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eG Foodblog: MelissaH and phaelon56 - Salt Potatoes and Onions, but n


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This is a great read, thanks for your efforts. Handsome food, enticing coffee. His and hers knife drawers and ice cream machines! Nice.

I still need to know if the Moosewood in Ithaca is still going strong. And do you have an opinion about the creation of "thousand islands salad dressing"?

I figure anything close to the middle of your weather map is fair game.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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The concert was wonderful. We heard music by Poulenc and Britten, for solo piano; horn and piano; tenor, horn, and piano; mezzo-soprano and piano; and mezzo, tenor, and piano. My favorite of the evening was a song by Poulenc, one of a group of poems by Careme that Poulenc found, put together, and set to music. The mezzo told us about the first of the songs being a mother's lament that her child refused to sleep, and the rest of the songs were her version of Scheherazade. By the end of the last song, you could practically hear her quietly leaving the child's room as he finally slept. The song I particularly liked was the sixth in this set, about the Thursday angels who play Mozart on their harps.

Oh my gosh! totally not food related, for which I apologize, but this set is called La courte paille (the short straw), and has been included on every recital I have given since I was 19 years old and first found it. I LOVE this set!

Sorry. Nothing to see here. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.


Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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I have enjoyed the varied aspects of this blog as I finally have had a few minutes to catch up with it. Though I live in NY State, I live on the other side near a city that can be spotted on the weather map Melissa posted above. That being said I am embarrassed to say that I have never really spent any time int he region of the blog. Cornell is the one Ivy School I have never visited. I did interview and was accepted at U of Rochester School of Medicine, but had the unfortunate experience of arriving to an empty campus in bleak December and so ultimately matriculated elsewhere. The closest that I have been to that region for any length of time has been Cooperstown, a marvelous town in its own right and home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a fantastic farm museum amongst other delights.

Nevertheless, it is apparent that these two regions of NY State share a lot in common, especially when it comes to food and agriculture with both areas seemingly experiencing a renaissance of agricultural quality.

We visited Cooperstown a few years back, and docsconz is right that it's marvelous. At the time, we hadn't yet been able to sell our house in Ohio :shock: and therefore had an aversion to vacations that were more expensive than they absolutely needed to be. I was surprised that we were able to find a campground to take us and our tent for a couple of nights in early October. My main motivation in visiting Cooperstown was to see the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the Fenimore Art Museum was a gem, and the Farmers' Museum turned out to be the real highlight of the trip for me. I grew up in suburbia, and the only thing in the area resembling a farm was a rather industrial dairy. I didn't attend the junior high school in our area, but friends who did always complained vociferously about the aroma at milking time!

We need to get back to Cooperstown. I hadn't realized it before our visit to the Farmers' Museum, but before 1900, central New York was a leading hop-growing area. (Production moved to the Pacific Northwest later, because it's dryer and therefore less prone to disease.) The Farmers' Museum still grows hops, so we need to find out when they'll be planting in the spring, and then harvesting in the fall, to watch the process. I suspect most or all of the hops they grow find their way to Brewery Ommegang, another Cooperstown sight worth a tour. Even if you've seen other breweries, this is a Belgian-style brewery so it's a little different.


Edited by MelissaH (log)


Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Hello again to all! Sorry for my absence from the blog but I went straight from lunch with Melissa on Wednesday to a prolonged exploration of the wonders of our modern health care system. Having recuperated enough to return to work I'll touch on the meals I have been able to eat or prepare in the past few days.

First - the Moosewood.

I still need to know if the Moosewood in Ithaca is still going strong.

Yes it is still alive, well and thriving. A number of years ago they expanded from their original space and have continued to fill the tables regularly. On occasion I hear some people pooh-pooh it perhaps because they've never made any effort to add "haute" to their simple but delicious cuisine. But Ithaca remains a sort of granola-crunchy-aging-hippie-Birkenstock-wearing-old Volvo-driving town - and the vibe of Moosewood is still a good fit. I'll try to get there for Saturday lunch but no promises as my illness has thrown my schedule off by a few days.

And do you have an opinion about the creation of "thousand islands salad dressing"?

I tend to believe the story about the naming but as with other famous food creations... I'm generally skeptical about whether it was invented by those who named it.

According to John Cletheroe's USA and Canada Holiday Hints:

Thousand Islands salad dressing was named for the islands by the chef of Conrad Boldt, the American millionaire who built and owned the magnificent Boldt Castle on Heart Island (and who owned the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia, arguably the two most famous U.S. hotels in 1910).

But... speaking of Ithaca.... some recently uncovered evidence appears to back the claim that Ithaca NY was the birthplace of the Ice Cream Sundae in 1892 - despite rival claims to the contrary.

Breakfast: apart from the occasional weekend morning where I make omelets, pancakes or McCann's Irish oatmeal (yes - I love it too and there is no other like it) my breakfasts are uniform and simple.

Fresh baked goods don't arrive at the coffee shop until 7:15 or 7:30 AM - far too late for me when I get up at 4:30 or 5. I bring a banana or an apple from home and thaw out a frozen day-old croissant by propping it up on tongs above the shop's toaster:


Now... back to meals eaten this week. But I forgot to show you where I've been growing my lovely tomatoes - three patio boxes propped up on rocks next to the retaining wall at the back of my yard. They get plenty of sun here and weeding is a cinch but I think I've been losing a few to critters. We have deer and fox in the neighborhood (despite being in a totally developed area) not to mention raccoons and who knows what else.


Tuesday evening I tried to visit our local conveyor style sushi restaurant: Sakana Ya

But they had just resumed their "All Sushi Half Price on Tuesday" special and there was already a 45 minute wait at 6 PM. They've only been open for six months - quality is good and they don't need to discount but it's a marketing strategy that has worked well and brought them a large number of repeat customers on other nights.

I see the owner, Mr. Han, every morning when he stops in for his coffee. In addition to the sushi bar he owns a Korean-Japanese restaurant and an Asian grocery store - and he works in all three places every day. This guy works harder than James Brown ever did (then again.... JB only claimed to be "the hardest workin' main in show business" - and we all know the restaurant biz can be a lot tougher than show biz!)



Tuesday's alternate dinner was some excellent Jamaican takeout from Syracuse's Jerk Hut


Owner Irvin Hanshaw ( aka Bongo) is well respected by and actively involved in the South Side community where the restaurant is located. He and his family have run the place for years and don't tolerate inappropriate behavior or dress on the premises - no mistake about that:


It's a pleasant enough place to eat in but given the option - I take my food home and eat from china plates with real flatware rather than tolerate foam and plastic. To me food is always more satisfying on a real plate.


Their portions are typically generous but this day were exceedingly so. Curry goat, cabbage 'n carrots, rice 'n peas, plantains (maduro style fried - not platanos), a patty as an appetizer and - always - a Ting. If there's a better grapefruit soda on the planet Earth I have yet to try it.



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Loving the 'his' and 'hers' knife drawers. Living in the same town with an Ikea, I think I spend less time there than people from out of town. It always amazes me when people come from far away to go there.

I'm pleased to see you are enjoying the Perfect Scoop so much - it does contain some fabulous recipes.

Can I suggest that you use one of the canisters you use in your cuisinart ice cream machine to transport? Put your ice cream in a yogurt container that is small enough to fit inside, wrap the whole thing in towel, put it in your cooler and off you go. It will stay frozen for hours even on the hottest day.


Enjoying your reports. Always wanted to know a bit more about the Moosewood, hope we will get to see pictures.

I see you use the same 'fine china' that I do.

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Apart from my lunch at Ponchito's with Melissa Wednesday was not much of an eating day. Things were a bit hazy in the evening so I went for my standby of a grilled cheese with extra sharp cheddar and a bowl of cream of tomato soup.

By the standards of some cities Ponchito's would be just another taqueria but here in "the 'cuse" it's the first really decent Mexican food we've had available in about twenty years. And the place that was really good remained that way for less than two years before it changed hands and went downhill fast.

Everything is fresh, cooked on premises, they use their own shredded chicken, excellent slow-roasted pork and real fresh avocados for the guacamole (most places in town use the frozen pulp you can buy at wholesale clubs).

I had a chicken taco, a side of guacamole and chips and a Jaritto's Mexican grapefruit soda. It's good but trust me - Ting is better :wink:



Melissa's burrito looks really good - doesn't it?


I.... uhhhh... forgot to snap pictures until my taco was nearly gone. Hungry.


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Soooo... nothing from me for a few days and now a veritable flood while I catch up. I did manage to get a better rosetta on the morning cappa I made at the coffee shop yesterday (before I went home and collapsed). Today's on my own machine at home was far better but more on that - and why - in a different post.


Did I mention that I love ribs? This past June it became evident that my cheap but trusty Char-Broil H20 electric bullet smoker was finally getting a bit rusty and worn out after ten years of use.

Despite the shortcomings - a bottom that collected water leading to rust and necessitating messy clean-out, a lack of good airflow and thus a lack of adequate smoke flow-through, a heating element that didn't get quite hot enough and no way to add more hot water to the pan except by removing the top cover - it was still good for a cheap smoker.

Good news: over the years the price has risen by about $20 but they eliminated the cupped bottom, created good airflow with a dampered vent, bumped the heating element from 1500 to 1650 watts and added a side door so water can easily be added during the smoking process.

I know you purists will scoff but the new smoker - with the addition of an external Variac (voltage regulator that allows me to precisely bump up the heat) - makes fantastic ribs. have not tried anything else with it but I'll get there eventually.

I used to do St. Louis style prep but now just remove the major pieces of fat, the folded over hunk-o-meat on the back and the membrane and leave the rest of the rack intact. Makes for bigger and meatier ribs even if there is some stuff to work around.

Have been using McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning as my standard dry rub for years. This summer I tried Weber's Chicago Style Steak Rub (might be good on steaks but I did not care for it on ribs) and also a sweet/spicy rub a co-worker made. His had too my brown sugar and again - not to my liking. I typically cook for myself and one guest so a cryo-vac of three racks gets prepped and rubbed on day of purchase with 1/2 to 2/3 of it going into the freezer for future use (that came in handy yesterday - when I really didn't feel up to very much cooking).

Prepped ribs


The Variac ($120 new on eBay - made in China. Where else?). I live in an old house in a neighborhood served by an aging substation. My 110V AC power is often less than that and the smoker sans Variac couldn't get much above 200 degrees F - especially if it was a cool day. Now I can get a true 120v or even 130V if I need it. I start out hot for an hour to get good smoke going, back off to cooler for the next three hours and then goose it back to hotter for the final thirty minutes.


The flat plate below the heating element is now the bottom of the unit and allows plenty of airflow as well as water drainage. Note the pre-soaked wood chips (hickory) already in position.



Side door for adding water to the pan during cooking



You'll notice a foil pan underneath. greases and water drippings tend to slide down the inside surface and drip off the lower edge below the door. I put a small foil pan of water there to catch that and keep the deck and the concrete pad clean.


Weber used to make this great black "porcelain" heavy duty rib rack for standing multiple slabs on their sides. Now Weber, Char-Broil and everyone else seem to offer only a cheesy chrome one that's not heavy duty. Where can I get another one of these? Help!



Halfway to completion


Do any of you recall my mention of another use for fish sauce? Here we go.....

Peel some yams: the orange sweet type - do not use "white sweet potatoes" (in some stores both types are labeled as sweet potatoes). If the yams are big and old like mine were you need to are the touch white coating if that's underneath the skin to expose the good orange part. Dice and boil - do NOT overcook! It's very easy to do - they go from firm to mushy in a flash.


Dice a bunch of colorful stuff that looks good contrasting with orange - I use red, yellow and green pepper, scallions and a small bit of finely minced celery:


As we did previously in this same blog, make a dressing from plenty of fresh lime juice, some white pepper, a touch of salt, a tsp or tbsp of fish sauce, some seasoned rice vinegar and some fruity olive oil and... this time add some fresh ginger. It tastes better if you use a really cool miniature grater lie mine but I can't bear to part with it. You have to get your own (I jest but not really - no other grater I own including my microplane can come close to grating ginger the way this little baby does). Be generous with the ginger. Very generous.


Toss the diced ingredients with the cooled potatoes but add the dressing to each portion only at time of serving. Sweet potatoes seem to get soggy more easily than white potatoes. I make extra and store the "dry" ingredients separately from the dressing. Keeps for about three to four days that way.

The final touch is to sprinkle on a few things for extra color, flavor and contrasting texture. I use chopped pecans because there are nearly always some pecan halves in my freeze left over from the past winter's pecan pie making. This time I uncovered a bag of black sesame seeds in the pantry (have no clue when or why I bought them!). Looks good and tastes even better.


And the sweet potato salad taste might good with a big hunk of pork rib. By the way - I never cook or baste with BBQ sauce. I keep Dino's Sensuous Slathering Sauce and Wango Tango in the fridge and mix about 4 parts of the former with one part of the latter for a respectable and reasonably hot pre-made sauce. I don't use the sauce myself but my guests are welcome to put their own on at the table.


And yes - they taste as good as they look :biggrin:


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I see you use the same 'fine china' that I do.

Not sure if it's identical. Mine is "seconds" - usually with a small inclusion in the glaze - from the Syracuse China factory store. They have the same overpriced not-such-a-deal type things that most "outlets" have but also have a back room (and an outdoor tent in summer) with bins and carts and shelves full of overstocks, seconds and discontinued lines from their restaurant china division. The round 10" plates were 75 cents each on sale.

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Nice looking ribs there, Owen! Still, I am just a bit disappointed that you use electricity, especially since you have outdoor space (I don't), but hey, whatever works for you.

Of course, you wouldn't expect me to comment on ribs without touting Gates' Bar-B-Q Sauce, would you? If you prefer, rather than buy it, you could always make your own.

But tell me: How did Syracuse get so many different ethnic restaurants? I'll wager Syracuse University has something to do with that. I wouldn't expect to see such variety in Central New York otherwise, as I don't think the region is an immigrant magnet.

Forgive me, Melissa: I'm dense. I'm reading your prose and it's only gradually soaking in that I'm reading another professional writer (the tone and pacing stand out -- not to say that Mark doesn't do well in this regard too). You state you're a hired gun; is that "hired gun" in the sense I'm one (I refer to public relations as "journalism's hired-gun cousin") or in the sense of writing books for a client, company or organization? Do you also do freelance work?

I assume you posted fridge shots in your earlier foodblogs. Guess I should read them.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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But tell me:  How did Syracuse get so many different ethnic restaurants?  I'll wager Syracuse University has something to do with that.  I wouldn't expect to see such variety in Central New York otherwise, as I don't think the region is an immigrant magnet.

Syracuse is a very different restaurant town from Oswego. We have bars a-plenty, but our choice in restaurants is limited.

We have three Subways, two McD's, a BK and a Wendy's, and a combined KFC/A&W, if you're looking for junk. The newest addition to that roster is a Ruby Tuesday's.

For nicer fare, we have two Italian restaurants, Vona's and Canale's. It seems that just about every family in town goes to one or the other, but since we're relatively new here we have no loyalties. I stay out of discussions about whose red sauce is better.

Another nicer restaurant, Avanti Bistro, has gone downhill since they changed hands a couple of years ago, to the point where the cost/benefit ratio is no longer favorable in my mind. It's tough to be a nice non–red sauce Italian restaurant in this town.

Another place east of town seemed like they were positioning themseves to make a run for the nicer-dining crowd. But they completely lost me as a potential customer when they started to advertise such specials as a giant steak and five bottles of Labatt's, buckets of crabs and Coronas, and "Cans & Clams" night. Not my thing, and not in our definition of a "nice" restaurant.

There's a restaurant right on the river, Patz, but we haven't actually gone there specifically for a meal. Most of the social events associated with the men's hockey team are held there, and that's the only context we've been there. The food we've had is neither superb nor offensive. Casey says that their offerings on tap are among the best in town, and they're reasonably priced. I'll take his word for it. They do Coke rather than Pepsi, which is what I look for.

We have a brewpub downtown, but I'm not impressed by their food. I was really surprised to realize that they're actually a brewpub and make their own beer, because they have neon signs for commercial beers in their windows. I guess they feel that they won't survive without offering up the familiar stuff that's available everywhere, and the law here permits brewpubs to sell stuff other than what they make. (The owner of the brewpub, who would know, says this is a Molson town.) I'm not a beer drinker, but my husband says the beer they make ranges from OK to good, and they apparently do a good job keeping their tap lines clean. The best thing about the brewpub is their bar. Or rather, my favorite thing about the bar is the music on Wednesday nights. Several of the music professors, and some students, get together and play jazz at King Arthur's bar every Wednesday night there isn't another music department event. (This last Wednesday, jazz was pre-empted by the chamber music concert.) The only cost is whatever you order, and of course everyone who goes feels obligated to get at least a little something. We've been unimpressed by the menu offerings, but they make their own potato chips. If you can catch them just out of the fryer when they're still hot, they're fantastic. My husband usually gets one of the beers brewed there, and I tend to go with club soda with a big wedge of lime.

If you have a suggestion for another non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage that isn't loaded with sugar, doesn't look like a kiddie drink, and doesn't take a whole lot of talent to put together, please let me know!

We'll generally stay for the first set and maybe the beginning of the second, since it is a weeknight. And because, dare I say it, we're getting older and don't stay up late as well as we used to. But mainly because it's a weeknight. :wink:

There are two choices for Mexican, without having to drive 45+ minutes: Azteca and Fajita Grill. Of the two, Azteca's better. They're a sit-down restaurant, and if you order the right things from their menu, you'll get a tasty meal. My big knock against them is the lack of vegetables: it's hard to find them, other than the tomatoes (always canned) in their salsa, and maybe a sprinkle of lettuce if you order something that comes with a sprinkle of lettuce. Fajita Grill is a Chipotle wannabe. We don't care for it, but we'll occasionally go there if there's a fundraiser. A week from next Tuesday, the university's baseball club will get some percent of the night's proceeds, and because a former student who's house- and cat-sat for us a few times is involved with the baseball club and specifically invited us to come, we'll probably go for dinner. If we want serious Mexican, we'll drive to Sodus (about halfway between here and Rochester) and eat at El Rincon if it's Thursday through Sunday and we don't mind a drive, or we'll make it ourselves. (We actually try to plan our trips to Rochester for days that El Rincon is open, so we can have a meal there.) Casey makes killer mole colorado, and since we got a range hood that sucks, we can make it any time of the year without suffocating ourselves on chile fumes. We make large batches, and keep it in our freezer so it's easy to whip up a good and quick Mexican meal when the mood strikes.

There are a couple of "Chinese" buffets. We don't like either one. The newer of the two started out decently, but we noticed that every time we went back, the number of vegetables on offer got smaller and smaller, to the point where about the only green stuff you can be sure of finding are green beans. There are other Chinese restaurants, but we can do better at home. Casey has a mongo burner that he uses outside when he brews beer, and it does great things with a wok.

One of our favorite places to eat is Thai Garden. I haven't been to Thailand so I can't speak for its authenticity, but the food tastes good to me. I like that they can make the food spicy-hot but still flavorful, something other restaurants here have trouble doing. We like it best for lunch, but dinners are good there also.

Another favorite, especially for lunch, is the Port City Cafe. They're right downtown, and they do a very brisk midday business of soups, sandwiches, and salads. They've recently hired the best bread baker in town, and he's getting things set up to bake bread for them right there. I'm expecting something good to get even better once that's up and running. They also have ice cream, coffee and espresso, and pastries. I wind up there about once a week, usually to meet with my knitting mentor Esther so she can solve my technical problems over a beverage and pastry. They don't mind if we stay for a few hours, and they have big windows that let lots of light in.

No discussion of Oswego restaurants would be complete without two institutions: Wade's and Rudy's. Wade's is the greasy-spoon diner on the east side of town. If you like raisin toast, theirs is supposed to be great: they slice it thickly, and toast it on the griddle. I'm not a raisin person, so this doesn't float my boat. I'd just as soon go to Port City for breakfast...or make myself a nice bowl of cereal with milk. And Rudy's you can see in my last foodblog. I'm hoping to get there again during this blog, because it's a seasonal restaurant. This summer is their 61st season, and it's coming to an end.

Forgive me, Melissa: I'm dense.  I'm reading your prose and it's only gradually soaking in that I'm reading another professional writer (the tone and pacing stand out -- not to say that Mark doesn't do well in this regard too).  You state you're a hired gun; is that "hired gun" in the sense I'm one (I refer to public relations as "journalism's hired-gun cousin") or in the sense of writing books for a client, company or organization?  Do you also do freelance work?

I do all kinds of things. When the university finds themselves short a warm body, I'll teach. This semester, they didn't need me, so I'm freelancing, as well as working on a few little things on my own. I'm always looking for projects!



Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Melissa my non-drink is cranberry and club with lime, any bartender with a clue will serve it in a Collins glass with a stirrer instead of a straw


but I live and breath diet pepsi

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers


Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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Nice looking ribs there, Owen!  Still, I am just a bit disappointed that you use electricity, especially since you have outdoor space (I don't), but hey, whatever works for you.

Sandy - you're far from being the only person who's commented with surprise about my use of an electric smoker. But it's cheap, easy, convenient, takes up minimal storage space in the winter and requires very little waiting time for cooking to commence. The ribs it produces are better than any I can buy locally in restaurants (far better than Dinosaur BBQ) and at least as good as what our local rib king John-John offers from his cart. I like convenience, ease of use and saving time - especially as I am out the door most days at 5 AM or 5:30 AM and don't get home until after 6 PM - that makes for a long day.

Of course, you wouldn't expect me to comment on ribs without touting Gates' Bar-B-Q Sauce, would you? If you prefer, rather than buy it, you could always make your own.

Another point well taken but I don't use sauce on my own ribs and the few guests that I have seem to use very little of it. But I will try that recipe sometime - just for fun (when I actually get time!)

Minor point of personal interest: my best friend's family is from a small town near Tuscaloosa Alabama and his late mom (who was a Mills) had a cousin named John "Big Daddy" Bishop. He'd mentioned "Uncle" John's sauce to me a few times but it wasn't until I heard an audio piece on NPR about Southern BBQ that I made the connection - John Bishop was the founder of Dreamland. And I've still never had a chance to try the sauce! (I'm guessing that I have to go to Alabama for that but I think his family sold off their interest some time after he passed on).

But tell me:  How did Syracuse get so many different ethnic restaurants?  I'll wager Syracuse University has something to do with that.  I wouldn't expect to see such variety in Central New York otherwise, as I don't think the region is an immigrant magnet.

The university has had very little to do with it - apart from a handful of ethnic restaurants immediately adjacent to the campus (none of which I have mentioned here). Several factors have been at play over the years. As a traditional heavy industry / manufacturing city we had some industrial concerns in which a handful of immigrants from a given area would be hired and subsequently bring relatives over for the burgeoning job opportunities.

This accounted for significant portions of our German, Polish, Ukrainian, Italian and Tyrolean communities. With a relatively low cost of living (at least back then), moderate housing prices, good public schools (back then) and no major metro area nearby to lure people away with higher wages - these have been stable communities.

We have never had a large number of Latino families here but in more recent years the sum total of new arrivals in the area from Dominican Republic, Cuba, Central America and the Caribbean have bolstered the small existing Puerto Rican community to the extent that we haver an annual and well attended Latino day festival. We have a Puerto Rican restaurant in town (mediocre), a two location Dominican place (okay but not great) and one small neighborhood Dominican joint (Casa del Te) that is stellar.

Years ago, not long after the end of US involvement in the Vietnam War, a local inter-religious council became actively involved in a resettlement program for Hmong refugees. That program expanded over the years on both a formal and informal basis resulting in a sizable (relative to the size of our city) population of Hmong, Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants. That community continues to grow and at one time supported three Vietnamese restaurants - two of which remain open and I visit one of those regularly.

Another factor that may be significant is the fact the people of limited means CAN open a restaurant here if they work hard. By today's national standards the city of Syracuse has remarkably low real estate prices and is economically depressed. The cost barriers to opening a small food business are lower than in many cities. We also have many people, including both people of the specific ethnic communities and "regular" folks like me (i.e. people who are acculturated and whose families have been here for many generations - regardless of race or ethnicity), who appreciate good food, want moderate prices and are quite comfortable eating in humble surroundings.

And good food nearly always wins out. There have been any number of ethnic restaurants that have come and gone but the best ones (with a few notable exceptions) seem to endure. I am sad to report however that my very long time lady friend's daughter had to close her soul food take-out operation when her business partner threw in the towel. They were under-capitalized and hadn't figured out the right way to market to a larger audience. Given time and money I believe they could have done very well.

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This is as good a time as any to discuss the supermarket situation in Oswego.

When I last foodblogged, we had three supermarkets in town (Tops, P&C, and Price Chopper), as well as a smaller grocery store (Mike's Big M), and Ontario Orchards outside of town. And during my last blog, it was officially announced that Tops would be pulling out of CNY, and that Price Chopper would be moving into the Tops store. Their reasoning was that the new store is bigger, and had better parking. Sure enough, that November, they closed the old store at 6 PM one night, and reopened in the new location the next morning.

We are not impressed. The new Price Chopper store may be bigger, but the aisles are still so narrow it's hard to get two carts to pass. They may have more shelf space, but it's just more of the same old same old. The produce department still has the same suppliers as always, andd they still run out of cilantro and flat-leaf parsley regularly. The meat counter is staffed with cooperative people, but most of their stuff now comes pre-cut, and they seem to do less of their own butchering. The fish counter reeks of the chlorine bleach they use to clean, and I won't buy fish from them because it tastes like chlorine bleach. The pharmacy got axed in the changeover. Yet, we continue to shop there because it's the best we have.

The new location is also much less convenient, not just for me but for a lot of people. The old store was pretty much right downtown. It was a walk away from much of the senior housing. The new store is out east of town, a mile and a half from the old store. It's now in a location that almost nobody can walk to. If you don't drive, your only options are to ride the bus (if you're near a stop), hire a taxi, or get a ride.

Our other remaining supermarket, P&C, is generally more expensive for everything. It's in the shopping center next door to the Price Chopper shopping center. We'll go there only rarely, usually when Price Chopper's run out of cilantro.

Our next-door neighbor, who does some catering, likes the meat from Big M, the smaller grocery store. Another friend says that the people there steered one of her neighbors to exactly the right cut of beef for his stew recipe. But everyone in town agrees that the produce is horrendous. Nonetheless, Big M is now the only place to get groceries close to downtown, and it's the only grocery store on the west side of the river in Oswego.

Ontario Orchards does a nice job with produce. They also have some frozen meat (which we haven't tried), birdseed and pet supplies (but nothing our boys can have), a few baked goods (ehhh, I make better), and other grocery odds and ends. But they aren't open year-round. Once apple season ends, they'll scale back their hours pretty dramatically. After Christmas, they'll only be open on weekends until planting season starts up in March. They're not within a walk of anything and they're five miles from the nearest bus stop, but they're also on the west side of the river.

Why the big deal about east and west sides of the river? Because Oswego, like many river towns, has bridges. Here's a link to a Google map of our area; look at the satellite photo for the full story. The two parallel bridges are the two road bridges; the one to the north is the one in the photo below. We also have an old railroad bridge that's been turned into a pedestrian bridge; this is the one at an angle across the river.


This isn't a great picture, but it lets you see at least the shadow of the Bridge Street bridge, which is the more-used of the two in town. (For one thing, Bridge Street is NY-104, which you can take east to I-81 and beyond, or west to Buffalo and the Lewiston-Queenston bridge. The Utica Street bridge is not a state route, and Utica Street doesn't go through to anywhere.) The Bridge Street bridge is now 40 years old, and the engineers say that the cracks showing up in the sidewalk mean that there are structural issues with the bridge. So, starting next March, the bridge will be removed and completely replaced from the ground up. The bridge is scheduled to be closed for 8 months. The entire area is shuddering with fear of what's going to happen with the traffic.

There are elementary schools and fire stations on both sides of the river. But the hospital, junior high, high school, and university are all on the west side. The predictions for traffic flow say that during peak periods, there could be half-hour delays to get across the remaining bridge on Utica Street. The school district is wondering whether the school buses will be able to finish their routes for the high school and junior high in time to start the routes for the elementary schools. The city is discussing options for dealing with pedestrians—one idea I've heard is a shuttle bus, to take people from one side of the bridge to the other. (While I'm glad they're considering such options, it's only an extra three blocks of walking to use the pedestrian bridge instead. If the traffic issues are as bad as they're prognosticating, it'll take far less time to go around than it would to take a shuttle bus. The people who really will need help are those with mobility issues, and those are the people who are less likely to walk anyway.)

We live on the west side of town, very close to the university. And for us, the big deal is that both supermarkets are on the east side, as is the nearest transfer station for rubbish and recyclables. Getting to the Big M won't be fun by car or bicycle, because they're right across the street from the Utica Street Bridge. (On the satellite photo, it's the longish building with a cupola, just to the right of the green arrow.) And Ontario Orchards is not really a viable option for everyday shopping because of the goods they stock and don't stock.

What to do?

We've already started to explore our options. We've discovered another of the county's transfer stations, in Hannibal. We can get to it on back roads, so we won't need to go near the bridge snarls. We've already checked it out, so we know the traffic patterns there. And we've learned that it's an easy trip from the Hannibal transfer station to the Price Chopper store in Fulton (the next town south), as long as you don't mind driving around with your garbage containers in your car. (We use a rectangular Rubbermaid bin that can hold a 55-gallon plastic liner. When the bin is full, we pull the bag up. When the bag's nearly full, it's time to go to the transfer station.)

But the Fulton Price Chopper store has all the same failings of the Oswego Price Chopper. (The Fulton store still has a pharmacy, though.) It, too, was a Tops before the pullout. And while it's nice to know that we can get to a full-service supermarket without having to deal with a bridge nightmare, it's depressing to know that we're driving 20 minutes for something mediocre. Fortunately, there's something else we can do.

Once you've driven from Oswego to Fulton, you're halfway to the nearest Wegman's. From Fulton, the rest of the way there is on highway except for the very last bit. And even though this is a smaller and older Wegman's without all the bells and whistles of their newer, bigger, better stores, it's still a Wegman's, with beautiful produce, an unstinky fish counter, and employees who seem happy to talk with you and help you get what you want. It might be a bit more expensive than Price Chopper, but I'm willing to pay a bit of a premium for a more pleasant shopping experience. I foresee that we'll be making more frequent trips to this Wegman's. We'll get what we can at Ontario Orchards, we'll plan our meals better than we do currently, we'll make a point of thinking ahead if we'll need to defrost something from the freezer, and we'll make Wegman's runs when we need to. I have the luxury of being able to go in the middle of a weekday when it's less crowded, but Casey and I have always gone food shopping together because we both cook, we both enjoy the shopping process, and it's more fun to shop together.

The bridge closure will certainly present a challenge, but one that will force us to think carefully about how we shop and therefore how we eat. We're fortunate that we are both good cooks. I don't know how badly it will hurt other people, especially the students who live off-campus and those less mobile.


edited to fix a minor typographical problem that nobody but me would probably notice anyway

Edited by MelissaH (log)


Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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Good luck with the grocery store dilemma. I used to live in an apartment where the closest grocery store was a not-particularly frequent bus ride away. And then another place where there was one a 5 minute walk away. Let me tell you, I prefer the latter, but like you said it's mostly a matter of being organized :)


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Today has been somewhat busy. Breakfast was back to cold cereal with milk. I have a little bit of oatmeal left over, but I think I'll include it in my next batch of bread dough. I never have the same amount of oatmeal left over, so it always turns out differently. I'm usually a scientific-type baker, anal about measuring everything, but Leftover Oatmeal Bread is one case where I tend to just wing it.

I had some errands to run downtown today, and I brought the camera along. My first stop was at the bookstore, where I dropped off a container of frozen PB&J. (I'm good to them, and they're good to me.) Banna, Jackie, and Bill were all most appreciative, and I'm sure I'll hear their opinions when I next see each of them. I always make a point of looking through the bookstore shelves when I go in, and this time I found something interesting to bring home:


I've always been interested in the cuisines of other cultures. Although the suburb where I grew up has a large enough Indian population to support a Hindu temple, I did not grow up eating Indian food. My father is not a curry fan, and to him, Indian = curry. In fact, I didn't eat much Indian food until we moved to Ohio. The former department chair at the school where Casey taught was Bengali, and his wife was a marvelous cook. We were geographically close enough to visit my parents, and on the rare occasions when we were visiting but my father was unavailable for dinner, the two of us and my mom would go to a South Indian vegetarian restaurant near the Hindu temple. Then we moved here, where there's no good Indian to be found, although we had excellent Indian in Scotland and the Czech Republic (of all places) early in the summer. This book has no recipes, but I look forward to learning at least a little about some of the different regional Indian cuisines so I can look at cookbooks with a more educated eye.

While I was downtown, I decided to go for a little meander along the river, because it was a beautiful (if windy) day. The city of Oswego has encouraged businesses to adopt clusters of plantings, which means that either they care for the plants or they hire someone to do it for them.


This particular grouping, including a crabapple tree and some other kind of tree, has been adopted by one of the local power generation companies. (Gardening's not my strong suit.)

As I walked along the river, I saw a few men fishing. Later in the fall when the salmon start their run, people will be packed shoulder-to-shoulder along both sides of the river to fish. The first couple of people I talked to had just gotten started, but this man had been there for quite a while. He'd wheeled his scooter down to the sidewalk, set up his gear within easy reach, and moved back and forth as the fishing required. His catch today included a four-pound bass.


He said that most days he came down, he could pretty easily catch his limit.


As I watched, one of the other men got a bite. He worked the fish on the line


but as I watched, the end of the line went PING! and rocketed back onto the sidewalk behind him. He reeled the empty line in, rebaited his hook,


and cast it back into the water. Ah well.

Where there are people fishing, there are bait shops.


This one's down at the river, practically under the bridge. The door was open, and people were inside. I didn't go in.

I crossed under the bridge, and looked across the river at Lock 8. There are seven locks because there's no Lock 4.


While we think of the Oswego River as a river, part of it is maintained as the Oswego Canal. This canal provides a way for boaters to get from Lake Ontario (and by extension, the rest of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway) to the Erie Canal. From there, it's possible to get down to New York City via the Hudson River. There's not much commercial traffic, but every year we hear people in town making the circle trip.

From there, I headed back up to street level. My next stop was the lakeshore, because it was a nice day. From the west side of town, you can see our lighthouse


and also the Marine Museum.


The gray boat docked at the museum (the white square building) was the last commercial fishing boat out of Oswego. Now, the only fishing is on people's private boats, or by charter.

As I stood at the lakeshore, I noticed that it was still windy.


However, this wind is not the normal breeze off the lake—it's a wind from the south. As the afternoon's worn on, it's stayed windier. Our weather forecasts are predicting storms this evening and tonight, and tomorrow's supposed to be a rotten day, only getting to 60 degrees F if we're lucky. It sounds like a good day to stay inside and watch college football!



Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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Today's lunch was another Creative Use of Leftovers. It involved the goat cheese and caramelized onions that hadn't gotten used on pizza last night.


I reheated the onions in the microwave for a minute. While they warmed, I put my nonstick frying pan on the stove. A tortilla went into the pan, and I smeared the warm onions on one side. Over the top of that, I scattered the goat cheese crumbles, and folded the uncovered tortilla half over the top. After a few minutes of cooking, I flipped the whole thing over with my asbestos fingers. When the cheese had melted, I declared lunch cooked.


Voilà! An onion and goat cheese quesadilla, alongside a Diet Dr Pepper. I wish I could find the caffeine-free equivalent, but nowhere here seems to carry it.

Speaking of beverages, I realized that I didn't show you what we drank with our pizza last night. So here they are, or what's left of them.


The bottle on the left contained hard cider. Earlier this summer, we circled Lake Ontario, taking our time to do the trip so we could explore. This cider was one of our finds. Almost directly across the lake from us is Prince Edward County, Ontario. The County is quite agricultural, similar to what we have around here, but they get less snow than we do. There are few commercial examples of hard cider available here so we look for different versions to try. We made a point of visiting County Cider, where we tried everything they had before deciding what to buy. This bottle held their Waupoos Premium Cider, which is pleasantly dry and bubbly. I like bubbles.

When we were at the cidery, we purchased a bottle of their ice cider to bring home. Our first experience with ice cider was in Montreal, where ice cider, sometimes called applejack on this side of the border, refers to cider that's been pressed, fermented, and then frozen. When an alcoholic beverage is frozen, the water in that beverage freezes, and can then be removed while it's solid. This increases the alcohol content of the beverage. In effect, it's like distilling the beverage, but without adding heat so you can keep more of the low-boiling compounds. And it would be considered right up there with making moonshine as far as legality goes.

County Cidery ice cider is a different beast, closer to ice wine. Despite the lyrics of the Oliver Cromwell song, not all apple varieties fall off the tree when they're ripe. They leave some of their apples on the tree, and harvest them in January when they're frozen solid. Then they press the frozen apples, which yield juice with a higher sugar content because much of the water's frozen. There's so much sugar in the juice that it's tricky to get it properly fermented. But based on what we tasted, the cidery has it figured it out. Casey's inspired to talk with some of our local orchards, to see if he can get permission and cooperation to try using some of their apples this winter.

The other bottle is one that we acquired on a wine tour we did with Casey's mother and aunt. Our niece Kali, one week shy of her 11th birthday, was also along. Since I'm really not a drinker, I was designated as the driver. We started our trip with ice cream from Cornell's dairy store, and then headed to the east side of Seneca Lake to start our sampling, eventually working our way to the west side of Cayuga Lake. Kali and I were both pleased to find that many of the wineries are accommodating drivers, children, and other non-drinkers. One place offered Otter Pops, which were wonderful on a hot day. Several had friendly dogs on the premises. Everyone had munchies. And at least three wineries now press some juice, sulfite it immediately to kill any yeasts and prevent all fermentation, and bottle and sell it as grape juice. Each winery uses its own blend of grapes for their juice. This particular bottle was from the Swedish Hill Winery.



Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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Dinner tonight: we went to Rudy's!

We always walk there, unless the weather's nasty enough that we're getting it to go. Tonight was nice but windy, so we walked. Inside, it looked just the way Rudy's always does. It was still early so people were only stacked one-deep at the counter waiting to place their orders. During the heart of the summer, it will be so crowded that you can barely wiggle your way up.


Here's what you order from.


I got a guppy plate and an order of zucchini. Casey got smelt and onion pieces. We both got lemonade to drink. When they came out, here's what our dinner looked like.


Haddock's a favorite of mine, and Rudy's does it well. This particular batch of zucchini was not as good as what I'd had a few weeks ago. I think the local zucchini run may be over, and this was frozen. At any rate, it was mushier than I'd prefer, although even mushy fried zucchini from Rudy's is still pretty good. Casey had never before gotten their smelt, or their onion pieces. They don't look all that different on the outside, do they?


As you might be able to see from the pictures, we chose to eat inside at one of the half-dozen tables. We saw other people taking their food outside, but I was afraid that I'd lose something to the wind. Every time someone opened the door to enter or leave, we had to hold onto our tartar sauce packets and napkins! As we finished, the electrician who worked on our kitchen reno came in, and we chatted while he waited for his order to come up. He was in a good mood. Happy electricians are a good thing.

Our meal finished, we walked home. And we saw all kinds of signs that summer is officially ending, like this one on the door of Rudy's:


and this one at Bev's:


Ordinarily we'd stop at Bev's and eat our ice cream as we walk home. But we have frozen PB&J waiting for us, so we kept on walking. As we walked, we saw more signs of fall, but these were nonverbal.



Tomorrow, we're going to the transfer station in the morning because they're having a household hazardous waste drop-off day. We have stuff to get rid of that was in the garage when we bought the house. We'll probably spend the afternoon parked in front of the television watching college football—kickoff for the first game we care about is at noon. And then we've been invited next door for dinner. I hope our neighbors and their other guests don't mind me bringing the camera!



Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Fortunately, I'll be able to say "Oh, I learned how to cook my oatmeal this way from one of the blogs on eGullet..."

I LOVE that oatmeal (and its tin  :rolleyes: ) - that's one of my favourites, too!

my oatmeal too, once tried you will never return to the quick stuff

So, uh...three guesses what I cooked for breakfast this morning.  And its a good thing I had lots of time, because I wasn't yet aware of this magical make-it-the-night-before technique.  Oh well, learning new things is fun! :raz:

Breakfast:  apart from the occasional weekend morning where I make omelets, pancakes or McCann's Irish oatmeal (yes - I love it too and there is no other like it) my breakfasts are uniform and simple.

Thank you so much for the wonderful oatmeal tip.  We reserve that version for weekends only and use the quick cooking during the week.  Can't wait to the overnight method!

Who knew there were so many oatmeal lovers out there? :wub: And that's only including those who have come out of the woodwork so far!



Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Melissa, I used your method of overnight oatmeal for my breakfast this morning. (Note how I'm training myself to attribute the method to you and not Martha.)

I'll have to perfect the amount of water used, as my end product was a little thinner than what I prefer. I like porridge that you can slice! :wub:

In honour of you, my bowl this morning was topped with yogurt and maple syrup. I usually just eat it plain but have been known to put salsa or soy sauce on my porridge, depending on my mood. Who knew that dairy and a sugar product goes so well with it? :laugh::laugh:

Oh, forgot to add that I also buy the TJ's oatmeal to fill my McCann's tin. I just do it because I'm cheap though.

Edited by Jensen (log)
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That is one cute little grater! May I ask where you got it and for how much?


Not sure where Owen bought his but you can find one here ... they are cheap and have multiple uses....

Loving this blog btw... you both have a real knack for evoking a sense of place.


Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was. --Unknown

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It's been one of those mornings where I should have started oatmeal last night.

I was up fairly late, finishing knitting the cabled band for my hat.

This morning, I rolled out of bed just as my husband announced that he was going out to deal with the hazmat disposal at the transfer station. This so discombobulated me that I showered, dressed, and stumbled downstairs without eating breakfast. I arranged myself in front of the TV, knitting in hand and instruction book in front of me, to try and graft the ends of my band together. This was at about 8:30 this morning.

The next couple of hours involved much nonverbal grumbling. When I used actual words, it came out as even worse language. Fortunately, the only ones around to hear me were Leo and Lyon, and they seemed to not understand English (in this case, Anglo-Saxon? :raz: ) this morning. They're cats. Sometimes they understand perfectly. Other times, they don't have a clue what you're saying.

I grafted the ends of my band together, only to discover that I'd managed to do the whole thing backwards. So I picked all my stitches out, painstakingly catching each loop back on a knitting needle as it was opened back up, and started again. I had problems again, and picked the stitches out again. Then I got a different book to see if a different set of pictures helped at all. They didn't, the third time through.

I started yet again. By now, both the yarn and my nerves were more than a little frazzled. I'm glad that yarn is more forgiving of do-overs than pastry crust. A couple of stitches into Attempt #4, my husband came home from the transfer station. He pulled on a pair of leather work gloves, grabbed the maul from the garage, and headed outside through the sliding door in the family room to split some firewood. He didn't close the door behind him. I kept on going. I goofed. I dropped loops while pulling my stitches out. I managed to pick them up, and got ready to start over.

I decided that whatever happened on this fifth attempt, I'd go with it. The junction's going to go in the back of the hat, so it won't be too visible. The yarn I'd been using was starting to untwist, and I was starting to splice stitches. As I turned the pages of the third knitting book to figure out where I was screwing up, I realized that my fingers were cold to the point of being stiff, so I closed the sliding door. And then I did something radical.

I'm very left-handed. My father is also very left-handed. His mother was left-handed. I knit right-handed because the whole world knits right-handed, and it's messy to follow patterns if you don't knit right-handed. Knitting right-handed has never been an issue for me, because you need to use both hands. But when I need to seam something together, I hold the needle in my left hand and sew left-handed. And that's what I'd been trying to do: graft left-handed. But my instructions are all for grafting right-handed. And because you're trying to duplicate what the yarn does, it's critical that you put the needle through each loop in the proper direction. So you can see where I might get confused, especially when I add that both my father and I are very bad with right and left, and we both have to think very hard about which way is left if we're driving and someone says "Turn left up ahead."

My radical move: I continued to hold the needle in my left hand. But I started to graft at the right end, as if I were right handed. It was awkward, but I managed it. And then I got the idea to start each stitch as if I were working from the right end, but then turn it around to look at what I was doing if I were grafting left-handed. In the end, I managed to generate my own instructions for grafting left-handed.

And this is the result:


No sense in weaving ends in till the whole hat's knitted.

And then, I realized that my stomach was growling, so I ate two bowls of cereal. That should keep me going till dinner tonight, with a bit of gametime munching in front of the TV.



Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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The ribs it produces are better than any I can buy locally in restaurants (far better than Dinosaur BBQ) and at least as good as what our local rib king John-John offers from his cart.

I haven't had Owen's ribs, but I have had the pleasure of eating John-John's. I, too, fail to be impressed by Dinosaur BBQ, and prefer to make my own. I like sauce on my ribs, and usually use =Mark's South Carolina Mustard Barbecue sauce.

This is sounding like it may turn into a smackdown at some point. :biggrin:



Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Owen (or anyone), any reason one might hit up Hot Truck instead of Louie's Lunch (Another truck mainstay on Cornell's campus)?

More about the 2 trucks: http://cornellsun.com/node/23636

Don't mean to break the flow here, but I can never let a reference to "The Truck" (as it was known back in the day when its formal title was Johnny's Pizza Truck) pass.

I was there 1966-1970. Back then The Truck was more Italian oriented, while Louie's offered your basic burgers & dogs. The Truck was considered superior, though Louie's got a lot of our business as upperclassers a/c location. Louie's seems to have expanded its offerings considerably since I was there.

The Sun is a bit misleading in these sentences: "The original menu was much more conventional than the one that graces the side of the truck today. Instead of “PMP,” the menu read “Hamburger” and “Hotdog.”" That may have been true of the actual original menu from 1960, but by 1966 PMPs, MBCs & Hohos were favorite featured items. (The WTF - term & sandwich - certainly hadn't been invented then.)

Thanks to Owen for those photos. I'm wondering if the Fall Creek House, another favorite destination, is still around.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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