Unique barrel aged cocktails are created at Flight West in Greece. Spirits Director Tom Meade calls it ‘Creating something completely different.’ Shawn Dowd
Cheers to two years of Rochester food crawls — 72 restaurants across 24 neighborhoods with crawlers enjoying countless dishes.
The delectable tasting journey continues with a visit to Greece, where I sought out old and new places that provided wide-ranging flavors of what the area has to offer.
Tasia Verno first fell in love with bourbon on a trip down Kentucky Bourbon Trail, an experience with her husband David that helped shape the focus of Greece’s Flight West restaurant at 836 Long Pond Road.
“I was so enamored with the American history, the care and time that they take to create these beautiful bourbons; it was very similar to wine,” says Verno. The couple, along with David’s parents, Dave and Patrice Verno, opened the whiskey and wine bar two years ago as a space to celebrate whiskey, just as they celebrated wine as the creators of Flight Wine Bar in Cornhill Landing.
According to Tasia, the location adds an upscale food and beverage option to the west side of town and has become a place locals are excited to have in their neighborhood. No stranger to the area, David is a Greece native and the bar is also in close proximity to their Hilton home.
The interior evokes a big-city vibe with exposed pipes, modern lighting and stools, as well as a lounge area. However, the most impressive element is the focal wall that extends the length of the bar – it flaunts stacked whiskey (400 varieties) and wine bottles that requires a wooden ladder to reach top shelves. The wine selection doesn’t take a back seat to the spirit, as there are more than 30 wine taps and extensive offerings by the bottle. We were taken aback by the lengthy beverage menu ranging from flights, craft spirits and after-dinner drinks to beer, bourbon and scotch. Also unique are rotating, barrel-aged cocktails, a three-to-six week process that mellows the spirit and allows the cocktail to take on the flavor of the American oak barrels.
Plenty of drinks suited our more familiar taste preferences, such as the $10 Italian Lemon Drop (Lemoncello, Citrus vodka, and Prosecco). Other selections gently steered us from our typical comfort zones, but remained approachable. Determined to become a whiskey fan (following many previous unsuccessful attempts), one of my friends opted for the $11 Times Square Sour.
A take on the traditional New York Sour with McKenzie NY Bourbon—lemon and simple syrup—this recipe also implements lime and blood orange juice, and replaces red wine with an attractive Ruby Port Float. Delighted with the sweet and sour notes, my friend announced she finally found her new drink of choice and even sought out Spirits Director Tom Meade to learn more about the cocktail.
Our taste of a barrel-aged cocktail came by way of the $10 Birthday Suit, which Meade says is his spin off of The Naked and Famous mezcal cocktail. He describes his version (El Bujo Mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, Barrows Intense Ginger and blood orange juice) as sweet and tart with a little kick, and says many people are surprised at the way the mezcal is balanced “when it finds a good home.” Poured over giant spheres of ice, the drink unexpectedly intrigued with more delicate smoke and ginger flavors than anticipated, plus notes of caramel.
Behind the kitchen is Executive Chef Stephen Jamieson, who prepares dishes he enjoys eating himself that represent different regions of the world. Entrees range from a $15 Nicoise Salad to a $22 Braised Short Rib Bibimbap (steamed rice, fried egg, vegetables and the red chili paste known as gochujang.)
Sticking to appetizers, the one-pound golden Bavarian pretzel appropriately named “The Big One” ($12), made for a sizable and tasty starter to share. Brought in from Amazing Grains Bread Co. in Fairport, the dough was satisfyingly soft on the inside with a lightly crisp exterior. House-made dipping sauces of Queso cheese and a honey dijonnaise were equally favored. A topic of conversation surrounded the more unusual $8 house-made Beef Jerky, a smoky offering designed as a bar snack to complement the whisky. Served in a mason jar, the chewy and flavorful strips are developed from beef shoulder marinated for 24 hours with soy sauce, bourbon, and spices followed by a four-hour dehydration.
When it comes to being introduced to the world of whiskey, Tasia encourages first-timers to be adventurous and trust the bartender. She says an oaky chardonnay drinker may be guided to a cocktail or bourbon that mirrors those buttery flavors. I’m curious to return to make this comparison.
Red Fedele’s Brook House
Red Fedele’s Brook House has been a staple in Greece for the last 42 years. Known for its Italian-American cuisine, the restaurant first opened in 1976 before moving down the road in 1995 to its larger and current party house location at 920 Elmridge Center Dr.
Owner Philip Fedele (nicknamed Red), “I was a redhead a long time ago,” he laughs, credits his parents as instrumental in creating the business. His father worked the foundation of the “old Brook House” (an 1865 building), while his mother helped cook traditional soups and sauces that are still featured today.
“It’s family through and through and we still work that way,” says Fedele’s, who adds that all seven of his children are involved in the business, as well as his grandchildren. “We’ve been able to maintain a consistency with the quality of the food, and one of the major reasons is because my family has stayed here, and for that I’m grateful.”
Before entering the restaurant, we were greeted with a pond and waterfall vista, and once inside, discovered a personal display of family photo-covered walls that created a sense of history and pride. Like all customers, we received a warm welcome by Red himself, who led us into the open and casual dining room bordered with sizable arched windows above booths and a mix of tables in the center. A large bar and lounge area is located just off the dining room.
The menu showcases plenty of traditional pasta, chicken and veal dishes, plus steak and seafood options prepared by Red’s son chef Tony Fedele. A choice of soup or salad precedes each entrée and a children’s menu is also available.
Served as an evening special, the $18 pan-seared haddock featured two light and well-seasoned fish fillets perched over an ample portion of sautéed garlicky escarole and white beans with a lemon wedge garnish. Our server’s recommendation of the popular Chicken Angelo ($20) did not disappoint. A classic chicken French preparation, two egg battered and fried chicken breasts are sauced with butter, chicken base, sherry wine and lemon. The entrée’s tasty twist includes generous slices of crispy eggplant layered atop the meat that’s finished with a mild Provolone cheese. A light pool of the sweet and flavorful sauce added to each appetizing bite. A pleasant bowl of penne pasta covered with tomato sauce was served on the side. Also enjoyed was the large portion of Rigatoni Asiago ($18.) Short tubes of rigatoni pasta came dressed in a tomato and sherry wine sauce, tossed with sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, onions, fresh basil and hearty slices of sausage, all smothered with a shredded Asiago cheese topping.
As we dined, it was apparent how much Red enjoys mingling with his customers. The ultimate host, he’s known for traveling from table to table to keep abreast of everyone’s restaurant experience. My group was pleased to have him visit with us a total of three times.
The Brook House regularly accommodates private party celebrations large and small, and also offers outdoor dining amongst waterfalls during warm weather.
Oriens Café – A Slice of Italy in Greece
It was a visit to Italy’s Oriens Bar that inspired Gianni Catalano (known as John to most of his customers) to open Oriens Café at 1100 Long Pond Rd. Catalano’s relative, Salvatore Garofalo, the award-winning Italian Master Pastry Chef behind the European Oriens, traveled to Rochester to share his Sicilian recipes and help the café first open its doors in 2008. Ten years later, he still makes yearly visits to bring new ideas to the café’s pastry chef Amanda VerHulst, who also brings her own creations to the table.
The charming café is filled with bistro tables, twinkle lights and eye-catching glassdisplay cases filled with beautifully presented sweets. Our attention was first drawn to the rainbow waves of stacked gelato available in a variety of classic, fruity and savory rotating flavors. Samples were offered before we committed to selections. To make the most of our visit, we opted for a waffle cone that for $4.99 would easily hold two different scoops. While cannoli and Italian cheesecake gelato regularly top the list, I couldn’t resist the pistachio, as well as the Sette Veli, a chocolate hazelnut gelato with chocolate crunchies (also available as a pastry.) The rest of my party happily dug into scoops of peanut butter cup, nocciola (hazelnut) and cookie dough flavors.
The gelato’s creamy consistency was on the mark, which VerHulst explains is imparted from Oriens’ cream base recipe (committed to memory as it’s not written down) and differs from ice cream in regards to the amount air that’s incorporated, the fact that is has less fat and it is served at a warmer temperature.
As we relished the gelato, our focus shifted to perusing the cookies and pastries that were carefully decorated and available as individual portions. Overwhelmed at the plethora of confections vying for my attention, I decided to enlist some expertise from a group of men sitting nearby who were conversing in Italian. Catalano was among the group, and one his friend’s immediately pointed out his own personal favorites, noting the Sicilian Cassata was a must. While my group confessed to not having much room remaining given the frozen lickedy round, they stepped up to share a few bites of pastries. When in Rome, right?
Topped with candy, the Sicilian Cassata ($3.99) can easily be overlooked as a pastry more appropriate for a youngster; however, it thoroughly delivered in taste. A thick layer of creamy ricotta cheese sweetened with orange peel and chocolate chips is sandwiched between sponge cake and marzipan (almond-like dough) and topped with candied cherries, orange peels and chopped pistachios. The confection is especially in demand during Christmas and Easter, when it’s offered as whole cakes.
For a chocolate fix, we also shared the Tres Bon Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake ($3.99). Here, VerHulst starts with a layer of chocolate cake and one by one by one stacks rich layers of dark, milk and white chocolate mousse for a visually appealing and delightful dessert.
In addition to desserts, the café is also well-known for its lunch, dinner and catering.
There were many surprises sprinkled across this Greece food crawl. A blend of familiar and unfamiliar food and drink, it was a reminder how trying new things may lead to a new found favorite.
Adena Miller is a Rochester freelance writer.
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