Seeking foodie goodness in upstate New York farm country

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Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Madison-Bouckville, NY
Best of Show: 
Salt Potatoes, a Syracuse specialty

Farm Country in upstate NYWe took a long trip to the Upstate NY Farm Country to go to the annual Madison-Bouckville Antiques Fair, and so we could explore the Erie Canal byways and our old friend Route 20 in NY. The weather was glorious and we covered a lot of ground.

In upstate NY, the farms are much bigger than those in New England. Farmers are busy with large-scale production, and a culture of value-added artisan foods has not developed in the relatively poor farm towns between the Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes.

Salt PotatoesOne bona fide food of this region is Salt Potatoes. Salt potatoes are small potatoes boiled in heavy brine. They are sometimes made today with new potatoes, but they were invented in Syracuse by poor laborers at the brine works where table salt was produced. They would bring small utility-grade potatoes for their lunch and boil them in the brine that was being evaporated for salt. Of course, potatoes love salt anyway, so the simple combination of salted potatoes and melted butter is an enduring regional winner.

I only eat potatoes once a year - and this is it!

Utica Club Pilsener with a Hot DogAfter we left the fair, we headed north through Utica bound for the Adirondacks. We had lunch in a forgettable little restaurant but we had the good fortune to chat with a server who understood our locavore quest immediately.  I had a very local Utica Club Pilsener (now brewed by Saranac) and a Hofmann hot dog. I really  enjoyed the beer and thought it would go great with some more of those Salt Potatoes!

That's about what we found in the central New York area for local foodie goodness. There are simply not very many artisan cheesemakers, craft brewers, distillers, or coffee roasters in the area between the foodie-rich Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes region.

Long Lake, in the AdirondacksUtica is the western gateway to the Adirondacks, so we went into the mountains next.

Once you get far enough into the mountains, the scenery is beautiful, but you can't eat the scenery and there's even less of interest to the dedicated foodie here than there was in the lowlands. We escaped the mountains around sundown and took the ferry from Plattsburgh to South Hero.

Dinner in Burlington was a high point. We ate at the Bluebird BBQ, where the food was good, and the service really was beyond excellent. An extra-special treat: they had the near-legendary Hill Farmstead Edward on draft! I enjoyed that with their locavore special, a meatloaf from grassfed local beef. Really that would get best of show this week, except this whole post is about upstate New York!

a late night

We caught the 9pm ferry from Plattsburgh and got to Bluebird BBQ just a few minutes before their 10pm closing time. It was a late night. We thought about a hotel (and our server Kari was very helpful here) but they were all full. We ended up driving home, pulling into our driveway at about 2:30am having logged 850 miles for the trip!

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