Jan 10, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Finger Lakes region is more recognized every year as a hotspot for culinary and enological innovation and greatness, and the region boasts 4 million food and wine tourists a year. With an awareness and appreciation of this local gourmet success, Central New York natives Karl Zinsmeister and his children, Kate Harvey and Noah Zinsmeister, have compiled a new storytelling cookbook to share the stories and secrets of this regional flavor.
The book, “Finger Lakes Feast: 110 Delicious Recipes from New York’s Hotspot for Wholesome Local Foods,” features culinary delights and regional narratives, boasts 110 recipes, 28 essays highlighting quirks of the Finger Lakes food culture and 126 color photos of both the gastronomic combinations and the bucolic region that produced them. It was recently released by McBooks Press of Ithaca.
“Whereas in many regions, exceptionally good food and drink have become costly — and pompous
— indulgences, the Finger Lakes spirit is to make good eating casual, simple, unintimidating and relatively inexpensive,” writes author Karl Zinsmeister in the introduction. “The restaurants are never stiff or starchy. Many of the chefs wander among the tables. Farmers and producers deal directly and closely with their customers. It’s an enormously fun place to explore the craft of food.”
To create the book, the authors invited chefs from about 30 of the best restaurants in the Buffalo-to-Utica corridor — chosen by professional reputation and the authors’ personal experiences — to submit recipes. Nearly all agreed to submit. These, along with traditional regional and ethnic favorites, family recipes and contributions from local farmers serve as the backbone of the cookbook.
Local author Karl Zinsmeister, who grew up in Baldwinsville and now lives in Cazenovia, conceived the book “as a kind of love letter to his home region,” he said. His career has been a mixture of journalism (magazines, books, and films) and politics (including time as a Senate aide and a senior advisor in the White House), and the short discourses scattered throughout the book — ranging from how the last Ice Age created today’s Central New York flavors to why Penn Yan is the buckwheat capital of the world — are his work.
Kate Harvey, burgeoning chef and recent recipient of a master’s degree in piano performance, served as the culinary conspirator for the book, and donned many an apron during the past two years to test and adapt for comfortable home creation the array of dishes found in “Finger Lakes Feast.” She called upon deep cooking savvy and her natural gifts of description to perfect each dish, then described foolproof ways to re-create it. Her clear, useful tips make the cooking simple.
Simultaneously, Noah Zinsmeister, an avid photographer and student at Columbia University, documented all of Karl and Kate’s exploits with corresponding photographs of food, foliage and local color. His images of the natural beauty of the region and the dishes, just as they emerged from oven or pot, complemented the book’s tone of local living.
In compiling and adapting recipes from some of the region’s best chefs and restaurants, Harvey and Zinsmeister looked to Skaneateles. There, Stephen Landon and Chris Pulito of Mirbeau, and Gary Robinson and Marc Albino of Rosalie’s Cucina, contributed multiple recipes to the project.
“The chefs at each restaurant decided what to submit. We adapted all recipes for home cooking, and used most but not all submissions,” the authors said.
From Mirbeau, readers can learn to cook seared scallops with shallot puree or an al dente garden bean salad; from Rosalie’s, offered recipes include roasted red pepper and chive polenta, arugula pesto and peanut butter mousse.
But more than just a collection of recipes, “Finger Lakes Feast” is also a piece of reporting — the story of a real food revolution now coming to fruition. Central New York is becoming nationally renowned for the quality of its fresh local food, its regional wine, and its contributions to American gastronomy ranging from Greek yogurt to great fruits and vegetables, from Wegmans groceries to Riesling to artisan oils.
“The ultimate sources of farm and culinary excellence in the Finger Lakes are lots of wise and progressive business people,” the authors write.
“Finger Lakes Feats” was created not only as a labor of love for the three authors, but also a message to readers to find and enjoy the local bounty of their local region.
“Ultimately, we think food should be a source of satisfaction and pleasure, not stress or guilt,” the authors write. “It’s highly desirable that we take pleasure in the processes of acquiring and cooking food, since the act of eating itself is an entirely destructive undertaking. Even the finest creation from the kitchen lasts for only a brief time … Great food, like theater, is thus a highly transient art.”
To read extracts and sample recipes from “Finger Lakes Feast,” and to learn more about ordering a copy, visit FingerLakesFeast.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.