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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Independence Day in the Heart of the Finger Lakes

I've always been a big fan of the 4th of July. What's not to like about celebrating our nation's independence with beer, BBQ  and fire works. It's hard to come to the Finger Lakes and the Rogues' Harbor Inn and not reflect on history and maybe what or who makes us the most proud. Independence- the individuals right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness is worth celebrating. I think part of that celebration should acknowledge the free thinkers and brave souls who risked all to allow us the freedom we enjoy everyday.
There are so many important historic figures and sites in the Finger Lakes that it's hard to choose which make the top of my list. The Rogues' Harbor Inn and the Finger Lakes region have much to celebrate and many to acknowledge, but here are my top picks. General Daniel D. Minier built the inn and I owe him much for that. It took him 12 years to complete and was his greatest achievement. But greater to me was his willingness to risk it as well as his own freedom in order to take part in the underground railroad's efforts to aid escaped slaves in their journey to freedom. It is rumoured that at one time there was a tunnel leading from the Rogues' Harbor Inn (then known as the Central Exchange Hotel) down to Cayuga Lake. We don't know if that's true, but what we do know is that General Minier was President of the Free Soil Party in Lansing and that he associated with many well documented Underground Railroad activists in the area. Furthermore, the inn was an ideal underground railroad station in that an extra delivery, carriage, servant, meal...would probably go unnoticed. It was a busy stage coach stop ideally located between Ithaca & Auburn. The entire Finger Lakes region was a hot bed of Underground Railroad activity with many documented routes. The Rogues' Harbor Inn lies precisely on one which ran from Lancaster, Pa. North to Elmira, Ithaca, Lansing, Sherwood, Auburn and onto the shores of Lake Ontario. Three well known abolitionists have their residences commemorated as museums and are well worth a visit: the Howland Museum in Sherwood, the William Henry Seward House in Auburn and my personal hero, legend, and ultimate woman of unfathomable strength, Harriet Tubman. Her homestead is in Auburn, NY just down the road from the Seward House and is open to the public for tours Seward actually sold Harriet her home & held the mortgage which was not legal at that time; yet another reason why he's on the top of my list. Another list topper is Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragette, free thinker, writer & gifted public speaker. Many women fought for the freedom of African Americans only to realize later that their own cause was not as clearly linked the the 13th amendment as it seemed. She and many other remarkable women are commemorated at the Women's Rights Museum in Seneca Falls
So, that's my short list of shoulders upon which I am proud to stand. Come celebrate our collective & individual independence this weekend with us in the heart of the Finger Lakes -and raise a glass to your personal hero.
Some Special  Beer & BBQ Offerings to celebrate will be served in addition to our dinner menu on Saturday, Sunday & Monday, July 2, 3 & 4:
Our first Brewer's Choice Brew! East Shore Pale Ale
Bang Bang Shrimp: deep fried with a spicy red Thai curry
BBQ Baby Back Ribs with Fries & slaw
Red, White & Blue homemade ice: strawberry, lemon & blueberry (like a grown up astropop)
Don't forget-Town of Lansing fireworks, Saturday, July 2, 2011 at Myer's Park. We will be open every night as always. Cheers to life, liberty & happiness!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beer 101: The Hops

Hops growing
Hops just before harvest

While most people have enjoyed a beer or two in their lives, there is still some mystery as to the various ingredients in beer and how exactly they make up the different flavors. Some seem fairly straight forward, a hoppy beer, one can deduce, uses a larger quantity of hops to achieve its flavor. Though darker beers, or chocolaty beers, or some of the dry Belgian style of beer have characteristics which might not be as obvious to someone who hasn't spent a good deal of time learning about beer. I thought that maybe a little beer education 101 was in ordering and that over a few posts we'd look at some of the various ingredients of beer and take a look at exactly how they influence the shaping of the final product. First up, the hops!

I'd like to start with hops because not only are they a key component of many styles of beer, but they are also a part of New York State history. Right up until the start of the 1900's there was a thriving hop farming business throughout many parts of upstate New York (with the largest growing area being Madison county). European settlers brought hop plants with them and found the region to have a climate that was conducive to the growing of the hop vines. Since beer was a large part of both European history and culture, it seemed only natural that they should bring their brewing ways, and ingredients with them to the New World. While farmers did have to deal with a blight in the soil that damaged large portions of some hop crops it was the US government that destroyed the fledgling hop industry in New York. Prior to the enactment of Prohibition New York grew upwards of 90% of the hops used in making beer in the country. Since outside of brewing the hop plant had limited applications many farmers switched their fields to other crops in order to continue earning a living. A lot of the hop growing moved out West, primarily to Oregon and Washington and after the repeal of Prohibition that area took off as the new hop growing region for the country. While taking trips through New York back roads one can still find wild hops growing where once they flourished as a cash crop.

But what exactly is a hop? The hop is the flowering part of the humulus lupulus plant, a vine like perennial. The flowering portion, sometimes called a seed cone, is a green cone like flower that produces a sticky yellow substance known as lupulin oil. It was discovered early on that hops help in the stabilization of beers, allowing them to be transported and stored for longer periods of time without spoilage. While there is still speculation about when and where hops were first used in beer making, it was the English who most famously used them to allow the long transport of their beer by ship to their colony in India, hence the formation of the style known as India Pale Ale.

The oils in hops can contribute both to the bittering quality of the beer, as well as many different flavors and aromas. As such hop types generally break down in to two categories, bittering hops and aroma/flavoring hops. The hops added during the initial portion of the boil are used for bittering. During the long boil of the beer the essential oils in the hops break down creating a bittering flavor in the beer. Most beers, even those with very low to no perceptible bitterness will contain some amount of bittering hops. Our Cayuga Cream ale uses the bitterness from the hop to take edge of the sweetness of the malt and lend to it's crisp, relaxed finish. Aroma hops are added towards the very end of the boil. While you want to draw the oils out of the hop and in to the beer, you want to minimize how much of that oil gets broken down as it is the oils that contribute both flavors and aromas to the beer. These characteristics can range from very floral or herbal characteristics to having very earthy overtones. Some of the more popular North American hop varieties are known for their citrusy or tropical fruit like flavors and aromas.

Hop harvest drying

There have been many studies showing potential medicinal properties of hops, and in fact have been used for centuries for a range of medicinal applications such as anti-inflammatory or as an analgesic. There are even studies showing the use of hops in moderation can reduce the chance of prostate cancer. While none of these studies are conclusive they all lend to the mystique and wonder of the hop. Though for us, it's most celebrated quality is how it helps to make our Rogues' Harbor Brewing Company's beer taste so wonderful!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Father's Day Dinner at the Rogues' Harbor Inn

Father's Day is a bitter sweet holiday for me. I lost my Dad several years before I rescued the Inn, or before it rescued me. The Rogues' Harbor Inn was in rough shape, but I liked the old place and the location- Ithaca, the Heart of the Finger Lakes, Cornell University, Cayuga Wine Trail, gorges & water falls,...and over the past 15 years with much love and many renovations the Inn has come back to life. But, my father was on my mind when I opened the Inn, especially the pub. The pub encompasses his three favorite things in life.
1. wine (beer in his case), women & song, 2. steak, and 3. history.
Rogues' is really my Dad's kind of place. He loved American history; he taught it for 30 years. He would have thought that the Rogues' Harbor Inn receiving National Landmark status was best thing to happen since my birth. He would still be researching the Inn's involvement in the Underground Railroad if he were here- while drinking a pint. On second thought, maybe the opening of our own micro brewery, the Rogues' Harbor Brewing Company would have been the best thing to come along since Daddy's little girl... I think our own Cayuga Cream Ale would have been his favorite.
We will be serving up some dinner specials with Dad & a pint of beer in mind this coming Sunday, June 19 from 3 till 9 pm, rain or shine, inside or outside. It's Dad's Day.

Fish Chowder
2.50 & 3.50

Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Shrimp Appetizer
3 large shrimp cheddar stuffed & bacon wrapped 7.00

Fried Gator Tail:
lightly battered alligator tail, deep fried and served
with a Cajun remoulade sauce, French fries & coleslaw 21.00

Mushroom Smothered Delmonico:
12 oz steak grilled and smothered with sautéed wild mushrooms,
bacon & onions 22.00

Guinness Pudding:
homemade pudding with bittersweet chocolate and Guinness Stout beer
topped with whipped cream (looks just like a little pint of draught) 4.95

I think my Dad would have had the bacon & Cheddar shrimp appetizer with the Delmonico steak and a pint of Cayuga Cream Ale. So whether you'll be spending the day with your Dad in person or in spirit, remember this Sunday is his day.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rogues' Harbor Inn at Taste of the Nation, Tuesday, June 14

We love Taste of the Nation. We look forward to participating every year and even more so this year. This year we will be pouring our own craft brew at the event as well as serving some restaurant favorites. It's always a win win to serve some dishes (and now beer) to folks that have maybe never been to our national historic landmark inn before and to raise money to fight childhood hunger.
Our Brew Guru, Chris, has decided to pour our first brew, Cayuga Cream Ale, at the event. We like food friendly brews and Cayuga Cream Ale is a good summer time, nicely hopped, straw colored ale which compliments the dishes we will be serving beautifully, if we do say so ourselves. We launched our new venture, the Rogues' Harbor Brewing Company, this past March and we've been very pleased to see lots of smiling faces enjoying our craft brews since then. Our Head Chef, Luke, will be preparing our Beer Steamed Mussels as our first course. They're Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in the shell with our Cayuga Cream Ale, a touch of Thai red curry and fire roasted corn salsa. It's a truly summer time dish, fresh and light with lots of flavor. Our second course will be a Vanilla & Apple Panna cotta. Asst. Chef Ariel will be serving the panna cotta on a fresh apple slice with a sprinkle of candied apple on top. Italians really know how to serve up a dessert that's not too sweet, but full of flavor that compliments a glass of wine, or in our case our own beer. Panna cotta is a cooked cream dessert that is served chilled usually with some sort of fruit component. Local New York State apples, crisp and delicious, fit the bill.
There will be many area restaurants and Finger Lakes wineries & breweries offering tastings at the event. Everyone brings their best and it's wonderful to wander around and try delicious local foods and sample some wine and beer to go along with it. Our staff takes turns heading out into the crowd to forage for scrumptious offerings complimented by wine & beer tastings. Everyone looks forward to serving and tasting, a little work, a little fun. It's an enjoyable evening.
Ithaca's Taste of the Nation is always held at the Emerson Suites on the Ithaca College Campus. There's lots of parking, and tickets are available at the door or also in advance on line. Here's the link We hope to see you Tuesday. Bring your appetite and help us raise some money- no child should be hungry.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We Love New York State Apples, Applesauce Cake Recipe

Cornell Orchards
I was just out enjoying the well deserved sunshine and looking over my apple trees. I noticed that it looks like a good year for apples so far. The trees are covered with hundreds of gumball sized apples. It's a sure sign of good things to come. In an area known for apples, inspiration and good apples are pretty easy to come by.
The Rogues' Harbor Inn loves apples. It's obvious when you look at our menu offerings. We have the Big Apple Salad which has fresh greens topped with Empire Apples, Bleu cheese, celery, walnuts & our own house soy ginger dressing. There's the popular Finger Lakes Harvest appetizer which offers a sampling of local fare: NY Natural Chevon summer sausage, Finger Lakes Farmstead Bier Meck cheese, homemade crostini & fresh Empire apple slices. I like both of those with Bellwether Hard Cider on draught or Treleaven Chardonnay. In the fall we offer Apple Onion Chicken with pan seared chicken tossed in a ginger brandied apple, onion, walnut & raisin dressing with homemade smashed potatoes. We even sometimes make apple soups- usually in the fall... For dessert we love to serve our homemade apple crisp with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. We are thinking about making cider ice for dessert, too this week for the hot days ahead.
Day dreaming about the apple harvest made me hunt for a recipe I haven't baked in a long time. It's too hot today to bake, but file this one away for later. It's best served at breakfast with apple butter, or for dessert with a big scoop of Purity French Vanilla ice cream.

Apple Sauce Cake:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups applesauce
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter & sugar. Add well beaten egg & vanilla. Then add nuts, raisins, applesauce & well mixed and sifted dry ingredients. Turn into buttered loaf pan and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

This is a good one, old fashioned Finger Lakes flavor. We serve it in our bed and breakfast with Amish apple butter & Gimme coffee. It's a great way to start the day. It's the best when made with homemade NYS apple sauce. I'll post our recipe for that another time and a few other apple recipes. In the meantime, enjoy summer in the Finger Lakes and have a glass of wine. Days like today remind why I love to live here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Reminder

Poetry is important. That's all there is to it. Sometimes we just need to be reminded. I was reminded yesterday by a book I'm reading by Stephanie Saldana, "The Bread of Angels."
"Now I take my seat beside him and he offers me a cigarette. After he lights it, we begin to speak about poetry.
"Do you know what I have decided Stephanie? There are two kinds of poets. The good poet is able to put beautiful words on paper. But the great poet doesn't need words, and he doesn't need paper. The great poet sees that there is poetry in everything."
He steps out of the store and begins pacing back and forth in the alley.
"I've decided that poetry is best considered as a science. So, just as hydrogen and oxygen are bound together to create water, the force that binds them can be compared to poetry. Poetry is an invisible energy that exists between everything, holding it together, giving it meaning. The job of every human being is to search for the poetry hidden within the midst of things."
Something about him seems desperate. He keeps pacing.
"So, this brings us back to the role of poets in society. Some people write poetry, and some people live poetry. The man who lives poetry is the greater of the two."