Newbury Park Pastries' Chicken Pot Pie
Newbury Park Pastries hand-made chicken pot pies, sold at the Brighton and Canandaigua farmers markets, and the year-round outpost in Rochester, are as close to the Platonic ideal of a chicken pot pie as anyone has gotten. Purchase one and invite some friends over for a "home-cooked meal." Tell them to bring dessert.
An hour before it's time to eat, take the pie out of the box and destroy the cardboard evidence. Pop the pie in a 350 degree oven, and leisurely set the table, put on some music, and make a green salad. While you're puttering around, the pie is getting hot, perfuming the house with its browning butter scent. When your guests arrive, cut into the beautifully golden brown crust, flaky and fluted just right. Set the slices on each plate so that the filling, creamy and rich, packed with chicken and vegetables, oozes out tantalizingly. Then stand back, watch your friends take a bite, and wait for the compliments to roll in. — BY LAURA REBECCA KENYON
Rheinblick Restaurant's PBBJ Burger
When you're hungry — "I could eat like a horse" kind of hungry, or "Dear God, I need something to offset the gallon of alcohol I consumed last night" kind of hungry — only a hearty, hefty burger will do. But good burgers can be hard to find, and burgers that are both good and unique can be near impossible to get your hands on. Head over to Canandaigua's Rheinblick German Restaurant (224 S. Main St., Canandaigua; 905-0950, restaurant-rheinblick.com) and sate your need with the lunch-only PBBJ Burger.
Elvis would appreciate the combination of Angus beef, smoky bacon, tangy red-pepper jelly, and chunky, savory peanut butter, and you will, too. Some of the patrons will look at you funny; maybe even some of the waitresses. This is a burger concocted by the guys in the kitchen. But trust them, they're on to something. The peanut butter and jelly are not the sickly sweet ilk you had in your third-grade lunch box. This jelly sings in harmony with the bacon's sweetness, and the peanut butter is almost meaty, just like the burger. Paired with Rheinblick's hand-cut fries (ask for curry ketchup) and a good beer (hair of the dog?), you will be a happy eater. — BY LAURA REBECCA KENYON
Red Jacket Orchards juice
Located in Geneva, Red Jacket Orchards (315-781-2749, redjacketorchards.com) produces apple and fruit juices available in a number of area grocery stores, as well as several local farmers' markets. You'll find none of that "contains less than 1 percent fruit juice" nonsense here; all Red Jacket beverages are made using the cold-press process, meaning that the fruit is chopped up, then mashed to get out all its juicy goodness. Everything that makes it into the bottle is completely natural and comes directly from the fruit itself, making it all super delicious.
The juices are so good, in fact, that in September they were awarded "Best Non-Alcoholic Beverage" at Foodlink's Festival of Food. Personal favorites of mine are the raspberry apple and fuji apple, but there's also a number of seasonal varieties, which include lemon apple during the summer months and cider in the autumn. There's also supposedly a spiced cider, which I sadly haven't been able to track down just yet. But it's only a matter of time.... — BY ADAM LUBITOW
Boba smoothies at Whatta-Bánh Mí Vietnamese Sandwich Café
I've recently become utterly addicted to these tasty blended beverages from Whatta-Bánh Mí (673 Monroe Ave., 319-4831). Besides the fact that they're yummy, the combination of fresh fruit, ice, and milk provides a perfect way to balance out the delicious burn of the restaurant's jalapeño-laced bánh mí sandwiches. Though lacking the traditional tea component of bubble teas (a Thai tea version is also on the menu), the smoothies still contain the characteristic chewy pearls of tapioca, known as boba, that make them so fun to drink. I've been enjoying slowly working my way through the many flavor options, and while strawberry-kiwi is my current favorite, I look forward to venturing into the more interesting flavors like durian, lychee, and avocado. — BY ADAM LUBITOW
Sometimes after a particularly brutal workout you just want to reward yourself. You made it through some ungodly superset. You just spent half an hour working out with the devil's tinker toys, a.k.a. kettle bells. You did — *shudder* — squats. Ice cream for everybody!
But no! Do not throw away all that hard work for a sugary trap. Gyms have been doing brisk business with smoothie/juice bars since the 1980's. But one local gym (admittedly, the one I go to) has concocted a smoothie that makes me feel like I'm indulging my sweet tooth while still infusing my body with proteiny, vitamin-rich goodness.
Downtown Fitness Club Owner John Hutchings has concocted The Yamanator, a shake that mixes sweet potatoes, cinnamon, almond milk, bananas, and vanilla whey protein into a frothy shake that tastes like a sweet-potato pie smothered in cream. It's packed with Vitamin A and 26 to 36 grams of protein (depending on the size). It's like Thanksgiving dessert every day, without any of the guilt. Except that I think this tastes better than mom's pumpkin pie (don't tell her I said that!). — BY ERIC REZSNYAK
There are many reasons to join one of the many language meet-ups held around the Rochester region. Maybe you're interested in retaining the tricky grammar of that second language you spent so many hours trying to perfect in high school. Or you have relatives from another land and you'd like to make an effort to bridge the generational and cultural gaps. Perhaps English isn't your first language, and you miss speaking your native tongue with others. The phrase "use it or lose it" rings particularly true when it comes to language. Meet-ups are free, informal gatherings for people of all skill levels to come together to learn and to teach.
Books, Etc. (78 W. Main St., Macedon) regularly holds German, French, Spanish, and Filipino nights, during which participants meet to practice speaking the languages. The events include easy activities and easy conversation, and are free and open to anyone. For information on specific language events, call 474-4116 or visit calendar.yahoo.com/books_etc.
If you're looking for other opportunities, a handy resource for finding the group that suits you is language.meetup.com, a global site that lists language meet-up groups, culture clubs, and their information by city. Joining a group is an excellent way to flex your brain, expand your social circle, and learn a language through immersion without even leaving home. — BY REBECCA RAFFERTY
East Ave Wegmans Parking Lot
Whether you were for or against the renovation-expansion of the actual East Avenue Wegmans, pretty much everyone was excited about one element: a larger parking lot. The old store's lot simply could not accommodate traffic at peak hours, and if you needed groceries on Sundays or immediately after work on weeknights, it was a little like entering Thunderdome. Prior to the new store opening in May, Wegmans trumpeted the fact that the lot now has 472 space compared to the previous 270. Awesome! Just what we wanted!
Except, actually, it's even worse. While the new East Ave Wegmans parking lot is indeed larger, the weird meandering road bisecting its two parts has made it stressful for both motorists and pedestrians to navigate. Drivers seem unsure of who has the right of way. The landscaping-filled dividers jut out awfully far, basically forcing cars to cross into the other lane when heading toward an exit. And despite the clearly marked yield-to-pedestrian signs and crosswalks, I routinely see people having to dodge cars.
It's true that crappy driving in general is a contributing factor here. But I get actually stressed every time I'm in that parking lot, either as a driver or walking to/from the store, and I'm not the only one. I don't have these issues with any other parking lot — not even the one servicing the larger, busier Pittsford Wegmans mothership. The design of the new East Ave lot may be aesthetically pleasing, but ease of use seems to have been sacrificed for some pretty flowers.
And don't even get me started on the fact that every time I go to the store I find it carries at least one less product that I used to buy. — BY ERIC REZSNYAK
Comic Book Heaven
If you're the type to spend any significant amount of time browsing comic-book stores (and I am), you've probably noticed that there's usually a trade-off between selection and organization in most shops. If you've managed to find one with an even halfway decent selection of back issues, it's often a disaster to navigate. Mazes of cluttered racks and shelves are the norm, along with piles of unorganized back issues, and no apparent method behind the madness. Likewise, any clean, well-organized comic store never seems to have what I'm looking for.
Tucked unassumingly in the Upper Falls neighborhood, Comic Book Heaven (938 St. Paul St., 654-7542) is a little gem of a comic-book store that strikes the perfect balance between the two types. Despite the fact that Comic Book Heaven has been around for almost 30 years, I only recently discovered it for myself, when I was trying to track down a particularly hard-to-find issue and decided to see what other options I had in the area. I'm kicking myself for not having found it sooner; it's now my go-to comic shop. The store has an entire wall devoted to current issues, a huge number of trade paperbacks and collected editions, a modest selection of toys, figures, and apparel, but a mammoth collection of back issues. Sure, it may be a little dusty, but whatever you're looking for, there's a good chance you can find it here. Most importantly, it has a friendly owner who's always happy to chat and answer any questions. — BY ADAM LUBITOW
There are plenty of pretty little pocket parks in our city. I'm not thinking of the woodsy, spacious places for long rambles and hikes, but the bitsy resting stops that provide a little green zone amid asphalt and concrete cages, a bench for your weary bones, and a bit of welcome birdsong.
I asked friends and acquaintances for their input on the most beloved, because we all have our favorites. Star Alley, in the South Wedge, was a favorite, with its free music shows and proximity to the popular bar Lux. Others suggested Otto Hendenberg Park, off Fountain Street in the Swillburg Neighborhood, for its gazebo and peacefulness. Votes came in for Washington Grove at Cobbs Hill, for Ellwanger and Barry Park at Linden and Meigs streets, and the Warner Castle Sunken Gardens, between Highland Park and Mount Hope Avenue.
One friend reminded me of Aqueduct Park, a downtown riverside spot just west of the Main Street Bridge, at 23 E. Main St., named for the aqueduct it abuts. I chose it as Best Pocket Park because it's unique in a few ways. The park is a bit hidden away, tucked in a business district between buildings on Grave Street and a calmly flowing leg of the mighty Genesee River, and overlooked by the iconic Mercury statue. Aqueduct Park is a green oasis downtown, with trees, lawns, brick walkways, and picnic benches and tables. It's a favorite lunch spot for downtown employees, a less-crowded place to view holiday fireworks over the river, and host to noontime concerts during the warmer months. Check it out. — BY REBECCA RAFFERTY
Fake Rachel Barnhart (@FakeRachelBarn)
For the past few years an interesting showdown has been building in Best of Rochester's Best Local Twitter Feed category. Local TV journalist Rachel Barnhart is routinely nominated — and this year she won — for her extremely active feed (@rachbarnhart). But just falling short of the Final 4 cut the past two years is a related account: Fake RachelBarnhartt (@FakeRachelBarn), which exists almost solely to bait and criticize the journalist.
On the one hand, I'm sympathetic to Barnhart. She has built an impressive local media brand between her work for Channel 8, her blog The Rochesterian, and her Twitter feed, which has more than 16,000 followers. I'm being sincere when I say that nobody in Rochester media shows more hustle than Barnhart. She takes her work very seriously, and as a professional journalist, she absolutely should.
On the other hand, speaking as a journalist, I think we sometimes need to get our wigs yanked. We need to be held accountable by our readers, viewers, etc. One of the great things about social media is that it took traditional media from being a bullhorn — us shouting to everyone else — and turned it into a discussion. The people who read/watch/listen to the media are now able to yell just as loudly, and they're giving us The Business. I think that if we listen to what they're saying, we can become better at our jobs.
I totally get why actual Rachel Barnhart would bristle at the idea of Fake RachelBarnhartt taking the piss out of her on Twitter. But personally, I'd take it as a compliment — and a sign that I was doing something right. You know what they say about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. And given that sarcasm is the highest form of internet humor, I have to give it up to Fake RachelBarnhartt. (That said, I in no way condone the account's occasional attacks on Barnhart's personal life -- that's low and inappropriate, and arguably sexist. There's absolutely no excuse for that.)
And now I brace myself for the inevitable Fake EricRezsnyak. It will consist solely of whining about PR people and mindless screeds about comic books, shirtless men, and "America's Next Top Model." I can't wait. — BY ERIC REZSNYAK
Rochester Beardsmen Society
Beardo. Hippie. Serpico. Late John Lennon. Your face looks like Robin Williams' knuckles. We've all heard — or made — a joke about somebody with a large beard, but maybe we shouldn't be so quick to poke fun, because there just may be a great person underneath. This is the case with the Rochester Beardsmen Society. You may not have heard of the Beardsmen Society, but these guys are deserving of your attention, and their beards are deserving of our worship.
"The Rochester Beardsmen Society is a group of facial-hair enthusiasts who are dedicated to our wonderful city and helping out our fellow Rochesterians in a grassroots manner," says Beardsmen Society president Trevor Cranmer. "We use our bearded hearts to benefit the local community and team up with local charities and businesses to raise money and awareness for those in need. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find us, maybe you can use the RBS."
If you attended the St. Patrick's Day Parade downtown this year, you may have seen some members walking in the parade. Late this summer the group held the Northeast Regional Beard and Moustache Championships at Water Street Music Hall, which benefitted the Villa of Hope, and the family of the late Jack Schifano, a longtime member. Big beards come with big hearts. For more information check out rocbeardsmen.com. — BY TREVOR LEWIS
"Singing" Tesla Coils at RMSC
The lives and accomplishments of important historic figures are often commemorated with bronze plaques or statues. Serbian-born visionary and inventor Nikola Tesla, who won the bid against other electrical engineers to harness the power of Niagara Falls, is immortalized by statues on either side of the falls.
Repeatedly screwed over by barons of industry such as Thomas Edison — who you could argue was better at being a shady businessman, stealing ideas, and going to extremes to snuff out competition than he was at coming up with functional inventions — Tesla merely turned the other cheek, obsessively and tirelessly concerned with bringing his world-changing ideas to fruition.
Amid conducting experiments that contributed greatly to the development of radio communications, dreaming up improbable yet achievable power systems, and being besties with Mark Twain, Tesla invented an electrical resonant transformer circuit now known as the Tesla Coil, which brings me to the point of this piece. Earlier this year, the Rochester Museum and Science Center (657 East Ave.) opened a new exhibit, the Electricity Theatre, in which the frequencies of two Tesla Coils are manipulated so that they "sing" programmed songs, such as the themes to sci-fi shows "Red Dwarf" and "Star Trek." The operators blast the buzzy notes and bolts of indoor lightning, and then give awesome demos to explore how it all works. That's all I'll say, because you should definitely go see it for yourself. Check schedules and get more information by calling 271-4320 or visiting rmsc.org.
This exhibit remains one of the coolest tributes to Nikola Tesla — at least until the Tesla Science Center at his old laboratory in Shoreham, New York, opens. Eat your heart out, Edison. — BY REBECCA RAFFERTY
Richard Aerni & Carolyn Dilcher-Stutz
It's rare treat to meet a pair of artists who not only stand alone as masterful makers but who also create remarkable collaborative work. It's even more rare to find this dynamic in a couple. Locally based ceramic artists Richard Aerni and Carolyn Dilcher-Stutz fit this description perfectly.
Aerni makes sturdy tableware and vessels in solid, clean forms, adorning the works with sparse textures and marks, and then glazes them with lush universes of color and pattern. His rivers and fields of pigment at times resemble the many and varied terrains of the Earth as seen from high above; the bowls and platters evoke a peaceful feeling of awe, in that nature-worshipping way everyone with a pulse feels. They're beautiful pieces that I'd feel lucky to serve guests from.
I met Carolyn Dilcher-Stutz (Jing Ceramics) almost a decade ago, when I was working in a café frequented by artists, and she was beginning to develop her hand-building style of constructing earthy, rough sketches of animals in clay. From the beginning she's had an innate knack for form and gesture and expression, which has only grown over time. Whether creating a hefty, lounging hare, acrobatic otters, or vignettes of tiny bats in relief, Dilcher-Stutz breathes believable life into the mud.
The collaborative works include vessels made by Aerni, adorned with little animals Dilcher-Stutz has added to lids of jars and lips of bowls and cups, the elegance of the forms complementing one another in every instance. The duo shares a studio in the Hungerford Bulding (1115 E. Main St., door 5, suite 106). See their work there or at carolyndilcherstutz.com and richardaerni.com. — BY REBECCA RAFFERTY
Flower City Follies
I've always had a "born-in-the-wrong-era" romance with the 1920's. Bootlegged hooch, fringed dresses and pearls, dapperly dressed gents and, of course, the Charleston. I want all of them packed together in secretive underground clubs.
The same attitude spawned the specialized dance troupe Flower City Follies, an all-girl jazz group that was born out of Rochester-based Groove Juice Swing. A handful of the gals thought it'd be fun to work on their solo 1920's and 1930's jazz moves sans-partners and formed the group in 2012. Now boasting nearly 20 members, the group performs regularly at Groove Juice's events and most recently at the Rochester Fringe Festival.
The sassy ladies mix phenomenal technique with attitude, sex appeal and a few Lucille Ball-esque antics for good measure, with wickedly entertaining results (the baker routine is particularly fun). The Follies' repertoire is a dancer's paradise, from the classic Charleston to burlesque, and historic choreography like the Shim Sham and Big Apple. These gals shake, shimmy, and twirl with diminutive ease and have seemingly limitless energy.
The Follies schedule is packed with upcoming performances at the Mayday Craft Fair (November 2-3 at the Main Street Armory) and Groove Juice Swing's Red Hot Holiday Ball (December 6 at Visual Studies Workshop). For updates, pics, and videos of their performances, visit facebook.com/FlowerCityFollies. — BY KATHY LALUK
Allyn Van Dusen
I doubt that mezzo-soprano Allyn Van Dusen has ever given an ill-considered or disappointing performance. An Eastman graduate and student of Jan DeGaetani, she shares that great singer's outstanding technique, interpretive imagination, dignified and commanding stage presence, and omnivorous repertoire, and audiences have delighted in it for decades; she has been an active performer in the Rochester area (and elsewhere) since the early 1980's.
Van Dusen has the rich, vibrant lower register you associate with a fine mezzo, but her evenly produced voice can climb into soprano territory with ease and authority. Van Dusen has been heard in just about every kind of music: the "three O's" of opera, operetta, and oratorio; a wide range of recital and song repertoire; everything from brand-new music (such as last spring's Rochester Lyric Opera production of Cary Ratcliff's "Mice and Beans") to "The Sound of Music." And she is wonderful in all of them. — BY DAVID RAYMOND
Pegasus Early Music
A few decades ago, the term "early music" (generally speaking, any music written before J.S. Bach) had the same cachet as brown rice or granola: esoteric stuff that was vaguely good for you, but none too tasty or easy to digest. And as for performing early music, only specialists need apply. Nowadays, performances of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music on period instruments — not to mention instrumentalists and vocalists versed in early performance styles as a matter of course in their studies — are the very enjoyable norm, and a lot of great, previously unknown music has become popular and beloved by audiences.
Early music is a big, and growing, part of the Rochester musical scene, and its signature concert series is probably Pegasus Early Music, which was founded almost a decade ago by the lutenist Deborah Fox, who still directs it. Now in its ninth season, Pegasus is presenting a typically wide variety of music (all the way up to Brahms), imaginative programming, and top-notch local and international musicians. For information visit pegasusearlymusic.org. — BY DAVID RAYMOND
Com Expressao/Capoeira Mandinga Rochester
Behind a nondescript storefront on Sager Drive — an alley-like street between Culver and East Boulevard — students are studying the ancient Brazilian art form of Capoeira at Com Expressao, the school led by Todd "Carcara" Russell.
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. Russell also leads Capoeira Mandinga Rochester, the performance group he formed in 2004. Mandinga has performed at birthdays, weddings, festivals and other social gatherings and has made appearances in local schools, colleges, and community centers; the group has also traveled as far as China and Brazil to present the art form.
Capoeira is defined by quick, complex moves that harness power, speed, and leverage for a variety of kicks, spins, and other techniques. When used for self-defense, it incorporates many low, sweeping moves. When employed for entertainment, there is greater emphasis on high moves and acrobatics such as flips and cartwheels.
Russell became interested in Capoiera during college, eventually studying under Mestre Marcelo Caveirinha before going on to teach the martial-arts form at the University of California, Berkeley. He follows the philosophy that everything we do enhances our understanding of ourselves and the world and teaches students how to accomplish this through movement, emphasizing the development of the simple into the complex, and teaching respect and awareness of surroundings. Classes are available for both children and adults. Visit comexpressao.com for details. — BY CASEY CARLSEN
Recliner Seats at AMC Loews Webster
As a professional film critic, I naturally end up spending a significant amount of my time hanging out in movie theaters. So this year, there was no development in Rochester nearly as exciting and relevant to my interests than the addition of snazzy new recliner seats to the AMC Loews Webster 12 (2190 Empire Blvd.) when the theater remodeled back in May. And I'm clearly not the only one excited about the cushy red pleather seats; a number of you tried voting them into whichever Best Of category you could, from "Best Movie Theater" to "Best Local News Story."
Sadly, since AMC is a national chain, it couldn't actually qualify for an official Best Of Readers Poll award. So that's all the more reason for me to sing the theater's praises here. The new seats bring together the best of both worlds: allowing moviegoers the pleasure of enjoying the sort of luxury you'd typically only find in the comfort of your own living room, but still retaining the communal experience that makes moviegoing so great. Although there is one downside: there are less seats per theater. This is, however, balanced out by the fact that you can now reserve specific seats ahead of time, either online or in-person (although I had to find this out the hard way). — BY ADAM LUBITOW
It's 2 a.m. on a Saturday in Rochester and the dance floor is still full at Vertex Night Club. Ministry, Depeche Mode, Rammstein, and scores of other Goth, Industrial, New Wave 80's, and alternative electronic dance songs have been spun by DJ Darkwave — a.k.a. Steve Prinsen — and danced to by regulars and newcomers alike.
Prinsen has been DJing at the Chestnut Street club for 13 years now. "It's the only club in Rochester that plays this music," he says. "And it's one of the only and oldest gothic/industrial clubs in the country. Usually, clubs devote only one night a month, one night a week at best, to this kind of dance music."
Bartender Erik Larner has been working at Vertex for 11 years, five at the door and six behind the bar; for two of those six he has DJ'ed one night a week. "We have good people here," he said between mixing signature cocktails and chatting with customers. "Some people feel shy about coming to a Goth club, but when they do they are pleasantly surprised by how well they're treated."
Vertex hosts an intriguing mix of people. Old-school Goths in white face make-up and heavy eyeliner chat at the bar with well-dressed guys in suits. Upstairs, women laced into elaborate corsets pulse and writhe under the strobe lights on the dance floor, while others move aggressively to hardcore beats. A girl with a background in belly dance gyrates seductively in bare feet. Amber Marvin of Park Ave Dance Company cuts loose with sharp contemporary moves. There are also folks in jeans and t-shirts having a grand old time. There is no one way to dress at Vertex, no one way to dance.
Patti, who has owned the club for more than 10 years, still thinks of herself first as a bartender and prefers not to reveal her last name in print. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday she handles the downstairs bar alone. She remembers not only the names of all the regulars, but what each of them usually drinks. Another personal connection at this distinctive club. — BY CASEY CARLSEN
Richmond's Root-Beer Float
Root beer as we know it was invented by Philadelphia pharmacist Charles Hires in 1876. Spending countless hours in bars, juke joints, gin mills, gas houses, and music halls in Rochester to report back to all of you on the musical goings on in Rochester for the past 15 years was invented by me back in 1999. Over that period of time I've developed tinnitus, flat feet, and a sore back. And dammit, I'm always thirsty. Sure, some joints have iced tea or in some rare cases (if they see me coming) chocolate milk. Some have root beer in longneck bottles so I can look like a big kid. But for the most part, us non-drink drinkers at entertainment venues are left to piss-flat gun soda, toxic coffee, cranberry juice, or ice water. I should also mention I'm a sucker for dessert. I always leave room, and in some cases, have been known to order it first (hey, life is uncertain). So imagine my surprise when the bartender at the recently reopened Richmond's (21 Richmond St., 270-8570, richmondstavern.com) offered me not just a root beer, but a root-beer float. The skies parted, angels wept, the draught was over. I ordered two. — BY FRANK DE BLASE