We just returned from a trip to the Finger Lakes with some friends. (See the complete photo set here.) Some highlights:
Thursday: The Pizza Crapital of the World
We set out in the evening, anticipating a memorable dinner. Sara had planned a fabulous itinerary, and its first attraction was dinner in Old Forge, PA, “Pizza Capital of the World.” What? You didn’t know that Old Forge was the Pizza Capital of the World?! Have you been living under a rock? Well, we must be living under one, too, since we’d never even heard of Old Forge until a month ago.
We admit, we were intrigued by this audacious claim. “What enormous cajones this Podunk little town must have,” we thought, “to claim superiority over the likes of Brooklyn, Chicago… and even Rome and Naples.” At first we thought it was a joke. But there it was, proclaimed in black and white, on several well-known internet site (TripAdvisor, Fodor’s, et al.). And it wasn’t even the casual tourists who said it was the best pizza–it was pizza enthusiasts. The kind who make their own pizzas at home. Daily. And take pictures to post online for their friends to see. These were the people who said Old Forge pizza was the best, and we trusted them.
Here’s an excerpt from one posting about Old Forge pizza:
I love Old Forge style pizza. It was always a treat to get away from the “normal” type of pizza and get a taste of NEPA pizza.
We were starving by the time we reached Old Forge. We raced to Revello’s (one of the top-rated pizza places in town) and got a table. The place didn’t look like much, but that actually impressed us–pizza joints are supposed to be kinda seedy, after all. Our skepticism almost began to fade.
We sat down and asked for menus. When they came, we saw that there were two kinds of pizza: red and white. You could order by the slice, or by the “tray.” A slice was $1.05 and a tray was $12.60. (Freakonomics indeed.) We ordered a tray of red (with half pepperoni for the carnivores and half onion for the herbivore(s)) and a single slice of white.
While we waited for the pizza, we had a little birthday celebration for Kartal. We gave him a nifty T-bone T-shirt, certifying him as a true lover of food that’s killed and grilled.
And finally, the pizza arrived. The moment of truth.
The “tray” was just that: an orange plastic cafeteria tray. The pizza sat directly on this tray; no foil, no paper. As I swallowed my first bite, my brain began working to identify the cheese I was tasting. (Old Forge pizza is apparently known for its special cheese–not mozzarella.) The cheese was nostalgically familiar, but I couldn’t place it at first. And then, it hit me. But was this possible? Could it really be? Was the best pizza in the world made with… American cheese?
The sad answer, my friends, is yes. It was American cheese. No, wait. Not cheese; it’s “cheese.” Not the real kind; it was the fake crap (Kraft™ Singles) that I used to eat when I was a kid. The kind that’s not even 100% dairy, but is made with vegetable oil.
The “cheese” (and, consequently, the pizza) was disgusting. It stuck to our teeth like Elmer’s Glue. It wreaked havoc on our stomachs. We were starving; we ate it. Frozen pizza, cafeteria pizza or even airplane food would have been better.
I could go on and on about the Pizza Crapital of the World… but this post is getting too long already, and I’m only 3 hours into our weekend.
Disillusioned, disgruntled and a little nauseated, we headed for Ithaca, making a quick ice cream stop (ice cream stop #1) on the way out of town.
[Editor’s Note: In response to some of the comments this has generated (see below), I feel the need to point out my pizza judging credentials: (1) I’m a native New Yorker, (2) I went to school in Chicago, and (3) I’ve travelled (read: eaten) around Italy–including Rome and Naples, the origin of Italian pizza. If you’re going to leave a comment below, let us know your pizza background. ]
Friday: Ithaca is Gorges
After a yummy breakfast at the Ithaca Bakery, we visited Ithaca Falls, which is noteworthy for being both very impressive and easily accessible. We tried visiting Buttermilk Falls later in the day, but the water level was so low (due to recent droughts) that we ended up skipping it.
The upstate NY region is known for its ice cream (in fact, ice cream sundaes were invented right in Ithaca), so we paid a visit to the Cornell Dairy Bar (ice cream stop #2). It didn’t really meet our expectations, but still, ice cream is ice cream.
We left Ithaca and headed to Watkins Glen State Park, with its magnificent gorge and interesting water features. After a pleasant walk through the very scenic Watkins Glen, we headed to the weekend’s destination: the town of Penn Yan, on the edge of Keuka Lake.
We stayed at the Trimmer House B&B, where we were greeted by Gary, who owns the B&B and is a professor of Hospitality Management at the local college.
- Location: great
- Hot tub: awesome!
- Breakfast: adequate
- Hot tub: awesome!
- Hospitality: excellent
- Hot tub: awesome!
Over all, a very good stay; definitely recommended. (Though next time we travel to that area, we decided we’d consider renting a lakefront house with direct water access.)
We had dinner at the Switzerland Inn–mostly because their menu boasted the “best ribs east of Kansas City.” The view was good; the ribs, not so much. (Though the fish fry wasn’t bad.) Penn Yan: not the BBQ Rib Capital of the World.
Back to the B&B for a quick, relaxing dip in the hot tub, and then off to bed.
Saturday: “Wine Drinkers Make Grape Lovers”
After a pancake breakfast (made with local buckwheat), we spent the morning on Lake Seneca, in a canoe and a kayak. The lake wasn’t quite as peaceful as we’d have liked, but it was still fun to be out on the water.
Spent the afternoon hitting some local wineries, some of us getting tipsier than others. The wineries we visited were Heron Hill (where a charming girl served us swill) and Dr. Frank’s (where we actually liked a couple of the wines we tasted).
Took a quick dip in Lake Keuka to sober up, and then headed back to the B&B. On the way back, we passed a go-kart track and couldn’t resist. Perhaps it was the wine in her system, but Nicole shocked us all by flooring it like there was no tomorrow. As designated picture-taker, the only photo I could manage to get of her was a blurry streak.
We decided to hit the hot tub before dinner, and we cracked open our classy bottle of “Red Cat Hot Tub Wine”
After a heavy dinner at a local Amish restaurant, we were ready for an early bedtime.
Sunday: Sundaes at the Source
We stopped to pick blueberries at the loveliest blueberry patch we’d ever seen, which was behind the scariest house we’d ever seen.
Another pit stop for another disappointing ice cream cone (ice cream stop #3), followed by lunch back in Ithaca. We intended to cause some controversy by showing up at the all-vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant wearing Kartal’s T-bone shirt, but they were closed. We settled for a mediocre meal at a veg-friendly restaurant (Aladdin’s), followed by yet another disappointing ice cream experience: sundaes at Purity Ice Cream (ice cream stop #4).
We finally made it home, but not before we made a bathroom stop at McDonald’s and snacked on some McFlurry ice cream (ice cream stop #5).
Thus ended a weekend of the worst “Best-ofs” we’ve ever experienced.