Catch Up on New Titles This Winter

By Laurel C. Wemmett


With colder weather ahead, it may be an opportune time to find out more about ice fishing, an activity covered in one of the books featured here. If, however, your tastes lean more toward winter’s indoor activities, there are other book offerings that may appeal to you, both literally and figuratively. There are new books that address the growing Finger Lakes wine industry and the region’s expanding range of culinary offerings, and others that take you on an old-fashioned road trip along an iconic highway, and a steamboat journey on scenic Keuka Lake.

A Taste of Upstate New York
by Chuck D’Imperio
Syracuse University Press
Soft cover

Upstate resident Chuck D’Imperio takes readers on a tasty tour of eight regions of New York State beyond the five boroughs of New York City. Forty food favorites are presented with the people behind them. In the Finger Lakes Region the selection ranges from Rochester’s Garbage Plate to Naples’ grape pie and three Syracuse specialties: Cornell chicken, salt potatoes and meatballs in a heel.

Many examples of unique gastronomical fare are featured in this well-illustrated title. The Finger Lakes gets numerous mentions in this friendly overview in “Upstate Food Traditions,” a section focusing on its unique culinary culture. Farmers markets, ice cream stands, Friday fish fries, bakeries, cookbooks and diners are featured. One chapter is devoted to buckwheat pancakes and the famed Birkett Mills in Penn Yan. Dining destinations include favorite restaurants and fun food-centered festivals like the Chili Festival in Ithaca, the biggest of its kind.

D’Imperio, an author of other books about Upstate New York, even selected five “iconic food favorites” for an Upstate New York Food Hall of Fame. He admits he had “quite a chore coming up with the initial class” but readers will enjoy learning the identities of these classic foods and the details of their origins.

Over A Barrel
by Thomas Pellechia
State University of New York Press

This well-written narrative details the rise and fall of the Taylor Wine Company, once a major economic force in the wine industry. It begins in 1880 when Walter Stephen Taylor, the son of a cooper, started a commercial grape juice company. Wine production was soon added and Taylor’s three sons oversaw the expanding business well into the 20th century. The longtime enterprise based in Hammondsport survived Prohibition and achieved great success. After going public in the 1960s, the company was sold to Coca Cola in 1977 and changed ownership three more times before its dissolution in 1995. Numerous lives and the economy of the Keuka Lake community were adversely affected.

Tom Pellechia, an independent journalist and author of books on the Finger Lakes and the wine trade, presents a compelling account of a proud family and its influential company. He reveals how family dynamics impacted business decisions including those of the third generation’s “maverick,” Walter S. Taylor, who founded Bully Hill Vineyards and challenged conventional winemaking practices.

Today, the Finger Lakes wine industry is made up of small, mostly family-run wineries. Pelletier describes the Taylor story as relevant and cautionary: “Growth is good but remaining innovative and flexible may be more important in a consumer market as fickle as wine’s and more competitive than ever.”

Steamboats on Keuka Lake
by Richard S. MacAlpine & Charles R. Mitchell
The History Press
Soft cover

For several years beginning in 2008, MacAlpine and Mitchell narrated Keuka Lake boat tours about the steamboat-era to benefit the Yates County History Center (YCHC). When the tour-boat business ended due to stringent new shipbuilding requirements, the pair compiled knowledge from their extensive research into this comprehensive book. MacAlpine, a retired history teacher active in several capacities at YCHC; and Mitchell, former owner of a photography business and the curator at the History Center, chronicle the Keuka Lake steamboats from their beginnings through their heyday and decline.

Both men have published other local history books.

The story of Keuka Lake steamboats will have special appeal to those with ties to communities around the lake frequented by steamboats such as Penn Yan, Hammondsport and Branchport, among others. Besides providing a means to travel for visitors and locals alike, steamboats and railroads also met the transportation needs of 19th-century grape farming and wine production.

A virtual tour of the three branches of Keuka Lake takes readers on a steamboat-era excursion. Illustrations of long-gone resorts, landmarks, and steamboats, plus a map of the lake provide helpful visual references.

Pavlova in a Hat Box
by Cynthia Neale
Pear Tree Publishing Co.
Soft cover

Here is a cookbook for lovers of sweets, especially cakes. Combined with personal stories, often of the preparation and consumption of these delicacies, the book uniquely blends recipes with memories, some linked to the author’s native Finger Lakes Region. Cynthia Neale, whose writing includes young adult novels, offers well-crafted stories of times when family and friends gathered. The presentation is enlivened by numerous lush and whimsical watercolor illustrations by artist Maggie Martin. The author’s prose combined with the fanciful imagery enhances the mouth-watering recipes and will engage the readers’ senses.

The title is taken from Neale’s light and airy dessert, “Pavlova,” named for the renowned Russian ballerina who “had wings for soaring in dance and her feet never touched the floor.” The author recounts how a hat box was pressed in to use to carry this fragile delicacy on a boat trip with friends.

Neale’s enjoyment of Irish set dancing fills the chapter, “Ceili Cakes.” An Irish ceili is a festive gathering with music and dancing when cakes are served at tea time breaks. One such cake she christened “Luscious Lemon Cake Dressed to the Nines.” Such word-imagery is typical of the author-baker who encourages decorating confections with “your own signature of creativity.”

Historic Route 20: A Journey Across America’s Longest Highway
by Bryan Farr
The Historic US Route 20 Association
Soft cover

It is the longest highway in America and its 3,365-mile length spans the U.S., traversing 12 states and running through the Finger Lakes Region. For those without the time or stamina for a cross-country drive on this classic highway, this book is the next best thing.

More than 200 full-color photographs bring to life a journey along this one route from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. Boston, Massachusetts, where Route 20 begins in the east, is linked to Newport, Oregon, where the transcontinental highway ends. Lush panoramic vistas of rolling countryside alternate with small-town views and natural wonders. Classical-style architecture gives way to open farmlands of the Great Plains and the grandeur of the national parks in the far west. Bryan Farr’s photographs are captioned with tidbits of history and relevant facts.

The book is an outgrowth of the author’s road trip along US Route 20 in 2010. Having grown up on Cayuga Lake, Farr’s first road trips and photos were taken in the Finger Lakes area. The author was so impressed with the value of Route 20 that he founded the nonprofit Historic US Route 20 Association “to preserve and promote Route 20’s significance and history.” He believes this scenic byway has achieved iconic status similar to the better known Route 66 or the Lincoln Highway.

Fishing Oneida Lake
by Spider Rybaak
Burford Books, Inc.
Soft cover

This compact guide by writer and renowned angler Spider Rybaak focuses on Oneida Lake, calling it “the most productive warm
water fishery in the state.”

Central New York’s fastest growing sport may be ice-fishing, Oneida Lake’s claim to fame. By mid-December ice is already forming on this, the largest body of water northeast of Syracuse and totally within New York State. While acknowledging the appeal of ice fishing, the author points out that it can be a dangerous pursuit. He provides measurements of the thickness of the ice with corresponding weight limitations, and points the reader to the Department of Environmental Conservation for further safety precautions.

The book is well-organized and easy to use, offering descriptions of fish species, definitions of terms, detailed maps and summaries of locations and catches by season. Photographs of smiling anglers show off a variety of fish caught in Oneida’s waters. The author’s easygoing writing style will appeal to novice and experienced anglers alike. Appendices present contact information for fishing guides and charter services, sources for bait and tackle, marinas, parks, and county tourism offices. Rybaak provides all an angler needs to have a successful and enjoyable fishing trip at any time of year on Oneida Lake.

Finger Lakes Wine Country
by Sarah S. Thompson
Arcadia Publishing
Soft cover

Covering 150 years of wine-making history, this pictorial book focuses on the four deepest Finger Lakes where conditions are best for growing grapes: Keuka, Seneca, Canandaigua and Cayuga.

Illustrations from numerous archival sources support themes such as early grape production, the growth of wineries, and the impact of influential individuals or “Vineyard Visionaries” who paved the way for the recent Finger Lakes wine renaissance. Thompson, a freelance writer who lives on Seneca Lake (where she and her husband plan to open a small winery), has written thoughtful thematic essays to accompany the images. She explores the impact of the 18th amendment, Prohibition, when the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol were prohibited; and the 1976 New York Farm Winery Act, which made it easier for small growers to plant vineyards and sell wine. Thompson has provided a solid introduction to a complex subject.

Images pay tribute to the countless workers employed in supporting businesses like basketmaking or crate and barrel fabrication, essential to the early packaging and transport of grapes and their juice. Views of packing houses, and the steamboats and railroad trains that carried grape products to market, expand the story. Even labels of products like grapes and wines contribute to this comprehensive title.

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