On the first night that acclaimed restaurant Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine was open during Finger Lakes Restaurant Week, owner Bob Stack found that nearly half his customers had ordered the all-local Restaurant Week menu. Some of those customers had come specifically for the event; others hadn’t known, but were eager to try the chef’s special hyper-local creations when given the option.
“We’re off to a wonderful start,” Stack told me as we finished our meal on the deck overlooking Seneca Lake. “We’re very curious to find out how other restaurants are doing with it. We think it’s a great idea.”
Each participating restaurant has put together a tasting menu that must include only local ingredients, and they’ve added an optional wine pairing menu as well (the wine is also, as you might guess, all local).
It was no surprise to hear customers raving about the Suzanne menu. The simple-yet-spectacular starter was a field green salad with chevre, several varieties of beets from the Suzanne garden out back, and a verjus vinaigrette.
But it was the main course that had me at hello: slow-roasted pork ragout, deftly seasoned and sporting a homemade herbed ricotta.
The creme fraiche cheesecake was a melt-in-your-mouth sensation. $30 per person was a fine value.
Earlier in the week we enjoyed a Restaurant Week lunch at Bully Hill Vineyards. The starter was a similar local salad that included delicious beets and chevre. The main course, a quesadilla, was clever and filling. And the rhubarb-strawberry crumble was pure comfort food goodness to finish things off.
The only detriment was the fact that Bully Hill only offers Bully Hill wines; we skipped the wine pairings and enjoyed a local beer instead.
Interestingly, Restaurant Week seems to be nudging local restaurant owners and chefs to get over to their colleagues’ restaurants.
The night before we dined at Suzanne, Bob and Suzanne Stack had dined at Red Newt Bistro (and came away thrilled). And while we took in the meal at Suzanne, Red Newt owner Dave Whiting showed up with a group to try his neighbors’ menu.
Whiting told me that their lunch crowd was up roughly 50% for the week, much of which he credits to Restaurant Week. And like Stack, he estimated that just under half his clientele was ordering the all-local chef’s menu. “It already appears to be a great success,” Whiting said.
There are at least 16 Finger Lakes restaurants participating in Restaurant Week, which runs through this Sunday. Read the full list.