Ithaca Winterfest

For those who don’t know, Ithaca is a small town in the middle of upstate New York (more or less the middle of nowhere..) and is the home of Ithaca College and Cornell University. The “townies” in Ithaca are a very diverse and interesting group of people, but they love good food! I once heard that Ithaca has one of the highest restaurants per capita, and so many of them offer really top-notch dining.

Anyways, Ithaca has various festivals to celebrate all of the great food in the area. They have an annual Apple Festival in the Fall, Winterfest in the Winter, Chilifest in the Spring, and Ithaca festival in the Summer. Since these sort of things are so up my alley, I decided that Winterfest was a “can’t miss”. My friend, Colleen, and I drove down to “The Commons” (basically the center of town), where we found that many of the restaurants from in and around Ithaca had set up tents either in the commons or outside their restaurants. At these tents, they were providing small servings of various chowders. Winterfest, as we found out, was a chowder cook-off! So delicious!

We went to the ticket booth, where we purchased tickets that we would then redeem at the different tents to try all of the different chowders. It was so interesting to see what the restaurants came up with to make their chowders creative and stand out. We tried everything from corn chowder to seafood chowder to my personal favorite: a celeriac-based chowder with roasted root vegetables, tiny pork sausage meatballs, a small spoonful of cranberry jam, and a homemade cracker. It was such an interesting, dynamic chowder that was unlike anything I had ever had before. The cranberry with the creamy celery flavor and the spicy sausage was unreal. Hazelnut Kitchen, the restaurant in Trumansburg, NY that made the chowder, has always been on my list of restaurants to go to, and now I am that much more excited about it. Colleen and I both went back and got seconds of it later on, it was just too good to pass up! I hope they ended up winning something, I know we both voted for them!

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Additionally, Winterfest was also an ice sculpting competition. They had placed throughout the area various ice sculptures that had been crafted earlier in the day. Unfortunately, it was abnormally warm out many of them were melting and breaking. But, while we were there, they began a second round of sculpting! It was so cool to see how people actually create those magnificent, yet such short-lived pieces of art!

I will definitely go back next year and had a great time! I recommend to anyone in the area to definitely support the local restaurateurs next year as they compete to win the chowder cook-off again!

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