Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Upstate New York Road Trip Part 2: Ginger Cat, Watkins Glen, and Wine

(please click on each photo for the larger version)

After we left Attica we went east to the Finger Lakes and Watkins Glen for a stay at the Ginger Cat Bed and Breakfast and do some wine touring.

The Ginger Cat Bed and Breakfast
2475 Altay Road
Rock Stream, NY 14878
Phone: (607)535-9627

The Ginger Cat Bed and Breakfast is all vegan, and was the 2009 Veg News Readers Poll for best veg B&B. I must say that for a bed and breakfast, especially an all vegan place with such wonderful food (read on), The Ginger Cat is quite reasonably priced.

It's a few miles north of Watkins Glen, set on 15 acres of land. During the evening, we sat on the back porch watching the fireflies light up the back lawn.

The great thing about bed and breakfasts is that they're usually quite accommodating. Marya made the arrangements and, when asked what our dietary restrictions are, requested all chocolate be fair trade and all produce to be sourced locally. Proprietor Gita Devi graciously provided us with both, including this lovely fair trade chocolate cake:

I was happy to hear Gita say that the fair trade chocolate made the cake taste better.

Here's a summary of the breakfasts we got over our two day stay:

Each morning we first got a lovely parfait - actually soy yogurt topped with fresh strawberries, almond flakes, and coconut.

Also provided were melon slices and freshly baked scones.

Next - we had this make-your-own burrito bar with black beans, potatoes, rice, Daiya cheddar cheese, salsa, and veggies.

I was quite happy with this breakfast.

The next day we got waffles, berries, and (not pictured) tofurkey sausages with rice. Gita was happy with the way we ate. So - here's a clue: don't be a timid eater there. You don't have to be.

After breakfast, Gita asked if we'd like to meet the cats. All eight of them. I'm sure my eyes noticeably widened at the invitation. She warned us that it'd be like the running of the bulls - with cats. And it was - she opened the door to her private side of the house and they all came stampeding towards us.

Here is Abigail. She's had a rough life and is totally deaf, but thankfully is in very good hands now.

She reminded me a bit of Mr. Chubbikins from the cartoon Freakazoid. I just couldn't stop petting her.

This one is Romeo:

And here is Wally - the ginger cat for whom the place is named:

Usually the main attraction in Watkins Glen for vegans and animal lovers is the famous Farm Sanctuary. Farm Sanctuary is home to many rescued farm animals, often left for dead in downer piles at cattle auctions. Also, they do advocacy and policy work to help end the cruel practices of factory farming.

But we were here in the region for wine tasting. That we vegans and not visiting Farm Sanctuary understandably perplexed The Ginger Cat's Gita. The timing just didn't work out for us to do both wine touring and a visit to the sanctuary, and...we're such winos.

We took our bikes up to visit four nearby wineries.

But first we went to town to stock up on picnic supplies here:

Good Groceries
316 E 4th St.
Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Good groceries is all vegetarian - mostly vegan. We got some crackers, nuts and these tasty deli slices. After hearing so much about Susie's Seitan (oddly while talking about veganism in bars with total strangers), I was happy to finally find it. It is made in nearby Ithaca.

One winery we made a point to visit was Pompous Ass. It's on a list of all-vegan wineries. Yes, unfortunately not all wines are vegan. A whole slew of animal products can be used to clarify the wine.
Here's a little wiki writeup about animal products used in wine production.

Pompous Ass Winery
4499 Route 14
Rock Stream, NY 14878

The Pompous Ass name comes from their poking fun at the snootiness of the wine culture. The folks we dealt with here were far from pompous. We decided to buy a bottle of wine and have our picnic here. Though they had no picnic tables, they graciously allowed us to sit on their lawn. They legally could not open a bottle inside for us, but also very kindly stepped outside to uncork it.

Our last stop was Lakewood Vineyards, a mostly vegan winery. The woman here who pour our samples was quite knowledgeable about the wines she sampled, which always makes a tasting fun. I didn't take a picture of the place, but here's their lovely picnic area between the tasting room and their vineyard:

Lakewood Vineyards
4024 State Route 14
Watkins Glen, NY 14891

I'll say most wineries understandably do charge for tastings, usually a negligible $2-5. Lakewood Vineyards does not charge a fee.

With the Farm Sanctuary being the 3rd biggest tourist attraction in town (with the annual racing event and the wine industry being first and second), almost all restaurants are vegan friendly.
For dinner we went to the Wildflower Cafe.

Wildflower Cafe/The Crooked Rooster Brewpub
223 - 301 N. Franklin St.
Watkins Glen, NY 14891

The Wildflower Cafe adjoins the Crooked Rooster Brewpub, with the menus and beers available in both places. The night before, we stopped in for a beer, and I had the best Belgian style blonde ale ever.

We started out with the "Haystack" - battered fried onions.

I had the Moonrose Ribs - what might easily have been the Morningstar Farms riblet, but better prepared than my usual microwave method. I believe they might have scraped off all the barbecue sauce, grilled it, then reapplied the sauce. Nicely done.

Marya had this portobello burger:

For dessert we went to Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor:

Great Escape
221 South Franklin Street
Watkins Glen, New York 14891

How many times have you ever pulled up to an ice cream places with the word "Vegan" on the marquee? Never, I'm willing to bet.

I got the pistachio and Marya got the Amaretto with coconut and walnut toppings.

My pistachio was a throwback to days of my youth when I ate loads of pistachio pudding. Years later I tasted a real pistachio and was mystified why it didn't taste anything like the pudding.

Next day we drove home to Washington DC. I couldn't resist sharing this photo I took while riding through central Pennsylvania:

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