Cheshire Cat Conjunction

For much of the winter Mars has held position in the evening sky, setting around 8 pm. At the same time bright Venus has been moving higher in the western sky, climbing out of the sunset twilight and passing Mars in February. On the 21st of February Mars and Venus were separated by less than half a degree, a close conjunction. The day before the pair were joined by a very thin crescent moon, making a very photogenic grouping in the night sky. The pairing of Venus and the dimmer Mars looked to many like eyes over a smile- Alice’s Cheshire Cat, nearly invisible except it’s smile.

Watkins Glen Winter Views

We made a quick trip to Watkins Glen on a day that alternated between snow squalls and sunshine. While Keuka Lake’s eastern branch is largely frozen over, Seneca Lake is ice free. Susan had a meeting at the Schuyler Chamber office, so I took the camera over to the harbor area. A snow flurry passed quickly and I walked out on the pier. The clouds and soft sunlight provided dramatic lighting as I took a few shots, and then it was back to the car to get out of the wind!

While watching gulls bobbing and wheeling in the wind, I noticed a much larger bird joining them. A young adult Bald Eagle was cruising over the marina, playing with the wind. I made a quick lens change and hopped out to try to catch a picture of the eagle, by which time it was much higher and overhead. An adult eagle with bright white head and tail was keeping station to the east, but it didn’t get close enough for a photo.

Bald eagle over Watkins Glen
A young adult Bald Eagle cruising over the Watkins Glen marina.

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Keuka Artisan Bakery

Keuka Artisan Bakery
Keuka Artisan Bakery has a selection of cookies and pastries, as well as their specialty loaves.

We often find out about attractions in the area from our guests. We usually don’t get to check them out until the off season. This is true of Keuka Artisan Bakery & Deli- we have been hearing about the great treats and sandwiches they make for a couple of years, but have missed connecting with their winter hours. We needed to find lunch in Hammondsport while running errands recently and found the bakery open in the mid-afternoon. We decided to share a Reuben sandwich and a Beef-on-Weck and settled in while the owner, John DiBona went to work on the order. John apologized for the delay while preparing the sandwiches- he was working alone and had to answer the phone and help the stream of traffic coming in. We were not in a hurry and enjoyed checking out the sights and smells of the bakery.

It is a small shop with cheerful, warm colors. A glass display case has pastries and cookies, and  shelves in the back have loaves of bread from the day’s bake (and the weekly baking schedule). As he worked the owner explained that they source their ingredients locally, and much of the flour is from organic grain grown in the Finger Lakes.

Keuka Artisan Bakery's Beef-on-Weck
Keuka Artisan Bakery makes some terrific sandwiches- this is their Beef-on-Weck, served with a healthy dose of potent horseradish.

We settled in to one of the colorful and whimsical tables as the sandwiches arrived, and they did not disappoint.  The Reuben had a light and fragrant rye bread, and it disappeared before the camera could record it. Beef-on-Weck is a western New York specialty that sees various interpretations. Traditionally it has slices of rare beef on a kimmelweck roll- a variety of kaiser roll that is topped with salt crystals and caraway seeds- and served with horseradish. The Artisan Bakery version has French roll with the caraway and salt, a more substantial and flavorful choice  over the  kaiser roll. They also give a large portion of old-school horseradish.

Spent-grain bread
This is Keuka Artisan Bakery’s Spent Grain loaf, one of their popular specialty loaves.The bread is slightly sweet, with a soft texture, and appealing fragrance.

We enjoyed visiting with John as we savored our lunch.  His description of the way the bakery evolved is very much a Finger Lakes story- he and his wife Deb, trained in European styles of baking, loved the area and settled in to open the bakery. Much like the wine makers in the area, they have grown and adapted to the rhythms and climate of the area and have developed a strong following with the locals as well as visitors.

The Artisan Bakery & Deli is at 49 Shethar Street in Hammondsport (on the south end of Keuka Lake.) Their web presence can be found on Facebook.


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