Beautiful grapes!

20110823-093400.jpgWhat is so alluring, elegant and beautiful about grapes? Is it their appearance on undulating hillsides? Is it the promise of wonderful wine to come? It is their association with romantic locales like Italy, France, California and … Lodi?

All I know is that the grapes are looking gorgeous on the vines at this time of year–plump, rich in colour and full of promise.

I devoured the current special edition of Edible Finger Lakes all about wine a few weeks ago and loved the insight into grape-growing, wine-making and the incredible history of these traditions in our area. Pick it up while it’s still in stock.

Speaking of wine and grapes, welcome the new kids on the block, literally, Eremita Winery–our neighbours in Lodi! They’ve been hard at work over the last many months renovating the old church next to my family home on Main Street in Lodi and finally today they are officially open for business! I’ll be stopping in for a tasting next weekend for sure.

Advertisements

Last Day at the Cottage

20110807-114342.jpgAll good things must come to an end and alas, today is the last day of my summer vacation here in Lodi.

It’s been a funny summer weather-wise with weeks of drought followed by some grey rainy days with a wicked heat wave thrown in for good measure. Enough perfect hot, hazy lake days to make my summer just right, however.

Another funny thing about this summer is the fact that we never did get our vegetable garden in. We weren’t in Lodi for the May long weekend and kind of lost our chance to get the plants in at the right time. Instead we concentrated on filling in the perennial garden which is looking better than ever. Lillies and coreopsis will not make for good canning, however so unless we pick up veg at the market we’ll have no fall canning projects.

Though I’m sad to leave today I can rejoice in the fact that I’ll be back in 2 short weeks, then again a few weeks later and a few weeks after that. More Lodi in my future–yay!

Salt potatoes!

We in eastern Ontario are used to poutine being our favourite regional potato dish, but down here in the Finger Lakes there’s a tradition in potatoes that gives poutine a run for it’s
money in taste, calories and sodium content.

What could be simpler and more delicious that taking adorable new potatoes and boiling them in water with a crapload of salt in it? Nothing, I tell you, and it’s one of the surest signs of summer too.

It’s apparently a product of local salt miners getting creative/resourceful around the lunch hour. For a great article with more factual accuracies than you’re likely to get on this blog check out the latest issue of Edible Finger Lakes.

Many folks around here grew up eating this delicacy and in the last 2 weeks I’ve been here I can attest to their pervasiveness. I think I’ve had them at least 4 times, including an incredibly butter-drenched serving at the Lodi Library Fundraising chicken BBQ. My arteries are not pleased with me at all.

And folks, here’s a wee tip: it IS possible to have too much of a good thing (trust me. “put in a ton of salt and then just when you think you’ve put in too much, keep going” were the words that led to inedibly salty potatoes. So tragic; so, so salty).

Here’s the ratio discovered by making careful notes from consuming the last bag of salt potatoes: 5 pounds potatoes, boiled in 4 quarts of water with 1 cup of salt for 20 minutes.

Yum.

Local Food and Farmers’ Markets




Tomatillos

Originally uploaded by j-co

Lodi could be considered a hub of the local food movement, only because there’s always been a local food movement in this area. It’s just never been cool before.

Of course I’m exaggerating: Lodi’s not really a hub of too much, to be honest, but there’s no exaggerating the vibrancy of local produce growers and farmers’ markets in the Finger Lakes.

There’s a lot of agriculture around Lodi, but the large industrial crops are almost exclusively soybeans and feed corn. In recent years small farms offering CSAs have boomed, and more farmers markets have developed offering people the chance to feel closer to the food they eat and who produces it.

Throughout my childhood during the summers in Lodi you could count on the farm stands that dot the country roads and highways providing much of your summer meals. With delicious sweet corn that explodes in your mouth to perfectly ripe peaches whose juice drips down your chin to the ubiquitous zucchini, there has never been a shortage of great local produce. It’s always one of the best things about being in Lodi in the summer.

The Ithaca Farmers Market has been around for years and never disappoints with the great variety of produce as well as the diverse international food vendors and live music. This summer I became enamored of the Trumansburg Farmers Market which is much smaller by comparison but is off the charts when it comes to friendliness. Almost all of the vendors, which range from a goat dairy to cinnamon buns to specialty garlic in addition to the requisite produce are happy to engage in conversation, offer advice to novice gardeners and actually want to know what you think of their food.

One of the best produce finds of the summer were the tomatillos from the Ithaca market pictured here. I had no clue what to do with them but the kind vendor offered me a salsa verde recipe which was to die for. Now I’m hooked on tomatillos and am determined to grow them in the garden next summer. Salsa verde for all!

Summer Visitors




Tomatoes from the garden for dinner

Originally uploaded by j-co

This summer has been the summer of visitors to Lodi. I don’t know why, but we’ve been lucky enough to have a steady stream of friends visiting Lodi for summer mini-breaks over the last month or so.

Most recently we had a house full of 8, including 2 kids, and we had a wonderful time lounging about the house, poking around in the barns, swimming in the lake and touring around the area.

My friends said they had no idea the Finger Lakes were so close, which I think is part of the reason people love coming here: it’s still a relatively unknown little hidden gem of a vacation spot. It’s odd because it is so close to many larger cities: only 5 hours from both NYC and Toronto, 4.5 hours from Ottawa, 6 or so hours from Boston.

I love to show my friends around Lodi and the area. There is so much family history that the stories are amazingly realistic when you can say “My grandfather’s Wallpaper store was right there, across the street”. I feel proud and happy to have the luxury of being so clearly connected to my ancestors and their lives.

Most fun, of course, is showing off the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes with the rolling hills, vineyards and amazing lake views. The wineries are always enjoyable to visit and so convenient with 20 or so within a 20-mile stretch of Route 414 near Lodi. There are fabulous restaurants featuring ingredients procured from local farmers. And there’s always the outlet mall for a little retail therapy, if that’s what you need.

But best of all is gathering together with friends and infusing this house that’s seen so much of my family history over 100 years with the laughter of children, the smells of great meals cooking with ingredients picked fresh from the garden and the enjoyment of warm, wonderful friendship.

So, when are you coming?