Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chews in the 'Cuse

As great as city living can be, sometimes you just have to get out and reconnect with how the other half lives. It's easy to forget what it feels like to just hop in the car and go somewhere without traffic or go out to brunch without an hour-long wait.  Last weekend we headed 4 1/2 hours north to Syracuse, NY where our good friends, Matt and Nicole, moved for graduate school and a break from the New York City pace.  The sun was shining Thursday as we hopped into the car with iced coffees and a charged ipod.  We drove upstate via New Jersey and Pennsylvania and hit Syracuse before the sun was even down!  Aaaahhh.  Out of the city!

our gracious hosts enjoying some local craft beer
We enjoyed some awesome cheese and wine (way too much, I may add.)  as soon as we arrived.  Nicole and I share a love of cheese and she always has a knack for cocktail hour.  Her cheese platter had an aged blue served with honey, a young gouda served with grainy mustard, and a pungent Tallegio that needed no condiment!  Yum.  We then enjoyed some grilled trout that Will had caught the day before, as well as grilled flank steak for the carnivores, grilled summer squash, and rice a'la nicky (No explanation needed.  It's good.)

Well, we were moving slowly the next day, but we managed to motivate and get out in the evening  and hit the world-famous Dinosaur Barbecue.  There we were bowled over by the exquisite craft beer selection, impeccable house-made sauces, and perfection at every turn--not your typical barbecue joint.  They have a few locations including in Rochester and in Harlem, so if you are near one, you definitely want to stop in. We started with truly excellent fried green tomatoes.  My friends enjoyed ribs, chicken, and assorted meats slathered in house sauces and charred to perfection.  I enjoyed the best blackened catfish I've had outside of New Orleans and my Carrot Raisin Salad and Macaroni and Cheese rivals any southern grandmother's.  Each was perfectly seasoned and had depth of flavor including a slight spicy-sweet curry essence in the carrot raisin salad.  Awesome.

We enjoyed a sweet and savory waffle breakfast at a local favorite, Funk and Waffles.  They feature Gimme Coffee (always one of my favorites!) and some house combos, but also a list of batters and toppings to create your own perfect waffle.  I had whole grain batter with spinach and feta.  Needless to say, it was sooooo good.  The guys got classic buttermilk with chocolate chips and they were gone in an instant.

Pastabilities.  The name just doesn't do the place justice.  For our last night chillin' in the 'cuse, we went out to an Italian favorite and enjoyed AMAZING bread with "spicy tomato oil", which was a housemade tomato sauce diluted with rich olive oil and infused with heat.  We could have just had that it was so delicious and fresh...but we didn't.  The fried calamari was ho-hum, but that was quickly forgotten when my balsamic grilled tuna with polenta triangles, sauteed spinach, and roasted yellow peppers arrived.  Perfection.  Will and Nicole enjoyed a local favorite "Chicken Riggies" which we learned about that day that includes a spicy vodka sauce with some cream worked in and cooked with chicken and tossed with rigatoni (aka riggie).  They loved it!  Matt had asparagus and angel hair with pistachio lemon pesto and creme fraiche.  This place is not your every day pasta joint and we went home fat and happy once again.

If you think we haven't eaten enough in just a few days, yes, we went to brunch before we left town.  L'Adour served up the most ooh la la French brunch in town. Crepes, Galettes, Croque Monsieur, pastry, coffee, and something called gingerbread toast topped off our weekend.

If you are ever in Syracuse, don't be afraid that you won't find any good restaurants.  That town knows how to eat.  It was a weekend full of good food and great friends!  Here is a classic recipe for chicken riggies.  It's not about the chicken, but about that delicious sauce, so do what you will, whether it's a classic chicken and riggie toss or a nouveau riggie with veggies.

Chicken Riggies


  • 1 (16 ounce) package rigatoni pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cubanelle pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 3 roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 2 hot cherry peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the rigatoni pasta, and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes; drain and keep warm.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook in the hot oil until lightly browned on all sides, and no longer pink in the center, about 7 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, and keep warm. Stir the onion, garlic, and cubanelle peppers. Cook and stir until the onion has softened, about 4 minutes. Add the roasted red peppers, hot cherry peppers, and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the heavy cream and cooked chicken. Simmer 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

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