Friday, November 30, 2012

Harvest Spirits Farm Distillery, Valatie, NY

We had my husband's friend from grad school in from Ohio for Thanksgiving last week, and we really showed him a tour of the area. We took him to Bennington, Cooperstown, and down to the Poughkeepsie train station - all in a three day period. On our way down the the train station, we passed the Harvest Spirits Farm Distillery, and I was so excited to see where that was I actually did a U turn.

The Harvest Farm Distillery seems most famous in this area for making applejack. The applejack is very tasty, and for a dollar per taste you can try that or any of their other products: grappa, rare pear brandy, peach applejack (which we liked a lot more than we thought we would), or Core vodka. If you return your empty bottle from any of their products to them you receive a free shot glass. If you return two empty bottles, you receive a very cool looking brandy glass. If you return three empty bottles you get a surprise (I think you get nothing). Here's a look at inside their tasting room:

We bought some of the vodka, which you can tell I like by this picture:

I find the vodka to be really unique. It is made from apples, and I really think the flavor comes through in the finished product. I think that it would be totally delicious mixed with the Maplejack liqueur from Finger Lakes Distilling (check out my write up of our visit there on the From Scratch Club). I haven't actually had those two products in my house at the same time to give that theory a try, but I think they'd be a great match. I really like to support local businesses where I can, and I said as we were leaving "vodka has no taste anyway, so you might as well buy the local one and help out the local economy right?". Scott said "As long as it is properly distilled". Funny enough though, after I got home and tried the vodka some more I realized that it is actually very, very nice and not in the way that it lacks flavor (it is vodka after all), but in that it is really a crisp and refreshing product.

We had a great time visiting the distillery and would love to go back again. As a side note, you can also purchase doughnuts, maple syrup, apples, and other local varieties of produce in the adjoining farm store.  Doughnuts and vodka you say? Yeah, go check it out!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving at Our House

Our Thanksgiving festivities really started on Tuesday night when I drove up to Oscar's Adirondack Smokehouse in Warrensburg to pick up our boneless half ham. It easily fed five adults and two kids with plenty leftover. It was an easy drive from Saratoga where I am now working, and the shop was very cool to visit. They have all kinds of cured meats, cheeses, and sauces. I also picked up some summer sausage that we added to our charcuterie plate (filled with other goodies from The Cheese Traveler). My new coworkers seemed to find my ham errand very funny and referred to me as a courier (as one is to valuable paintings that travel from an art museum). They also asked me if I put a seat belt around the ham, which wouldn't have been that crazy considering how great their products are. It was a really delicious ham, and totally worth the trip up there (you can also purchase Oscar's products at Roma Foods and Cardona's). Rounding out our Thanksgiving table (what no turkey?) was maple glazed carrots, cauliflower braised in white whine with anchovies, a white loaf I made ( I made it previously too), some delicious mustard with tarragon for the ham, and trifle that my friend brought (consisting of layers of lemon pound cake, berries, and whipped cream). We also enjoyed some Ravines Riesling.

Check it out:

We were thankful for lots of things including the Tigers beating the Yankees in the baseball playoffs, and the results of the election. Most of all, I am thankful for friends who feel like relatives, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Revolution Hall Wedding Reception, Troy

A couple years ago Revolution Hall stopped being a venue for concerts and became a private events space. Now you can have your wedding there!

We went to a wedding reception there last night. There was a totally awesome photo booth the groom and his friend built. Here was the result.

We had such a great time! They are such an amazing couple! Also, I still love weddings. I'm the type of girl who wishes there was a Valentine's Day every month. At this moment, I am checking out a "Bridezillas" marathon. I have to admit to still checking out Ruffled and Style Me Pretty when I'm totally bored or stressed. I will also admit to having the impulse to buy a Martha Stewart Weddings magazine once in a while, but resisting the urge. Perhaps I'm meant to be a crafty, low-key, totally personalized wedding planner. I do seem to have kicked the David Tutera habit completely, so that is something. I don't think weddings should be about materialism, weight loss, or conformity. I loved the book "One Perfect Day" by Rebecca Mead, but I still melt when I read this post on WeddingBee and I really loved the book Altared edited by Colleen Curran. I know many people feel overwhelmed by weddings (brides usually), but in the end it all seems worth it every time (as a guest). Last night included: whisky, Brown's beer, cake, animal print dresses, ridiculous multicolor suede heels, a dapper man in a kilt, conversations about bridesmaid dresses, kisses on the dance floor, the groom dancing with his mother, chatting with people I met at the bridal shower, silliness, goofiness, the bad Albany cab system (me declaring my plans to run for office and fix it), one amazing funk band (Jocamo), and one beaming, lovely, tattooed bride. More proof weddings don't have to be completely traditional to feel incredibly romantic.

The hors d'oeuvres were really nice too. There was: lots of cheese, baked brie, beef and chicken spiedies (apparently a specialty of the Binghampton area), spanakopita, portobella pieces coated in panko crumbs and fried, and fried calamari. It is a great layout for an event because guests can talk in the lobby, sit up in the balcony area or downstairs, hang out at the bar, or make their way to the dance floor. It also has a cool, hip vibe. It is definitely a great space to have a wedding reception, and we had a fabulous time!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Saratoga Spice and Salsa Company

I have been a huge fan of Saratoga Spice and Salsa Company for years (or as we call it, the hot sauce store in Saratoga). Recently I mentioned it to Deanna of Silly Goose Farm, and it was a shame that she didn't know what I was talking about. It is an awesome little store in the middle of town with more kinds of hot sauce than you might even know existed. They have a tasting booth set up, and in the past when we weren't able to decide which one to get, we were able to try all of the hot sauces and get a sense of it before making a commitment (as a sly marketing move they also sell bottles of water now).

Here are some things we've tried and really enjoyed from there:

  •  Marie Sharp's Hot Habanero sauce because it has carrots in it, which sweetly complement the heat just a bit. 
  • Their own salsas are very good including the Tequila Lime, and regular medium level heat salsa. I am pretty sure we once tried a red wine salsa they made, but I don't see it listed on their website. They are all really well balanced in terms of taste and texture (not too chunky or too watery).
  • We tried their own Bloody Mary mix once, and it was spicy and flavorful. If you are not sure about it, they sell mini bottles so you can try it. We don't really drink Bloody Marys, but I like to put Bloody Mary mix instead of tomato juice in my French Laundry cookbook's gazpacho recipe.
  • They sell these jalapeno chips that are like fried jalapeno pieces that my sister's boyfriend loved (again - it is useful they sell bottles of water).
  • The front of the store has recently become more of a spice area. They have all these really interesting salts. We bought espresso salt which is fabulous on a burnt caramel pudding recipe I make. It would also be great on brownies. All it consists of is espresso ground up and mixed with kosher salt, so if you were hard up I could imagine it as a great food swap item. We also got Merlot Salt, which we think will be amazing on most beef dishes.
  • We also got a bottle of peppers from the Amazon soaking in vinegar. You can use the vinegar in salad dressings, and then replace it with more vinegar for a spicy kick. I made the mistake of putting three habaneros on my salad because I didn't even try how hot they were first, which pretty much burned my face off. The only thing that made it feel better was eating cream cheese, so don't do that.
You can really spend quite a bit of time poking around this little shop since there are so many great products to choose from (just try not to burn your face off)!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fancy Brunch Party

I've long wanted to have a fancy brunch party. We've got a lot of cookbooks, and I read about things that sounds fabulous and laborious like stratas, frittatas, and quiches. Are you really going to wake up on the weekend and start rolling out a pie crust? No, no you are not. I have made in the past mushroom ricotta crepes, cinnamon buns with buttermilk icing, and the first thing I ever cooked on my own from scratch was a goat cheese and leek quiche. Well, we all know the best thing to motivate you to cook fancy things is to invite other people over, and what is more fun than a fancy brunch? Here's someone who likes the idea as much as I do. Martha Stewart also has some ideas, and I love them all.

My friend Katie and her boyfriend came over, and I set up a spread of things that could easily be made ahead of time. I don't think having people over for brunch would work as well if you were off flipping pancakes and folding omelets while your friend is talking about their schoolwork or you're trying to tell some long, convoluted story about your week.

We started out with a yogurt parfait. I layered Brown Cow yogurt (which is completely amazing), and pomegranate seeds, and drizzled on some honey I bought at the Berry Patch farm store.

I put out some dilly green beans I helped my friend Jessica can from her garden awhile ago because her arm was broken. She took the class through From Scratch Club and got the recipe from the book Food in Jars. The green beans turned out to be really delicious, and were improved I think by the garlic and cayenne pepper in the recipe.

I made cinnamon buns, which came out better the first time I made them but no one noticed. The yeast was a little old I think. The thing about baking is that you can cover most mistakes in icing.

I also made an apple cheddar quiche from the Gardner Museum Cafe Cookbook, which I totally love. I wrote about that cookbook before. Everyone loved the quiche, and my friends commented that it was really pretty. I thought the apple cheddar combination was a nice choice for autumn in the Northeast.

My friends bought apple cider and mulling spices, which made the house smell amazing. I started out with lavender Earl Grey from the Whistling Kettle, and moved on to a cafe au lait.

I like going out for brunch, but there is also something really fun about making a fancy brunch at home!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sad Desk Lunches

I'm here to say that real life is not as beautiful as Tastespotting. How does that make us all feel? Inferior? Pathetic? Like we don't plan out our meals well enough or make them look beautiful enough? I didn't really want to write a "How Emily Really Eats" post for the From Scratch Club series. Why not, you ask? Because it might be like "I had a hard boiled egg, a Special K Protein shake, and then my husband prepared a beautiful roast chicken dinner, and we had a fabulous Pinot Gris from the Finger Lakes". There are things to be embarrassed about, like eating lunch at your desk. There is even a chick lit novel called "Sad Desk Salad".

This is why I love so much the tumblr Sad Desk Lunch. The reason it is so much fun is because it is honest. I love it. It makes me feel great in a way that Pinterest can make me feel bad (if you haven't read it, check out this great New York Times article on the topic).

Monday, November 5, 2012

This Weekend was great because...

This Weekend was great because:

  • It started out with a gathering at Brown's, where we had some tasty beer, some ridiculous nachos, saw some old friends, and met some interesting new people (including a romance novel writer and her daughter who has an interest in liberal arts colleges).
  • The movie "The Master" at the Spectrum 8 (very interesting) and delicious fish and some great tempura at Sake Cafe in Slingerlands. Scott was so impressed this time that he thought it beat out his favorite sushi place in Queens.
  • Fabulous autumn arugula salad at New World Bistro, a place for us that always seems to be filled with goodwill. When the food runner we don't normally see says "Hey guys, I remember when you got engaged!" (2 years ago), that is community love right there. Of course the food there is great, but its the people who really put it over the top.
  • From Scratch Club food swap! Which is of course great because I scored some of my friend Sandy's cupcakes and delicious lime cordial among other equally as great items, but what was really cool was half the people in a filled up room congratulating me on my new job. I've started to think about when I was a teenager and the internet held such a lesser role in people's lives. Back then, people called each other when they wanted to hangout instead of creating a Facebook event, but the larger sense of community the internet helps to create can sometimes be really unique. Listening to someone gush about Dream Puff marshmallows, and being able to immediately introduce her to the nice lady who makes them? That is cool. Leaving when it was dark on a street I heard someone yelling racial slurs and accusations of narcotic addiction on my way in, and the same nice lady yelling out to me "Where are you parked?" and slowly driving to make sure I safely got in my car? That is heartwarming.
Here's to a great weekend, and the last five days going to a job I've done for 3 years. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mark Bittman's Quick Braised Carrots

Check out my post on From Scratch Club!

Club Helsinki, Hudson

 The week before last week, we went to the Magnetic Fields show at Club Helsinki in Hudson. I hadn't really been to Hudson before outside of an Amtrak car, and I'd always heard great things about it. You can just get tickets to see the music, but it is way classier to get a table and eat dinner while you watch the show. Also, the menu is great. It is Southern inspired and makes use of local, seasonal ingredients.

I got their first and ordered a glass of Pinor Noir which was very tasty, and some of the fried okra with a Cajun remoulade to start. I happen to love okra done right, and this dish had a nice corn meal crust which wasn't greasy at all. I took in the surroundings, like what I imagine the Copacabana to have been like in some far off past decade.

Scott showed up and we got some of the delicious beers from nearby Chatham Brewing. For dinner, I got the Helsinki burger, which was really juicy and "topped with applewood smoked bacon,  roasted portobello, carmelized onion, NY cheddar" with housecut fries. It was fabulous. Scott the "Great Aunt Theo's Fried Chicken", which comes with "mashed yukon, gravy, and collard greens". It was the most flavorful fried chicken I had ever tasted. Yes, it is hard to screw that up, I am sure, but it was legitimately outstanding fried chicken. The spot is filled with moody ambiance, and it really has a way of taking you out of the mental space of your work week. We are so lucky to have such a unique, creative, classy, and fun venue so close to home. As a bonus, the food is also great. I cannot wait to go back, see an interesting musical act, drink a local beer, and probably order that pot pie they have with an aged New York cheddar crust.