Category Archives: CNY Food

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.

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

Fall Festivals at Critz Farms

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Make a right on New York State Route 13 South from Route 20 and you will pass the sign for Rippleton, a hamlet south of the Cazenovia, N.Y. village limits. Tree-lined hills burst with red and orange hues, as the two-lane highway ebbs and flows southward to DeRuyter. About 3 1/2 miles after the turn, one arrives at Critz Farms, a 325-acre plot hugging either side of the rural highway.

Critz Farms, founded in 1985, takes its name from its owners Matthew and Juanita Critz. Its fields produce apples, pumpkins, evergreen trees for Christmas, sap for maple syrup and blueberries. But, Critz’s mark is made during fall with its Fall Harvest Festivals.

Fall Harvest Festivals at Critz kickoff each year in mid-September and stretch through the end of October. Visitors purchase a season pass — valid for return visits during the season — for $7.50 per person or $30 for the carload. Admission includes a token for the kid’s cow train and samples at the Harvest Moon Cidery (more on that later). Continue reading Fall Festivals at Critz Farms

Grocery List: October 12, 2014

The Kid and The Wife at Critz Farms in Fall 2013. We'll withhold their names to protect their identity.
The Kid and The Wife at Critz Farms in Fall 2013. We’ll withhold their names to protect their identity.

It’s tough to construct a grocery list when you haven’t determined what you are having for dinner this week. I woke up at 8, went out to procure coffee, returned, played Bingo with The Kid, got some stuff rolling for dinner, changed and now I’m writing. For once, I’m actually holding everyone else up, as we are due to depart anytime now for Critz Farms in Cazenovia with a stop over at a nearby gas station.

We try to get out to Caz and Critz once each fall for their festival weekends. They have a massive play area for children, plus the promise of apples, cider and pumpkins for The Kid. The connected Harvest Moon Cidery is also a nice  diversion for my liver. For $20 bucks or so, you get access to just about everything, including a hard cider tasting. The pass you buy on your first visit gets you in for the rest of the season. If we weren’t 45 minutes away, it would be a tremendous value, simply because we would make 3 or 4 trips. Instead, it’s a reasonably-priced way to spend a Sunday at a great local business.

And did I mention the hard cider?

 

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Stacks

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Wasting away in the crisper for about  a week has been an eggplant. It was a throw-away purchase from my last CNY Regional Market trip. One of the farms had a table of these for a buck apiece, so it was an easy pickup. But, a long week led to it dormancy in the bowels of my refrigerator.

Determined to make something from it, I rooted around my fridge today looking for some assistance. There was marinara and fresh mozzarella, which made things easy enough. A tub of Garlicky Goodness (more on that in a sec) joined the fray, as did the last two tomatoes on the counter.

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I didn’t want to fry, but I also didn’t want to make a casserole. I was winging it here, so I decided to layer everything into a stack. But, I knew that the layered eggplant would take longer to cook, so I ran the slices through the oven to give them a headstart.

The end result? Well… Continue reading Meatless Monday: Eggplant Stacks

Saturday Dinner: Carne Asada Tacos (or Tacos Con Carne Asada)

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NOTE: Six years of Spanish in middle and high school plus college and tacos con carne asada is all I can give you.

Everyone complains that Taco Bell is terrible. The food is terrible. The meat is low quality. The restaurants are dirty. Me? Taco Bell was great when I was in high school. My biggest problem was how they marketed their food.

Way back in the day, Taco Bell introduced a taco or burrito with grilled carne asada. As a consumer and educated person, this insulted me because carne asada means grilled meat. Thus, you were getting a taco with grilled grilled meat.

(NOTE: That this bothered me may be a reason that I had a rough time making friends and meeting girls when I was younger.) Continue reading Saturday Dinner: Carne Asada Tacos (or Tacos Con Carne Asada)