Best of Rochester Critic's Pick
Best Fall Pick-Me-Up: Apple Frost at Shutt's
No matter what the calendar or weather say, it's not truly fall until I've made a trip to Shutt's Apple Mill (1063 Plank Rd, Webster, 872-2924). This cozy country store has the classic autumn offerings of pumpkins, apples, homemade cider, and cider donuts, along with home goods themed for the upcoming holidays. I even found the exact same placemats my mother used for every dinner of my childhood. But Shutt's is also creating what has become a new fall classic for me, the Apple Frost.
In so many words, an Apple Frost is a thick apple cider milkshake slushie that you can tell is made with homemade cider by the look, taste, and texture of it. There's no ice cream in it, but they do use a dairy-based milkshake powder. For just $2.25, you can get a serving that is, for me, large enough to share, despite the overwhelming tastiness of it.
I haven't found any other fresh apple cider drinks like this in Rochester and, honestly, I hope I don't. I like the uniqueness of it, and also want as many excuses as possible to make a trip to Shutt's to fill up on goodies, childhood memories, and my favorite fall pick-me-up. - BY JESSE HANUS
Best Bet for the Cash-strapped Gourmand.
Has a whole beef tenderloin, crown roast of pork, or those cute little racks of lamb that you cooked for your friends ever condemned you to a week of instant ramen for dinner? Have you ever blanched at the supermarket prices for andouille sausage or duck leg confit? If so, pay a visit to Fare Game Foods at the Rochester Public Market some Saturday morning. For more than fifteen years, budget conscious gourmands have been coming to proprietor Barry Kucker's stand to score "restaurant quality goods at something close to wholesale prices." Kucker is not giving his high end food away, but at anywhere from a third to a half off of retail, Fare Game brings the best stuff within the reach of even the most cash-strapped aspiring chef. Fare Game's fare varies, but you will consistently find beautifully marbled USDA Prime beef, black truffle butter, plump rabbits, free range chickens, whole ducks, foisgras and confit, and chanterelle or other exotic mushrooms in season. Kucker even sells turkeys, taking orders from mid-October through mid-November for pick-up at the Market on the day before Thanksgiving. As with everything at Fare Game, it may not be the cheapest bird you'll ever buy, but it's definitely the best. -- JAMES LEACH
The bánhmì at Vinh-HaoBánhMì Café, 985 South Clinton, Avenue, 271-7250
When you enter the nondescript little building on South Clinton near the Goodman intersection, you'll first notice the wall of DVDs, mostly Vietnamese titles you've never heard of. Off to the right there's an aquarium housing two friendly fish. But in the back corner you will see a counter and a refrigerated showcase. Mosey on up to that counter and order a bánhmì. After forking over your $3.50, you will be handed a paper-wrapped tube secured by a rubber band. Open it! The sandwich you are now holding is classic Vietnamese street food. A crusty baguette (courtesy of the French Colonial influence) is sliced open and smeared on one side with rich mayo, the other with a velvety pâté. Filling the space between are fresh cilantro sprigs, dueling spears of crisp cucumber and cruel jalapeño, a tangy-sweet carrot-and-daikon slaw, as well as an assortment of meats. But this, truthfully, is where it gets tricky. There's pork, I think. Maybe something cured. And is that headcheese? Whatever. It's scrumptious, an exotic and satisfying cacophony of flavors and textures. Now eat! -- DAYNA PAPALEO
Best Downtown Treasure in Need of Attention: St. Joseph's Park
What remains of Rochester's oldest Catholic Church now stands as a ghostly shell around its outdoor sanctuary. Built in 1846 and established by Redemptorists, St. Joseph's Church was a parish serving German-speaking locals, a children's school, and an asylum for orphans. Fire ravaged the church in 1974, with very few artifacts remaining (a significant piece now resides in nearby Our Lady of Victory Church).
In 1980, the Landmark Society purchased the tower, edifice, and two walls and created the park. Many Rochesterians have memories of weddings and lunchtime concerts, but that era of St Joseph's has also passed; the untreated interior walls are deteriorating badly from exposure.
St. Joseph's Park is closed, and will remain so until an extensive restoration occurs. Consider the cost for such a project is into six figures, and the disappointment of temporary closure turns to dismal finality of unforeseeable reopening. Compound that with threatening closures of functioning neighborhood churches, and we may deem ourselves lucky to at least be able to look inside. Can a monetary miracle deliver us entrance back into this "Oasis of Grace"?
To inquire about St. Joseph's Church and Park, visit the Landmark Society of Western New York at 133 South Fitzhugh Street in Corn Hill. -- KATE STATHIS
Best Dream into Reality: Flying Squirrel Community Space
It's rare when diverse groups of strong-minded individuals can act decisively together, a fact alone that makes the Flying Squirrel Community Space such a refreshing addition to Rochester. But that it can be so cool and fun is downright magical.
The Flying Squirrel is a collective of local activists, artists, teachers, dreamers, and anyone else who shares a collaborative spirit and a do-it-yourself ethic. Acting through a non-hierarchal consensus model takes time and lots and lots of meetings, but look at what they've created in their first year alone: an operating free school, a zine library, a gallery, a bike repair collective, and a vibrant space that hosts community dinners, engaging workshops, a monthly variety show, zine and craft fairs, poetry readings, film festivals, live music, and a dizzying amount of hula-hooping. This list grows as their momentum builds.
The space itself, a former Elks Lodge with a mostly African American membership, was a cornerstone of the Clarissa Street neighborhood heyday. Since then, the building stopped operating as it once had, and by the time the Squirrels got to it, the squirrels had gotten to it, and it was in desperate need of care. With neighborhood support and boundless energy, the Squirrels have brought it back to life.-- KATE STATHIS
Best open jam that isn't a jam: Saturday mornings @ Java's At The Market
It must be jelly... because it ain't exactly an open jam. Or is it? It began early this summer with the old piano leaning against the wall, minding its own business. Folks at Java's At The Market walked by it all the time, hardly giving it a notice in their caffeinated preoccupation. But local musician and boogie woogie pianist PaulNunes couldn't help himself. This piano wasn't going to play itself after all. For several weeks, Nunes would pound out a short set to the delight of patrons and passers-by. Record Store impresario Richard Storms, who always packs diatonic harmonica heat, started joining Nunes on classics like "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" and other ribald, suggestive ditties, playing the roll of Kansas City blues-shouter between funky honks on his harp. People clapped along and ate it up. Slowly, the word got out and musicians began to show up with guitars and washboards to sit in. It's now a rotating cast of ragamuffin characters at a party thrown by its own crashers. There's no set list, no sign-up sheet, and no rules. It is truly an open jam, and the best in town.
--- BY FRANK DE BLASE
Food: Best Spin on a Jewish Tradition:
Fox's Mish-Mosh soup
Fox's Restaurant and Catering
3450 Winton Place
As a kid, I'd always look forward to visiting my grandfather in New York City because of all the hole-in-the-wall Jewish delis or restaurants he'd take me to. Any food he'd pass my way - with the exception of gefilte fish - I'd love to try, especially around the Jewish holidays that I'd spend with him. I really think it's the food that kept the Jewish side of my family so religious. We'd always eat kreplach - a Jewish wonton filled with ground meat - on Rosh Hashanah and matzo ball soup around Passover.
It wasn't until I came to school in Rochester that I was reminded of these varied Jewish tastes from my childhood when I stumbled across Fox's. I discovered one of the greatest twists on traditional Jewish food that I'd ever seen, called "mish mosh" soup. I had always eaten chicken noodle, or chicken and rice soup, kreplach or matzo ball soup, but never mixed together in one bowl. Beyond the mish-mosh of flavors, the soup presents a mish-mosh of holidays into a spoonful. Although Fox's offers all the soups independent of each other, the addition of this stellar soup to the menu - served only in a bowl with no cup-sized alternative - gives me reason visit weekly. --CAITLIN SHAPIRO
Nightlife: Best Place to Relive Your Misspent College Career:
Lex South Sports Bar and Grill
1761 Scottsville Rd.
This bar makes me reminisce my college days and I haven't even graduated yet... Maybe it's because the bar seems populated by young college students, or maybe I should just graduate already. Either way, the small number of locals mixed with a large, primarily drunken, college crowd helps keep up its floozy/bar-fly charm. Due to the plastic cups, I wouldn't recommend this place to a beer snob nor would I recommend Lex to a chicken wing connoisseur because, well, they don't stand out. This bar encompasses mid-week college life almost as well as "Animal House" encompassed frat parties and showing up in sweatpants is just as acceptable a loosened tie after a long day of work. Getting together with some friends after class, especially during the week, Lex is usually drowned in students hoping to share a few cheap pitchers and baskets of mediocre wings. However, it's really easy to have too much to drink at this place and a relaxed night could turn wild at the flip of a coin. --CAITLIN SHAPIRO
Nightlife: Best Place to Grab a Stogie:
365 North Washington St.
I found myself being lectured on IPA beers, the importance of appreciating scotch and how to select and smoke cigars. For a while my roommates were two guys, so what else could I expect? And, they were manly men too, I mean -commando kravmaga students, guitar playing, knife twirling, but nonetheless, stylish, manly men. This meant spa-night was put on hold until further notice; I just couldn't see them steaming their faces and throwing cucumbers on their eyes while conversing about oatmeal masks. So, I did what I had to do, and learned to be one of the guys for a while.
My first visit to Havana House, when I knew nothing, the staff was ready to help. The walk-in humidor made of Spanish cedar compliments the smell of international tobacco, it's one of my favorite smells. After you select the perfect cigar, Havana has a large room with a flat-screen T.V. and oversized armchairs. It's their smoking lounge - and yes, I've sat in there many times and learned the tricks of poker at Havana's card table. A good change from sitting at the typical bar, Havana House provides the perfect chilled-out environment, no matter how girly you are. --CAITLIN SHAPIRO
Local Color: Best Disc Golf Course:
Parma Disc Golf Course
550 Peck Rd.
Even though one of the first holes has a pretty intimidating pond that is sure to consume your disc - don't turn back to the car so soon. As someone who isn't very good at disc golfing but loves to play still, I'd say the trickiest part about Parmais having to fish out all those lost discs from the woods - and that one pond. But the scenery and variety of distances that cater to all disc golf levels, more than make up for it. The Parma course takes you through two meadows and tough woodsy stretch, but part of the fun is thinking your lost. This year the Parma course has been undergoing a facelift in preparation for the 2011 Professional Disc Golf Association Amateur and Junior Championships. Cement tees and additional holes are among the changes at the course. Although other courses in the Rochester area have had new additions over the last year, Parma still keeps the escape-from-the-world element very much intact. --CAITLIN SHAPIRO
Best Win by Losing: Rick Lazio
When Carl Paladino crushed Rick Lazio in the Republican gubernatorial primary, it was as if David beat Goliath.
But Lazio may come out ahead in the end. Lazio prevailed in a Conservative Party gubernatorial primary, but he was nominated for a Supreme Court judge race in Brooklyn. It was part of a deal to get Paladino on the Conservative line, which has advantages for the candidate and the party.
Paladino's probably going to take a beating from Democrat Andrew Cuomo. (Yesterday was Election Day, but the paper's print deadline was in the afternoon, before polling ended.)
But Lazio has a real shot at winning the judgeship and if he does he'll make a salary close to the governor's. He'll also have the added perk of not having to deal with the state Legislature. If he loses, well, he probably would have lost to Cuomo anyway.
So what, exactly, did Lazio lose? --JEREMY MOULE
CLASSICAL: "Best Romantic Melody"
Romantic melodies tend to fall into the hands of pianists, violinists, cellists, and oboists. But, during the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performance of the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major on September 30, the clarinet physically rose over the music stand and out came notes as beautiful as if opera diva Kathleen Battle was rising into place among the woodwinds. On October 21, during the RPO performance of Stravinsky's Petrouchka, there was the clarinet, again, this time all over its range and texture in some combination of Renee Fleming, and Andrea Bocelli.
"The human voice is the ultimate music expression," said Grant when I called him with the news of his "Best of" award. "I pick-up this instrument - this little stick - and I think how do I make it sound like a voice? How do I draw people in?"
Grant has performed with the RPO since 1987 and is the Principal Clarinetist. He graduated from Eastman School of Music and he is an Associate Professor there.
Allow yourself to be romanced by Grant and his clarinet at the upcoming RPO performances on November 18 & 20, including the clarinet solo at the opening of Sibelius Symphony No. 1 and throughout the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18 in c-minor.
BY PALOMA A. CAPANNA
If you've been to the North Clinton neighborhood, you've surely noticed the gorgeously skillful, colorful murals on one stretch of the avenue. But you might not know that the walls of 914 N. Clinton (and a few surrounding buildings) are the site of the annual BBoy BBQ, during which the murals for the coming year are created in a free, public art event, complete with food, DJs, and breakdancing, held on a different day each summer.
The annual multi-artist graffiti jam is presented by Rochester's best known graf-featists, FUA KREW, with contributions by friends, and the walls are provided by His & Hers Beauty & Apparel, and other businesses that benefit from the local talent. Previous years have featured work inspired by the film "Pan's Labyrinth," and an outdoor screening of "Beyond Gotham: Hip Hop in Upstate New York." This past August, the artists put up a tragically topical piece commenting on the BP oil fiasco, facing another wall spray painted to depict a prehistoric scene with resilient early man fighting off dangerous beasts (it's pretty easy draw some parallels between the two scenes). If you want to see the 2011 edition of the live, collaborative creative contest, watch for updates at fua-krew.org. In the meantime, go check out the art. -- REBECCA RAFFERTY
*FOOD*Best Excuse to Eat a Whole Wheel of Cheese: Brie wheel appetizer at Brio
Ever since Will Ferrell uttered these words to his dog Baxter in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy "And you ate the whole wheel of cheese? How'd you do that? Heck, I'm not even mad. That's amazing," an unsaid challenge has lingered for cheese lovers everywhere. And while most cheese wheels may be both too large and unappetizing to eat in their entirety, the brie wheel appetizer available at Brio Wine Bar and Grill (3400 Monroe Ave, Pittsford), is both small enough (at only about a half-foot wide by an inch tall) and delicious enough to offer an ideal chance to conquer the cheesy challenge. The version of this cow's milk cheese served at Brio is wonderfully creamy and precisely aged, featuring the cheese's signature pale and mouldy rind, which, for the uninitiated, is meant to be eaten along with the cheese. It is served with a perfectly tart blackberry puree, buttery, crispy grilled toast points and assorted berries for just $12 -- a small price to pay for satisfied taste buds and the opportunity to brag to all your friends that you started your meal with an entire wheel of cheese. -- SUSIE HUME
Best InSourcer/Importer (Carpetbagger has really negative connotations)
The economy sucks. Unemployment is at its highest since the Great Depression. And yet on a handful of nights there is reason to celebrate. There's a new music promoter in town. Although present in our area for just over a year he's brought in a steady stream of musical favorites. It all began last October with the darling Emmylou Harris at the Auditorium Theatre, followed by red haired vixen Neco Case at Harro East. Social activist Joan Baez appeared just last month and folk hero Arlo Guthrie just days ago. Vampire Weekend arrived a month early for a Halloween preview and rockers Jukebox the Ghost will return for its second showing next month.
All these acts come at the bequest of Dan Smalls Presents (DSP), a talent buyer, concert promoter, and event production company. Although DSP has been importing to the area for just over a year, it has a long resume of concert promotion in the Ithaca area. The small --- no pun intended --- one-man production has done its best to not only bring in grade A talent, it creates a handful of jobs, even if only temporary.