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Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Review: 365 Things to Do in Ithaca, NY

My wife and I just spent a weekend in Ithaca, for no particular reason other than to get away for a couple of days, so this gives me a good opportunity to review a book that I received recently from Schiffer Publishing365 Things to Do in Ithaca, New York.
Author Laurel Guy, who has lived in Ithaca since January 1981, has assembled a fun guide to things to do in and around Ithaca. To get to 365, she had to do a bit of stretching, geographically. For example, she includes the Erie Canal, Skaneateles, and Letchworth, all of which are quite some distance from Ithaca. So think of this more as a guide to the Finger Lakes, centered on Ithaca, or things to do in and within a reasonable drive around Ithaca.
But that's more than forgiveable, considering the wealth of information here. This is about as comprehensive a guide to Ithaca as you can get, in terms of places to see and things to do. Local parks, restaurants, events, artists' studios, historical sites ... pretty much everything Ithaca and the surrounding area have to offer. It was partly thanks to this book that I knew enough to be able to enjoy visiting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and dining at Le Cafe Cent Dix.
I have a couple minor criticisms. One, the book is not organized into chapters. The 365 entries bounce from one thing to another, with no themes. But the index is well organized, so that helps.
I also would've appreciated a rough guide to the Ithaca area:  The Commons, Ithaca neighborhoods, and nearby towns. There is an area map at the end of the book, taking in most of the Finger Lakes, but a street map of downtown Ithaca would've been handy too.
Those quibbles aside, this is a keeper. During dinner at Cent Dix, our server told us that she occasionally goes to Rochester for nights out with friends. As I mentioned to my wife afterwards, it struck me funny that Ithaca residents go to Rochester to have fun, while we're going to Ithaca. But I have always enjoyed my visits there, and this book will remain a valuable resource for future trips. 

365 Things to Do in Ithaca New York
by Laurel Guy
192 pages
Schiffer Pub. (c) 2016

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Brozzetti's, Johnson City

Though I've ceased writing this blog on anything like a regular basis, I figured I'd leave myself open to doing the occasional blog post, if I felt motivated to do so.
I do, now, after finally checking off a pizzeria that had been on my to-do list for a long time:  Brozzetti's, in Binghamton.
From what I've read, this is a Binghamton pizza institution, and a love-it-or-hate-it kind of place, among locals. So when I happened to be in the area with my wife, I took advantage of the opportunity to check out Brozzetti's.
I knew, going in, that Brozzetti's doesn't sell slices. The least you can get is a 10-slice pizza, which is what I got, and shared with my wife. Plain cheese.
I was afraid it was going to take a while -- there's no seating, so we would have had to wait in the car, or just stand around -- but they keep 10-slice pizzas, boxed, in a warmer, so we got ours right away (though we did have to eat it in the car).
What apparently makes Brozzetti's pizza so divisive is the crust, which is noticeably sweet.. Not, to my taste, overly sweet, but noticeably sweet nonetheless. The recipe is apparently a closely guarded secret.
The side of the box was emblazoned with a musical jingle, with lyrics including the phrase, "The Crispy Family Dough!" Well, I can't say this was crispy. The underside was a mottled brown -- typical of pan-baked pizza -- and the interior was soft and chewy, even a bit gummy on top. I'm guessing that was largely a result of the pizza sitting in the box for some time before I got it. Having said that, it wasn't bad. We did finish the pizza. And I suspect that a pizza fresh out of the oven would've had a crisper crust.
The cheese was another interesting feature of this pizza. Brozzetti's uses a blend of cheeses, which I assume is another one of their secrets. It seemed to me to be a combination of shredded mozzarella, crumbled ricotta, and a meltey processed cheese (possibly American cheese). I could easily be wrong about any or all of those, but that's my best guess.
The sauce was fairly ordinary, with a mild tomatoey flavor. All the components of the crust/sauce/cheese triad were in reasonably good balance with each other. The overall flavor was marked by the combination of the sweet crust and the cheese.
Brozzetti's offers a pretty wide variety of toppings and specialty pies, including a chicken spiedie pie. But I think I made the right choice in going for a basic cheese pie.
Love it or hate it? Honestly, most of the time when I hear that something is love it or hate it, I manage to fall in the middle. And so I do here. If I had to pick a handful of rest-of-your-life pizzas, this wouldn't be among them. But I have a special place in my heart, and my stomach, for unique, truly local pizza. I have to put Brozzetti's in that category.

Brozzetti's Pizza, 72 Baldwin St., Johnson City, NY 13790
(607) 797-9960

Mon. - Sat. 10 a.m. - midnight, Sun. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.