I can drive by the Mackenzie-Childs store and Vintage Lighting in Aurora (sometimes), but I can’t be anywhere near the lovely village on the east side of Cayuga Lake without feeling the pull of Pumpkin Hill Bistro.
It hasn’t happened yet, at any rate. A business and pleasure trip brought me to Aurora last week, and I was seduced, once again, into having lunch on the back porch at Pumpkin Hill, overlooking the fields and rolling hills leading to the lake.
It was a perfect day for it, too: Sunny and breezy with temperatures in the mid-‘70s. What a nice way to celebrate the first official day of summer and the longest day of the year.
THE VIBE: The restaurant is in a rehabbed 1820s farmhouse, the Sellen House, which was moved to Pumpkin Hill and parked in the middle of more than 20 acres. The dining areas are very country. Owners Terry Dewis and Andy Casas have described Pumpkin Hill as “a little like ‘Little House on the Prairie’ crossed with an English pub.’’
LIQUID ASSETS: Fresh-brewed iced tea and freshly-squeezed lemonade served in mason jars, plus beer, wine and other adult beverages to wet your whistle.
THE MENU: That’s the realm of Susanne “Cookie” Wheeler, Pumpkin Hill’s executive chef, and country-comfort food with gourmet touches sums it up. You’ll find old favorites like Cookie’s chicken pot pie and shepherd’s pie and new favorites like tapas, the chef’s twist on small plates, designed for sharing.
The restaurant sources much of its produce locally, and shines the light on center-of-the-plate items, too, like Finger Lakes Maple Farm duck breast.
DECISION TIME: I took a pass on soups, hot and cold sandwiches and lunch-sized entrees in favor of the Aurora Salad ($8.99). It features fresh spinach leaves packed into a small colander, along with sliced apples, candied walnuts, crumbled bacon and cubes of sharp New York State cheddar cheese, tossed with just the right amount of house-made maple vinaigrette dressing. It was served with a warm roll and was delicious down to the last bit of bacon.
WHAT IS SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T EAT MEAT GOING TO FIND? Multiple choices, including a black bean burger on grilled ciabatta bread, topped with greens, tomato relish and cilantro dressing. And the day’s harvest, a selection of fruit, vegetable and grains that changes according to the season.
WHAT’S FOR DESSERT? I opted out, but a chef named Cookie does not disappoint in this department. You’ll find cakes, cookies, cobblers, crisps, pies, puddings and more. The check was delivered with two tiny Snickerdoodle cookies, each about the size of a quarter.
THE DAMAGES: $14.81, including tax, tip and a glass of iced tea.
VITALS: Pumpkin Hill is at 2051 state Route 90, on its namesake, Pumpkin Hill, about four miles south of Aurora. During the summer, the restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations are accepted by phone only: 315-364-7091.
NEXT WEEK: Read about a charming food and wine store in the village of Aurora.