Friday Sept. 17
- "Better, Stronger, Faster" or "The Running Man makes good on his promise when he said "I'll be back!" So I was riding the rails to Rome solo on this trip with all of my running gear tucked into my luggage. Nervous, anxious and excited all at once, race day couldn't come soon enough. Once the train pulled into the station, my friend Norma was there to pick me up and we stopped at a local farmer market so she could buy some cucumbers that would become her well-loved sweet pickles in a matter of days!
As my mom had to work late, I borrowed her car and made my way to Vernon, NY. On the way I stopped at a local favorite, Ferlo's Bakery
in Rome. I can't believe they have been around for 114 years! As fate would have it and since I didn't call a BAKERY ahead of time and I went at 5:00pm, I was "Travelin' Manned"! On the next trip for sure!
Yes, I took this shot while I was driving, but I was very careful. Where was I headed? Glad you asked!
On train ride upstate, I called my friend Dave, the owner of The Only Cafe
, to see if he would be open. He was glad to hear from me and said he could make some biscuits & sausage gravy and grits. Great, just great! I still had a few hours of torture left on the train while visions of his food danced in my head! I love the neon here, especially the EATS sign. Now if you were driving by and didn't know what is inside, you might keep going as the building itself doesn't stand out. However, you would be doing yourself and your stomach a HUGE disservice as Dave is a pretty amazing guy and his love for the food he makes and likes to eat comes through in every dish that comes out of his kitchen.
Dave's place is filled with all sorts of personal memorabilia he has collected over the years and most of it has an accompanying story. I have a feeling that Barney Fife came running out mere seconds after this picture was taken. "Andy, looks like we got ourselves a scofflaw here!"
Billy(boy) and the (Hand) Jive Bars. Dave gave this to me before I left and it's basically a Twix under a different name.
This brewery was one a few in Utica, Ny that existed for over 100 years. I read it was 1833-1942 (except for Prohibition, I think...) Long before my time though.
I thought of wanderingjew and the coffee milks of the recent Rhode Island meet-up when I saw this Autocrat coffee syrup
I had no idea such a game even existed! Love it! Although I can't figure out why the jar of gefilte fish is smiling. Is he blissfully unaware that he is FILLED with GEFILTE FISH?
Some reading material to accompany my dinner. MAD, when it was still MAD and not yet a portable billboard!
While I was looking around and talking to Dave while waiting for my meal, I popped in the kitchen as the aroma coming from the oven was incredible! He had a few phone calls and walk-in customers order pizzas to go. Dave makes his own crust from scratch and this thin sliced sausage & mushroom pie had my stomach growling. I could have gone for a few slices of this bad boy. Patience Bill, patience. Next time.
Dave brought out this beautiful hunk of steak for me to photograph and minutes later he turned it into this...
A shaved steak sandwich with browned onions, sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes and possibly mayo (not sure what the sauce is inside). It comes tucked in a pocket bread made from the same dough he uses for the pizza. I have had this bread before and it is fantastic. Nutty from the sesame seeds and with a slight sourdough tang, it makes a great base for everything.
I started off with a crisp Boylan's Creme soda.
And my eagerly anticipated dinner: two fried eggs with grits, biscuits & sausage gravy. Now I've tried biscuits & gravy in the Northeast before (which isn't saying much, I know) and I've never tried them in the South, but this whole dish was just amazing. The gravy was peppery and studded with chunks of sausage, the grits were creamy and smooth and the eggs were just right. The real surprise (read: treat) here lie within the biscuits. these were soft and fluffy yet there was some hot, spicy, slightly sweet and chewy action going on too and I just couldn't put my finger on it. Dave gave it away: crystallized ginger! Huh? What? He said he used to put pecans in the biscuits but he had a customer who was allergic to nuts so he was experimenting with something different. It sounds so out of place yet it worked so well. It brought a real complexity and layers of flavor to each bite. I had scraped that plate clean.
Before my food came out two women and a man sat down at the table next to me and they all ordered the same exact meal as me, to which I replied, "Hello, my name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents!" Okay I didn't REALLY say that. It was for The Travelin' Man's benefit! When he gets it, I'll reveal where it's from. We got to talking about the area, food and a host of other things. They said they love Dave's food and come here frequently. When they saw me taking pictures and I told them it was for Roadfood and his Facebook page they replied, "So, you're the one!".
When I had grabbed a soda out of the case, I spied this pie in there and of course had to get a slice for dessert. Breaker, breaker, BB, CTD and CK, you "pie-bandits"! You're gotcha ears on? This is 'ole Cledus tellin' ya to blow by any smokeys you see and hightail it up there for some pie! Call ahead as he doesn't always have pie on hand but he might make one if ya ask real nice-like, ya hear? A very rich and delicious lemon pie with a topping made from confectioner's sugar and crushed lemon stick candy. I would never dared write this in my diary for fear my dreams would never have come true!
As Dave and I were talking he showed me a book about the history of the Catskill Mountains and the resorts there he had found while browsing through a bookstore on his birthday one year. While flipping through it he found a picture of his mom and his aunt when they were teenagers at one of the resorts and now the book is part of his collection in the cafe. He gave me a ziploc bag of those tasty biscuits for the road and I brought up some of my food writing books to add to his collection. I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about Dave, the cafe and his food. It's always a surprise when I go, I always learn something new about him, find something in the cafe I hadn't seen before and am constantly wowed by the food that he obviously cares so much about. Saturday Sept. 18th
- I logged a short 2.5 mile run early in the morning to keep my legs fresh. Nothing too long to tire me out for the race tomorrow nor too late in the day as suffcient rest for the legs is important. I had plans to see a number of friends today but I managed to squeeze in a couple of Roadfood stops along the way. My first lunch was at Big Daddy Sandwiches
in Rome, NY.
I grabbed a Mello Yello as I hadn't drank one in years. I still prefer the slightly bitter taste of Squirt but this was a fine substitute.
I also ordered a small turkey sub with lettuce, onions, mayo and oil. I took some flak a while back for my review of this as many people though it was too much lettuce and not enough meat. Honestly, the shot I submitted for the review was not one of my best and maybe folks still think this should have more meat, but the ratios in this totally worked for me and nothing dominated any other ingredient. The bread was soft and fresh as always. I forgot to ask where they get it. Next time. This was a taste of my high school years. and maybe part of my love for this place and the sandwiches is inextricably tied to my youth but I still stand by it. I wouldn't say that someone should drop what they're doing and drive there right now but if you're in the area I think you'll like it.
I added on a side of macaroni salad, a staple of many Central NY eateries. It was okay and perhaps a bit bland. I do prefer their potato salad.
Lunch No. 2 came as a result of a post that Roadfooder nino
had made back in August. He was passing through Rome and came upon Luigi's Pizza
on North James Street which is across from Big Daddy's. Nino said he liked it so on my list it went. Growing up here I remember this place as Roman Pastry, a great donut shop with excellent headlights, taillights and half moons, then as O'Scugnizzo Pizza which made tomato pies. Guess what kind of establishment this was at one time? (Fill 'er up?) My first experience eating in a former gas station!
I wasn't sure what I wanted and menu on the wall the pies on the counter didn't really stand out at first.
Until I spotted the Chicken-Bacon-Ranch pie. I had the guy behind the counter warm up a slice for me. As I waited for it I saw a guy I thought I knew but wasn't sure so I didn't say anything to him. When I left to eat this on the hood of my mom's car (again!) I saw the counter guy outside and asked him if they man inside was John D. When he said yes I had to go back in and say hi. I hadn't seen John in years and his dad used to live in my old neighborhood so I used to see him all the time when I was a kid and his wife and my mom used to carpool to work for years. We shot the breeze for a while and his wife, pat came by and it was nice to spend some tim with them. Oh, the pizza. This was an amazing slice. The crust was both chewy and crisp, the grilled chicken was moist, the bacon was chewy, thick and had a nice smoky presence and the creamy ranch just really made for an excellent binder that brought both bird and pig together in harmony. I could have knocked back two more of those but friends awaited and my pre-race carbo load dinner was just a few hours away. John said Luigi's is one of his favorite places and I'll have t make a point of coming back on my next visit.
After catching up with some dear friends and their kids, I made my way to dinner, but not before getting caught up in a Central NY traffic jam!
Dinner was at La Roma Pizzeria & Restaurant
on Floyd Ave in Rome, NY.
One of many in Rome and I'll have to return try the pizza. Maybe a "pizza smackdown" is in order?
When I arrived Betsy, her husband Pat and their two boys were already inside. Betsy ran the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, NY in July and met Doug and I at the post race party. I had played Little League with Pat and their boys were a delight. It was so nice to come home and spend time getting to know old friends again. I tucked into a very tasty dish of spaghetti & meatballs. Their sauce is thick, rich and just bit sweet, exactly as I like it. The meatballs were really good too. As we were leaving my uncle and his girlfriend came in to have dinner and I said I'd see them tomorrow as they cheered me on from the sidelines. I said goodnight to Betsy, Pat and the boys and headed for home to get a good night's sleep.
On the way home I almost gave myself whiplash when I saw that they were opening a Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Not a lot of new places open up here and when they do it's not usually a place I love. Yes!!
Billyboy doing his best Travis Bickle impression! Actually I shaved the 'hawk and 'stache in an attempt to be more hard core although I think I'm might be about as intense as the Stay-Puft Mashmallow Man! I'm fairly sure my mom was convinced I was but one step away from joining a knife gang when she walked in the door and saw her #1 son sportin' this do! Sunday Sept. 19th - RACE DAY
The Delta Lake Half Marathon was organized by a local group called the Roman Runners and I had found out about it by accident while doing a Google search for, what else, food! My friend's dad had told me about the great brunch he had at the Delta Lake Inn so when I looked it up the half marathon also came up as a hit and piqued my interest. The two ladies near me in this picture kept a steady pace and we talked for quite a bit. As it turns out they grew up a few towns over from me and now live in Sherrill, NY, not far from The Only Cafe. When I mentioned that I had eaten there a couple of days before they said, "We love Dave and his food!" Small world. Mom, Harold, my uncle and his girlfriend were waiting for me here around the 2 mile mark and cheering me on. The big hills came right after this corner...
And I made it through the hills and I'm at the 8 mile mark here right across the street from my old elementary school. The people on the side are old friends and their son was handing out water which was most welcome. Only 5.1 miles to go. Just down the street is the neighborhood where my mom lives.
And Billyboy finishing strong with water bottle in hand and to the sounds of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on the iPod. I ran by the old apartment where we first lived, my grandparents' house, the neighborhood where both my mom and dad grew up and I did walk it out a bit down the same stretch of road where my grandma used to walk every day before she became sick. In think she and my dad would be proud to see me finishing this and I know they were watching over me and smiling. The last mile, though downhill, was tough as I got up in my head and kept saying t myself, "Where is the d*mn finish line?"
After crossing the finish line! I came in at the very back of the pack, but I finished and there is something so tangible, so concrete about reaching that goal. I was very happy. The one mistake I made was stopping after the finish to talk with mom and Harold and some of the other runners. What I should have done was kept walking as I talked to them. After they left and I went to walk back to the car, my legs had tightened up and they were sore. A 10 minute free massage later at the after party and I was feeling much better. I was able to catch up with Betsy and some of the other runners for a bit before heading home. It was very sweet that mom and Harold drove down the course to meet up with me at 5 different points in the race and mom even had a bottle of water ready for me to replenish with.
A sweet boxer was there to greet us at the end of the run!!
We started in Delta Lake State Park and that's where it all ended!
My first medal ever!
I'd run it again just for this t-shirt! When I got back to mom's I iced up my knees, used a massage stick on my calves to work out any kinks and then rested for a bit. My sister had a nice big ham dinner waiting for us in Syracuse and I planned to leave a bit early to possibly work in a trip to Heids in Liverpool but all I could think of was getting up there and resting on the couch and digging into that meal. Two plates of ham, mashed potatoes, butternut squash and biscuits later, mom piloted the Starship Hyundai Sonata and guided us back to Rome while I slept. Monday Sept. 20th
- before I had to catch my train back to NYC, mom and I stopped at Teddy's Restaurant
for lunch. They recently expanded and have twice the space.
I started out with a cup of really good broccoli soup that had big chunks of soft cooked florets in it.
And for the main event, their huge portion of Chicken Parmesan. Crispy, juicy and smothered in red sauce and mozzarella cheese, this is exactly what I had wanted.
I, maybe unwisely, went for a slice of hot Caramel Apple Pie a la mode. This was really, really good but I totally didn't need it. A bit overstuffed at this point.
Mom had a light and creamy slice of Coconut Cream Pie.
I think the nicest part of this trip was just sitting with my mom at the platform just behind this clock waiting for the train to arrive. It was very quiet, a cool breeze and the promise of fall was in the air. A far cry from the craziness of Penn Station or even the dignified, controlled chaos of Grand Central. Just two people, not exactly "waiting for godot", chewing on some gum and enjoying the moment. It was good to be home.
That's it for this trip. More eating/running adventures to come before the year is out, I'm sure.
"Eating is an adventure, enjoy the ride" - billyboy, 2010