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Foodie Picks in Upstate New York's Finger Lakes

This list of picks is based on a week's tasting expedition across upstate New York's Finger Lakes region, however bear in mind that the area we covered only includes Ithaca, Owego, Hammondsport, Watkins Glen, Trumansburg, and Corning New York. Let's start with my two top picks from a pure foodie perspective: Coltivare in Ithaca and Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg.
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This list of picks is based on a week's tasting expedition across upstate New York's Finger Lakes region, however bear in mind that the area we covered only includes Ithaca, Owego, Hammondsport, Watkins Glen, Trumansburg, and Corning New York. Let's start with my two top picks from a pure foodie perspective: Coltivare in Ithaca and Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg.

Coltivare Restaurant

Located in the heart of Ithaca, this farm-to-fork New American restaurant offers fresh and creative dishes as well as local wines and beers in what can be best described as rustic-chic surroundings. Coltivare's seasonal restaurant menu features fresh ingredients from the nearby TC3 Farm and other local sources combined with global flavors for a true "Farm-to-Bistro" experience.
While they offer a traditional Curried Lamb Shepherd's Pie, a nice selection of pizza options and are known for making a delicious elk burger, we went straight for the meat and seafood mains given our low carb preferences.
A few great protein options include a Finger Lakes Chicken, which are chicken breasts‏ stuffed with apples and brie, Elk Burgers, Faroe Island Salmon with citrus-sauce, local multi-grain tabbouleh with thunder mountain micro greens which we tried, and a Porterhouse Pork Chop with Bourbon-maple glaze, sautéed local blueberries and mashed sweet potatoes.
This overly decadent soup was our favorite of the bunch -- how can you say no to a concoction made from garlic scape with cream, Parmesan cheese and roasted tomato aioli?

Look at this decadent and to-die for presentation of this beef carpaccio with fried onions.

Appetizers include Buffalo Style Finger Lakes Confit Chicken Leg, a Chilled berry soup with unsweetened whipped NY cream and fresh mint, garlic bread, fresh organic green salads, house smoked salmon with cucumbers, créme fraiche and wheatberry toast, to name a few.
The TC3 Farm is located adjacent to the College's Dryden campus and supplies fresh produce to Coltivare. The restaurant has a program to teach local students from Tompkins Community College culinary arts, which not only includes best practices, but how to cultivate the land using sustainable farming practices.
They even do decadently sweet incredibly well -- go for the massive dark chocolate cake with a berry sauce and ask for a few spoons!!
Address: 235 S Cayuga Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
The Hazelnut Kitchen
This unique seasonal find can be found on a main drag in small town Trumansburg, which is a mere 3o minute drive or less from Ithaca. They serve seasonal dishes and desserts crafted from local ingredients in a low-key setting with an open kitchen.

A few call outs include the chilled green tomato bisque with peeky toe crab salad, olive oil and a parmesan crisp, a grilled corn and tomato panzanella focaccia with crushed almonds, shaved red onions, spicy peppers, ricotta, arugula and a basil vinaigrette, a nectarine salad with local greens, candied walnuts, snap peas, lime ginger vinaigrette and whipped chevre, and a house made charcuterie and cheese board with fruit mostarda and wild flower honey canestri.

To start, the to-die-for chilled green tomato bisque had us at hello. For the healthier minded, go for nectarine salad starter, which is made with local greens, snap peas, candied walnuts, whipped chevre and a lime ginger vinaigrette with a white miso paste (below). For mains, try the slow roasted pork shoulder with yellow corn polenta, succotash and stone fruit relish or the pan seared cod, which is prepared with oven roasted tomatoes, sliced heirloom tomatoes, radish cucumber salad and toasted almonds.

Inside, the atmosphere is intimate, warm and inviting. When you book a table, ask to sit by the window if available so you can watch passerbys while you have dinner.

Seafood options are a little lighter but there are plenty of carbs thrown into most of their dishes. We paired our meal with a Gewurztraminer from Hector New York (this wine tends to be a little sweet with roses, apricots, black pepper and spices) and the Dry Riesling from Ravines Wine Cellars out of Geneva New York.

If you're not a wine lover, go for one of their hand crafted cocktails, such as the Blueberry Mojito made with Omney's Run, mint, simple syrup and sparkling water, the Peachy cocktail made with Myer Farm bourbon, lemon juice, basil and peach simple syrup, or the Red Snapper, which they make with Myer Farm vodka, tomato jus, salt, pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire. Yum!!

While we don't always go for dessert, we had to give their homemade delights a try -- after all, mixing herbs with dairy, berries and nuts together all on one plate is hard to say no to...

Address: 53 E Main Street, Trumansburg, NY 14886

Boatyard Grill

We love this place for it's location -- if you're passing through Ithaca during any of the warmer months, be sure to sit outside and take in the waterfront views. They offer an American menu with Asian touches in a scenic lakeside setting and live bands which will entertain you on an outdoor deck.
The food is varied as well, from seared ahi tuna with a wasabi cucumber cream, salads, sandwiches and steaks to a decadent lobster flatbread, coconut shrimp with sweet chili-lime glaze and cilantro and yummy Buffalo chicken eggrolls with mozzarella and provolone. If you don't care about those calories, go for the Spinach & Artichoke Fondue.

There are their wide range of steak specials from Ribeye, New York Strip with shoestring fries, the Maker's Mark Sirloin with Bourbon sauce and mashed potatoes, and a Boatyard Rotisseries Prime Rib with potatoes and veggies.

Address
: 525 Old Taughannock Boulevard, Ithaca, NY 14850

Snug Harbor Restaurant on Keuka Lake

We likely would have missed this gem on the wine trail if it hadn't been for local help and recommendations. We dined here for lunch, not dinner although we ordered a salmon dish from the dinner menu since they offered it -- everything was absolutely divine!
It's one of those spots where you must sit outside on the patio during the warmer months so you can catch the great ambiance of the harbor.
The place has quite a history and dates back to the 1890's. You can really feel the history as you walk through its doors, and its evident from both the inside and out.

Traditional appetizers include potato croquettes made with spinach, cheese and tomato ragout, Gambas Al Ajillo aka Tiger shrimp sauteed with garlic, chilies, herbs, and Spanish spices, Argentinian Meatballs which they serve with various dipping oils, Crispy risotto balls filled with smoked parmesan and Seitan Wings tossed in honey chili-garlic sauce to name a few.

They also offer burgers, salads (go for the Goat Cheese and Beet salad with crumbled chevre and toasted pecans), salmon, and a classic Croque Monsieur drizzled with brandy bechamel. Or, for the even more decadent among you, how about the Panini with prosciutto, fig jam, caramelized onions and chevre?

Fun and more casual are their Pork, Fish and Tofu tacos or their Chicken and Waffles dish -- they use Bacon crusted chicken and lemon-thyme waffles and serve them with a smoked maple cream. Delicious cake for dessert anyone?

Does it get much better than this on a lazy late summer afternoon?

Address: 9068A Snug Harbor Drive, Hammondsport, NY 14840

Graft Wine & Cider Bar

GRAFT wine + cider bar is the area's only wine and cider bar, and they also are a market, exclusively serving and selling a variety of New York State hand-crafted wines and hard ciders. In the spirit of embracing all-things-local, premium Finger Lakes producers are highlighted on a rotating, seasonally focused bar and kitchen menu.
They offer creative, simple, seasonal small-bites, snacks, salads, sandwiches and desserts, all prepared and driven by local chef, Christina McKeough. Christina, and her husband Jonah. The space is fun, but simple -- we went for a charcuterie and cheese platter to start and ordered a number of local wine pairings to complement it and other minimalistic dishes on the menu. Summer whites we sampled from the region included an Adwater Sweet Riesling, an Atwater Pinot Gris and Vidal Blanc, a Vidal Blanc from Glen Haven and a Pinot Grigio from Damiani.
A few samplers worth mentioning include warm marcona almonds with Seneca Lake salt, tahini baba ganoush with warm flatbread, spicy tomato gazpacho with roasted poblano yogurt (pictured below -- super spicy btw), farm field greens with red cabbage, tahini-almond dressing and toasted seeds (pictured below), house-made ricota gnocchi with brown butter, roasted beets, basil pesto and parmigiano reggiano (pictured below), chopped kale cobb sald with poached chicken, bacon vinaigrette blue cheese, avocado, tomatoes, string beans and a farmhouse egg (pictured below) and roasted pork with miso mayonnaise with fresh cilantro, julienne summer veggies and radish kimchi.
Our favorite appetizer to share dish was the cheese plate....
Their coconut milk panna cotta with red wine and balsamic berry compote (below).
Address: 204 North Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Owego Park Restaurant

This historic bar and hotel in Owego offers a wide range of pub and restaurant offerings and the history of the ParkView is apparently rich with ghostly tales from residents and famous visitors.

We didn't have time to make it on this particular trip but locals speak highly of it, so we wanted to included it on the list. From Macaroni and Cheese dinners and seafood cheesy scallops and shrimp to crab to chili, peas and ham, buffalo chicken, homemade meatloaf, hot roast beef and ham, bangers and mash, Owego Park has a variety to offer.

For the more traditionally minded, they offer pork loin chops with veggies and potatoes, sirloin steak, salmon and blackened Tilapia, crab cakes, shrimp scampi, chicken marsala, almond crusted chicken and chicken florentine.

Address: 145 Front Street, Owego, NY 13827

Hand & Foot

A great place for a simple lunch is the ever so healthy Hand and Foot along the main drag in Corning New York. This vintage-chic bistro serves eclectic sandwiches and other bites, plus craft beer and cocktails.

Since we were there for lunch, we opted for their healthy ice tea option and stuck to a couple of light salads. First up is their iceberg, Napa cabbage and arugula salad with mushroom oil, beluga lentils, edamame, feta, tomatoes, carrots, jicama fries with a rice vinegar glaze, and their Poke Salad, which is made with seared ahi tuna, avocado, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut, jalapeno, sesame and soy vinaigrette served with a rice cracker.

Other fun things on the menu include fried smashed plantains with garlic soil and chili-garlic aioli, Korean rice cakes, fish and chips, pork chops, a sausage platter, fried pickles and pearls, chard slaw, upland mushrooms with house chive ricotta and cured lemon and one of their main specialties which we took to go -- their House Made Pickles, with a variety of flavors to choose from -- bread and butter cucumber, garden mix, olive oil jalapeno, zydeco beans and red wine beet.

Address: 69 W Market Street, Corning, NY 14830

The Cellar

Also located in the heart of Corning New York, the city known for their stellar glass, The Cellar is known for their wine by the glass -- in fact, you can view the variety of offerings via a digital tablet at your table. The app allows you to see what's available by varietal, by taste (aka sweet, dry, earthy, floral, etc), by region and so on.
We went for the Danascara's Dulcinea, their Lively Run Aged Chevre and Cayuga Blue --- the platter came with candied walnuts, pickled fennel, apples, apricot chutney and gluten-free crackers.
We had to accompany this regional fromage plate with one of their simple house salads and a side of their Brussel and Walnut wide, which they call a "tapa." The chef oven roasts them with brown butter, lemon and balsamic glaze.
You can get a Beet Gryo which we wished we ordered with a mountain micro mix and a cucumber Tzatziki Sauce. We ordered their Coffee Cured Smoked Salmon, which they garnish with red onions, chevre and crackers. (pictured below)
The truly decadent will want to try the Fried Chicken and Waffles, which we absolutely loved in the south (our favorite was in Nashville Tennessee last year). Here, they prepare the dish with cheddar cheese over a Chive Belgian Waffle.
Those concerned about high carbs can opt for the Lamb Lollipops with Prosciutto and mint, the Poutine or house marinated olives to start.(below)
American Kobe Steak was on the menu when we dined there in August (Snake River Wagyu Beef), which they prepare with Tamari Garlic Butter, pickled peppers, Duck-fat French Fries, Duck-fat aioli and local vegetables.
Address: 21 W Market Street, Corning, NY 14830

Sahara Mediterranean Restaurant

Mediterranean food lovers, head over to the Sahara on Ithaca's Restaurant Row. Sahara has recipes which have been passed down from generation to generation, using fresh and healthy ingredients.

From Kibbeh and lentil soup to swordfish, veggie plates, Tabbouleh salad and Chicken Gyro's, they've got you covered for more casual fare -- the ambiance matches its fare, making it a great choice for a family stop over or if you want to get in and out quickly.

It's another great eatery on the main drag of Ithaca where you can people watch, especially if you sit at one of their outdoor patio tables. It's a great option for the younger readers among you.
Address: Ithaca Commons, 118 N Aurora Street, Ithaca, NY 14850

Life's So Sweet

Life's So Sweet is a must visit in downtown Ithaca for the sweet minded among you. They specialize in Hand Crafted Fair Trade Chocolates and Classic Candies and you can watch them whip together some marzipan on-site.

Try the Chai Tea Truffle or a Sea Salt Caramel -- we particularly loved the Pistachio and oh so delicious raspberries wrapped in dark chocolate.

They use real chocolate (fair trade certified cocoa), fresh cream, local honey, local berries and any other ingredients that they source in an economical and socially responsible way. In addition to decadent white, dark and milk chocolate, they make traditional candies and cupcakes as well.

Address: 116 W Green Street, Ithaca, NY 14850

On the same street in downtown Ithaca which is also known as Restaurant Row, you'll find a fresh organic eatery called Just a Taste, which does Spanish small plates and an array of wines by the glass served in a warm setting with a garden patio.

From housemade Focaccia, cold Gazpacho soup, Flatbread with Basil-Fennel Frond Pesto, Corn, Mozzarella and Romano Cheeses to Deep Fried Russet Potato Wedges with Chipotle Aioli, Summer Squash Sautéed in Brown Butter with Garlic, Pecans and Romano and Garlic Braised Greens with Tomato, Walnuts, Stilton Blue Cheese and Sherry Vinegar, there's no shortage of delicious and healthy dishes to whet your appetite.

Other dishes worth mentioning are their Mako Shark with Roast Tomatillo-Poblano Chili Salsa, Fried Corn Tortilla Threads and Cilantro, the Seared Sockeye Salmon with Greens in Roast Cherry Tomato-Caper Vinaigrette, and the Duck Leg Braised in Sake/Rice Wine Vinegar with Husk Cherries, Ginger and Cabbage!!

We had lunch at Stonecat Cafe, which is a great option when you need a good mid-day option while on the wine route -- it's smack in the middle of several great wineries, including the more well known Atwater Vineyard which we took a tour of.

They're not a newbie to the scene and in fact, 2016 marks Stonecat's 18th year of operation. Selections include the Hector Pulled Pork BBQ sandwich, a slow-smoked pork, pulled and marinated in barbecue sauce, a cornmeal crusted catfish sandwich, golden-fried catfish on a griddled sesame seed bun with Hector Pepper Mayo and greens, grass-fed burgers and house-smoked turkey on rye bread with a smoked apple-onion-maple marmalade.

There's also Mac and Cheese, a Stonecat Sausage Corndog which is made from a maple-juniper sausage, beer-battered, fried golden, and served on a stick with Hector Pepper Mayo and a side of cole slaw. Who doesn't love a well made slaw on a sunny day?

They also make a mean Foccacia and fresh salads, my favorite one being a mixed green toss with dried cherries, caramelized walnuts and roasted garlic vinaigrette.

To cleanse the palette between courses, how about some strawberry sorbet? It's also a great way to finish a meal.

Their specialty cocktails are extensive, from a Glendale Fizz with Finger Lakes Distilling Vintner's Vodka and organic grape juice, soda water and lemon to the Smoke Signal, which they make with Seneca Drums gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime juice, soda water and smoked salt. Also fun is their Stormy Seneca with Cruzan Blackstrap rum, Good Life Farm Ginger Bear ginger beer and lime.

Address: 5315 State Route 414, Hector, NY 14841

Moosewood Restaurant

This is a cozy fixture renowned for serving vegetarian and vegan entrees featuring local produce. While we did not dine here, we were told by four business owners, that this is the go-to place for vegans and vegetarians.

Moosewood is a collectively owned business with nineteen members who share responsibilities and menu options include a Mediterranean Salad with artichoke hearts, chickpeas, tomatoes, red onions, and olives, and topped with feta. From a guacamole, pico de gallo, and Mexican black bean dip served with organic corn tortilla chips to a Locavore Plate with Chaseholm Camembert, Jake's Aged Gouda, spiced honey, fresh fruit, and Finnish wholegrain bread to Fried tofu wings and Ghanaian White beans, there are some yummy healthy options.

Mate Factor Cafe

Walk along the Commons and take in some of the more casual bars and cafes, such as Mate Factor Cafe for fair practice, fresh coffee made with organic mate. Straight from Brazil, the coffee is oh so fresh and there is a variety of options to choose from as well.

They specialize in certified organic products according to the strictest standards because of their passion for the environment.

Address: 143 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850

The Owego Kitchen

The Owego Kitchen is a quirky place along the main drag of Owega (kinda). Located about a 40 minute drive from Ithaca, this healthy eatery is located in small town Owego.

Oddly enough, they have an Elvis influenced breakfast here with peanut butter and bacon on the menu but there's plenty of healthy options as well.

Some of their specialties include a Farmhouse Brewery Chili which is simmered with a local brew and topped with cheese, sour cream and green onions, salads with a variety of toppings, including cherry tomatoes, red onions, chicken tarragon, roasted portobello mushrooms and an array of delicious dressings, such as curried Balsamic Vinaigrette, Siracha 1000 Island, Buttermilk Ranch and Walnut-Pesto Vinaigrette.

They are open for breakfast as well and serve cafe free eggs. Cold sandwich options are great on a hot summer or warm fall day, and include a Gourmet Gobbler made with Turkey, Brie cheese and cranberry chutney or a Tuna Salad sandwich which they make with Jamaican relish, dill and mayonnaise, and a traditional BLT with tarragon mayo on sourdough toast.

Last note: the bathroom is exceptionally authentic and antiquated, so much so that I had to snap a quick photo before leaving.

Address: 13 Lake Street, Owego, NY 13827