what we did on our summer vacation

our first day out, we stopped at waldameer amusement park in erie. a smaller, older park, it seemed a bit down at the heels. if anything, this made it even more charming. it was not at all commercial. there are extensive picnic groves and all sorts of groups had staked out areas for their picnic lunches. our favorite attractions were the wacky shack fun house and the sky ride aerial tram. the next couple of days in westfield, ny included a visit to amish country, where we had lunch, and the johnson estate winery. after a tasting and the purchase of a couple of bottles, we ran into some friends from cleveland in the parking lot! what a small world. we stayed at the william seward inn here and had a lovely room named after the welch family, of grape juice fame!

on our way east, we stopped off in letchworth state park to have lunch at the glen iris inn. this is a lovely nineteenth-century guesthouse on the high bank of the genesee river. it has been in operation as a restaurant and inn for one hundred years! it is a beautiful setting for a meal and a stroll by the falls. then it was on to the finger lakes. in canandaigua, we stayed at the chambery cottage. we spent one afternoon at sonnenberg gardens, touring the mansion and the grounds. built in 1885-7, this canandaigua landmark includes 13 separate formal gardens, as well as a wine center and gift shop. we had lunch at belhurst castle and did a quick tour of the outlet mall at waterloo. the scenery in this part of the state is breathtaking. i wish we could go back to see the fall color!

as we headed south from here, we spent an afternoon at the steuben county fair in bath, ny. it was just about as charming as a fair could get! we saw pig races, prize-winning goats and chickens, tons of 4H exhibits, lots of junk food and a traditional midway. our lunch here was excellent. we ate in the pomona grange dining hall, lunching on chicken and biscuits, a hot roast beef sandwich on white bread, fresh corn and homemade pie. then it was on to angelica. the local bed and breakfast was charming and our experience was enhanced by being the only guests staying there! there is very little to do here, especially after 5 pm. we made the trip down the road to cuba and had a very nice dinner there, at our hosts’ recommendation. the next morning we hit the road back home. we had a grand time!

we managed to stay off the interstate system for the majority of the trip, passing from one small town to the next on state routes and county roads. we hit a few patches of dirt road, and we got lost more than once, but we agreed that it was a much more interesting method of travel. we drove through dozens of little hamlets, some as small as a couple of shops and a blinking light, others with vibrant town squares complete with a gazebo. the town names seemed to fall into categories, such as far off place names like cuba, cheshire, sardinia, bath, naples, waterloo, leicester, yorkshire and portland; indian names like olean, kanona, laona, honeoye, gowanda, seneca point and canandaigua; the villes and burghs, such as mitchellsville, cuylerville, springville, forestville, lakeville, prattsburgh, and perrysburg; those named after geographical features, such as bristol springs, hickory hill, mount morris and big creek; and those named after people, such as beans station, howard, dineharts, collins, webbs and stickneys. still others had unique names like eagle, bliss, hemlock, pike, almond and friendship.

now for more about the food, here’s a (partial) list of what we ate, in no particular order….

french toast made with angelica salt-rising bread; ham souffle; fresh, local berries at breakfast; chocolate cappuccino muffins; almond blackberry muffins; red jacket apricots; chicken fricassee; our lunch at the fair; apple raspberry juice; an afternoon wine tasting; southern tier green salad; porkloin with mascarpone polenta; a classic fish fry; a massive italian platter for two; panko crusted scallops; angel hair pasta with shrimp and tomato; goat milk fudge; a strawberry and hotfudge sundae; concord grape tart; black raspberry pie; blueberry pie; peanut butter meringue pie; chocolate and raspberry gelati; wild elderberry jelly. there was, as usual, much more to it than this.

i also loaded up on local specialties to bring home. in addition to several bottles of wine, bought at the site of the wine tastings, we picked up the black raspberry pie, the grape tart and a jar of niagra concord grape pie filling at monica’s pie shop in naples. at the cuba cheese shop, we got some two year old ny state cheddar, as well as fresh cheddar curds. we bought jams, jellies and fruit butters, in flavors as diverse as plum, pumpkin and black rasbberry, at red jacket orchards, the sugar shack and monica’s. we brought back a loaf of angelica bread. i could easily have filled a second suitcase with all the goodies!

it was about as carefree of a trip as one could have, especially given that we stayed in bed and breakfast inns every night. that meant that at least one of our meals was taken care of each day. in addition to the meals we had planned for, we stumbled upon a couple of great treats, such as olives in mayville and the pomona grange dining hall at the fair. we were generally very impressed with the food in rural western new york. if only i had had access to a kitchen, i could have taken advantage of all the farmstands! one after another they rolled by, offering sweetcorn, tomatoes, peppers, crookneck squash, peaches, plums, early apples and glads. a couple of folks had clearly planted way too much zucchini, as evidenced by tables laden with the stuff in their front yards, advertised with the sign: FREE SQUASH!

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