Category Archives: Babbling

Panini Sunday: Chicken and Brie

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The first Panini Sunday of Autumn 2014 was actually last week. I made a sopressata, genoa salami and fresh mozzarella panini that turned into a greasy, sloppy mess. Worse, there were spots in the meat that got hotter than others, so in those spaces where the sandwich did hold up, you could incinerate your tongue.

So, we’ll pretend that this was the first week of panini season here and say that last week was like a preseason game. Continue reading Panini Sunday: Chicken and Brie

Laci’s Lunchbox, Syracuse, N.Y.

2014-11-06 at 12-18-22NOTE: I visited Laci’s Lunchbox and wrote this piece before going to Laci’s Tapas Bar and writing my piece on Nov. 9.

Is it lunch box or lunchbox? I tend to go with the singular word, as if the box’s sole purpose was to carry lunch. But, I think most people would go with two words, as in a box that happens to have lunch inside of it.

The lunchbox in question during Thursday’s midday forage for sustenance was one that belongs to Laci, or Laura and Cindy, the duo behind the raucously popular Laci’s Tapas Bar on Hawley Avenue. These ladies have earned a reputation as more than mere entrepreneurs and businesswomen, but as community leaders. Laci’s Lunchbox, their newest endeavor, is located near the Tapas Bar where Hawley Avenue and Green Street meet. Continue reading Laci’s Lunchbox, Syracuse, N.Y.

Meatless Monday: Kale-Quinoa Minestrone

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In most parts of the country, autumn is a transitional season where summer slowly transitions into winter. Leaves turn colors, fields are harvested and turned for the next season, and our sleeves get longer.

Here in Central New York, autumn lasts about three weeks. September gets progressively colder, so much so that you think it is October already. By the time Halloween hits, parents debate whether snowsuits are necessary underneath the costume for trick or treating. Continue reading Meatless Monday: Kale-Quinoa Minestrone

CNY Food: The Winter Farmer’s Market at Baltimore Woods

2014-11-08 at 10-29-45The Central New York Regional Market is the focal point of area agriculture, but it’s not the only farmer’s market in Syracuse. During the summer, you cannot swing a cat without hitting a market. Downtown Syracuse, Baldwinsville, Skaneateles, Fayetteville, and Cazenovia all host them (among others) during the warm-weather months.

Once the leaves fall off the trees, so do the choices. Cazenovia moves indoors and becomes a monthly operation. The CNY Regional Market moves to an indoor operation spread out over a few buildings. But, that’s about it until May.

Well, it was until this past weekend.

Continue reading CNY Food: The Winter Farmer’s Market at Baltimore Woods

Grocery List: November 9, 2014

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Whether or not I write a full-on review of last night’s dinner at Laci’s Tapas Bar (I’ve written about it in the past), it’s worth noting that restaurant’s importance within the dining fabric of Syracuse.

The vast majority of restaurants fail, regardless of how good the food is. A restaurant built into a Victorian home in a gentrifying city neighborhood seems like a dicey venture. Yet, there is Laci’s, packed to the gills on a Saturday night in November.

The phrase “labor of love” seems trite, but I’m not sure what else one would use to describe Laci’s. We went with some friends that had never been before, and found ourselves discussing the importance of a restaurant like Laci’s while waiting for dessert. Each serving hits its mark, but is distinctly different from the other delivery to the table. Very little of the flavors are repeated from dish to dish. Things you wouldn’t expect to like envelope you when you try them. You push yourself to try them, and then find yourself wanting another order. For instance, The Wife ate bacon-wrapped jalepeños last night. Jalepeños. Most days, I can’t get her to eat anything hotter than cayenne pepper, but there she was chowing down. The kitchen is first-rate and that should be noted.

But, it’s not just the back of house that carries a restaurant. Everyone there has a personality. Jordan, our waiter, spent the evening joking with us, and periodically one of the owners (Laura, the La of Laci’s) stopped by to give us a hard time. And, as is so difficult to find in restaurants, there is a very apparent symbiosis between the front and back of house.

As we drove away, The Wife said to me, “We spent $100 on dinner tonight, but I don’t mind that. I feel like I got something for my money. We can’t do that all of the time, but I felt okay signing the slip because, I don’t care if I spent $20 or $60 or $100, I want to feel like I got what I paid for.”

It has me thinking about what is important in our communities as far as food goes. I think the local food thinkers and writers (myself included) talk about about the importance of using local ingredients and supporting local agriculture, but maybe we need to look at things from a more macro level. What is important to Syracuse and Central New York’s food palate? Who are the people shaping that palate? Why is what they are doing important? I would argue that Laura Serway and Cindy Seymour have done more in these areas since Laci’s opened its doors — as entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and community leaders — than some have in their lifetime.

I think it goes beyond a list of what foods or places make Syracuse a good food town, and making people feel good about living and eating here. It’s about the Syracuse’s food legacy and future, and those that hold the key to what’s next.

That is the discussion that we should focus on in this community. People, not actions, dictate the future of any subject or area. Let’s draw the spotlights their way so we can better understand our community, its needs and those that are fulfilling them.

The CNY Food Box

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Some months ago I asked you, dear reader, to help me create a Syracuse centric food box that I could send to my friend Allison in Arkansas.

Time passed, Allison went through a job change, summer became fall and at some point, my brain fell out of my head. I totally forgot about this until one day and envelope with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning and a bag of fish fry coating, suitable for shrimp, catfish, Jacques Cousteau and other ocean creatures, arrived in the mail. I’ve documented the Cavender’s. I’m going to use the fish fry at some point when I set up a better deep-fry situation outside. I’m not allowed to deep fry things inside of the house and I’m actually okay with that fact.

So, in return I finally got off my butt and assembled my return offering. The Upstate New York box, I decided, left things too wide open. No, it needed to reflect Syracuse. After all, Upstate can mean at least three different types of hot dogs (Hoffmans, Zweigel’s, Sahlen’s for starters) Croghan Bologna, Buffalo Wings and Rochester Inferiority (or whatever they are noted for). Central New York can involve Utica greens, speedies and Grandma Brown’s baked beans. It needed to be narrowed to the four walls of the space I know best.

We’ve covered why Syracuse is a great food town in the past and I appreciate everyone’s suggestions. So, here’s what I finally settled on:

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Allison:

This is the best of Syracuse that did not require overnight shipping, a ton of packing material or dry ice, and would not tip off drug-sniffing dogs. That meant that Hoffman’s hot dogs, Stewart’s Ice Cream, and Cafe Kubal coffees are off the table. It’s also illegal to ship beer to your state (imagine that…damn Baptists), so no luck there. Given my luck with shipping glass lately, Salamida’s State Fair Barbecue sauce was also off the table. So, what do we have:

Buckwheat honey: Buckwheat flowers grow at higher elevations in New York and the honey generated from their pollination is pretty tasty. It has a flavor and consistency closer to molasses. It also has antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties, so if one of the boys is a pain in the ass, you can squeeze some on them and it should take care of things. I got this from a local Mennonite farmer at the Central New York Regional Market who grows tomatoes the size of my daughter’s head.

Flour City Pasta: I lied. This isn’t Syracuse-centric. I make my own rules. Anyhow, it’s made in Rochester but the owner is in Syracuse every Saturday selling pasta. It’s all natural artisan pasta. This is their Rasta Pasta blend. The pasta is made with semolina flour and sweet potatoes, carrots, thyme, limes and cayenne pepper. Grilled chicken over this with some garlic butter, or shrimp and a lime-cilantro cream sauce might be good here.

Pasta’s Hot Tomato Oil: This is a Syracuse institution. They just began bottling this within the past few years. Prior to that, you bought it at the restaurant or bakery in to-go containers. Anyhow, a little goes a long way here because there is a spice here. Serve it straight over pasta, mix it with a good refrigerated marinara or alfredo, or just dunk a baguette into it. Mike might even like a shot in his coffee in the morning. It’s shelf stable so it should keep for a while.

Dinosaur Bar-b-que Cajun Foreplay: If you ever visited Syracuse, I would take you here. It’s the landmark Syracuse restaurant: barbecue stand run by biker turned to-go counter turned biker bar turned full-service restaurant turned national chain. They have two in NYC, one is going to open in Chicago, but why bother. The original is the original. Anyhow, it’s a Memphis-style BBQ joint and this is their dry rub. I throw it on just about everything — meat, eggs, small children.

If I was better at packing boxes or had the extra scratch to throw around, you might have received some barbecue sauce or a Syracuse Crate.

Enjoy it. I’ve never mailed anything, knowingly, to Arkansas.

JP

Meatless Monday: Black Bean Burritos

2014-10-27 at 17-20-49Mexican food scares the hell out of white Baby Boomers and I’m not sure why. The Father and The In-Laws would rather eat a bowlful of glass than a taco and for no good reason. Popularly, Mexican food is characterized as being hot, thanks to the mystery chile peppers that Speedy Gonzalez would slip to his threat du jour.

I also think that Taco Bell had something to do with it. I haven’t run for the border in a long time, but my memories of what’s inside the wax paper wrapper is not pretty. It is usually a sloppy mess of meat, salsa and sour cream with the smell of warm garbage. I don’t know why this was so appealing to me in high school, but I ate it like a champ.

Continue reading Meatless Monday: Black Bean Burritos

Grocery List: November 2, 2014

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My lead-lined stomach has always served me well. It has seen me through 37 years of too much garlic, too much olive oil,  way too much vinegar, far too many meals at McDonalds, and that time when I went to the Indian restaurant and said to the waiter, “I’ve never had Indian food before, so what would you recommend?”

I’ve had stomach viruses in the past, but they have generally manifested themselves as…how can I explain this…as sitting stomach viruses.

Friday night brought on  something new. I noticed that while handing out candy on Friday night for Halloween that I could not get warm. What I thought were fever chills were proven wrong after the thermometer said 98.3 degrees. At this point, I’ll could eliminate from the possible illness list was Ebola.

At 7:30 p.m., The Kid and The Wife were home and I turned off the lights (Side Note: It was an awful night. Our neighborhood is usually a six bagger, or I need six bags of candy to get through the night. This year, I had three unopened bags left plus a bunch of loose M&Ms.), covered myself in a blanket and fell asleep on the couch.

Now, conventional wisdom says that if you get the urge to vomit, that you should. Release the poison, right? I spent the better part of Friday night into Saturday morning fighting this urge. All the telltale signs were there. Salivating. Your throat expand. The feeling that everything you have consumed for the past 15 years was now collected in your esophagus ready to be reintroduced to the world through the same orifice that it entered. Depending on how you look at it, I bravely or stupidly fought it off. The resulting loss of Saturday, where I spent the day huddled in a blanket and consuming only Pepto-Bismol and Cheerios (though not necessarily at the same time), was more than a little annoying.

It’s Sunday and I feel human, though strong food smells are still throwing me off. The samples station at Trader Joe’s was doing “Szechuan Beef and…” I don’t know what. I saw the those three words on the chalkboard and immediately went the other way.