Category Archives: Travel

ROC City Part 2: The Strawberry Waffle

Rochester has a great deal of history, especially in the downtown area. The George Eastman House is here, complete with a museum on the long and storied history of Eastman Kodak. The Mt. Hope Cemetery is the final resting place of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. And one of my favorite areas of the city, Highland Park, was designed in the 1880’s by famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

May kicks off an entire season of outdoor festivals in Rochester, beginning in early May with The Lilac Festival in Highland Park, which is home to over 400 varieties of lilacs.

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After strolling through the seemingly endless lilac bushes, you might work up an appetite. And by “might” I mean “will.”

And what will you eat?! Where will you go?! The answer, my friends, is The Highland Park Diner.

Established in the 1940s, this diner has changed hands many times (and even did time as an OTB parlor… sick, I know) but still serves up the tastiest waffle topping I have ever inhaled calmly and daintily enjoyed: strawberries and sweet cheese.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I try to discover the magic behind the sweet cheese… it’ll be blog gold, I promise.

*Update: in my haste, I forgot to take a picture of the inside of The Highland Park Diner and it is admittedly one of the coolest things about the place. According to a few pieces I found on the web, diners such as this one were made in a factory and then transported by rail to the site, hence the long and narrow shape that would fit on a train track. Sweet, huh?

Thanks to Roadfood.com for permission to use this photo.

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ROC City Part 1: The Garbage Plate

Growing up in Rochester, New York, I never really understood why so many people would want to voluntarily call it home. It snows 9 months out of the year (yes, it snowed on Mother’s Day… that’s May 9, people), one of the greatest forms of weekend entertainment is a trip to Wegmans grocery store, and you can’t go out for a meal without running into your kindergarten teacher or your first boyfriend. However, now that I am a mature woman of twenty-COUGH, I see all the beauty that lies in The Flour City. That’s right. The food.

How could I have ignored the fact that the city I grew up in is famous for a flour mill, Genesee Beer, and Garbage Plates? Oh yeah, and Kodak… whatever.

This week, I’m going to share some of my favorite Rochester, New York treats in an homage to my hometown. It’s no New York or Boston, heck it’s not even Minneapolis, but it’s where I was born so it’s alright with me.

The Garbage Plate at Empire Hots

On the menu:
The Garbage Plate
Bread and butter (the requisite side dish)

This is how we do math in Rochester, NY. Don’t let anyone tell you different:

One plate / (macaroni salad + homefries) + 2 cheeseburgers + (finely ground beef sauteed with hot sauce and spices) + sauteed onions + ketchup + mustard = The Garbage Plate

Derivatives include substituting burgers for red hot dogs, fried fish, eggs (breakfast plate, duh) or the popular white hot dog, a Rochester special made from pork.

If you ever travel upstate, and yes this is the REAL upstate, you have got to go to the original Nick Tahou’s Hots for a Trash Plate. If you value your life and would rather not be shot, or if you simply want a Plate after dark (Tahou’s closes at 8PM because of all the crime they experience) go to Empire Hots in Webster, NY. It might not look pretty, but your taste buds will be singing a different tune.

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Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!

Ireland holds a special place in my heart, and it has very little to do with the green shamrocks and drunk dudes from New Jersey getting into fist fights in the streets of Manhattan. It has everything to do with this:

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry

I spent six weeks exploring Ireland under the guise of “study” abroad in the summer of 2006. My time on the Emerald Isle supplied me with some of my fondest memories, and one day in particular stands out as one of the best of my life.

As the rain poured down on the small coastal town of Dingle in County Kerry on the Western coast of Ireland, a small group of us decided that despite the weather we’d venture the mile or so into town. We couldn’t spend one whole precious day sitting in the hostel. So we donned thin rain jackets, insufficient footwear, and our most ambitious spirits and powered through the sheets of rain that pummeled down from the skies. I have never laughed so hard and I have never been so drenched. By the time we reached Murphy’s Pub, each of us was soaked down to our skivvies and desperate for an Irish coffee, a bowl of chowder, and a thick slice of brown bread.

Many pints and bowls of chowder later, we were still damp but warm, sated, and happy. I know it was the company that made that day what it turned out to be, but the brown bread didn’t hurt.

Toasting in celebration of making it all the way into town! Murphy’s Pub, Dingle, Co. Kerry

This will never replicate the dense, dark bread served at most pubs and Irish restaurants in Ireland itself, but in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d fill my apartment with a familiar scent.

On the menu: Irish Brown Bread
Makes 1 round 9-inch loaf
(Adapted from Epicurious Brown Bread Recipe)

4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup milk

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, wheat germ, salt, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a large bowl until combined well. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until integrated. Make a well in center and add buttermilk and regular milk, stirring until a dough forms. Gently knead on a floured surface, adding just enough more flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Transfer dough to cake pan and flatten to fill pan. With a sharp knife, cut an X (1/2 inch deep) across top of dough, 5 inches long. Bake until loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped, around 35 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool, right side up, about 1 hour.

You can serve this right away but it slices more easily after sitting at room temperature for a day.

Best served when your clothes are damp from a long walk through the rain in Dingle, heavily buttered and accompanied by sassy lasses and a frothy pint of Bulmers cider.

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