Thursday, December 2, 2010

Checking in...

Hello local eaters! Can you believe it's December already? Time flies when you're... doing things other than blogging.

Just wanted to check in and let you know we're still here, still eating out way through Ithaca, but we've slowed down just a bit while we make adjustments to a new workload that came when Dave getting a full time job earlier this year. Great to have extra funds for eating out, but it leaves less time for blogging and podcasting.

But we hope to be back real soon with a special look at the sudden amount of activity on the local dining scene, bringing a few closings but even more new openings. Anyone who has been down our local "Restaurant Row" on Aurora St. in downtown Ithaca will already see two new openings that weren't there this summer, and there have been at least half-a-dozen others we're excited about as well.

Yeah, we've lost a few restaurants recently. The Coal House Cafe closed its doors (and it's still for sale if you're interested) and now this week comes word that Benchwarmer's on the The Commons has shut its doors.

*UPDATE* We hear now that Benchwarmer's is only shutting down temporarily for renovations during the holiday break and plans to reopen in early 2011. (Thanks for the clarification, Bruce!)

But there is so much new stuff in town to make up for these losses. Here's a brief list of some of the newest restaurants in Ithaca that we'll be taking a look at in 2011:
  • Anna's - a Vietnamese restaurant in the space that was previously Mustard on S. Cayuga St.
  • Ciao! - a Tuscan-style Italian restaurant from the people behind Boatyard Grill has transformed the space last known as Watercress, located near the Shops at Ithaca Mall.
  • Delilah's on Cayuga - formerly known as Wildfire Cafe, they've changed their name and menu as of this month to focus on what they describe as "Savannah-Fusion cuisine."
  • Mercato Bar & Kitchen - the space on Aurora St. that was Ragmann's for decades has been opened up into an casual Italian bistro
  • Mira Mediterranean Bistro - opened quietly at the end of the summer by a former ZaZa's chef, it is making good use of the space formerly occupied by Dijon in Ithaca's Northside.
  • The Piggery Deli - at long last, our favorite pig farmers from Trumansburg completed their transformation of the former Buzz Coffee on Franklin St. and opened a full-service deli, offering fresh sandwiches and coffee, plus a full variety of the same fantastic pork that makes their Ithaca Farmers Market stall so busy every Saturday.
  • Sahara - a Greek & Mediterranean restaurant from Maan Alzitoon (of longtime Center Ithaca favorite King David’s), which just opened this week in the former Micawber’s on Aurora St.
Plus there's a new Subway sandwich shop up open at East Hill Plaza, and a couple new bars on on State St. and The Commons, and we're still eagerly awaiting the new pan-Asian restaurant from Lex Chutintaranond coming to The Commons as well.

It's an exciting season for local dining and we can't wait to try 'em all. But don't wait for us -- get out there and give 'em a try yourself and let us know what you think. We'll be back soon enough to share our thoughts, but you know what to do until then:

Keep Eating Ithaca!

Cheers,
Dave & Andrea

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ep. 54: Lessons from Lex, Capital Kitchen, and Cayuga Lake Two Ways

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It's our September issue and we've got a local superstar for the cover as we sit down for a chat with Sunit ("Lex") Chutintaranond. Lex is the man behind some of the best and most beloved independent restaurants in Ithaca of the past 25 years. He introduced opened the first Thai restaurant in Ithaca with Thai Cuisine, then went on to create Just A Taste, Madeline's, and Zaza's Cucina*. Now Lex is putting the finishing touches on what he calls the dream restaurant he's always wanted to open, an intimate pan-Asian restaurant on the Ithaca Commons in a historic building he has helped restore. "My training is through eating," Lex tells us, and his passion for great food is the core of our conversation.

We're also continuing some "training through eating" of our own as we return to trying every restaurant in Ithaca from A-Z. We'll be talking about the unusual new setting for sushi at Capital State Kitchen, and then we head to the water for a brunch cruise on the M/V Columbia ("I'm on a boat!") with Cayuga Lake Cruises and sample the world of wines at their sister restaurant, Corks & More.

All that, plus the latest updates on what's changed on the local dining scene, including the closing of Ithaca's oldest restaurant, the Lehigh Valley House, and more news about what foodies can look forward to in our community.

We are listener supported, so if you value our unique point of view in covering the Ithaca dining scene and sharing conversations with people in our regional food community, please consider making a contribution to help cover the costs of keeping this going. Make a donation by clicking on the DONATE button on our main page, and any time you want to get in touch or be part of a future episode, you may leave a comment on the blog, call our voicemail line anytime at 607-216-8624, or send an email to: feedback at eatingithaca dot com. Remember you can follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for continuing updates throughout the week!

Click HERE to Listen to Episode 54

Stuff we talked about in this episode:

*In the interest of full disclosure, a couple weeks after this interview was recorded Lex treated the two of us to an amazing complimentary dinner at Zaza's Cucina as his guests in the interest of demonstrating what he feels a true, fully authentic Italian dinner experience should be. This had not been discussed or implied prior to our interview and had no influence on the interview in this podcast. It remains our policy never to ask for or accept free meals or special treatment from a restaurant we are reviewing. We accepted this offer because we were already fans of the menu at Zaza's, we were not reviewing the restaurant for this episode (nor will we be for some time), and because frankly we would have been fools to pass up an opportunity like that -- if you are ever lucky enough to be in a similar situation we hope you'll do the same. We did tip our excellent waitress generously and we'd like to thank Lex again for his hospitality.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ep. 53: The Bagel Business, Bandwagon Brewers, and Buffalo Wings

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There are around 200 different restaurants and other dining options within Ithaca, and just as one closes another one or two take its place. It's a competitive enough market that anyone who can keep a restaurant open for 10 years must be doing something right. Which means that Gregar Brous and his partners at Brous & Mehaffey must be geniuses, for they've made local institutions out of their five Collegetown Bagels and Ithaca Bakery stores here for nearly 30 years. We're excited to chat with Gregar in this episode about how this mini-empire of his got its start, hear about some of the challenges he faces in running a food business, and learn what it takes to be successful in Ithaca.

We're also continuing our quest to eat at every restaurant in Ithaca from A-Z. As we go back to look at some newer restaurants we missed earlier in the alphabet, we find ourselves visiting a couple newcomers on the scene. Hear our reviews of the indie local offerings at Bandwagon Brew Pub, and a brand new outpost of the Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar chain.

Please remember we are 100% listener supported, so if you value our unique point of view in covering the Ithaca dining scene and sharing conversations with people in our regional food community, we'd to get your support by clicking on the DONATE button on our main page. Any time you want to get in touch or be part of a future episode, you may leave a comment on the blog, call our voicemail line at 607-216-8624, or send an email to: feedback at eatingithaca dot com. Remember to can follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for continuing updates throughout the week!

Click HERE to Listen to Episode 53

Stuff we talked about in this episode:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ep. 52: Cornell's New CALS Dean and a Taste of Tapas Downtown

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We're very excited to offer an exclusive interview in this episode as we sit down for a chat with Kathryn Boor, the newly-appointed Dean of Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. When she officially begins her term on July 1st, she'll be at the helm of New York State's largest agricultural college, the land grant university of the state, putting her in a unique position to help enrich and advance agricultural prosperity and research throughout our region. We learned a lot from talking with her about the role of food science in our modern society, and about the challenges facing the food industries in New York and across the country. It's a conversation guaranteed to enlighten anyone with an interest in where our food is coming from.

And in our restaurant review for this podcast, we continue eating our way through every restaurant in Ithaca from A-Z with dinner downtown at Just A Taste on Aurora Street. With a menu full of great options, we had a lot to talk about.

We are listener supported, so if you value our unique point of view in covering the Ithaca dining scene and sharing conversations with people in our regional food community, please consider making a contribution to help cover the costs of keeping this going. Make a donation by clicking on the DONATE button on our main page, and any time you want to get in touch or be part of a future episode, you may leave a comment on the blog, call our voicemail line anytime at 607-216-8624, or send an email to: feedback at eatingithaca dot com. Remember you can follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for continuing updates throughout the week!

Click HERE to Listen to Episode 52

Stuff we talked about in this episode:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ep. 51: Wining and Dining

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We're talking about two great things that go great together in this episode of our podcast. First we're off to Six Mile Creek Vineyard, the only Finger Lakes winery actually located in Ithaca, to chat with winemaker Paul King about his work and find out what makes their wines and spirits unique.

Then we continue eating our way through every restaurant in Ithaca from A-Z, this time heading up South Hill for dinner at John Thomas Steakhouse, a restaurant like no other in town. It's a high-calorie episode, so chew slowly and enjoy every bite!

Enjoy of what we're doing here? You can help us continue covering the Ithaca dining scene and bringing you conversations with people in our regional food community. Make a donation by clicking on the DONATE button on our main page, and any time you want to get in touch or be part of a future episode, you may leave a comment on the blog, call our voicemail line anytime at 607-216-8624, or send an email to: feedback at eatingithaca dot com. Remember you can follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for continuing updates throughout the week!

Click HERE to Listen to Episode 51

Stuff we talked about in this episode:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ep. 50: Ten Things Part Five!

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Every ten episodes we're talking about ten different things and we've got quite a lineup for you in our 50th podcast!

We devote most of this episode to Andrea's 5 tools for shopping and cooking at home, lessons she's learned over the past few years that can help you eat healthier and save you money when you shop. She's passionate about this and you're sure to learn something from our lively discussion.

You'll also hear what's new in local dining, updates on past guests of the show, how local USDA regulations are affecting small farms, ideas and resources for gardening in our community, plus feedback and ideas from our listeners. It's an episode packed with goodness!

If you are a fan of what we're doing here and would like to help us continue covering the Ithaca dining scene and bringing you conversations with people in our regional food community, please consider making a donation by clicking on the DONATE button on our main page. And any time you want to get in touch or be part of a future episode, you may leave a comment on the blog, call our voicemail line anytime at 607-216-8624, or send an email to: feedback at eatingithaca dot com. Remember you can follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for continuing updates throughout the week!

Click Play to Listen to Episode 50








Stuff we talked about in this episode:


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Episode 50 is coming soon...

So it's been two weeks since our last podcast - where's the new episode?

Well, to be honest with you, it's still in our heads. We haven't had the time to properly put this episode together yet so we're postponing it until next week. Just like we do for every 10th episode, we'll be talking about 10 different ideas about Ithaca eating that have been on our minds.

We'd also love to have you be a part of this special episode. Give us a call on our Eating Ithaca listener line (607-216-8624 - a local Ithaca number) and leave us a message about what you're looking forward eating in the months ahead. Maybe it's the fresh, local fruits & vegetables coming to the Ithaca Farmers Market, or a new restaurant opening in town, or maybe it's a new recipe or special ingredient you're looking forward to trying. Whatever it is, give us a call and share what you love about eating in our community, and be part of our 50th podcast episode!

See you next week!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ep. 49: Eating Italian Ithaca at Joe's

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We're skipping the interview segment this week so we can focus on our review of one of Ithaca's oldest and most storied restaurants. After being closed for almost six years, Joe's Restaurant reopened early in 2006 but has only recently begun to regain the status it once had in the local dining scene. We chat about the changes we've noticed, mostly for the better, in our review.

We also have updates on what's new in local dining for waffle and coffee lovers, plus details on all sorts of activities and special events for local food fanatics in the Finger Lakes.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for continuing updates on everything we're doing, and feel free to get in touch with your ideas. You can write a comment on the blog, leave a message on our voicemail line 607-216-8624 (607-21-MUNCH), or send an email with your thoughts to: feedback [at] eatingithaca [dot] com. Stay in touch and keep Eating Ithaca!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ep. 48: School for Chefs and the Sandwich Scene

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In this podcast episode, we're learning what it's like to be a student at one of the top culinary schools in the country, and we're visiting two local lunch spots that are making their mark with sandwiches.

First is our interview with guest Keith Seeber, a Finger Lakes native who recently graduated from the renowned Culinary Arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. We'll talk with him about what it's like to study food and cooking at professionally, and discover what makes a culinary degree program valuable in the kitchen.

We also have two dining reviews this week, as our journey through every restaurant in Ithaca A to Z brings us to two places starting with the letter "J" - JJ's Cafe at Community Corners in Cayuga Heights, and Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches in Downtown Ithaca. Both specialize in sandwiches, but one of them has a personality and neighborhood spirit all its own.

For continuing updates on everything we're doing, be sure to follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. We'd also love to hear from you directly: write a comment on the blog, leave a message on our voicemail line 607-216-8624 (607-21-MUNCH), or send an email with your thoughts to: feedback [at] eatingithaca [dot] com. Stay in touch and keep Eating Ithaca!

Click Play to Listen to Episode 48








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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ep. 47: Maple Season at Sapsquatch / Lunch at Jade Garden

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The middle of March is peak harvest time for maple syrup producers in our region. Last year, New York State’s more than 1,500 maple syrup producers made over 362,000 gallons of syrup according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Only Vermont with 920,000 gallons and Maine’s 395,000 with gallons produced more maple syrup.

New York’s estimated 1.51 million taps produce enough sap to account for about 15% of the maple syrup made in the United States, and an increasing number of those are from small farms. In this podcast, we'll visit one of those small farms at Sapsquatch, a sugarbush just outside of Ithaca in Enfield, NY. We'll talk with co-owner Steve Gabriel, who tells us about the unique pleasures of making food from the forest. You can see photos from our visit on Flickr.

Then we're continuing to eat our way through every restaurant in Ithaca from A-Z with a review of the lunch buffet at Jade Garden, a Chinese restaurant in downtown Ithaca that seems unchanged in the nearly two decades we've known it. All that, plus news of upcoming events for the local food community and more, in this podcast.

For continuing updates on everything we're doing, be sure to follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. You can get in touch with a comment below, leave a message on our voicemail line 607-216-8624 (607-21-MUNCH), or send an email with your thoughts to: feedback [at] eatingithaca [dot] com.

If you appreciate our efforts at Eating Ithaca, why not make a donation? Your support goes directly to helping us keep this blog and podcast running, and 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 47








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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ep. 46: Going Local with Xeo and Burger Time at Jack's

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It's our first podcast of 2010 and we're glad to be back! The new year is already shaping up to be a great one for Eating Ithaca, especially with so many new restaurants opening on our local dining scene.

The big standout for many local food lovers so far has been the opening of the tiny cafe called Xeo (pronounced SAY-oh) in the Collegetown neighborhood. In this podcast Dave talks with Sebastian Villa, the young chef/owner and sole employee of Xeo, to find out why he became so committed to serving the freshest food possible from as many local or regional sources as he can.

We'll also discuss some of the dozen or so other restaurants that have opened or will be opening since our last restaurant review, and then we're right back to eating our way through every restaurant in Ithaca from A-Z. We've reached the letter "J" now, which brings us to Jack's Grill in Collegetown. We have that review, plus up to date info on some of the great food-related events going on around Ithaca, all right here in the podcast!

For continuing updates on everything we're doing, be sure to follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. We'd also love to hear from you directly: write a comment on the blog, leave a message on our voicemail line 607-216-8624 (607-21-MUNCH), 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 46








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Monday, March 1, 2010

We're Back...


We finally got back to the microphones this weekend! Join us for a new season of the Eating Ithaca podcast, with new interviews and conversations about the local food community and more of our restaurant reviews from A-Z.

It all starts with Episode 46 on Wednesday March 3rd!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Come to the Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-Off!


The 12th Annual Great Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-Off will be taking over the Ithaca Commons this Saturday, February 20th. It's become a highlight of winter for local food lovers and this year looks to be another great one.

We've already heard from organizers that they'll have about 40 different chili recipes competing to be the best, including 26 meat and at least 14 vegetarian varieties, from over 30 restaurants.

If you want to sample these delicious chili varieties for yourself, you'll need to get yourself some Tasting Tickets:

Tickets to Taste are $5 for 5, $10 for 11, or our VIP tickets are 10 for $20 (and you get a special VIP line at each booth). Each ticket gets you a 2-3oz sample of chili or a comparable sample of other items from wine to wings. Tickets are on sale now at Autumn Leaves, CTB (downtown) and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance office. Buy yours now and skip the lines on Saturday!

And while Chili may be the main event, there will be plenty of other events going on all day to keep you warm and entertained until the judging is done - the Chili Idol Karaoke Contest, Guitar Hero competitions, plus lots of live music and live performers throughout the day. If you've never made it to the Chili Cook-Off before, listen to our past coverage of this event in Episode #3 of our podcast to get a good idea of what to expect. We're planning our own full coverage of this year's event as well, including a special report from behind the scenes at the judges' table.

Click Here for a complete Schedule of Events and plan your day now. Events are scheduled from 11:30 am - 4:00 pm regardless of the weather, so dress in layers, bring your favorite spoon, and get ready to enjoy some great eating from Ithaca's best chefs. You won't have another chance to sample this much food in one place... until next year!

Friday, February 12, 2010

This is Important

As we prepare for a new season of Eating Ithaca podcasts, we've been thinking about themes and topics that we'd like to cover in our upcoming interviews. Today, we found one more when we watched this:



British celebrity chef and activist Jamie Oliver received the prestigious TED Prize this week, an award designated to helping him achieve "one wish to change the world." This is what he wished for:
We encourage you to help Jamie meet his goal by signing his petition to improve our food system, and let's find out what we can do in our own community to make sure that our connections to real food continue to thrive for future generations.

We want to continue to explore this and other topics in Ithaca and our surrounding region for our podcast and website, and we'd love to hear from you if you have ideas on how to get involved. In the meantime, we encourage you to share this video with someone you know and help spread Jamie's message for change.

Thanks.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2 Years: Where We've Been, Where We're Headed

Two years ago this week, we posted our very first episode of the Eating Ithaca podcast. At the time, we had no idea if anybody would care, or if anyone would listen at all. We were excited to see something we made out there in the world, but it was hard to tell what Eating Ithaca was really going to be.

So we made it all up as we went along. Gradually more and more people found us, we watched the number of downloads go up and comments started coming in on this blog we'd thrown together. Then Andrea became co-host, and our little podcast about the local Ithaca dining scene began to grow into something more than just talking about food.

We started getting out to meet the people behind the local foods of Ithaca and the region. We interviewed our very first guest, Kevin Cuddeback of Gimme! Coffee, in Episode 5. In that time, the podcast continued to evolve, more people found us, and now...
  • That first episode has been downloaded more than 500 times; and we're about to hit our 10,000th download overall.
  • We've produced 45 podcasts, plus a few specials.
  • We've featured more than 34 exclusive interviews with people from all over our food community.
  • We've given you our one-of-a-kind reviews of over 70 different restaurants in Ithaca.
It's been great fun . . . But we're just getting started!

Since we went on a podcast hiatus in December, we've been working on a better Eating Ithaca. Thanks to all the great input we got from our recent audience survey, along with the list of ideas we've been wanting to include on our website since the beginning, we're finally taking the time to make some of those changes happen. While we can't promise anything for sure, we will definitely be improving the look and navigation of our website, with a fully searchable and easy to use restaurant guide. We'll also be writing capsule versions of our restaurant reviews to complement our podcast, which will be archived and easy to access when you're looking for where to dine out in town.

Our primary mission remains the same: to keep you connected to local food. We will continue to interview the people behind the food we eat, and share news and stories about what's happening in the community. We're also planning our next special live event, and working with other organizations in the area to help spread awareness of the food culture of Ithaca and the Finger Lakes with the rest of the country. And we're going to have some exciting new opportunities for you to get involved and support us as we grow.

The new year is filled with great opportunities for us. We may still be making it all up as we go along, but at least we know you're listening and reading and sharing, and that makes it all worthwhile. Thank you.

We're still here in the meantime, and we're active most days on Twitter or Facebook if you want to stay in touch. The podcast will be back in February 2010. Talk to you then!

--Your pals at Eating Ithaca

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Local food abounds in this week's Ithaca Times

We just picked up the newest edition of The Ithaca Times (Jan. 20-26 issue) and it's filled with some great local food updates.

Start on page 13, where Rob Montana writes an overview of new business developments in the City of Ithaca, including:
  • A restaurant space on the ground floor of the proposed Hotel Ithaca, located where the Rothschild Building stands now at the edge of the Commons at Aurora Street. We presume this might interfere with the space currently occupied by Madeline's, which could bring interesting changes.
  • A new restaurant from Lex Chutinaround, owner of ZaZa's Cucina, opening in the former Plantations on Ithaca Commons.
  • A large restaurant opening in the beautiful glassed in space on the first floor of the Cayuga Place apartments off of Green Street, behind the soon-to-open Palmer Pharmacy and the new Gimme! Coffee. The local restauranteur is unnamed, but we hope they do that space justice. Given the right talent and the right menu, it could be the new destination restaurant of the year.
  • The Finger Lakes Wine Center could open as soon as this spring.
  • Panera Bread and the Olive Garden are still on track for opening in Southwest Ithaca, as we reported earlier, though we'd be surprised to see anything open before this summer.
The article also hints at the possibility of another food franchise opening in the Southwest neighborhood once the old Salvation Army store is demolished. Montana did a nice reporting job and covers a lot in this well-written piece.

There is also a Winter Times supplement in this latest edition, which includes an extensive preview of the upcoming 12th Annual Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-Off & Winterfest, written by Taryn Thompson. That event has always offered plenty of fantastic cold-weather eating and we're looking forward to this year's event.

Finally, for all you home cooks, don't miss Henry Stark's interviews with chefs from four local restaurants offering their favorite soup and stew recipes. It includes Moosewood's Spicy Carrot Peanut Soup from Melissa Bergman, a Hearty Sausage and Tortellini Soup from Tim Gaffney at Ithaca Ale House, the hearty Arizona Pumpkin and Vegetable Stew from Liz Van Every at Greenstar Coop, and - our personal favorite - an amazing Hungarian Beef Goulash recipe from Dano Hutnik himself, of Dano's Heuriger in Lodi.

The best part about all this is The Ithaca Times is FREE! Most of these articles aren't yet available on the Ithaca Times website, so pick up a copy today, because next week they'll all be gone.

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