Posts Tagged ‘ food ’

Sideshow performer sets up solo act in food truck industry

Previously published on Premiere, Ithaca’s Art and Entertainment Publication. 

On the chilly morning of Dec. 3, steam pours from the open hatch of the Circus Truck as J.P. Vico prepares breakfast burritos for two of his regular customers. Vico’s is just one of eight food trucks in Ithaca currently dishing up mouthwatering cuisine from their mobile kitchens.

Click here to see what's cooking in Ithaca!

Click here to see what’s cooking in Ithaca!

Crepe Photo Courtesy Mark Anbinder

As the name suggests, the truck is a symbol of not only his passion for cooking, but also sideshow performing, Vico said. When it gets dark enough, he projects old black and white films showcasing circus performances for customers to enjoy while they chow down on alla vodka pasta — a ‘velvety homemade tomato cream sauce accented with vodka’ — or a seitan (gluten wheat) reuben sandwich.

Vico is left with a bad taste in his mouth, however, due to the city’s lack of a mobile vending permit policy hindering his operation. He and other truck owners have been left to negotiate with private property owners for places to set up shop. When a new building development forced him out of his original location on the corner of Seneca Street and State Route 13, he moved to the parking lot outside the Finger Lakes Beverage Center on West Green Street.

“The only reason this truck has even survived here a couple months is because the people who already knew about it from before [keep coming back],” Vico said.

Though Vico sits alone in the West Green Street parking lot, others are also caught in the food truck dilemma.

Amanda Beem-Miller, co-owner of The Good Truck, offering a Mexican-inspired menu that features seasonal and local ingredients, is one of the founding members of the Ithaca Food Truck Association, which began a year ago on Dec. 15.

“My business partner and I had spent years cooking for other people, and we really wanted to do our own thing,” she said. “This was the most economically viable way to have our own business.”

Without a permit in place, mobile vendors are barred from operating on city streets and property, with the exception of a special permitting process for The Commons.

In the meantime, The Good Truck owners, along with other food truck proprietors, worked with the city to create a pilot program that allows for vendors to operate at specific times on public property. This led to the weekly Food Truck Round Up at Thompson Park on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.

“There’s a philosophy in business, especially in food, that the more choices there are, the more people we can get to come,” Beem-Miller said.

Mark Anbinder, a food writer and editor of 14850 Dining, agreed. He said he understands the brick and mortar restaurants’ concerns of increased competition, but thinks there is a benefit to be gained by boosting an area’s attractiveness with more variety.

“It’s also true, maybe especially in Ithaca’s neighborhoods, that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ When there are attractive eateries in an area, people get used to going there for food, so for example I don’t see the Circus Truck taking away from Maxie’s and On the Street, even though they’re in the same area. I see it as one more option that makes people think of heading to the West End for food,” Anbinder said.

A vote on the pending permit proposal is planned for the Board of Public Works meeting on Dec. 9.

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John Vogan and Alexandra Leslie are senior Journalism majors at Ithaca College. You can reach them at johncvogan@gmail.com and adleslie13@gmail.com. 

Ithaca Farmers Market Celebrates 40 Years

The Ithaca Farmers Market has several locations, aside from its main market at Steamboat Landing.

The Ithaca Farmers Market has several locations, aside from its main market at Steamboat Landing.

Kristof Ostlund and his crew set up his burrito stand, Solaz, at the Ithaca Farmers Market in 15 minutes, but they don’t start serving until every member of the crew has eaten. Ostlund makes a burrito about every 35 seconds; six hours at the Saturday market means Ostlund and his crew use over 700 tortillas.

Ostlund is one of over 160 vendors at the award-winning Ithaca Farmers Market, which celebrated its 40th anniversary October 27. The Ithaca Farmers Market hosts local produce, baked goods, crafts and wine vendors that sell on one or all of the five market days.

The Ithaca Farmers Market began with a collection of vendors coming together to sell produce in the parking lot of Agway on South Fulton Street. Since 1973, the market has moved five times and expanded to four separate locations besides the main market at Steamboat Landing.

The biggest challenge the market currently faces is making space for all the vendors at Steamboat Landing, and for visitors in the parking lot. Open five days a week, 52 weeks a year, the market often attracts well over 5,000 people a day.

“Now we have a pavilion at a major waterfront site and we’re one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area and one of the most important markets in the area too,” said Aaron Munzer, Assistant Manager of the Ithaca Farmers Market.

Diane Eggert, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York said, “The Ithaca Farmers Market has set an example – the quality of products, the relationships with consumers as a whole – they’ve really served as a role model [for other farmers markets].”

There are markets in other towns, but the Ithaca Farmers Market was a success here because farmers found Ithaca had a large, reliable customer base where people regularly wanted to purchase their produce. The Ithaca Farmers Market is among 600 farmers markets in New York State.

While this may not be different from other farmers markets, it is important for farmers to have direct access to consumers and sell at retail prices because it “provides farmers with a higher profit margin than more traditional marketing outlets,” according to research done by the Farmers Market Federation of New York.

The Ithaca Farmers Market does not solely cater to organic growers, it plays a big part in the local food movement, as all of its vendors must have products grown and raised within 30 miles of the main market at Steamboat Landing, as set by the IFM Board of Directors.

“We don’t really have a role in the organic food movement, but I would say we are part of the local foods movement and I think that’s almost more important,” Munzer said. “Buying locally keeps the economy vibrant and healthy and folks are able to have viable farms.”

Ostlund gets organic black beans for his burritos from Potenza Organic Produce in Trumansburg, and other produce from his neighbor at the weekend market.

“Some products are local and some aren’t,” Ostlund said, “It just depends on the time of year and what’s available.”

While some market locations in Ithaca close in the upcoming weeks, the Ithaca Farmers Market remains open year-round. Ostlund is one vendor who sells at a few markets several weeks out of the year, but in his off-season from January to March he does income taxes for H&R Block.

“Doing somebody else’s taxes is like some huge puzzle you have to solve, it’s really neat. Doing your own taxes sucks,” Ostlund said as he made a customer’s burrito.

Solaz has been at the farmers market for 24 years, but from 1993 to 2001, Ostlund owned Coyote Loco, now Agava Restaurant, on Pine Tree Road in Ithaca.

Though Coyote Loco is now closed, Ostlund said he never gave up his booth at the market “because this is where the fun is.”

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Alexandra Leslie and Sara Webb are senior Journalism majors at Ithaca College. You can reach them at adleslie13@gmail.com and sara3webb@gmail.com.

Five Years Later, Dolce Delight Going Strong

Click here for our audio slideshow, featuring Dolce Delight owner, Maria Cacciotti Salino!

Click here for our audio slideshow, featuring Dolce Delight owner, Maria Cacciotti Salino!

Maria Cacciotti Salino wants to make you feel at home. When she opened Dolce Delight in August 2008 in the middle of an economic crisis, she was more concerned about making her customers feel welcome than about the looming economic crisis. Customers visiting smell freshly baked goods, hear oldies music played on her radio and see the open layout of her baking kitchen.

Salino is no stranger to food or running a business. Her family has a long line of small business owners, including Italian Carry Out on Danby Road in Ithaca, just next door to Dolce Delight. Some 916 local businesses, including Dolce Delight, opened in Tompkins County between January 2008 and December 2009, however the records in the Tompkins County Clerk’s Office do not indicate which of those businesses are still currently operating.

Although it is unclear how many businesses in Tompkins County survived the 2007-2009 recession, Salino said it is clear that the even without a sign, Dolce Delight still attracts commuters not only from Ithaca but Lansing, Dryden and Spencer.

Since opening, the business has worked with local proprietors, including Purity Ice Cream, Keuka Coffee and Ithaca Beer, among others, to incorporate their products in the bakery.

Dolce Delight, has risen just like the pastries that are baked there. The business started with only small toaster ovens, and Salino says the staff completed a Thanksgiving order with two of them. Dolce Delight has had a bit of an upgrade since then, but Salino still hopes to add more commercial appliances to the kitchen.

While she’s not at that point yet, Salino has gotten requests to expand and open more stores on the Commons and even as far as Lansing or Dryden. Salino says, “You have to have one business 100 percent in control before you can go do that.”

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Alexandra Leslie and Ryan Myers are senior Journalism majors at Ithaca College. You can email them at adleslie13@gmail.com and ryanspam560@gmail.com.