Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fun Playing With Fall Road Trip Food, Westbound and Down

The third and final leg of our recent road trip was the shortest part. After a third breakfast (and second popover) at Ula Cafe in Jamaica Plain Massachusetts, we turned our wheels westbound, towards Binghamton NY.  

I wish I could report on some fabulous road eats between Boston and Binghamton, but for most part, we stuck with beverages and bathrooms. Though we did visit a fast food place for snack and bathroom in what proved to be a detour through the little town of Cobbleskill New York. We didn't realize until after we'd settled on the mundane that we could drive straight through the town to pick up I-88 instead of turning around and getting back on where we'd gotten off. When we did this, we noted a number of interesting looking places to eat in this small town; next time, I'll know.

Once arrived in Bingto town, my aunt and uncle suggested Chinese Buffet. They are big fans of the form, and though we are less so, we were delighted to go where ever they wanted to take us. Our destination: Buffet Star in Vestal NY, a strong stone's throw from the State University at Binghamton campus. Tired from the long drive, I didn't bother to extricate my camera for what I expected to be a typical Asian buffet serving mediocre-to-average food. Buffet Star, however, diffused that notion before we even got in the door, as several Asian customers exited just as we approached, and they all looked happy. Stepping inside, we noticed a substantial number of Asian patrons - always a good sign in an ethnic restaurant.

The essential law of physics that drives buffet restaurants is that most kitchens (even supersized ones) can't  turn out the large variety of items offered in the quantity needed. Therefore, any buffet restaurant at any given time will be serving many items that come straight out of food service packs. In my experience at Asian Buffets, this will include sushi and desserts; in the case of Buffet Star, it also included a selection of dim sum items and many of the appetizers. To be fair, we did not sample the "Mongolian BBQ" section, where you pick out raw ingredients and have them cooked to order.

I tried to gravitate to the items that the Asian customers were selecting, and I was mostly rewarded, with some tasty pork (prepared three different ways) and fresh, delicious clams with black bean sauce. So, no photos, but happy tummy. And an actual recommendation for an Asian Buffet (my first) - you can find a very nice meal at Buffet Star, and at about $10 for the all-you-can-eat dinner, what's not to like?

After a fun evening looking at digitized old family photos, and photos my uncle took while stationed on Okinawa in the late 1960s, we headed to bed in the guest room. We awoke refreshed and ready to face the final leg of our trip. My uncle gifted me with a CD that I haven't been able to stop listening to since the trip, and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of the late country music star Jerry Reed and/or the late great Shel Silverstein (who wrote all of the songs), or Reed's compatriots on the disc - Mel Tillis, Waylon Jennings and Bobby Bare. The disk is called Old Dogs, which was originally released as a 2 disk set, but is now apparently only available as two separate disks.

Our last meal of the trip, as it would turn out, was in some ways a mirror of the first - PIZZA! My aunt and uncle took us to a local, mom-and-pop type place: Tonarlo's, 1113 Conklin Road, Conklin NY, 607.775.9299.

Tonarlo's prepares everything from scratch, and it takes awhile. Even though we all ordered pizza or calzone, our server deposited two loaves of fresh, crusty bread for us to nosh while we waited.

Bob decided to be a purist and opted for the personal size pizza topped with sausage.

Uncle Jerry, never the purist, also ordered a personal pizza - the Chicken, Bacon, Cheddar, Ranch.

Lucky me - a slice of each pie wound up on my plate! And look at that crust - why, oh why, it is so hard to find a crust like this near Cleveland?

Each slice satisfied, in a different way. I'd never have expected ranch dressing to work on a pizza, but topping off great ingredients, expertly prepared, each bite sang. Bob's simpler pizza also pleased my palate with great chew, a little crunch, and fresh sausage.

My Aunt Phyllis and I each ordered a calzone. Remember how I'd passed on the calzone in Connecticut? This time - I was not to be denied my ricotta cheese fix! But even better - my Aunt explained that even though it wasn't yet on the menu, she'd invented the "Phyllis" calzone at this establishment - stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta and breaded eggplant slices, and served with a cup of house-made marinara sauce! Can you say, "yum"?

This tasted as good as it looked - creamy, crunchy and eggplanty in every bite! And, thankfully, there were leftovers of both calzone and pizza, which we stashed in our cooler for eating later. And dinner wound up being much later. You see, we should have taken that left toin at Albuquerque . . . . 


  1. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! You drove right past Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q, in Oneonta!!! It sits literally 20 seconds off the highway. I hold myself personally responsible for this since it is one of my 1,000 unfinished posts. The Southern Tier chicken might just be the best smoked chicken to ever touch my lips. My sincere apologies. I'm actually surprised you didn't smell the smoke as you drove down I-88. Damn!!!

  2. Wish that we'd known about it. I'm sure that we can find a way for you to make it up to us LOL!