Friday, December 27, 2013

Thank you Binghamton!

Can you believe it?  In a mere 4 days, we will be ushering in a new year.  So much has happened over the course of the last 12 months.

Many in Binghamton continue to focus on the negative rather than the positives that are all around us.  No community is perfect; nor should we expect it to be.   What we should expect; no, demand; is that the momentum towards a brighter, better Binghamton continue in the years ahead.

There are so many individuals and groups in our community that gave tirelessly of their time and energy to make our city a better place to live and work.  As the list continues to grow each day, I simply cannot name them all.  So to all of you - Thank you.

We have so much to look forward to in the coming year.  Together we can make Binghamton a place we can all be proud to call home. Let's make that our collective New Year's Resolution.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My 15 Days of Gratitude

In case you have been living in a bubble or just haven't been paying much attention; the most recent trend on Facebook has been daily status updates on what we are thankful for.  

Not one to buck a trend, here are mine for the first 15 days of the month.

I am thankful.....

  1. that Binghamton residents will set aside their differences and come together as a community during times of crisis (i.e. 2006 and 2010 Floods).  
  2. that Binghamton residents are extremely generous when it comes to charitable and nonprofit events and causes (i.e.  STAP, CHOW, Humane Society, etc.)
  3. that Binghamton has been able to keep that small town feel while providing its residents with the arts and cultural experience normally found in the "big" city (i.e. Tri-Cities Opera, Broadway in Binghamton, Artist's Row, Roberson Museum & Science Center, Know Theatre, etc.)
  4. that Binghamton has a diverse and active music scene appealing to all tastes and ages (i.e. Binghamton Philharmonic, Driftwood, Burns Sisters, Salsa Libre, etc.)
  5. that Binghamton has a wide variety of locally owned and operated restaurants and pubs (i.e. Remlik's, Lost Dog, Galaxy Brewing, Little Venice, Amici's, Tranquil Bar & Bistro, Burger Mondays, Mad Moose, etc.)
  6. that Binghamton; though not without an occasional hiccup, is more inclusive and accepting of its residents regardless of race, gender, economic circumstances and sexual orientation than other comparably sized cities
  7. that Binghamton is home to the Binghamton Mets and the Binghamton Senators
  8. that Binghamton is at the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers which provide us with up close and personal glimpses of nature throughout the year
  9. that Binghamton has one of the most beautiful parks right within its borders - Recreation Park - home to one of our two carousels
  10. that Binghamton has a some exciting and interesting shops (Sall Stearns, Tom's Coffee Cards & Gifts, Garland Gallery, Imagicka, etc.) offering something for just about everyone
  11. that Binghamton is home to a wide network of truly creative people and organizations (Freshy Sites, CoWork Binghamton, Hue Graphics, Ad Elements, etc.)
  12. that Binghamton was home to Rod Serling
  13. that Binghamton has one the oldest zoos in North America - Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park - home to another one of our two carousels
  14. that Binghamton has some outstanding groups that promote all that is great about our city (BingSpot, What's Goin' On Binghamton?, Greater Binghamton Today, 365 Binghamton, etc.)
  15. that Binghamton is my home.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Quest for a "Hunch Worthy" Binghamton Burger

Photo Credit: Food Network 
The Burger. a formed patty of ground meat grilled to perfection served on a bun with a myriad of toppings.  It is no longer the "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles on a sesame seed bun" we grew up with. 

In Binghamton, where there is a bar or micro-brewery; there is bar food.  The burger is a bar food menu staple.  But who has the best "hunch-worthy" burger in Binghamton?

I propose we invite Guy Fieri to come to Binghamton and do his famous "hunch" move over some of our home grown burgers and decide.  Since that may take some doing, I have decided to start my own personal quest for the best hunch worthy burger in Binghamton.

Galaxy Brewing Company's BC Burger. One of the best I have had so far. Topped with Dubbel balsamic onions, bacon, Gruyere cheese, tomatoes, and a garlic herb aioli on a perfectly sized ciabatta roll; there is a definitely no need for ketchup or any other condiments to be on your table for this one. 

A double patty, grilled onions, Vermont Cheddar cheese and a special sauce, I have yet been able to duplicate, definitely puts Remlik's Grille & Oyster Bar's in the running for the top hunch worthy burger.
Of course, my quest has only just begun.  While I have had burgers at several other Binghamton restaurants, it was before I made the conscious decision to find the best of the best.  I will reserve my commentary on the other locations until I have had a chance to reevaluate my "hunch" opinion of their offerings.  

In the meantime, which is your favorite Binghamton restaurant, bar or microbrewery "hunch worthy" burger?  Where should I venture for my next "hunch-worthiness" test?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thoughts on the Broome County Transit System

Greater Binghamton Transportation Center
photo courtesy of
"You can't understand a city with using its public transportation system." - Erol Ozan

I just completed my first week as a Broome County transit user and I find it necessary to relate to you a bit about my experience.

First of all, contrary to popular belief, the users of the public transit system are an eclectic mix.  I had the pleasure of sharing my daily commute with young mothers, retirees, Binghamton University professors, retail and factory workers, and students ranging from High School to College age.  Not once did I encounter anything other than a sense of being welcomed into what seems to have become a family like atmosphere.  Everyone was greeted with a "Hello. How are you today?" as they entered the bus.  It was refreshing to see so many young people giving up their seats to the young mothers with small children in tow or to the senior citizens without having to be asked.

Every bus driver greeted the passengers with a smile and a friendly hello; although you could tell that the long hours behind the wheel were taking their toll.  

However, not matter how wonderful the drivers are, the overall service itself is in need of improvement.  The schedules and routes need to seriously be looked at and revamped to meet the needs of the community.  For a majority of the riders, including myself, downtown Binghamton was not our final destination.  The Greater Binghamton Transportation Center is merely a transfer station for most. The schedules, while taking into consideration, "normal" work shifts; do not provide much flexibility for the users during their "off" hours.  

Although the last bus out of the transportation center is at 9:55 during the week (if you are lucky enough to live within the City of Binghamton limits; the others in Broome County are out of luck); on the weekends the last bus outbound is 6 pm (again for City of Binghamton - North, South and East sides only).  For those who either work in the retail or services industries on the weekends or just want to attend some of the great events around town; they are forced to pay upwards of $22 for a cab.  This is on top of the $70 they are paying for a 31 day bus pass which in reality cannot be used for the full 31 days due to scheduling and route restrictions.

Rumors were running rampant among both the passengers and the transit employees regarding the County's attempt to privatize the system.  I am not going to repeat them; as they are only rumors.  However, the county needs to seriously take into consideration the needs of its residents when making a decision on something as important as public transportation.  It needs to work with the end users and the employees in the field to determine their transportation needs.

Public transportation must serve both social and economic ends.  "High-ridership transit is a tool for healing and sustaining cities, and its capacity to bring large numbers of people to central locations empowers not just the downtown economy but also the civic square, the arts, the tourism industry, the commons, all the distinctively urban experiences that happen only when people can come together, without their cars." Privatized Transit and (or vs.) the Public Good.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Look No Further Than Your Screen

I started the Patti Loves Bing Facebook page and this blog, as a means of expressing my obsession with everything Binghamton rather than to solely promote events and/or local businesses.  That being said, I am devoting this post to the promotion of the many Facebook pages that promote events and businesses on a daily basis. 

Some of the people behind these pages are faceless. Then there are others very much in the public eye. Either way, their undying love for the area is not to be taken lightly.  So, the next time you feel that urge to post that there is nothing going on in Binghamton or that there are no places to shop except Walmart or Target; remember all you need to do is check these pages out on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. 

Several of the pages worth following are: Greater Binghamton TodayBinghamton Business ReviewProud of Upstate New York and 365 Binghamton.  These are far from being the only pages out there.  Any that I have missed in highlighting is due more to lack of space on this post than anything else.  However, there are two I would like to give a big shout out to. (Plus it gives me a chance to test the Facebook embedded post feature; forgive me the momentary lapse into geekiness.)

BingSpot is clearly the leader with over 9,600 followers.  Their founders have an uncanny sense of not only promoting every major Binghamton event; but capturing each event through the lens of their cameras.

What's Goin' On Binghamton? is another page worth following.  They not only promote local area events and business; but also make full use of their own YouTube channel and have a presence on LinkedIn. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Binghamton is Real - Not A Hollywood Backlot

I try my best to keep a positive outlook and to promote how great Binghamton is; just like all the other Facebook community pages regarding the Binghamton area.  However, over the last few days a link to a poll naming Binghamton as the Nation's most downbeat city (Link here) has resurfaced. After the 20th time seeing it being shared on my news feed, I am compelled to say something.

First of all, this article is over a year and a half old. The Gallup poll it references was taken in 2011 right after our last flood.  We were all downbeat at that time whether we were directly affected or not.  So honestly, let's put things in the right perspective.

Perpetuating a negative attitude rather than a positive one does nothing to make those who are trying to better the city and the lives of its residents work any harder.  What it does is play right into the hands of those who want to see Binghamton brought back to the 1950's which is totally unrealistic.  In order for the city to grow and flourish, it must work on those things that need improvement; such as crime, economic development, infrastructure, while at the same time promote the things that have improved over the last several decades.

Binghamton will never be Mayberry and I do not believe that many of us want it to be.  Too many people complain online about what they perceive as being wrong with Binghamton. When confronted, they are quick to admit that either they haven't ventured from their neighborhood into the downtown core in years or they no longer live within the city limits.

I realize that my writing this post is probably not going to have much of an effect; as the saying goes, "Haters are going to hate".  However, I refuse to believe that I am the only one that disagrees with this poll.  What shocks me the most is the silence from those that do believe in Binghamton and all that is today and can offer in the future.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hello September

photo taken September 2012 along the banks of the Susquehanna River
It's already the first day of September here in Binghamton. The summer seems to have flown by and for many, I am sure you are disappointed.  I have a confession to make, I couldn't be happier that Fall is just around the corner.

To me, Fall is the most beautiful time of the year in the Binghamton area. Beautiful in the aesthetic sense with the changing of the foliage surrounding us on the hills. One of the advantages of living in a valley is that you do not have to look very far to take in the sweeping landscapes of color.  Color that is constantly changing as the days pass.

Then there is the yearly transformation that takes place in the heart of the city. While a bone of contention for many, having both the Binghamton University and SUNY Broome Community College students back in town does add a sense of completeness to the city.  It almost feels like we are welcoming our own children home from a long vacation.

September is also when, as a community, we begin gearing up for a flurry of events supporting the many local nonprofit organizations in the area; everything from Duck Races down the Chenango River to Hair Warz.  Let's not forget the upcoming food inspired events, also supporting worthy causes, from Restaurant Week to Men Who Cook.

It is also the season of Apple Cider, Pumpkins and Hayrides.  All of which have a magical power of transporting us back to our youth.

For the parents of school age children, September is also the time when you can look forward to complaints about homework; chauffeuring to and from after school practices; and what sometimes seems to be the ever present whining about something or other school related.  Being a new empty nester, I encourage you to treasure each and every whine and every call to be picked up from practice. The Septembers of your future will quickly pass and these minor inconveniences will be missed.  

So, Binghamton say Hello to September!  Embrace it for all it represents. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Vibrancy That Is Downtown Binghamton

Last night, I experienced something in downtown Binghamton which warranted this post.  Many will credit this to the sultry weather or the fact that the SUNY students are back in town.  Okay, I will give you both of those; however, I refuse to give them both full credit.

There were more people walking and talking on the sidewalks than I have seen in a very long time.  Every few feet on Court St there were small groups of people clearly enjoying each other's company.  These groups encompassed every age group; hence my hesitation in crediting the return of the students. There were couples strolling hand in hand stopping to look at window displays or simply gazing into each other's eyes.  

The only other times that I have witnessed this downtown has been on First Fridays.  First Friday participants have more of a sense of purpose about them. They have set in their minds and their outward demeanor which of the featured venues they would be attending.  

This was different.  For the first time, I observed people actually enjoying all that is downtown as well as the company of others.  

My only disappointment about this entire experience would be that many of the downtown businesses along Court St and Washington St were not capitalizing on this increase of foot traffic.  For example, I was approached by a couple in the 60's who asked if I knew when M & D-R Nuts was open.  They had their hearts set on stopping in to buy some to take home.  I also overheard a much younger group of people comment that they wish Curry's of India was open as it would have been a nice choice for dinner.   I, myself, was disappointed to find Washington St dark as I parked my car; with the exception of Binghamton Hots and Cafe Oasis.

The downtown core is clearly on the path to be a destination place other than for work or business.   Let's not take it for granted.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Galaxy Brewing Company - Out of this World

Tonight was a gastronomic experience that one can only describe as out of this world.  Having an employee as a family member, allowed me to receive one of the coveted invitations to the Friends & Family Night at the new Galaxy Brewing Company (41 Court St., Binghamton). Originally scheduled for Thursday, it was pushed to this evening.  

When I arrived, I was greeted by friendly staff.  They introduced themselves and made sure I was comfortable at the bar while I waited for my dinner companion.  

The bar was clearly set up to accommodate any drink order from a martini, cocktail, wine (there is a full wine list) and, of course, handcrafted beer.  Being that this was an establishment with the word brewing in its name I, of course, was clearly going to stick with the beer.  They had 3 distinct choices on tap.  Coming in there blind (and being a Coors Light girl normally... don't judge), I asked for a description of each before making my choice.  The bartender appeared to be thoroughly versed in her descriptions of each of the 3 choices. However, just in case there was a daily beer menu for a full description of each brew.  I decided on the Galactic Silk Ale ($5 - 16 oz pour/ $4 - 10 oz pour). It was a smooth amber with notes of caramel and a super creamy head.  It was slightly reminiscent of a Guinness but no where near as heavy.

One cool thing about the bar area was the glass enclosed brewery directly across of it. It was a nice feature only to be made better if the patrons could see the brewery in operation. Maybe that will be something for the future.

Once my dinner companion arrived, we were promptly directed to our table. The table happened to be on what one could only describe as a stage.  It was a raised area above the rest of the dining room which I could only assume would host live entertainment in the future. Our table gave me a clear vantage point of observing not only the other patrons but the staff as they made their way through the dining area to the kitchen.

Before I get to the food, I must tell you about the decor.  The color scheme of pumpkin and, what I can only describe as, pale teal combined with the exposed industrial ceiling ducts and metal pillars gave off an ambiance I can only describe as "Soho-istic".  The seating was spaced in a way that you could easily carry on a conversation without worrying about others overhearing but not spaced too far apart that it seemed stark or empty.

Now, let's get to the food.  Since this was billed as the final night of training for the staff, the full menu was not available.  Believe me, that did not leave you lacking options.  We started out with the Crispy Pork Belly ($9) as an appetizer to share.  I also ordered the Basket of Fries ($5) at the request of my son (yes, the family member employee) who would be joining us during his break.  The pork belly was tender and flavorful.  It was served on an ale Dijon celery root puree with apple, fennel and a cider vinaigrette. Although there was plenty for two of us to share, I would recommend ordering one just for yourself; it was that good.

For our entrees, we ordered the Bone In Pork Chop served with an apple wood bacon white bean ragout, pears and fontina cheese ($17),  and the Chicken Sausage Jambalaya ($16).  On the recommendation of our server, we switched our beer choices to St. Stusan Ale for the pork entree and the Beer #42 ESB for the Jambalaya.  Both were excellent companions to our entrees.

The only suggestion we would have is that there be 

1. An indication on the menu for those items which are on the spicy side of the spectrum.  Having been familiar with Chef Brian Lovesky's offerings, my dinner companion was aware of the spice level when he ordered his Jambalaya entree.  An indication on the menu would be helpful for those without a prior frame of reference.

2. A chef's recommendation on the menu as to which beer would pair best with each entree would be helpful.  We are fortunate enough to have a server who was proactive enough to offer his recommendation.  This may not be the case in the future; especially when there is a full dining room of patrons to be served.

The full menu offers everything from starters and snacks, salads, soups, burgers and sandwiches, stone pizzas, mussels, entrees and a kids menu. Galaxy Brewing Company has the potential of becoming the go to place for young professionals, families and the university students.  The price range and selections would appeal to every budget.  

I would strongly recommend that you stop in and give them a try.  Their grand opening is scheduled for Friday, August 30th.  If you are unable to make it down then, they are also one of the newest participants in the upcoming Binghamton Restaurant Week (Sept. 17 - Sept. 26) and would be a great option for either lunch or dinner then.

Galaxy Brewing Company is poised to make its mark on the Binghamton Restaurant and MicroBrewery scene.  I, for one, look forward to their inevitable success; if tonight was any indication.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Not So Close Encounter with the President

Today was a big day for the Binghamton area!  President Barack Obama was coming to town.  It would be the first time a sitting US President came to this area since Bill Clinton in 2000.

Due to scheduling conflicts, I knew I would not be able to take part in any of the excitement. I was already committed to driving my youngest up to college. Being a mom must take precedence over everything. Sorry, Mr. President, I think you would have to agree with me on this one.

Not to be completely out of the loop, I posted an invitation to the President on Facebook and Twitter. I suggested that we meet half way between Binghamton and Syracuse for a cup of coffee and to catch up on our lives. Having been social/digital media coordinator for the Binghamton team, I was certain he would oblige.

Alas, he never confirmed that we would meet.  Undaunted, I sat in the car with my trusty Blackberry set to camera mode.  I was determined to get a picture of "Bus-1" and its accompanying motorcade as they traveled from the Syracuse area toward Binghamton.  I was ready to have the first photo as he neared his destination.

As we left Binghamton this morning, I noticed North Otsiningo Park (the former rest area site) was packed with protesters and their signs. Unfortunately, as I went to snap a picture worthy of being picked up by the local paper, my driver (okay, husband) shifted lanes and the semi-truck, now on the right of me, was blocking the shot.  

We noticed that the turnaround lanes in the median were blocked with orange cones. Other than that, everything else appeared normal. It looked like it would be smooth sailing for the duration of the trip. A quick check of twitter revealed that the President was on the move through Skaneateles   It seemed possible that our paths might cross.

Around Cortland, we noticed a dramatic drop in traffic in the southbound lanes.  In fact, other than an occasional NYS trooper, there was no other vehicles.  It was at this point, my excitement level increased.

I strained against the seat belt and craned my neck every time our side of the highway changed elevation.  I never noticed until today that for most of the hour trip to Syracuse you do not see the oncoming traffic lanes.

Finally, around the Preble/Tully area we see the flashing lights of NYS Police motorcycles coming toward us. There are people standing on the side of the road at the edge of some cornfields.  There are people standing on one of the overpasses.  The on and off ramps are blocked by police vehicles. Could this possibly be it?

Unfortunately it was not meant to be. As we continued on, we notice a big black bus at a gas station surrounded by the flashing lights of emergency vehicles.  In fact, it there were so many flashing lights that it reminded me of Studio 54 back in the day.  It was too far away for a camera phone to get a clear shot.  

As soon as we hit the Syracuse city limits, I knew that I would not get that photo.  It was then that we saw the backup of southbound vehicles. I knew that my disappointed was probably nothing compared to those attempting to go on their way.

Even though I was not able to share our area's surge of patriotism in person; I was able to feel it through all the twitter and facebook alerts coming to my phone.  Binghamton University, the entire Broome County area, and even the Spiedie, received POSITIVE national attention today.  For that, we should all be proud.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Binghamton, We Are Better Than That!

In a matter of minutes this afternoon, Facebook and Twitter were all atwitter (pardon the pun) over the prospect of the President of the United States visiting the area next week.

For the most part, the comments I read were positive with some borderline sarcastic with references to the roundabout and the Front Street overpass. However, I was dismayed to read a local reporter comment on what he found to be disgusting and racist commentary being posted on their website. Thankfully, the news organization was on top of things and deleted the offensive comments.

We are all entitled to our personal opinions of the man behind the office. As Americans and Binghamton residents, we should all stand together and acknowledge that having the leader of our country visit this area is a BIG DEAL.  Now more than ever, we need to outwardly show our pride in this city and promote how far it has come over the last several years.

Yes, it is not perfect.  Honestly, no city or town is perfect.  The closest anyone has come to utopia is Seahaven from The Truman Show.  Even there, Truman Burbank knew there was something missing.  But I digress.

Rather than planning rallies or protests, let's plan to pay extra attention to how our city looks.  Even taking the extra step to pick up a stray piece of trash from the sidewalk downtown will not only help make the President's first impression more pleasant; it will also make you feel a little better.

Think about it realistically for a moment.  The President makes a stop in the city of Binghamton while on a tour from Pennsylvania to upstate New York.  It will make national news.  Would you rather see Binghamton shown in a positive or negative light?  I, for one vote, for the positive image.

Binghamton is so rich in history and full of so much promise.  We all need to work together to fulfill that promise.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Spiedie Fest & Balloon Rally: It's More Than Just Marinated Meat & Balloons

This weekend brought us the 29th Annual Spiedie Fest & Balloon Rally.  Yes, it started; at least the Spiedie Fest part, over a debate among friends as to who had the best spiedie recipe. The hot air balloon rally was added much later.  It has since morphed into something much more than a celebration of marinated meat and hot air balloons.

In my opinion, it has become a celebration of community above all else.  I spent the better part of Saturday walking and observing the people.  Whether it was families, teenagers or seniors enjoying the event, there was a clear sense of community throughout Otsiningo Park.  Very rarely can you gather 1000's of people in a confined space and see so many smiles and friendly faces. As I was taking pictures, I overheard one woman say she was from Ohio and was amazed at how friendly everyone was.  I am sure that was not an isolated incident.  

Congratulations to the organizers, scores of volunteers and, to all the people of Broome County.  Once again, you have not failed me in proving that it is the people that makes this place as special as it is.