Lately I've been walking and biking around Syracuse exclaiming--"What a great place to live!" While it can be too easy to be the jaded and cynical Central New Yorker who complains laments that there is nothing new under the sun here there is a lot that is quite exciting. So here's a little 'Cuse love (and no, I'm not collecting a paycheck from the Convention and Visitor's Bureau).
1. In the last few months 12 restaurants have opened up in downtown Syracuse. Not across the city--just in downtown alone! I ducked into a couple of them today and can't wait to get back for a proper meal. I'll post first impressions as I do. These tiny, and not so tiny, eateries span the gamut from diner to Lebanese to real Brooklyn-style Pizza (with 1970s era pinball machine to match).
Darwin on Clinton is an off-shoot of Riley's (the neighborhood restaurant every neighborhood wants to have). David and Daryl have put together an extensive sandwich menu that will change often. They're open from 9am -2:30 pm Mon-Fri--and later on Fridays when do their Fish Fry Frydays). I'm looking at those cafe tables on a nice day like today and thinking "this is THE spot!"
It is easy to forget how large an area the Mediterranean really is. For Byblos, it is centered on Lebanon so their menu not includes baklava and spanakopita but Labneh, a delicious Lebanese cheese dip made from yogurt. They also brew up Turkish coffee.
2. The Downtown Farmer's Market is now at Clinton Square. On a day like today, with bright sun and a nice breeze, Clinton Square seems like the best place to be for Tuesday market shopping. Actually, the market was a Clinton Square a couple of decades ago so this is a bit of a homecoming. Today I picked up some early season, local, strawberries and was delighted to discover that Second Story Cafe will be at the market this year. They are serving up delicious iced Gimme! coffee (and selling bags of Gimme's latest roasts), cookies, fresh, cool, salads, and Ciao Bella gelato sandwiches (ice cream sandwiches for grown-ups).
3. Cycling. I went out with a friend yesterday and biked from downtown, to the Westcott Nation to the Jamesville quarry and then back home to downtown and it was glorious! That I could be out in what at times felt like the middle of nowhere with incredible views of hills and valleys and then down in the Monday morning rush hour of commuting traffic downtown in the space of 30 minutes just stuns me.
4. There are places where people know your name. I walked into Sakana-Ya (downtown) for lunch yesterday and was greeted like a long-lost friend by Yurah--it was like coming home. She said it had been a long time since I'd been in and she was right--a month is WAY too long to go without their delicious sushi--never again! And the new Korean fusion place next door, Namu, is owned by the same family.
5. As a rule, I'm picky about my sausages and hot dogs. But there was one at the Taste of Syracuse that I absolutely had to try--it was Lieh's and Steigerwald's chicken wing sausage. Because you know, one has to wonder how they get the wing in there. But OMG--what this is is the best of a buffalo wing with the blue cheese dipping sauce folded right in. It sounds crazy and it totally works. You all have probably been eating these for years so I'm a little late. I must get a pack of them right away!
6. The Saturday CNY Regional Market. I know--I haven't always shown the love for this market but though it can still be tricky to navigate, there is a lot of wonderful stuff there. Like Keeley's farmstead cheese. I let a slice of this Brida melt on top of a burger that rested on a toasted English muffin slathered with caramelized onion fig jam--incredible!
7. This is a community that rallies when help is needed. I recently received a Facebook message that the grant program that puts fresh food into one of our local public schools was being threatened because the school didn't meet the new criteria for poverty. What? Farmer and school teacher Megan Luton is trying to do something about it. Become a friend of Stones Throw Farm on Facebook and find out how you can help.
9. Onondaga Lake. Yes it still has a long way to go to get cleaned up but how lucky are we to have such a beautiful body of water in the midst of our city? I've been spending Saturday mornings cycling around the lake and have even gotten out there on a Sunday at 7am to "Listen to the Lake" as a form of meditation and healing for this precious resource. As I watch what is going on with the gulf oil spill, I'm especially thankful to those who have been working tirelessly to correct the environmental wrongs we have done to Lake Onondaga. And if you watch and listen carefully you'll see there is reason to be hopeful.
10. The Syracuse Real Food Co-op is really moving! Have you seen the preliminary store drawings? I know they'll change but my it is exciting. Go Co-op!