November 20, 2003

Finger Lake 'n Good

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Monica and Chandler had Central Perk. Brenda and Brandon had The Peach Pit. The students of Cornell University have Collegetown Bagels. Located at 415 College Avenue, CTB is more than your average bagel store. For some, it’s a place where you can get a pizza bagel after the bars have closed. For others, it’s a place that will get you drunk on Sangria from 6:30am to 2am. And still for others, it answered the question that plagues the middle states: what the hell is a bagel? But for me, it’s the place where one can enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and a late night snack, all in the privacy of a warm place that smells like coffee and chocolate chip bagels.

Walking into CTB in the morning hours you are sure to encounter a swarm of people. Behind the counter screams of “Coffee or pastry?” and “Eggs Melissa, for here or to go?” fill the air. Breakfast items are innumerable. Perhaps all you really need in the morning is a muffin. If you are counting calories, the low fat peach muffins are fantastic. Or do what you know you should: get a bagel. I am partial to the California bagel choc full of whole grains, nuts and raisins. Then pick a spread: plain, lox, veggie, and lite veggie cream cheese, just to name a few. Or go further and get salmon salad, a certain friend of mine swears by it as a hangover remedy. But if you are really in the market of something delicious, get a breakfast sandwich. For just $3.95 you can get a California Sunrise: eggs, avocado, red onion and pepper jack cheese on a bagel. Not ready to shell out all that dough? For $3.25 get an Ithaca famous Eggs Melissa: egg and cheese on a bagel. The real question isn’t what sandwich to get, but rather, who is Melissa? But, what’s a Cornellian breakfast without caffeine? Head down the line of puffy jackets to the register and order yourself a coffee, tea, hot cider, or a steamed skim milk with espresso, coconut and chocolate syrup (otherwise known as the High Stick). Don’t forget to add the “coffee spice” from the sugar and milk area that never fails to please. When the man with the purple eyes swipes your card for CityBucks, you can bet that he will wish you a great day, and call you by the name on your card.

When lunchtime rolls around and your fridge is bare, you know where you can head. Some people have a list of ten items that they regularly rotate ordering, but I always opt for the same thing: a tossed salad (the dressing is impeccable) and smoked turkey, lettuce, and tomato on pumpernickel bread with a smidge of honey mustard. The honey mustard in CTB is somewhat famous, it can spruce up any sandwich, or salad I’m told, or even clear your sinuses right out. But don’t stop with a plain ole sandwich on my account. There’s a multitude of sandwiches to choose from. There’s Jonah’s Jive: hummus, spinach, tomato, cucumber, and parsley garlic dressing on multigrain bread. There’s Tuscan Verde: roasted chicken breast with pesto, spinach, tomato, and provolone on rosemary focaccia bread. And for you carnivores out there try a Renwick Reuben: corned beef, sauerkraut, melted swiss cheese, and russian dressing on rye bread. After you’ve scarfed down your sandwich and salad, pick up a bag of potato chips, a lollipop or biscotti and be on your way until dinner.

When 6:30 rolls around, you’ve still got plenty of choices for supper-time. Pick up a bowl of chili in a southwestern bread bowl. Or try the tomato soup made with a delicious V8 base. Even more delectable is the pumpkin bisque with green apples that tastes just like a pumpkin pie in soup form. Another choice is to hit up a pre-made item, take it home, heat it up and pretend you actually cooked something. You can try Eggplant Rollatini, Shepard’s Pie, Chicken Florentine, Baked Ziti, a knish, or even couscous and Jamaican style tofu. And grab a homemade treat for Fido while you’re at it.

But more important than dinner is, of course, dessert. You can have an amazing chocolate chip cannoli. Or flutter back to fifth grade and trade that for a giant chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing or a “as big as your head” M&M cookie. You can also try one of those chocolate mice made of shortbread, butter cream, and chocolate –quickly before he scurries away. Or more deliciously, try a Mesa Brownie made with espresso, cinnamon, vanilla, and coffee icing. For a more mature taste, grab a tiramisu or rice pudding. Finally, if you are really hungry, eat a whole pie. Well, not a real pie, but a mini sour cream apple pie.

The last thing I will leave you with is what to do when it’s 1:30 a.m., the bars have closed, and your latest hookup has just vomited in front of Johnny O’s. Walk to CTB, order a vegetarian bagel, leave a big tip in the makeshift tip jar, thank god for CTB, eat your bagel, pass out, and forget you’ve eaten it until you do it again the following night.

Archived article by Alyssa Cohen