Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Zoltar Clues Me In (Farm Sanctuary visit, part III)

Despite not wanting to leave Farm Sanctuary, we had to eat. On our first night there, we went off to grab some dinner and explore the downtown area of Watkins Glen.

We found a cute pub place where Ryan got a veggie burger and I enjoyed a Portabello mushroom burger. With plenty of light left in the day, we meandered toward Seneca Lake, one of New York's Finger Lakes. It was much bigger than I had anticipated!

As we neared the docks lined with waiting, bobbing boats, I saw it.

The Zoltar booth.

I started jumping up and down and squealing to my husband behind me. Though it turned out that it wasn't my husband -- Ryan was lagging behind, taking artsy pictures -- but an alarmed dude who pretended not to notice my mistake.

The dollar spent to get a fortune was money well spent. Zoltar chatted with me in a creepy way, and I heard about my future. That's the beauty of being on vacation. You get to do lots of goofy stuff and be a tourist, and people -- including men locked in booths --  have to be nice to you.

If the print on the fortune is too small to read, just click on the picture and it should get big. I hope.
How about that fortune? I was pretty thrilled. (Later, walking back, we passed by another couple standing by Zoltar. Like me, the man got a good fortune, but sadly his wife did not. Which is pretty stinky. You don't want to get a bad fortune on vacation.)

Here we are walking out on the rock jetty. Jetties are always a thrill, somehow. And endlessly exciting if you are a kid.

I overexposed him -- how naughty -- but otherwise I like this shot of Ryan. It looks like he has fire shooting out of his head.

The next day we went out to a place I had dreamed about visiting since my friend Tracy told me about it in college: Moosewood Restaurant. Despite not being a vegetarian in those years, I adored their cookbooks.

Several years later, I worked at a phenomenal music camp for two summers as a sort of art director. I have the happiest memories of that place. I worked with some of the most gifted, beautiful people on the planet. I should really write a separate post about that place, as it really was a safe haven in the world. Thus their name, Kinhaven Music School. I usually go up once a year in the off-season just to walk the grounds and visit the town. It feels like a part of me now, and I'd venture a guess that anyone who worked or attended there feels the same.

Anywho, back to the subject. All the meals at this camp had vegetarian options, which I preferred. I don't recall if there were vegan options or not, because it wasn't on my radar back then. But most of the recipes were from the Moosewood cookbooks and the food was mouthwatering. (You don't often hear that about camp food, but it was always delicious.)

Moosewood Restaurant is in downtown Ithaca, about half an hour from Farm Sanctuary. Most of the food is vegetarian, with many vegan options, as well as dishes that can be easily tweaked to be vegan. The menu changes daily and dinner and lunch menus are different each day.

We were seated outside in a lovely, shaded area. First off, the cocktails were incredible. I'm pretty picky with my cocktails. If I can even slightly taste the alcohol, my gag reflex kicks in and I end up enduring my drink. Not so here. Each was a scrumptious balance of flavors and not overly sweet. I don't even recall what we ordered, but they were perfect, very very pretty, and refreshing on a hot day.

The salads were very simple but delicious. I tend to judge restaurants by their salads. Not because that's all I eat. (I've got a monster appetite.) But because so many places get it wrong by using overenthusiastic dressing that hijacks the vegetables or by using so-so ingredients that make the salad more of a seedy pit-stop than an event. These salads were the perfect beginning of a meal with just the right amount of dressing to really accentuate the taste of the fresh vegetables.

Me and my cute date at Moosewood Restaurant.

Again, it's been a couple of weeks since we were there, and I now forget what we ordered. (And I can't check the menu because, of course, it changes daily.) But trust me -- this grub was danged tasty. 

Here's a video about the restaurant, if you're thinking of going. (Shared with permission from Moosewood Restaurant.)

Upon leaving Moosewood, we came across this great Volkswagen bus parked out front. It's a happy-mobile. Did any of you ever play Punchbuggy when you were little? My Gramma taught us grandkids how to play, except it was called Teakettle. And a bus, of course, was "double teakettle." Which was two points. Not too shabby.

I just noticed what seems to be a ticket (?) on their windshield. Volkswagen buses should be exempt from tickets, don't you think?

We'd originally planned to stay at Farm Sanctuary two nights, but as I said in the last post, those rooms fill up quick and there was only one night available. So we found this nearby B&B for the second night. It's called The Ginger Cat Bed and Breakfast and it's all vegan! I'd actually seen it advertised in VegNews and it had won an award from the magazine.

The rooms were comfy and homey and exactly what we wanted. Ryan and I are big B&B fans and were super-thrilled that this one happened to be vegan. Our host, Gita, was completely charming, and had generous bowls of fresh fruit -- including a huge bowl of cherries -- ready for us when we arrived. There's a funky little kitchen area just for guests that has every kind of tea you could want, plus snacks and all the fixins for coffee. And she had several year's worth of VegNews magazines, which was fun for me as I adore that magazine and have only been a subscriber for one year.  (Thank you to Dad and Mary, who renewed my lapsed subscription!) Later that night, I settled into our comfortable bed and got my magazine fix. 

The ginger cat Wally, Gita, and me. Gita let us come visit her sweet kitties in her section of the house. (No kitties in the B&B section due to guest allergies, so if you are allergic to cats, you will be in good shape!)

Gita gave us some great local food recommendations, including The Harvest Cafe, where they made several vegan meals. Though we were initially full from our large and late lunch, we decided at the last minute to go out and were so glad we did! The cafe is located in nearby Montour Falls, about a 15-minute drive from the Ginger Cat (and probably the same distance from Farm Sanctuary.)

It was a rainy and unusually chilly night. The perfect night to go out and enjoy good food, great company, and wonderful entertainment!

Thursday night happened to be karoake night, and it was a blast! Here I am enjoying some homemade nachos (they make the chips there!) and they were, hands down, the best nachos I've ever tasted, vegan or otherwise.

Super happy gal. Note my favorite "Joyful Vegan" t-shirt. You can purchase one to your liking (endless styles!) at Compassionate Cook -- super comfy material and they fit great.

It was a real local scene. Everybody seemed to know everyone else, and they were laughing, egging each other on, and taking turns at the microphone.

One of the most popular acts was the chef, William, who periodically came out to sing. My favorite number he did was To All the Girls I've Loved Before, singing (quite accurately) both the parts originally sung by Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias. This guy needs to have his own show. He's that talented and funny. I hadn't laughed that hard in weeks. Beautiful voice. Keep your eyes peeled for William on America's Got Talent someday. (He's not scheduled to go on, but he should be.)

And then Ryan went up on stage and did his own version of Let's Get It On. Hysterical. Some of it he did with all the whoops that the song requires. And at other times he performed it comically serious. ("Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on.") I had tears running down my face from his funny stunts. We left there in high spirits and went back the next day for a great lunch, right before we left for home.

Ryan, getting it on.
Ryan and William after the show. I love this picture.
This was Valerie, one of the owners and a peach of a gal. Made you feel instantly at home. She's also the doppelganger of one of my dearest Peace Corps friends. To the point where I asked her if they might be related.

On our last day, we packed up, bid adieu to Gita (after she'd given us some tasty muffins to take for the trip!) and went to Watkins Glen State Park, where we explored the gorgeous Watkins Glen Gorge. The views were spectacular, though the deep pools kind of freaked me out in a thrilling way. 

There were little wormy caterpillars everywhere, once we'd hiked up near the top of the gorge. It looked very Tolkienesque. Can you spot one in here?

So that was our trip out to Farm Sanctuary. Two and a half days did not feel like enough, but it's always nice leaving a vacation wanting a little bit more. Had we stayed longer, I would have liked to have taken a couple more farm tours, sampled the goods at the many local wineries, and visited the Corning Museum of Glass. Next year, we hope to attend the Farm Sanctuary Hoe-Down, so maybe we can add on all those fun things next time. And get the nachos again. And maybe I'll even sing karaoke next time.

Thanks for reading this lengthy tome about our trip! I hope you can make it out to Watkins Glen someday.

Oh! And again, I'm walking in the Walk for Farm Animals (Boston, September 8) to raise funds for the work of Farm Sanctuary. You can go here or click the badge on the top right part of this page. I'm trying to raise $1,000 and am now at $450, thanks to many generous people out there!


PS. I never took pictures of my restaurant meal before and had to laugh out loud when I recently saw this video from Cadry's Kitchen, an amazing blog I highly recommend you read. There are many other such videos on her site. You should definitely check out Gulp: Ryan's repeatedly been watching that one and laughing his telltale laugh. (Those of you who know him personally know the laugh I'm talking about.) Cadry and her equally funny husband are brilliant. Check them out.

(Shared with permission from Cadry's Kitchen.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Martha, My Dear (visit to Farm Sanctuary, part II)

Get your tissues ready. There's some sweetness to come.

When we first arrived at Farm Sanctuary, it was late afternoon on Wednesday. The main office had closed by then, but they'd left a key out for us, so we brought our stuff into the cabin, relieved to finally be there after a six and a half hour drive. 

We stayed at the cabin to the right.

 Touching photos of animals from the farm adorned all the walls. Such a friendly atmosphere. You'll also note that I've learned to walk at vampire-speed. Been meaning to mention that, but it felt like bragging.

I was kicking myself for not taking a picture in the evening when we got there. Now we just look like slobs.
A view of the back of the main people barn and the three cabins.

The cabins are pretty darned cute and spotless and even have a mini-fridge in each one. (I know that's pretty standard, but I couldn't help getting excited.) The bathrooms are in the main "people barn" to the left. Like everything at Farm Sanctuary, they were uber-clean, with very nice-smelling soaps -- non animal-tested, of course -- and great showers.

We took a relaxing walk around the farm admiring all the animals from afar -- tours were over by that time, but you could walk around outside of the barns until 5 -- and then we went out to explore the town of Watkins Glen and find some dinner. (More on all that on the next post!) Then back home to our delightfully cozy cabin, where we went to sleep with the windows open, enjoying the light breeze and the sounds of the megafans keeping the barns cool across the farm.

(If you want to stay here, check this link for more information. Also, you should book early because they fill up pretty fast.)

Breakfast started at 8, but we were up and ready earlier. While Ryan took a shower, I went off to look at the Rainbow Bridge Memorial, which was a ways back behind the cabins.

The walk to Rainbow Bridge. Ryan followed me soon after and said he saw a fox on this path! 

Pretty scenery on the walk over.

Upon turning a corner I saw this:

Beautiful fountain in the garden. Ryan took this shot.

It looks like a normal garden-y type place, but upon closer inspection, you'll notice that each of the flagstones is a tribute to somebody's companion animal. I took many many pictures of them and had a lump in my throat the whole time. The outpouring of love felt like walking into the hallowed ground of other people's happy memories, many of which morphed into my own memories of beloved cats.

One of the favorites was one written to Martha. Being a Beatles fan, I just about lost it when I read the words.

See? Now I'm getting that lump in my throat again. Here are the many other tributes to people's furry and feathered friends.

I'm trying to come up with words to sum this up, but I don't think there are words. Animals come into our lives, we love them, and when they finally leave -- always too soon -- it can leave a bittersweet hole like no other. 

The walk back to breakfast.

But to leave you with a smile, here is one of the resident kitties who greeted us in the main barn as we made our way to the breakfast room.

If you'd like to sponsor me in the Walk for Farm Animals (Boston, September 8) to raise funds for the work of Farm Sanctuary, you can go here or click the badge on the top right part of this page. I'm trying to raise $1,000 and am already at $400, thanks to many generous people out there!

Do you have any tales of animals that touched your heart or any favorite tributes from the memorial pictures above?