City of Sushi and Spas

Jars of photo developing materials from Eastman House Museum

En route to visiting my daughter in way western New York State, I spent two days in Rochester with a friend who lives there. The city’s actual nickname is “Flower City” as there used to be lots of nurseries around it but I have re-dubbed it as above. Sushi is ubiquitous, a little odd as the city is inland, and there spas everywhere you turn including one across from my hotel called Ape and Canary (does this conjure up a spa to you? Not to me.)

George Eastman as in Eastman Kodak was a marketing genius who nvented cameras and popularized film using the razor and blade technique. He came up with the original Kodak camera and the phenomenally successful “Brownie” which targeted kids and, at $1, was also popular with servicemen. At the Eastman House Museum there are docent-led tours of the gardens, house (a National Historic Landmark) and collections. The current exhibit in the History of Photography section honors the 50th anniversary of the moon walk with fabulous old and new pictures.  ­­­­­­  

The Colonial Revival mansion is appropriately grand. Eastman was a huge philanthropist  who established the Eastman School of Music, schools of dentistry and medicine at the University of Rochester,  created the London Eastman Dental Hospital and gave zillions to MIT, Tuskegee and Hampton Universities. He never married and lived with his mother. A music-lover, he had a private organist but didn’t like the distraction of seeing the musician’s feet move on the pedals so had a wall of planting built as a shield.  

Lock 33 on the Erie Canal was—literally—a trip. As we got there, a 28-foot sailboat was entering under motor. The couple on the boat came from Gross Point and are heading to the Bahamas—as she said, “once we reach the Atlantic, we turn right.” My friend hopped aboard for the lock adventure in which the water level drops many feet in about five minutes.  Lucky for us, Chris, the lockkeeper, allowed her to ‘stowaway’ but I suspect he’s thrilled when people really get into it as it’s a fairly dull job.

Chris, Master of Lock 33

At the Memorial Art Gallery we enjoyed a show of works by artists from the Finger Lakes region.  We also dropped by the largest Wegman’s (as in supermarket) in the country. Because it was very hot, we waited until early evening for a trip to the Mt. Hope Cemetery to pay respects to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, both buried there along with other luminaries. As we stood admiring the overall beauty of the place larded with gorgeous trees, a running group sprinted past.

For a small city, Rochester has lots of restaurants. I especially liked The Village Bakery & Café in Pittsford which is very informal with good food. Something called The Garbage Plate (not served there) is considered one of the city’s specialties—it’s a combo of meat such as hamburger, steak, chicken and/or hot dogs served on top of fries, baked beans and/or macaroni, the whole usually drizzled with spicy hot sauce often with meat –which I passed on. Rochester was the original home of French’s mustard although later that company decamped to NJ. Taking mustard as the theme, here is a recipe for potatoes that can be lightly mixed with a mustard sauce or dipped into it.

The largest Wegman’s in the US is in Rochester

Honey Mustard Potatoes

  • 6 potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard  (so much for French’s  but hey, still mustard)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Cube potatoes and spread them on foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; add salt and pepper to taste. Mix to combine. Put in oven and bake about 45 minutes, stirring now and then, until potatoes are lightly browned.

Combine 2 T honey, ¼ cup mustard and ½ tsp thyme in small bowl. When potatoes are done, remove from oven and let cool a bit. Either mix in the honey/mustard or serve on the side.

This makes a decent dish to accompany something from the grill with a salad. Drink beer or wine (the area also calls itself “Sonoma East” as there are many vineyards in the Finger Lakes area.) 

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