Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘syracuse’ Category

Sterling Renaissance Festival

In fashion, geek, historical, photo op, recommended, renaissance, smile-inducing, syracuse, theater on July 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm

When I was eight years old, my mother took me to the Sterling Renaissance Festival (or Faire) for the first time. The Faire recreates the town of Warwick in the county of Warwickshire, England, in 1585, celebrating a visit from Queen Elizabeth I. The food, the shops, and especially the performers captured my young imagination, and have drawn me back year after year. This summer, I traveled upstate to celebrate the Pirate Invasion, one of Sterling’s theme weekends. Many things have changed since that first visit, but at its core, the Faire still retains its wonderfully magical appeal.

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The Sterling Renaissance Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays in Sterling, New York, rain or shine, until August 15.



Gingerbread Gallery

In art, candy, exhibit, holiday, museum, photo op, syracuse on December 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Every autumn, the Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse holds a gingerbread house contest. All ages are invited to submit a confectionary creation, with winners chosen for each of four categories: Confectioners Competition, Youth, Family/Group, and Canal Themed. This year’s houses are very imaginative, drawing their inspiration from a construction crew, a backyard shed, a beaver dam, a Central New York aquaduct, and even the Wizard of Oz. Fondant icing is rampant, as are any number of types of yummy shingling. (Chocolate discs, anyone?) The exhibit closes on January 3, so make sure to pay a visit before these sweets are gone!

Farmer’s Market

In market, syracuse on September 26, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Syracuse’s Farmers Market, located at 2100 Park Street, next to the Greyhound bus station and across the highway from the Carousel Center, isn’t easy to miss. Five long enclosures with green roofs, labeled A through E, and freestanding white tents in the sun house dozens of vendors. The Market is a yard sale, a garden sale and a green market all thrown together, and it runs year-round.More often than not, the vendors are the farmers themselves. Old sunspotted men unload their produce from the backs of their trucks while their hardened wives work the cash register. This is a family affair: children and grandchildren work as much as adults. These men and women don’t feel the need to hawk their goods or harass potential customers, which is a nice change from NYC street fairs.

The prices are shockingly low: three onions for three dollars, a 75 cent eggplant. One bread stall has a buy-one-get-one-free end-of-the-day loaf special. It’s cheaper than Wegmans and light years more affordable than Whole Foods, where food is made expensive by the packaging and shipping. Some stands advertise that they accept food stamps as payment, making a very good case for cheap, healthy calories (while also making this blogger happy as a clam.)

For such an old institution, the Farmers Market is surprisingly forward-thinking. Everything is locally grown by small farms. A preponderance of meats are free-range, grass fed, and organic. A rainbow of homemade pasta, cut into long, thin strips and short, dry squiggles, are mostly vegan. Reading material is available to educate you on the benefits of Islam and explain why it isn’t terror-based. Even progressive ideas like Fair Trade have wormed their way upstate.

The farmers and vendors sell prepared foods as well. Will you buy the coconut chocolate pecan fudge or the cinnamon chili chocolate pecans? The natural peanut butter or the canned jams and vegetables? There are samples galore: try the cheese, peanut brittle, grass-fed jerky and wine. Lots of homemade treats are sold in Ziplock bags. Must-haves are the pure maple candy, sold at Leonard’s Maple Syrup by the most adorable, authentic-looking, crusty old farmer I’ve ever seen; and the 25-cent sticks of flavored honey (lemonade! peach!), sold at the tiny honey stand.

Beyond farm-fresh produce and prepared cuisine, the adjacent flea market includes household goods and apparel. Sift through tables and cartons of shea butter, sunglasses, jewelry, toys, sheets and candles before heading off to lunch at one of the meal carts. Smells from the Pierogie Guy, Ma & Pa’s Kettle Korn and Dogs On Wheels permeate the air. There’s even Thai and Laotian food, and of course, that zenith of gustatory pleasure, fried dough.

This is Syracuse at its best, most interesting, most accepting and most progressive. The crowd is a melting pot. Women in hijabs push strollers past teens in bondage pants and baggy jeans; men in big glasses and trucker hats purchase cookies from pinch-faced Amish women, who will smile if coaxed. (The Amish pastries are very good; give one a try.) All in all, the Farmers Market is a fantastic jumping-off point for the local food movement, and for culture in Central New York.

In Support of the Fall Play

In syracuse, theater on September 12, 2009 at 12:01 am
Thespian Troupe #98, FM’s theater club.

To Whom It May Concern,

I am dismayed to hear that the Fayetteville-Manlius High School fall play has been canceled this year. I am writing to ask you to reinstate the play as quickly as possible.

In high school, acting in the fall play was my most cherished extracurricular activity, and ultimately, my career choice. The play creates a close-knit group of like-minded students who learn to cooperate, collaborate, and develop something out of nothing. It encourages creative solutions to complex problems and brings shy students out of their shells. Most importantly, it provides a very different outlet from the musical, which is often too monolithic to allow individual students’ voices and input to be heard and taken into serious consideration. The play is more intimate, more serious, and gives more opportunities for legitimate acting training.

Performing, and acting in particular, supplies students with invaluable skills later in life. From basic self-confidence to the art of public speaking, students develop and mature in extraordinary ways through theater. Since graduating from FM, I have used my acting training in many unlikely ways, from studying to be a professional actor to working in national political offices and presiding over college clubs. I would not be the self-confident, forthright, creative person I am today, were it not for my passion for acting and the outlets which FM gave me to explore and expand that passion.

Finally, I would like to say a word about Scott Austin, FM’s drama teacher for the past five years. Scott is an open-minded, wildly creative young man, and a tough yet thoughtful teacher. Under his guidance, the fall play was reimagined into something which students create from the ground up, considering characters’ motivation and blocking their own scenes in complex, thought-provoking theater pieces. Scott deserves better than to lose the fall play which I know he loves. I am ashamed that FM would treat such a great man so poorly.

I sincerely hope that you will reinstate the fall play, if not this year, then certainly next year and in the years to come. Schools of lesser economic capability often are forced to cut theater and art programs; FM is better than that. Please do not deny FM’s gifted students the chance to grow and thrive through theater.


Meb Byrne

If you are familiar with FM’s fall play, please write a similar letter of support. Molly Linhorst, an FM senior, is collecting the letters. Contact her at

Casey’s Cottage

In dinner, event, music, park, performance, recommended, renaissance, syracuse on September 9, 2009 at 9:29 pm
Casey’s Cottage is an unassuming wooden house, nestled on the grounds of Mexico Point Park, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Once the carriage house to a larger home on the property and a destination for alcohol smuggled from Canada during Prohibition, Casey’s Cottage is now used for weddings and other social functions. The interior is elaborately carved with medieval figures, and the exposed rafter beams are covered with weird writings: some Latin, some Old English, some a made-up language. The tiny second floor holds two levels of darkened bunk beds and a miniature chapel. The whole building is romantic and endearing to a fault.
The best event at Casey’s Cottage is held for three days every August. Guests are invited to take a trip back in time, and to experience a full Renaissance dinner, complete with food, music, and entertainment. Upon their arrival, guests are instructed to park their “steeds” by a footman, and make their way to the front lawn, where they are greeted by Omen Sade and Nik Magill, two young actors performing as the Feckless Momes. The two young men tumble, tell jokes, sing, dance (if you can call it that), spit water at each other, and even dabble in Commedia dell’Arte techniques to amuse the crowd. Audience participation is random and mandatory if you are lucky enough to be singled out in the crowd.
The Feckless Momes: Nik Magill and Omen Sade.

At the finale of the Feckless Momes show, guests make their way into the Cottage, and are announced at the door as, for example, “Sir John of Smith and Lady Jane of Doe.” Serving wenches lead guests to their seats. The Queen enters last, in full regalia, and welcomes the diners. Another introduction and welcome are given by the Cottage staff, and a third by the voice of Sir William Casey himself, booming from the rafters as if by magic.
Dinner is brought out in small dishes by serving wenches, all students at the local high school. The far-and-away best of the dishes are the Dragon’s Eyeballs, juicy meatballs marinated in a dark, sweet glaze. Guinevere’s Gams (chicken legs), Merlin’s Orbs (baked potatoes) and Lancelot’s Spears (wraps of cheese, asparagus and various deli meats) are also perennial favorites. The menu changes slightly from evening to evening and year to year: one night hard-boiled eggs are served, the next a deep-fried wonton, the next a variation on spanakopita, each with an appropriately fanciful name. Super-sweet boxed wine, beer and water are poured generously.
Just as the food is variable from year to year, so is the entertainment. The Feckless Momes frolic and generally harass guests throughout dinner, to the great delight of the crowd (particularly the women.) Harp and recorder music are played in the background throughout the night, with interruptions for several singing performances by Abigail Anderson and Meb Byrne. (Full disclosure: that’s me. My mother is one of the harp players.) Performances are often impromptu: this year, the Feckless Momes did an on-the-spot duet with the harpists on “The Butterfly,” featuring a kazoo and a pan banged over Nik’s head.
Harpies: Amy Hueber and Jennifer Byrne.
Singers: Abigail Anderson and Meb Byrne.
The best part of the evening is the very end, when Omen rises to tell the story of the Cottage and how it came to be what it is today. The evening closes with a performance of Puck’s closing monologue from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and a fond farewell from the staff, until next year.
Mexico Point is by no means a professional endeavor, nor is it the end-all, be-all of Renaissance recreations. In fact, Casey’s Cottage almost grins at the idea of a true Renaissance reenactment, with its nonsensical wall carvings and medley of finger foods. Be that as it may, the Cottage is a happy, jovial place for friends and strangers to come together, share a night of fantasy and entertainment, and enjoy one another’s company. The common bonds of the human spirit at the dinner never fails to touch me, year after year. For those looking for whimsy, magic and a jaunt outside Syracuse to find new culture, Casey’s Cottage is a beautiful place to do so.

The All Night Egg Plant

In breakfast, brunch, diner, recommended, restaurant, syracuse on August 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Syracuse can be a tough town for foodies, especially if you’re looking for something more than a chain restaurant (read: Erie Boulevard.) Visiting foodies should acquaint themselves with The All Night Egg Plant to appease their diner-hungry stomachs.

The Egg Plant’s success lies in its simplicity, allowing patrons to make what they will of the restaurant. Early morning coffee? Early afternoon brunch? Late night munchies? The Egg Plant satisfies all criteria, with a simple menu of tried-and-true dishes, fresh ingredients and straight-forward service. The popular omelets can be stuffed with up to three ingredients, from a large list that ranges from traditional (cheddar, ham) to eclectic (lox, hash) to downright weird (chocolate syrup, peanut butter, assorted berries.) Strange combinations often work well; be adventurous! A similar, if slightly less bizarre, assortment of pancake flavors and toppings are equally scrumptious. Even the chocolate milk is made to order.

The prices are modest, the atmosphere calm and welcoming. The crowd runs the gamut in age and ethnicity, making the open dining room lively during peak hours. With such great breakfast basics, there’s no reason not to make The All Night Egg Plant a staple of your Syracuse dining experience.


Great New York State Fair: Poll

In festival, poll, syracuse on August 4, 2009 at 9:51 am

Following in the well-heeled footsteps of my longtime friend and fellow blogger Rochelle, I want to pose a question to anyone who’s been to the Great New York State Fair.

I’m bringing several friends from New York City up to Syracuse in early September for the Fair, and I want to show them the best time possible.

So my question for you is, what’s your favorite thing to do at the Great New York State Fair? The sausage sandwiches? The butter sculpture? The Footsie Wootsie? The live concerts? The multi-colored chickens? The quilting show? The midway?

Make sure we don’t miss anything!