Sunday, July 15, 2007

Culinary Trends and Oddities of the Finger Lakes - A Visit to Eddie O’Briens

I was taken out for dinner, by my sister Valerie and brother-in-law Rick, at a place called Eddie O’Briens located in Canandaigua, NY. I should state right upfront that this is not a restaurant review (although we did have a nice meal). I wanted to use this experience to explain a few of the local culinary practices that my foodie friends back in California (and other places around the world) may find interesting, odd, unusual, and/or disturbing.

First of all, one thing that I’ve found around this area is that the name of the restaurant doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the type of food they serve. Eddie O’Briens sounds Irish to me, but the menu was very typical American Tavern food with wraps, sandwiches, burgers and various Italian items. What? You were expecting some Irish dishes? OK, here are some more random thoughts and observations about eating out in the Finger Lakes.

Fried Calamari is a very popular appetizer, as it is in many parts of the country, but around here it’s often used in composed salads (almost like croutons) as you see pictured here (top right). This was called “Fried Calamari Italiano” I believe, and was very tasty. I have had several variations of this dish around the area and I’m not sure where the idea came from, but it is very good. You do have to eat it kind of quick before the wetter ingredients melt off the crispy calamari coating, but I eat fast anyway. This one had greens, olives, tomatoes, sliced pepperoncini, and parmesan. By the way, one tip I can give all you traveling on a shoe string budget; bring a camera, notebook and tell the host you do a food blog and that you’ll be taking some pictures. My sister didn’t remember getting such a large portions before. Coincidence?

Another thing I’ve noticed is that restaurants around here love to put pictures of their deserts on display at the table. Here are two desserts they offered; a fruit filled, key lime cheesecake/regular cake combo with whipped topping, and a peanut butter/chocolate pie. The risk with this marketing approach is that I may have ordered the cake if I had read a description on a menu, but the picture just scared me. It reminded me of fruitcake, which is never a good thing. The peanut butter pie picture looked more appetizing, but I was confused by the photo’s composition. Why was that toy strongman lifting it? Was it so light a small toy could lift it? Or, was it so dense and heavy that only a freakishly strong wooden toy could lift it? Or, was I just thinking too much.

Lastly, I joked in one of my comments in the post about taking this trip that I was heading to the land of chicken wings and iceberg lettuce. Well, in all fairness, many of the local restaurants actually use baby field greens now (often combined with iceberg to keep the old-timers happy). But, the chicken wing is ubiquitous. Chicken wings are to western NY, as organic baby lettuce is to Berkeley. They are literally on every appetizer menu in the area, no matter what the cuisine. Have they now gone too far? As you can see from this specials black board at Eddie O’Briens, they even make soup with them now (No, the photo below is not doctored). Chicken wing soup? Might be tasty, but it sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.


Anonymous said...

Haha! Very funny article.

I just found your clips on YouTube a few weeks ago and I love you! Well, I mean, I don't looove you, but your recipe videos rock! :-) (Lurve maybe? Okay, maybe not, but I'm sure you get the point)

The meatballs are killer, the enchiladas were super easy and yummy and you're sooo right about the chicken parmesan and too much marinara. Oh, and I'd never even heard of Béchamel sauce before, and now it's become a good base for a bunch of different things I didn't know I could do.

Okay, forgive my obsessing and gushing, I tend to do that on a first comment-date, but I really do love your clips and your stories. Your sense of humor pulls it all together perfectly!


Anonymous said...

Hey, all this food sounds pretty tasty! :) I think the peanut butter pie slice is portrayed that way, just for fun. But you know everyone has their own thoughts. I would still like to know if you really did try that garbage plate. I wish I had the money for a trip to NY. :[

Chef John said...

Yes, i agree with your pie comment... this post was certainly meant to be tongue in cheek.
No garbage plate yet, I hope that it's going to happen this week.
I wish I had money for a trip to NY too!! It was more of a family obligation (my mom's having surgery on her shoulder and needed some help) than a planned vacation. But, that doesnt mean I wont try and enjoy myself and continue to post when I can.

Chef John said...

I enjoyed our first "comment date"
There were none of those awkward moments that first dates are usually filled with. I look foward to more comments and continued gushing. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Ohhh... you know the funny thing is that I keep thinking that your back in Cali. ;) I hope everything turns out okay with your mom. Take s'more cool pictures of food. I don't want to be one of the "tourists" packing up all the good how everyone has to see the Statue of I using correct capitalization? Oh well...or maybe I do want to see them, but you don't necessarily have to take pictures. Have fun! :)

Anonymous said...

It's funny that years ago, no one thought of "wings" as being a hot item. Now they are all the rage and at times cost more then breast meat! Go figure!? Personally, I am a thigh or leg fan.

Unknown said...

gr8 idea w/ the camera and notebook... too funny... will check it out next venture... heh, heh, heh...