Located on the shore of Lake Ontario in the western part of New York State, now with a population of over 2 million in Greater Rochester Area, there are so many ‘firsts’ here.
Rochester is considered the first Boomtown which had the largest flour mills in the States, also was a centre of manufacturing especially in men’s clothing, numerous university are dotted around the city such as the noted University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology. And most importantly, the birthplace of Kodak and Xerox. I was surprised to learn, also of Bausch & Lomb. Of course, Genesee brew masters call Rochester home. But, the head of this pyramid of achievements, read, invention, philanthropy and entrepreneurship was George Eastman. SO WHAT ABOUT FOOD AND WINE? “The next best thing to eating food, is talking about”.
My biggest surprise was discovering one eatery after another serving terrific food prepared by top chefs.
DAY 1 1:30 PM
We arrived in Rochester for a late lunch. On a block of cafes on both sides of the street in a vibrant neighbourhood is, ROUX. This French American styled bistro is owned by a Francophone with a great love of French cuisine.
Dark wood panelled, great long bar, hammered copper topped tables and dark tile ceilings, is the perfect decor. My husband and I shared our starter. . . a wonderful ramekin of tasty, smooth chicken pate followed by a crispy salad for me and croquet Madame for the monsieur. Most acceptable since we had planned a large evening meal.
Erie Grill, an airy open floor plan, in The Del Monte Lodge, Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa. And what could be nicer than having American- style meals while watching boats go by on the Erie Canal. With our friend Rachel, we decided to share the appetizers. Duck Meatballs on wild rice-goat cheese pancakes were sensational then Burrata & Heirloom Tomatoes, with spicy greens, peaches, candied pistachios black cherry vinaigrette and Spanish octopus salad served with pearl onions, fingering potatoes, frisbee endive lemon pressed olive oil. Hanger steak was the special of the evening so my choice . . . rare, of course. Rachel had the duck with peaches peppadew peppers, jasmine rice and peach duck jus. And my husband had an Angus Beef Burger, Adam’s reserve Ceddar Cheese, on Bakery cool served with wonderfully crispy French Fries. Again, we share desserts. The winner, a strawberry covered Cheesecake with oatmeal crust but the close second was a Key Lime Meringue tart with graham cracker crust and toasted coconut sauce.
With it being such a humid, hot night, the drink we opted for a South African, Cabernet Rose. Perfection!
DAY 2 Early morning Rochester’s Public Market starts very early and so do the crowds. On Saturdays it’s elbow to elbow and huge shopping bags. There are over 300 vendors. Offerings go from specialty items to ethnic delicacies. All seem to be avid chefs. Cafes, food stands, breweries, coffee shops surround the market. For food lovers, it’s a not to miss experience.
11:30-1PM I’ve taken cooking classes around the world. However, I have never had a class where they have paired wines with the for created. Lunch & Learn at the New York Wine and Culinary Centre in Canandaigua, about 45 minutes from Rochester, New York. Sommelier, Anne Lambert, told the class of 13 ardent students, “Don’t look at the label. Smells, see and taste on your own”.. So with a Riesling and Rose, we learned about fruity, vegetal, floral, spicy woody, earthy, carmelized and nutty and a guide to pairing food with wines. After 40 minutes, Chef Rosita Cardidi-Miller had triple Crusted Pork Medallions & braised greens served then discussed the preparations. Lunch and Learn was special as were her suggestions on searing on a blazing hot pan and using canola oil at a low smoking point.
Okay, I’m being boastful, but I have dined at some of the great restaurants featuring five star chefs. California’s, The French Laundry, the now long gone, star rated, Switzerland’s, Freddy Girardet’s, also not present, any longer, UK’s, Fat Duck plus a few more, I can now add, Max’s at Eastman Place, Rochester.
This was certainly the most unexpected meal. Chef Gullace early in life, recognized impeccable ingredients on his family’s farm and had his grandfather’s passion for producing food in its purest form. His creativity is so very sophisticated and he is a great believer in farm to table (before it became the movement du jour.) He obviously imbued this knowledge and spirit in his, executive chef, Jill Doebler. We swooned over the amuse bouche, deep fried Arancini. My appitezer, chicken liver mouse, peach compote and crostini, as good as it sounds. My husband’s smile said it all. My husband’s choice was prime sirloin beef tartare, onion jam, egg, caper aioli, a great success. My entree was pan seared, pink, not rare breast of duck, toasted almond and herb orzo salad, haricot vert and peach-amaretto gastrique. His choice was, Max’s house special, bolognese, veal osso bucco, with house red sauce and mezzo rigatoni. Superlatives for all. We teamed this with a dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes, very nice pairing. DAY THREE . . .
IN LETCHWORTH STATE PARK 12 NOON. It is a bit far, about 1 1/2 hours from Rochester, but the sights don’t disappoint. After driving around the great forests on well paved roads, seeing and hearing the Genesee River which roars over three waterfalls and viewing cliffs that are 600 feet high, it’s a must to relax, discuss and eat at Glen Iris Inn, in the Letchworth State Park.
This seasonal hotel offers an American menu and also picnic meals. The menu is all-American and good. I’d call this day a ‘two for”. You get to see a former huge country estate and also a hotel that isn’t glass, shiny and built yesterday. Glen Iris dates back to 1914.