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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
What's it like to do a wine tasting in the time of COVID-19? We'd been wondering that for a couple weeks, since wineries were given the go-ahead to operate somewhat as usual as part of the third phase of reopening in New York State. So on a sunny and breezy Sunday, we set out for the Finger Lakes to see for ourselves. In a word, the experience is different. Gone are the days, at least for now, of driving down the road with no set agenda and dropping in on a whim. Also missing is the convivial atmosphere that comes... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Eat First
The scene on a recent Thursday at the CNY Regional Market in Syracuse. One of the advantages of shopping at farmers markets is chatting with growers and local food producers and getting to know more about them, what they do and and what they have to offer. "Know farms, know food.'' Things are a little different now. Farmers markets in New York State have been deemed "essential'' during the coronavirus pandemic, but markets are also following stricter guidelines. If you haven't been to a market lately, you will notice there's more room between vendors. Some markets have arrows marking one-way... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2020 at Eat First
Sarinthra (Sara) Tong-Ngork has logged more than 20 years in local restaurants. Her resume includes stints at Lemon Grass, Bangkok Thai, Alfa Bar and Dining Room, the Century Club and Bellevue Country Club, among others. Come fall, she will venture out on her own as one of eight merchants at Salt City Market, the food hall scheduled to open at 484 Salina St., across from the Marriott Syracuse Downtown. Sara's stand, Firecracker Thai Kitchen, will feature Bangkok-style "street food:" soups, curries, noodle dishes, salads and more. Her menu is in development and she has been going through the steps of... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2020 at Eat First
Does the thought of grocery shopping in the time of coronavirus stress you out? If you answered yes, you're not alone. Lots of folks are making as few trips to supermarkets as possible -- and using shopping services like Instacart to avoid stores entirely. Some local stores, farms, restaurants and other businesses have stepped up to make it possible for you to leave the shopping -- or some of the shopping -- to someone else. By ordering a local produce box, for example, you can limit trips to the store for cooking essentials like onions, carrots and potatoes and at... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2020 at Eat First
Shelly Bornemann has been cooking most of her life, but her food philosophy and priorities took a turn in 2006, when she visited an animal sanctuary in Maryland with a close friend. "What impacted me the most that day was when we visited the pig barn,'' Bornemann recalls. "I was surprised to see how expressive their eyes were, just like human eyes. One of the pigs was roaming freely around the grounds and followed me like a faithful dog and it made a huge impact on me. My experience that day was the catalyst to my vegan journey.'' Bornemann became... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2020 at Eat First
To remind people that it’s possible to come to the table in the time of coronavirus -- without sitting next to or across from each other -- four Central/Upstate New York chefs pooled their energy and creativity to collaborate on "Social, from a Distance -- a Virtual In-Home Dining Experience.'' Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2020 at Eat First
Julie Platt-Opanhoske is used to cooking for a crowd. At home in Sennett, near Auburn, she cooks for her husband, Chris, and four kids (ages 10, 16, 18 and 20). And as owner of Carriage House Catering, she cooks for gatherings of 50 to 100 or more. Opanhoske (pronounced Ah-PEN-ah-ski), 43, has been cooking all of her life. Her grandfather DeMassi was a cook in the Army and he and her grandmother, "Nana Rose,'' cooked Italian-American specialties and regularly hosted family dinners with adults and kids crowded around the table. "I think that's where I get my 'cook for an... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2020 at Eat First
Chad Miller presents a platter of Chicken Yakitori. See recipe, below. Chad Miller has a passion for music, photography and art. So, it’s no surprise that he also likes to express his creativity in the kitchen. Miller, 43, grew up in the Oneida County village of Holland Patent and took early note of his mother’s skills in the kitchen and appreciation of good food. He has since branched off in his own exploratory, global-influenced direction. He’s not afraid to experiment and being an artist, he’s all about presentation, too. Miller says cooking at home in the time of coronavirus isn’t... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2020 at Eat First
I thought about making a big pot of soup for friends who are grieving the loss of their sister to cancer. I also thought about making each of them a healthy salad. I considered making a couple of quiches. I also pondered baking some muffins or cupcakes for them. Then I thought about food writer and cookbook author Alison Roman's opening line in her guide to making macaroni and cheese that appeared in The New York Times: "Macaroni and cheese is like a hug wrapped in a warm sweater, unparalleled in its ability to comfort and satisfy.'' Bingo. That's what... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2020 at Eat First
We all know that plastic isn't good for the planet. And by this point we all know that New York State's plastic bag ban goes into effect on March 1, 2020. Some stores, including Wegmans, have already ditched single-use plastic bags. By early March, all retail establishments must fully change over to paper and/or reusable bags. This includes stores like Kohl's, HomeGoods and Target. The bag ban has generated a lot of conversation. Some people are all in with reusable bags and have been using them for years. Others say they will pay for paper sacks or reuse plastic bags... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2020 at Eat First
The handmade fruitcake baked by the thousands at the Black Cat Cafe and Bakery in Sharon Springs (Schoharie County) came to my attention on Facebook. They caught my eye because they are golden, studded with fruit and nuts and resemble my Mother's Lemon Extract Cake -- also known as fruitcake. I clicked like and shared the photo. Later, when Tony Daou, the restaurant's owner, asked if he could send me a sample, I said yes. I rarely accept or request food samples, but sometimes make exceptions for local products -- and this was an offer too good to turn down.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2020 at Eat First
UPDATE -- MAY 13, 2020: CIRCA CE SOIR HAS CLOSED As a chef and restaurant owner, Alicyn Hart makes it her mission to waste as little food as possible. Ordering what she needs locally helps keep food spoilage to a minimum. And she doesn’t want to send more plastic and Styrofoam to landfills. At Circa ce Soir, a new, mostly take-out restaurant in Manlius, Hart and partner Marco LoCicero have a request for their customers: Help us reduce our environmental impact and be kind to the planet. Bring your own reusable travel mugs for coffee, Mason jars for soups and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2020 at Eat First
A trip to the Central New York Regional Market isn't complete without Wake Robin Farm yogurt and cheese curds. There is one local product we are almost never without at our house: Wake Robin Farm cream-on-top, full-fat yogurt. They say that yogurt is a “superfood,’’ offering benefits for heart health, gut health, weight management and more, but mostly we find Wake Robin’s vanilla yogurt, flavored with vanilla extract and sweetened lightly with New York State maple syrup, to be super delicious. Once you’ve had yogurt that fresh, made 20 miles from Syracuse from milk produced by Meg and Bruce Schader’s... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2019 at Eat First
Thanks, Dave! This is one of my favorite projects each year.
1 reply
It's not too early to talk holiday gift giving, is it? Wegmans has had Christmas on display since before Halloween. The annal Buy Local Bash is coming up Nov. 25. Some local retailers have already hosted their holiday open houses. So, no. It's not too early. The holiday season is upon us. My annual, food-focused, buy-local holiday gift list includes salt, chocolate, coffee, tea, wine, barbecue sauce, tableware, a dining discount card and more. Got a hard-to-shop-for person on your list who doesn't want any more "stuff"? Give the gift of a local food experience. Read on. Note: There's no... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2019 at Eat First
Several restaurants have opened in downtown Syracuse in the last year or so and we're slowly getting around to checking them out. For my birthday earlier this month, I mulled the options and went back and forth over a few before finally settling on A Mano Kitchen & Bar, knowing that my partner would like it, as well. The restaurant is owned by Anthony Fiacchi and his son, Alex Fiacchi, who is also the restaurant's executive chef. Alex Fiacchi has worked on farms in Italy and in some of the finest restaurants in Philadelphia and has a deep appreciation for... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2019 at Eat First
Chef Sarah Hassler (background) and Farm to Fork 101 founder Mark Pawliw (back, left) speak to Commonspace residents at a community dinner in August. If you've attended a Farm to Fork 101 event in Central New York, you're familiar with Mark Pawliw. He's the founder of the series of pop-up dinner events that shine the light on locally grown and sourced food and serves as a conduit between farmers, chefs and diners. He also works in the restaurant industry and is the coordinator of cooking events at the Wegmans Demonstration Kitchen in the Art and Home Center during the New... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2019 at Eat First
Open house attendees visit the vegetable garden at Truxton Academy Charter School during an open house earlier this month. As August winds down, there's no denying the hint of fall in the air. Branden Brown, co-owner of Trinity Valley Dairy, is looking forward to this year's corn maze adventure on the farm and the deluge of families that will come out to navigate it. He's also excited about the start of the school year. Two of his children will be attending Truxton Academy Charter School. The school -- New York State's first rural, agriculture-focused elementary charter school -- will welcome... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2019 at Eat First
Clockwise from top left: Mahogany tomatoes; a Parisian carrot; lettuce leaf basil and a handful of white currants, all grown at Fresh Herbs of Fabius. Like many farmers, Ken and Elizabeth Nevius grow a lot of produce for chefs. They started out growing herbs exclusively -- hence the name of their business, Fresh Herbs of Fabius -- but before long branched into microgreens, heirloom vegetables and some fruits. They started out on a small plot of land at their home in rural Fabius, in southeastern Onondaga County, and have since expanded to five acres of tiered growing space on the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2019 at Eat First
The Syracuse Food Truck Association launched in 2015 with three members: Nick Sanford of Toss & Fire Pizza, Dennis Souva and Cindy Baker of The Chicken Bandit and Pat Orr of PB&J's Lunchbox. In four years, the organization has grown to include nearly 30 mobile food entrepreneurs. In Syracuse, it has been a bit of a rocky road for them. In the past, the city used a lottery system that gave the trucks standing locations on city streets. At one point, expensive licensing and permit fees drove many of the trucks out of the city. Fortunately, Syracuse Common Councilor Michael... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2019 at Eat First
Cooperstown Cheese Company display at the Little Falls Cheese Festival. Do you like to fill your leisure time with food-related activities and pursuits? Check here regularly for Central New York- and Upstate New York-focused ideas and itineraries. And feel free to leave ideas for future visits/posts in the Comments, below. Destination: Little Falls Cheese Festival The line was so long at the Jake's Gouda stand at the Little Falls Cheese Festival that it would have taken 15 minutes or more to get a sample and make a purchase. That's not a complaint as much as an observation: the annual celebration... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2019 at Eat First
Garlic scapes are the twisted green stalks that grow from the bulbs of garlic plants. You've probably seen them at farmers markets, in tangled piles held together with rubber bands. At $2 a bunch (or something like that) they're a good value. Stuff them in a plastic bag and they'll keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator. Garlic scapes aren't as strong in flavor as garlic itself, though they are lightly garlicky. A farmer suggested thinking of them and treating them as you would scallions. Trim the stringy, somewhat bulbous end of the scapes and finely chop the tendrils... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2019 at Eat First
Opening day haul, Downtown Syracuse Farmers Market Visiting a local farmers market should be part of everyone's weekly routine this time of year. Why go to a grocery store stocked with produce from thousands of miles away when you can go to a market and get purchase fresh produce, in season, sometimes picked just hours earlier? You'll also find eggs, meats, cheeses, yogurt, honey, maple products, plants, baked goods and so much more. Garlic scapes, Haas Farms, Bayberry Plaza Farmers Market Farmers have weathered a wild rollercoaster ride this spring. It's important for us to support them. At the Bayberry... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2019 at Eat First
It's the best time of year to visit Crazy Daisies. The flower farm on Kasson Road, off Route 175 near Marcellus, has annuals, perennials, vegetable plants, herbs, succulents, hanging baskets, container gardens and much more to strike your garden fancy. Crazy Daisies also has a Garden Cafe with a focus on fresh, local fare. So the question becomes: Shop for flowers first or grab a table on the porch first and have a bite to eat? On Saturdays and Sundays, brunch is served from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu is fairly simple, with things like French toast (made... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2019 at Eat First
The 200 block of West Water Street in downtown Syracuse is usually lined with cars parked on both sides. On May 19, the street will be closed to traffic to accommodate an enormous tent housing a series of tables set for dinner. Defi Cuisine Corp., a restaurant at 208 W. Water St., will celebrate its first anniversary with a five-course “long table’’ dinner that day. Chef-owners Cody Dedischew (on left, below) and Nick Salvetti have received a special permit from the city for the street closure and hope to welcome 200 guests to the table. The public is invited to... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2019 at Eat First