Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes

Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes:  The marina near Blue Point Grille
Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes: The marina near Blue Point Grille

Finding the best restaurants in the Finger Lakes region requires both less and more research than I’m used to. Less, because the options are limited. More, because we found it difficult to find the truly good among them. In keeping with the rural and outdoor nature of the Finger Lakes, even the fine-dining restaurants listed below retain a relaxed, semi-casual vibe.

Best romantic restaurant: Pleasant Valley Inn

Best Menu: Ports Café

Restaurant With the Best View: Ginny Lee Café

Most Relaxing Restaurant: Blue Pointe Grille

Because of covid-19 restrictions, we selected restaurants that either served outside or, by law, at well-spaced tables inside. Reservations are either required or strongly recommended since seating can be limited, particularly on the weekends. Note: Since pandemic restrictions can change, check out the current status before reserving.

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Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen, NY

Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen, sunset
Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen at Sunset

On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, we stayed at the Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen. The bed-and-breakfast inn, perched on a hill above the town, provided a quiet, Victorian-style retreat. Owners Marcus and Elin Dowd offered warm hospitality and delicious breakfasts.

For us, the Idlwilde Inn ended up being near-perfect for what we wanted.

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Finger Lakes Wine Tour

Finger Lakes Wine Tour: Tasting at Ravines Wine Cellars, overlooking Keuka Lake
Finger Lakes Wine Tour: Ravines Wine Cellars, overlooking Keuka Lake

With the coronavirus still raging, my husband and I decided to plan a Finger Lakes Wine Tour in upstate New York. We did not live in a banned state, and we could drive there in a few hours. Besides, we liked the bookend to our last out-of-state trip before the shutdown, to Napa Valley. With social distancing and mask-wearing in effect, the trip provided a low-key, relatively safe, and fun deviation from our routine.

Although the region focuses on white wines made from riesling and gewurtztraminer grapes, other varieties and styles tasted quite good. We tasted a few reds, but while they were perfectly enjoyable, they didn’t meet our admittedly high standards for red wine.

Best Overall Experience: Boundary Breaks Vineyard

Worst Overall Experience: Dr. Konstantin Frank

Tasting Room Most Closely Connected to Wine Making: Hermann J. Wiemer

Most Knowledgeable Service: Wagner Vineyards

Most Intimate Tasting: Tower Tasting at Heron Hill

Biggest Surprise: Keuka Spring Vineyards

Because tastings cost less and are less formal (also less informative) than those in California, we were able to visit many wineries a day. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of the best wineries in the Finger Lakes.

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The Murals of La Jolla

Walking Tour of the Murals of La Jolla:  Man, Myth, and Magic by Steven Hull
Walking Tour of the Murals of La Jolla: Man, Myth, and Magic by Steven Hull

Earlier this year, before the coronavirus lockdown, I planned a self-guided tour of the Murals of La Jolla, California. Even if you don’t live in the San Diego area, you can “visit” them in this seaside town, albeit virtually. The Murals of La Jolla project commissions art by both well-known and lesser known artists based in California. Murals such as my favorite Man, Myth, and Magic by Steven Hull (above) bring art to the the buildings and community.

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Twists on Three Easy Summer Salads

Grilled Pineapple and Watermelon with Fresh Herb Dressing
Grilled Pineapple and Watermelon with Fresh Herb Dressing

Easy summer salads are a mainstay in my kitchen during the hotter months. Still, I get tired of the same old/same old. Enter inspiration from restaurants and friends. Although I previously shared a recreated Watermelon Greek Salad, a dish that easily falls into this category, I tackled three new recipes this summer, each with a twist on a classic.

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Art in the Time of Coronavirus

Art in the Time of Coronavirus:  one of Van Gogh's Sunflower series
Art in the Time of Coronavirus: one of Van Gogh’s Sunflower series, as seen in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Viewing art in the time of coronavirus has shifted from physical museums to virtual tours. While this happened, something else shifted underneath society. We have mutally discovered how the arts keep us sane and connected during lockdown. Whether an entire town singing from balconies or an individual dancing with himself in front of a mirror, we’ve discovered that creativity and expression help assauge aloneness. When people sing together in a Zoom mosaic of faces and voices, they strengthen connections despite physical distance.

All those who have said that studying the arts is useless should heed what’s happening. The arts sustain us. They allow us to soar beyond our small spaces and into the world. They reach across language barriers, oceans, and cultures to establish a human bond where perhaps none existed before. For that reason, I’ve chosen to focus this article on the visual arts currently locked away in collections but now available for all of us to visit, virtually.

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Curbside Pickup from White Orchids

Curbside Pickup from White Orchids, Center Valley, PA
Curbside Pickup from White Orchids, Center Valley, PA

Curbside pickup from White Orchids, one of our local Thai restaurants, brought the spicy flavors we love to our date night during life in the time of coronavirus. We’ve tried to spread our support of local businesses over several of our favorite restaurants. Although we hadn’t eaten at White Orchids in several months, the time seemed right to do curbside pickup. I pulled an actual white orchid off my planters’ rack, and my husband looked up music from Thailand on his phone. We were ready to satisfy our “spice teeth.”

(In case you haven’t been following my Life in the Time of Coronavirus series, check out my first installment to see how to make takeout into a special occasion.)

Curbside Pickup Restaurant: White Orchids

Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA

Phone: 610-841-7499

Pickup Hours: Daily, 11:30 am-7:30 pm

Recommended music: Thai classical music from YouTube

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Life in the Time of Coronavirus: Curbside Pickup from Torre

Life in the Time of Coronavirus:  Curbside pickup at Torre
Life in the Time of Coronavirus: Curbside pickup at Torre

Our recent curbside pickup from Torre, our local higher-end Mexican restaurant, served two purposes: supporting a small business and giving me a night off from cooking. It gave us a break from the now-normal routine of life in the time of coronavirus. As I wrote in an earlier blog, you can create a special date night out of curbside pickup. In this case, we chose another ambience. Different food, different mood.

If you don’t live near Center Valley, PA, find your own local restaurant to support. They will appreciate it.

Curbside Pickup Restaurant: Torre

Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA

Phone: 610-841-9399

Pickup Hours: Wed. – Sat. 4:30-7:30 pm; Sun. 3:30-6:30 pm

Recommended music: Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra (Joaquin Rodrigo, composer)

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Life in the Time of Coronavirus: Traveling Your Backyard

Life in the Time of Coronavirus: A magnolia bloom starts to open
Life in the Time of Coronavirus: A magnolia bud starts to open

During life in the time of coronavirus, traveling your backyard can relieve stress while reminding you that you are part of the world. While we hunkered down inside, spring arrived. Birds belt out their mating songs, and long-dormant plants push through the leaf litter and mulch. Those of us fortunate enough to own our own property can spend hours outside without leaving its borders. After all, lots of spring work lies ahead. But even city dwellers can avail themselves of the outdoors. If you can’t walk outside, open the windows. Look and listen carefully. Mindfulness doesn’t apply only to eating and meditation.

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Flours in the Time of Coronavirus

Flour in the Time of Coronavirus:  Different specialty flours
Flour in the Time of Coronavirus: Different specialty flours

You’d think that I’d be in great shape when needing flours in the time of coronavirus lockdowns because I’m a pantry stocker. Not a prepper. Just someone who likes to have staples on hand in case the urge to bake hits me. Now, though, with store shelves bare and delivery options even scarcer, I’ve had to adjust. In particular, my flour supply has dwindled because of my bread making, and I can’t find any in stores or online to replace it. Many of us work out our stress and extra time in the kitchen, and nothing is more frustrating than not being able to secure ingredients.

I’m more fortunate than most. Not only did I have an extra bag of all-purpose flour on hand but also I had various other kinds in more limited quantities. I even have the ability to mill my own flour. (More on that at the end of this article.) Not all flours are equal, though. Some can be substituted for others in certain situations, while others cannot.

A little ingenuity can help you score a different kind of flour than you usually buy. If people don’t know how to use the other types, they will gravitate to the all-purpose and whole wheats flours. That means that alternatives sell out more slowly than the popular ones. Still, you need to know the properties of the flours left behind. I’ve compiled a list of types and their properties below.

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