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