The Windmill

6 08 2009

The Windmill is one of those Americana strongholds that people flock to for purchasing fresh produce, Adirondack chairs, T-shirts, Auntie Anne’s pretzels, fudge, Pyrex, wind catchers, lawn ornaments, hammocks, and much more. 

Near Penn Yan, NY, the Windmill is a popular destination for tourists and locals. Comprised of four main buildings, an open street market, and various booths, you could spend the whole day browsing, eating, shopping, or people-watching.

The best parts of the Windmill are the inexpensive hand-crafted pieces of furniture…

…and the regional food, also inexpensive.

There is an actual windmill on site:

It is a lot of fun to go to the Windmill, but I generally leave my money in the car (because it’s safe enough to do so in upstate New York) and browse.





Garrett Memorial Chapel

3 08 2009

Garrett Memorial Chapel is a hidden wonder along Keuka Lake in upstate New York. Consecrated in 1931, the chapel is dedicated to the memory of Charles Garrett, who died of tuberculosis in 1929. Set back from road, it sits on the Bluff, almost hidden amongst the trees. Although small, it has amazing architecture and breathtaking views of the lake from many sides. On the rainy day that we visited, there was a stillness and eerie quiet surrounding the chapel that slows time and calms the soul.

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Antique Inn

2 08 2009

I really am spoiled living in a major city. There are so many restaurants to choose from and you usually get what you pay for. What a wake up call when we went to the Antique Inn near Penn Yan in upstate New York.  The decision to eat here was made mainly based on the weather (pouring rain at our campsite).

The Antique Inn is the place to see and be seen and tables in the main dining room require reservations. Us dumb city folk didn’t know so we were seated in the bar area.

It seemed like everything came fried and battered so we decided to share an order of onion rings and the fried mushrooms.  It’s really hard to mess up onion rings, but the mushrooms were so tiny that you could only taste batter.

I chose a bowl of French Onion soup as my meal.  This was actually very good but it is also difficult to mess up something that has so much cheese and bread as ingredients.  The major problem here was that the bread was so thick that there was no broth to speak of.

My dad and Andrew got the halibut with french fries on the side.  My dad said it was “fine” with a smile that I often got from him growing up that meant the opposite of fine.  Andrew wasn’t even convinced it was halibut. My parents recently went to a very nice restaurant and ordered the halibut there–it was about an inch thicker, tastier, and not much more expensive than this halibut.

My main beef with the Antique Inn was that it was trying to be something so much more than it was.  Reservations?  $15 entrees?  Really?  With this decor?  It was insulting.

But please don’t take my word for it.  This review will tell you otherwise about the Antique Inn.





Keuka Lake State Park

1 08 2009

According to my dad I am a MM camper. Medium Maintenance. I’ll take it. I hadn’t been camping in 30 years so why this summer? Maybe it was the economy. Maybe it was finding any excuse to spend time in the Finger Lakes. Maybe I just really wanted no possible way to check my email. Maybe it was a combination of the three, plus, more importantly, my family is a lot of fun.

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Keuka Lake State Park is near the town of Branchport on Keuka Lake in the Finger Lake region of upstate New York. We all had different expectations before we arrived at our campsite (I was picturing the vast treeless field in Cooperstown that we sat in to watch induction ceremonies) but I am pretty sure that we were all ultimately happy with it.

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There are over 100 sites in the park, each one the same basic size and shape with a few variations.  Ours had a tree!  And the path up to the showers.  That was actually quite convenient for someone who wakes up in the middle of the night at least once.  I did run up and down that path a couple of times in the pitch black with a flashlight, dodging the skunks.

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Two tents fit nicely: one was a 5-person (that comfortably fit 3) and the other was a 3-person (that comfortably fit 2).  Most of the campers had RVs (I want!) that they drove right up on the site with plenty of room to spare.

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The bad part: this trash wasn’t emptied once from Friday when we arrived until Monday when we left. We talked to the park ranger on Sunday and he said that they contract that work out and that company had not responded to their requests. He didn’t seem all that concerned. We told him that we were concerned about the wildlife it would attract and the health hazards. Not to mention that you could smell it at the campsites closest to it. Poor people.

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The good part: The town of Branchport is just a short ride down the road and on one corner (aka, The Town Center) were two markets and a hardware store that carried everything you could need or want, including beer.  Beer in a market–what a novelty for someone from Pennsylvania!

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If we ever went camping in upstate New York again, it would be a 50/50 chance that we would stay at Keuka Lake State Park.  The bathrooms were low quality and not clean (even for camping, according to my mom) and the garbage really turned us off, but the campsites were pleasant and it is close to all of the amenities (read: wineries).  It’s a toss up.  We’ll see.





The Polish Princess’ Pierogie Palace

26 07 2009

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Regional food always fascinates me.  On a recent trip to upstate New York, I tried pierogies from The Polish Princess’ Pierogie Palace, located at The Windmill near Penn Yan, NY.  Looks-wise, this ain’t no palace.  But the pierogies that come out of this humble establishment are fit for royalty.  (That was so cliche, eh?)  Simply put, these were the best pierogies I have ever tasted.

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Served with a dill sour cream, they were light and fluffy with a tasty filling of potato and cheese. I shared six with my parents and we were all satisfied.  A plate cost $5.50. Quite affordable.  A combination platter with kielbasa cost $8.00.  I’ll try that next time.





2008 Seyval Blanc (Hunt Country, Finger Lakes, NY)

22 07 2009

On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes, I stopped at Hunt Country winery to escape the rain. Hunt Country is usually a pleasant enough winery to visit, but recently their wines have been a bit too sweet for my palate–I don’t think it’s a major change in their production, just a change in my taste buds.

The 2008 Seyval Blanc stood out when I tasted it as a more refined wine that my very picky husband might like, and it was on sale for $8.99 on site.  Score.

Seyval Blanc is a French hybrid grape known for its resistance to the cold, which explains why it grows well in the Finger Lakes region.  It is often compared to white Burgundies and is a fair alternative to some Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blanc varietals.

This particular Seyval Blanc has a lot of white Burgundy (typically Chardonnay) characteristics, such as the tropical fruit nose and flavors like pineapple and honeysuckle with some grapefruit and vanilla thrown in.  It does lack minerality and there is no stoniness or edge to this wine, which most white Burgundies would have.

The wine has a moderate acidity and you can tell that it’s been held in the barrel for a while due to the oakiness in scent and flavor.  And just FYI, most French white Burgundies start at $20-$25 a bottle and can cost as high as $300.

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Finger Lakes Wine Country

22 08 2008

If you live in the Northeast and California is a little bit of a hike, try wine country in the Finger Lakes.  The wines are not going to be as high caliber as some Napa and Sonoma wineries, but there are some diamonds in the rough, it’s very beautiful, and just a lot of fun.

A favorite is Dr. Konstantin Frank, who makes award winning Reislings and charges nothing for a tasting.  The staff is very knowledgable and will go out of their way to show you that Dr. Frank means quality, in all aspects of their customer service and wine making.



Award-winning Reislings.

Next on our tour was Bully Hill. We mainly go there for lunch and for the “show.” Lunch is always lovely, sitting out on the deck with views of the lake. The tasting is like a carnival. The wines are horrid, but for $2 you get to see at least one of the pourers make fools of themselves, pouring wine, cracking jokes, and trying to get people to buy their glow-in-the-dark underwear. What a hoot.

The last winery of the day was Hunt Country. I love Hunt Country because they pour some very decent wines for very decent prices, but they specialize in Late Harvest and Ice Wines that you have to order in advance.   Always very laid back and friendly, the tasting experience is a delight, and as an added bonus, they are open until 6:00–later than other wineries in the region.

There are hundreds of other wineries in the Finger Lakes region–I’ve just introduced you to a few of my favorites. Find out more at the official Finger Lakes Wine Country website.