You may remember Samantha Buyskes from season six of the Food Network competition series Chopped. She was able to serve up goat brains as a successful appetizer, but fish heads got the best of her in the entree round. Luckily, neither of these dishes are served in Buyske’s Finger Lakes-based Simply Red Bistro. The restaurant boasts several locations in Ithaca and the surrounding region: breakfast and brunch at La Tourelle Resort in Ithaca, lunch and bi-weekly dinners at Sheldrake Point on Cayuga Lake and catered dinners at the Hangar Theatre downtown.
The La Tourelle location, at 1150 Danby Road in Ithaca, is just far enough from campus to make a refreshing jaunt outside of the “college bubble.” Simply Red is located inside the resort, catering to guests as well as Ithaca locals looking for cuisine and scenery beyond that of the Commons. The small dining room creates an intimate setting and excellent service is never out of reach. The brunch and breakfast menus are diverse if not lengthy. From a classic breakfast of eggs and toast to polenta and even burritos, Simply Red Bistro brings an undeniable elegance to dining in the Finger Lakes region.
The Bistro Fritatta ($10) is a classic example of what brunch ought to be. It is a little on the heavy side, but chock-full of veggies to start your day off right. The flavors of asparagus, shallots and roasted tomatoes are tied together with a generous helping of local goat cheese, fresh from Lively Run Farm in the nearby town of Interlocken. A light side salad of greens is a refreshing counterpoint to the heaviness of the fritatta and side of potatoes.
The Chorizo and Creamy Herb Polenta ($12) is exactly what the name suggests: a large portion of chorizo accompanied by a velvety polenta with asparagus, caramelized onions and two poached eggs. While many of the dish’s components are exemplary, the eggs were doused with a little too much hollandaise, a troublesome condiment, as anyone who has read Kitchen Confidential will tell you.
After a look through Simply Red’s menu, Mama Red’s Giant Mexican Burrito ($12) seems unexpectedly different. Along with with burrito staples of corn, beans, avocado and chorizo, this upscale burrito arrives atop a plate of mole and is even purported to contain “guava jelly,” though this exotic condiment was disappointingly difficult to discern in the actual dish. While guests will gladly devour the burrito, it lacks the singular spiciness and flavorful kick that the name suggests.
While Simply Red’s regular meals would be a good bet for a brunch with the parents that still allows you to shake off that hangover with a mimosa, the cuisine is a bit too heavy for anything besides a nap afterwards. For a more exciting culinary pursuit the various Simply Red Bistro locations offer special events including a southern night, wine and tapas, and most impressively, a tasting menu selected by Buyskes highlighting various unique herbs and seasoning styles.
Original Author: Claire Cipriani