Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Hollow, Albany

Yesterday, my friend and former co-worker Megan and I met up at an opening at the Albany Center Gallery (where I had never been before, but thought it was a really cool space) and headed over to The Hollow, where I've been wanting to go for quite some time. I'm not really one for Happy Hour menus (maybe because most nights you'd rather go on and have a proper dinner), but on Fridays, after a long hard week - you deserve those sliders and that mason jar of whatever pretty looking mixture! You made it this far! Anything else can wait, I say.

So we showed up and ordered from the Happy Hour menu the shrimp skewers which come with a really nice vinaigrette, some arugula, and some roasted red peppers. They were very flavorful and had a kicked up spice on them, which I enjoyed. We also ordered the asparagus plate which tasted super fresh and was perfect for spring (shall it ever really show up) with the lemon and the parsley.

We were drinking the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($1 off at Happy Hour, heeey!), which was fine and just the ticket. I'm pretty disappointed though, after looking at all the relatively local places represented on the beer list to see no Finger Lakes wines represented on the wine list at all (some from Long Island, though, which I'd like to learn more about).

Then we moved on to the hummus board - a bunch of good stuff piled on together on a big long plank - roasted red peppers, arugula, goat cheese, I think some Parmesan or some other hard cheese, and some naan bread. I was a fan of it all, and the hummus was very tasty with a tangy lemon flavor.

The waiter was there when we needed him, but not intrusive in any way, which was perfect for our chatting.

There are times in the past that I have wondered if work friends are real friends. I think after all this time, I can say, yes, they are, but they are almost something better in a way too. They knew you down in the trenches, in difficult situations which may have taken a lot of effort to find your way out of. They know exactly where you've come from, and how you were treated, and can appreciate your progress or struggles more than anyone. I type this from another former coworker's house whose dogs I have been watching for 5 years - half a decade! Any kind of work is something we have to do, we show up rain or slush or hail or when we're extremely tired, we keep showing up, sharing the carpet with strangers, chatting with them about the weather and the Academy Awards - doing tasks we have to do to get a paycheck to get by. Then one day, you realize your former coworkers feel a lot like relatives. They remember things you forgot you told them, and want updates on your family members whether they've met them or not. I'm going to go ahead and say whatever path led me to all these people, was a really great path indeed.

I'd love to spend another Friday evening decompressing and transitioning from the work week to the weekend at the Hollow having a drink and nibbling on their tasty snacks.

Valentine's Day Honeymoon Quasi-Re-Creation

Ms. Garlic and I never go out for Valentine's Day, which even if you can get into your restaurant of choice tends to involve prix fixe specials that are inferior but substantially more expensive than the restaurant's typical menu.  And a restaurant meal budget can get you some very fancy ingredients for a home meal, so we prefer that.

Back in February, I made rack of lamb for the anniversary.  I use Thomas Keller's recipe, which reminds me of our honeymoon (we spent part of it in Northern California, and while Keller's most famous restaurant is far beyond our means we did eat at the much more affordable and still excellent bistro Bouchon.)    I pretty much follow the recipe as is, although as with most restaurant recipes about half the butter in the rub works fine.  You combine anchovy, garlic and butter with a mortar and pestle (or food processor -- we did the former, thanks Ms. Garlic for the mortaring and pestling!), add bread crumbs and herbs.  Sear the rack of lamb for a couple minutes, cover it with a mixture of Dijon mustard and a little honey, and then cover with the bread crumb mixture.

From here, we used a tablespoon of the lamb fat to brown some fingerling potatoes, which conveniently roast for pretty much the same time as the lamb.  For the other vegetable side, we made broccoli in a matter similar to this recipe, only 1)peeling the stems is a massive pain in the ass that yields very little benefit to me, but YMMV; 2)I add a minced shallot as well as the garlic; and 3)I use half dry vermouth and half water for the boiling liquid.

This year, we did splurge on the wine a bit -- again advantage of a home-cooked meal! -- and got the Merry Edwards Pinot Noir.  It's the first glass of wine I had on the Napa part of our honeymoon, and it's fantastic.

Every meal is terrific with Ms. Garlic, but this one is extra terrific.

Finally, let me add that if you roast with any frequency this is the BEST THING EVER.  It gives you the temperature as you go, and it's always reliable.  The other meat thermometers I had gave accurate temperatures maybe half the time, which is useless.  This one works. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Old and Married New Year's Eve

A couple years ago I read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles over the holidays and somehow got this idea that New Year's Eve meant trolling through a Jazz Bar in a seedy corner of 1930s Manhattan about to make so many different choices that will profoundly effect one's life for all the years to come, preferably wearing pearls and silk and drinking champagne. Well, there times in life when your choices are made gradually and flow like a river into other choices, and sometimes there are no choices to be made at all, except always the choice to continue on one's set path or to alter it ever so slightly in ways you don't even notice yourself until much later. Also, what is actually wrong with pajama pants New Year's Eve?

To which I bring you to old and married New Year's Eve. Old and Married New Year's Eve includes the delicious Love Boat dish pictured above.

 We went to Tomo in Slingerlands. Its a great place in general, and the staff is always efficient and responsive to questions about the food. The Love Boat consists of 15 pcs sashimi, 10 pcs sushi, served with spicy tuna and dragon roll. I especially enjoyed the salmon and white tuna. We also really love the white tuna tataki cold appetizer which has a sesame sauce so delicious you wish you could just guzzle it down. Also, the owner gave my husband chopstick lessons, which was so sweet of her and adorable to watch.

Next up on the agenda was dancing in the living room to Pitbull and Ne-Yo, drinking cocktails using an amazing mix we mysteriously received in the mail (who sent us the Bittermilk's charred grapefruit tonic?), and repeatedly saying out load: "2015! 2015! Imagine that!"

In the year 2000, I graduated from high school. I also remember when I was 8 years old thinking about the year 2000 as so incredibly far away and a time when I'd be a "grown up".

In the year 2005, I moved to NYC to work in a coffee shop and live with 5 roommates who barely knew English in a colorful Brooklyn neighborhood. It was a life which was decidedly not the Sex and the City fantasy I imagined when I first wanted to move to NYC in the year 2000.

In the year 2010, I started working full-time in arts related jobs and got engaged. This being half a decade ago is especially hard for me to understand.

Now it is 2015. Everything seems to grow from strands of other things. It all makes sense in a way. I do think if I could have a time traveling machine I wouldn't worry so much. I never make New Year's resolutions, but this year its to resist anticipatory anxiety, especially because my time traveling self would probably be quite pleased how I've turned out.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Country View Diner Pie

Today we checked out Country View Diner in Brunswick, and let me tell you about lemon meringue pie. We were all set to leave after having some tasty sandwiches, and I spotted a mountain of meringue in the dessert case. I had to have it. I got a piece to go and this slice of pie has to weigh like a whole pound and seems like easily 6 inches tall. Also, there's an extra crust on top of the lemon custard part, and I'm pretty sure the meringue has marshmallow fluff mixed it with it. This pie is impressive - a force of lemon to be reckoned with. Is it socially acceptable to have pie for dinner?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Berle Farm Yogurt

The best food adventures are ones in which your navigation devices do nothing for you. When I went to the Bears' Steakhouse for my birthday a couple years ago, you knew it was going to be good because the GPS, the iphone, and the Onstar were all wrong. The universe was making us work really hard for our pile of meat, and it tasted all the better because of it.

When I first saw Berle Farm yogurt at the Honest Weight Co-op, I was surprised to see there was something from Hoosick I hadn't heard of since I've now worked out there for 7 months. My coworker and I decided it was a good lunch time activity to go show up over there and buy some yogurt. We phoned the exceedingly sweet lady for directions, got incredibly lost on unmarked beautiful country roads (GPS and smartphone acting useless), and were promptly greeted by the laziest of golden retrievers. We put our $6 in the cash can, and took with us the smoothest, tastiest of yogurts. Its not sweet (although you could always add honey), but it has a great texture and makes you feel full for a long time afterwards. I'm so excited about my new discovery, and all the smoothies I am going to make with my big glass jug of yogurt. I definitely recommend stopping in and buying some if you are in that neck of the woods or at Honest Weight.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

End of Summer

Yesterday I left work and my summer intern on his last day said "Thanks for everything this summer. Its been real." Then, I decided to stop in at Grafton Lakes on the way home. I waded in the water and called a former coworker who has a whole new position at my old job. Her boyfriend wants to go to grad school, I'm going to do some work in NYC  - so many new things.  Then the loud speaker announced "Everyone out of the water, this is the end of the day and the end of the summer. Please come back next year!". I squeezed my toes in my sand and felt ok leaving.

There have been times in past years I tried so hard to pretend summer wasn't ending - trying to convince my husband to go on a last minute humid, hazy Labor Day trip to the Finger Lakes. But this time it  feels like something different. People say spring is a season of newness, but we spend our school years starting anew in September. We spend much of our lives having to pretend to be so many different things. I'm feeling all of a sudden like I've come into my own, like my life suits me so well because I have arranged it that way. I have hilarious thoughtful friends, favored New York State vacation spots, and an unusual job, which I actually do seem extraordinarily well-suited for. And in fact, even if is doesn't feel like it, there will be time for all the things you want to be and do. There's time for all good things in the world, but sometimes you have to be the person to bring what is good to a situation - you have to be the friendly, dependable coworker or the person who gets everyone together, or the most generous in spirit you can. I used to love "Fake it till you make it!", but after that what you really need is the strength and confidence to just be you.

I stopped in at the Arts Center and signed up for a cooking class. I ordered take out at Beirut. In all these years of living here, I've probably spent 5 minutes total in close proximity to the Hudson River. I waited for my order, people were fishing, and it was the kind of blazing dry sun you know you'll die to have in just a few months from now. I made a mental note to spend more time down there in the future. I side stepped a really loud band playing, checked out Some Girls, and picked up my delicious takeout - perfectly spiced beef shawarma and crispy falafel - from the really friendly staff.

So its the end of summer. Will I miss ridiculously sized beautiful tomatoes from the Troy Farmer's Market? Will I miss laying out on the chase lounge with homemade sangria reading Jennifer Weiner? You betcha. But of all a sudden I'm feeling like I know who I am in the world, and really know my way around my life and that's not something you can get from a little bit of sun.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Working and Eating around Hoosick Falls, NY

Yesterday I asked my intern if we are yuppies, and he looked up from his laptop and the poetry book he was working with, glanced out at the hay bales in the field and said "No, we're yrppies, young rural upwardly mobile professionals." To which I stuck my hand in the air and said, "What? I live in the capital of New York state!" 

For the last six months now I've been working out in Hoosick Falls, NY. At its peak in 1900 it had around 7,000 people, and according to the 2010 census its now at half that and continues to decline. Its quite the experience being out there - not like Williamstown, MA which felt like a slice of the Upper West Side of Manhattan magically transplanted to bucolic New England - but rather authentically rural. People raise chickens not because its trendy, and they want to make some sort of fetish out of it, but because thats what their families have always done. Similar to my mother-in-law who grew up with homemade bread not because someone in her family watched a segment on the Food Network once and thought it was this special thing, but because making homemade bread was normal (and store bought was too expensive). Hoosick Falls is a real small town, not a small town built up like a movie set where people from Boston and New York can go "summering" and feel like they are getting a taste of the country.  

In case you're ever driving through to go to Bennington or points east, I'll tell you about food options:

  • Have you seen the crazy moose deli? You can't miss it if you drive east on Route 7 from Albany. Its quite a sight, and we always admire their ability to have turned it into a tourist attraction by continuously adding more crazy and offering a few VT brochures. The pies are good, and the assortment of kitschy hot sauces is amusing. I feel most things are generally too expensive for the area though (although I know they are trying to cater mostly to VT tourists).
  • My art handler and I went to the Bagel & Brew two times. Its really small, reasonably priced, with tasty simple food and extra friendly service. You really get the small-town feeling in this downtown Hoosick establishment as everyone knows each other and seems to already know the back story on every yarn of a tale. I like how they vary it up with specials, and one day I had a chicken salad on rosemary olive oil foccaccia which was delicious. 
  •  Brown Cow in Bennington is probably the spot we've been to the most. I had my job interview for this job there, and we've all liked it ever since. You get some tasty local products included in your sandwich like Maplebrook mozzarella. Tasty things we've tried: quiche, gazpacho, curry chicken salad, Brown Cow club (you get a really nice chipotle mayo on it). The chai and ice coffee are good too. We've never been disappointed, and every time we are happy we made the trip out there.
  • Last week we checked out the Round House Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge and it was much better than it needed to be. I got a salad with grilled tofu, mixed greens, assorted vegetables, sesame-ginger dressing and chopped tamari roasted almonds. The tofu was really nicely marinated with a lot of flavor. I also had a cup of cold cucumber soup which was strongly galicky and refreshing and had some pecans sprinkled on top. I was really impressed. Also, everyone here knew each other too, but its a different kind of town - artsier, more bohemian, and closer to Saratoga.
 So the adventure continues. I was showing one of my coworkers who has never left Hoosick Falls the Google street view of my first Brooklyn apartment I shared with 5 people all from different countries in the liveliest and most colorful of neighborhoods, and she said "And now you've ended up here!" Life is funny that way.