Sunday, July 20, 2008

Goodbye Rochester!

Ed. note: This post originally appeared in my 2008 food blog Fork It Over on the website of the Rochester Insider magazine, which is now Metromix Rochester. Since the old blog is no longer available online, I'm re-posting some of those posts here and backdating them to their original posting dates. Although in most cases they are specific to Rochester, hopefully you'll still find them somewhat interesting!  ~Rachel, 6/28/10

How would you spend your last two weeks in Rochester? (Well, aside from packing.) What favorite restaurants would you visit one last time? What new places would you go to even though you won't get a chance to go back again? What aspects of Rochester would you miss the most?

The time has come for me to move on, a little reluctantly. I've been here since 2003, first as a student at UR, and then as a lab assistant at Strong. I can sort of quantify how my love for Rochester has grown by looking at how I've answered the question "Where are you from?" over the last few years, when asked by people outside of Rochester. (When someone asks you the question on campus, you automatically default to hometown, so I'm just talking about people I've met on airplanes or in other cities and countries.) During freshman and sophomore year, the answer was always "Boston," and then I might add on the detail that I went to school in Rochester. Somewhere around junior year, I started to say "I live in Rochester now, but I'm originally from Boston." Towards the end of senior year, I'd specify that I'd been living in Rochester for about four years, but I was originally from Boston, and then I'd always add on "...I'm probably moving away for grad school, but I might move back to Rochester someday. I really like it there." And over the last year, until my move back to Boston became finalized, I found myself answering simply "Rochester" and leaving Boston out all together.

The summer before I began at UR, my only impression of Rochester was that it was snowy and crime-filled. "Well, at least the campus is nice," I thought. I was completely isolated on campus during my freshman year, hardly realizing that anything existed outside of Mt. Hope, Elmwood, and Wilson Boulevard. Fortunately, I met Ben at the beginning of my sophomore year. Ben had a car and a real passion for Rochester, so our first few dates consisted of tours around the city and surrounding areas. Throughout the next few years, we spent a lot of time exploring Rochester together. My parents liked to joke that I was majoring in Ben, but I was actually majoring in Rochester. (Sorry, UR Neuroscience department. I cared about you, but sometimes I guess I cared more about exploring my new home.) Using resources like RocWiki and friends who were knowledgeable about the area, we really started to feel like Rochester was our home. Ben is a non-native as well, originally coming from NYC, so a lot of people that we talked to were confused about why we liked Rochester so much, coming from bigger cities. (Disclaimer: I didn't actually grow up in Boston, just in a suburb about twenty-five miles south, but it's easier to say "Boston" when you're talking to people not from Massachusetts.) I love that so much art, music, theater, and food is packed into a small, manageable city. I love that I can run into people I know in bars downtown. And I love how within fifteen minutes, you can drive through a city, suburbs, and rural areas. In less than an hour, you're in wine country. In less than two hours, you can get to Buffalo, Syracuse, or Niagara Falls. Not only are there great things to do right in Rochester, but other nice areas are just a short drive away. Rochester has an unbelievable amount of variety in such a small space, and if you are willing to put in a little bit of effort, you'll never be bored. Winter can be tricky, but there is always plenty to do; you just need to look for it. In a city like Boston or New York, you don't have to try as hard. But because you need to work a little harder to have a relationship with Rochester, that relationship means a little bit more.

I've grown comfortable here, and as moving day looms in the near future, I'm feeling nervous about starting a new life in Boston. I'll be studying science journalism at Boston University, and Ben, who has decided to follow me to Boston, will be working at a web design firm in nearby Cambridge. It's silly, but it's the little things that I'll miss the most, like shopping trips to Wegmans and midnight snacks at Tim Horton's. (Well, Wegmans is actually finally moving into Massachusetts, just fifteen minutes from my hometown, but I'm sure it won't be ready for awhile.) (Ed. note: Still waiting... ~Rachel, 6/28/10) I'm going to miss French onion soup at The Distillery, pomegranate mojitos at Tapas 177, penne vodka at Pane Vino, and mojito criollo chicken from Dinosaur BBQ. Most of all, I'm going to miss the amazing view from my apartment building rooftop deck.

Frontier Field

So how would you spend your last two weeks?

I've been going about my routine as usual, without fully realizing that moving day is creeping closer and closer. All of a sudden, I'll be packing up the U-Haul, and I'll realize that I wish I had gone to a particular restaurant one more time, or attended one more ZooBrew, or walked through Highland Park again.

This will probably be my last post for a few weeks since my apartment isn't packing itself, and any time spent not packing should be spent enjoying Rochester. Next time you hear from me, I'll probably be writing about Restaurant Week Boston. (Go drool over the website if you have some time.) Yes, I will continue to write from my new home in Boston. I hope you don't mind that I won't be local anymore.

So, goodbye Rochester! It's been fun, and I do hope to move back here someday. I really like it here.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Birthday Weekend in the Finger Lakes

Ed. note: This post originally appeared in my 2008 food blog Fork It Over on the website of the Rochester Insider magazine, which is now Metromix Rochester. Since the old blog is no longer available online, I'm re-posting some of those posts here and backdating them to their original posting dates. Although in most cases they are specific to Rochester, hopefully you'll still find them somewhat interesting!  ~Rachel, 6/28/10

Sorry for the long absence! I've been on mini-vacations for the last three weekends and hard at work packing up my apartment between trips. I'm moving in two weeks, but more on that later. My first trip was a fun-filled (and wine-filled) birthday weekend in the Finger Lakes. I went on a wine tour around Seneca Lake on Saturday and then hiked around Watkins Glen State Park and explored Corning on Sunday. The next weekend, I camped out in a friend's yard along Conesus Lake, watched the annual Ring of Fire celebration on July 3rd, and went out on the lake in his boat the next day. That night, I came back to Rochester to watch the downtown fireworks from my apartment building's roof. This past weekend, I took a road trip to Quebec City and stopped in Montreal on the way home. I had some pretty great food on all the trips (especially Quebec but today I'm going to focus on the Finger Lakes weekend since that's a bit more local than Quebec.

We drove to Geneva on Friday night to check in at the hotel and then headed over to nearby Waterloo to eat at Mac's Drive-In, one of a dying breed of restaurants that have car hop service. There's seating inside as well if you'd rather not spill soda and ketchup on your car seats. As you can see on the menu, they offer typical diner food at very cheap prices. The food is tasty, and it's kind of fun to eat in your car once in awhile! It was also pretty amusing to see the waitresses try to figure out which car was just honking at them. You'd think someone would have come up with a better system since the 1950s. If you're ever near Waterloo, you should definitely check this place out. Warning: cash only; not open year-round.

We started Saturday morning off with some room service (which I've always found to be pretty overrated, but we had to be ready early for the wine tour, so it was the fastest choice). Ben got a delicious-looking Belgian waffle:
Belgian Waffle with Strawberries

And I opted for a heart-healthy (haha) combo of sausage, eggs, toast, and homefries.
Sausage, Eggs, Toast, Homefries

Hey, we had a long day of wine-drinking ahead of us. I needed to prepare my body for the onslaught of alcohol. (Let's just say I usually get pretty tipsy halfway into my first glass of wine.)

After breakfast, we took a trolley tour to five different wineries along Seneca Lake: Wagner in Lodi, Standing Stone in Hector, and Torrey Ridge, Anthony Road, and Fox Run, all in Penn Yan.

In addition to tasting wines, we got to take a tour of Wagner and then had some lunch at their Ginny Lee cafe. Down in the cellar, we saw countless barrels of wine:

Torrey Ridge was sampling their new "Redneck" wines, fun summery wines that, according to the description on the winelist, "will bring out the redneck in you!"
Torrey Ridge Winery

Anthony Road had a beautiful garden in the back where we roamed around after tasting wines. There were even a few rows of grape vines to look at.
Anthony Road Wine Company

Fox Run had a very nice tasting bar; it was a great way to end the day. After finishing up tasting wines, I bought some chocolate and relaxed on the patio until it was time to leave.
Eat Chocolate.

Eat chocolate? Sure, why not...
Wine Chocolates

The chocolates were shaped like grapes and wine barrels, and they had wine in the middle. Yes, they were delicious. Yes, you can order online. I think. But the site looks a little outdated, and I can't figure out if there's a way to specify which flavor you want (there are many!) so order at your own risk, or just look for them at Fox Run :)

I also purchased an absolutely delicious mojito-flavored java rub at one of the wineries. Ben used it on some chicken on July 4th, and everyone loved it!
Chicken with Mojito Java Rub

After the wine tour, we relaxed for a few hours and then headed out to Max at the Lake in Canandaigua for dinner. We've gone to Max at Eastman Place and Max Chophouse for various special occasions, so it was nice to finally get a chance to check out the third location. I had a tasty scallop appetizer, and my filet mignon was cooked perfectly. We sat out on the patio, which featured a beautiful view of Canandaigua Lake, and we were also entertained by a wedding party that was taking place in a nearby tent. After an annoying set of country music, the DJ mysteriously switched to "Baby Got Back" and other 90s "classics." It was an amusing evening to say the least. If you like the other Max restaurants but have not yet been to Max at the Lake, try to check it out while summer is still here. The dining room looked nice enough, but our meal on the patio was very enjoyable.

The next day, we hiked along the gorge trail at Watkins Glen State Park. It's a pretty low intensity hike, except for the 800 stone stairs throughout the trail. There are lots of beautiful waterfalls and rock formations to see along the trail.
Watkins Glen State Park

And here I am, somewhere in the middle of the trail, most likely before the majority of the 800 steps since I'm not bright red and sweaty yet:
Watkins Glen State Park

After the hike, we drove to Corning and looked through the Rockwell Museum of Western Art, which had some Ansel Adams photography on exhibit. We ended the weekend with dinner at the Market Street Brewing Company. I tried their blackberry lager, which did in fact taste strongly of blackberries, and for the meal, I had a pasta special. Ben asked them to put a birthday candle on my dessert, but they were out of candles, so he was nice enough to bake me birthday cupcakes later in the week :)
Birthday Cupcakes!

Overall, it was a fun birthday weekend, and I'm glad I got to spend some quality time in the Finger Lakes before my impending move away from the area. But more about the move in my next post!

Have you ever done a wine tour? Got any embarrassing stories to share? Feel free to leave a comment :)
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