By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Photo courtesy of Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Rednewt We can all agree that dreams are strange things. There is no controlling the content and there is often no explaining it, either. This year I have found one consistent theme to my otherwise unpredictable dreams: Rhubarb-Chevre Ravioli.

For that I blame (or perhaps thank) the dynamic Deb Whiting, chef and co-owner of Red Newt Bistro on the southeast side of Seneca Lake. The bistro is our Finger Lakes Restaurant of the Year.

Beyond the ravioli – and really, do you need another reason? – here is a list of reasons that we selected this outstanding restaurant for the honor.

Focus on local

Before locavore was a word or a movement, Deb Whiting was practicing it intuitively. The beef often comes from Autumn's Harvest Farm, a 20-minute drive north. The fruits and vegetables come from Finger Lakes growers. And remember that ravioli I was telling you about? The rhubarb and the chevre are local, too.

Not only will you find a menu heavily tilted toward local food at Red Newt Bistro, you'll find a staff that boasts of the local connections. They're proud of it. They should be.

Creative food

Chef Whiting is becoming famous for her clever food creations. They are almost always seasonally inspired. In my book I refer to Deb's highly sought fig biscuits; they're technically called fig turnovers, consisting of Gorgonzola, garlic cream cheese, shallots, apple, and kale in puff pastry with a maple verjus glaze.

Here's a set of sample menus from recent lunch and dinner lists.

Outstanding wine list

Chef Whiting and her husband Dave (co-owner and winemaker of Red Newt Cellars) have composed the most thorough list of high-quality Finger Lakes wines in western New York. Red Newt bottlings are featured but hardly the only option. In fact, Dave is constantly seeking the best wines from his colleagues to add to the bistro list.

The result is a joy for wine lovers: You can find recent releases as well as aged bottles for reasonable prices. This summer my wife and I spent $46 for a bottle of 1999 Red Newt Riesling. It was a bargain.

Stellar service

The Whitings have instilled a culture of friendly, quality service. Their staff is knowledgeable and attentive without being pushy. 

For setting such a fine standard, we salute Red Newt Bistro, our Finger Lakes Restaurant of the Year, 2010.