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Margaret McCormick
Syracuse, NY
I'm Margaret McCormick and in my past life I was the Food editor at The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY. I love food, words and my home turf of Central New York. This blog combines my loves.
Interests: travel, cooking, baking, cookbooks, locally grown produce, locally made products, locally owned restaurants and specialty food stores.
Recent Activity
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Watch a bartender make a cocktail these days and you might be left thinking you need a lot of fancy ingredients and equipment -- and a degree in chemistry -- to pull off cocktails at home. But all you really need is the RIGHT ingredients, a measuring glass, metal shaker, a jigger or shot glass, some simple math skills (2 ounces x 2 ounces = 4 ounces), a little confidence and a willingness to taste and experiment. I signed up for a workshop called Mixology 101 at the Savvy Wine Cellar, in Camillus, last month. James Reed, bar manager at... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2015 at Eat First
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My friend Peg Roblin Maroney, weathering the winter in Buffalo, has it right: "This abominable weather calls for the delicious cheesy comfort of a great mac and cheese,'' she said recently on Facebook. It's March now, and while we might have had our fill of soups and stews and casseroles, the weather still calls for comfort. As I type this, the snowbanks are so high you can't see out of some windows. And it's snowing. Again. March brings "wintry mix." This recipe, from the Canal House restaurant in New York City, is featured in Marian Burros' 2003 cookbook, "Cooking for... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2015 at Eat First
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A "Recipe of the Day" in my inbox this morning promotes a 90-calorie chocolate sauce/fondue. "By choosing a darker chocolate and fat-free evaporated milk, we've cut the calories of this chocolate dip in half!,'' the pitch reads. No, thanks. I'd rather indulge and make Yolanda Wright's rich, buttery, Hot Fudge Sauce -- and risk the calories and repercussions. Yolanda Wright is the former restaurant reviewer for The Post-Standard (and The Herald-Journal, before that). During her tenure (1983-2010), she also wrote the monthly "Yolanda's Kitchen'' feature for both newspapers, cooking for days and creating the kind of elaborate feasts and meticulously... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2015 at Eat First
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All in the Kitchen is a small store, but it's LOADED with cooking and kitchen accoutrements. Accoutrements? That's just a fancy word for... stuff! Owner Christine Cameron had me at the wall of cookie cutters, with cutters in every shape, size and style you can think of. There's also cookware, cast iron cookware, enamelware, baking equipment, coffee makers, French press and pour-over type coffee gear, pizza stones, pizza peels, pizza pans and more. Are you a gadget/gizmo person? Every kitchen widget is here: salt and pepper grinders, box graters, Microplane zester/graters, microwave egg cookers, cake/cupcake decorators, salt pigs, garlic presses,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2015 at Eat First
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It's a tradition at our house: Stay in on New Year's Eve and host an "Open House" for friends and family on New Year's Day. After weeks of indulging on sweets and rich holiday foods, it's refreshing to make and eat healthy things. I made a new favorite vegetarian soup (adapted from a recipe on Food52, one of my favorite food resources) and Robert made one of his favorite vegetarian dishes, Pinto Bean-Mole Chili, among other things. The soup recipe is below. Happy New Year! Cauliflower and Red Pepper "Chowder" for a Crowd (Adapted from Food52) 1 head or 4... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2015 at Eat First
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Are they a cookie? Or are they a mini cake? Madeleines are techically a cookie, but the batter is cakelike and they also have a spongy, cakelike texture. My baking guru, Dorie Greenspan, calls them "side of the saucer cookies,'' perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, or a flute of Champagne. Bubbly gets my vote. I love their rounded and scalloped shape -- and call them delicious! I got the bug to bake madeleines last year, after a birthday dinner at Moro's Table in Auburn. One of the desserts offered that evening was a plate of just-baked mini... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2014 at Eat First
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Flour? Check. Sugar? Check. Eggs? Check. Butter? The more, the merrier. Check! I love holiday baking and baking for gift-giving. It's the best time of the year. It's cold outside but the kitchen is warm because the oven is in use A LOT! And the aroma of cookies fills the air all the time. What's not to like? My goal is for baking time to be productive, satisfying and free of mishaps and "cookie fails." There is a strategy to baking in quantity, over time. It doesn't just happen. So I decided to make a list and share some tips.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2014 at Eat First
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During Colonial times, it is said, every American had a cask or two of hard cider in their cellar. And no wonder: Good hard cider is a beautiful thing. It's crisp and refreshing on its own, and a versatile partner with food and desserts. We were late to the party on the comeback of hard cider in New York State (the nation's No. 2 producer of apples) because we thought hard cider was sort of a spiked, amped-up version of traditional sweet cider. As usual, we were we wrong. Some hard ciders are bone dry and some are so fruit-forward... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2014 at Eat First
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Grilled cheese with American and Swiss cheeses, on Wegmans rosemary-olive oil bread Grilled cheese is a sandwich we know and love from childhood. Back then, we ate countless classic-style grilled cheese sandwiches, with white bread, American cheese and sometimes -- gasp! -- bright orange Velveeta. We might knock it now, but the grilled cheese of childhood was oozy good, delicious, crisp and comforting. That's probably why we eat grilled cheese at least once a week this time of year, when it gets dark at 5 and we want to come home and crawl in our sweats. We always have bread,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2014 at Eat First
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Out with sandals... in with socks and fuzzy slippers to keep our feet warm. Out with windows wide open for a cross breeze... in with an extra blanket or two on the bed. Out with salads from the garden box... in with soup simmering on the stove. We don't want to rush the seasons -- we're still savoring local tomatoes and will enjoy at least one more Caprese salad before fully surrendering to fall. We also don't want to peak too early with soup, which is something we eat A LOT of in fall and winter. It's so easy to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2014 at Eat First
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The last two tours of the season at the Wegmans Organic Farm near Canandaigua will be offered this Thursday (October 2) and next Thursday (October 9) at 2 p.m. If you're heading to the Finger Lakes, if the weather stays like this -- gorgeous! -- and if you're curious about growing food and what goes into running an organic farm, you'll find the tour of interest and value. Put on your walking shoes, leave the dog at home and bring a jacket (and an umbrella, in the event of rain). Tickets cost $10 AND MUST BE PURCHASED IN ADVANCE at... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2014 at Eat First
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In a region where Riesling is king -- and red wines are fickle, due to the short growing season and cruel winters -- it's surprising to come across a vineyard that specializes in red. And red only. Welcome to Shalestone Vineyards, on the east side of Seneca Lake. We've driven by the picturesque tasting room and vine-covered production room overlooking the lake many times, but had never stopped in until recently. Owners Rob and Kate Thomas established their vineyards in 1995, in the area known as the "Banana Belt'' of the Finger Lakes, which is said to be warmer than... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2014 at Eat First
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Spiedies: They're everywhere in Binghamton, Endicott and the Southern Tier. In Syracuse? Not so much, though they put in appearances at the New York State Fair, the Madison-Bouckville Antiques Fest and the occasional pizza parlor and sandwich shop menu. And bottled spiedie marinades (think Salamida) are widely available. For those who've never had them -- or aren't from these parts -- spiedies are cubes of marinated and grilled meat (usually chicken, pork, lamb or beef) served on soft Italian bread. The idea is to use the bread like a mitt, to pull the freshly cooked meat off the skewer. At... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at Eat First
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I could have simply bought blueberries somewhere for my Blueberry Maple Jam. Instead, I seized the moment and headed out to Critz Farms, south of Cazenovia, to pick them fresh. It took about an hour and a half to pick a couple quarts plus a pint -- more than enough for jam (and more for my freezer stash). I had the place to myself on a mostly sunny Friday afternoon, and headed to the back of the rows to "pick forward." It as there I hit the Mother Lode of perfectly ripe, purplish-blue berries. It was relatively cool out, with... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2014 at Eat First
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Antique hunters by the thousands will be drawn to Madison County this weekend for the annual Madison-Bouckville Antique Fest. We'll be among them, hunting for our favorite old and vintage things -- and lining up for a table at Ray Brothers Barbecue. We visited the new barbecue restaurant -- or "RBQ,'' as they call it -- in June, shortly after it opened, and enjoyed some of the best pulled pork and barbecued chicken we've had in Central New York. It's sure to be crowded during Antique Fest weekend, but there's a small bar, about 50 seats inside and a huge... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2014 at Eat First
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Clayton - courtesy of www.visit1000islands.com Alexandria Bay gets all the attention -- and the crowds. Clayton, a quiet village down the road and down the St. Lawrence River, in the Thousand Islands, is undergoing a Renaissance and enjoying a surge in new businesses -- and visitors. There's a new hotel, the Thousand Islands Harbor Hotel. The Thousand Islands Inn, home of what many believe to be the original recipe for Thousand Island Dressing, is under new ownership and starting some new traditions -- but not ready for overnight guests this season. There's a distillery and a couple wineries nearby, an... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2014 at Eat First
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Courtesy of Sampling Syracue Food Tours At the start of the July 19 Sampling Syracuse Food Tour, Kate Gillen said she had three goals: Keep the group entertained. Immerse us in downtown Syracuse history. Moderately fill our bellies. She succeeded on all three counts. Kate launched Sampling Syracuse Food Tours in October 2012. By the end of last year, she had taken hundreds of visitors, representing 21 states and 14 countries, on walk-able, eat-able tours of downtown Syracuse. That's impressive! Full disclosure: Kate invited me take a tour, which normally costs $40, and I accepted. The tour starts at Kitty... Continue reading
Posted Jul 24, 2014 at Eat First
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A lovely take on antipasto salad, at Pascale's Italian Bistro (800 Nottingham Road, Syracuse; at Drumlins Country Club). The only thing missing was olives. When the weather gets hot, things like soups and stews lose their appeal -- and things cool, green and crunchy gain appeal. We grow salad greens in our garden box at home and love stepping out the kitchen door to snip lettuces and arugula -- the ultimate in fresh salads. At restaurants, the first menu items we turn to, usually, are the salads. Here are a few excellent salads we've known and loved in our dining... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2014 at Eat First
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Garden update, East Side of Syracuse, June 25, 2014: No sooner had the pole beans sprouted and started to take off, something dug them up. Bam! Gone. Fortunately, the six San Marzano tomato plants in that small plot are untouched and coming along nicely. I see red sauce in our future -- supplemented with tomatoes from one of our local markets. We do not have enough space for a sauce garden. Two kinds of cherry tomatoes (super-sweet reds and pear-shaped golden tomatoes) are also coming along well in the elevated garden box Robert built last year. The garden box is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2014 at Eat First
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It's that time of year. Everybody wants to pick strawberries - or pick up a quart or two or three of fresh-picked strawberries at a farm stand. Did you know there's a place where you can pick or purchase strawberries for your shortcake -- AND help an excellent cause? Clear Path for Veterans is a not-for-profit organization that serves service veterans, military members and their families. Educational, support, health and wellness and other programs are offered at the Clear Path facility, off Salt Springs Road in Chittenango -- which has a two-acre U-Pick strawberry field. The field was empty at... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2014 at Eat First
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Caprese salad skewer; beef slider on pretzel roll - Photo courtesy of Small Plates You've probably heard of a "pub crawl:" That's when a group of people visit several pubs or bars and have a drink or two at each. But have you heard of a "dish crawl?" That's when a group of people meet up for a progressive meal with multiple stops in a specific neighborhood. Dishcrawl is a food tour operator that makes its debut in Syracuse Wednesday (June 18), in the Armory Square neighborhood. Three restaurant stops are planned, according to Dishcrawl Syracuse Ambassador Betsy Bell. The... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2014 at Eat First
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Photo courtesy of Fayeteville Farmers Market An hour and a half into opening day Thursday of the new Fayetteville Farmers Market, Alambria Springs Farm sold out of its artisan sourdough breads. Mountain Grown Farm had exhausted its supply of asparagus. Kriemhild Dairy Farms was running low on eight-ounce containers of meadow butter. Excitement has been growing for weeks -- months, really -- about the new farmers market setting up shop Thursdays at the Towne Center at Fayetteville. And customers came out in droves. More than 20 vendors offering early spring greens, eggs, cheese, yogurt, grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and turkey,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2014 at Eat First
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It's only Monday, but I'm already looking forward to the debut of the Fayetteville Farmers Market at Towne Center at Fayetteville on Thursday. I'm sure I will want to share to share some highlights from the new market. But first, let's have a look at some of Saturday's haul from the Central New York Regional Market. We left the market with Wake Robin Farm yogurt, cheese curds and granola, two dozen clams and a pound of halibut from the fishmonger in Shed A, vegetable plants and other items. But I went to the market, really, looking for one thing in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2014 at Eat First
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We can get anything we want, pretty much year-round, from somewhere on the planet. Blackberries and raspberries in December. "Fresh" corn in March. Tomatoes (minus real flavor) all winter. Along about March, the asparagus from South America and California calls out at the supermarket -- especially after months of broccoli, potatoes and beets. But local asparagus is so worth waiting for. Be patient and hold out for it and you will be rewarded with the taste -- and true arrival -- of spring. I've been hearing from friends in western Onondaga County that Tim's Pumpkin Patch has amazing asparagus. You've... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2014 at Eat First
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If you slept in or dilly-dallied and went to breakfast during the first hour of the Cazenovia Farmers Market on Saturday, you missed your chance to take home a loaf of bread from Rise, a new bakery that's making a splash in the community. Rise team members Jasmeen Barnes and McKenzie Houseman showed up at the market bright and early with 75 rustic baguettes, boules and hearty rye, raisin and kalamata olive loaves. They flew off the shelf in an hour. Bam! Gone! Just like that. Lesson learned: Arrive EXTRA early for best selection at the Cazenovia Farmers Market. It... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2014 at Eat First