your fries fix:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ep. 42: Gary Redmond's Regional Access & New Vegan Dining

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Without a doubt, Gary Redmond is one of the most enthusiastic and passionate forces of the Finger Lakes food community we've ever met. His company, Regional Access, is celebrating its 20th year even as they continue to explore new ways of sharing the best foods of our region and beyond. Our interview with Gary is bound to get you thinking about just how much is possible for a sustainable future in New York.

We're also continuing to eat our way through every restaurant in Ithaca in alphabetical order, this time looking back to seek out the restaurants that have opened since our first pass through the letters A to H. In this episode, we're checking out the new vegan restaurant Food For the Planet on West Buffalo Street, which both surprised and disappointed us. Hear our review for the full story.

Plus we have lots of news on other new restaurants opening in the weeks to come, as well as the latest on upcoming events for local food lovers! Be sure to follow us on Twitter for continuing updates throughout the week, and stay in touch: you can write a comment on the blog, leave a message on our voicemail line 607-215-4392, or send an email with your thoughts to: feedback [at] eatingithaca [dot] com.

If you really enjoy what we create here at Eating Ithaca, why not make a donation? Your support goes directly to helping us keep this blog and podcast running, and keep making it even better as we go. Just click on the Donate button on the main page and you'll be helping us keep Eating Ithaca!

Click Play to Listen to Episode 42

Stuff we talked about in this episode:


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