My good friend Morgan has been one of the biggest influences in my culinary life. I met Morgan when we started grad school in Manhattan ten years ago. At the time, I had only just begun the transition from eating prepared and processed foods to cooking for myself. I was just learning about vegetables – how to choose them and how to prepare them. One of the first things Morgan did when she moved to Manhattan was to go out and find a CSA. She signed up for a full share from Stoneledge Farm, suitable for a family of four, with the intention of finding someone to share it with; I was the lucky one. In retrospect, joining this CSA was a life changing experience for me. Each week I would receive a load of amazing vegetables, many of which I had never heard of before. I had to search for a recipe to learn what to do with each new vegetable. Morgan made it especially easy…she picked up the share each week because she volunteered at the distribution site (which also fulfilled our seasonal work requirement). When Morgan left the city two years later, I continued my membership in the CSA, sharing it with different friends over the years. Stoneledge Farm was such an amazing CSA to be a part of; the ones I tried out after leaving Manhattan could not measure up in terms of quality and variety.
That is all a very long way of saying that Morgan and I have been cooking together for a decade, and this visit in Rochester was no different. When we get together, we visit a minimum of five different grocers or farmers’ markets, then prepare elaborate meals. We made a trip to a spice store, a natural food store, Rochester’s Public Market, where we patronized the cheese shop and several local farm stands, a suburban farmers’ market and Wegmans. In one evening, we prepared a gallon and half of kimchee, pickled beets, apple crisp, and an amazing chipotle bean stew. The following day we had polenta with fresh tomato sauce and roasted brussels sprouts.
We also took some time to go out on the town – a flight at Roc Brewing Company (I enthusiastically recommend their beers if you find yourself in Rochester); fish & chips at The Old Toad, a truly British pub ran and staffed by exchange students; an evening visiting artist warehouse studios on “First Friday“; and fancy cocktails at Cure Bar (coffee and juice shop by day, bar by night). The cocktail menu at Cure was comprised of four lists, “Flavors”, “Liquors”, “Attitudes”, and “Style”; I ordered a Fruit, Rum, Spice, Up and the bartender custom made a drink for me – the most interesting cocktail I’ve had!
In addition to preparing and consuming so many calories, we also burned a few on a short hike in Mendon Ponds Park. A funny side note: the previous day, Morgan had mentioned to the cheese monger at the Public Market that we were thinking about going to this park; he stopped cutting cheese orders in the packed shop to sketch a map of the park for us! During the hike, several chickadees landed near us and were checking us out. On a whim, Morgan stuck out her finger and one flew right to her hand!
Altogether, I had a fun and delicious visit with Morgan while John was off galavanting in Toronto.