Friday, May 22, 2015

A Taste of Upstate New York by Chuck D'Imperio


A Taste of Upstate New York: 
The People and the Stories Behind 40 Food Favorites
by Chuck D'Imperio
Syracuse University Press, 2015
288 pages
source: from publisher via Netgalley

Publisher's summary:
Upstate New York is the birthplace of many of America's favorite food treats. The chicken wing was born in a bar in Buffalo, the potato chip was born in the kitchen of a ritzy hotel in Saratoga Springs, the salt potato got its start along the marshy shores of a Syracuse Lake and Thousand Island Dressing was born in a hotel along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Add to these items black dirt onions, chicken riggies, pink striped cookies, sponge candy, spiedies and the ice cream sundae and many more. This book also introduces the reader to the human faces behind these edible legends. Their stories are inspiring and fun! Each of the 40 plus chapters includes restaurant directions, photographs and other pertinent information to make your self-guided "all you can eat" tour around Upstate New York a sumptuous journey for sure.

My thoughts:

Chuck D'Imperio is no stranger to Upstate New York. He has written several previous books including Unknown Museums of Upstate New York: A Guide to 50 Treasures  and Monumental New York!: A Guide to 30 Iconic Memorials in Upstate New York  and now turns his attention to the "wonders and quirky food facts" of Upstate New York.

In  A Taste of Upstate New York, D'Imperio divides the area into eight regions - from Chautauqua/Allegany in the southwest corner to the Thousand Islands/Seaway in the north, and south to Catskills/Hudson Valley - and regales us with each area's delicacies, lore, and sometimes even a recipe or two.

I was delighted with the inclusion of Turkey Joints (a beloved holiday season confection of chocolate and Brazil nuts coated with spun sugar and shaped to look like - you guessed it - a turkey joint), salt potatoes, Chicken Riggies, and famous Utica Greens. My husband's hometown is mentioned as the the birthplace of pie-a-la-mode... a fact which has always made him inordinately proud.

Cornell Chicken (another personal favorite) is a New York State Fair tradition served at Baker's Chicken Coop since 1949. Dr. Bob Baker was a former chair of Cornell's Department of Poultry and Avian Sciences. D'Imperio shares the famous recipe:
Dr. Baker's Cornell Chicken Marinade 
1 egg
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cider vinegar
3T coarse salt
1T poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
Beat the egg, add oil, beat again. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Use the sauce for basting. While barbecuing, brush sauce on chicken each time you turn it. Makes enough sauce for 10 halves.
In addition to foods from my childhood, I found a few new favorites, like Bread Alone in Rhinebeck, NY. 

D'Imperio also highlights local cookbooks and foodie celebrities, including Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge ( The Fabulous Beekman Boys) and The Moosewood Collective. Iconic restaurants and "fun food festivals" are listed, too, and have provided ideas for countless day trips or weekend getaways.

Bottom line:
This book is chock-full of local food lore, fun food festivals, and legendary restaurants. There are even a few (locally) famous recipes! It's entertaining, nostalgic, and a must read for anyone who has spent time in Upstate New York.




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29 comments:

  1. What fun! I have a book about Boston food shops that I got when I first moved here...sadly, many of them weren't around anymore by the time I got around to exploring them...

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    1. Audrey - That's too bad... most of the places mentioned in this book have been around for decades!

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  2. I've never been to Upstate New York or any part of New York. This book sounds like a lot of fun though and very interesting. I'll have to tell my husband about the beginnings of Thousand Island Dressing. And pie a la mode. :-)

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    1. Kay - Part of out family lore includes a car ride up the river to point out the beautiful Thousand Islands and a very cranky daughter who responded by saying "I only see three." The dressing is one of my husband's favorites.

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  3. Oh my goodness--I MUST get my hands on this book! Thanks for the awesome review!

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    1. Debi - I am certain you would love this!!

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  4. What a neat book! I'm going to NYC later this year and I'd love to check some of them out, but probably won't make it to upstate New York.

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    1. Vicki - There must be similar books focusing on NYC... the possibilities are endless there!

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  5. I didn't realize Upstate New York had such regional foods! And I'm glad you explained what turkey joints are. LOL!

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    1. Trish - We have friends that buy a case of Turkey Joints every year... for their own use, hostess gifts, etc. Truly a regional delicacy!

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  6. This book looks like a lot of fun! I love knowing the background information about areas and really most anything. I've never heard of some of these foods but am glad to find out about them!

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    1. Monica - There were even a few local foods mentioned that I didn't even realize were local... just assumed everyone knew and loved them!

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  7. Oh gosh! This looks like a book we might have to own. I see some weekend trips in our future. We have visited wineries and apple farms, but clearly haven't explored enough.

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    1. Beth F - Oh yes! The wineries and apple farms are only the beginning. There's even a cheese trail now :)

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  8. Definitely saving that marinade recipe as we are big fans if chicken here. What a cool idea to make a confectionary resemble a turkey leg, very creative. I'm not from NY but the regional date is calling me!

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    1. Tina - Baker's Chicken Coop is a landmark at the NY State Fair (the largest in the country, incidentally) and people come from all over to get eat their fill!

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  9. Upstate New York is on my travel list because my family settled there after coming over from Ireland and I want to see where they lived. This sounds like a great way to get an idea of the foodie stuff while we're there.

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    1. Katherine - It would be a lot of fun to visit and sample all of the foods from the region your family settled in!

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  10. Interesting to hear about all those regional foods. I'm not very familiar with the area -- had only heard about the potato chips from Saratoga Springs -- but it makes me want to visit and learn more.

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    1. Jama - Saratoga Springs is also home to the "Peppermint Pig"... a 6" pink pink made of peppermint hard candy and sold with a felt bag and small hammer. On Christmas Eve, the pig is placed in the bag, passed around the table, and every pound it with the hammer. Big pieces mean good luck for the upcoming year!

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  11. Never been in that neck of the woods :) but always enjoy reading about new places and good food, especially want to try that marinade.

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    1. Claudia - The marinade means summer around here!

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  12. I'm not even sure where Upstate is - I assume north of the city? Cheers from carole's chatter

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    1. Carole - Yes... basically the entire state except New York City.

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  13. Turkey joints seems an odd name for a holiday confection, but I guess that's part of the local charm, right! I didn't realize upstate NY was the birthplace of so many dishes, either! Pie a la mode was definitely an inspired invention!

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    1. Laurie - We have friends that take an entire case of Turkey Joints to Florida with them each winter to give as gifts. I think they're getting famous in their little corner of Florida, too!

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    2. The candy sounds delicious, so I don't doubt it!

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  14. I know I'm late, but this one caught my eye (back to my childhood.) Does he mention spiedies? I only discovered those when I was in Binghamton. I've never seen them elsewhere.

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    1. Roberta - Oh, yes! Spiedies are in there. There are several spiedie marinades available now, too, from the traditional State Fair brand to Wegmans own label... a summertime favorite!

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