Weekend Trip: Watkins Glen + Corning, New York, and the Ginger Cat B+B

Last March, Steven and I headed to New York State for a little getaway in advance of my 29th birthday — and I never shared the details. Shame! It was a fantastic weekend trip loaded with some of my favorite things, thanks to Steven’s careful planning.

I knew the general gist of our trip (a vegan B&B in New York State’s Finger Lakes region; a trip to the Pyrex exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass) in advance, but not the details. And the details made this trip amazing.

Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem, PA

We headed up to New York on a Friday evening, leaving after work and breaking up the six-ish hour drive with a stop at a store that’s been on my vegan bucket list for years: Vegan Treats. I think of it as the vegan baked goods mecca: if you’re a sugar-loving vegan, you need to visit at some point. (Or at the very least, try out its wares at select restaurants and VegFests on the east coast.)

Vegan Treats bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

If you visit, don’t let the unassuming location on a residential street fool you; this place is well worth a visit. Vegan Treats smells like an old-timey ice cream shop, and it’s chock-full of beautifully decorated delights. I could barely contain my excitement as I ogled the dozens of impeccably decorated sweeties.

I thought we were stopping to stock up on a few snacks for the weekend, but no: Steven had a surprise waiting for me. Check out my birthday cake:

Yes, that is a reproduction of my favorite Pyrex pattern (Butterprint) in cake form! The amazing artists at VT hand-painted this beauty at Steven’s request. It was almost too pretty to eat! (Rest assured, eat it we did — later.)

Cake (and additional treats) in hand, we set off for our final destination.

The Ginger Cat B&B in Watkins Glen, NY

The Ginger Cat is an all-vegan B&B, and it’s a gem of a place. It even won a VegNews award a few years ago, and rightfully so. Owner Gita has created a cozy, homey vegan sanctuary for visitors to the Empire State. She’s the perfect host, willing to take guests’ leads on whether they prefer solitude or camaraderie. We arrived late at night and let ourselves in, grateful for a warm bed in a quiet house.

Pig and pamphlets at the Ginger Cat B&B in Watkins Glen, NY

During our two-night stay, we enjoyed chatting with Gita, a dedicated vegan who seems to be a go-to source in Watkins Glen for establishments looking to provide vegan offerings. If you need a recommendation for food, wine, or anything, she’s got you covered. On Saturday night, we cut into the Pyrex cake and made sure to share a piece with Gita, who thoughtfully offered up some locally made vegan ice cream (!) for topping. The mint chocolate chip was amazing and paired beautifully with my vanilla amandine cake.  I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical when I realized that it wasn’t chocolate, but the vanilla amandine won me over at first bite. It’s a mature flavor, not overly sweet, but nuanced, and the cake had a layer of vanilla frosting to set it off. The texture was really special, too — almost like a sponge or an Angel food cake, with a little bit of a crust at the edges The whole cake was covered with vanilla fondant, and although I know some folks can’t stand the stuff, I personally love its chewy sweetness.

Back to the Ginger Cat! Of course, the second B in B&B stands for breakfast, and we breakfasted like royalty. I’ve never been to a B&B; it was SO nice to wake up and smell breakfast cooking! Gita cooked up a feast each morning. From soy-sauce braised kale with cashews to tender scones to a savory quiche to waffles with lots of maple syrup, we had lots to choose from each day, all washed down by freshly made coffee (her tea collection was also impressive).

Note that although Gita has a few friendly kitties living in the house, they stay in the residential area, not in the B&B section. Steven has a fairly sensitive cat allergy, but he wasn’t bothered by them. If you do want to meet the kitties, just ask — Gita will be happy to introduce you.

Corning Museum of Glass + Pyrex Exhibit

Steven chose this particular weekend for a reason: it was the last chance we’d get to see a Pyrex retrospective at the Corning Museum of Glass. My love of vintage Pyrex is undying and well-documented, and I loved this opportunity to learn more about the brand’s history and to see its evolution throughout the past century.

Although not particularly expansive, the Pyrex exhibit was exhaustive: it included examples of just about every Pyrex pattern available at any time in the brand’s history, along with a comprehensive history of the brand’s founding and evolution. We had the exhibit to ourselves when we visited, and it was fantastic to take in the beautiful patterns in peace.

Even though this particular exhibit was temporary, the Corning Museum of Glass is well-worth a visit regardless. I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I was blown away by the sheer size of the museum: multiple levels house a breathtaking display of glasswork throughout the ages, from ancient Rome to the Islamic world and right up to contemporary designers. Honestly, you could spend an entire day here learning about how glass has been made throughout the centuries and ogling the gorgeous work.

But CMOG really won a place in my heart as one of my favorite American museums because of the demonstrations. You can watch firsthand as a master glassworker creates a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork from start to finish. (And, if you’re lucky, you might be the lucky audience member who gets to take it home!) The museum offers four different demo sessions (hot glass, flameworking, optical fiber, and glassbreaking) and runs each one a few times a day. Attendance is included in the price of your admission ticket. We attended a hot glass and a flameworking demo, and I was super thrilled that both featured bad-ass lady glassworkers! The museum also offers classes in glassmaking, but those cost extra and probably need to be scheduled in advance.

City of Corning, NY

After your visit to the Museum of Glass, take a little time to wander around Corning! This sweet small town is perfect for walking — make sure you stop at the Corningware, Corelle & More Factory Outlet store for discounts on kitchen goods! You can also goofily pose with this absurd giant Pyrex measuring cup. Because why not.

Pyrex measuring cup in Corning, New York

Veraisons Restaurant

Trust me on this one: If you are in the area and want a nice evening out, make reservations at Veraisons Restaurant. The Finger Lakes are home to a robust wine scene, and Veraisons is the eatery attached to Glenora Cellars. You’ll have a gorgeous view of the vineyard as you sip locally made wine and nosh on — wait for it — a gourmet vegan cheese board.

Remember when I said that the purveyor of the Ginger Cat has some kind of uncanny influence on businesses in the area? Well, she’s made her mark here too, and the chef(s) at Veraisons offer a rotating selection of house-made vegan cheeses. The board comes with three cheeses (the menu currently lists brie, a rarebit-style soft white cheddar, and a mozzarella, although it was slightly different when we were there), along with grapes, bread, and a few other nibbles. We were blown away with how delicious and unique these cheeses were, and how wonderful it was to see “vegan cheese board” on a menu alongside a local (dairy) cheese sampler. I’m clearly the worst blogger in the world, because I neglected to photograph it, but TRUST ME ON THIS: it is worth your while (and your dollars).

This surprising creativity carried over into the rest of the menu too. Vegan options are clearly marked and abundant, from “fish” tacos to eggplant parm to braised chickpeas. Prices are on par with similar upscale-ish restaurants, and you’ll be voting with your dollar to encourage more vegan options at Veraisons.

Farm Sanctuary

Our single regret on this short visit to Watkins Glen was that we couldn’t visit Farm Sanctuary — it was too early in the season! But don’t worry, we’ll return — and we’ll make sure we can visit this beautiful place while we’re there.

BONUS STOP IN SCRANTON!

Steven had one last birthday surprise in store for me during our drive back to Maryland from Watkins Glen: a stop in Scranton, PA. Why? Here you go:

Scranton sign from The Office

To see the original Scranton sign from The Office, duh! The sign has a permanent home in the Mall at Scranton, which you might know as the Steamtown Mall if you’re a fan of the show. Frankly, it’s a depressing place — one of those malls that’s failing to thrive, with more stores shuttered than open. A metaphor for dying industrial towns over the country, perhaps? Anyway, if you’re driving through and want a photo with a sign, it’s not a big detour. But don’t expect much entertainment at the mall!

IF YOU GO…

  • …to the Ginger Cat B&B, ask owner Gita for recommendations for vegan eats in the area. Lots of veg-friendly visitors come to Watkins Glen to visit Farm Sanctuary, and local businesses seem more than willing to accommodate them. Gita will be in the know about the most up-to-date options!
  • …to the Corning Museum of Glass, check out the scheduled demos as soon as you arrive and plan your visit around them. I highly recommend attending at least one, if not more!
  • …to the general Watkins Glen/Finger Lakes region, check that Farm Sanctuary is open so you can schedule a visit. Going in the late spring will also be better if you intend to visit any of the local parks. (We didn’t have time for this, but these hikes look gorgeous!)

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Vegan options for a weekend trip to Watkins Glen and Corning, New York

 

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