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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
A small, storefront restaurant and take-out operation offering a fresh take on the iconic Central New York fish fry is earning positive word-of-mouth and bringing diners to Solvay. The Fish Friar opened in late fall on Milton Avenue, across the street from the Solvay Diner. Owners Joel Canino, Giovanni Giardina and Brad Vinciguerra have created a destination for fresh fish -- plus unique side dishes -- that's simply but elegantly prepared. If you like fish fry, or fish prepared more healthily, check it out. THE VIBE: Clean and industrial. The sleek, stainless steel order counter and open kitchen area feature... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2016 at Eat First
Photo courtesy of Robert Poormon A reader of my food stories in the Syracuse New Times reached out to sing the praises of Basil Thai Cuisine restaurant in Phoenix, Oswego County, and suggest I check it out. That was more than a year ago. I heard more enthusiastic reviews and made a mental note to check it out when out that way. But I'm rarely out that way. After Christmas, craving something fresh and flavorful, we made our way there. The restaurant is about 25 miles from our home on the east side of Syracuse and a couple miles north... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2016 at Eat First
So many cookies, such little time... Each holiday season, I like to try at least one new cookie. This year I settled on Maple Pecan Refrigerator Cookies, a new (to me) cookie that I made for an annual cookie exchange with friends this past weekend. The original recipe appeared in Parade Magazine in 2012. This cookie is grainy and crunchy, like pecan sandies, with a texture similar to shortbread or sable cookies. It's also very buttery. The recipe appeals on several levels: One, it's a refrigerator cookie, which means you can make the dough ahead and slice and bake the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2015 at Eat First
I've probably killed a tall tree or two over the years, printing out recipes from favorite websites like Epicurious, Food52, the Food Network, etc. I've also been socking away pages of recipes clipped from magazines like Martha Stewart Living, Cook's Illustrated, Real Simple and others. Until recently, I kept all these recipes in a big, fat, three-inch thick heap, stuffed inside an old Cook's Illustrated magazine until the magazine came apart. Then one day, I could no longer stand it. I pulled the recipes out, went through them one by one and downsized the pile to make it more manageable.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2015 at Eat First
It's fall, but I'm conflicted. I don't want to plunge headlong into braising and roasting and soups, stews and slow cooker meals because we'll be eating them for many months to come. So as long as there are still tomatoes at the market, I'll have one foot in summer and one in fall. I had a ball of fresh mozzarella in the cheese drawer and decided to try a different approach to the classic Caprese -- with roasted tomatoes. Roasting tomatoes in the oven is easy and intensifies their sweetness. Let them cool a bit before serving them on mesclun... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2015 at Eat First
Fall is here. September has been summer-like, but darkness comes sooner each day. The evening air is cool and leaves are slowly starting to change color. Farm crops are being harvested and roadside stands are aglow with the red and orange of apples and pumpkins. The Central New York calendar is full of all sorts of fairs and festivals and other events to celebrate fall. Here are three events coming up this weekend that are sure to please local food enthusiasts. Photo courtesy Baltimore Woods Family friendly brunch – and a walk in the woods Pancake breakfast meets Sunday brunch... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2015 at Eat First
Long before there was the express lane and self-checkout at the grocery store, there was the self-service farm stand. You've no doubt stopped at a place like this: You pull off the road, seduced by a sign with an arrow that says ASPARAGUS -- or sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, eggs, honey... or all of the above. You look around for someone, then walk to the table or into a small shed or makeshift store, and find a notepad, pen, adding machine and cash box. This is what is known as The Honor System, and it's a time-honored tradition: The... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2015 at Eat First
Many people come to Seneca Falls to visit the National Women's Hall of Fame, the Women's Rights National Historic Park and the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Many more pass through on their way to the wineries that make up the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail and the Seneca Lake Wine Trail -- and to their camps, cottages and homes in the Finger Lakes. Sauders is a destination for food adventurists, "a unique country store'' that has grown from 10,000 square feet to 40,000-plus square feet -- the size of an Aldi or small Tops store. It's not a restaurant, but it... Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2015 at Eat First
How many times have you been to a restaurant, scanned the wine list for local and regional wines and found one lone selection of Finger Lakes Riesling -- or, worse, no New York wine at all? Say something! The New York Wine and Grape Foundation, based in Canandaigua, has updated its "restaurant card'' -- a "leave-behind" that diners can use at restaurants that don't feature New York wines. On the inside is space for the customer name and phone number and the date of the meal. On the back is contact information for the NYWGF for restaurant owners who want... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2015 at Eat First
Photo courtesy of 2 Kids Goat Farm You love goats. You love how they bleat as they greet you. You love how frisky and friendly and sometimes naughty they are. They nibble the buttons on your shirt and climb all over you and your car and clamor for your attention. You also love goat milk and goat milk cheeses: crumbly chèvre spread on a bagel, feta crumbled on a salad, halloumi fried or grilled as an appetizer. If you love goats, goat milk products and the Central New York countryside, mark your calendar and get to 2 Kids Goat Farm,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2015 at Eat First
One of the things I miss the most about working downtown is the Downtown Syracuse Farmers Market. I've been trying to get there for more than a month now, but relentless rain on Tuesdays has kept me away. Today, at noontime, it wasn't raining (at least for the moment). So I headed downtown with my market basket, allotted market allowance ($20) and a fist-full of change for on-street parking. This vibrant and bustling market, at Clinton Square, features more than 40 vendors, many along West Water Street, and always draws a good crowd. Before making any purchases, I scoped out... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2015 at Eat First
When Stephanie Weidner Lipsey, market manager of the Fayetteville Farmers Market, asked me to go on "Bridge Street Live" (News Channel 9 - WSYR TV) with her to help promote the market -- and make a dish using ingredients from the market -- the answer was a no-brainer. Sure! Why not? The Fayetteville Farmers Market, now in its second year, is a good one, with nearly 40 vendors (no re-sellers) offering a diverse range of goods. In addition to in-season, local produce, the market has vendors offering meats, cheeses, eggs, yogurt, milk, honey, maple syrup, jams and jellies, salsa, pesto,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2015 at Eat First
1. Arrive early. Or arrive late. At the CNY Regional Market in Syracuse, this means up and at 'em bright and early on Saturdays for a 7 a.m. shopping spree. This is when the fish monger has his best and brightest selections available. And you'll appreciate the emptier aisles. On the flip side, there are advantages to shopping later, too. The selection might not be the best, but some vendors discount their goods as closing time approaches so they don't have to cart everything away. 2. Case the entire market before making purchases. This might not be feasible at the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2015 at Eat First
The Ridge Tavern is a restaurant that's off-the-beaten path. You could easily drive by it on Salt Springs Road in Chittenango -- we almost did. The sign doesn't scream at you and the tavern itself is about a third of a mile off the road, through the woods and overlooking the Robert Trent Jones-designed Ridge golf course. We don't play golf, but we do have a handful of friends who live near Chittenango, and three of them were at the restaurant the Friday we visited. We took that as a good sign. With its interesting menus, well-executed food and friendly,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2015 at Eat First
From deep-friend peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to udon noodle Asian stir-fry to Filipino-style eggrolls filled with seasoned beef and pork to artisan wood-fired pizza to tater tots smothered in spicy sauce -- there's a food truck offering to suit every taste. It took some time for them to catch on in Syracuse and it took some time for them to find a regular home, but if you have an adventurous appetite and an appreciation for "street eats,'' get yourself over to the weekly Food Truck Rodeos, held from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each Wednesday, in the parking lot... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2015 at Eat First
My mother used to make us chocolate cakes (and white cakes) with "boiled" frosting for our birthdays. I can see her making it, in a clear glass Pyrex double boiler on the stove. When the mixture of sugar and egg whites reached a certain consistency and temperature, she got out her hand mixer and whipped them until thick and frothy, sort of a cross between meringue and marshmallow. Yum! For my mother's and sister's birthday in March, I decided to make a somewhat froufrou devil's food cake with "boiled" frosting. Lacking Mom's recipe, I turned to the recipe for Fluffy... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2015 at Eat First
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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