Ithaca: The Culinary Pride of the Finger Lakes

AS I WAS ARTICULATING MY PASSION FOR ITHACA’S FOOD-SHED in my application for the show Food Network Star, Jeff Bercuvitz (co-founder of Feed Your Spark, a series of pop-up dinners for emerging non-profit leaders) and I coined the term IthaCuisine. In the many conversations I’ve shared with food producers, restaurateurs and chefs, most would agree that this is a flourishing genre originating in Ithaca, the gateway to the Finger Lakes. Healthful and imaginative dishes prepared with seasonal ingredients and time-honored techniques best characterize IthaCuisine. It’s a celebration of heritage food and farming, emerging from the region’s famed wine country, Cornell University’s distinguished agriculture school and the James Beard award-winning Moosewood Restaurant and cookbooks. Generations of world-class farmers and food artisans are constantly improving and inventing a variety of products like Riesling, roasted pumpkin seed oil, heirloom grains and the best deli ham on the planet. Ithaca has more restaurants per capita than New York City, but house parties and potlucks are also a strong component of local dining. Foraging for wild edibles and food preservation are among the ways to socialize and extend a short growing season. The historic presence of international faculty and students at Cornell and Ithaca College have shaped the multiethnic tones of local eateries, making Ithaca a top destination for food and wine lovers.

Edible Excursions - Summer 2014 - Edible Finger Lakes


A gift to the Ithaca community, Heather and Brad raise about 450 pigs on their 70-acre farm, processing them into charcuterie and fresh cuts of meat at their downtown location (sign up for a butchering class to learn how). Their friendly staff will guide you toward the right selection and share recipe tips (try the brined pork chops!). It’s a one-stop shop for eggs, produce, bread and other Finger Lakes products to assemble a picnic or meal.

423 Franklin Street


Perched on the southern tip of Lake Cayuga, the Ithaca Farmers’ Market is one of the most bucolic and bountiful markets in the country. Some market-goers arrive by kayak or canoe at the dock where others graze on lunch like Macro Mama’s famous peanut noodles. Come prepared to feast on Finger Lakes produce, meats, wine, cider, cheese, honey and preserves, or choose a gift or souvenir from the handcrafted soaps, clothing, pottery and more.

Steamboat Landing, 545 3rd Street


Ithaca Beer is the perfect place to wind down. Order a classic draft beer, like Ithaca Flower Power, or a flight of the rotating five-barrel series. Take a tour of the brewery to see the magic behind your pint. Settle into the lively taproom, around the fire pit or a playful game of bocce, while the kids chase fireflies in the field. The burgers and wood-fired pizzas always hit the spot, but ask about seasonal specials with produce from Hannah’s garden out back.

122 Ithaca Beer Drive


After 20 years, husband-wife team Jen and Stan still have a line out the door at dinnertime. Their commitment to sourcing from area farmers is reflected on their seasonal tapas menu. They still receive whole goats at the back door, making use of every part of the animal (including Stan’s authentic prosciutto). In the summer it’s worth waiting for a seat in the charming courtyard, and please, start your meal with the homemade focaccia.

116 N Aurora Street

Edible Excursions, Part 2 - Summer 2014 - Edible Finger Lakes


The quaint, wood- paneled store is beautifully arranged. You can confidently choose a white or red “Wine of the Moment,” or grab a discounted demi-sac of six bottles assembled by theme. Follow the “local” symbols on the spirit shelves for specialties like Finger Lakes Distilling’s McKenzie Rye Whiskey. Log your purchase at the register so you never lose track of your favorites. On Thursday evenings from 6pm–8pm stop in for a festive wine tasting.

435 Franklin Street


One of the trendiest spots in town, Felicia’s Atomic Lounge serves up creative locavore-led cocktails, meaning that local seasonal ingredients like beets, carrots, herbs and ginger might be flavoring that tasty drink you are nursing. Delicious flat-bread pizzas and Piggery pig dogs will help keep you steady on your feet as you work your way through the drink menu. Their new Sunday Brunch is a must-try, especially the local egg frittata, breakfast meatloaf and brunch bowl options. A perfect way to get going while visiting the west side of State Street.

508 W State Street


Gimme Coffee is sleek and focused on its artisan trade: sourcing, roasting and serving addictive coffee, complete with barista art. A fine selection of teas is available for the non-coffee drinker. Save room for a Krumbs Corner Bakery treat, like the irresistible morning glory muffins. Each location has it’s own vibe, but shares the privilege of being the go-to shop for suitcase entrepreneurs and friends to congregate. Local artists’ work rotates on the walls next to displays about Gimme’s coffee farmers from around the world.

430 N Cayuga Street, 607.277.8393
506 W State Street, 607.272.8564
3201 Krums Corners Road, 607.273.0111


The historic train depot has come alive with Agava’s southwestern inspired fare and tequila cocktails. The menu revolves around the wood-fired oven, which Chef Andre Jacquet believes is a prime (and primal) element of cooking. The vibrant, casual atmosphere and regular events, like Salsa Wednesdays, keeps the place packed and spilling onto the patio on warm nights.

381 Pine Tree Road


Just 3.5 miles from downtown Ithaca, Six Mile Creek Vineyards deserves a visit. Sample the wines and spirits in the tasting room and soak in the stunning valley view with your favorite glass or bottle. Add Finger Lakes cheese and crackers to your tab, or bring your own picnic to feast on the deck. On Thursdays watch the sun dip down to the tune of local musicians.

1551 Slaterville Road

Edible Excursions, Part 3 - Summer 2014 - Edible Finger Lakes


Ithaca’s Wegmans is the only location where you’ll find “Wings of Life” entrees. Pioneered by local chef Julie Jordan, the vegetarian station prepares customized, chopped salads that are nutritionally balanced and delicious, even without meat! Executive Chef Mark Washburn works closely with regional producers to weave products like Lively Run Goat Cheese and Finger Lakes vegetables into the smorgasbord of dishes, ranging from fresh sushi to pizza. Cruise the craft beer aisle for a pairing to take home with your meal.

500 S. Meadow Street


Mark and Olivia are leading the Ithaca Commons revival with their design-savvy wine and cider boutique. With over a decade of experience in the wine industry, they bring tremendous value in quality and price to the hand- selected inventory, including one of the most impressive cider collections in the country. Mark loves to help customers—novices and collectors alike—find the perfect bottle for any occasion or food pairing. On Fridays they host free, educational tastings from 5 pm–8 pm.

136 E. State Street


For anyone with a sweet tooth, the patisserie’s uptown and recently opened downtown locations are where to indulge. The beautiful chocolates and exquisite cakes are just the cream of the crop; arrive when the doors open for a fresh chocolate or almond croissant with your coffee.

200 Pleasant Grove Road
607.257.4257 130
E. Seneca Street


The store showcases a tantalizing harvest from Cornell’s farms, including orchard fruit, grapes and regional sensations like paw-paws and kiwi berries. You can also find a selection of other farm-fresh products like cider, preserves, baked goods and Cornell dairy products (cool down with ice cream!).

709 Dryden Road
607.255.4542 cornell-orchards

By Emma Frisch,

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