November 27, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 40°F


Ithaca recognized for local food

Highlighting Moosewood Restaurant, the Ithaca Farmers Market and Purity Ice Cream in its October issue, Bon Appétit magazine named Ithaca one of “America’s Foodiest Towns.”

Boulder, Colo., was named the top town by the gourmet food magazine, followed by Ithaca, which tied for second place with McMinnville, Ore., Big Sur, Calif., Traverse City, Mich., and Louisville, Ky.

From left, Jan Flessa, Doreen Finger and Marion Hillary wait for their meals Monday at Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca. RACHEL ORLOW/THE ITHACAN

According to the magazine, a “foodie town”  has less than 250,000 inhabitants and “quality farmers’ markets, concerned farmers, dedicated food media, first-rate restaurants, talented food artisans and a community of food lovers.”

Moosewood was founded in 1973, and its 11 cookbooks brought the restaurant national and international acclaim. In the past, Bon Appétit has named the restaurant one of the 13 most influential of the 20th century.

Dave Dietrich, one of 19 collective owners of Moosewood, said the restaurant often serves Ithaca visitors looking to eat at Moosewood.

“It is amazing to us,” he said. “Sometimes we have people from places in Europe or Australia visiting the United States who make a point to come visit Ithaca and Moosewood.”

The Ithaca Farmers Market, founded in 1973, the same year as Moosewood, has grown to 150 vendors who live within 30 miles of the city. The market attracts 5,000 visitors each day it is open and stays open throughout the year — even during the area’s cold winter season.

Teresa Vanek, who sells produce at the market from her farm, Red Tail Farm in Trumansburg, N.Y., said the market provides locals with fresh food that is impossible to replicate anywhere else.

“You’ll never get anything as fresh as the farmers market,” she said “People actually appreciate that quality here. They will pay for it.”

Vanek also said the market offers locals unique foods that many have not tasted before.

“We bring a lot of interesting and extremely fresh product to market,” she said. “A lot of stuff people are trying for the first time or have heard about and want to try.”

Purity Ice Cream has been a fixture of the Ithaca community for almost 75 years. Its main location is on Meadow Street, but Purity’s ice cream, made from an original recipe, can be found at many other places throughout the area, including Ithaca College dining halls.

Co-owner Heather Lane purchased the business with her husband in 1998. She said she has fond memories of visiting the store as a child and had ideas to make it better.

“If you’ve lived here all your life, Purity was a tradition,” she said. “That’s just where you went after sports, after concerts, with your family on a hot night — we love the ice cream.”

Bruce Stoff, marketing communications manager for the Ithaca Visitors Bureau, said Ithaca College and Cornell University are vital to the vibrant culinary culture of Ithaca.

“I’d say flat out, without the colleges, the food scene wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Dietrich said college students provide local restaurants with a steady stream of visitors who are looking to go out for their meals.

“If you only have locals, they only come out as a treat or out of some necessity,” he said.”

Judging the quality of food in Ithaca against the food of her hometown of Lansdale, Pa., junior Molly Brown said there is no comparison.

“Food in Ithaca is way better than food in my hometown,” Brown said. “In my hometown, it is all chain restaurants. The food here can appeal to any culture.”

Stoff said he was pleased that Ithaca was mentioned alongside much larger cities.

“It’s very cool when a magazine like Bon Appétit mentions Ithaca,” Stoff said. “As a small town you don’t get that kind of recognition from a major publication often.”

Staff writers Matt Biddle and Amanda Fox contributed to this article.