Celebrating the First Day of Fall in NOTL

When I have a free autumn Saturday and a desire to gaze at acres of vineyards, I usually head to the Finger Lakes. Sucking the juice out of concord grapes while picking bunches for jelly with my grandpa will forever be one of my favorite things about fall. Because Penn Yan holds such a special place in my heart, and I don’t really like wine that much anyway, I always forget about how close Niagara-on-the-Lake’s beautiful wineries are.

Tourism Niagara Canada invited the Buffalo Bloggers to take in a few of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries on what turned out to be a beautiful first day of fall. I hadn’t been to NOTL since a very fun long weekend there when I was in elementary school. (My parents were very early adopters of the staycation trend.) The picture-perfect vineyards, fun tastings and adorable Queen Street are a blogger’s paradise.

Blue skies over Konzelmann Estate Winery

Wine tasting at Konzelmann Estate Winery

Our first stop was the beautiful Konzelmann Estate Winery, which greeted us with panoramic views of the Toronto skyline over their vineyards. I learned a lot about wine on our tour of the facility, from growing and harvesting to fermenting and aging. Our guide grew up on a vineyard and you could tell he loves sharing everything he knows about wine and winemaking.

I don’t particularly like wine, but I really enjoyed all the wines Konzelmann offered to us, even bringing a bottle of the Peachwine home.

Next was Small Talk Vineyards. Our first impression was how Instagramable this cute winery is. Arches covered in flowers and grapevines, brightly colored doors, and funny speech bubbles in adorable typography guided us toward the door.

Here, we tried two wines, neither of which I loved. However, this winery is also home to Shiny Apple Cider. Their cider varieties all start with the same base and are mixed with different flavors, for some really tasty results. The Bootleg Cider, a combination of hard apple cider and whiskey, was delicious. As they describe it, “It’s like apple pie and vanilla ice cream had a delicious alcoholic baby that they raised to be a respectable member of cider society…”

Grapevine covered arches at Small Talk Vineyards

Shiny Bootleg Cider at Shiny Apple Cider

Our group chatted under the beautiful blue sky on the pretty patio before heading to dinner at Bistro Six-One for pasta and pizza. We headed back over the border full of wine, spaghetti and sunshine, with a whole lot of pictures for our Instagram grids.

No Bad Choice at Ellicottville’s Steelbound Brewing

After a weekend of camping at Allegany State Park with Cody’s family, we stopped at the new Steelbound Brewery on our way through Ellicottville. Camping with the Jones clan means almost constant eating, so we were not hungry for a meal, although everything coming from the kitchen looked great.

Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

Taps at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

We ordered two flights, mixing and matching Steelbound’s huge draft list. Cody went with 8 IPAs (which wasn’t even all the IPAs on the list) and I went for a more eclectic combination. I enjoyed everything, from the Blueballs (their much, much juicier answer to ECB’s Blueberry Wheat with 600 pounds of blueberry in every batch) to the Fat Porter.

Flight at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

Flight at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

For a new brewery (they opened in May of 2018), these guys have very impressive beer and a huge distribution network. They’re really embracing their tagline (“Where Buffalo meets Ellicottville”) with lots of Bills references and a big presence at this year’s Buffalo Beer Week.

If you’re heading to Ellicottville for Fall Fest, doing some last minute camping or hitting the slopes this winter, it’s definitely worth stopping at Steelbound!

Root & Bloom: Vegan Comfort Food in the Comfiest Space

I am by no means vegan or even vegetarian, especially when cooking for myself. I do love my Oh She Glows cookbook, but most of the time, I find vegan recipes more complicated and intimidating than their conventional counterparts.

However, if someone else is going to cook without animal products for me, I’m all in. While Paige was home last month I recruited her to go check out Root & Bloom, one of Buffalo’s newest restaurants and its first vegan-only eatery.

Good Vibes Only

Any business that uses “Gazebo” as part of their address probably knows a thing or two about creating a unique atmosphere. Walking off of Elmwood and into the hidden, tree-lined courtyard Root & Bloom calls home feels like stepping into a secret garden. I’m not sure there’s any way to truly capture the airy space in photographs, but I sure tried.

Root & Bloom | Gazebo in Elmwood Village | Vegan Restaurant

Root & Bloom | Gazebo in Elmwood Village | Vegan Restaurant

I just couldn’t get over the layers of the space: macrame, linen and copper on wood, lace against bark, wrought iron over pavers and brick peaking through leaves. I have a feeling that each year will lead to a cozier feel. It just seems like the kind of place where beautiful knick knacks are accepted with open arms.

The staff was friendly and when we stopped in on a Thursday night, the dinner crowd was lingering, continuing to chat over their empty plates. There was absolutely no pressure to move along or order dessert, just conversation and an itty bitty kombucha-fueled buzz.

Root & Bloom | Gazebo in Elmwood Village | Vegan Restaurant

Root & Bloom | Gazebo in Elmwood Village | Vegan Restaurant

The Dinner Menu

Root & Bloom serves both brunch and dinner. We thought about squeezing in Sunday brunch as a family, but a weeknight dinner gave Paige and me an opportunity to wander down Elmwood before and after dinner.

The dinner menu features vegan staples (cashew cheese, tofu and jackfruit) blended into dishes even the most committed carnivore would recognize: tacos, BBQ sliders, and mac and cheese. While everything looked delicious, we both chose the Ricardo: corn tortilla tacos filled with fried avocado, pico de gallo, cabbage, pickled red onions, mango rice and a habanero lime cream drizzle. Paige chose to wash her tacos down with chia citrus water, while I went for Bootleg Bucha’s blueberry lavender variety.

Root & Bloom | Vegan Restaurant | Fried Avocado Tacos

Everything was absolutely delicious, and the serving size made us glad we had parked a few blocks away!

The restaurant’s indoor space will open this fall, so Buffalo can continue to enjoy the creative vegan menu during Buffalo’s colder months. I’ll definitely be going back for more for three reasons:

  1. Brunch (no further explanation needed).
  2. A robust weekend specials menu and the Saturday night Uprooted series.
  3. The gazebo’s Instagramable aesthetic means both 1 and 2 are constantly popping up in my social media feeds!

Amity Coffee Co.: Coffee and Community on Main Street

Spending Mother’s Day in Penn Yan meant being there for Amity Coffee Co.’s opening weekend in the beautiful Main Street space that used to be home to Publick Coffee Bar.

Amity Coffee Co. | Penn Yan, NY

Paige and I loved walking down to Publick when we were visiting, so we were pretty disappointed when it closed earlier this year. Amity taking over the beautiful shop makes for a great way to start weekends in Penn Yan.

From the gorgeous windows facing the street and exposed light bulbs to the marble-topped table and comfy leather chairs, every element of this space has been perfectly crafted. And the coffee is great too.

Amity_Coffee_Co_Penn_Yan_2-min

Amity Coffee Co. | Penn Yan, NY

We ordered a cappuccino and a latte, our usual coffee shop fare. They were delicious, as expected, and paired with friendly service. We enjoyed our drinks tucked into the back corner in deep leather chairs while we chatted about our summer plans and took about a million pictures of the store

On the cloudy Sunday morning we stopped by, families were celebrating Mother’s Day with coffee and pastries, and grabbing drinks to go.

I truly hope visitors keep supporting Amity, because I love having somewhere besides Dunkin’ for my weekend caffeine fix. I know I’ll be back next time I’m in town.

Amity Coffee Co. | Main Street | Penn Yan, NY

LyonSmith Brewing Co. is an English-Style Hidden Gem

Walk in to any number of upstate New York breweries and you’ll be greeted by exposed brick and unfiltered IPAs in chic industrial spaces. When Paige and I wandered into LyonSmith Brewing Co. while walking down Penn Yan’s Water Street on an overcast May day, it felt different.

There’s still exposed brick and the beer is tasty, but LyonSmith really feels like the small, family-owned business it is. The bartender’s dog greeted us as we walked in the door and toys for the kids were within arms reach.

Water Street | Penn Yan, NY

LyonSmith Brewing Co. | Penn Yan, NY

Paige and I split a tasting (8 tastes for $10), which was more than enough considering we were on our way to the grocery store. If you’re spending an afternoon between LyonSmith and Water Street Wine Bar next door, have one all to yourself.

All the beer is English-style here, which I didn’t (and still don’t, despite the bartender’s best efforts) know a lot about, and is named after people, places and events from England’s history.

I loved the absence of really bitter, hoppy pale ales. There was not a single beer that I wouldn’t drink a pint of. My personal favorites were the Harvest Apple Graff, which tasted like apple juice, and the very cinnamon-y Stingy Jack’s Puimcin Ale.

LyonSmith Brewing Co. | Penn Yan, NY

LyonSmith Brewing Co. | Penn Yan, NY

I’m not the only one impressed by the beers here. LyonSmith took home a gold medal in the strong ales category for their Rylie Pale Ale at the 2016 Tap-NY festival.

The decor reflected the English-style beer, with US vs UK darts, foosball and a map that invited visitors to let everyone know how far they had traveled for a taste of LyonSmith’s brews. I probably won’t be in Penn Yan on a Thursday any time soon, but there’s a board game night every Thursday and outside food is welcome, which I think sounds pretty fun!

LyonSmith Brewing Co. | Penn Yan, NY

LyonSmith Brewing Co. | Penn Yan, NY

If you’re looking for Instagramable spaces with trendy beers, skip this stop on your Finger Lakes brewery tour. But if you want to spend your time drinking something a little different, I recommend trying LyonSmith Brewing Co. I know I’ll be heading back this summer for a taste of their warm-weather seasonals!

Brunchin’ at Fairport’s FairPour

This weekend, Fairport is celebrating Canal Days with lots of kettlecorn, food trucks, vendors and live music. Cody, Morgan and I joined Patrick and Shannon to make another siblings weekend out of the event. Saturday we wandered through the tents along Main Street. Sunday, we brunched at FairPour and people watched as families enjoyed the festivities.

Canal Days in Fairport, NY 2018

Located in the historic Fairport Box Factory, FairPour serves everything you could possibly want at Sunday brunch. Coffee, espresso, tea, mimosas, craft beer on tap, egg sandwiches, crepes, paninis and muffins are all on the menu.

Between the five of us, we ordered something off of almost every section of the menu. I settled on a nitro cold brew, cold pressed mimosa and The OG Sammy with prosciutto. Everything was delicious, and it tasted even better sitting on the patio at cute bistro tables.

Sunday Brunch at FairPour in Fairport

Sunday Brunch at FairPour in Fairport

FairPour uses Glen Edith Coffee Roaster’s beans in their cold brew, which was smooth and cold, perfect for a warm morning. The mimosa was fresh and fruity, made with fresh pressed juice and Prosecco. The OG Sammy was delicious, with an egg fried over medium, smoked Gouda, basil pesto, hot sauce, spinach and prosciutto, all on an English muffin.

Sunday Brunch at FairPour in Fairport

Sunday Brunch at FairPour in Fairport

We can also vouch for the breakfast wrap, Bonaparte crepe and beer selection!

After brunch, we did some last minute shopping, picking up pretty prints from Jess Kreiser and nautical t-shirts from The Starboard Rail, before heading home, just barely beating the rain.

4 Email Newsletters I’m Using to Up My Cooking Game

If you’re anything like me, coming up with 5 or 6 meals on Sunday before heading to the grocery store is a little bit like pulling teeth. You can only eat spaghetti, tacos and burgers so many weeks in a row before you need new ideas. In an attempt to add some new options to our meal planning, I signed up for a few email newsletters that promised to send recipes straight to my inbox.

I’m pretty impressed with the results so far; we’re definitely upping our culinary game. These are 4 worth signing up for:

1. Bon Appétit Newsletter

While Bon Appétit is a well-known print publication, they also have a collection of recipes online and you can sign up for their email newsletter, which is exactly what I did. Now, I get an email or 2 a day filled with recipes and background knowledge about the ingredients they use, as well as restaurant news and food trends. My one complaint is their constant ads for both the magazine and kind of random kitchen products, but the newsletter and website are free, so I get it.

I haven’t made anything from Bon Appétit yet, but I’m looking forward to making this simplified Italian wedding soup.

2. Chelsea’s Messy Apron

I didn’t realize just how many of the recipes I have pinned on Pinterest are from Chelsea’s Messy Apron until I started browsing through her blog. After signing up for this newsletter, I got a welcome email right away with 20 easy weeknight dinner recipes, which was exactly what I was looking for! I also get an email when a new recipe is published on the blog and tonight I made Chelsea’s latest recipe, Bruschetta Chicken. I love that these recipes have simple, healthy ingredients and they’re so flavorful.

3. The New York Times Cooking

The New York Times cooking includes not only an email most days, but also a Pinterest-style “recipe box,” where you can save and organize recipes from not only The Times, but other websites as well. We tried the fettuccine with asparagus, which was simple and delicious.

The New York Times Cooking does charge $1.25 a week to use their online recipe collection after a free trial. My free trial just ended and I haven’t decided if I’m going to pay for the service. If this was free, it would be #1 on this list, hands down.

4. A Couple Cooks

I found A Couple Cooks on Instagram and later subscribed to their newsletter. They focus on vegetarian recipes, which I love for lunch meal prep. Each week, I receive an email with the links of the week, which are a collection of new recipes and other news about what Alex and Sonja are up to. They’re currently promoting a cookbook, so it’s also included in the weekly round up. I love that they invite other food bloggers to contribute recipes, so there’s a great mix of styles of cooking.