The Buffalo News
January 30, 2011
Following Corning’s Chocolate Trail is a Sweet Adventure
Several months ago a friend of mine asked me if I ever heard of Corning’s Chocolate Trail. “No,” I replied, “But it sounds like something I want to find out about!” Considering that Corning is one of my favorite places to visit and I love anything chocolate, this proved to be a fun and delicious adventure.
My husband and I, accompanied by our two youngest children, took a day trip to Corning to check out the Chocolate Trail, which is one of several trails sponsored by Corning’s Gaffer District. Other trails they sponsor include an Antiques & Collectibles Trail, An Edible Excursions Trail, and a Kid’s Adventure Trail. The Gaffer District, which is named after the word for a master glassblower, is the go to group for tourism information about Corning.
Over two dozen merchants in downtown Corning, most of them along historic Market Street, participate in the Chocolate Trail. Each merchant has a chocolate-themed item featured, not necessarily something edible. While many have candies, cookies, and desserts, some have items like chocolate soap, candles, and even chocolate cigars.
Our first stop was Connors Mercantile, 16 East Market Street, which can best be described as a country store within the city. While Connors has a variety of items, including home décor, giftware, Vera Bradley, and the like, we stopped specifically to check out the chocolates carried in their candy case. Store manager, Jill Agosta described the two different brands of chocolates they sell. Naturally, we had to sample some of each brand and I’m happy to report that they are as delicious as they are beautiful.
The first, made by Texas-based Sweet Shop USA, is noted for their signature Fudge Love Truffle. This confection has a milk chocolate whipped fudge center and it is dipped twice, first in dark chocolate and then in milk chocolate.
The other chocolate carried by Connors is made by a local chocolatier, Christian Therion, who often gives talks about chocolate making at some of the events sponsored by the Gaffer District, including the upcoming Cabin Fever event in mid February.
We wandered down the street to the School House Country Store, 22 East Market Street, which features old-fashioned candy, candles, cookbooks, gifts, and more. Owner Shirley Toole pointed out their featured chocolate product, a chocolate delight candle by Corning Waxworks. “These are the best,” said Toole. “They burn nicely, and they smell so good.”
Our next stop was Market Street Coffee & Tea, 61 East Market Street. All their coffee beans are craft-roasted right in the store and some of the chocolate items they carry include chocolate coffee and tea, hot cocoa, and chocolate chai, plus a variety of chocolate candies. Their featured candies are Lake Champlain Chocolates, made in Burlington, Vermont.
Pam Weachock, owner of the shop, explained another promotion that Corning’s Gaffer District is sponsoring. About two dozen of the businesses along Market Streetare participating in the collectible art cards promotion. These beautifully decorated art cards, sort of a cross between a business card and a bookmark, depicts a colored sketch of the storefront the participating business, along with information about the business, their products, and other helpful information. These cards, which are free for the asking, are actually suitable for framing.
When lunch time rolled around, we had many choices, as there are over a dozen restaurants located on Market Street. I suggested to my family we check out Holmes Plate, as I had heard the food was good and we had never eaten there before. At first my kids were a bit hesitant about going in, as from the street it looks like a bar. However, the sign out front tempted us with home-made chicken pot pie and pulled pork sandwiches, so we decided to give it a try and we are very glad we did.
While the restaurant does have a bar room, with 54 different types of bottled beer on the menu, the dining room is very family-friendly. One of the unique features is that the tablecloths are actually large sheets of brown drawing paper. Big boxes of crayons are located at each table and patrons are encouraged to draw on the tablecloth while they wait for their food. The artwork is then cut out and displayed in 8 x 10 frames all around the dining room. We were told that they hope to eventually have the walls completely covered with the artwork.
As it turned out, pulled pork is their specialty. “Seventy-five percent of our customers order it,” said our waitress. “It’s awesome!” My husband decided to try the pulled pork, while I went with the chicken pot pie, a piping hot creation filled with huge chunks of chicken and veggies. For dessert, we tried their Oreo cheesecake, which was absolutely decadent.
Fortified with lunch, we continued shopping. We stopped at Simple Style, 2 West Market Street, which carries a variety of clothing, accessories, and home décor items. According to owner, Karen Maio, almost everything sold in the store is organic, Fair Trade, recycled, or re-engineered. Their Chocolate Trail featured items are chocolate soap and Fair Trade organic chocolate.
We then ventured down to the far west end of Market Street to Bottles & Corks, 130 West Market Street, a wine and liquor store which has weekly tastings on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. That particular day they were offering a taste of hot chocolate laced with Chambord. It hit the spot on a cold fall day and the staff was very gracious to offer plain hot chocolate to the children. The shop specializes in New YorkState wine; they are located in Finger Lakes Wine country, after all. In addition they have over 2,000 wines from around the world.
Beyond Baskets, 88 West Market Street, was the next stop on our agenda. This shop, carries a variety of items, including soap, bath and body, gourmet foods, jewelry, and gift baskets. They also have a delicious selection of hand-made chocolates.
“About a year and a half ago my husband, Gary, started researching and experimenting with chocolate,” said Cynthia, the owner of Beyond Baskets. “We now have a large variety that we sell both retail and wholesale.”
Some of their creations include chocolate dipped pretzels, Gary’s turtles (which really do look like turtles), the Ritz; two crackers sandwiching a layer of peanut butter and then dipped in chocolate. They also have a variety of bark candy, including flavors like blueberry blast, espresso, and Aztec, made with cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and chili powder.
We also stopped by a couple of our favorite stores not participating in the Chocolate Trail, including Imagine That!, 86 West Market Street, which has children’s clothing and toys. Another place to check out is the Corning Revere Factory store, 114 Pine Street, where you can stock up on houseware items made in Corning
While we only had the time to visit Corning for a day, one could easily turn a journey along the Chocolate Trail into an overnight stay or a weekend getaway. With Valentine’s Day coming up, a trip to Corning would make a nice romantic getaway.
The Fairfield Inn by Marriott Corning Riverside has created a special Chocolate Lovers package promotion for $119. This package offers overnight accommodations, a continental breakfast in the morning, a welcome gift of a chocolate bar of soap, plus a chocolate muffin for each guest at check-in. The hotel is located about two miles from Market Street
Chocolate Lover’s package participants are also entitled to discounts and freebies at some of the merchants, including 10% off bath items and a free truffle at Beyond Baskets. Another deal is a free fragrance wax tart made by Corning Waxworks at the School House Country Store, along with a free chocolate old-fashioned candy stick.
If you do decide to stay overnight, you will want to visit some of Corning’s attractions, including the well-known Corning Museum of Glass, which has the most extensive collection of glass objects in the world. They have a number of hands-on exhibits and a hot glass show which demonstrates glassblowing. You can even try your hand at making your own gloss objects in their Hands-on Workshops.
Another Corning Museum is the Rockwell Museum of Western art, which has a large collection of American Western and Native American art.
If you go
Corning’s Gaffer District www.gafferdistrict.com
Fairfield Inn by Marriott Corning Riverside, 3 South Buffalo Street, 607-937-9600, 800-228-2800
Connors Mercantile,16 East Market Street, 607-937-4438, www.connorsmercantile.com
School House Country Store, 22 East Market Street , 607-962-4374, www.theschoolhousecountrystore.com
Market Street Coffee & Tea, 61 East Market Street, 607-936-3351, www.marketstreetcoffeeandtea.com.
Holmes Plate, 54 West Market Street , 607-377-5500, www.holmesplate.com
Bottles & Corks, 130 West Market Street , 607-936-2222, www.bottlesandcorks.biz
Beyond Baskets, 88 West Market Street , 607-936-1663, www.beyondbasketscorningny.com
Corning Museum of Glass, 1 Museum Way , 800-732-6845, www.cmog.org
Rockwell Museum, 111 Cedar Street , 607-937-1430, www.rockwellmuseum.org
From Buffalo head east via either the NY State Thruway (1-90) or Route 20 (Broadway) to the I-390. Take the I-390 south until it becomes Route I-86. Head east on Route I-86 to Corning.