Give Now NCPR is made possible by
Your Donations
 

Small World Class Fare

The NCPR series "Very Special Places," created in collaboration with Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, often focuses on food available nowhere else.

Show             
The Crystal is a familiar landmark on Watertown's Public Square
The Crystal is a familiar landmark on Watertown's Public Square

Very Special Place: Crystal Restaurant in Watertown

You've got to feel sorry for NCPR's Joel Hurd and TAUNY's Varick Chittenden. Our look at very special places has forced them to sample great diner food from Lloyds of Lowville, sweets from Freeman's Taffy Stand, ice cream from Donnelly's in Lake Clear, Michigans from Clare and Carl's in Plattsburgh, and cider and donuts from the Burrville Cider Mill. Hard work...but they've struggled through it. Well it turns out they've saved the toughest assignment for last. Last year, just before Christmas, they paid a visit to the Crystal Restaurant in Watertown to learn more about this North Country landmark and sample a holiday favorite, a tasty and potent creation called the "Tom and Jerry."  Go to full article

Very Special Place: Burrville Cider Mill

There are few seasonal flavors that are as strong on the senses as apples and apple cider. For months and months we settle for fruit imported from who-knows-where, until late summer, when local apples are ready for picking and pressing. For many decades, people in Jefferson County have known that the first turning of the leaves means that Burrville Cider Mill is running at full capacity, producing some of the tastiest cider in the region. Today, NCPR and TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, continue our look at some very special places in the North Country. A few weeks ago, Joel Hurd and Varick Chittenden visited Burrville to learn more about cider, donuts and why many people think this oldest building in the county is haunted.  Go to full article

Very Special Place: Clare & Carl's Hot Dog Stand

Many communities define themselves, at least somewhat, by their food traditions. Clinton County is no exception to this with it's take on the classic american chili dog called the Michigan. Today NCPR and TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, continue our look at very special places in the North Country. While michigans are easy to find in and around Plattsburgh, many of the original establishments that have served michigans since the 1940s have gone away. But one place, Clare and Carls, is still going strong, selling hundreds of hot dogs a day for the few months it's open each year. Joel Hurd and Varick Chittenden visited the restaurant to find out why it's so popular.  Go to full article

Very Special Place: Lloyd's of Lowville

The classic American diner is such a revered symbol that it's common to see new restaurants designed to look like old diners. But the personal service, fair prices, great desserts and relaxed, friendly atmosphere usually let you know that you're in a diner that's been around a while, and is an important part of the community. Today NCPR and TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, continue our look at some very special places in the North Country. Joel Hurd and Varick Chittenden visited Lloyd's of Lowville earlier this year to find out why it's such an important part of Lewis County's largest town.  Go to full article
The Birdsfoot barn, above, and a sample of the garlic crop
The Birdsfoot barn, above, and a sample of the garlic crop

Very Special Place: Birdsfoot Farm

Mention communal living and it's easy to imagine the back-to-the-land movement of the late sixties and early seventies, which brought many people to the North Country for the first time. While many of these people have continued to call the region their home, many of the shared communities in which they lived have gone away. But for nearly thirty-five years, one North Country farm has continued to carry on the ideas on which it was founded. Today NCPR and TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, continue our look at some very special places in the North Country. Last month Joel Hurd and Varick Chittenden visited Birdsfoot Farm in Canton to find out what it means to live in a common space with shared values and shared responsibilities.  Go to full article

Very Special Places: Donnelly?s Ice Cream Stand

The dairy farm-turned ice cream stand is a common sight in the Northeast. And for many people in the Adirondacks only one place will satisfy their ice cream cravings and that's Donnelly's. For over fifty years it has been a favorite summer gathering place in the tri-lakes region. Today, NCPR and TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, continue our look at some very special places in the North Country. For most of our features in this series Varick Chittenden and Joel Hurd visit a place, gather interviews and sound and head for home. But for Donnelly's they felt it was important to make several stops in the last few months just t make sure the ice cream is as good as everyone says it is. Here's what they found on this tough assignment.  Go to full article
Club members cook and serve traditional southern Italian meals. Below: Club members and their spouses pose for a group portrait at the Sons of Italy hall, ca. 1950s<br />Photos courtesy of TAUNY
Club members cook and serve traditional southern Italian meals. Below: Club members and their spouses pose for a group portrait at the Sons of Italy hall, ca. 1950s
Photos courtesy of TAUNY

Very Special Place: Italian American Club in Massena

There was a time when the industrial centers of the northeast were filled with social clubs for various communities. These were meeting places for men who flocked to these cities for the good-paying factory jobs that were available. There is no town in Northern New York where this was more true than in Massena, which used to have the most diverse population in the region. These days all of the social clubs that catered to these various communities have gone away, except for one. Today NCPR and TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, continue our look at some very special places in the North Country. A few weeks ago, Joel Hurd and Varick Chittenden visited the Italian American Club.  Go to full article

Very special place: Freeman?s Taffy Stand

The 187th Lewis County Fair starts today. There will be rides, concerts, a demolition derby, and of course, all types of food. Many of the food vendors will have portable facilities that set up for a few days and then move on to the next fair. But one local favorite has been selling its treats from the same building for over 100 years. Today, NCPR and TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, continue our look at some very special places in the North Country. Last year, Joel Hurd and Varick Chittenden visited the fair to learn more about Freeman's Taffy Stand.  Go to full article

« first   « previous 0   8-15 of 8 stories   next -7 »   last »

North Country Food Book page

Wimpy Sauce

The establishment known as Wimpy’s Inn on Ford Street in Ogdensburg, NY goes back a long way. Actually it goes all the way back to 1932. Unfortunately in October 2006 Wimpy’s Inn closed its doors due to the building that housed this North Country institution being in a state of disrepair beyond what was economically feasible to fix.

Although the secret “Wimpy Sauce” has been a North Country favorite for over 70 years and several generations, the story of how it came to be is not necessarily well known.

A gentlemen by the name of Ed Peterson who had made his living as a cook on a merchant vessel entered a spaghetti sauce contest. Now anyone who has ever had a Wimpy Burger or a Texas Hot will probably squirm at the thought of Wimpy sauce on spaghetti, but that is in fact how the sauce originated. Mr. Peterson didn’t fare well in the contest, however, he did discover that the taste of the spicy sauce slathered over a burger or a hot dog was quite a delight.

He opened his little shop on Ford Street around 1932 and called it Wimpy’s Inn. My father-in-law George Wells who was a WWII veteran and was running a small grocery in Ogdensburg bought the shop and the recipe around 1950. George was a gregarious soul and as popular as he and his sauce were, he jealously guarded the "secret recipe." To this day there are many many people in the North Country who claim to know the recipe, but today only his daughter (my wife Jenine Wells-Relling) and her brother Scott (who ran the restaurant for a time) really know it. Sorry folks, but we simply can’t give it to you here either.

George ran Wimpy’s for five decades and weathered the onslaught of the fast food industry over the years. There was simply something about that sauce that kept people coming back generation after generation. Jenine took over at the turn of the century and thoroughly enjoyed maintaining her dad’s legacy. One of my favorite things about owning Wimpy’s was sitting out front during the Seaway Festival parade. Until George died he would sit out front with me. People would wonder up and share stories of how they had once worked for George, or that working at Wimpy’s was their first job. They would tell stories of coming in for the lunch break from St. Mary’s Academy, playing pinball and listening to the juke box. George would sit and enjoy it all and he remembered every single person by name. George was the consummate restaurateur and it was my honor to hang with him and enjoy the nostalgia.

Over the years Wimpy’s and the famous secret sauce was recognized by several food critics. Most recently the food critic of the Globe and Mail (Canada’s version of USA Today) named Wimpy’s as one of his top ten in an article called “New York Hot Dog State of Mind." He fondly remembered the tastes he enjoyed from “this humble counter."

Walter J. Relling


North Country Expat Cooking

In the 1930s and early 1940s there was a major exodus from the North Country to Long Island, by people who didn't want to "work on the farm no more." Many of those folks got jobs at State Hospitals. Pilgrim State and Central Islip were key recipients of the farmer folks, and they loved the work ethic that the country people had. Some stayed, some came back home, but some food traditions left their mark no matter where the people went:

  • Hamburger soup: Though I can't replicate it, my Aunt Peg made a soup of hamburger and vegetables that I still salivate over when thinking about it. Maybe an Amish cookbook has the recipe...
  • Tomatoes sprinkled with sugar: Most people put salt on their 'maters, but several people I know up here use sugar.
  • Grapefruit with salt: See above, though grapefruit was somewhat rare, almost exotic.
  • Peanut butter and butter sandwiches: OK, OK, that's awful! But it's something my friend grew up with here.
  • Horseradish: Pretty much on everything from toast to cottage cheese to Croghan balogna to....name your poison.
  • Popcorn: ....and milk! Not separately, but in a bowl eaten like cereal. Like crackers and milk, bread and milk, this was standard fare for many during the lean years of the Depression. I've met a few people who've heard of this, and they're all from the North Country. People from Long Island or anywhere else almost recoil when I tell them how I LOVE popcorn & milk! They don't know what they're missing.

Laurie


Hamburger Stew for 50

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 4 lbs. Ground beef
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 3 pounds onions
  • 2 large cans chicken broth
  • 1 large bunch celery
  • 2 pounds carrots
  • 2 pounds green beans
  • 2 pounds pasta (ziti, macaroni etc.)
  • 6 cans diced tomatoes
  • huge can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons oregano or basil

Directions:
Heat oil in two large kettles. Lower heat to very low and brown meat and sausage, Peel and dice onions; add. Cook about 5 minutes. Add broth, cut up carrots and cut up beans and cook until vegetables are done, about 15 minutes. Add diced and crushed tomatoes, along with spices. Return to simmer and cook another 15 minutes.

In a separate large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

HAMBURGER STEW

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. Ground beef
  • 4 large onions, chopped
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 lb. diced celery
  • 1 lb. diced carrots
  • 1 head cabbage, shredded (or substitute with other veg.)
  • 2 quarts (large can) broth
  • Seasonings:
    1 bay leaf, 1 T thyme, 1 T basil or oregano
    2-3 T minced garlic
  • 2 quarts tomato juice
  • 2 cans, 28 oz. ea., diced tomatoes
  • 3-4 lbs. Macaroni or other pasta, or equivalent amt. rice
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Brown hamburger in 2 large, heavy kettles. Drain off all but 1-2 T fat. Add onions; cook 2-3 minutes, till translucent. Add garlic and celery; cook about 3-5 minutes more. Add carrots, cabbage, broth and seasonings; cook 5-10 more minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato juice. Stir in macaroni; cook another 8-10 minutes till it’s cooked (about 20 minutes if using rice) Add water if needed.

Or, cook 4 lbs. pasta first and set aside; omit tomato juice; stir cooked pasta into sauce.

Serve hot; have Parmesan cheese on tables or sprinkle on each serving.

Note: i vary the vegetables - sometimes i use cabbage, or turnips, or zucchini (in season), bell peppers are very good good too, or mushrooms. Sometimes i also use beans or black-eyed peas to substitute for some of the meat.

Submitted by Yvona Fast, Lake Clear