Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Driving Around Syracuse

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Holidays,Shopping Adventures,Syracuse — folkcat at 4:54 pm on Wednesday, January 3, 2007

It’s a long post today, with lots of pictures. I’ve put most of the photos after the leap, though, so those with slower connections won’t be burdened with the full load unless they choose it.

When in Syracuse, there are a number of places that are mandatory visits for us. The full list has changed a great deal over the 14 years since I moved to New Hampshire. One place that will never drop off the list, however, is this food court.

Food Court 1 - Comfortable Seating
Comfortable Seating

Food Court 2 - Chinese Buffet
Chinese Buffet

Food Court 3 - Sushi Bar
Sushi Bar

Food Court 4 - Pizza and Wings Kitchen
Pizza and Wings Kitchen

Food Court 5 - Coffee Bar
Coffee Bar

Food Court 6 - Soups, Sandwiches, Salads
Soups, Specialty Salads, Sandwiches

Not pictured, but also present, is a station serving full gourmet dinners, one making fresh subs, and a full salad bar.

So where is this wonderful food court to be found? Answer after the jump!

At the Wegmans Supermarket in Dewitt, NY!

Wegmans, Dewitt, NY

One of the things I really miss about Syracuse is the larger supermarkets available there. Here in NH, we’ve got some places that call themselves “Malls” that aren’t as big as this Wegmans. And the largest of our supermarkets only dreams of growing up to be Wegmans-like one day.

I mean, really – take a look at this produce department. If you can see, all the way back near the center, where it says “Organics”? (Click on the photo to view a larger version.) Wegmans produce goes all the way back there.

Wegmans Produce Department
Produce for Miles

You know, there are entire supermarkets here in New Hampshire that would fit in this space.

The rest of the store is equally impressive, though I didn’t snap pictures throughout. There’s a well-stocked natural and organic department; a huge bulk-foods section; an imported foods aisle that almost makes it unnecessary to shop at the wonderful Asian groceries in town*; and so much more.

Then, there’s the bakery. Here’s a glance down the long aisle, with finished goods lining both sides, and the ovens and kitchens off to the left.

Wegmans Bakery
Bakery Row

When this Wegmans was first built, they brought in Italian craftsman to build this brick oven.

Wegmans Brick Oven
Italian Craftsmanship in a Brick Oven

The wood fire in that thing has burned continuously since they first opened this store. The breads they bake in it are amazing.

Oddly enough, though, it’s not the best place in town to get Italian bread. That honor would go to this dumpy-looking little hole in the wall, perched between the near North Side (known now as Little Italy), and Downtown Syracuse.

Columbus Baking Co., Syracuse, NY
Columbus Baking Co., Syracuse, NY

It doesn’t look like much, but when you walk in, it’s magic. The aroma of freshly baked bread permeates the air. Step in the door, and to your left you’ll see a simple wooden counter with a cash register. Ranks of wood shelving behind hold paper bags full of warm from the oven bread.

Straight ahead of you is the heart of the shop. You’re standing less than thirty feet away from the gaping maws of the Columbus Baking Co.’s own brick ovens. Between you and them, work tables where the bakers are shaping the dough into loaves, then tossing them into the oven. Flour everywhere. This is the bakery where real Italian bread comes from.

In my family, we never got to Columbus Baking Co. as often as we’d like. When we did, though, the best thing was to be a passenger, not the driver, because then you had a chance of getting to hug a warm, sometimes almost too hot to handle, loaf of bread all the way home.

Before this trip to Syracuse, we’d realized that in 14 years we’d never managed to get Gryphon to the Columbus Baking Co. So, although he was the driver, I let him hold the warm loaf of flat Italian bread for a few minutes.

Gryphon and Warm Bread
Gryphon and Warm Bread

Having successfully filled our car with the smell of good bread, we moved on to our next destination. Located on the near West side of town, in what was once the Fro-Joy Ice Cream Company, we find the Middle Ages Brewing Co.

Middle Ages Brewing
Middle Ages Brewing Co.

Enter beneath this marvelous sign, turn to the left, and go through the big, heavy door. You’re in their retail shop, complete with beer glasses, t-shirts, beer, games, beer, coolers and carriers for beer, and more beer. Plus, for those of legal age to indulge – a free tasting bar, where seven or so of their varieties are available to try.

The names – and label designs – of their brews show an irreverent attitude that Gryphon and I appreciate: Apricot Ale, Beast Bitter, Black Heart Stout, Dragonslayer, Druid Fluid, Impaled Ale, Kilt Tilter, Wailing Wench, and Wizard’s Winter. Gryphon is the beer afficionado, and he attests that they make exceptionally good beers here.

While Gryphon tasted a few varieties, I visited with two of the three resident cats. Any place with friendly feline staff gets my approval!

Another unusual feature of the in-house bar is that they offer something called “growlers” – large-sized bottles of beer that I’d say are about equal to a pitcher in volume. These are refillable from the taps in the tasting room, and in fact, certain beers at the taps are not available for the free tastings – they are only present for growler refills. The growlers appear to be hugely popular – we saw a number of them refilled while we were there, and the gift shop sells special wooden carriers that will hold two growlers, as well as insulated wraps and totes to fit the huge bottles.

Gryphon came away from Middle Ages Brewing with a mixed six-pack of their beers to bring home and savor, and an English pub-style pint glass with the brewery logo on it as a souvenir of our visit.

A day or two after Christmas, my parents took us up North of the city to Cicero, home of the Plainville Turkey Farm Restaurant.

Plainville Turkey Farm
Plainville Turkey Farm Restaurant

This has been a local institution for thirty years. They’re famous for their turkey dinner buffet, an all-you-can eat option that has all the fixings that anyone could want for Thanksgiving Dinner year-round.

I guess Syracuse had one of those charity installations not long ago, where a bunch of sculptures of a large animal are decorated by various artists and placed around town. This is the one that Plainville Turkey sponsored – they keep it out front of the restaurant.

Horseback Turkey
Tom (Turkey) Mix?

If you can make it out under the snow, we’ve got a cowboy turkey riding that horse.

Inside, we had no need to wait – I guess that most people are turkeyed out a day or two after the holidays. If you do wind up waiting for a table, though, you get to check out their hydroponics garden, proudly displayed behind a window in the lobby.

Plainville Hydroponics Garden
Plainville Hydroponics Garden

I saw bib lettuce, what I think were dandelion greens, basil, and other assorted herbs and salad fixings. My parents say the display changes around – the last time they went, just after Thanksgiving, there were tomato plants!

There Was More, But no Photos

Gryphon and I visited many other places while we were in Syracuse, but I have to confess I usually forgot to take the camera out, I was so interested in what we were doing. I bought some really cool crafting things along the trip, both in Syracuse and on the way. And we got some wonderful gifts, both from family and from friends. This year, for the first time the gift exchanges included some of my great new blog friends, which was exciting!

Next Up: The Gifts Received

*Shopping for Asian groceries in Syracuse is pure heaven! Here in New Hampshire, the Asian groceries I’ve found are okay, but they largely cater to Americans who want to dabble in exotic tastes a little without being too adventurous. In Syracuse, however, the Asian groceries actually serve a large Asian community. The one I usually shop at makes its own tofu, offers premium quality fresh fish, and rents Asian language films.



Comment by B Kimball

January 4, 2007 @ 9:09 am

No wonder you want to go home. I would too. The old adage ‘You can’t miss what you don’t know’ now i know and I would like to move to Syracuse. If you could only get rid of the cold because as I get older I’m looking for warmth.

Love Ya BEA


Comment by Jennifer

January 4, 2007 @ 10:03 am

Jenny, do you remember last winter at Panera I had seen a pattern having to do with “Shrek” or “Swamp” but couldn’t remember where I’d seen it? I was just searching for a totally unrelated pattern and look what I found: http://knitting.designedlykristi.com/index.php?cat=70


Comment by Elizabeth Beals

April 5, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

*sigh* I stumbled upon your blog and got misty eyed!
I grew up in Clay, NY (5 minutes from Cicero).
As soon as I saw your pictures of the grocery store, I knew it was Wegmans; my twin sister worked in the produce section as a teenager and it is as fun working in their produce section as it looks!

And Columbus bakery!! Oh man! How I miss it. I miss Dinosaur BBQ too.

What market makes the tofu? I’d love to know.

Thanks for bringing back great food memories.


Comment by Monika

April 9, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

Thanks for the pics. Ahh…Columbus Bakery..just looking at the pics of it, I could smell that bread baking…
Wish you’d had pics of the Dino BBQ…
I miss home..grew up in North Syracuse, now I live in Georgia


Comment by Hound

November 30, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

I grew up in Syracuse (Eastwood) and still make it a point to eat at the Turkey Farm whenever I’m in town to visit.

I’ve never been to the Columbus Baking Company, but almost every Sunday I stopped with my father at another Italian bakery on the north side after church (don’t remember the name). When I “hugged the bread” on the way home some of the bread never made it all the way back!


Comment by Melanie

December 7, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

Love the old sites of syracuse..I lived in NH for 20 years.. from syracuse..and can only agree about so many things.. especially the grocery stores in NH..
Missing wegmans..and so much about syracuse (mostly the food) What great food.. Heides and what I”d do for a twin trees pizza.. the best!!.Now living in the west.. Good pizza is a thing you have to have only in the east..thanks for trip around home.. much appreciated..

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