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California by Edan Lepucki

August 30th, 2014 | Posted by Lackey in My Reading Life - (0 Comments)

California
Edan Lepucki’s California made its way to my radar when Stephen Colbert urged viewers to buy it amidst his Amazon vs. Hachette rant . Apparently, California was recommended to Colbert by one of my long time favorite author, Sherman Alexie, so the late night plug was something to take seriously. A bit of research about the author turned up the information that Edan Lepucki is a graduate of Oberlin College, just down the road, so we headed out the next day to Oberlin, Ohio on a book search! Certainly her book would be available in Oberlin, hopefully at our favorite spot to book browse – MindFair Books inside the Ben Franklin Store on College Street. No California there. Disappointed we were having to head to the Oberlin College bookstore, which is a Barnes and Noble affiliate, we found the most informed looking employee and asked for the book. He had never heard of it, never heard of the author and was unaware that she was returning to campus to read from California in November!

Now we were on a mission! We drove the the big brother Barnes and Noble store at Crocker Park and there is was. Feeling like a traitor, I bought it. At least I didn’t order it from Amazon.

The novel is another post-apocalyptic dystopian tale. Cal and Frida have fled what remains of LA for bare existence in a wilderness hideaway. Frida is still mourning the death of her brother, Micah, who appears to have given his life fighting the remains of civilization. Without giving too much info, the story is two parts Cormac McCarthy’s The Road mixed with one part Hunger Games. I think high school students would enjoy it well enough.

Finally, a week or so after I finished the book, I found the bookstore I would have liked to have purchased it in when we were visiting Ithaca, NY. Shout out to Buffalo Street Books for their anti-Amazon display!

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What a little gem of a book! Marie-Helene Bertino‘s first novel is told in a fresh new voice, worth listening to. At the center of the story is The Cat’s Pajamas, a fictional blues club in Philadelphia, where the story unfolds over a single Christmas Eve day and night. The chapters are titled by the hours of the day, and its events are narrated, sometimes a few different ways, in chronological order, with some intermittent flashbacks to provide some back story. The characters are a motley crew – a principle, a teacher, a young student, a jazz club owner, a cook, a couple of lovers and a couple of sorry sorts. Bertino’ conceit of the jazz riff works splendidly and the experience of the novel was music to this reader’s ears.

Pie of the Month Promise – An Update

August 29th, 2014 | Posted by Lackey in Dining In - (0 Comments)

The pie of the month promise is still going strong. I thought I was being much better about documenting this year in pies, but I seem to have fallen far behind. The August pie begs for some description, though. Sweet Corn Custard Pie! Sweet corn season is in full swing here in Northeast Ohio, and our Fresh Fork CSA bags have been including corn lately, so after every meal that features corn, we have several ears to cut off the cob. This recipe calls for 3 cups, and that was not a problem!

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The corn kernels need to be roasted in the oven until they begin to char a little. This gives the corn an additional nutty sweetness.

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Then the corn is combined with heavy cream and whole milk to steep for a while. Finally the corn solids are strained out and the corn cream is combined with the sugar and eggs to make the custard filling.

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It was tricky to know just when the pie was perfectly baked through. I think I took mine out of the oven a bit too early and the result was a very creamy center. We shared the pie with friends who enjoyed the sweet corn goodness. Although the first grader in the bunch was quite skeptical of corn pie and would have rather had a fruit pie. Maybe next month!

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Dining in the Finger Lakes

August 5th, 2014 | Posted by Lackey in Dining Out - (0 Comments)

Lunchtime on a day of winery visits found us at the highly recommended FLX (Finger Lakes – of course) Weinery.
Get it ? A weinery on the road to the wineries! Any kind of hot dog, sausage, burger you want and lots of original toppings served up in a brand new building.

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This funky, fun eating establishment has just opened this spring, but their emphasis on fresh and local ingredients should mean a good business for them in the coming years.

We were lucky enough to eat dinner twice during our trip at The Stonecat Cafe where local cuisine takes center stage. Both nights we had an amazing meal out on their covered patio. Both nights the wait staff was attentive, chatty and interested in our total satisfaction.

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The first night I chose the Cornmeal Crusted Catfish which was finished with a smoked tomato coulis and served with fresh dill cole slaw. It was delicious paired with a glass of a Keuka Lake a Vineyards Vignoles 2013.
When we decided to return for dinner on Saturday night, we were able to get a late reservation and purposely arrived early to sit at the bar for a drink from their amazing specialty cocktail menu. I wish I could remember exactly what my seasonal feature was called but it was made with Finger Lakes Distilling Vintner’s Vodka and local cherry juice! Although it threatened rain, we were seated on the patio and assured we could be moved back inside, but the storm stayed away and we had an amazing dinner. Three of us ordered the special, which was shrimp and chorizo in a rich tomato sauce over seasoned polenta with fresh green and yellow beans on the side.

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David splurged on the Grilled Grass-fed Ribeye which was finished with a cognac cream demi-glacé and served with rosemary mashed potatoes and seasonal sautéed veggies. We also took the wine steward’s recommendation and ordered a bottle of Barbera Del Monferrato Superiore – so yummy!

We have our waitress at Stonecat to thank for a restaurant recommendation for our day trip to Ithaca. When she told us she would eat lunch at a The Moosewood Restaurant, my eyes lit up!!! I have been enjoying Moosewood cookbooks that my husband gave me as gifts for years. And my award winning culinary teacher best friend had never heard of it.

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Moosewood is a worker owned restaurant that has been acclaimed as a driving force in the world of creative vegetarian cooking for 40 years. Moosewood was named one of the “thirteen most influential restaurants of the 20th Century” by Bon Appétìt magazine. The menu changes daily, and our friendly waitress helped us make excellent choices. I had the vegetable stew which was served over farro and topped with crumbled feta and David and Danette chose the polenta pizza with mushrooms and roasted sliced tomatoes. Every bite was fresh and flavorful.

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Finding the Moosewood was an added bonus on this perfect little get away to the Finger Lakes. If we ever return, I would revisit each of these amazing eateries!

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How does someone who works every summer weekend at a winery relax? By visiting other wineries, of course! A quick summer trip with our best traveling friends took us to the Finger Lakes in New York for some wine tasting and relaxation. After a pleasant drive to Lake Keuka, our first stop was Dr. Konstantin Frank’s large and lovely winery. Dr. Frank immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950’s and brought a knowledge of Ukrainian root stock that still informs their large selection of quality wines. Read all about the interesting history of this legendary winery on their website.

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Tastings at Dr. Frank’s were FREE! and the view was so very beautiful.

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We only had time for one more winery before closing time on a Wednesday, and we made an excellent choice with Herron Hill, also on Keuka Lake near Hammondsport, NY. Herron Hill indeed sits up on a hill and has a lovely outdoor stage and eating area.

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Our accommodations for the weekend were at Magnolia Place Bed and Breakfast in Hector, on Lake Seneca. It is a gorgeous house with beautifully appointed rooms and amazing breakfasts. Lots of porches give guests plenty of places to sit and relax.

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Our host, Ted, suggested that before we leave we hike up the hill behind the house between the vineyards to enjoy the views of the lake. It was lovely!

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Our second day of winery visits took us most of the way around Lake Seneca. After a morning of browsing in the shops in Watkins Glen, we headed north along the west side of the lake and began our wining at Shaw Vineyards because I had been told we would find the best dry reds there.

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We were the only ones visiting their lovely tasting room, and we did enjoy the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a delicious dry Rose.

Next stop – Herman Wiemar Winery. The tastings here are given amongst the kettles. This trip we seemed to really be enjoying the dry Roses.

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Well fed after a lunch stop at FLX Weinery and ready for more tastings, we headed to Villa Bellangelo – a fun place to visit with beautiful views, nice wines – especially a yummy 2012 Meritage – a well-informed wine tender and Scooters!!! I had so much fun posing with my best friend, Danette, on the pink scooter in front of a vineyard backdrop.

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The scooters are great advertisement props for their Scooter line of wines. Sold in 1.5 litre bags with a pour spout, the Red Scooter, White Scooter and Pink Scooter table wines were too sweet for my taste, but a fun addition to the other offerings in the large gift shop at Villa Bellangelo.

Next stop – a winery and distillery on the same property. On the east side of Lake Senaca , Damiani Wine Cellars and Finger Lakes Distilling Company share the same driveway and are a walkable distance apart. We had an enjoyable tasting with Garrett, who shared his wealth of knowledge about the vodka, gin, brandy and whiskey made on the premises.

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At Damiani Wine Cellars, we found a great dry Riesling and finally sat outside and enjoyed a whole glass of wine and awesome views of the lake.

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Downstairs from the tasting room is a nice “cellar” which opens out to a side patio. We found out there would be a house band and open mic entertaining later and we promised to come back after dinner so that David could have his New York harmonica debut. If we lived in the area, I think Damiani Cellars would become a regular hangout.

Along with day trips to Ithaca and Corning, we did manage to squeeze in a few more wineries north of Hector on the east side of Seneca. Hazlitt 1852 Winery was hopping. They have an outdoor venue that was full of people sipping wine slushies, I think. We had a limited amount of time – most wineries close at 5:00 – so we headed directly for the busy tasting room where we had one of the speediest and most uninformed tastings of the trip. However, Hazlitt makes a Cider Tree sparkling cider that is delicious! We spent some money in their crazy gift shop, which had handbag-sized single serving plastic bottles of their most popular wines as well as magnum sized bottles of their crazy Red Cat Wines.

Just down the road, we found Penguin Bay Winery, which had a very basic tasting room and a fun place to pose for a photo.

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They had a nice floral Dry Riesling and also a silky French oak aged Pinot Noir! You can drink wine and support the penguins at Penguin Bay Winery, since a portion of all of their wine proceeds are donated to the penguin exhibit at Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY!

Our last tasting was in a basic barn behind a farm house called Standing Stone Vineyards. Here we were served by Sheila, a mature lady who reminded me so much of my dear co-worker, Anita at Quarry Hill. We bought a bottle of their Stonehouse Red mainly for the old black and white photo of the former farmer’s wife, Marie, and her chickens on the label.

Each winery was different, many of the wines were high quality, the weather and lake views were gorgeous! A great get-away!

********* Did someone say beer?*********

I have to at least mention that we spent a lazy and memorable hour sampling beer at Ithaca Beer Co. the afternoon we visited Ithaca. Outside of the spacious tasting room and restaurant, there is a huge outdoor area with picnic tables under a hops-trellised pergola. Bocce courts, a wine bottle wall and adirondack chairs invite visitors to waste more than an hour enjoying their variety of beers. We decided to try some flights which include 4 four ounce pours. Mine was the Seasonal Flight which included Ground Break, Cayuga Cruiser, Country Pumpkin, and White Gold. If you are in Ithaca, make this a sunny day destination!

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