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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Salad With Tarragon Dijon Vinaigrette

Since a friend requested the recipe for the dressing of the above salad, I thought I would share it with this blog's tens of readers. We serve this salad as a main course at least once a week and often more during the all-too-brief tomato season. And the tomatoes themselves are the secret!

  • Slice the tomatoes, add some salt, and place them in a collander over a bowl.  Wait at least 15 minutes. 
  • As a result, not only will the tomatoes give of less moisture when they're in the salad, the juice serves as the base of the dressing.
  • To the juice, whisk in two parts olive oil and one part each of good wine or sherry vinegar.  (If you don't have lemons handy all vinegar is fine.)  
  • Add a teaspoon plus of good Dijon, which not only contributes good flavor but serves as an emulsifier.  Whisk aggresively.
  • Add tarragon; a little fresh if you have it, but for this herb dried works fairly well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
It's a great dressing.  This particular salad had wild greens, tomatoes from the Berry Patch, hearts of palm, croutons, mozzarella (from Maplebrook, and terrific) and black olives.  But it works very well with any tomato salad. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Moments

I was going to write a whole post about all the stuff I bought at the flea market at the Washington County fairgrounds last weekend, but taking the advice of the above sign I bought at Francesca's in Crossgates (ironic I know), maybe I'll tell you what I've been up to this summer instead (by the way, I love that store and I want to cover my body and walls with everything in it - but why so talkative, staff members? I'll tell you what I want in a clothing store - everything costs $20, no one talks to me, and Rihanna is playing in the background. That's it, when you try to be my best friend or make me into your career counselor for your Arts Administration degree I'm doing that instead of deciding on necklaces).

This summer I:
  • Went swimming. We did all kinds of wine tasting in the Finger Lakes. I wanted to go swimming at the Seneca Lake State Park and the lifeguard never showed up. We went all over, including antiquing in Hammondsport (America's Coolest Small Town, don't you know), and it had to be over a hundred degrees. Then, we were taking off to go to our hotel in Ithaca, and there like a gleaming glacial sliver was a patch of beach on the southern most tip of Keuka Lake. In a totally spontaneous way, I jumped out of the car and into the coolest, most refreshing lake imaginable. It was perfect. The next day we visited Lively Run Goat Dairy and sampled their delicious cheese from an adorable French girl, and Myers Farm Distillery where they age gin in oak barrels (mmm.).
  • Had Buffalo wings in Buffalo. We went to Duff's. I ordered hot, and they totally burned my face off. It was great fun.
  • We went back to the Tailored Tea. I still love it. Its so classy with the tea cups and linens, and their lunch items are always exactly what I'm hoping for. The scones benedict is way fabulous.
  • I had a salad bar party for the third year in a row (see 2012). I don't know what we ever did to deserve such fabulous friends - people who are effortlessly so smart, cool and funny. The concept totally still holds up too. The variety of ingredients is so fun, and the combinations are endless. 
  • We had our 5 year study abroad reunion. I can't believe that, it makes me feel a million years old. Here we were at Claridge's in London, 2009 (40 pounds for tea, scones, and cucumber sandwiches), fancy as all hell, all uncertain futures and mad paper writing skills:

And here we are Alice's Tea Cup, Upper East Side, Manhattan, filled with career advice and strategies on dealing with people in the workplace - maybe having traded in some optimism for some wisdom. Maybe with age you learn to deal better. You learn what you have to accept and what you don't. Things get both easier and harder, but we're still cool ladies:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Another Fork in the Road, Dutchess County

We used to take the Amtrak or drive to Poughkeepsie to take the Metro-North to visit NYC. In more recent times though, we've discovered the charm of driving. Insane Manhattan traffic you say? Take the BQE. Expensive parking you say? My mother-in-law spotted a place in Brooklyn that costs $7 a day. And there are benefits too - flexibility of timing, being able to buy stuff there and cart it back (no one wants to crush their pretty Paper Source loot or One Girl whoopie pies in a backpack), and in the case of my job being able to move artwork around. The Taconic State Parkway is also beautiful and incredibly civilized to drive on. You feel a bit like Don Draper dropping Sally off at boarding school. You can imagine all the old timey road trips taken on that very strip of asphalt. I drove down for work a little while ago, fought through traffic in the Bronx, got to a spot near Hudson on the Taconic and experienced the most beautiful view. It was all fresh air, arm-stretching space, and a real reminder of how happy I am to have left the city (5 years ago now!) and made upstate NY my home.

The Taconic is great. Another benefit is when you drive on the Thruway you feel like you just popped out of The Sopranos episode "Pine Barrens", or at least we do when we can't stop saying "Shoulda stopped at Roy Rogers". The Taconic turns out to have much better food options, and since there's no toll, there's no hassle in getting off and on.

We stopped in Dutchess county to look for a lunch place. We drove a very short distance down the road and stopped in at Another Fork in the Road. What a great find! It was completely adorable and decorated exactly the way I strive for in my own house: a bit of farm-yard chic mixed in with Etsy humor and retro charm.

The food was fabulous, and much better than anything you could reasonably expect stumbling along off the highway. Its a diner if one served locally sourced seasonal dishes in a new American style. Scott had the banh mi sandwich with watercress on it which boasted amazingly flavorful meat and a crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside roll. I had the smoked salmon club, which had some great thinly sliced cucumbers and radishes, really tasty local greens and crispy bacon. The portions were not huge either, which is a good thing for a traveler who wants to save room for their fancy NYC dinner reservations.

I can't wait to head back here next time I'm driving to the city (or if you were doing a Hudson Valley day and were head to the FDR Museum or something it'd be right on the way to that too). Its really great to have some good eating when you least expect it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Anniversary Dinner At Angelo's 677 Prime

Ms. Garlic and I haven't been to what is frequently cited as Albany's best restaurant in a long time, so for our anniversary we decided to go. It still has many pleasures to recommend, but at least one main course was crucially flawed. To start with the high points, the service was friendly, efficient and polished. Our "lobster cocktail" appetizer (served with roasted corn pico, cilantro, crisp rice pearls, smoked maize, and a chili crema) was superb. The by-the-glass wine list is unparalleled in my experience in the city -- I had an excellent 2005 Barolo for under $15. The atmosphere is nicely romantic. I'll let Ms. Garlic tell you about her salmon, but it was very good. But -- apart from this, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play -- there was my steak. Not that it was bad, not by any means -- it was a high-quality, generous piece of meat that came with a pleasingly charred exterior. But given a very high price for steak that isn't advertised as and doesn't taste dry-aged, the execution has to be perfect. Rather than the requested medium rare, it was cooked to medium or a bit beyond, a temperature that would have been acceptable (if not optimal) for a rib eye, but for my leaner New York strip it rendered the meat a little tough. (I had a $23 shell steak at our surprisingly good hotel restaurant in Rochester that was tastier at half the price because it was properly cooked.) Readers may ask why I didn't send it back, a fair question. The server first asked before I had had a chance to taste, and in the extremely dim lighting distinguishing medium rare from medium would have been impossible. By the time she came back, I had eaten too much to be comfortable sending it back. I should have thought to use the flash on my phone right off the bat:
The salmon, also requested medium rare, came out even further past medium, although for a that dish it wasn't fatal. I'll turn things over to Ms. Garlic...
The highlight of the salmon was the delicious brown sugar tomato glaze, and I also really liked the tasty tomato salad accompaniment. The portion size was perfect. I really enjoyed the flaky texture, and it was a great anniversary entree. When we went a couple years ago I ordered the ridiculous sounding burger served on a croissant, and this time I was secretly disappointed I couldn't order that again (but maybe that's the type of thing one shouldn't make a habit of ordering, so that's alright).
Comparing 677 Prime to The Bear's, I would give Aneglo's the nod in terms of the appetizers, the accompaniments, and the drink options. But in terms of steak, I would say that The Bear's offered steak of similar quality, better prepared, at a substantially lower price point (especially when you consider that The Bear's includes vegetables and starch with the main course, whereas at Prime entrees are a la carte.) I would go back to Angelos for drinks and apps, or to sample other parts of the menu, but on the rare occasion when I want a steakhouse experience we're likely to head for Duanesburg.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

We Shall Return, And the Surprisingly Good Dining Options at the Price Chopper Plaza

As Ms. Garlic's recent post indicates, we promise to be back imminently with some discussions of dining here (home and out) and downstate. In the meantime, allow me to endorse the positive TU review of Tomo Asian Bistro. The lunch specials, in particular, are among the better dining deals in Albany. (Another one, incidentally, is against all odds in the same Slingerlands strip mall -- if you're able to make it on a weekday, the salad-and-small pizza lunch at Bellini's is excellent.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

My husband went out of town last week, and I decided to make all the things he doesn't really like. I had a whole bunch of eggs from a lady at my great new job who raises these kinds of chickens that produce different colored eggs. Aren't they beautiful?

I was browsing at Penzey's at Crossgates where I spotted some spearmint and thought making some mint chocolate chip ice cream was a great idea (both of our sets of parents can't get enough of it, and he's always saying how he doesn't get why people love the flavor so much). I have to say that I really really love Penzey's, and I love that they came to our area. I really want to support them. I love that you can go and stick your nose on into all their spices. I love their cocoa powder for making cakes. I love their green goddess salad dressing base. Their staff is always really friendly, knowledgeable, and often inspirational ("Hey, you like tacos? I will tell you what to try!"). Also, their catalog is good reading. I have actually made recipes from their catalog that turned out great - like a carrot cookie recipe that was moist and healthy. In their current catalog they have a west Texas theme which includes chili served on top of a savory waffle. You can always count on some weird sounding recipe in their catalog offered up by a real live home cook that just might be delicious if you give it a try. You may not think that spices matter that much (or the freshness of your spices - try to tell me you don't have something in your cupboard you brought from the city you lived in before this one, or unfortunately for us, things my husband had from the city he lived in 2 before this one - "Your sister just made ice cream out of chai powder I bought when I lived in Seattle?!!"). But once you start getting really tasty and fresher spices there is no going back. I love the cinnamon - they have like four kinds, but I like the Vietnamese the best. The dried peppers are great, and this time I also bought some "Sandwich Sprinkle" which has garlic, oregano, and many other things which I am sure will really knock a sub from Roma Foods out of the park. Anyways, I love it, and I think we are lucky to have a Penzey's in our area. They do a great job.

So I came home to mix on up a custard to make the ice cream. My recipe was from Ad Hoc at Home. You've got 2 cups of milk and cream that you simmer over a medium heat which you throw 1/2 cup of mint leaves into. You let it sit off the heat for 20 minutes. You strain the milk into a fine mesh strainer, add 2/3 cup sugar and whisk over medium high heat to dissolve the sugar.

You whisk 2/3 cup sugar and 10 egg yolks (I know its insane, but really delicious - also egg yolks stabilize the ice cream lessening the chance of developing ice crystals), until slightly thickened. Slowly, while whisking, add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, then whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Strain the whole mixture in a fine mesh strainer again into a saucepan. Prepare an ice bath. Put the mixture over medium heat, scraping it with a wooden spoon constantly until steam rises, and the custard thickens enough to coat the spoon. Strain the mixture, place the bowl in the ice bath, and let it cool completely stirring it occasionally. Refrigerate the mixture until totally cold, then put it in your ice cream maker for half an hour adding the chocolate chips in the last five minutes. I deviated a little from the recipe in that I added green food coloring cause I am sure that made it taste better than it would have if it stayed a weird light colored seaweed color. I also added in some white chocolate chunks, which I think were a nice touch. In my experience, it is really important that your mixture be really cold and the middle part of your ice cream machine be rock hard frozen in order to get a great final texture.

It turned out I didn't get around to actually putting it in the ice cream machine until Scott came back, and he had some and said it was delicious. That was a surprise. If only I can get him to say the same thing about pineapple on pizza.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Low Beat Albany

At my other place, I briefly reviewed the spectacular show put on last night by the brilliant Cincinnati-based band Wussy.  Suffice it to say that they're one of my favorite bands, and the show was better than I was expecting.  Of more relevance to the subject matter of this blog, however, is the venue.

The Low Beat -- on Central and Quail -- is the new club run by the former owner's of Valentine's on New Scotland. And it's worth noting that they've done a terrific job with it. Not only because they brought a great band that hasn't played a lot of the country's major urban centers yet to Albany and have good taste in general. (Had I known Johnathan Richman was playing there in time, my first visit would have been earlier in the month. I really need a good "coming shows" app or something.) But not only does it look good, unlike so many music venues they didn't neglect the beverage choices. The taps included generally excellent selection of craft brews (including the Elysian Pale, which is pretty rare in New York state) as well as the excellent local dry 9 Pin cider. So it's not only a serious music venue, it's also a place to grab a beer if you're catching a show at the Linda or are otherwise in the area. It's a terrific addition to the city, and I can't wait to see who they'll bringing to town the rest of the year.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Boca Bistro Bachelorette Party

My friend Jessica's Bachelorette Party was this weekend in Saratoga. It was a fabulous time. I couldn't believe how many really nice ladies she's friends with. I really love the movie "13 going on 30", and I watched it recently while out in North Adams dogsitting. I've probably seen it more repeat times than any other movie the last few years. I really love the pitch she gives on how to change the magazine. While her rival character gives the pitch to make the magazine more cynical, darker, more anorexic, the Jennifer Garner character says she wants to feature real women who are smart and pretty and happy to be who they are. Everytime I see that movie, I just love that scene so much. And so what a pleasure it was last night to meet so many interesting, accomplished ladies all in the mood to have a great time.

We started out at Boca Bistro. Our friend Tiffany did a fabulous job organizing it for such a large party, and $30 per person for three courses was a great price point. They made a special menu for us and made it a very streamlined experience. My friend Robin and I shared a bottle of Glenora Brut which was dry and refreshing. Good for them for offering a New York state sparkling! It was delicious. Then they served us appetizers family style.

We had the:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ugly Rooster Cafe, Mechanicville

Yesterday we checked out the Ugly Rooster Cafe in Mechanicville. We tried it once last year too. It is a cute, old school looking place that feels very much like it fits in with the town. People all seem to know each other, a whole big group was huddled around a tv tuned to the local news at the counter, and the employees are all super friendly. They have an extensive menu with a lot of inventive things I'd still like to try, including: the omelette with asparagus, crab, and hollandaise sauce, the BLT with fried green tomatoes, and the southern style breakfast sandwich which sounds over the top (fried egg, cheddar, fried green tomato, on a buttermilk biscuit is what the menu online says but I'm pretty sure the menu there had added bacon and gravy inside the sandwich). Its hard to decide what to eat when so many things sound so good.

Scott had the Huevos Rancheros, which were very delicious:

I had a chicken sandwich (The Mechanicville Special) with bacon, ranch, and avocado and a side of sweet potato fries:

The chicken was nicely moist and marinated, it was served on a tasty hard roll, and overall it was a really solid sandwich. 

Also, it turns out that they are getting ready to move to another space around the corner at 312 North 3rd Ave, Mechanicville . Their current space is going to become a bakery ran by a guy who currently sells cakes out of a space next to the cafe. The waitress said that their new space is going to be really nice. I can't wait to check it out!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Life Lessons / Philosophy in the Bathroom at The Point

I had a real Smallbany moment at The Point on Thursday night. It was really funny. It turned out that our server Lauryn (the best), who had been our server starting 5 years ago at Provence, was the babysitter when she was a little kid of a server we know from the Pourhouse who was there at The Point as a customer and came over to talk to us. It was the funniest thing because they hadn't seen each other since Lauryn was the babysitter.  I never get tired of weird coincidental connections between people, so much that it gets hard to explain sometimes or so far removed its not even interesting. Like... my new coworker's husband is in the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and I have a friend (who I met at the All Over Albany party 3 years ago) who also is in the ASO and so they know each other... my new worker's daughter is friends with a friend of someone who did a reading at my wedding, who I was introduced to by someone I went to grad school with in NY. Is it interesting? Are we sorted off in terms of age and interest so it isn't that crazy? Who knows, but I have to say I have never experienced this Smallbany phenomenon in other places I have lived, and my friends in Michigan say they don't regularly encounter this type of thing - like when I invite a bunch of people over my house who I know separately, and they already know each other in other ways.  Fascinating!

Then, Lauryn and I got real philosophical in the bathroom of The Point. It was too good not to share.

We don't see each other very often, and yet we've now known each other a really long time. 5 years. That's half a decade. She said that I look different but the "inner spark is the same". You can't believe how time passes, how people come in and out of your life, how things that were once so routine get completely forgotten. Does it seem like who you are is formed when you are very young and mostly stays the same, or is it that you are continually formed by your daily experiences in ways you don't comprehend at all until much later? Of course, something's lost but something's gained in living everyday. Lauryn was talking about how time passes, and yet people don't change, whatever people originally liked about each other is still there. Its a great thought, and I mentioned how my friend who I met in 7th grade math class and I are going to see Britney Spears in Vegas in September (woo woo). Its motivation to protect the parts of yourself that you feel are most important to you, and when you are in a situation that doesn't make you feel like who you are or who you want to be, you should change that situation.  Because of course, we've come too far to give up who we are.

I was unhappy in my last job in a really epic way. So much so that it made me realize how lucky I've been in the entire rest of my life to have consistently felt so happy. I had a really structured, high achieving childhood in a nice Midwestern suburb. I lived in NYC (most of it by myself) without really getting jaded at all - I didn't get mugged or attacked or anything. I moved to Albany with high hopes of finding a job I'd like and succeed at, and finding friends we'd have things in common with. We were then lucky to meet so many interesting people, and for me to find any opportunities at all in a time of severe economic downturn. The lesson I took from my first job here was that often your coworkers become important people in your life. It doesn't matter, Monday morning 9am, snow, rain, whatever, coworkers are a constant presence in your life. They see you more than your own family, and those people become really important whether you realize it or not. Sure, the people on the American version of "The Office" were ridiculous, but what viewer didn't feel at least a little affectionate towards even Dwight by the end of the series?

When a part of someone's life is just wrong though, its a little too much to expect them to put it out of their mind and focus on other things. When you are unhappy you don't have the energy to do other things. I really feel like the only thing that can be done is to change your situation. When you are happy though, you naturally do have the energy for all the things that interest you and make you feel fulfilled. For instance, we're talking about getting the craft fair band back together, and I'm thinking about making some retro kitchen inspired embroidery pieces like these (the fact that I don't know how to do embroidery will soon be rectified).

There are things in life you have to get through on your own. Also, when things are hard you can take comfort in knowing you were happy for the most part the whole rest of your life and that to feel awful is the unusual part - just because its not ok doesn't mean it won't be. Its nice to feel a lot more like myself. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

On one of our super fun day trips to the Hudson Valley last fall we discovered the small town of Millerton near the CT border. Its a cute town, like a mini Hudson - there's a handmade glass place, a cute vintage store that sells the kind of lingerie from the 1940s that can help you pretend you are some kind of old Hollywood starlet (I just wish I had this Pier 1 mirrored vanity as well), a well-curated wine store that offers weekend tastings given by friendly staff members, and Oblong Books.

For my point of view, the best part of Millerton is the solidly outstanding coffee shop, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. Like all really delicious coffee places, they really pay attention to where the green beans come from and sell the roasted beans as close as possible to when they were roasted. You really want to make sure you grind your beans as close as possible to when you brew the coffee for best results. All that combined is pretty much the formula for an amazing cup of coffee.

At the cafe in Millerton they sell food too, like pot pies, sandwiches, salads, and this really lovely raspberry oat bar:

I really love coffee of such high quality that it demands your full attention. It forces a thoughtful break in your day - a moment for you to just exist in your life. I believe that great coffee has that power. This is the attractive looking latte Scott had last time:

Last time I was there I purchased a bag of the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. I made it in a French press today after lunch at my fabulous new job inside while it blizzarded around us like a lively snowglobe, and it was so intense and full-flavored with a bit of spice to it. I'm not sure anything is better than the Irving Farms coffee made in a French press. I'm pretty sure I purchased the Costa Rican coffee before too, which was lighter and brighter but also smelled and tasted amazing.

 One thing we continue to enjoy about this region is that there are so many different cool day trips to take and secrets to discover. I can say that this little place is a real gem.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Belhurst Castle

I was lucky enough to receive a gift certificate to Belhurst Castle in Geneva, NY from my in-laws as a birthday gift! We stayed in the Chambers in the Castle, in which each of the rooms is unique and charming. We stayed in the Garrett Room, which was the only one vacant and not the most luxurious, but still great. It is a completely relaxing place with a really fascinating history. We're talking architectural beauty, pure class, insanity, gambling, and finally tourism and incredible hospitality. Scroll down here for the history - its a great read. There are complimentary chocolate castles, a wine spigot that spits out unlimited red wine free with your room (!), free slippers, a super comfortable bed, and incredible lake views. There's also something about lake front air that has a really fresh taste to it. There's also a great lounge, Stonecutter's, and fabulous restaurant, Edgar's. Oh they also have a spa and sell and offer tastings of their own wine. What more could you ever want in a weekend getaway? Needless to say, they do a lot of weddings.

First, I'll tell you about the Stonecutter's lounge. You walk in to an incredible view of the west side of Seneca Lake and sit down in huge comfortable leather chairs - no slippery bar stools here - the kind of real chairs that make you want to stay the evening. They had an acoustic musician playing covers including James Taylor songs. My dad used to play me James Taylor songs when I was 5 on his guitar to get me to go to sleep, and I tried to call him to tell him but he wasn't in, and I just ended up telling my mom about how every time I typed in "Belhurst Castle" in Google it recommended "Belhurst Castle haunted" and how much the employees didn't find this nearly as entertaining as I did. Scott started with the panko crusted deep fried calamari with sweet and spicy broccoli slaw and sriracha aioli:

It was great, and he really enjoyed the broccoli slaw. I sampled some tasty spirits produced just down the road and across the lake at Finger Lakes Distilling since I was milking my birthday celebration for about a month and celebrating a really awesome new job I started this week. I started with the large black tiger shrimp poached in court boullion and chilled, served with traditional cocktail sauce and remoulade:

I liked how big these shrimps were and that you got the remoulade as well as the cocktail sauce with it. These poached shrimp were a perfect match to the Seneca Drums martini I paired them with.  The girl next to us ordered the cheeseburger chowder (house ground Black Angus beef tenderloin braised with onions, potatoes, extra sharp cheddar and all of the condiments that make a burger so special) and really loved it. I love in the Finger Lakes how friendly people are, and how you can chat with people who are incredibly knowledgeable about wine from as far away as Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Buffalo. The girl who worked at the tasting room in Geneva for Ravines clearly could have written a book on the history of calling things Champagne and Port, and I loved her for her wine nerdiness.

For entrees, Scott had a version of a cobb salad that added crab, and I had a tasty chicken sandwich that had grilled pineapple on it of all things. Scott liked that his salad wasn't drowning in dressing, bacon or avocado and just had enough of each of these things to give a taste but not overwhelm. My sandwich with the pineapple, proscuitto, hot pepper relish,and cheese on it reminded me of Hawaiian Pizza, which is a long standing source of disagreement in my marriage.

So let me tell you about the brunch. Its served in Edgar's, the fancier restaurant in the castle.

So, Saturday and Sundays - $18 a person and all you can eat of many things, including: French toast, bagels with smoked salmon, capers, onions, cream cheese and crab on them, waffles with berry compote, fruit, veggies with dip, couscous and pasta salads, eggs, omelette station, carving station, lunch entrees like baked pollock with spinach and Gorgonzola, meatloaf, bacon, sausage, every kind of dessert and pastry you can imagine, quiches, complimentary unlimited bloody marys and mimosas after noon, every kind of juice, coffee, salted caramels to take with you at the end - my God, I am full just typing all that! In short, amazing, luxurious, relaxing, and a great value if you consider what a salad, coffee, and cocktail would cost you at New World Bistro on a regular Sunday (I love New World, I'm just saying this is an amazing deal). Then you can go wine tasting, and you don't even feel like eating the whole day. Amazing, Delicious food served with knowledgeable and friendly service.

Clearly, Belhurst Castle is the best. Now we want to go back and stay in all the different rooms. Balcony, lake view, in-room jacuzzi you say? Stop, you had me at wine spigot! Gatsby glamour, mixed with 1880s mystery, mixed with modern day wine tourism, topped off with great food and drinks and a relaxing atmosphere? I'm a fan.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Madison Pourhouse: Opening Week

After an aborted attempt at a yesterday, I met some friends and then Ms. Garlic at the Madison Pourhouse, the replacement for Mahar's being opened by the owners of the bar's neighbors Cafe Madison, Junior's, and The Point.  I had some degree of optimism -- Junior's has always had much better taps than you would expect from the collegey vibe -- but also some trepidation.  The extensively renovated space isn't Mahar's for better (much more seating, much better restrooms) and worse (tradition, the beer tour.)  But ultimately it has to be judged on its own merits, and I think there's a good chance that it will rival the Bier Abbey as the best beer bar in the Capital Region, at least on the beverage side. 

The beer selection, which you can see here, is excellent and very fairly priced.  I had an Old Chub and a Founders All Day, while true to her Michigan roots Ms. Garlic had the Bell's White.  It's a nicely balanced list, between styles and regions, and as you would expect from a new place the beer poured beautifully.  My only quibble was that I might like a couple more New York selections -- there was nothing from Chatham or Middle Ages or Crossroads, for example, and only one from Southern Tier and the (admittedly very widely available) Ommegang.  But overall, its beer selection is the class of Albany.

Food-wise, I was told that because of the presence of a lot of nuts in a small kitchen I should probably stay away.   The initial menu is fairly short; Ms. Garlic enjoyed the hummus with beer chips, and my friends seemed to like the nut mix.  But it's definitely a place for beer and snacks as opposed to a place for dinner at this point.

I quite liked the space, although with the memory of Mahar's hanging over the space it takes some getting used to.  The downstairs area is a little cramped, inevitably, although there's not a lot else that could be done with the space.  The upstairs, complete with log-cabin-style fireplace with taxidermy, is a lot more comfy.  One major plus over too much of the competition: the service was friendly, attentive, and efficient, even as new servers were bring trained on the go for opening week.  They're not understaffed and trying to push patrons to order from an overcrowded bar, a major plus in my book. 

We'll report back, but it's an impressive debut. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Baked Dishes in Winter

So its winter in upstate New York. After all the bustle of the holidays and the work it takes to de-Christmasfiy one's house (I still have some wrapping paper spread out on the floor in some far flung corners), its nice to spend some time indoors and reconnect with old friends and long lost acquaintances. On Friday, I threw a Book Exchange Party. Its like a book club with less commitment or a regular party with extra topics of conversation. I thought it turned out great, and it was super interesting to see what people brought. The downside (or upside?) is that we are now the proud owners of everything people were given over the years, King Jesus being the biggest prize.

I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen today. I was talking to my mom about how the New York Times dialect quiz knew I was from Detroit, and you just can't deny what you are or where you are from. I made some spanokopita from America's Test Kitchen's book Cooking for Two, which you might not think sounds Midwestern, but which I always remember being served at all the Coney Island Restaurants around Metro Detroit. According to wikipedia, this is because of all the Greek immigrants in that area who run those type of restaurants.

What I liked about this recipe was the prominent lemon flavor. I don't remember ever having a spinach pie with such a bright, tangy flavor to it.

I bought a whole slew of leeks at the Troy Farmer's Market this weekend. They smell great. They are so bright green. Its enough to make you hope for spring.

I also got this great new cookbook for Christmas called The New Midwestern Table. I made something from it for dinner called a "hotdish" which has chicken, wild rice, vegetables, and Ritz crackers ground up on top. Casseroles are big in the Midwest for all types of occasions - new babies, people dying, sports potlucks. The description in the book talked about a kid coming home from freezing hockey practice to this steamy dish coming out of the oven, and that seemed appealing. This is a really interesting cookbook with all kinds of recipes like Upper Peninsula Pasties, lots of whitefish dishes, and Scandinavian stuffed pancakes. It also has a really thin crust pizza dough with no yeast in it I want to try. The "hotdish":

So its nice to spend some time in the kitchen in the middle of winter, steam wafting off of buttery vegetables and hearty old favorites coming out of the oven. Its a new year, and I'm trying to watch Melrose Place from the 90s in its entirety. I'm about half way there. Its important to have goals in life.