Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reflections on Williamstown

It is an exciting time for me. Detroit Tigers are in the World Series (though playing terribly), the election is coming up, and I'm changing jobs (hooray!). I've been really liking the John Mayer song "The Age of Worry". Here's some of the lyrics:

"Don't be scared to walk alone/ Don't be scared to like it
 No, your fight is not within/Yours is with your timing
Dream your dreams but don't pretend/ Make friends with what you are
Give your heart then change your mind/ You're allowed to do it
Cause God knows it's been done to you / And somehow you got through it"

 This all makes me reflect on the town I've spent the past three years working in.

Of course, I was lucky to get a job when the economy was terrible in 2009 in my chosen field - even one that was temporary, grant-funded, and in a different state around a steep and sometimes snowy mountain. It wasn't always easy though, and I am now even luckier to find a permanent job closer to home.  There's research to suggest people who commute long distances are less socially integrated in their communities. The time commuting was realistically 2 hours to 2 and half hours per day that I could have spent exercising, reading, or out for coffee with friends. I actually found New Englanders to be incredibly reserved, and sometimes even suspicious of outsiders. There are also some really unique aspects of the town itself as an elite enclave. People in Williamstown don't see their peers as Pittsfield, Hancock, or Bennington, and definitely not North Adams. They see as their peers pockets of groups in NYC (Upper East Side), Boston (Cambridge), New Haven, or Princeton. I found the stark divisions between small towns that are very close to each other in desolate surroundings very interesting, and difficult to understand in the beginning. It was even harder to explain to my friends when they came to visit me out there. I first encountered these attitudes when I had to gallery sit for an artist who had set out to portray the differences between North Adams and Williamstown. People came in already upset and ready to tell me about all the ways they felt slighted in their daily lives by people who lived in Williamstown because they lived in North Adams. It was unreal, and it sounded like high school cliquishness.

That all being said - it has got what is often considered the best liberal arts school in the country. Its the best of everything taken for granted. Of course your intern took the train down to go to Per Se last weekend. Of course you know heirs to chicken fortunes, offspring of fashion royalty, and kids who say things like "I'm from the kind of family where I'll never have to worry about money". I once saw someone take a limo from NYC to Williamstown. Its a random Tuesday and you might get to see Barbara Ehrenreich or Lawrence Summers speak, and is that Leonardo DiCaprio in the coffee shop? No big deal.

So, for you, I'd thought I'd run down a list of the businesses in town and give my opinion of them.

  • Mezze - Widely regarded as the best restaurant in town. The ingredients are all top quality and from farms so close you probably passed them on your way there. Everything is well executed, and its a beautiful spot. With any luck, I'll be back here in the future .
  • Saigon Spring Vietnamese Restaurant - I like the Vietnamese restaurant. It is fairly new. I like the Pho and the stir-fry tofu. I really like the Papaya Salad with peanuts and shrimp in it. I think the food is not greasy, not prohibitively expensive, and uses fresh ingredients. Order by the number listed next to the dish on the menu - that'll just make it easier.
  • Sushi Thai Garden - I am not a fan of this place. I think it is greasy. I think that the balance of Thai food in sweet and salty is more difficult to do than you would think. I feel like they just cook up a large batch of noodles, leave them in the water all day, and scoop them out when people want them. I do not know if this is true, but I feel that way based on how it tastes. I only went here when other people wanted to. I never went because it was my choice.
  • Water Street Grill - This is greasy pub food, which you want sometimes. My coworkers took me here on my birthday for lunch once. I love the onion rings and waffle fries. I love the portobello sandwich and a bourbon chicken grilled sandwich I had once. The fish and chips are legitimately outstanding. The baked scrod lunch special is healthy and tasty.
  • Amy's Cottage - Pretty much if you got a gift from me in the last few years it was probably from here. Some visitors don't go in here because they assume it is for old ladies, but I've got some great items from here. I love their scarves, cards, clothing, bath items, and decorative kitchen items. I've been less into the jewelry in about the last year. Sometimes they get items in I think are really great, like the tunic pictured in this post. The staff are super nice, and sometimes they have pretty good sidewalk sales.
  • Spice Root Indian Restaurant - I really like the Indian restaurant. It is legitimately spicy. Once in a while when meeting people, I went to the lunch buffet and found it to be a great time. I thought some items were actually impressive. I remember the first time I went three years ago - I was starving on a cold and rainy day. I was treating myself, and I thought it tasted like the best Indian food I've ever had. It never really lived up to that feeling after that, but I think I'll miss this place. Some people are less keen on it, I think because there isn't another Indian choice, but I always liked it. 
  • Pappa Charlie's Deli - Sandwiches named after celebrities who hang around town for the Williamstown Theatre Festival. I love the egg sandwiches. I'd occasionally treat myself to a Lauren Graham (hot turkey, roasted peppers, and alfafa spouts) or a Mary Tyler Moore (BLT with avocado), and they were high quality sandwiches.
  • Hot Tomatoes Pizza - Some people don't like this style of pizza with the big chunks of tomatoes in the sauce, but I always liked it. I liked the veggie which had a good variety of toppings (including spinach and olives), and I always liked their mushroom pizza. They also sell gelato, and they just added crepes and paninis to their menu.
  • Wild Oats Coop - It isn't cheap, but it offers some of the best food items you could ever hope for. Muir Glen tomatoes, Cricket Creek Farm cheese, beef from Ioka Valley Farm, Vermont Smoked Pepperoni, Maplebrook Farm Mozzarella, great bulk items, and local produce. It is a dream if you just ignore what all that is costing you. I go here and then make the best pizza ever.
  • Tunnel City Coffee - Some people don't like the coffee. I know students who hated it so much they stopped drinking coffee altogether. I like the pecan turtles, pistachio French macarons, iced coffee, and espresso. I also have a coworker whose toddler goes crazy for the decorated sugar cookies. Most important though: What kind of coffee shop closes at 6pm when it is the only one in a college town? Really? It is a problem.
Obviously, I am excited for my future, but I'm trying to do all my favorite things one last time. I also can't help feeling like I am going to miss my coworkers. You announce you are leaving and all of a sudden you have a parade of people in your office telling you how much they love you and how great you are at your job. It is hard. I'm trying really hard not to feel guilty, and I really hope my replacement is going to be amazing. I am reminded of this quote from "The Office":

“The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. I mean, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you have in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day.” –Tim (Martin Freeman), the UK The Office finale

It's true, they aren't your friends or your family, and yet it is a totally different bond that seems real in its own way. Looking forward now, I'm totally open to Saratoga lunch suggestions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Apology to McGriddles

I always thought Mcgriddles at McDonald's sounded totally disgusting - sort of like Paula Deen's Krispy Kreme sandwiches. But today we stopped in at McDonald's for breakfast, and Scott got one. I was very skeptical at first, and I found the first bite interesting. I took another bite, and then I realized something - it isn't supposed to be like a weird mix of sweet and savory, it is supposed to be like a portable version of pancakes that is not as messy and does not take as much time to eat. Actually it wasn't half bad - certainly not the most disgusting thing in the world. Who knew?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NYC Weekend

This weekend we headed down to NYC for a quick trip. Our friend Jacqui, co-owner of a wine bar we loved when we lived there Rest-au-Rant, is moving back to Berlin forever, and there was a farewell party for her. We felt that Jacqui herself and that particular establishment at a certain point in time was really important in our lives, so it seemed right to say good-bye. We had the Spanish sausage for an appetizer that was oven-roasted in red wine sauce and spices. It was fabulous. See full menu here. We had a couple paninis for old time sake too, because we always used to get them years ago.

It was great being able to say good-bye to our friend, and another friend of ours, Megan, showed up. She's from Scotia, and of course in a Smallbany moment knows my friend Elizabeth who I met in a totally different way. A couple other people there were from the Capital Region. One talked about how much cheaper it would be to raise her kid if she moved back here near her parents, and another former Capital Region resident went on and on about how much the Tech jobs around here are going to boost the economy in the future. Small, small world.

 Then we embarked on a part of the evening where we felt like we were Tina Fey and Steve Carell in the movie "Date Night". We got on an F train that became a D train in the middle of the Lower East Side where everyone knows it is difficult to get anywhere from late at night on the weekend. We tried to hail cabs who would just refuse to take us to Brooklyn (I think that is illegal). They'd just shake their heads and drive off. Really nice. We finally found another F train, and got where we were staying - but the point remains that to take a train from Queens to Brooklyn on a Saturday night takes almost as long as it does to take a train from Albany to NYC. There was a girl on the train who said "What is the point of paying if it never runs properly?" And at that point along with a discussion of how much better our grocery stores are up here, we took a moment to appreciate what we have now.

This morning we went to Char No. 4 with our friend Lindsay. Can I just say they have bourbon Bloody Marys - enough said there? They make their own sausage, pickles, biscuits, and it is all delicious. We always seem to go there for brunch when we are in Brooklyn, and it is hard to beat. We also like One Girl Cookies. I got an assortment of cookies, my favorite probably being the chocolate shortbread with a mocha filling. Scott got some chocolate and pumpkin whoopie pies. They are fabulous with their delicious cream cheese filling.

On our way out we met some more people at Floyd in Brooklyn Heights. It has an indoor bocce court and big comfy chairs. I had Bluepoint Pumpkin Ale and really enjoyed it.They always seem to have a rockin- party around the Kentucky Derby.

We had a fun trip! It was nice to pop in and see the sites (and by that I mostly mean friends, beer, and cookies).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Frozen Yogurt at Crossgates Mall

As part of my Treat Yo'Self this afternoon I checked out Yeh! Yogurt in Crossgates Mall. This may be the first time in the history of this blog that I have genuinely disliked something. Ugh! It was like ice milk - grainy with a viscous texture and cloying flavors. I tried the cheesecake and vanilla flavored yogurt. Toppings were alright, but there is no getting around the yogurt tastes bad. I don't say Yeh! I say Nay! Yogurt. Check out Kristi ranks the area's frozen yogurt shops! About Yeh! Yogurt Kristi says: "It tastes similar to ice milk with little flavor and even less creaminess."

Much better I think is the Yo D. Sert near the movie theatre. I am pretty sure that one seemed way more reasonably priced, but you'd have to compare directly to know for sure. Tour de Crossgates Yogurt - Daniel!

Whistling Kettle - Again

You know I love the Whistling Kettle. I once wrote about the tea and another time about the whole experience. Well, I checked it out again today, and it was a lovely lovely lunch. It was quite possibly a little celebratory lunch, so I decided to treat my self.

You know how I love the Berkshires, but if all goes well there could be a lot more buckets of fried chicken in my future. So I say, treat yo self!

I got a pot of the lavender Earl Grey because I absolutely love it.

This tea is just so elegant. The subtlety of the lavender and the Bergamot oil mix so beautifully with the high quality tea. It is the kind of delicious food item that makes you stop and think. It slows you down, and forces you to just live in the moment.

Also, they have reconfigured their seating since last time I was there. Look at these cool, tall, comfortable booths:

I ordered a curry chicken salad sandwich with pecans and a side salad.

I got the ginger dressing which was amazing. They cut the crusts off the sandwich bread for an extra touch of class. It was totally fresh and delicious. The spice was perfectly balanced, and I think it even had grapes in it. I am a sucker for a good chicken salad. The waiter was so friendly coming by like "How is your possibly celebratory lunch?", to which I said "Delicious!!"

Very lovely. TREAT YO SELF!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Finger Lakes Distilling

Check out my post on From Scratch Club about Finger Lakes Distilling.

As an update, I saw yesterday at Exit 9 in Halfmoon that they sell a whole range of their liqueurs including the Maplejack one I described.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Early Fall Activities

Hello Internet.

I have not typed at you in a while. What have I been up to, you ask? My coworkers and I were in a craft fair. We were proud of our display:

My in-laws came to visit, and we checked out Yono's. I thought the food was fabulous, and liked that it felt light in my stomach even though clearly a lot of thought and skill had gone into the preparation.
See my amazing lamb with coconut rice:

 Husband's red snapper with flageolet beans:

We had a great time at the Fresh Grass bluegrass festival at MassMoca where we also really enjoyed the "Oh, Canada" exhibit. We checked out Mezze in Williamstown too, which everyone loved.

 I've made use of my bear cake pan I bought at the Confectionery House with my friend Sandy. I made this one for my friend Elizabeth.

I went to my cousin's wedding in Michigan, where my sister put the bridesmaid dress she wore for my wedding on me.

There was cake we didn't get to eat, and a whole assortment of pastries the waitstaff seemed to think we were eating too much of.

My sister with the pastries:

I hung out with my sisters and my mom. I am reading the book "Maine" by J. Courtney Sullivan which really makes me appreciate the differences in perspectives of various women in a family.  My grandpa danced with my mom.

To top it all off, there was a "Legally Blonde" musical with my favorite friend ever, which has a great message about being who you really are. I also feel it has a message about how it is hard for some professions to take young women seriously, and how even if you want to be professional and serious, you do want a friend at lunch time who you can talk about Bradley Cooper sitings around town, wedding planning or Real Housewives. My favorite part was when Alissa said "Emily is brilliant, but thinks it is perfectly normal to spend an entire day watching Beverly Hills, 90210 and then totally over-analyze it." Hilarious.

So, Internet, now you are all caught up, and now I can tell you about the Circus Cafe we went to today. I'll also be having to think of a Thanksgiving menu, and I'll probably have my now annual bad attitude about Christmas. I also might put together a fancy brunch party.

I'll be glad to have things slow down for a bit here. Happy autumn!