a year in food and life

The Graduation Saga, Chapter I: The Moosewood Restaurant June 13, 2007

Filed under: food,Restaurants — superspark @ 4:12 pm


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Forgive me if my posts become remarkably graduation-centric over the next week or two. We managed to cram three big family graduations into a span of about 10 days. Naturally the food is of prime importance on Superspark, but these occasions seemed festive and personally note-worthy enough to merit a little rhapsodizing on other matters as well. Onward to the graduation saga, part I, where we find ourselves in upstate New York for my brother, Stephen’s, college graduation…

Trekking cross-country the other weekend to Stephen’s college graduation from Cornell, I found myself almost as excited to finally visit the Moosewood Restaurant as I was to watch my baby brother get his diploma (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but you get my drift). Over the years, the Moosewood Restaurant has become synonymous with healthy, mostly vegetarian eating and their eleven cookbooks tend to be represented in nearly every vegetarian “chef”‘s collection. I myself have Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day as well as Still Life With Menu Cookbookby Mollie Katzen, one of Moosewood’s co-founders.Given the restaurant’s location, tucked away in the hills of upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region, it’s not terribly convenient to visit in person. Tiny, remote Ithaca, New York hardly qualifies as a major tourist destination, after all. Given the rare opportunity, the day before graduation I dragged our generally carnivorous party of eight to Moosewood for lunch. To be fair, there were no objections; in fact, the two people who had given me my Moosewood cookbooks, my mother and my cousin Katherine, were among us. I was pleasantly surprised to see how casual the Moosewood was; I suppose its crunchy reputation should have tipped me off to that, but somehow I never figured such an unassuming, relaxed restaurant could have generated so much publicity and have become so well-known. With paper and chalkboard menus, Fiestaware, and a small giftshop of Moosewood paraphenalia, the dining room was sunny, friendly, and welcoming.

With such a relaxed atmosphere, there were, of course, some downsides including a cheerful, but forgetful waitress and sold-out menu items (including the one not entirely vegetarian dish, a sesame crusted seafood cake, which half of our party had ordered). Nevertheless, it was the perfect spot for a tasty, healthy meal on a beautiful day in the hills of upstate New York. With a long day still ahead of us, we skipped the wine and cocktails list and instead sampled sodas from Ithaca’s local brewing company (the ginger beer is great!).

From the bread and butter (homemade in two varieties) to the thai curry and tofu-walnut burger I split with Dylan, everything was decidedly healthy, but tasty. In fact, the food was very representative of the cookbooks and had the same homey, comfort food quality to it. Well, perhaps not everything was entirely healthy…despite our terribly full tummies, we decided to sample the desserts and they turned out to be the highlight of the meal for me. Between the various members of our group, we managed to sample several flavors of freshly-made ice cream, all of which were delicious and in huge quantities, a brownie, and my favorite, a mixed-berry crumble topped with homemade whipped cream. Yum!!

For someone like me, whose at-home cooking efforts tend to be quite similar to the Moosewood’s offerings (relatively light, vegetarian fare), the restaurant was not so earth-shatteringly unusual that it warrants a special trip. But I came away from our meal thinking that had I gone to Cornell, I would have become a regular. I would have gladly and gleefully ordered any of the six reasonably-sized lunch entrees (all of which came with a cup of soup or salad) for $8-9. I only wish there were more restaurants like Moosewood (and in more accessible locations!), where one can walk out feeling not only full and happy, but healthy, as well.


Happy graduation, Steve!


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