Community Over Competition

Yesterday was Pay It Forward Day and it had me reflecting on all the kindness we have witnessed over the past months. Chris and I started We Eat CNY as a way for us to expand our horizons and do something fun together. Our Friday night date nights were our time to reconnect after a long week and documenting them was our inspiration. It was also a way to break us out of our rut. We tended to go to the same few restaurants and stay close to home, all the while feeling like we were missing out on something. With two young children and working full time during the week, we were often too tired to think of where we wanted to go out for dinner. So, we decided to be more adventurous and start paying closer attention to the restaurants in the area and where we would visit. By expanding our culinary horizons, we also expanded our social circle and discovered a whole new group of people who have brought a new sense of community to our lives.

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Fork & Cork: The Sherwood Inn with White Birch Vineyards

It's no secret that Chris and I love food; we love to shop for it, prepare it, order it, and share it. I have always felt an affinity with food and never found it intimidating. A voracious reader from a young age, cookbooks were in my hands as often as a good fiction book. I remember fondly sitting with my grandfather when he was cooking dinner one night when I was around nine and declaring rather resolutely that the tomatoes from the garden would be that much better if I sprinkled them with sea salt before bringing them to the table. The milestones of my life are often marked by meals and more often than not, I can't  remember what I was wearing on any given day but I can tell you what I ate. That's just how it is with food. Wine, on the other hand, is a relatively new experience for me. I enjoy drinking wine, but have very limited knowledge about it. There are so many varietals and regions, and people who love wine often seem to be speaking a foreign language. I live in fear of someone handing me a glass and asking me to discuss the tasting notes or guess the region it's from. There is so much information and I want to learn, but the entire process is rather intimidating. So, when Chris and I were invited to attend the five course wine dinner at the Sherwood Inn featuring White Birch Vineyards, I was excited to dip my toes into the water and learn a little more about local wine in a more intimate setting.

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Chili Cook off at Lincoln Middle School

Since we started We Eat CNY, Chris and I have been amazed by how we have been embraced by the food community here in the Syracuse area. Last weekend, we were visiting Owera Vineyards and struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to us. This happens more frequently now that Chris is taking pictures of our food and drinks and I am rearranging plates, glasses, and napkins so he can get the best shot. While we explained our situation, the woman exclaimed that she follows our Instagram account and loves seeing the foods we feature and checking out the restaurants in the area. The woman happened to be LaJuan White, the principal of Lincoln Middle School in the Syracuse City School District. As a SCSD teacher myself, we immediately connected and our mutual love of food gave us lots to talk about. LaJuan told us about a Chili Cook Off that was taking place at her school and invited us to attend. Her friend Michele Ragussis, a finalist on the eighth season of Food Network Star, was going to teach students and their parents how to make chili. The chili would be donated to feed the homeless through We Rise Above the Streets, a local non-profit, and the families would get to keep the electric skillets, cooking utensils, and containers used so they could cook chili at home. Chris and I were honored to be invited and excited to attend the event.

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Farm to Fork 101: Presents Seeds To Roots at the stoop kitchen

My family had a dear friend who had the most incredible garden while I was growing up. It took up a huge section of his backyard and it was his pride and joy (second only to his family)! Visiting his garden and picking the fresh vegetables was something we looked forward to all winter and spring.  Bringing home the vegetables and preparing them in new ways was almost as fun as getting to spend time with him! He would pickle and can the vegetables in the fall and gift them throughout the winter. Not only was he generous with his bounty, he would happily teach you how to pickle the copious amounts of green beans he grew each year! Seeing how much he loved his garden and the passion he had for all of the vegetables he grew made everything that much tastier. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a friend with a garden or if we do have access to home grown vegetables, we may not know what to do with them once we bring them home. The various farmer's markets we have around Central New York can be a bit intimidating if you have absolutely no idea what to do with all of the local produce procured. This predicament is the inspiration behind Farm to Fork 101.

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Good Nature Farm Brewery

When Chris and I first started dating he wasn’t the most adventurous eater. While I had an expansive palate, he pretty much stuck to the same few meals that primarily consisted of meat and some kind of potato. His open mindedness was one of the things that most attracted me to him. After all, he ate sushi on our second date! It was around this time that my parents and I were patrons of Circa-New American Bistro in Cazenovia and, of course, Chris became one as well. To say that we are huge fans of its owner and chef, Alicyn Hart, is a complete understatement! She was and is our culinary rockstar. Dining at Circa and eating the thoughtful and innovative meals created with local, sustainable and organic produce and meats was the gateway to a true love affair with food for him. Circa was the restaurant we frequented the most while we were dating, so much that we hosted our rehearsal dinner there in 2009. We had fabulous food at our wedding, but nine years later people mostly talk about our rehearsal dinner. It remains one of the most incredible meals we have ever had! Circa closed in 2014 and we still feel the loss of our favorite restaurant. When Chris and I discussed branching out and blogging about our culinary experiences, we both agreed that we had to start with Alicyn and her new home at Good Nature Farm Brewery in Hamilton, NY.

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