Sirk TV Travel Feature: Forward Thinking & Cultural Relevance – An Expanding Perception Of Niagara
The influence of cultural relevance in an area is always reflected in its history, its food, its culture, its religion and its way of life. Niagara Falls USA, with its distinct border along the Canadian coast as well as sharing a land bridge, offers an interesting structure of Americana. From its stories of immigrants and workers including Italians, Poles and Armenians to its battlefront status in both the War Of 1812 and the American Revolution, the life of the city is quite interesting.
Of course the initial imprint can always be The Falls but even its geographic perception was honed by the engineering generated in the amount of hydra-power it produces. Going even a little upriver to Three Sisters Island, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead who also designed Central Park in Manhattan, you can see how the different arenas were molded.
Moving backward to the perception of history, Old Fort Niagara, with its strategic point looking out onto Lake Ontario, has a paradoxical view in many ways. It can lead back to the Falls but from its vantage point you can also see Toronto across the way, 27 miles distant. This area around the fort was hard to land on so the British would have had to made their way ashore some ways up the coast and actually try to take the fort from land. One of the cooler stories of the fort was regards Betsy Doyle who, even though her husband was born in the States, was deemed a traitor and taken hostage. Even when he was sent back, his wife remained. Her claim to fame is that she was one of the few people who delivered hot shots (unstable cannonballs) up for firing in a raid. She died in poverty but her story earned her a New York Senate Woman Of Distinction mention.
The influence of religion, specifically Catholicism, is also specifically strong in this area. At Our Lady Of Fatima Shrine, which was celebrating their Festival of Lights upon the visit, the strong central core of belief that held the community together (especially among the Italian and Polish contingent) likely offered a sense of stability to the area. Now with more immigrants in flux in current day, the area takes on a distinct melting pot feeling (some say comparative to NYC).
The food is reflective of this as well with some integrating in site specific ways. Fortuna’s is an Italian restaurant that has been around for generations. In speaking with one of the town’s historian the influence of old world customs still permeates present day, especially in elements of music and cooking. The ravioli, heightened with anise, reflects a very specific family recipe while the gnocchi are still hand rolled. Across town, at The Polish Nook, pierogies are made from a three generation old recipe from Kraków. In this way nostalgia and that sense of belonging can create a very specific and stable soul to a city.
This is not to say the town isn’t growing up. From that point of view, two of its eateries show a flair for modern permutations in forward thinking. Carmelo’s in Lewiston has its farm to table essence down to perfection. It’s ogliette pasta optimizing local lamb sausage and goat cheese was simply ravenous while, in the central hub of Downtown Niagara Falls, Wine On Third offered a distinct cosmopolitan experience highlighted by loveliness of greens and flavors, savored in their Blueberry Arugula salad and their Blue Cheese Bruschetta slightly enticed with clover honey.
It is this melding of the old and the new with stories lurking just below the surface that make Niagara Falls USA a city and area that encourages closer examination.
By Tim Wassberg
Posted on December 8, 2015, in Arts Travel & Culture Features and tagged Carmelo's, Fortuna's, Niagara Falls, Niagara USA, Old Fort Niagara, Our Lady Of Fatima Shrine, Sirk TV, The Polish Nook, tim wassberg, Travel Feature, Wine On Third. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.