Saturday, May 17, 2014

Flooding In Fishers, New York

Yesterday during my lunch break, I was driving past Fishers Park in Fishers, New York, when I noticed that something seemed slightly off.  I had driven by that park hundreds of times before, but this time I got the feeling that the conditions, and perhaps the overall situation, were slightly awry.
"Hmmm...  something strange is going on here," I said to myself.
At first, I couldn't exactly put my finger on it...
"Oh wait, now I see," I exclaimed, as I had my a-ha moment.  "That picnic table is under water.  And that porta-potty is about to float away."
Western New York has had quite a bit of rain during the past few days, and Fishers was hit pretty hard.  The roads were passable for the most part, but everything else was pretty much under water.  Instead of heading directly back to the office, I decided to do what anybody with an iPhone would do on a slow afternoon.  I took a whole bunch of pictures.

And here they are, for your viewing pleasure.  Click on each photo to open up the full size version...

Something didn't look quite right from my car.

Gee, I wonder why the town has the parking lot blocked off.

Hmmm...  Looks like water is preventing the fire department from getting water.
That's ironic.

Perhaps the town needs to call the plumber to fix that port-potty.

The homeowners here may need to wait until tomorrow to mow the back yard.

Great news!  The fire hydrant off in the distance is still accessible.

You can't actually see the stream in this picture.  It's hiding under all that water.

This homeowner had the foresight to build the shed on top of a cliff.

Look closely at the farthest land mass.  There's a crane or heron standing there.

View from the new bridge on the Auburn Trail Extension, just south of Powdermill Park.

Is that a covered bridge, a gazebo, or a boat?  Yes...  Yes it is.

Cool...  The panorama setting on my iPhone actually works!

And finally, a view of the Auburn Trail Extension, which is on high enough ground that it escaped the flood waters.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Owl House Brunch...

Kicking Ass and Taking Names from 11 am to 3 pm
every Saturday and Sunday

In my recent review of the Owl House, I mentioned their weekend brunch, which has earned an overwhelmingly positive reputation, and I promised to report back sometime once we’d given it a try. This past Sunday became ‘sometime’, we gave it a try, and I’m happy to report that it was just as good as advertised.

No need to rehash all the general details of the Owl House, as you can find that information in my initial review. Let’s get right to the meat of our experience… (er, perhaps the vegan meat of the experience… more specifically, the ‘maple tempeh bacon’ of the experience, on this particular day).

During my college years, going out for breakfast became one of my favorite pastimes, and I have to admit that I’ve devoured endless variations of Denny’s infamous Grand Slam over the years, as well as an obscenely large quantity of western omelets.

The highlight of this period was a cram session for my Biology 101 final exam at Denny’s in East Brunswick, New Jersey, with my roommate Ros. This predictably non-productive outing involved a pair of Lumberjack Slams, Neil A. Campbell’s Biology: Third Edition, approximately seventeen cups of coffee, and several tabs of Vivarin. By the time we returned to the Rutgers campus and took our seats in Loree Hall for the final, I was so wired that I promptly fell asleep only seven questions into the exam, quietly drifting off into a peaceful face-plant directly onto page two of my question booklet.

Almost three hours later, I awoke with a start, realizing that I had just shy of five minutes left to complete the exam. Hastily, I filled in alternating ‘B’ and ‘C’ answers for questions eight through one hundred on my answer sheet, handed in my exam with about forty-three seconds to spare, and left Loree Hall with my head held down in shame. Ros, if you’re reading this, please join me for a double face-palm as together we reflect upon this foolish ordeal. At that point in my life, wolfing down greasy mounds of eggs, bacon, and chicken-fried steak was clearly the least of my worries.

No, I'm not a Trekkie.  But I thought this was apropos.

Now that we’re eating plant-based for the most part, finding restaurants with breakfast options is a bit more challenging, but not impossible. As is the case with its superb lunch and dinner offerings, the Owl House makes an admirable effort to satisfy vegans, omnivores, and carnivores alike.

A quick glance at the menu revealed a number of promising options, including vegan stuffed French toast, fruit-topped vegan waffles, and several different variations of a tofu scramble. If you’re new to the vegan breakfast scene, the best place to begin just may be the Owl’s Breakfast, which includes two eggs or scrambled veggie tofu, applewood smoked bacon or maple tempeh bacon, as well as home fries and a side of toast. As we learned early on in our plant-based journey, tofu can substitute so seamlessly for scrambled eggs that even those with the most discerning palates will barely notice a difference.

This being our first trip for brunch, my wife played it safe and decided on the vegan version of the Owl’s Breakfast. As I carefully perused my options, I found the vegan fruit-topped waffle to be extremely tempting. But I ultimately opted for the Green Giant Tofu Scramble, which included seasoned tofu scrambled with broccoli and Brussels sprouts, topped with pickled red onions and garlic, along with toast and a side of home fries. At one point in my life, I was a pancake and waffle hound, but I knew that a savory entree was more likely to leave my demanding belly feeling satisfied.

Overall, we were both very impressed with our meals, which is not surprising, considering that it really takes effort and careful planning to screw up breakfast. When preparing a tofu scramble, the biggest potential pitfalls are under-seasoning and excess oil and grease, but this wasn’t the case with either of our dishes. Both scrambles were nicely seasoned and light on the oil. As I noted earlier, my Green Giant scramble was topped with pickled onions and garlic, which added a welcomed dimension of tanginess to the overall composition of the scramble.

The Green Giant Tofu Scramble...  served with a Not-So-Giant side of home fries.

My decision to order the side of maple tempeh bacon was simply inspired out of sheer curiosity. While I certainly enjoyed bacon, sausage, and other breakfast meats many years ago, I’ve never had any affinity for soy items that have been molded and formed to resemble their meat-based counterparts. As such, I typically order said meat-shaped wannabes with extremely low expectations. If I discover something that I actually enjoy, I simply consider it a bonus. In this case, I thought the maple tempeh bacon was… pretty good.

Rounding out our spread were two slices of multi-grain toast, as well as a meager portion of home fries. The toast was very good, and our server earned extra points for automatically substituting Earth Balance buttery spread in place of regular butter, knowing that we ordered the tofu version of our respective dishes. As for the potatoes, they were really good. However, I could have easily eaten two to three times the amount that arrived on my plate.

As I noted in my review of dinner last week, portion control was also an issue with their appetizers, but even my wife was able to give them a mulligan for this.
“Appetizers aren’t supposed to be huge,” she had pointed out. “They’re simply meant to whet your appetite, tide you over, and get you primed for the main course.”
She’s one hundred percent right.

However, breakfast is a different story, as every entrée should automatically be accompanied by a hearty portion of home fries... no questions asked. Especially for us crazy vegans who rely even more on starches and complex carbs to satisfy our energy and protein needs, a mammoth pile of home fries is always a welcome sight.

Come on, guys! When the menu indicates that an entree is served with home fries, I expect more than three forkfuls. Some of the fruit-covered waffles that passed by our table were the size of an assault helicopter. All I’m asking is that you spread some of that love and generosity to your fried spuds department.

Again, a minor quibble in what was an overall enjoyable brunch. Upon our next visit, I’m pretty sure I’ll order the breakfast nachos or a fruit-topped waffle to serve as a prelude to my main course. That way, I’ll be less likely to go hungry if home fries are still on the endangered species list.

Ending on a positive note, the Owl House will keep your mug filled with an endless supply of java courtesy of Joe Bean Coffee Roasters - Rochester’s premier artisan coffee roaster. And finally, if you’re in a celebratory mood, you can order a drink from the list of breakfast cocktails. I’m not much of a Bloody Mary fan myself, but the Put Up Your Dukes (Joe Bean Coffee, Vegan Bourbon Cream, and Black Walnut Bitters) sounds intriguing. Definitely worth a try on our next visit.

The Owl House serves brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Visit their website at the link below to view their full menu and make online reservations:

Please note that this was actually taken at Joe Bean Coffee Roasters
and not at the Owl House.  I just liked the picture, that's all.