Purity Ice-Cream is an Ithaca institution. It’s been around longer than most of us …since 1936. I remember when the “Uni-Deli” on the corner of College Ave and Dryden Road served Purity Ice-Cream. When I was in “over-the-top” studying mode as a Cornell student in the 70s, the best reward for a good night’s work was a Purity mocha chip Sunday with hot fudge sauce. The best!!! I also love Mandigan Mint. They have all sorts of great flavors like The Finger Lakes Tourist: White chocolate chunks with hazelnut pieces in chocolate ice-cream. Everyone of course has their favorite but I recommend venturing out of your comfort zone to try something new. Purity also has great homemade muffins.  Expect a line on hot summer days and early evenings after soccer games or softball games at Cass Park. 
There are other great spots for ice-cream, sorbet or gelato if you venture out a bit. On Cayuga Lake in Interlaken you’ll find Cayuga Lake Creamery. This is a small Mom and Pop operation that makes all their ice-cream and sorbets on the premises.   Jeff Kostick and Judy Gonroff offer at least 36 flavors. One of my favorites is Gianduia: chocolate hazelnut ice-cream. They also make a great tiramisu and wonderful pistachio ice-cream. 
Jeff and Judymake excellent use of the Cayuga Lake wines by pairing them with fruit to make unusual and excellent sorbets.   Some of the flavors you might find are: Americana Vineyards Barn Raising Red Dark Cherry Sorbet, Americana Vineyards Sweet Rosie Strawberry Sorbet, Buttonwood Grove Winery Riesling Orange Sorbet, Buttonwood Grove Winery Blackberry Briar Blackberry Sorbet, Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery Solo Peach Sorbet, Cobblestone Farm Winery Merlot Dark Cherry Sorbet, Goose Watch Winery Strawberry Splendor Strawberry Sorbet, Montezuma Winery Cranberry Bog Orange Sorbet. Sheldrake Point Vineyard Summer Blush Chocolate Ice Cream or  Trelevan Merlot Raspberry Sorbet.
 I also recommend their homemade waffle cones.  
Skyland Farm and Gallery
One of the hidden gems of the Finger Lakes is Skyland Farm and Gallery in Burdett NY, 7 miles North of Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake. You must visit this incredible place. First of all, set in a beautiful barn and built around an oak tree, this store is filled with crafts from over 300 artists including many local crafts people. Every craft imaginable is represented here from hook rugs, to metal sculptures, stain glass, and specially crafted broomsticks. It really is more like a museum except that many of the crafts are very reasonably priced. You can savor the wonderful view of Seneca Lake as you lounge in the porch swings or on the comfortable couches spread out on the shady deck or the front garden. The landscaping is unique and really needs to be seen first hand to be appreciated. 

View from Skyland Farm and Gallerly



December was a good month for fine dining on Seneca Lake. Two of my favorite chefs put on great feasts. On December 6th Dano hosted a Turkish Night with his friend Oya Reiger working along side. She is a very talented Turkish cook and put on an elaborate spread of authentic dishes. Many of the ingredients needed to be special ordered and so there is little hope of every recreating this feast. Some of the highlights were a carrot dip made with cooked carrots, mint and yogurt that was unique and delicious. That was served at the table with homemade Dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and olives. Following was a creamy red lentil soup cooked with a special bulgur and mint butter. The only complaint was that it came in a tiny tea cup. It was perfectly spiced and flavorful.
The main buffet had an assortment of salads, a lamb stew and a chicken prepared in a walnut sauce. Everyone had favorites but I particularly liked the butternut squash borek with black sesame: a stuffed fried pastry which was creamy, sweet, salty and crispy all at once. Dessert was also buffet style, fortunately since it would have been impossible to decide. This way I could try everything and all were amazing and totally new taste experiences. My favorite was a semolina cake with orange and  lemon. The cake had been soaked in the citrus juice which resulted in a moist cake bursting with  flavor. I’m sure very few people have enjoyed a strudel of carrot, quince, chickpea and pine nut with orange honey. Not easy to describe but delicious nonetheless.
Dano and Karen really know how to throw a party. Their food is always delicious: creative and expertly prepared often with local seasonal ingredients. The original Turkish music was performed by Atakan Sari and friends and contributed nicely to the festive cultural experience. Keep checking their website and you’ll find that Dans’s Heuriger on Seneca offers several special dining events a year. 
Suzanne from Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine also puts on quite a show at her yearly Winemaker Dinner. Last years’ was so good that I made sure to sign up early for her December 12th Dinner this year with guest winemaker Steve Shaw from Shaw Vineyard. Shaw’s is a relatively newcomer on the winery scene but he is certainly among the top winemakers and one to keep a close eye on. 
Suzanne offered some nice appetizers as we waited to be seated. The Old Townsend home was built in 1903 and has been lovingly restored into this elegant, warm and cozy restaurant with panoramic views of Seneca Lake. I was particularly enamored of the tiny crab cakes, some of the best I’ve every eaten. I asked Suzanne how they were made and she divulged the secret was a mousse of heavy cream, shrimp and a touch of gin is the binder that holds the crab together. No peppers or breadcrumbs to dilute the crab flavor. Once seated we were first served a creamy butternut squash soup that was poured into your soup bowl that had been adorned with ginger shrimp. The soup was outstanding and I will be posting a close version of the soup that I made at home a few days later. A 2005 Reisling was served with this course and though it was not a “dry” it actually was as dry as most of the dry Rieslings one finds in the Finger Lakes: a very good pairing and an excellent wine
     The next courses: a porcini dusted diver scallop with an herb potato crisp and cauliflower puree with a red wine butter sauce was a beautifully composed work of art, each element perfectly cooked. Scallops do not get better than this. Suzanne found extraordinary Baja diver scallops from California for this dish. The 2002 Chardonnay again was a very nice pairing.
The Pinot Noir (2002) was a wonderful surprise. It had body and complexity not usually found in Finger Lakes reds. It paired beautifully with the grilled quail with fig risotto, another elegantly prepared dish with a wonderful rich flavor. For dessert we had a warm chocolate cake with Belgian Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla bean ice cream. Suzanne’s desserts are all spectacular to see and to taste. This did not disappoint. 
I would strongly recommend keeping your eyes open for these special chef dinners. It provides an opportunity for chefs to showcase their talents and it makes for a special  evening of feasting.