Jul 17, 2015


This July marked five years that I have been married to my best friend and partner in crime – especially when our transgression is drinking fine wine and eating good food. That's why we found ourselves planning a last minute road trip to nearby Geneva and Seneca Lake for a quick getaway.

After consulting a reliable source on all things wine, who happened to also steer us onto the right road towards a delicious meal, we booked a room for the night at the Ramada on the North end of the lake and packed our overnight bags.

In my mind, we would be relaxing on various wineries' terraces overlooking rumbling hills elevated around the water. In reality, it was drizzling and at times pouring rain. But we weren't about to let the wetness hold us back.

Did I mention we had less than 20 hours to check everything off our wishlist? That said, they're places I still want to visit – we did not complete the culinary/winery tour by any means. We did stop at places with a lasting impact, however.

First stop: Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard

Aesthetically breathtaking, the storefront and tasting room adjacent to the production site are the perfect mix of elegance and rustic – an ambiance that evokes effortless yet deliberate planning. Barrels from France line the walls and are used as pedestals beneath farm-style tables.

A friendly face greeted us as we arrived and guided us to one of the high-tops in their vast tasting room filled with mixed aromas of fresh construction lumber and aged oak. The trained staff possessed a plethora of wine knowledge and led us in the right direction with their seasonal and Rieslings flights. My palate is not trained to eloquently relay the tasting notes, but I will say however, the sparkling wine and semi-dry Riesling was impressive enough to stop in the store on our way out to purchase – a magnum of Riesling nonetheless!

Second stop: Stonecat Café

Crepe [back] | Gravlox [front]
We had some time before our dinner reservation so we stopped at the highly acclaimed casual eatery. Procuring mostly organic products and using locally sourced ingredients is not only a testament to the quality of their offerings but to the commitment of supporting nearby farmers. Not to mention, it's more wholesome and I personally feel good when I consume food made with such integrity.

Their menu is a playful mix of seasonal, continental dishes from which we chose just a couple of appetizers to keep our appetites at bay before "the big dinner". There were many other plates I was eager to try and look forward to a repeat visit in the near future.

Our picks: toasted corn and scallion crêpe and whiskey-cured gravlox.

A very warm crêpe, perfectly thin, was rolled around a combination of summer corn, caramel-y aged gouda, ricotta and scallions. Roasted pepper cream sauced the plate for contrast, while lightly dressed organic greens gave a healthful bite.

Wild sockeye salmon was cured with McKenzie Rye whiskey and spices. It was served with herbed cream cheese, red onions, bourbon pickles, capers, and fresh baked bread – all of which played so well together. One forkful at a time I dreamed of recreating this for a brunch.

Perhaps channeling said brunch I opted for their Smoked Tomato Bloody Mary. New Amsterdam vodka, tomato juice that was house-smoked, classic bloody seasoning, pickled green beans and a green olive sat over rocks and was quickly consumed.

Third stop: Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine

We made it, believe it or not, bellies rumbling. Suzanne's in the quintessential special occasion destination. Our printed menu was customized with our name and the timed service was on par with any high-end restaurant. The progressive tasting dinner was seasonally-driven and approachable. I would absolutely visit again out of pure curiosity as to how they consistently connect our regions bounty with creative, culinary expertise.

Here's what we had:

House-made rigatoni with micro basil, green bean, tomato, zucchini and pine nuts.
This was the ultimate summer-bite and an ideal start to the meal.
As an a la carte option, the cheeses varied from a creamy, buttery camembert to a semi-soft bleu.
The house-made fig jam was a tart pairing that played beautifully with the camembert.
A dim sum spoonful of mixed nuts evoked the most pleasant notes of rosemary.
Peekytoe Crab, Pea Shoots, Red Pepper and Brioche Croutons
The high: A pronounced sweetness from the peas and crab was countered by the croutons – the prime element of salt – also adding a welcome crunch.
The low: As you can see from the color, it was not as appetizing to look at as one might hope.
It's possible the peas were cooked a bit too long and ended up oxidizing. 
Beets, Radish, Walnut, Bleu, Sherry
The highs: A wonderful change of pace to the typical goat cheese pairing, the crumbles of creamy, sharp bleu classically balanced the sweetness of the candied walnuts.
The lows: The beets lacked notable flavor marking missed opportunities here to elevate this root vegetable's earthy qualities.
Mascarpone, Carrot, Ginger, Pea Shoots, Lemon
Encased in a paper-thin crepe, lumps of the lobster blended with creamy mascarpone and minced chives effortlessly.
A carrot emulsion amplified the crustacean's natural sweetness and a dusting of carrot powder furthered its elegance.
Me, after polishing off the ROASTED CHICKEN
Parmesan Pudding, Spring Onion, Sugar Snap Peas, Pancetta, Riesling
(I wish I had a photo of this dish. I guess I was too excited to dig in and forgot to take a snap!)
The highs: The chicken's skin was crisp and well seasoned, along with the meat itself that was impressively juicy.
The cheesy pudding was intensely nutty in the best way and melded quite well with the poultry.
The low: The peas were still bright green and crunchy to the bite, but contained the fibrous string attached lengthwise that should have been removed prior to cooking and took away from the pod's full potential.

Cherry, Cinnamon, Cream, Almond
The highs: I always forget how much love cinnamon ice cream and their version was very lovable. The warm spice lends just the right distinction within the rich frozen custard. Glazed tart cherries spoke to the season with every plump bite.
The low: We were a bit disappointed in the "chocolate" element. On the one hand, the brownie was very rich and garnered both fudgey and cakey attributes, but we expected a more uncommon pastry for the dessert course.
Lemon Pot de Creme, Cream, Ginger Shortbread
Just when you think you don't have any more room to fit in another bite, this appears on the table in front of you.
This tiny, bite-sized dessert was a complimentary final treat of the evening.
I would have eaten 10 of these if given the opportunity.


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