Putting a finger on the Finger Lakes
Summer is in full swing, which is a good excuse to get out of the city. Head south on Route 64, down toward Canandaigua Lake, through Bloomfield, past Bristol Mountain Ski Resort (marvel at the green summer slopes), and stop before you reach Monica’s Pies and downtown Naples. Near the “Y” where Route 64 meets Route 21, sits the Brown Hound Bistro. If you haven’t yet dined there, you’re in for a treat. Simply put, it is one of the best restaurants in the region.
Availing itself of locally grown produce and meats, Brown Hound takes its cues from the season and consistently turns out delicious food. In some restaurants, that might lead to an air of superiority or pretentiousness — not here. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and there to make you happy and comfortable. The interior of the space is warm: Tuscan yellow walls, natural woods, braided rugs, paintings from local artists on the wall. The restroom, tucked under the stairs leading up to the kitchen, is an homage to the restaurant’s namesake, owner Trish Asher’s departed hound, Henry.
Don’t let the occasional pompous patron scare you off. (Guy who groused that his favorite out-of-state microbrew wasn’t on the menu: understand where you are and order the local beer.) If you do, you’ll remove the possibility of having a meal with tastes, scents, and colors so memorable that dishes might bubble into your thoughts at unexpected times. For instance, driving on 490 last week, I found myself longing for a slice or floral-scented apple, deep rose in color, light rose in flavor, gently sweet and slightly firm to the teeth that I’d enjoyed at Brown Hound two weeks earlier.
The rose petal-apple conserve in question is paired with a customer favorite: pan-seared yellowfin tuna with a scoop of risotto and a scattering of micro greens ($30). Like the majority of dishes on the menu, it’s both familiar and unexpected. Each meal’s star attraction is a well-prepared and satisfying rendition of a classic dish. But it’s in the sides where you’ll find the surprises: lovely shocks of color, texture, and flavor that, together, make eating at the Brown Hound both reliable and delightful.
Take the spring house salad ($7). It’s not a plate where you’d expect novelty. In some restaurants, it’s thoughtless: iceberg lettuce, shaved carrots, limp tomatoes, and maybe some corrugated cardboard posing as croutons. Here, however, the house salad plays with sweet (apple, maple) and sharp notes (red onion, shallots, vinegar), making you eager for the next bite. The lively and fresh greens are sourced just miles down the road from Ambrosia Acres Family Farm. And then there’s the scattering of diced and candied bacon. Food writing is oversaturated with declarations of love for bacon, but when it’s good, it’s very, very good. And when its smokiness is enhanced with a touch of sweetness and a bite of pepper, it’s wonderful.
Similarly, the artisan cheese plate ($11) features a mild chevre, muscular blue, and sharp cheddar cheeses — solidly appetizing choices for a Finger Lakes restaurant. Baguette crostinis, crunchy and flavored with olive oil, are eager to be piled with the cheese and — more importantly — the house-made onion marmalade. The marmalade has the texture of chutney: onion slices stand firm against the jam-like background. Cooked for a long time to develop a deep caramelization, the onions are sweetened with brown sugar and perked with ginger and (apple cider?) vinegar. Brown Hound is looking into to bottling the marmalade for sale; home cooks — myself included — will be lucky if it happens.
A few words about chicken. The menu’s chicken breast ($24), locally sourced from Sweet Grass Farm, is plump and juicy, but it’s still a chicken breast. What interests is its pairing: carrot sambal. Unlike South African or Asian carrot sambals, this is pureed smooth but retains a sambal’s spicy, warm heat. It’s the star of the entree, elevating the entire dish in the way a bold necklace can enliven a simple black shift dress.
A few more words about chicken: the chicken Moroccan ($38) is a shared plate, with two robust thighs and drums, a heap of couscous studded with dried fruits, and romesco sauce. The chicken’s skin is a deep tawny and crisp, almost as if fried, and the meat is succulent. Here, again, the sides shine: fat, sweet dates recall the dish’s namesake, while the romesco sauce reflects the piquancy of red peppers.
Lest I’ve made you think that there’s only poultry on the menu, pay attention to the Incredible Wellington ($32), a fillet of beef topped with Lively Run Cayuga bleu cheese and wrapped in puff pastry, served with bordelaise sauce, mashed potatoes, and mushroom duxelles; and the spring risotto ($21), showcasing seasonal vegetables and parmesan cheese.
If you go for brunch, make an effort to sit out on the wrap-around porch, shaded by a brick-red-and-white-striped awning. (Don’t worry if it’s chilly; the bistro has fleece blankets on hand to keep you warm.) Among my favorites are the French onion soup ($5), a hearty crock that gets the balance of salty and savory with crunchy and cheesy just right; the Sweet Grass lamb burrito ($11), featuring grass-fed lamb topped with tomato, red onion, and Lively Run feta; or the French Hill Toast ($7), made with homemade cinnamon-swirl bread and served with local Sugarbush Hollow maple syrup. (Go early if you want to order that last dish; I’ve often found that the restaurant runs out of cinnamon bread if I get there after 11:30 a.m.)
And last, but not least, if pastry chef Emmy Wilk’s toffee blondie sundae ($6) is available, order it. A blondie is a soft and chewy bar cookie flavored with vanilla and brown sugar. The blondie here is studded with toffee and the sundae is drizzled with salted caramel sauce for a sweet, salty, buttery, chewy treat. Even if you have to eat dessert after breakfast — even if you ate the Omega pancakes ($5 for a short stack) made with buttermilk, Birkett Mills’ buckwheat, ground flaxseed, and blueberries — who cares? It’s worth it
The 2013 summer season has arrived at Bristol Valley Theater. Come and enjoy professional theater on Main Street in Naples in the heart of the Finger Lakes! For tickets and show information, visit www.bvtnaples.org. Bristol Valley Theater, 151 South Main Street, Naples. 585-374-6318.
During the month of June check out all the exciting events happening in Geneva. Kicking off the month is Geneva Night Out on June 8th from 5-8pm starting at the Smith Opera House. Admission is free! Geneva Night Out features art and exhibits hosted by local businesses and galleries. For more exciting events, check out www.thesmith.org. Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca Street, Geneva, NY 14456.Sonnenberg’s Roses and Rosés elegant wine and food pairing event on June 10 showcases over 25 wineries and restaurants of the Finger Lakes Region and kicks off Rose Week at Sonnenberg June 10-17. For more information or tickets to the event, visit sonnenberg.org. Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, 151 Charlotte St, Canandaigua. 585-394-4922.
For the first time ever, on June 13-14, New York Wine and Culinary Center will host three prominent Master Sommeliers, all exceptional wine educators.The two-day boot-camp will help sommelier hopefuls with preparation and techniques. For more details visit www.nywcc.com. New York Wine and Cunlinary Center, 770 South Main. Canandaigua NY. 585-394-7800.
Shakespeare in the Park! Set in a 20th-century militaristic society, this accessible adaptation of Macbeth will appeal to audiences new to the play and those already acquainted with this renowned tragedy. Enjoy this 60 minute outdoor adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic thriller! Six performers play all the roles, blending inventive physicality, evocative design and original text to create this mesmerizing and chilling tale of greed and ambition on June 15 at 2pm. West Lawn Spa Apartments 11 East Main St. Rain Location: Chapel in Spa Apts. Clifton Springs.Connect with nature and hike the more than 50 miles of foot trails in the town of Victor. You’ll see a variety of terrain including open fields, wooded wetlands, hills and valleys with breathtaking views and a chance to explore the diverse wildlife of the Finger Lakes. For more information and trails visit www.victorhikingtrails.org.
It’s Strawberry Jam time! June 28 is your chance to come tap your toes! Live music will fill the air as you partake in everything strawberry: strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, jam, jelly, strawberries by the quart, and more. If you get hungry, enjoy a local chicken BBQ. It’s finger lickin’ good! Discover the delicious “Honeoye” Strawberry. Olde Village Market, Town Hall Lawn, Main Street, Honeoye NY
Well, the robins have all left the nest. The first brave chick, barely seen here in the lower right, hopped around the grounds for hours until I could no longer see or hear it. The other two stayed in the nest for over 24 hours before finally making that leap. I haven’t seen any since, but this morning I heard the most wonderful chirping in the gardens and can only imagine who was singing…
Sometimes it truly is the little things that make me happy…
For the nearly nine years that I have been the Innkeeper at the 1795 Acorn Inn, guests have gotten two keys upon arrival; one for the front door and the Dining Room door and one for their respective rooms. Since the Inn is locked at all times, these keys made it possible for guests to come and go as they please. Always in the back of my mind though was the thought that although these keys say do not duplicate, they (name not to be mentioned) duplicate them for me as needed. So, why couldn’t guests get them duplicated and come back at any time? I’m not thinking of the kind, respectful, wonderful guests that I usually have the pleasure of meeting…
So, years ago I decided to make the investment and purchase Schlage locks with keypads. This year, when my fabulous brother Roger was visiting, he installed them for me. And, now that I have gotten adept at programming and deprogramming, my vision is complete.
Upon arrival, guests are asked to provide a four-digit code that would be easy for them to remember. Their code is programmed into the locks and voila… they can come and go as they please. Upon their departure, their code is removed from the system. Simple.
For those guests that cannot make our regular check in hours of 3:00 to 5:00 pm and have made arrangements in advance of their stay for a late check in, we can input their code of choice on the day of their arrival. Once inside the Inn, they are able to follow our simple self-check process and use their personal code for their entire stay..
So far, so good. And, I am happy to say, another improvement completed.
May and June are my two favorite months of the year. I love the sun, the changing scenery and the flowering perennials. So take advantage of our Stay Two Weeknights, Receive The Third Weeknight Free Package. It’s only for the month of May.
Angell/Wilder Rooms: $375.70 ($170 savings)
Bristol Suite/Hotchkiss Room: $475.17 ($215 savings)
Barn Suite: $530.40 ($240 savings)
Package available Monday through Thursday, 4/29/13-5/30/13. NOT AVAILABLE ON SUNDAY. Price includes three weeknights accommodations, full breakfast and all applicable taxes. Package not available on Holidays, Holiday Periods and Special Events. Thirty-day cancellation policy applies. PACKAGE MUST BE REQUESTED AT TIME OF RESERVATION. PLEASE MAKE NOTE IN THE SPECIAL NEEDS SECTION WHEN MAKING AN ONLINE RESERVATION OR INFORM THE INNKEEPER IF MAKING A RESERVATION BY PHONE.
CANANDAIGUA – This September, Dr. Allan Armitage, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, will visit Canandaigua to present gardening seminars at Sonnenberg Gardens and Finger Lakes Community College. Dr. Allan Armitage is the author of thirteen gardening books, including Armitage’s Garden Perennials – 2nd Edition (2011) and the classic Herbaceous Perennial Plants, considered the “bible” of perennials. Dr. Armitage has given lectures around the world and appeared on The Martha Stewart Show. Numerous awards have been presented to Dr. Armitage throughout his career, including the Golden Trowel Award for his book Allan Armitage on Perennials from the Garden Writers of America; the Distinguished National Educator Award from the American Horticultural Society, the highest award for teaching in the country; the Medal of Honor, the highest award possible from the Garden Club of America, and many others.
Dr. Armitage will present an all-day gardening seminar in Sonnenberg’s Carriage House on Saturday, September 29th from 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM. Topics for discussion will include “Tales from the Garden,” perennials, annuals, and “Crazy Plants for Crazy Gardeners.” Preregistration is required for this seminar which costs just $60 per person or $50 per Sonnenberg member. His trip will conclude with a presentation and book signing at Finger Lakes Community College on Sunday, September 30 at 1:00 PM in Stage 14 on the second floor of the main campus. The FLCC event is free and open to the public. Details about these events are available at www.sonnenberg.org or 585-394-4922.
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Allan Armitage, visit his website, www.allanarmitage.net, where you can also find more information about his fascinating work in the Trial Gardens at the University of Georgia. Discover the research gardens where new plant material from most of the flower breeders in the world is evaluated.
Dr. Armitage’s visit has been made possible in part by support from Tesselaar, Inc., Finger Lakes Community College’s Horticulture and Conservation Clubs, BioWorks, Renaissance Goodie II Shoppe, Wegmans, Sonnenberg Garden Club, Miller’s Nursery and Canandaigua Surgical Care-Paul Whitehead.
Don’t miss this memorable weekend with the engaging Dr. Armitage.
Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park is one of America’s longest surviving estates from the Victorian Era. The elegant Queen Anne-style mansion was built in 1887 in Canandaigua by New York City financier Frederick Ferris Thompson, and his wife, Mary Clark Thompson, as a summer home. Between 1901 and 1920, the widowed Mrs. Thompson and her staff created the nine formal gardens seen today. The grounds are open to the public from May 1 through October 31 each year. Sonnenberg is a non-profit organization dependent upon the support of members and sponsors and its dedicated corps of volunteers. For more information on the revival of the grand estate on the “sunny hill,” contact Development & Marketing Manager Lisa Scott or Executive Director David Hutchings at 585-394-4922.
A couple of weeks ago I had a little bit of a scare during breakfast. I was fixing a South of the Border quiche and was nervous that the center wasn’t setting. As I let it cook, it began to set and I was feeling quite relieved. Well, that feeling of relief quickly turned into panic when I realized after letting it cool, that it hadn’t set. So, I went to Plan B. The Guests, all of them, were quite understanding and loved the scrambled eggs. I felt a little bit better but quite frankly I was just a tad frightened of making another quiche. Seems silly as I have been making quiches for years.
So, this past weekend, it was time to overcome that fear and conquer quiche again. I got new quiche pans. Got a thermometer for the oven (I have long suspected that the 25 year old Viking is not heating to the correct temperature… and I was right). I adjusted for temperature and made my Mediterranean quiche… feta, spinach, onion, seasoning. Served all 10 guests with two pieces left over for Juli and me. I wish I could say it was a complete success. The quiche set, looked beautiful and was delicious, but the crust wasn’t as cooked in the center as I would have liked it (even with mozzarella spread across the bottom). I think I figured out what happened though and will try, try again.
For years I’ve been looking for new chairs for the Angell Room. Not too big. Just the right color. Comfy. Matching. And the list goes on… But, I’ve never been able to find the ones I want. I have two chairs and beautiful, expensive fabric that I purchased a while back sitting in my office. The plan has always been to have new slip covers made. But, I can’t find anyone to sew them. So, I thought I would take on the task myself. How hard could it be, right? I plow the driveway in the winter, clean out the gutters, re-screen windows, do minor repairs, sew curtains and draperies for the canopy beds… I can surely sew slipcovers. Then, just when I’m not looking, I find the perfect chairs. Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.
A HUGE thanks to Amanda for helping me paint the outside of the Inn by the Hotchkiss Room! When the house was painted last fall there was a climbing hydrangea on a trellis that covered the wall. This spring my landscaper took the trellis down and removed the plant. Painting that last bit of the Inn has been on my list of things to do for what seems like forever. Today, I get to check it off.
I feel so very fortunate to have the staff working with me that I do. I couldn’t do this without them… Amanda, Kristen, Juli, Judy, Donna and Carson. And even though technically she doesn’t work with us anymore… Audrey. Thanks Ladies!
While we have many fabulous restaurants within 10 miles from the 1795 Acorn Inn, I was reminded last night about Friday nights at Wegmans, our fabulous grocery store. They have an outdoor BBQ and live jazz. It’s hard to beat the food and atmosphere. Last night my meal consisted of a wonderful glass of Pinot Grigio, perfectly grilled Mahi with grilled papaya and mango and crunchy jicama slaw. Yum.