Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Five Finger Exercises - Part II

[continued from here]

Sunday morning found us in Skaneateles, in the 'Sweet Pea' room (I kid you not) at a bed and breakfast called the Hummingbird's Home. It's a quaint little place, its decor all porcelain and lace doilies, with the kind of pre-World War II ambiance that not only makes you feel clumsy just looking at it, but also makes you wonder if the hostess is going to offer you some homemade wine and whether there's someone digging the Panama canal in the basement. As it turned out, though, our hostess's cooking was unexceptionable, if a trifle elaborate (you have to understand that breakfast, for yours truly, consists of two handfuls of cereal in a bowl of cold milk, and that's when there's milk in the house, otherwise I just pour coffee over my raisin bran; so the combination of artfully arranged watermelon slices, a spinach and egg quiche, three kinds of toast, tea, coffee AND orange juice AND chocolate cake at the end seemed a bit much [1]). Our companions at breakfast were a middle-aged couple who had driven ALL THE WAY from Cortland (thirty five miles away) and who, on learning that we did not, in fact, plan to spend the day in Skaneateles itself, but instead planned to venture further west wondered whether we were planning to go as far as Auburn (six miles away), shaking their bemused heads at the impetuosity of youth when assured that we did, indeed, plan to go that far. They were quite sweet, really, except that their conversation tended to center on a) gardening and b) dogs / cats and since both MR and I live in apartments (well, MR lives in an apartment, I live in a room) and neither of us has pets we didn't have much to contribute.

In any case, by 8.30 we were on the road again, heading first west and then south along the length of Cayuga Lake. Late morning we stopped at the Taughannock Falls State Park, where we took a desultory walk along a mostly dry river bed to the falls themselves, which may be quite impressive when there's actual water in them, but shrunk as they were to what Auden would call a "soodling thread" they proved to be quite the damp squib (in more ways than one). From there we travelled to the town of Ithaca, so I could feel suitably Odyss-ian and MR could eat at what our guidebook described as the "finest waterfront restaurant in the region". Four wrong turns, three different highways and about 12 miles of unnecessary driving later we finally managed to get to the address where said restaurant was supposed to be, and discovered it had been replaced by an Enterprise Car Rental. Not to be disheartened, we proceeded to drive along the waterfront anyway, seeking an alternate waterfront eatery on the principle that if we went they would have built it, and ended up on a dirt road that led to the Ithaca Farmer's Market. Here we wandered among stalls selling samosas, felafel, sushi, spring rolls, cambodian noodles and other such traditional delicacies of the region, before finally settling on a lunch of garlic and mozarella flatbread followed by freshly squeezed lemonade.

Lunch over, we decided to pay a visit to the Cornell campus, and ended up at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. It's a nice, compact museum, with a permanent collection which, if not exactly breathtaking, is fairly respectable, and includes a splendid Chirico, a magnificent Hassam, a bizarrely un-Hopper like Hopper, pleasant minor works by Constable and O'Keefe and a startlingly lifelike John De Andrea. More interesting, however, were the special exhibitions - which included a set of prom night photographs of high school students by Mary Ellen Mark and, most memorably, an exhibition of the multimedia work of Marc Swanson including the fabulous Killing Moon as well as Always and Nothing. Delightful stuff.

From Ithaca, we made our way further west (making a quick stop at a coffee shop, where the combination of good espresso and the guy sitting by the door reading Spinoza restored our faith in the place as a University town), to the town of Watkins Glen and the southern tip of Lake Seneca, where we proceeded to find a shady spot by the azure waters and lie down in the grass to read, our idyll broken only by the presence of two dozen boats, a hundred or so people and the sound of Pearl Jam blasting from a nearby radio. Fortunately for us, the lake was only a few feet deep off the shore where we were, so that the boats were all parked about a hundred meters out in deeper water, like a haphazard necklace strung across the lake's throat, with the people walking to and fro between the boats and the land like so many swim-suited Jesuses.

An hour or so of relaxing by the lake and we were ready to move on, this time to begin an impromptu little wine tour of our own. I didn't know this when we decided to go there, but it seems the Finger Lakes region is wine country; what's more they seem to produce mostly white wine, particularly Rieslings, which I dearly love. It isn't quite Napa, of course, but it's fun going from winery to winery, trying out an assortment of dry whites (and struggling to distinguish one from the other - a sommelier I'm not), and some of the wines were genuinely quite good. I particularly liked the Glenora Pinot Blanc, which struck me as being both subtler and more satisfying than most of the other stuff I tasted, though again, I'm hardly an expert.

Sated with tastings, we headed back to Skaneateles, and our table at the Elderberry Pond restaurant, just managing to make their last seating at 7.30 pm (ah! the simple country life). Food here was only averagely good, and I seriously doubt that any part of my shrimp and scallop pasta included fresh seasonal ingredients grown on the farm; still, the wine (another Riesling - this time a Thirsty Owl dry) was nice, the bruschetta (see previous post) delicious, and the experience of stepping out of the restaurant to see hundreds of stars twinkling above you sufficiently novel to make the evening worthwhile.

The next day - Monday - was relatively uneventful, and involved driving back to Manhattan, making a longish detour into the exotic wilds of the Bronx where we discovered a little known civilization called City Island whose inhabitants make good seafood, and then driving out to Long Island where, driven by visions of shadowy woodlands and quiet walks by the sea, we made our way out to Fire Island. This didn't quite work out, though, mostly because thanks to a process of decision making too complicated to explain we ended up catching a ferry not to Sailors Haven as we had planned, but to a place called Cherry Grove, which, it turns out, is not a part of the National Park service but a predominantly gay residential community, the touristy bits of which are way too touristy for yours truly (I'm up for many things, but dancing at 5 in the afternoon to that Ketchup song is not one of them) and the residential bits of which were, well, a little too residential. At least the beaches were nice.

[1] And that was just the first day. The second day it was fruit salad, french toast with peaches and almonds and sausages.


Veena said...

"As it turned out, though, our hostess's cooking was unexceptionable, if a trifle elaborate..."

Missed opportunity to make fun of MR. When I saw the footnote at the end of that sentence I expectantly scrolled down only to be disappointed.

Just pointing out.

??! said...

Coffee poured over raisin bran?

I'm not sure whether to include you in the Brave Food Experimenters Club, or just call you plain lazy.

OrangeJammies said...

Is the BlueWater Grill still operational? The one hanging over the lake? It serves the best Maryland crab cakes, in case you go back! Write more, write more! Now I'm all erswhile-homesick.

Anonymous said...

reading ur last 2 posts reminded me of reading Thomas Hardy.

"swim suited jesuses" u have a very very queer way, original but queer. i picture tht phrase brought to me was surreal.

Falstaff said...

veena: Huh? Not sure how the fact that the B&B we were staying at served elaborate breakfasts is opportunity to make fun of MR. It's not as though she chose the place for its breakfasts.

??!: Isn't laziness the source of most food experimentation?

OJ: It is indeed - that's actually where we went for dinner after the concert, though we didn't sample the crab-cakes. Instead I had a salad which sounded really nice on the menu but turned out to be fairly unappetising, even if it included more foliage than the entire state of Nevada. Now if only you'd mentioned this crab-cake business before we went on the trip.

anon: Since I don't know what you think of Thomas Hardy I'm not sure how to take that comment - I'm going to assume it's a compliment for now. So thanks.

Anonymous said...

And while you were journeying hundreds of miles to eat peaches, read near a body of water, have breakfast with white people and go look up some unexceptionable art, all of which it strikes me could very nicely be done in Philadelphia, down to the unpronounceable names (Conshohocken anyone?), Sarah Palin was making her case for no abortion even for rape and incest, several people were getting incensed about child-haters on Jwock's blog and execrable poetry was being published on the web. Ah Falsie, to see your blog, once feared for its trenchant arguments against crotchfruit and read for its erotic descriptions of Beethoven-laced sex reduced to maudlin descriptions of lace-doilied hotels and twinkling stars fair makes ye olde commenters weep!


Falstaff said...

n!: Ah well. That's the price one pays for being ahead of one's time. Since I've already done the abortion, child-free zone and execrable poetry bits long before the plebs caught on, what can I do now but be suitably post-Falstaffian and write about lace doilies?

??! said...

Isn't laziness the source of most food experimentation?
That - and boredom. And an unhealthy (ha!) appetite for curiosity. And an overactive imagination.