Indeed, from Rochester’s “Garbage Plate” and Syracuse’s salt potatoes to Long Island’s scallops and New York City’s, well, lots of things, there’s absolutely no shortage of signature Empire State dishes ready to more than satisfy hungry attendees.
Of course, meeting planners will also find all the essential ingredients they need in this diverse state, including massive convention centers, downtown hotels, one-of-a-kind natural wonders and plenty of team-building options. But for a meeting that fully satisfies, it’s best to add some signature foodie flavors to the mix. We decided to take a close look at some of these signature offerings in four major areas of the state.
Main image: Viceroy New York
New York City
Roosevelt Hotel, New York City
New York City needs no introduction; the country’s largest and most bustling metropolis is also one of the most sought-after spots for both small and large meetings. But while NYC has plenty of built-in cachet, it hasn’t rested on its laurels while waiting for the masses to arrive.
Case in point: The city’s meetings hub, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, wrapped up a massive, multimillion-dollar revamp late last year. In addition to boasting 110,000 sq. ft. of new meeting space, the renovated venue now features a slick glass curtain wall and the largest green roof in the Northeast. In total, it offers more than 1.3 million sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space.
Also new on the scene is the dual-branded Courtyard New York Manhattan/Central Park and Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Central Park. These two Marriott properties split space in a 68-story building in Midtown, making this the tallest single-use hotel in the country. In addition to a combined 639 guest rooms and 6,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, the hotels share an outdoor sun deck and a 35th-floor fitness center with floor-to-ceiling windows and a personal trainer on staff.
Planners seeking fresh luxury should book the Viceroy New York, which opened late last year as the city’s first Viceroy property. This impeccably designed hotel has a rooftop lounge and bar overlooking Central Park, and an indoor relaxation pool.
Want to go large for a mega-meeting? NYC & Company, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, has teamed up with New York Hilton Midtown and Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel to offer NY5000, a packaged convention complex collectively offering nearly 5,000 guest rooms and 250,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in the span of a single city block.
The Roosevelt Hotel is a historic Manhattan property that opened in 1924, and offers 1,015 guest rooms and 30,000 sq. ft.
Amy Ruth’s Fried Chicken and Waffles, New York City
Though New York City’s foodie finds are well-known, the depth of specialties here still astounds...and sometimes, even surprises.
Did you know, for example, that General Tso’s Chicken didn’t originate in China, but in Manhattan? This sweet-breaded-chicken favorite is credited to a Chinese chef who concocted it at Peng’s in Midtown around the 1970s. While Peng’s is now closed, you can still find this NYC original at restaurants all over town, including the locally favored Chopstix and Brooklyn Wok Shop, which manages to pull off a tasty version minus the MSG.
Eggs benedict also originated in New York, and appropriately so; this mix of Canadian bacon, English muffin and French hollandaise sauce is a perfect embodiment of NYC’s melting-pot culture. The dish was created in the 1890s at Waldorf Astoria hotel by legendary maitre d’ Oscar Tschirky, who also invented the Waldorf salad. Both items are still served at the property’s appropriately named Oscar’s Brasserie restaurant.
For a taste of Harlem, splurge on fried chicken and waffles, a product of the neighborhood’s Well’s Restaurant. While Well’s is gone, Amy Ruth’s in town serves a mean version of the decadent dish, as well as new-wave twists including waffles with fried catfish, and waffles with fried chicken wings.
This is to say nothing, of course, of NYC’s more well-known originals, including cheesecake, the Reuben sandwich, Manhattan clam chowder, New York-style pizza and the hot dog. These signature dishes generally may not be healthy, but they’re found everywhere from greasy food stands to five-star luxury restaurants, and are well worth trying.
For more information on New York City, watch for our feature story on the city coming in November.
Buffalo Niagara Convention Center
This metropolitan area in western New York pairs the bustling urbanity of Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city, with the natural wonder of Niagara Falls. To take advantage of both, a good bet is to anchor in Buffalo’s downtown core, where the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center offers more than 110,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space.
Directly connected to the center, Hyatt Regency Buffalo has an additional 23,000 sq. ft. of space, as well as some enticing post-meeting amenities, including a rooftop pool overlooking the city and the full-service Spa Alexis. Within walking distance of the convention center, Adam’s Mark Buffalo is another prime choice, catering to groups of up to 2,800 in indoor and outdoor venues.
Just 20 miles north of Buffalo, Niagara Falls draws throngs of tourists, and for good reason. The falls astound in both breadth and force, dropping from as high as 173 feet and, during peak season, rushing with a quarter-million cubic feet of water per second.
For a meeting near this natural marvel, consider Sheraton at the Falls Hotel. The property offers more than 14,000 sq. ft. of IACC-certified event space and 392 comfortable guest accommodations within walking distance of the falls.
Duff’s Famous Wings, Buffalo
One Friday night in 1964, the owner of Buffalo’s Anchor Bar was asked to concoct a quick dish for her son’s friends. On the spot, she decided to deep-fry chicken wings and slather them with a special sauce. The result was so successful, it launched a food revolution that has since taken over tailgate parties, bar-food menus and restaurants across the country: Buffalo wings.
For a taste of history, groups can get messy with the original wings at Anchor Bar, which continues to serve the dish that earned it national acclaim. But this isn’t the only spot in town that offers the regional hit. Duff’s Famous Wings serves up wings at its original location just north of Buffalo in Amherst. Just be warned that these wings are not for the faint of heart; as Duff’s says, “Medium is hot, medium-hot is very hot, and hot is very, very hot.” Duff’s also has an outpost in Niagara Falls, as well as a handful of other locations throughout New York and Canada.
Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina, Long Island
Long Island, which stretches from the New York harbor into the Atlantic Ocean, is more than 100 miles long and 20 miles wide. More than just vast in scope, it also offers a rich assortment of meeting experiences.
Those interested in history will love the scenic Gold Coast; lined with opulent mansions, it served as the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. Wine connoisseurs can sip and sightsee at more than 30 wineries and 60 vineyards. And those seeking a stunning luxe escape can do no better than the famed Hamptons, where ocean and elegance meet.
Best yet, these experiences are all close to Manhattan, which is anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to five hours away. ”Long Island is a diverse destination,” says Joan LaRosa, director of sales for the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You can be close to NYC for sightseeing without paying the high prices of Manhattan, and you are always within 30 minutes of a beach.”
According to LaRosa, Long Island’s diversity applies to meeting options as well. “You can host your event in a corporate chain hotel, a beautiful independent hotel where Charles Lindbergh stayed the night before his famous flight to Paris, a castle that is considered the second-largest residence in the U.S., a Gold Coast Gatsby-era mansion, or a resort on the beach minutes from Manhattan or located in the tony Hamptons,” she says.
The Garden City Hotel is the place where Lindbergh stayed in 1927 before setting off across the Atlantic. Dating back to 1874, this refined property, just 15 miles from Manhattan, can host meetings in 25,000 sq. ft. of space. Despite its historic roots, the hotel isn’t stuck in the past; as of press time, it was scheduled to debut a new pool and fitness center this summer.
The distinction of “second-largest residence in the U.S.” belongs to the Gold Coast’s Oheka Castle. Constructed by financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn in 1919, it cost the equivalent of $110 million in today’s currency and encompasses a 109,000-square-foot estate fashioned after a French chateau, as well as a historic golf course and exquisite gardens. Groups can stay in 32 private guest rooms and meet in spaces that range from an intimate library to 292,000 sq. ft. of lawn space.
For a Hamptons getaway, one of the most outstanding choices is Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina. Dating back to 1929, this private retreat sits on 35 oceanfront acres and boasts a mega-yacht marina, a full-service spa, four tennis courts and acclaimed dining at Gulf Coast Kitchen. It can host groups of up to 200 indoors and outdoors, and offers a host of team-building options, including tennis clinics, surf lessons, team kayaking and stand-up paddleboard relay racing.
Need more space? The largest indoor venue for meetings is the ballroom at the Inn and Spa at East Wind, with more than 21,000 sq. ft.
Not surprisingly, the coast plays a key role in Long Island’s signature cuisine. Sweet and briny Peconic scallops—found off Long Island’s Peconic Bay—are a seasonal specialty well worth scouting out at group-friendly restaurants including Legends in New Suffolk, and Modern Snack Bar in Aquebogue. Other freshest-of-fresh seafood delicacies that frequently grace local menus include striped bass, oysters and flounder.
Add this to the “who knew” column: Long Island’s duck-farming industry began in 1873 after a Long Island businessman went to China and brought 25 Pekin ducks back with him. Today, white Pekin (aka “Long Island Pekin”) ducks represent 95 percent of all ducks sold and consumed in the United States.
The island delivers some of the freshest and finest duck around, at restaurants including Seawater Grill at Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa in the Hamptons and The Lake House in Bay Shore, both of which can accommodate groups.
Seawater Grill at Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, Long Island
Conveniently located in the heart of New York, Syracuse hits the sweet spot for small and midsize groups. Anchoring the downtown meetings scene is the SMG-managed OnCenter, a three-city-block facility encompassing the Syracuse Convention Center, War Memorial Arena and John H. Mulroy Civic Center Theaters. The center collectively offers 200,000 sq. ft. of usable space, including ballrooms, breakouts and theater seating, much of it linked via connective interior corridors.
Nearby hotels add well-equipped guest rooms to the mix. For affordability and premium meeting facilities, book Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center, with 235 guest rooms and more than 10,000 sq. ft. of IACC-certified event space. For luxury, the Genesee Grande Hotel offers 159 posh accommodations, including some of the city’s finest premium suites, as well as elegant ballroom and theater venues.
Downtown Syracuse, which is currently in the midst of a $313 million urban renaissance, also boasts Destiny USA, a 2.4-million-square-foot shopping, entertainment and dining complex. A new attraction at the center, 5 Wits, kicks team-building up a notch with two intriguing adventures: “Espionage,” which trains participants in the art of spying; and “Tomb,” which challenges attendees to solve the secrets of an ancient Egyptian tomb.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que brisket, Syracuse
Syracuse grew up around a thriving salt industry and goes by the nickname “Salt City.” So it should come as no surprise that one of the city’s most beloved specialties is salt potatoes, which are boiled in heavily salted water, at a ratio of about one pound of salt per four pounds of potatoes. The dish originated at Hinerwadel’s Grove, which continues to serve the very best salt potatoes in town. This dining and special-events facility also hosts group clambakes.
One little-known fact about New York is that it’s the third-largest producer of maple syrup in the world. Event-goers in Syracuse can enjoy this sweet specialty by participating in one of several springtime festivals devoted to it, including the popular Central New York Maple Festival in nearby Marathon.
Syracuse is also big on, well, going big. Adam Richman of Man vs. Food is among those who have taken on Mother’s Cupboard’s Six Pound Frittata, a daunting but delicious combination of home fries, four eggs, peppers, onions, pepperoni and broccoli. (Richman, for the record, successfully finished his ambitious meal.) And let’s simply say that the Big Ass Pork Plate at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que lives up to the name.
Rochester’s Public Market
In western New York, Rochester is New York’s third-largest city, and serves as an affordable alternative to some of the state’s pricier options. Rochester also offers the facilities and expertise of four college campuses, and a thriving faith-based community that’s made it popular for religious events.
“Rochester has many unusual venues that are perfect for groups that are looking for some fun and creativity,” says Don Jeffries, president and CEO of VisitRochester.
Two such venues also boast National Historic Landmark status: the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film, located at the former mansion of the eponymous Kodak founder; and the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, where the civil rights activist lived and frequently met with leaders of the women’s suffragist movement.
The George Eastman House offers group tours and special-event facilities, including two theaters. The Susan B. Anthony Museum’s group tours are followed with tea in the Carriage House, which doubles as a space for private events.
For a more traditional meeting experience, the Rochester Riverside Convention Center has 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space connected via skywalks to 1,110 guest rooms and additional meeting space at three polished hotels: Rochester Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, Hyatt Regency Rochester and Radisson Rochester Riverside. All facilities are located near the Genesee River, and link up via a scenic and convenient promenade.
No trip to Rochester is complete without trying the “Garbage Plate.” This custom-ordered mix of items—including home fries, pasta salad, mac and cheese and French fries—comes topped with red hots, eggs, fish or, yes, cheeseburgers and hot dogs. And because that’s clearly not enough, it is then finished off with meat sauce, onions and mustard. The dish, also called the “Dumpster Plate” or “Trash Plate,” is served throughout Rochester, including the restaurant that lays claim to its invention: Nick Tahou’s Hots.
Besides serving its own spin on the garbage plate, Zweigle’s produced the original “white hot,” a flavorful fusion of spiced pork and veal. Another Rochester original is Chicken French, a not-actually-French specialty that features chicken dressed up with an egg-based batter and lemon sauce. It’s served at Phillips European Restaurant.
Rochester’s Public Market, which has served the community since 1905, is open year-round on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Local vendors participate by offering their fresh produce, ethnic delicacies, specialty items and more.
In Rochester and across the rest of the state, signature cuisine beckons. For a memorable meeting experience, we suggest that planners invite attendees to grab their forks and dig in.
Nikki Gloudemanis the former managing editor of Smart Meetings magazine and a Northern California-based freelance writer.
- Population (2012): 19.7 million (third most in the U.S.)
- Size: 54,556 sq. mi. (27th most in the U.S.)
- Motto: Excelsior (Ever Upward)
- State animal: Beaver
- State flower: Rose
- British roots: The name “New York” was chosen to honor England’s Duke of York.
- The truly Big Apple: With 8.4 million residents, New York City has nearly half of the state’s population.
- Move over, D.C.: New York City was the country’s first capital. George Washington took his presidential oath at the city’s Federal Hall.
- All aboard: One of America’s first railroads ran between Albany and Schenectady between 1826 and 1853.
- Legendary lore: Washington Irving’s stories of Rip Van Winkle and the Headless Horseman are both set in the mystical Catskill mountains. Like the Adirondacks, this is a prime option for an alpine group retreat.
- Who knew? New York was the first state to require license plates for cars.
Exciting Upstate Option
Saratoga Springs City Center
Saratoga Springs, located in Upstate New York, boasts a thriving farm-to-table scene and some of the hottest spots of all are DZ restaurants—Chianti Ristorante, Forno Bistro, Pasta Pane and Boca Bistro. This year, DZ Restaurants announced the purchase of a 65-acre property (renamed DZ Farms) in nearby Galway. Select vegetable varieties and a large and diverse herb garden are being planted on a half-acre parcel there, and will supplement the produce and herbs used in the four restaurants’ kitchens.
The city also is meetings-friendly, with the Saratoga Springs City Center providing 32,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space. Several major hotels also adeptly serve meeting groups, including Gideon Putnam Resort & Spa, which has 124 guest rooms, more than 12,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, and the much-heralded Roosevelt Baths & Spa. Also, Saratoga Hilton, which is connected to the city center, offers 242 guest rooms and 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
More information is available through the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau at discoversaratoga.org.
3 Decadent Dishes at Luxury Adirondacks Resorts
If you’re planning an executive retreat, look no further than the Adirondacks. This stunning alpine getaway boasts snowcapped peaks and a handful of luxury resorts tucked along Lake George and Lake Placid. Here are our favorite dishes at the area’s finest group getaways.
1. Aragosta and Bistecca at The Sagamore’s La Bella Vita
It doesn’t get much more indulgent than this combination of butter-basted Maine lobster and succulent beef tenderloin, paired with capilloni onions, asparagus, Tuscan potato puree and grilled treviso, a seasoned vegetable similar to radicchio. As with everything at this classy restaurant, it’s a dish rooted in the rich flavors of Old World Italy. The Sagamore, a luxury resort along tranquil Lake George, is also home to an exquisite steak house, a casual pub and the open-air Lakehouse.
2. Pastrami-brined organic salmon at Whiteface Lodge’s Kanu
This brined, seasoned and smoked version of salmon takes the fish to new and unexpected heights, with toasted almonds and sweet acorn squash as adornment. It’s served at Kanu, Whiteface Lodge’s signature restaurant, which also boasts an open kitchen and a fine selection of gluten-free options.
3. Braised pork cheeks at Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa’s The View
Pork cheeks are known for their extremely tender, melt-in-your-mouth quality. Add cider-braised polenta, sweet green apple and rainbow chard, and you have a dish that stands out among many fine options at The View, named for its spectacular Lake Placid vistas.
- Who: SPIE; about 1,650 attendees
- What: Optifab conference
- When: Oct. 14–17, 2013
- Where: Rochester Riverside Convention Center, Rochester Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, Hyatt Regency Rochester, Radisson Rochester Riverside
- Why: “Rochester provides a well-suited convention center anchored by some key hotels in the downtown core, which makes for an attractive package for a convention. Staff usually try to find great local food venues that make the city unique. One favorite is Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Staff feel that you have to eat here more than once in a week’s stay just to enjoy the range of the menu!” –Randy Cross, CMP, director of event services and venues