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What is 'our' Philly Cheese Steak?

July 30, 2007
Lisa Burns, Guest Editorial for Livingston County News

What is 'our' Philly Cheese Steak - Local Food Key To Attracting Tourists

What's "our" Philly Cheese Steak? Or "our" Boston Baked Beans, or Idaho Potato?

If you've ever traveled to one of those places assuredly you've thought about and likely sought out the food made famous in that area or perhaps you've even chosen to visit that area based on your attraction to the food they market as their signature.

I did. I was just in Maine - I went to that place! The place I'd read about that said they made Maine's Best Blueberry Pie. Yes, it was divine. I'll go back next year.

There are countless foods and specialties that draw visitors to communities all over the United States and keep them coming back for more. In fact, when you think about enjoying a particular food while vacationing (fresh Maple Syrup while in Vermont for example) you are in the company of over 27 million travelers annually who base a vacation destination choice around some sort of culinary delight. It's a trend in the travel industry that shows no signs of slowing down. Let's face it - we all love to eat and what better time to indulge then while on vacation.

Food and locally made and produced products attract visitors. So then, how do we capitalize on this trend here in Livingston County?

Most importantly we who live in the area should support our local farmers, farmers markets and locally produced food products. There is a new, trendy word that speaks to this basic concept. It's called "sustainability." Basically it's the simple fact that when we support our local small business endeavors, like farms and small scale food processors they are able to not only sustain us with great food they sustain themselves by earning enough income to keep producing the food we love to eat and so on.

We also must showcase our local products and market them to visitors. I see our local restaurants as playing a vital role in this effort.

I just attended the Little Finger Lakes Food Festival Dinner at Eagle Crest Vineyards. The entire menu featured locally grown and produced foods and the complete meal was prepared by a team of local chefs from restaurants in Livingston County.

Locally raised chicken in a locally produced mustard sauce with fresh, local vegetables. Locally raised beef in local red wine and maple syrup sauce. Fresh berries in custard made with local eggs and served with locally made "chocolate and wine truffles." It was divine and it was all made right here!

There were people from Livingston County, Rochester, Corning, Buffalo and even California at that dinner. They will undoubtedly remember our community for the stellar meal and ingredients showcased….and, they will tell friends who will tell friends and so on.

They will come back and expect to find these innovative, local meals at our restaurants. Our restaurateurs should deliver to these visitors. Use local products. Create menus that feature local names. Engage the visitor with tales of how the local product was produced. Sell local wines. Basically, get creative and support local.

Everything from mustard and bread to pasta and peanut butter is made in Livingston County. Our maple syrup rivals any found in Vermont. Fresh vegetables and free range chickens are readily found this time of year. The list goes on and on

We have all the ingredients to create our own, memorable food items that will bring visitors and locals into our restaurants and shops.

A fresh and innovative meal can be the starting point to a weekend getaway that includes staying in one of our stellar Bed & Breakfast or fine Hotels. While here the tourist will enjoy some shopping, play some golf, relax at a spa, hike a trail and much more all while adding to our local economy.

Let's capitalize on the Finger Lakes region and all the visitors coming for great wine!

Have you heard about the "Livingston Lunch?" Call me!

Lisa Burns is the Tourism Director for Livingston County