The New York Wine and Culinary Center is a great place to learn about preparing locavore dishes that pair well with Finger Lakes wines and craft-brewed beers.
"Great food is just around the corner," said Chef Jeff Christiano as he led a cooking class at the center's gleaming Viking range hands-on kitchen. The $7.5 million facility, which opened in 2005, is at 800 S. Main St., on a pier overlooking the northern tip of Canandaigua Lake.
Christiano, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is showing cooking students of all ages easier ways to cut up fruits and vegetables. His "Summer Salads" seminar is one of about 400 cooking classes taught throughout the year in the complex.
Students work in pairs with two chefs at islands with four cooking stations. All the ingredients, utensils, pans and recipes are ready as the teams prepare a communal meal. As the cooking progresses, the chefs move from team to team, tasting dishes, making suggestions or demonstrating ways to improve the feast.
After the food is ready, the chefs teach presentation and plating techniques. Then local white and red wines are poured and relaxed students share their platters, laughing and taking photos of the artful creations.
Christiano is a big advocate of Community Supported Agriculture, fresh-from-the-farm produce and local ingredients. He is teaching a class on Aug. 24 called the "Fifty Mile Meal."
"I write a blog (fiftymilemeal.com/wordpress) about stocking my kitchen with completely local ingredients from within a 50-mile radius," Christiano said. "It details my progress as I switch over to an all-local supply of food."
The culinary classes start at $40 per person to $150 for an ultimate couples class, which includes preparation of appetizers, side dishes, three entrees and New York wine.
Topics include wine and barbecue pairings (Sept. 3), peach desserts (Aug. 20), pass the pesto (Aug. 23) and sushi making (Aug. 25), and a number of classes on working with fresh produce and preparing fruit desserts. (For schedules, go to www.nywcc.com or call (585) 394-7070.)
> Pairing things up
In the center's private dining room, winemakers and brewers pair their products with five- to seven-course dinners. The room has a medieval feel with a heavy, black walnut table seating 20 under wrought-iron chandeliers and a beamed ceiling decorated with grapevine frescoes. Wine/beer pairing packages start at $45.
The bar in the Tasting Room offers a rotating selection of New York beers, wines and spirits. The beverages are paired with New York cheeses, which can be purchased along with a wide variety of Empire State food items in the center's gift shop.
Seasonal menus and local wines are showcased in the center's Taste of New York Restaurant, which has a balcony overlooking the lake. Barbecues, brews and live bands are featured every Thursday in a garden tent next to the center. The $12 buffet includes two meat items; a $15 pig roast closes out the Backyard BBQ on Sept. 1.
"Rendezvous with Riesling" on Friday pairs gourmet foods with rieslings from more than 30 local wineries. The event coincides with the Finger Lakes Riesling Festival Saturday and next Sunday on Lakeshore Drive. For free maps and wine trail guides, go to www.VisitFingerLakes.com or call toll free, (877) 386-4669.
The fourth annual "Slice, Dice and Spice" competition on Sept. 6 and 11 teams nine Finger Lakes chefs with amateurs to create three dishes from local ingredients in an hour. The "Iron Chef"-like contest takes place in the Wine and Culinary Center.
> Other attractions
Visitors can get out on the water on the Canandaigua Lady. Three times a day, the double-decker paddlewheel boat chugs past the mansions on the third-most-expensive lakeside property in America. Acreage with a cottage runs about $1.3 million or $6,000 per foot. (See Lake Tahoe and Lake George for even steeper prices.)
The Lady's lunch cruise from noon to 2 p.m. costs $32 for adults and $17 for kids. The 1 1/2 -hour afternoon excursion is $17 for adults, $12 for kids. Fall foliage cruises begin after Labor Day. The boat departs from Steamboat Landing at 205 Lakeshore Drive (www.steamboatlandingonline.com; 585-396-7350).
The Naked Dove Brewery recently opened just outside town at 4048 Routes 5 and 20. "One lady at a beer tasting told me that there are lots of giggles in our keg," said David Schlosser, brewmaster and founder.
There are quite a few laughs when Schlosser is pouring samples in the Tasting Room, which is decorated in yellow pine boards recycled from the old Onondaga Brewery in Syracuse. He wears a black T-shirt with the logo of a modest bird covering itself with its wings and the slogan "Expose Yourself to Naked Dove Beer."
A $3 sampling fee buys a 3-ounce sip of Amber Ale, IPA, a chocolate Porter and Berry Naked Black Raspberry Ale. If you combine the Porter and Berry Naked Ale, it tastes like chocolate-covered raspberries. Tasting times are listed at www.nakeddovebrewing.com or (585) 396-ALES (2537).
Chocolate-covered bacon is the specialty at Sweet Expressions at 169 S. Main St. Other candy store offerings include oversized macadamia pralines, dark chocolate almond bark, chocolate-covered gummy bears and a wide assortment of truffle and fudge novelties.
Owner and chocolatier Denise Chaapel makes about 70 percent of the candy in her shop and produces a supply of chocolates in the shape of New York State for the governor's mansion. More info at www.sweetexpressionsonline.com or toll free at (877) 394-5250.
> Out to eat
"You can always tell an authentic German restaurant by the pounding," explained Gary Klemens, who owns Rheinblick German Restaurant at 224 S. Main St. "Listen for the schnitzel tenderizing and you'll know you found the real thing."
Klemens was born in Berlin but raised in Western New York and graduated from Sweet Home High School. He met his wife, Gudrun, while working as an information technology consultant in Kiedrich, Germany. They lived in her little town along the Rhine River for 10 years, but he decided to retire from his IT job to start a restaurant in Canandaigua -- an eatery that serves 12 different schnitzels.
The recipes are from Gudrun's family and she bakes some of the desserts. Gary created the background music from his favorite German CDs and serves five German beers from taps set into an old oak barrel.
There is a Beer Garden in the alley next to the restaurant and the Klemenses will set up a big tent Sept. 9-11 for their third annual Oktoberfest (www.Restaurant-Rheinblick.com; 585-905-0950).
One of the best dishes at Simply Crepes at 101 S. Main St. isn't a crepe. It's Oatmeal Creme Brulee, which is creamy oatmeal topped with bananas and custard, sealed with traditional candied sugar and covered with strawberries and blueberries. A cup costs $5.69.
To get the best sampling of their crepe menu, try the Sunday Brunch for $15.99. More than 20 items are made to order. Owner Pierre Heroux hails from Quebec, but learned about crepes on the streets of Paris and Tokyo. He offers a class on preparing sweet and savory crepes, followed by dinner and dessert for $35 per person (www.SimplyCrepes.com; 585-394-9090).
Just have time for a cup of Joe and a muffin? Try "mindfully roasted and herb-enlightened coffees" at the Dalai Java at 246 S. Main St. Owner Scott Taylor, a retired chef, personally roasts his Fair Trade organic beans in a huge Turkish roaster in his backyard yurt.
His wife, Andrea, a practitioner in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, will then infuse the beans with herbs for such things as longevity, sinus, digestive or stamina. "The herbs work synergistically with the nature and aromatics of the fresh-roasted coffee," the Taylors said.
A small cup of "enhanced" coffee costs $1.50. A 14-ounce bag of ground or whole beans sells for $11.50 in the store (585-394-2065) or online at www.thedalaijava.com.
> Places to stay
The Inn on the Lake at 770 S. Main St. affords a spectacular water view from an Adirondack chair just outside your room. There is also a row of chairs next to the lakeside boardwalk, perfect for a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of Finger Lakes wine.
The 134-room inn has a restaurant and offers packages including dinner or breakfast for two. A deluxe room at the end of July with two queen beds starts at $199 or $220 with breakfast (www.theinnonthelake.com; 800-228-2801).
A little farther up what Canandaiguans call the "widest Main Street in America," is the Inn on the Main at 176 N. Main St. The 1840 Victorian bed and breakfast has four large guest rooms, five fireplaces, a wicker-filled porch, an oak split staircase, four-poster beds, 12-foot ceilings and a ghost.
Ask innkeepers Jaynee and Guy Straw about their spirit encounters as they began restoring the mansion in 2004. Rooms with full breakfast start at $145 a night with a two-night minimum until Oct. 31 (www.innonthemain.com; 877-659-1643).
For a list of 64 lakeside hotels, bed and breakfasts, campsites or motels, check out www.visitfingerlakes.com/where-to-stay.