Happy Trails

Exploring New York’s food and beverage trails

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

What pairs well with crisp fall air and beautiful foliage? A tasty meal and delicious beverage.

The craft food and craft beverage industries are strong in Central New York, fostering the many food and beverage trails available to tourists both from home and far away.

Each Finger Lake — plus lakes Ontario and Erie — boasts a wine trail.

In addition, there are also the Finger Lakes Beer Trail, Rochester/Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Trail, Cazenovia Beverage Trail, Central New York Food and Beverage Trail, Heart of New York Craft Beverage Trail (Utica), 1000 Islands Craft Beverage Trail, Cooperstown Beverage Trail, Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail, and more.

Owing to the nature of the trails, many tour companies provide transportation for these trails so patrons can imbibe safely.

New York is also home to numerous specialty foods on their own food trails, including the Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail (Cayuga County), Finger Lakes Cheese Trail (Interlaken), and Finger Lakes Ice Cream Trail (Ithaca), among others.

If you’re on a weekend trip elsewhere in the state, follow the local food or beverage trail to see what’s available. You may find a new favorite you never expected. Or, you could plan your weekend trip around a trail so that you will have time to explore each stop.

All self-guided tours — unless you’re a part of a transportation-provided tour where it’s a premade route — the various trails help visitors connect venues of similar interest and maybe discover a place they haven’t tried before. But if driving an entire tour in one day isn’t your style, it’s OK to do half a trail one day and do more another. Or skip a few places that don’t appeal to you.

But if you’re ready for a day-long outing, following a guide can also help you get out and enjoy the good weather while we still have it. If you plan your own tour, look for other things to do in the area to enhance the trip and make a full day of exploration.

Richard ONeil, owner of Travel Choice International in Syracuse, recommends both the Cayuga and Seneca wine trails.

“Both of those have a lot of activities other than just wineries,” ONeil said. “Seneca Falls have a number of things you can do. Sauder’s is a Mennonite market where you can buy a lot of interesting goods. Plus, there’s the Women’s Rights National Historical Park open Tuesday and Thursday, Women’s Hall of Fame and there are a lot of good restaurants.”

The other Finger Lakes wine trails — Keuka Lake Wine Trail and the Canandaigua Wine Trail — are also just a short day trip away:

Cayuga’s Sweet Treat Trail features 15 stops where tourists can buy and sample the local delicacies and farm goodies, like honey, jam, cookies, syrup, ice cream and more.

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail, off Route 90, near Geneva, “is another wonderful area where there are lots of great wineries,” said Tracy Hogarth, owner of Blue Zaria, a travel business in Syracuse. “F.L.X. Table in Geneva is a fantastic restaurant, though you’ll need reservations. They have a nice waterfront where you can go for a walk along Seneca Lake.”

USA Today named F.L.X. Table as the Best New Restaurant in spring 2017.

The entire Seneca Lake trail includes more than 50 wineries, but several are clustered around the lake’s north end near Geneva.

ONeil recommends perusing food and beverage trails Monday through Friday.

“You’ll have less crowds,” he said. “If you have internet access, look them up before you go to see if they’re open. It’s going to be a different type of trip than what you’ve done before and no one will know what it will be 30 days from now.”

Venues’ social media pages will likely display more up-to-date information than websites.

Most of the stops along the trails offer more than a unique shop, but also tastings, samples, scenic vistas and more reasons to linger a little longer. It’s about more than just shopping, so slow down and savor the journey.

For a complete map of New York’s food and beverage trails, visit https://taste.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2019/06/TasteNYTrail%20Map6.19.pdf. Check each site’s COVID-19 guidelines before making plans.

Photo: Tasting room at Tug Hill Winery in Lowville. One of many places in Upstate to samples local wines.