LIC’s Breweries are Worth the Lyft from Manhattan

Every other year my dad’s family spends Thanksgiving in New York City, the huge metropolis both of my dad’s siblings call home. Hanging out with my cousins, catching up with aunts and uncles and reading the paper with my grandparents is a wonderful way to spend a long weekend. Every visit, we see a little bit more of what New York has to offer, from My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center (wayyy funnier than I expected) to the New York Transit Museum (trains are cool no matter how old you are). We almost never venture from Manhattan or Brooklyn, because the neighborhoods where my family lives have so much to offer.

This visit, we wanted to check out a couple of breweries, something Cody and I almost always do when traveling. As it turns out, nothing in Manhattan looked quite like the small taproom we usually gravitate towards. Of course, Brooklyn has a ton of options, but public transportation in the pouring rain after dark didn’t seem like that much fun. Long Island City was just a $7 Lyft ride over the Queensboro Bridge, so that’s where we ended up.

Big aLICe Brewing

The businesses of Long Island City really like incorporating LIC into their names. This brewery did it well though, changing the spelling of Allis, the distinct generator their name is inspired by, to use the initials.

Just like good breweries everywhere, Big aLICe is in a nondescript industrial building. The bright green door opens into a small, cozy taproom with a little bit of a view of their brewing equipment. The atmosphere would remind Buffalonians of the original CBW space or Buffalo Brewing Company. We were greeted by lots of bartenders who knew what they were talking about, friends hanging out and a really cool (if not 100% accurate) map of breweries around the country.

IPA at Big aLICe Brewing in Long Island City

Entrance to Big aLICe Brewing in Long Island City

I chose a flight of 4 so I could try the Lemongrass Kolsch, NYS Pils, Hibiscus Gose, and Ways and Beans (a porter that I tried solely because of the name). Everything was great. I think the gose was my favorite, which is true of the last few breweries I visited. Cody opted for two IPAs, both of which even I liked.

Fifth Hammer Brewing Company

Because it was still pouring rain, we took a 2 minute Lyft ride rather than walking to Fifth Hammer Brewing Company. I bet this place is really cool in the summer, with a big garage door that opens on to the street. The huge taproom here was a nice breath of fresh air after spending a few days in traffic, Fifth Avenue crowds and busy restaurants.

On the November night we visited, the one thing I couldn’t get over was how dark it was inside. I had to position my glass strategically over the Christmas lights in the corner to take a picture of it…

Beer at Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City

Entrance to Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City

My Cranorangutang (an American sour with cranberry and blood orange) was just sour enough to make it nice for sipping. Cody tried 2 of the IPAs, liking 1 enough to order it again rather than try the last IPA on tap.

We might not have been in Manhattan, but we were definitely still paying New York City prices at both breweries. Considering we drove down with my parents, ate at my aunt’s house most meals and spent the day walking, we weren’t too upset about spending $40 per brewery.

We finished the night with giant, cheap slices of cheese pizza at sLICe (I wasn’t kidding about the name thing), which tasted great. We headed back to Manhattan happy, full and ready to sleep a few hours before a loooong drive back to Buffalo.

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.

A Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca

It’s hard to forget a place as beautiful, diverse and delicious as Ithaca.

I hadn’t made the drive down Cayuga Lake in a year and after spending four years making that drive after weekends in Rochester and school breaks at home, I really, truly missed it. There’s something special about winding through wine country, passing Taughannock Falls, being able to tune in to 103.7 and finally seeing the Towers through the trees.

Needless to say, I was looking for an excuse to make that drive. This past weekend, I spent six hours in the car for five hours in the 607 and it was completely worth it.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

My first stop was Taughannock Falls. I only had time for the Gorge Trail, but the morning’s rain accentuated the green within the gorge and filled the falls. Dreary weather also meant I had the trail almost completely to myself.

Next up was the always delicious Gimme! Coffee, which was packed with people on laptops and chatting out front. I love coffee shops’ sense of community and I think Gimme! is one of the first places I really experienced it. Plus, the coffee is delicious.

Coffee in hand, I walked down Cascadilla Avenue, the cutest, greenest, friendliest path there ever was. How have I not wandered along the creek this way before? My end goal was Collegetown Bagels, of course.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Gimme! Coffee

One pizza bagel later and I was ready to take on the real reason for spending six hours in the car. The smart, soil-savvy people of GreenTree had invited me back for an afternoon of local farmers and soil selling strategy. If that sounds bizarre to you, it’s okay. This small team of people completely welcomed me as a summer intern my senior year at Ithaca and I learned a ton because of it, about marketing, running a business and dirt.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | GreenTree Farm to Garden Days

My little taste of Ithaca only made me miss the things I didn’t have time for more, so I’m counting down the days until I’m there again. Hopefully, I’ll be joined by some of my favorite Itha-people next time.

Spotted Duck Creamery is a FLX Must Try

My family spent Mother’s Day weekend in Penn Yan, staying with my grandma, walking to Main Street and letting Murphy dip his paws in the lake. It wasn’t the sunniest of Mother’s Days, but it was warmer than it has been most weekends this spring. In our family, this calls for ice cream.

One look at my Instagram feed and you know how much I adore ice cream of all kinds. This trait did not just appear for the sake of social media. My family LOVES ice cream. During the summer when Paige and I were younger, Mom would take us to get ice cream at the shop around the corner (RIP Udder Delights). When Dad came home from work and suggested ice cream after dinner, Mom shot us a look, we stayed quiet, and we wolfed down our second serving of Moo Goo of the day.

We couldn’t very well let the first weekend our family spent together since January go by without some artisan ice cream. We’re big fans of Seneca Farms (who isn’t?), but were willing to try something different after Mom mentioned a newer shop she drove by on her way out to a friend’s house. A quick scroll through Spotted Duck Creamery‘s website convinced us this was a must-try.

Spotted Duck Creamery | Penn Yan, NY | Frozen Custard

Before arriving, we read about the flock of friendly ducks whose eggs are what make the Creamery’s custard so special. Pulling in, we were surprised by the adorable roadside stand, peacock family and picnic benches, all lit by string lights as dusk fell.

Both the waffle cones and the custard are homemade here, so I opted for two scoops in a cone. The scoops are small, which were were told was so you can try more flavors. That is a philosophy I can 100% get behind!

Spotted Duck Creamery | Penn Yan, NY | Frozen Custard

I chose Seneca Salted Caramel (caramel frozen custard with Seneca salt) and Chai Tea (vanilla chai frozen custard). Both were delicious! The chai was more spicy than sweet, which I enjoyed. There are also “Wine Trail Sundaes” which all sound amazing, and I’m sure are even more so after a warm day trekking from winery to winery.

Ancona ducks are give the Creamery its name. The ducks, which are definitely spotted, live behind the Creamery and are as friendly as the website said they’d be. While waiting for our ice cream, we wandered past picnic tables and Adirondack chairs to check out the ducks. They came waddling over to the fence and chatted away among themselves.

The ducks are joined by three beautiful peacocks who were just putting themselves to bed in a tall tree by the Creamery as we pulled out of the driveway.

Spotted Duck Creamery | Penn Yan, NY | Ancona Ducks

Spotted Duck Creamery | Penn Yan, NY | Roosting Peacocks