Our favorite sweet & savory bites and small sips around town.
Bite of Ithaca is an annual event where Ithaca restaurants offer up small plates for $5. We like to spend the evening on a delicious restaurant crawl, ordering multiple bites at each spot, eventually adding up to a full meal. (Not unlike the walking food tours we lead, actually!) For the past three days we’ve eaten our way through over half of the 21 participating restaurants, so we’re pleased to share our Top 5 Bites with you to help guide your culinary exploration. Bite of Ithaca continues through Saturday night, 6/22 – so don’t wait, go eat!
All the Bites at Bickering Twins Restaurant
Before you give us a hard time for not choosing just one Bite here, please note that it took great self-control not to make this entire list about the five bites at Bickering Twins. These dishes stand out from the crowd for their engaging flavors. And instead of taking the easy route and offering up chips and salsa, the twins are serving special dishes not found on their regular menu!
Summer Salad: Fresh sliced strawberries tossed in a bed of arugula. Topped with crunchy candied almonds, fresh Mexican cheese, dressed w/ mint-lime vinaigrette.
Esquites: Charred corn sauteed w/ poblanos, onions, and garlic. Tossed w/ lime juice, mayo, cilantro and topped w/ Mexican crema and sprinkle of chili.
Garnachas: 2 corn-masa “shells” pureed w/ butternut squash and filled with refried beans, chorizo, potato, cabbage, homemade queso fresco and Mexican crema.
Fried Calamari: Fried calamari served with a fresh and spicy poblano-serrano dipping sauce.
The Commons Kitchen: Zaalouk
The Commons Kitchen opened last year serving both American sandwiches and Morrocan entrees. Unfortunately, the those Mediterranean dishes were served inconsistently, and at one point left the menu altogether. Which is why we’re so excited to see a full selection of Morrocan specialties – from tajines to couscous to kabobs – being featured again. During Bite of Ithaca you can sample an array of these appetizers; for our part, the Zaalouk was the favorite.
Falafel – deep fried spiced chickpeas
Zaalouk – roasted eggplant with tomato, cilantro, olive oil
Hummus – chick peas mashed into a paste with lemon and tahini
Grape Leaves – stuffed with rice, fresh dill, mint, and lemon
Rashida Sawyer Bakery: Carrot Cake
My brother’s favorite cake is carrot cake, so we’ve eaten carrot cake every birthday for the last 21 years. Even though I don’t like to pick a favorite cake, I have definitely developed a soft spot for this flavor. Rashida Sawyer Bakery is the recent reincarnation of Rashida’s Deluxe Baked Goods: a local baker much-loved in the 80’s and 90’s for her simple yet high-quality cakes. The new bakery is a family affair, with cousins, spouses, and parents all involved.
You can read about their story in the column I write for Tompkins Weekly, “Food For Thought”.
While they don’t have a storefront – yet – they are popping up at the Hilton Garden Inn from 6:00 – 10:00pm, Thursday through Saturday during Bite of Ithaca. If you have a sweet tooth, definitely stop by.
The Rashida Sawyer Cheesecake
The Rashida Sawyer Carrot Cake
The Rashida Sawyer Pound Cake
White Cake with “The Frosting”
Luna Inspired Street Food: Fusion Duck Wings
We’re partial to this Bite because we feature a similar dish at Luna Inspired Street Food during our Science of Taste Food Tour! These duck fat fried duck wings have been updated with a slightly spicy rub which nicely complements the dark meat. Even better, the wings are sourced from Schrader Farms in Romulus, New York: an example of Luna’s globally-inspired flavors with regionally-sourced ingredients. Satisfyingly crunchy charred broccolini and a bright and salty mango salsa make this one of the most well-balanced Bites we’ve tried all week!
Fusion Duck Wings: Lightly fried drumettes tossed in a house blend of duck fat, fresh parsley, fresh garlic & red pepper. Served over charred broccolini and fresh mango salsa.
Sweet Melissa's at Press Bay Alley: Svante's Inferno Milkshake
If Sweet Melissa’s hard ice cream has any reputation, it’s that of ever-changing and incredibly creative flavors. While you can find some hard ice cream at their Shortstop outpost, the Press Bay Alley location boasts a wider variety of flavors plus special items like milkshakes and baked goods. The milkshakes are their featured Bite and range from Matcha Oreo and Egg Nog to Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Chocolate Orange. For us, there was no question: we ordered Svante’s Inferno, a sweet and spicy flavor named after Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.
Svante’s Inferno: chocolate and cayenne milkshake in a caramel-drizzled cup.