Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Taste of Syracuse Recap & Downtown Thoughts

The Taste of Syracuse was another great success this year. Can't complain with good music and good food. While they improved on the flow of foot traffic from last year, I'd still like to see the vendors a little more spread out and not as cramped in the future. Mainly because the intersections at S Clinton/W Water and S Franklin St/W Water get totally jammed and are kind of crazy at night (for example, inebriated folk picking fights with one another while I wait in line for ice cream).

At any rate, here's what I was able to sample this year...

Caribbean King: Jerk Chicken
Eva's: Ruskie Pierogies
Jerk Hut: Jamaican Style Patties
Kalzonies: Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone
Lao Village: Fried Spring Roll with chili sauce
Las Delicias: Empanada
Liehs and Steigerwald: Hot Dog
Mai Lan: Spring Roll
Merritt Estate Winery: Wine Slushie (x2)
Shipwreck: Seafood Chowder
Big Mama's Cheesecakes: White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake

I wasn't able to get to The Mission, nor did I get my usual lobster roll at Charlie's (that area got mobbed with people when the Charlie Daniels Band started playing on Saturday night, so I decided to skip it).

Here are my Top-5 Choices...

1) Kalzonies: Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone
For those who have been to any DP Dough location, this wasn't too far off. I'm sure my college buddies would call this blasphemy, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this may have been one of the best calzones I've ever had. Excellent combination of flavors with the mozzarella, bacon, and ranch, a large portion size for $1, and a freshly baked and yet soft exterior. I feel weird saying a calzone was the best thing I had, but it's true.

2) Big Mama's Cheesecakes: White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake
Amazing. A nice velvety consistency and the small raspberry dollop on top added the perfect amount of tartness. Did I like this better than Junior's Cheesecake in Brooklyn? Me thinks so. As a side note, look for Big Mama's Cheesecakes at local restaurants (like Empire Brewing Co) as well as in Times Square and NYC.

3) Jerk Hut: Jamaican Style Patties
Soft and flakey crust filled with a spicy ground beef and bean interior served at the perfect temperature. I probably could've eaten a bunch of these.

4) Eva's: Pierogies
Pretty sure it's my staple when I go to the Taste of Syracuse. Doughy pierogies filled with potatoes and fresh farmers cheese, add some sweetness and sour from the sauerkraut and sauteed onions and butter on the outside, and topped with chopped parsley. Love it. I suppose it doesn't help that I also have a severe weakness for attractive Polish girls handing me amazing food.

5) Mai Lan: Spring Roll
Shrimp, fresh lettuce, bean sprouts, vermicelli, and mint wrapped in translucent rice-paper and topped with grated carrots, crushed peanuts, and a thin and tangy Vietnamese sauce. I usually get these and they never disappoint. Not to discredit any of the other places at the event, but the vendors are always so nice here too. I'll have to get over to the restaurant one of these days for an actual review.

Other notes...

I burned my tongue on Shipwreck's seafood chowder - it was served scolding hot and I kept eating it like a dummy - so I unfortunately wasn't able to totally enjoy it. It had good flavor, red potatoes with the skins on, and a thinner consistency than what you'd expect from a New England style chowder. The thinness reminded me of clam chowder I had recently at Neptune Oyster in Boston (which goes on record as my favorite of all-freaking-time), but this chowder didn't really have all that much "seafood" in it. I probably should've went back later on to give it another shot.

I did end up going to Kalzonies twice, but they were out of the Cheesecake Calzone the second go-around, so I opted for another Chicken Bacon Ranch.

Speaking of Kalzonies, they have a new location opening up in Armory Square at the former Goodfella's Pizzeria spot. I think it's an excellent move for them (they were/are down on E Jefferson St in no-man's land) and they'll be open late until 5am and will also offer late night delivery.

I know I already had a post about this, but has anyone noticed how many new restaurants have been popping up around downtown this year? Here's a list of 12 new places that have opened or will be opening soon.

Overall, I give a big thumbs up for the city. I think the Taste of Syracuse has really grown into a nice yearly tradition for Downtown. From a personal and well... bragging standpoint, it's nice to be able to walk a short distance from my apartment to enjoy things like this. I look forward to it every June and it's a nice "appetizer" to the State Fair.

Feel free to respond in the comments on what you guys had this year and what your favorites were.


Owen O'Neill said...

I had some of the same food and had different results. My bacon, chicken and ranch calzone was doughy, chewy and lukewarm with a nearly total lack of filling - could not taste any of the above mentioned items. My empanada was good as usual, if a bit sparse on fillings (but for 41 I can't complain). I had the collaloo at Caribbean King and it was a decent rendition. They often go too easy on the spices for jerk and curry (I prefer Jerk Hut's food), but this dish was good. My seafood chowder was a bit sparse on seafood but the flavor was fantastic and the thin consistency is what I love - too few places make it that way. Highlight was the dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) from the Turkish Cultural Center booth - best dolmas I have ever had.

Jim Johnson said...

My big winner this year was the Vodka Penne from Frankies. I've never heard of them before, but I'll totally be seeking them out now.

Jerk Hut was, as always, awesome. I love jerk chicken and this is generally the only time I get to eat it, as I'm not remotely close to any places that serve Caribbean.

I had a Nutella crepe from... uh... Asti Cafe, maybe? I could only eat half of it, as I was pretty full and it was VERY rich, but holy crap, that was delicious.

The big loser I thought was the riggies from Dominics. I get their riggies here every year and I generally like them, but man, this time was pretty lame. Thumbs down.

I had a whole bunch of other things, but that's what stands out.

Susan said...

I was in Boston and Maine on vacation in June and much chowder was consumed. A local in Maine informed us that the thin chowder is more traditionally "New England". But thick or thin it should have a lot of seafood.

Josef Lorenz said...

interesting. i had no idea the thin was more traditional. good to know!