October 25, 2013

Finger Lakes in 48 Part 1: Ithaca Farmer's Market and Apple Tasting

Last month, my dad and I took a trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York. It was originally going to be my family vacation (J and Tucker included!), but our summer was kind of hectic and that didn't work out. Our main reason for the trip was to visit Farm Sanctuary and our adopted goat, Jake, but we were also excited to explore other areas of the Finger Lakes like the town of Ithaca. We packed a lot into 48 hours, but it never felt rushed. In fact, it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I returned home with such peace in my mind and inspiration in my heart.

When I saw that Ithaca had a wildly popular farmer's market with about 150 vendors, I knew that was how we'd start our Saturday. We had no idea what a cool experience it would be though! It is a huge open-air market right on the banks of the Cayuga Lake. Outside of the large pavilions and scattered along the lake, there is plenty of seating with scenic views of billowy trees, sun-kissed water, and the pier. Under the pavilion, it is bustling with locals, college students, and travellers alike. The vendors were all very friendly, and I sampled and bought a lot of things before we moved on to our next destination.

 Some of my awesome finds:

These sprouts were so good. I've never had buckwheat lettuce, and I couldn't believe that they actually tasted like lemons without the acidic bite! I couldn't pass up buying a 1/4 lb of assorted sprouts. We also got some (unpictured) greens since I was craving a nice salad. We got a bunch of tat soi, a bunch of hardy purple greens that are in the mustard family, and a bunch of this really mild and delicate green that is perfect for salads. I made a huge bowl of these greens topped with sprouts, salt, and pepper, and I drizzled a bit of omega oil (olive, avocado, flax) on top. Delicious.

When I found this garlic, I had to explain my excitement to the vendor, who was looking at me like I was a little bit crazy. I am part Carpatho-Rusyn, so this garlic comes from one of the regions that my ancestors are from. It's a cultural identity that is not associated with any specific country (it spans many countries actually) and is not very well known. So, to see this garlic in the basket was a really cool thing for me. I bought a bulb, of course.

After perusing the market for awhile, we were ready for some lunch. There was a stall called Macro-Mama that served macrobiotic food. It was one of the more popular food vendors there, and the menu looked great. But then we happened upon a stall with Cambodian food. Neither one of us had ever had Cambodian food before, so that fact made the decision for us! Pictured below: My dad got curry with pineapple, peas, sweet potato, and tofu. I got a rice noodle salad with mango, basil, carrot, tomato, and plum sauce. We got two appetizers to share: fried banana with sesame seeds that came with sweet and sour sauce and veggie numpao which was a rice bun with taro, monk bean, onion, and carrot.

I also sampled a few flavors of (cheeseless!) garlic scape pesto, admired the teeny-tiny eggplants, sniffed the homemade vegan bar soaps, admired the beautiful flowers, and then, in all the excitement, forgot to pick up a pint of ground cherries on my way out.

This one apple stand had so many different kinds of apples that I'd never had before, and I was eager to try some of the different varieties. I chose 8 of them for purchase, and my dad and I took them home with us for an apple tasting. Since many of them looked alike, I took a picture of me holding the apple to its corresponding sign to help me identify them.

The following weekend (thank goodness apples keep for a long time), my dad came over for our apple tasting. I've never done any kind of tasting formally, but with all the fun I have doing them at home I bet I'd really enjoy them. Here's how this one went:

        Top row: Snapdragon, Esopus Spitzenburg, Karmijn de Sonnaville, Pink Pearl

Bottom row: Margil, Crimson Crisp, Liberty, Sansa

There were many more varieties of apples, but I'm happy with the selection we brought home. I didn't realize it at the time, but one of the varieties I get from my CSA is the Liberty apple, so that's the only one I've tried before.


*The favorite of the evening was the Karmijn de Sonnaville. It was really tart but also really sweet and was delighful for snacking.

*Other favorites were the Snapdragon, a new Cornell apple of which the Honeycrisp is a parent, the Sansa, a Japanese apple which crosses the Akane and Gala apples, and the Margil, which had the most unique flavor. It had a neutral flavor that was followed by a delicate nuttiness. I kinda wish I'd brought back a whole bag of the Margil apples.

*Best named apple goes to the Sansa. Ok, ok. This Game of Thrones fan may be a little biased.

*The prettiest apple was the pink pearl. It was so tiny and had a rosy hue inside. If I had more of these apples, I'd make some beautiful food art.

*This isn't so much a highlight, but our least favorite was the Esopus Spitzenburg. It was described as the "Thomas Jefferson apple, sweet + fruity with tingling tartness." The flavor was nice, but we couldn't get past the texture. It was really dry and made my tongue feel dry, too.

All in all, our trip to the Ithaca Farmer's Market was a smashing success. And, it was only the beginning of the rest of our magical 48 hours.

To be continued...

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