Gabe Schiffer’s column on Collegetown Bagels is extraordinarily colorful and eloquent. Unfortunately, it misses the larger picture about this iconic, decades-old, family-run local business. CTB has been around for nearly half a century, initially known in the 1970s as The Bagelry. Its expansion, unparalleled by any other business in Ithaca, has created a huge number of jobs in this community: At any given time, CTB employs hundreds of staff. CTB sources much of the electricity they use from solar power, recycling and composting are daily rituals and they actively seek to source their ingredients from local suppliers.
Opening a restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic is crazy, and critics would say it’s impossible. Sitting inside of 2 Stay 2 Go during the soft opening just proves otherwise. Food is about bringing people together — something that’s been lacking in this technological, socially-distanced age. Most of us are spending all day in our apartments or dorms, staring at screens and lamenting the good old days when we used to be face-to-face and not mask-to-mask. The opening of a new Collegetown restaurant is exactly what students needed to pull them out of their hovels.
AppleFest, an Ithaca tradition, looked slightly different this year. Usually, the event boasts about 200 vendors with carnival games and every sort of apple-flavored treat imaginable. This year the event drastically reduced its capacity to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission and spread. Instead of the normal massive festival, Downtown Ithaca organized an “Apple and Cider Trail” as well as a small open air market. The trail directed attendees to different participating local businesses who were selling apple themed foods, drinks and gifts.
Having opened this past July on the West side of Ithaca Commons, Kimchi is a fairly new and cozy Korean restaurant that has a vast menu from noodles to Korean barbecue — the essentials of Korean cuisine. As a Korean student who was desperately craving home-cooked Korean food, I was more than excited to discover Kimchi on my daily Yelp search. When I first looked at the menu, I was overwhelmed by the amount of options they offered. I was already picking and choosing which Korean dishes to eat, something I hadn’t done in over a month. Ultimately, I ended up ordering tteokbokki, or spicy Korean rice cakes, the spicy Korean fried chicken and budae jjigae, a sausage stew that comes with a variety of toppings such as ramen, rice cakes and kimchi.
Cornell University is prized as being the most diverse institution in the Ivy League, with 46 percent of undergraduates identifying as minorities and 11 percent as international students. Students come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and often bring customs and traditions from home. The diversity of the student body brings with it a diverse palette. Cornell Dining, consistently ranked in the top ten dining programs in the country, prides itself on being able to meet the dietary needs of their students by serving diverse cuisine and accommodating various restrictions. The menus at dining halls frequently feature foods from a variety of cultures.
Carriage House Cafe, John Thomas Steakhouse and Ten Forward Cafe. These are just a few of Ithaca’s restaurants forced into early closings by the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, Ithaca business owners had to reevaluate as they faced massive losses in revenue; as it is estimated that Cornell students spend around $4 million every week in Ithaca, the loss of this steady income took its toll. Yet as Cornell students begin to interact with the greater Ithaca community once again, how are local restaurateurs reacting to our return? Is it a welcome change to have the students back in town once again, or has our arrival made some Ithaca business owners’ jobs even harder?
Daniel Jones ’22, a student in the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, came up with the idea to open a pop-up restaurant in Collegetown from Oct. 8 until Nov. 8, two weeks before I joined them for a full run-through of their menu. Jones was determined to keep the restaurant 100 percent student-run and operated, and not even a week later, he recruited his team from across the graduating classes at Cornell. Noah Horns ’22 and Bobby Dandliker ’22 are his co-executive chefs, Samay Bansal ’21) is acting as his president, Sabrina Sam ’22 is his pastry chef and Luke Verzella ’23 and Elin Atonsson ’23 are his marketing directors.
This week I had the opportunity to interview Jeremy Scheck, a current Cornell undergraduate student who has risen to the ranks of TikTok star. Like most students, Jeremy started spending his free time on social media giant TikTok to distract himself from boredom in quarantine. But what makes Jeremy’s experience noteworthy, is the fact that his videos have gained so much popularity that he has now over one million followers. He shares high quality videos of food he prepares. To start with a little background, Jeremy is a current junior here at Cornell majoring in Spanish and Italian.
Every Cornell applicant is guided around our campus and force-fed endless stories about the institution that is Collegetown Bagels. CTB has a pervasive presence throughout the entire Ithaca area and is undoubtedly a part of Cornell’s culture. I can’t blame students for loving the restaurant where they have fond memories of late nights and early mornings, but the worship of this shop’s bagels has gotten out of hand. Students will often rave about their food, so I’ve written this article to analyze CTB separate from our collective nostalgia and bring us back to reality. You may think I’m just a grumpy New Jersyian that is just looking to be a contrarian, while I sulk and dream of a grease-laden taylor ham egg and cheese, and you may be right.
When we hear the words “food taboo,” we often conjure up horrifying thoughts of eating dogs or horses; you may gag, or your skin could crawl, at the idea of consuming animals which many Americans would consider members of the family. Yet ask someone from Salento, Italy, about their opinions on horse meat, and they may enthusiastically reply that it’s a delicacy often featured in dishes like pezzetti di carne al pomodoro.
As food is becoming globalized, more countries are adopting what I would call the Universal Modern Cuisine — the diet most prominent in America, which revolves around grains and which, more importantly, holds many taboos against meat. As a result of this, the practice of eating horse meat is slowly declining, even in Italy. Regardless, Italy still remains the largest consumer of horse meat in the European Union, and its consumption is much more normalized in Italy than in the U.S. Given horse meat’s prevalence in Italy, it’s clearly enjoyable for many and must not have any adverse health effects for the consumer — yet most Americans would be extremely wary of any restaurant advertising this delicacy. Since we have already established that there is nothing inherently unhealthy or dangerous associated with eating horse meat, why do millions of people still avoid it for seemingly no reason?