New York Wine and Culinary Center – A Finger Lakes Hidden Foodie Gem

The New York Wine and Culinary Center should be a mecca for foodies in New York.  It’s a non-profit showcase of the rich bounty of New York State food, wine, beer, and agriculture.  Are you a fan of cooking shows like those on Food Network?  Then you’d love to sit in on a demonstration in the educational theater, take one of the 400 classes in the hands on kitchen, or just savor the delicious gourmet food (90% New York State grown) in the Upstairs Bistro.  Our family visited the New York Wine and Culinary Center on Easter Sunday for a brunch that included bunnies to pet, an Easter egg hunt, and, most of all, amazingly prepared dishes.  Continue reading for more about our family’s experience and why you should make the trek to this New York culinary treasure.

New York Wine and Culinary Center

The New York Wine and Culinary Center opened in 2006 to celebrate year-round the finest in New York State food and beverage.  The Center is located just south of Rochester, NY, and overlooks the tranquil and pristine Canandaigua Lake.  A wrap around deck allows you to soak in the views while sipping a New York beverage.

New York Wine and Culinary Center

The décor of the Upstairs Bistro is Arts and Crafts/Mission-style and covered with gorgeous, warm, gorgeous, rich woods; the tables had wide, comfortable leather chairs you could sink into while enjoying your meal.

New York Wine and Culinary Center

Easter Brunch was a three course Prix Fixe meal for $35/person (kids could order separately off a children’s menu).  Each dish was individually prepared, and nothing was warming on a long buffet table.  Looking over the menu, our eyes widened, and we knew we were in for a treat.  Everyone began with the Panettone French Toast served with fresh berries, maple syrup, and Mascarpone.  I never would have thought to serve Panettone in a French Toast style, and the rich Mascarpone cheese was a decadent accompaniment.  Our only “complaint” was that the berries were probably not from New York – a family joke considering how winter is lingering in the area.

New York Wine and Culinary Center - Panettone French Toast

Because “Adventures by Daddy” is not really a restaurant review site, I don’t want to go into a detailed food review.  Suffice it to say the dishes we had were all delicious and expertly prepared including:

Lobster Mac & Cheese with English peas and Truffle bread crumbs,

New York Wine and Culinary Center - Lobster Mac & Cheese

Steak & Eggs Benedict with sauteed spinach and classic Béarnaise,

New York Wine and Culinary Center - Steak & Eggs Benedict

and Braised Lamb Shank with caramelized Cipollini onions, roasted tomatoes, Portobello mushrooms, red potatoes in a red wine rosemary Jus.

New York Wine and Culinary Center - Braised Lamb Shank

Our youngest daughter (age 12) was not interested in the fine dining and opted for chicken fingers and french fries.  She even ooooh’d and aaaah’d over her meal (and believe me, she knows her chicken fingers).  At one point she handed me a fry imploring, “you have to try this, they are so crispy and good!”  We noticed during the meal there was no salt, pepper, or other condiments on the table – you didn’t need them.  Every dish was perfectly seasoned.

The meal and service were very relaxed giving the girls time to participate in the Easter egg hunt (they didn’t find any eggs – don’t get in the way of the littler kids and their Easter eggs) and pet the bunnies.  “The bunnies are so soft, it’s like petting a cloud,” Evie proclaimed.  She didn’t buy my joke that the bunnies were there for guests to pick out what rabbit they wanted for dinner – you know, like a lobster tank.  Mmmmm, Hasenpfeffer…

New York Wine and Culinary Center

Between the four of us, we tried all three desserts on the menu including:

House Made Carrot Cake with Rum Raisin Ice Cream,

New York Wine and Culinary Center - Carrot Cake

Strawberry Mousse with White Chocolate and Almond Bark,

New York Wine and Culinary Center - Strawberry Mousse

and the Chocolate Covered Cherry Gelée Tart Cherry Gastrique.

New York Wine and Culinary Center - Chocolate Covered Cherry Gelée

The only dish we didn’t care for was the chocolate covered cherry gelée, but not because it wasn’t well prepared.  I’m not a huge fan of chocolate covered cherries, but wanted to try something different and was curious about the gelée.  That’s the beauty of the New York Wine and Culinary Center – stretching your culinary horizons.  I gave it a try, and that was enough for me.  The whole family enjoyed our visit to the New York Wine and Culinary Center.  We had a delicious, leisurely brunch, never felt rushed, and my wife said it was the best brunch she’s had in 5 years.

Is the center worth the trip?  Definitely.  Canandaigua is a wonderful place to visit, and is a major Finger Lakes destination in the summer months.  You could spend a good portion of your day at the New York Wine and Culinary Center.  Take a class, watch a demo, and finish your day at the Upstairs Bistro.  There are culinary classes for all levels from kids, to families, guy-focused, baking & pastry, wine & beer, couples – you name it.  You’re bound to find something that fits your family.  We definitely plan on heading back and try the “Baking is Family Time” or “Chef’s Kitchen: Couple’s Class.”  If you’re in the area, you owe it to yourself to visit the New York Wine and Culinary Center.  If you’re not in the area, it makes a perfect addition to a New York State Finger Lakes getaway.

New York Wine and Culinary Center

So what do you think?  Have you visited the New York Wine and Culinary Center?  If so, what was your experience?  Do you agree it’s a hidden gem?  Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

Disclosure: “Adventures by Daddy” was hosted by the New York Wine and Culinary Center for the purposes of writing this report.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.