Since we were already in Boston, we decided to take a slight detour on the way back to San Francisco, stopping in Syracuse for our annual trip to our home town. (See our 2011 Syracuse blog for some of our favorite Syracuse activities and restaurants.)
Creatures of Habit
While our primary objective is to visit families and friends, we always have to feed a few of our habits and appetites on our trip to the city. Among our standard activities are:
- A walk around the beautiful turquoise Green Lakes and the neighboring Round Lake;
- A stop for a drink and peanuts at the atmospheric Scotch n’ Sirloin lounge. (the restaurant also has very good, reasonably priced steaks).
- A hot dog run for Hoffman franks at Heid’s Of Liverpool (a Syracuse institution) or if we can’t make it out to Liverpool, to Hoffman’s Hot House in East Syracuse.
- A feast of steamed little neck clams, with a side of salt potatoes. Although the best way of doing this to go to a clambake at Hinerwadels, we seldom find ourselves in town for a clambake too which we can get tickets. As an alternative, we can do dinner at the Clam Bar or buy clams and potatoes at Hinerwadels or Wegman’s for a do-it-ourselves bake at home (which is what we did this year).
This trip included a special treat–a trip to one of the most beautiful spots in upstate New York–Thousand Islands, an island paradise in the Saint Lawrence River, on the border between the U.S. and Canada. We began our visit with a 1.5-hour drive to the river. We assiduously avoided the tourist trap of Alexandria Bay, and decided to pass on a repeat visit to the much nicer residential town of Clayton and it’s wonderful Antique Boat Museum. We instead went directly over the bridge to Wellesley Island, where our cousins have a beautifully restored Victorian Cottage in Thousand Islands State Park.
After a visit, we went out on their boat, for a couple hour of the central section of the islands, past dozens of private islands, mansions and hundreds of pleasure craft of every size and shape. We went as far as Alexandria Bay, around the famous Boldt Castle (which was built by the proprietor of New York’s Waldorf Astoria for the love of his life–a wife who died before completion of the castle, to which the owner never returned and never completed the work.
Rather than try to describe the islands and the homes, it is best to let pictures do the talking.
After returning, we went for dinner at the Wellesley Hotel, the last remaining building of a century-old luxury resort hotel. While the restaurant was packed with an unfortunately noisy wedding rehearsal dinner (standard for summer Fridays) the service and most one food was very good. This was true for the perch taco appetizer and especially the roasted wild mushrooms with truffle oil powder (which we had never heard of) and the grilled lamb chops: Less so for the baked haddock, which was somewhat overdone.
We tried to sleep on screened-in porch overlooking a lagoon and the main shipping channel. We were, however, distracted by the full moon, which illuminated the area and provided a view of the sparking river and an occasional huge, brightly lit container ship.
The next day, we crossed the border, drove the 45-minutes to the Canadian city of Kingston Ontario (the first capital of Canada) and had brunch at Chez Piggy, the popular cafe owned by Zal Yanovsky, the former lead guitarist of the Lovin’ Spoonful. (We had Malpeque oysters, shrimp spring rolls, an artisan chicken club and lamb meatballs; all good, if not especially memorable.) After a brief walk through the historic downtown area, which was filled with street fairs and farmers’ markets, we lined up for the ferry to Wolfe Island.
After a 7-mile drive across the island (the largest in the Thousand Islands, with its mansions, food farms and wind farms), we arrived at another ferry (from Wolfe Island, back to the U.S., arriving at Cape Vincent.
Missing the Action in Syracuse
Since the 2:00 ferry that we planned to take from Kingston was filled, we had to wait another hour for the next ferry. This delay forced us to miss Syracuse’s 4th annual Redneck Games (with events including the seed spitting, bobbing for pigs feet and beer belly wet t-shirt competitions), not to speak of the weekend’s Macedonian and the Bavarian Festivals.
We consoled ourselves with dinner at another informal Syracuse classic, the perpetually packed Dinosaur Barbeque. While the four of us were tempted by the barbecued chicken and the pulled pork, we were all so attracted to the pork ribs that we couldn’t even contemplate anything else.
Although this trip was focused overwhelmingly on comfort food and old favorites, this is not to suggest that Syracuse does not also have fine dining restaurants. If you are looking for somewhat more formal meals, you may consider the Arad Evans House, Pascale’s, Atillio’s, China Road, Lemongrass or Scotch n’ Sirloin.