Top 10 CNY Restaurants (2014 Edition)

Photo May 02, 6 22 55 PMAbout 18 months ago, I wrote a list of my top 10 CNY restaurants. These were not necessarily the restaurants that I thought were the best, but the one’s that I would go to if I had to build a permanent rotation of places to dine.

Since I posted that list, much has changed in the CNY food scene. One of the restaurants, Circa, has closed. Last week Gentile’s, loved my many in this area, shut its doors. A new version of The Krebs is open in Skaneateles at the end of August.

As we approach fall and begin our CNY hibernation (coming out only for food and SU basketball), I thought I would update the list. These are not necessarily the best restaurants in town or really even my 10 favorites. This list represents the permanent rotation of the area’s 10 best restaurants that I would go to exclusively (in no particular order):

  • Moro’s Table, Auburn [website]. The alpha and the omega. If money were no object…
  • Asti Caffe, Syracuse [website]. The best red sauce restaurant* in Syracuse.
  • Pastabilities, Syracuse [website]. Great for lunch. Good for dinner. The second best red sauce in town*.
  • Dinosaur Barbque, Syracuse [website]. Their bad days are a lot better than my good days. Remember, it’s not the 10 best, but the 10 that I would go to exclusively if forced to pick.
  • The Mission, Syracuse [website]
  • Otro Cinco, Syracuse [website]
  • Zabroso, Oneida [website]. The past three restaurants are distinctly different takes on Latin-American/Spanish food. The Mission is Mexican/Pan-American; Otro is a Spanish/Mexican hybrid; and Zabroso is Spanish. All three are wonderful.
  • Laci’s Tapas Bar, Syracuse [website]. Eclectic and fun. One of the area’s best dining experiences.
  • Ironwood, Manlius [website]. Good pizza. Good beer. Really, I’m easy to please.
  • The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Auburn [website]. An impossible car ride to get there, but farm-to-table begins and ends there.

*Angotti’s is not the best restaurant in town, nor is it the best red sauce restaurant in Syracuse. But it has long been a gathering spot for my family. It’s like my kitchen away from home. It doesn’t make this list because it transcends this list. And because I can almost always get a table.

Garden 2014: Day 98

2014-08-30 at 18-45-31Admittedly, it has been awhile since I have updated on the garden.

Admittedly, it has been awhile since there has been anything worth updating on.

In the 74 days since my last update, the garden has produced herbs. That’s it. Otherwise, this year’s endeavor has been an utter and complete failure.

2014-08-30 at 18-45-15Now, there is a school of thought that the damp, cool summer has held back the growth of Roma and San Marzano tomatoes. Fine. Whatever. I have one reddish tomato to show for it. The plants are otherwise bearing a bunch of green tomatoes and yellowish-brown leaves.

Even the bean plants that The Kid watered have been a loss.

2014-08-30 at 18-45-34So, the herbs from Delaney Farms were a winner. The tomatoes from Wylie Fox were stinkers. I’ll keep that in mind for next spring.

Grocery List: August 31, 2014


And so it goes, another summer fades away to fall. To torture Central New York further, the final weekend day of August is marked by rain. The weather mocks us. Again.

Autumn is not my favorite season, but it appears to have arrived. As Sean Kirst writes about today at, the bridge to the next season seems to have opened early, as all but one Onondaga County apple orchard is open for picking.

Of course, the length of fall is always questionable. The earliest I remember snow locally was the last weekend of September and that was back in the mid-1990s. If you take the Farmer’s Almanac seriously, winter could start anytime now and really stink.

The Wife starts back to school on Tuesday, followed by The Kid on Wednesday. My first Walk To End Alzheimer’s event is Sunday.

And so it goes.

The Al Dente Labor Day Guide to Cooking Something Awesome Because Summer Is Almost Over And You’re Hungry

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It’s Labor Day Weekend. No, really I looked at the calendar and everything (Side note: Lately, I’ve been having a problem remembering simple things like appointments, what day it is, people’s names… I’m also not sleeping well. According to the WebMD Symptom Checker, I could have Lyme Disease, brain cancer or early-onset Alzheimer’s. My co-worker, Katrina, a social worker and one of our dementia experts, seems to think I may be a hypochondriac. She may be closer.) and this Monday is Labor Day.

Labor Day is awful because of its connection to the school calendar. It was awful as a kid because it meant school started that week. It was awful in college because it meant that I would have to start paying attention in class. It’s awful as an adult because I married a high school teacher that drifts manically between emotions. If anger turned outward is rage and anger turned inward is depression, anger turned sideways is a teacher 10 days before the first day of school.

But, as you watch the summer drift away into a pile of leaves that become compacted into 3 feet of snow because your town cut its budget and can’t afford more than one fall lawn waste pickup, you have an entire three-day weekend to embark on one last summer cooking challenge. Not just shrimp cocktail, but grilled shrimp on a skewer. Not just chicken breasts, but a spatchcooked herb-grilled chicken. Not just…you get the idea.

So for you, dear reader, I offer some ideas of what you should cook this weekend. Your grocer and butcher have meat. Your fishmonger has fish.

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Not At All Complicated Meat Dishes

Photo Jun 28, 12 24 50 PMBurgers Because America!

See the froth? It's time to flip your 'shrooms.
See the froth? It’s time to flip your ‘shrooms.

Not-Meat Burgers for the Vegetarian Chick That Haunts You


Fish! Because It’s Good! (Except for Tilapia)

2014-07-04 at 11-39-18Side Dishes Because You Got Invited To A Cookout

Meatless Monday: Mudrica

2014-08-25 at 17-23-07“This is called St. Joseph’s sawdust. It’s made with breadcrumbs, red currants, cheese and cinnamon.”

When necessary, I explain dinner to The Wife  rather than wait for her to ask, “What are we eating?” I will say that my favorite comment from her at dinner is, “This is good. What is it?” but I’ve decided to head things off at the pass.

“Why is it called St. Joseph’s sawdust?”  Continue reading

Tuesday Dinner: Fried Eggs with Bacon, Gorgonzola and Arugula Sandwiches

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Before we get going here, I think it’s necessary to say a couple of words about bacon. I think we can all come together on the fact that bacon is both extremely tasty and not good for you at the same time. I think most of us will agree that the best bacon is made by your butcher in the backroom of his or her shop. If you’ve never had fresh bacon, get to Bostrom FarmsSide Hill Farmers, The Piggery, or a meat store near you.

I think we can also agree that turkey or tofu bacon is actually a by-product of the Cold War, manufactured by the Soviets to break us apart as a nation.

Continue reading

Sunday Dinner: Sicilian Tuna with Marinated Fennel

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The only thing that lingers around The Wife’s family more than my family is Catholic Guilt. It strikes The Wife during the midway point of Lent, after multiple Friday dinners of burgers and another year without attending Ash Wednesday mass. To calm this, she will bring tuna salad for lunch on Fridays. She takes a can of tuna, mixes it with just enough mayonnaise to dirty a spoon, and eats it with crackers.

That’s a rather pedestrian blend for me. My go-to tuna salad mixes chopped black olives, chopped dill pickle, a little minced garlic, dill, salt, pepper, celery, red onion and enough mayo to bind everything. Slap that on a heel of Italian bread, crush some potato chips on it and we’re talking mana right there.

I was going to make that for dinner tonight, but decided to try something different. A few weeks ago, I run across a Sicilian tuna salad recipe in one of Tom Colicchio’s Wichcraft cookbooks. I decided that I wanted to use his recipe as the base of a sandwich but without the lemon confit, lemon mayo and, well, lemon. This was because, well, I forgot to buy lemons and lemon juice today. I’m terrible.

2014-08-24 at 17-09-47WHAT WORKED: Tuna in water. One might think that since we’re mixing tuna with oil that we should use tuna packed in oil. One would be wrong. You want to control the quality and quantity of oil that you are using here, so go with the stuff packed in water, drain it well, and go to town. I used an artisan hojiblanca olive oil from The Filling Station in NYC, which has a very herbal, grassy flavor that complements the rest of this sandwich. My point is that you should control the flavor here, not the tuna company.

WHAT DIDN’T: Lemons would have been nice, but I made up for the acid with red and white wine vinegar.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “I like this more than I thought I would.”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I think we have a new tuna variation to work into the rotation.

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Sicilian Tuna with Marinated Fennel
Inspired by ‘wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal by Tom Colicchio

  • medium fennel bulb
  • 3-4 thin slices of red onion
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2-6 oz. cans solid white albacore tuna in water
  • 3 oz. cured Greek olives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • loaf of Italian or crusty French bread

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Pick the fronds off the fennel bulb and reserve. Slice the stem off the bottom and, with a sharp knife or mandoline, thinly slice the bulb. Combine the fennel slices, fronds and red onion in a medium bowl and mix together with your hands. Drizzle 2 tbsp. of olive oil and white wine vinegar over the top, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Set aside for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

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Drain the packing water from your tuna and add to a mixing bowl with the olives. Add the remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper to the bowl and toss thoroughly. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

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Slice your loaf of bread lengthwise and tear out some of the bread from each side. Add the tuna to the bottom of the loaf, followed by the marinated fennel. Place the top of the bread on the loaf and cut into the desired portions.

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Stacks

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Wasting away in the crisper for about  a week has been an eggplant. It was a throw-away purchase from my last CNY Regional Market trip. One of the farms had a table of these for a buck apiece, so it was an easy pickup. But, a long week led to it dormancy in the bowels of my refrigerator.

Determined to make something from it, I rooted around my fridge today looking for some assistance. There was marinara and fresh mozzarella, which made things easy enough. A tub of Garlicky Goodness (more on that in a sec) joined the fray, as did the last two tomatoes on the counter.

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I didn’t want to fry, but I also didn’t want to make a casserole. I was winging it here, so I decided to layer everything into a stack. But, I knew that the layered eggplant would take longer to cook, so I ran the slices through the oven to give them a headstart.

The end result? Well… Continue reading


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