Friday, July 31, 2009


(more photos)

Selling everything from coffee to jewelry, Parkleigh is one of my favorite places for gifts (and the wrapping paper, gift bags, and greeting cards to go with them). It's hard to characterize the place in a few words, but "Urban Outfitters meets Dean & Deluca, Rochester-style, with a Crabtree & Evelyn store inside" is a good start. (I mean that last part literally -- there is actually a C&E inside Parkleigh.)

Soon after walking in, you'll see the candy counter. Parkleigh sells truffles, candies, and other sweets, including locally made Hedonist chocolates. Today I picked up two boxes of truffles (two chocolates in each) for gifts. I hope they taste as good as they look, because they're very cute -- two dogs ("chocolate" Labs) and two white cats. They're handmade in Oregon by Moonstruck Chocolatier.

Walk a bit further into the store and you'll find more edibles: Barefoot Contessa mixes, Stonewall Kitchen products, coffee, tea, and more. In the same room are fun kitchen tools like wooden salad servers that look like wrenches, or "Ice Invaders": Space Invaders ice cube trays.

If you're looking for a new tote or reusable shopping bag, you might find what you're looking for here. Parkleigh carries brands like Lug, Baggalini, Emilie Sloan, Blue Q, and others. The cutest one was probably a Bungalow 360 bag with an owl design by Susie Ghahremani.

Fun and funky selections are everywhere, including things from Uglydoll, Knock Knock, and Fred & Friends. I liked an alarm clock from Fred & Friends that can wake you with the sounds of birds chirping. There's also a small area displaying kids' stuff like backpacks, cute dish sets, bibs, and tiny sweaters.

If you know someone who's a fan of Vera Bradley, you've come to the right place -- there's a large selection. Parkleigh also sells Kiehl's, Burt's Bees, and McKenzie-Childs.

TIP: Join Parkleigh's mailing list and you'll get occasional coupons.

NEARBY: Hogan's Hideaway, Jines, and a lot more in the Park Ave. area.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


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With eight decorated homes to browse through, much of the fun of going to Homearama comes from forming opinions and making comments on the countless decisions made by the designers and builders -- dissecting their choices of bedding, wallpaper, kitchen layouts, framed art, window treatments, and more. This is even more fun than it sounds, and it's easy to spend hours doing it. At least, for me it is. I could also spend hours watching home shows on TLC or the Style Network, so it's probably a good thing we don't have cable anymore.

Since the houses were newly built, they boasted cavernous closets and bathrooms, deluxe entertainment rooms, and laundry rooms on the first or second floors. Some design elements were repeated among the different houses, too, like pink-and-green bedrooms for girls and floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces. My favorite house stood out from the others with its clean and simple design aesthetic, blue-and-brown color pairings, hand-painted wall designs, and subtle touches that echoed throughout the house (bird images and a reddish-orange hue).

In addition to the new homes, the event also featured more than 50 exhibitors, from Cricket on the Heart to Oriental Rug Mart, and a food tent run by the Junior League of Rochester. Barkitecture, a selection of doghouses created by local homebuilders, raised money for Lollypop Farm.

TIP: This year, the Rochester Home Builders Association website offered coupons for $1 off the $9 admission fee, so if you go next year, check online first.

NEARBY: Homearama 2009 was close to Eastview Mall, but the location of the event changes each year.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Bagel Bin Cafe

(more photos)

update: no longer in business

Last Friday, I had breakfast with my mom at the place voted "Best Bagel Shop" in City's "Best of Rochester" awards last year: the Bagel Bin Cafe in Brighton. The egg-and-cheese bagel in the photo above isn't mine, though -- I couldn't pass up the Belgian waffle with strawberries, so mine was a bagel-free breakfast. (The cafe offers other choices for breakfast, too, like French toast or a breakfast wrap.)

For lunch, served 11 to 4, choices include bagel sandwiches, salads, and soup, with cookies, brownies, bars, and other treats for dessert. I'd estimate that there were about 30 bagel varieties behind the counter, although the website lists 22, not counting bagel sticks or bialys. I can't comment on many of them -- I usually go for my old standard, sesame.

The cafe wasn't too busy at 9:45 a.m. on a Friday, but our food took longer than usual. (Diners order at the counter and wait at their tables.) When it arrived, I noticed my waffle had turned black around the bottom edges (and was a bit too crispy overall), and the egg in my mom's bagel sandwich looked slightly overdone. But my waffle was topped with a generous helping of strawberry slices and what I think was real cream. Beside my mom's sandwich was a big strawberry, which was a nice surprise.

Another surprise was the bill: $13.40 seemed high for a waffle, bagel sandwich, cup of tea, and bottle of juice. Still, as long as the cafe stays open, I'll keep coming to the Bagel Bin.

TIP: Don't miss the Oreo bars.

NEARBY: Abbott's and Aja Noodle are in the same plaza.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Second Bloom

I LOVE saving money on clothes, so today I checked out Second Bloom, a consignment shop in Fairport that sells women's clothing and household items. The store, which opened in 2006, has a pretty wide variety of brands -- I spotted pieces from the Limited, DKNY, Sigrid Olsen, Old Navy, Express, Anne Klein, H&M, French Connection, Jones New York, Ralph Lauren, etc.

The other items they sell include picture frames and framed prints, vases and other decorative pieces, kitchenware, books, DVDs, and a small selection of furniture. A sample price: $13.39 for a Farberware stainless steel tea kettle.

While the clothing prices at Anything Goes (my favorite consignment shop) are significantly cheaper than T.J. Maxx or Marshalls, Second Bloom's aren't as low; for example, an Ann Taylor cotton/spandex T-shirt was $15.39, and a Jones New York silk/nylon short-sleeved shirt was labeled at $10.49. Anything Goes seems to have both a greater number of higher-end items and lower prices across the board. Second Bloom is worth a look, but I'll stick to Anything Goes (which reopens on August 3 after closing for vacation).

TIP: Second Bloom accepts clothing on consignment, and you'll receive 50% if your items sell. Details are on their website.

NEARBY: Perinton Park (on the canal)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sweet Times Bakery

(more photos here)

Sweet Times Bakery is just a short walk from the Subaru dealer where we both take our cars for service, so once in a while I have a good excuse to go there. Last Saturday, we dropped off Clem's car for an oil change on our way to Canandaigua and got to enjoy a snack at the bakery.

It was hard to pick just one treat with all the delicious-looking possibilities in front of me -- cupcakes, cream puffs, lemon bars, brownies... I was in the mood for something sweet (no surprise there), but the bakery also offers soup, sandwiches, bread, and rolls.

We eventually decided on a cherry cheesecake bar (definitely Clem's -- ever since I was little, I can only associate cherry flavor with medicine) and a "panda bear brownie" (a cheesecake brownie -- for me). Including a half pint of chocolate milk, the total was $4.97.

On the patio outside, there were a few tables with umbrellas, but none of them were open, so we cranked one up and sat down. The person behind the counter had given us plastic forks instead of real ones, which -- besides creating more trash -- didn't actually work. The bar and brownie were too dense for the flimsy forks to do much, so we had to pick them up and eat them that way -- and my brownie became sort of a mess. That's enough about that, though -- I don't want to sound like the Aga saga woman.

Next time, I think I'll go for a cream puff or take home a loaf of bread -- they looked good.

TIP: The bakery also makes wedding cakes.

NEARBY: Ontario Mall Antiques, definitely good for browsing

Monday, July 20, 2009

Italian Festival

(more photos here)

On Sunday, we went to the Italian Festival for the first time. Even though the ad in City said the admission fee was $4/person, we thought we'd give it a try. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough at the festival to justify the admission fee, at least on that day. Looking at the schedule online, Saturday offered a few more activities -- like pasta-making demonstrations, eating contests, and a car show.

Not surprisingly, my favorite part of the festival was the dessert. Yum, cannoli. We bought one for each of us, which came to $4 -- but that meant that we didn't have any cash left to play Bocce (at $2/person). So after browsing through the few vendors (a random assortment of purses, jewelry, roses, sunglasses, and Italian-themed T-shirts), witnessing a odd and confusing raffle drawing in which no one actually won the grand prize (a car), and spending some time waiting around for the 2 p.m. band to start (by 2:30, they hadn't), we ran out of things to do and went home.

TIP: If you go next year and the organizers keep the same schedule, Saturday definitely sounds like a better bet than Sunday!

NEARBY: Yianni's in Gates

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sonnenberg Gardens

(more photos)

With nine gardens, greenhouses, a historic mansion, a wine center, wine/gift shop, and a cafe, it's easy to spend a few hours at Sonnenberg Gardens -- and that's just what we did on Saturday. After wandering through a few greenhouses, we took a guided tour of the mansion, which was built by Frederick Ferris Thompson and Mary Clark Thompson in 1887.

One of the most impressive things about the house was the view of Canandaigua Lake from a second-story window -- especially when you consider, as our guide pointed out, how much more of the lake would have been visible when the surrounding trees were much younger and smaller.

After our tour, we took another look around the mansion and then walked through the gardens. The park has nine, and I think we may have missed one or two. (The admissions booth had run out of maps by the time we arrived.) My favorite spot was the Japanese Garden -- it was simple and peaceful. (Its statue of Buddha also presented the most memorable part of my park visit when it inspired a 10-year-old boy to exclaim to his father, "That's a false god!")

We finished our visit with a tasting at the Wine Center, which features New York wines. We shared a flight of five samples for $3, then bought a bottle upstairs in the shop to take home.

TIP: Even though you aren't likely to walk all of the park's 52 acres, I would suggest comfortable shoes!

NEARBY: Granger Homestead and the New York Wine and Culinary Center (although I admit I haven't been to either one yet!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Zoo Brew

(more photos here)

A few minutes ago, I signed up for the Seneca Park Zoo email list. That'll improve my chances of catching one of their "Zoo Brew" events this summer. At Zoo Brew, visitors who are 21 and older can explore the zoo after hours, have a drink or two and maybe some food, and listen to a local band.

We skipped tonight's event because there was a 50 to 60 percent chance of rain. OK, it was also because we had to watch our DVD of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" before seeing the next Harry Potter movie this weekend. But we did make it to Zoo Brew last year and took some photos.

Admission is $3 for zoo members and $5 for non-members, while a beer costs $3 and a glass of wine, $4. (Those were last summer's drink prices; they may have changed.) Zoo Brew is a great way to spend a summer evening -- you'll have fun while supporting a local organization and getting some fresh air after a day at work.

TIP: The remaining two Zoo Brews this summer are August 14 and September 11.

NEARBY: Bruster's is a few miles away.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harrison Bakery (Syracuse)

(more photos here)

Our last stop in Syracuse (besides the Everson and China Road) brought us to Harrison Bakery on West Genesee Street. Before we left home, I'd seen a photo of the bakery online, so as Clem drove, I kept an eye out for the red-and-yellow sign, and we found the place pretty easily. (Now I know to just look for the huge church across the street!)

Harrison's is an old-fashioned, no-frills bakery -- as you walk in, you almost feel transported to another decade. Their online yellow-pages entry says they've been around for more than 50 years, and the inside of the bakery doesn't seem like it's been updated for, if not 50 years, then a quite a while. But if holding off on renovations helps keep the prices down, that's fine with me! We were surprised that a cupcake (my pick) and a napoleon (Clem's) together cost just $2.50!

Harrison's also sells cookies, brownies, bread, and a lot more. I didn't look around as much as I would have liked to before ordering because the woman behind the counter was clearly NOT having a good day (and neither was the person who answered the phone when I had called earlier to check if they were open on Sundays -- or maybe that was the same woman). It turns out we made good choices, though -- my cupcake was one of the best I've ever had (really!), with fluffy yellow cake and rich, creamy chocolate frosting. Clem liked his napoleon, but not as much as the ones from Malek's.

TIP: Try a cupcake! I've heard (online) that the half-moon cookies are good, too.

If you like malls, the Carousel Center is worth a visit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Pielady's Canaltown Bakery

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During my lunch break today, I stopped for a snack at the Pielady's Canaltown Bakery in Fairport (alternately called "The Pie Lady"). With its location at the bottom of a hill on a small street off Turk Hill Road, the only hint to its existence there is a sign on the main road--and even then, you might miss it. I've been there a few times and have never been disappointed.

You can chose from all sorts of treats as a reward for finding the place--today I noticed pies, cookies, coffee cakes, muffins, scones, danish, bar cookies, cupcakes, and more. The printed "menu" offers further selections, including many different varieties and sizes of cakes as well as "tea cookie platters." I spotted a few particularly tempting items like pecan pie, Oreo cake, lemon biscotti, and a chocolate yule log. Yum.

Open six days a week, the Pie Lady has three bakery cases and a small seating area (although during the afternoons I've stopped by, I've never seen anyone sitting there).

Today I chose a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting, which was excellent. The frosting was generously applied, smooth, and buttery, and the cake had a nice texture and wasn't too dry. If I didn't have a relative who makes my favorite cakes, I would definitely consider getting a birthday or other special cake (or pie!) from the Pie Lady.

TIP: The Pie Lady makes appearances at the Irondequoit and Fairport Farmers Markets -- check the website for details.

NEARBY: Anything Goes and RV&E Bike and Skate

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

China Road (Syracuse)

(more photos here)

Many of my favorite restaurants--like Yuan Fu and Il Pizzico, both located in average-looking strip malls in Rockville, Maryland--don't look too promising from the outside. So as we approached China Road in Mattydale (a suburb of Syracuse), its appearance and surroundings were a good omen: an unassuming building next to a laundromat and in front of a can-and-bottle return facility.

Inside, the restaurant's wood-paneled walls were hung with prints of Chinese watercolors and dry-erase boards with the chef's specials written in Chinese and English. Soon after we sat down, our waiter brought us a pot of tea, a bowl of crispy fried noodles with sauce for dipping, and a plate of cold, spicy snacks: soybeans, Chinese broccoli, hot peppers, and what may have been bamboo shoots. (When we had eaten most of each one, he brought us seconds.)

We were given two menus, one in English and the other in both English and Chinese. As a vegetarian, I was happy to see several non-meat options, but I wish I had known that China Road has an entire separate menu of vegetarian dishes, including some with mock meat. I ordered steamed vegetable dumplings and crispy tofu in garlic sauce, while Clem chose the crispy shrimp balls and tea-smoked duck.

We enjoyed everything (and Clem's duck dish could serve at least two). Our waiter was friendly and funny, laughing at me (in a good natured way) when I finished my dish by leaving behind just one piece of tofu--and then even putting it in a box for me to take home. He was amused that my dish's garlic sauce was too spicy for me, but helpfully suggested that I try the tofu with Clem's plum sauce instead. With the bill came juicy orange slices and fortune cookies.

China Road's website says that the restaurant's chef, Simon Teng "was head chef in many famous New York City restaurants such as Uncle Tai's, David K's, Pig Heaven, and Auntie Yuan's." I'm glad Chef Teng came to upstate New York, because China Road was definitely one of the best Chinese restaurants I've ever visited.

TIP: If you want an authentic dish, the menu that's in English and Chinese is listed on China Road's website as the "traditional Chinese menu," so I'd stick to that one.

NEARBY: Being completely unfamiliar with Mattydale, I'd just say Syracuse itself is nearby, and there are plenty of things to do there!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Everson Museum (Syracuse)

(more photos here)

Every Sunday, I read the new secrets posted on the PostSecret blog, so I couldn't pass up a chance to see the PostSecret exhibit at Syracuse's Everson Museum of Art (which, incidentally, was designed by I. M. Pei). Frank Warren, the creator of PostSecret, has received more than 350,000 anonymous postcards, and more than 400 of them made a two-month appearance in Syracuse. Clem and I saw the exhibit on its final day.

Gallery admission is technically free, but we each gave the "suggested donation" of $5. Parking nearby would normally have been free on a Sunday, but because nearby Clinton Square was hosting the New York State Blues Festival, that wasn't the case. (What would the "New York State Blues" sound like? Imagine some bass chords alternating with these lines: "I pay high taxes. / Yeah, I freeze when it snows. / Oh, our State Senators are crazy. / But, baby, that's just the way it goes!")

So, because of the festival, or maybe because of the wrestling event at the Convention Center--or maybe both--all the lots nearby had "EVENT PARKING" signs, including the OnCenter lot, which we eventually chose. We said goodbye to six dollars and walked across the street to the museum.

In all my visits to art galleries, I have never, ever seen so many young people. The vast majority of the visitors looked college-age or even younger. I'd also say the female-to-male ratio was at least 80-20. I thought that was so interesting. (And trying to analyze those demographics would require a whole other blog post!)

The exhibit were pretty crowded with people, but the rooms were surprisingly silent. The secrets on the postcards seemed even more "real" when they were in front of you rather than published in a book or on the blog, so they really captured your attention.

I love museum stores, so when we were finished with the exhibit, I had to visit the Everson's. Although it was much smaller than, for example, the excellent gallery store at the Memorial Art Gallery, I found something for myself (a notebook) as well as a couple birthday and Christmas presents. Museum stores are always great for gifts.

TIP: If you visit the Everson's website and find yourself wondering just where all the important information is, mouse over the orange bar at the top of the page to get a menu to drop down. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to figure that out.

NEARBY: Someday I'd like to go to the Erie Canal Museum on Erie Blvd. Admission is free.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bazil on the bay

(more photos here)

Tonight we celebrated my grandmother's 86th birthday at Bazil on Irondequoit Bay. Its extensive menu meant that all five of us went home happy--and our group was composed of two vegetarians, a seafood lover, a health-conscious diner, and my grandmother, who ordered her steak not just well-done but "cremated." I don't think I've ever seen a restaurant with so many "special" sections on its menu: gluten-free, low(er)-calorie, vegetarian, and low-carb.

We had a friendly and fun waitress and all the salad and breadsticks we could eat. That's a good start! I could eat those breadsticks all day -- although I suppose if you put lots of salt, garlic, and butter (I'm guessing that's their secret) on a piece of cardboard, I might just be tempted to eat that, too.

For dessert, Clem and I shared a giant piece of chocolate cake with ice cream, but I wish we'd ordered the smaller, lighter, and more refreshing lemon ice. I think Italian ice is the perfect summer dessert.

TIP: When you go, fill out the form for Bazil's e-mail list at the table next to the hostess station. The form asks for your birthday and wedding date, and pretty soon after we signed up, we received a coupon for our anniversary. (By the way, we have a designated coupon 3-ring binder at home and a spreadsheet with all their details. A SPREADSHEET. That's courtesy of Clem the engineer.) I think the email coupon was good for a free bottle of wine, appetizer, or dessert. And we didn't have to use it on our anniversary, just by a certain date a week or two after that.

NEARBY: One of my favorite antique places, All That Jazz. We've gotten a couple of small things there, like salt and pepper shakers and an old map of Brighton.

The Little Theatre

The Little Theatre, now in its 80th year, is one of my favorite places in Rochester. I spent a lot of time there as a teenager, seeing movies like "Clerks," "To Live," "Cold Comfort Farm, "Four Weddings and a Funeral," and many that have disappeared from memory. Since moving back to Rochester, I haven't visited as often as I'd like, but now that we're members, that'll probably change.

Depending on the level you choose, membership brings perks like discounted tickets and merchandise, free movie passes, and a great coupon book (for deals at places like Java's and the Eastman House). Since the Little is a nonprofit, you can even write off the membership fee on your taxes. The student level costs $35 a year, while being an associate member will run you $50 ($75 for two people), and regular membership costs $100 ($125 for two). We used our free passes yesterday to see "Moon."

Last night, and every Friday this month, Don Mancuso and Regi Hendrix (Jimi's cousin) played in the cafe, where we could choose from soups, sandwiches and wraps, salads, quiche, and panini. Yum. At least six bottled beers were available, as well as one on tap--Rohrbach's Red Wing Red Ale--and a glass of wine costs 6 dollars.

I picked a slice of hazelnut torte (good, but without enough hazelnut flavor for me), and Clem had an iced vanilla caramel latte. (Total with tax was $8.50.)

At 9 p.m., the cafe was almost full. The walls were decorated with art, and they likely will be for years to come; the Little keeps a very long waiting lists of artists who'd like the prime space.

As always, the selections at the concessions counter outside the cafe easily top any chain's snack options. The cases were full of cookies, macaroons, pecan bars, raspberry bars, goodies from the Nut House, and more. If I hadn't already had the torte, I think I would have picked the giant M&M cookie. When we saw "My Life in Ruins" recently (unfortunately), I tried one of the pecan bars. Yum.

TIP: Member or not, pick up the Little Theatre "Beat the Heat" discount card at the locations on this page for deals on movie tickets (buy four, get one free) and snacks.

NEARBY: The Little Bakery (no relation), and the Old Toad.