The slow food movement you say?
Of course. Yeah, it can begin in your neighborhood. It’s simple. You or others, grow local food, eat local, and support local businesses or farmers doing the same thing.
And no, it’s not something you have to be a hipster to do or understand. Again, it’s simple, just be mindful of where your food comes from and what you’re putting into your body.
So this past weekend I went to a restaurant that brings some of these ideas to the table literally. Niles Gourmet Bistro, in Moravia, N.Y., puts backbone and some emphasis on this movement.
When I pulled up the driveway I was quickly greeted by Cucina, the friendly canine calling the country property nearby her home, I felt easy; placid; cozy. Mostly, I immediately felt at home. Cucina showed me the way in and then went on her way, but as I was walking up the driveway I caught a glimpse of the restaurant’s claim to fame, the outdoor brick oven.
Walking through the door to this rustic cabin, I was greeted by Eric, owner and cook of Niles Gourmet Bistro. At that moment I just remember being amazed by this simple lodge. The sun was setting, evening sunrays beaming through the western windows and side door. Taking a quick look around and noticing the dark, wood walls, worn-in hardwood floors, it all gave this little cabin life and a beautiful lived in charisma.
Now the slow food movement, to me, is just as much about atmosphere as it is about food. Because, after Eric took me to the cooler to personally show me their selection of beers, he sat me outside on the beautiful open-air porch. This dining section, situated next to rows of flowers and wooded landscape, with a faint view of Skaneateles Lake, is where I could smell the wood from the brick oven fire. Then and there, I knew I was some place different, off the beaten path. Eric brought my drink, opened it and set down a glass.
Pouring my stout I felt a soothing relaxation come over me, just the same as I did when I was visiting the island of Crete. On that famous Greek island everything is open air in the natural landscape, surrounded by the sea, the sun, and olive and fig trees.
Obviously a little different at Niles Gourmet Bistro, but I did get the simplistic island vibe there as well. Eric continually stepped in and out with orders, including a delicious mussel bisque, drizzled with olive oil, served with spicy pepper bread. On another trip he brought out smoked-trout pate, razor-thin sliced salmon and citrus on a bed of arugula. Yet again, Eric brought out smoky, braised pork shank with exceptionally nutty flavored grains. A perfect balance and combination to this locally inspired dish.
Eric was not just running in and out, hand and foot serving, catering to my every whim. We had conversations, not just small talk. He gave me viewpoints, I countered. There were anecdotes and insight from his life as well as mine. Not just a dining experience, I was also making a friend.
This whole meal was a complete sensory experience at a back
road, rural cabin, where I was eating powerfully inspired dishes, in a remarkable setting. All the while conversing and taking in the captivating smells of the dishes, flowers and being visually inspired by the locale and each presentation.
Touching and tasting the food may have been the most optimal observations. But feeling the wood floor beneath my bare feet, hearing birds fluttering and singing, put me at peace.
Eric brought around desert. Molasses and ginger gelato. Yes. Beyond satisfying. And yet I wanted more. Not more food, but I craved human experience. So I asked Eric if he would show me the brick oven all of the marvelous dishes disembark from.
After meeting the head chef of Niles Gourmet Bistro, Sandie, Eric’s wife, who I thanked profusely for her enlivened dishes. Eric took me around the corner to show me the oven, next to Sandie, the the number two workhorse of the restaurant. Explaining how he built the earthen cooker and the method of cooking in decreasing temperature. Soon after, I thanked him and in my thoughts gave thanks to earth for sharing its bounty with me.
Niles Gourmet Bistro maintains local ties in obtaining its local ingredients, and everything is made in house from scratch by Sandie. The intimate atmosphere, including conversations with Eric and his wife, is part of the dining experience. And overall a part of eating the slow food way.
Take it all in. Enjoy your food, but enjoy, most of all, the experience.