Friday, August 23, 2013

Finger Lakes Rendez-vous

These last three weeks at home have been a rushed blur of family, friends, food, work, cleaning, recovering, and gearing up.  Long gone are the days when I could call several friends for pool parties and bonfires late into the night, but I still managed many dates with my people-- usually under the premise of food.  It's almost better this way because I can have a real in-depth conversation with friends, each who manages to elicit different aspects of my China experience to share.

 >> Coffee in town with Caitlan and Kristen on the regular.
>> And some wine and dine at the golf course where Caitlan's boyfriend works (love the perks of free dessert~!).
 >> Into the suburbs of Rochester at Jenny's house, one of my good friends from school.  She's a grilling master, and that night we prepared dinner for the family with food from her dad's garden.

>> Kayaking the serene Canadice Lake with my dad, only 15 minutes over the west hills.


>> Breakfast date with Brad, who's always working at his summer camp, and Trevor, who I haven't spent time with in ages!  Twenty minutes south of Honeoye is Naples, which sits in the valleys at the end of Canandaigua Lake and is a gateway into Finger Lakes wine country.  The downtown village is a pleasant two-mile street of small grocers, artisans, and eateries.  The Grainery is a particular favorite for locals because it's open by 6:30 or 7 AM every day and serves organic and locally-sourced breakfast fare until early afternoon.  The bagels are homemade and available for purchase as breakfast sandwiches or as they are to bring home.  They also serve fajitas, paninis, homefries, sweet baked goods, and a variety of coffee drinks.  On a warm morning I love sitting street-side, but the interior is also enjoyable with polished wood booths reminiscent of Adirondack lodges and charming, outdoorsy decorations.

The Grainery on Urbanspoon


>> My mom is part Simply Crepes' brirthday club, so we have made it annual rite to eat there in Canandaigua every August.  The other location in the Rochester Area is in Pittsford, but this one is much closer to us and has a more relaxed atmosphere.  Nonetheless, when you walk in, the kitchen is in full view as white-uniformed chefs deftly spread batter across the traditional, edge-less iron skillets with wooden rakes.  The interior is wooden with pastel accents on the walls, making it feel like a welcoming French cottage.  I've only dined here for lunch and dinner, but on Sundays they feature a brunch buffet with eggs, fruit, sausage, and breakfast crepes.
After devouring so many crepes on the streets of France (usually before our 2-hour marathon that was History of Art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen), I've taken initiative and attempt to create them at home.  Yet sometimes, you just want someone else with more resources and creativity to dazzle you with a thin, malleable pancake, and that's where Québecois owner, Pierre Heroux, has filled the need.  In fact, when I was in middle school, he and his mother came to my French class for a demonstration!  In Québec, their specialty is maple syrup crepes, whereas in France they tend to favor Nutella.  It's all heaven to me.
At the Canandaigua location of Simply Crepes, during rushes you have the sense that they are understaffed but working very hard to deliver an exceptional experience for every table.  I'm usually not phased because there are so many varieties of crepes -- appetizers such as fried crepe chips with powdered sugar; breakfast crepes with eggs and sausage; minimalist crepes with asparagus, ham, and hollandaise; vegetarian crepes with arugula,tomatoes, and goast cheese; Philly steak crepes; Thai-inspired crepes; Buffalo chicken crepes; Nutella crepes; ones filled with fruit and ice cream, and more.  I pretty much pick something different each visit, and I was very pleased that they added buckwheat crepes as an option., It's acutally closer to the authentic French galette from Brittany for savory fillings.  Otherwise I believe they use the same batter for entree and dessert crepes, which is a white flour and egg-based, with a soft texture and mild flavor.  Unfortunately, they were out of buckwheat when we arrived so I haven't tasted their take on the heartier version.
It does seem far-fetched that you could be full from a flimsy French pancake, but order correctly and you will be groaning with fullness after an entree and dessert -- even if you order the smaller portion to share!  If you're in Rochester and are inerested in eating something different but not entirely off the map, Simply Crepes is worth the visit.  Just don't buy one of their over-priced coffees and smoothies.  In the last few years, they've also opened a location in Raleigh, North Carolina!  If you have some Franco-gastronomic urges in the South, I suggest you stop by.

Simply Crepes on Urbanspoon


>> Lunch date at Aladdin's Natural Eatery with Jen, another great friend from high school who actually now attends college about 15 minutes up the road!  Despite the closeness, I preferred having our heart to heart because if she ever visits at school, there's too many distractions for long conversations.  This was my first meal at this Mediterranean restaurant, which also warrants a review :)

 >> A visit to my miniature horse, Tina.  My family had a miniature horse farm for years, but as we downsized, Tina was one of our last.  Once I left for college, we realized it would be best to give her to a friend that would provide the just amount of attention and care.  It pains me a bit, because as pets, they have no choice in their ownership and where they head next; but I know we made the right decision.  Tina now lives next the corn fields of old friends, and their granddaughters just love her.

>> A stroll along Canandaigua Lake with Kristen and Tucker, finishing with gelato from one of my favorites, the Muar House Cafe.  Tucker is an untethered spirit and usually on the move, which I admire; but he always manages to find time for old friends.

Canandaigua Lake, above -- Keuka Lake, below, which is the next Finger Lake to the southeast.

>> And lastly, a visit with Phil to Eric's cottage on Keuka Lake.  It's arguably the best of the Finger Lakes as a fresh water paradise; boat traffic never too heavy, unpretentious residences, deep, clear water, and bordered by charming towns.  I've lived with these two guys in the Habtiat for Humanity theme house, so we had a lot to laugh about, reminisce, and plan for this fall.

The cottage has been in Eric's family for a while, and it's filled with momentos and vintage knick knacks and lake decorations.  On the fishing boat, for example, they use an old record player that's been converted into a trolling reel with steel line-- but no snags for us!  We had a bonfire with friends around the lake, dined on grilled corn and his mom's peach crisp, went fishing at dusk and early morning, took turns sailing the white caps (and almost capsized!), tried water-skiing for the first time (I wasn't able to stand up, my balance is pretty poor), and tossed a lot of frisbees with his beautiful dog, Max.  

What a glorious end to a brief summer in New York.  
My parents are taking me to St. Lawrence for the last time today, which is bizarre and depressing.  Though after being away since January, I am reeling with excitement!  Of course I will miss home and I'm always thinking of China, but this is the next step in my journey.  I'll finally be on campus the entire year for the first time since freshman year, and I'm predicting that it will be the best one yet.

Listening: "Silly Fathers" by Rubblebucket

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