Tracy Schuhmacher is the food and drink reporter for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. She passionately covers the area’s ever-evolving local food and beverage scenes. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Marquette University and then spent about a decade working in advertising and public relations. As she focused on raising her two sons, she worked as a freelance writer and at a farm. She also entered and won multiple national recipe competitions, including the Pillsbury Bake-off contest. Schuhmacher, who holds a Level 3 Wine certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), started writing freelance articles for the Democrat and Chronicle in 2012 and joined the staff full-time in 2015. We hope you enjoy her answers to our foodie FAQs!
Edible Finger Lakes: What is the most interesting thing you always keep in your fridge?
Just from a name point of view, the most interesting thing is Tomato Garlic Oil from Cheeky Monkey Foods in Syracuse. It is known to family and friends simply as “Cheeky Monkey.” It is in our fridge almost all the time, especially in the summer when we entertain the most. Add a nice bread for dipping—I love to bake bread—and you’ve got a great appetizer.
I first had it as part of an appetizer at Veraisons Restaurant at the Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars, and right away I asked my server what it was. We used to purchase several at a time when we visited wineries in the Finger Lakes, but now I can also find it around Rochester.
EFL: What’s the last meal you cooked for yourself?
I made a breakfast sandwich of an egg, avocado, bacon, cheddar cheese and pepper jelly on a whole wheat English muffin. It’s a miniature version of a breakfast sandwich served at Tree Town Café, an adorable coffee shop in Brighton. They add arugula to theirs, but I order mine without.
EFL: What’s the one kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?
The most essential tool in nearly any kitchen is a sharp knife. The trouble is, I don’t have good habits when it comes to keeping my knives sharp. I usually turn to my 5 ½-inch Kyocera ceramic Santoku knife because it is lightweight and stays sharp for ages. The blade is fragile so you can’t use it for everything, but it’s a great everyday knife and inexpensive as knives go.
EFL: What’s the one food or beverage you couldn’t live without?
Eggs are pretty much indispensable for me. I can do something with them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are low calorie and high in protein. It’s great when I can get them from a local farm.
EFL: What was the first Finger Lakes wine/beer/spirit you ever tasted?
I have a picture of a friend and me in front of Widmer Wine Cellars in the mid-1980s, when I was in my early 20s. Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars is there now. I don’t remember much about that visit, but in those days, I probably liked the Widmer Lake Niagara.
Now my wine fridge is full of wines, mostly from the Finger Lakes. I love the Rieslings, of course, but also some of the region’s Gewurtztraminers and Chardonnays.
Last summer I was drinking some of the fun sparkling wines coming out of the Finger Lakes. A lot of them have been introduced since Lakewood Vineyards started force carbonating wines. They are the perfect thing to take on a boat ride or to sip poolside.
EFL: If you could add one item to the Finger Lakes food shed that doesn’t grow here, what would it be?
I would just like a longer season for the summer’s amazing tomatoes and sweet corn.
EFL: What does it mean to you to be a part of the Finger Lakes food shed?
Before I became a journalist, I worked part-time at Wickham Farms in Penfield for 12 years. I helped launch their CSA, which has become very popular. That experience gave me an appreciation for how hard farmers work and what they are up against on a day-to-day basis.
I purchase local produce almost exclusively when it is in season, and as I cover food and drink for the D&C, I do my best to shine a spotlight on agriculture as well. It’s an important part of the region’s economy. I would think that the various food shortages we experienced during the early part of the pandemic last year gave everyone a better appreciation of why it’s important to have a strong local food system.
The FLX FAQs is a semi-regular column where we nose our way into the minds and kitchens of notable individuals in the Finger Lakes. Click here for more of The FLX FAQs.