Category Archives: Saratoga

Saratoga bites

A few months back I bought a Living Social deal for Javier’s in Saratoga. My motivation was to enjoy a night out and sample some of Brian Bowden’s food. Well, you know how that worked out. Nonetheless, Thursday night we hit the Northway and arrived promptly for our 6:45 reservation.

While the downstairs bar was completely empty, the upstairs dining room was close to full. We were shown to a nice table and looked over the recently updated menu. Eventually we decided to start with fried oysters and a pear salad, followed by the duck breast and monkfish entrees. I settled back contentedly with my glass of bubbles and my favorite fellow, prepared for an indulgent meal.

Our meal service began with dense and cheesy “muffins,” accompanied by softened butter garnished with roasted garlic. Nice. Our first course was served and I don’t know which one of us was more crestfallen by the size of the portion. You see, we’re good eaters and the salad, particularly, was shockingly paltry. Seriously – it was about a third of a pear. Maybe. The oysters appetizer was four morsels – a bit of a disappointment if you’re coming from the Rick Weber school of fried oysters, which is more than likely where this rendition originated.* The oysters were tasty but definitely would have benefitted from a touch of salt and a multiplication of two.

The entrees were far more impressive. Both of the portions were reasonable and the plates were nicely presented. The duck was perfectly medium rare, with a touch of sweetness to the sauce and nicely crisped skin. I don’t often eat monkfish, but I certainly would order it more frequently if I was assured it would be cooked as masterfully as the piece I enjoyed at Javier’s. My “poor man’s lobster” was mild, and moist and the accompaniments were a nice foil to the fish. Well done.  I didn’t take any photos of our meals, but you can see the salad and monkfish on this blog.

We had a dessert, some sort of something leche which was simply not my thing, but my dining companion made short work of it. Dinner, before discount, came to just over a $100, pre-tip. Service was capable, but not particularly personable. I’ve met Javier before (and his wife, following dinner) and they are both warm and social. It would be pleasing if the service reflected some of that.

Two days later, I was back in Saratoga to shoot some photos for the Times Union. The occasion? Chowderfest 2014. This was my first time attending this event and it is a huge deal. I believe there were 86 restaurants participating and, from what I understand, this annual celebration of chowder is second in popularity only to Travers Day. Props to Saratoga for hosting an event, in January, which literally fills their streets and sidewalks with folks willing to wait in line to sample minuscule “cups” of chowder. The crowd was enthusiastic, patient and seemingly appreciative of the offerings, as well as the relatively mild temperature.

My tight schedule prevented me from being able to invest time waiting on the sometimes formidable lines, but I would definitely consider participating in this fun event in the future. Truth be told, finding a reason to visit Saratoga, and a place to have a bite, is never a struggle.

*Brian Bowden worked with Andrew Plummer who worked with Rick Weber and those oysters had Rick Weber’s name all over them.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Events, Food, Restaurants, Saratoga, SEEN, soup, upstate New York

Riding that train

DSC_0001Last week in our (delayed) haste to soak in the last of Summer 2013, two of my boys and I hopped aboard the scenic Saratoga-North Creek Railroad.  Despite the late night I had thoroughly enjoyed the previous evening at a concert at SPAC, we left Albany a little after 9:00 a.m. to catch our train, which was scheduled for a 10:00 departure.

We pulled out of the station a little late but, hey, what’s the rush?  We had all day to relax in the comfortable double-decker dining car perusing the breakfast menu which featured reasonably priced entrees ranging from $4 for pastry to $9 for the Adirondack omelet, French toast or waffles.  My guys ordered and were served fairly quickly.  Their plates were hot on arrival, nicely presented and portioned generously. The servers were, without exception, friendly and accommodating.

The train took us through some remote areas with beautiful views of the mountains and Hudson River.  The tables invite conversation and the period music playing softly in the background added to the sense of being part of another, more gentle time.  As we approached North Creek the sun broke through the clouds and help to remove the chill of the air-conditioned car – I forgot to bring a sweater.
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North Creek is a friendly little town with a couple of cute shops and a handful of restaurants.  Note: the helpful map distributed at the ticket office is NOT drawn to scale.  If you need more clarification on that fact, please see my youngest son.  He has probably still not forgotten the trek I led him on, which ultimately ended at our chosen destination for lunch.  Which was closed.  I’ve been wanting to try barVino forever but, unfortunately (and expectedly) they don’t serve lunch.  We ended up at Izzie’s Deli and Market, where I enjoyed my chicken salad, served on a bed of greens as I requested.  A few heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved, finished the plate.

Dinner is served on the return trip and, again, is fairly priced with entrees ranging between $10 for their Adirondack casserole (described as turkey and assorted root vegetables in a homemade cream sauce finished with a bread crumb, Parmesan and butter topping) and $16 for a 7 oz filet.  We didn’t indulge on the way south but the domed car captured and circulated some pretty enticing aromas.

The leisurely pace of the train, coupled with the 3 hour layover, made for a long day, but it was really enjoyable.  During the ride south I allowed the train to rock me to sleep and woke up fairly refreshed for the return drive down the Northway.  I would definitely take this trip again and am interested in the Ski Train which takes passengers to North Creek where a bus is available to complete the journey to Gore Mountain.  A day well spent.

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Filed under Boys, family, ideas, Recommendations, road trips, Saratoga, Summer, upstate New York

Rocking out the summer – part 1

1234252_10151851105492889_627358023_nIn the past few months, I’ve been to some really great shows up at SPAC. Despite the cold start to the season, Memorial Day weekend, when Griffin and I went to see both nights of the Dave Matthews Band, and the ridiculous prices demanded by Live Nation for shows and refreshments, I gotta say, it was a great summer of music.

Last week, I wrapped up my SPAC 2013 schedule with two different but equally enjoyable shows. Wednesday night was my umpteenth time seeing the Allman Brothers – it’s practically a summer institution, right? The night was made special, though, by the addition of Steve Winwood as an opening act. And the company I was keeping, of course.

Generally, the Allmans are a lawn ticket event for me, but there was a special TravelZoo offer which I took advantage of to land two balcony seats for less than $60. This was my third Steve Winwood experience and, while I prefer him in a smaller, more intimate venue like the Egg, he never disappoints. He truly is a legend and I can’t imagine ever tiring of listening to him play, particularly when it’s Blind Faith and Traffic tunes.

The Allman Brothers, playing with a full lineup including Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, were their usual hard rocking selves. Greg continues to sing most of the songs, but Warren seems to be stepping up to the mic a bit more these days. While there was no Whipping’ Post, a couple of other nuggets were pulled out and I’d consider it a solid show. A definite highlight was when Winwood joined the gang for a cover of the Band’s The Weight – pretty awesome and unforgettable.

Ask the Allmans and I’m sure they’ll agree – Saratoga Springs is certainly the August place to be.  Check out this Seen gallery for some great crowd shots.

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Filed under Events, Music, Saratoga, SEEN, SPAC, Summer

The sky was dry but it rained the blues

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Missed my camera – big time!

I did it.  After 25 years of living in Albany, I finally made it up to SPAC to take in some of the Freihofer’s Jazz Fest this weekend.  Wow!  So, that’s what it’s like to be treated like an adult at an event at SPAC.  Bravo!

I promise this isn’t going to be an anti-Live Nation rant, but, I have to acknowledge how much more pleasant an experience this concert was than the typical rock show at SPAC.  I mean, for Pete’s sake, they were giving away cookies.  When was the last time Live Nation gave you anything other than a firm pat down?  The bottled water was literally half the price we paid a week prior at the Tom Petty show and the beers were similarly discounted.  I think premium drafts were $6.50.

We were freely allowed to bring in snacks and beverages of our own choosing and cameras were also permitted without the ridiculous stipulation a la Live Nation, that those with removable lenses are not allowed.  I left my Nikon at home, fearing rain, but took about a million mental pictures of the beautifully diverse crowd doing their thing with tarps, blankets, martini glasses and elaborate food preparations.

We drove through a deluge in Albany to arrive at a miraculously and vaguely sunny venue .  Apparently Saratoga had a mere drizzle and we guaranteed that things would remain dry by remembering to bring our umbrellas through the Charlie gate. We snagged a spot on the lawn, enjoying the sounds of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and relaxing into the peaceful Sunday afternoon vibe.

The legendary Tony Bennett, at the ripe old age of 86(!), put on an unforgettably lovely show.  Seeing him was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he impressed me with the strength of voice, his physical appearance and the tremendous class he exuded.  They don’t make them like that anymore!  It was a true thrill to be in the audience while he performed.

Buddy Guy closed the show in a downpour of soulful blues and thunderous guitar licks.  Holy crap – that man is 76 years-old and he smoked it.  There was no calling it in – he simply killed it.  The songs he chose to play highlighted the family tree of guitar players with which any modern music lover is familiar – Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, each of whom made virtual appearances on the stage.

Among all the veteran musicians playing, there was also a beacon of the future present.  Fourteen-year-old Quinn Sullivan, of New Bedford, MA, ripped it up playing along side of the masterful Guy.  His playing reminded me of Clapton, but his stage presence was all Derek Trucks.  The future looks bright.

The biggest thrill of the night for me was when the remarkably nimble Buddy Guy came down into the audience and I anticipated where he would ultimately end up – right in front of me.  Like, I could have touched him if I was one of those people who invades the personal space of someone.  I was giddy.  Great show, great company, great night.

Those taut arms, way up high on the right?  Yep, mine!

Those taut arms, way up high on the right? Yep, mine!

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Filed under concerts, Events, Music, Saratoga, SPAC, Summer

Happy Halloween!

I don’t know when Halloween became a holiday for adults, or more specifically for women to wear to trampy costumes, but I finally found an event that combined Zombies, running and charity – the rUNDEAD 5k in Saratoga State Park.  This inaugural trail run race was held last Sunday morning, with proceeds benefiting the Special Olympics.  I had a blast dodging zombies on the beautiful, but challenging trails through the scenic park where I originally fell in love with running on dirt and grass.  So much fun!

The recent rains (even Pre-Sandy) had added a degree of peril to the leaf-strewn trails and I saw a number of runners go down as their feet either found a hidden tree root or trail dip, or simply lost their grip on wet leaves.  Ooohhh!  Scary!  The volunteer zombie army, staked out along the course, was awesome – full of fun as they devoured lives in the form of flags hanging from participant’s belts.  Runners who made it to the finish line with at least a single flag were considered survivors and it was great to watch runners and zombies face off at the finish line.

I ran the race without a belt and flags, but I did bring my camera.  Here’s my SEEN gallery – check out the pics for a safe look at zombies!

 

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Filed under Events, Exercise, Recommendations, running, Saratoga, SEEN, sunday

Florence + the Machine – SPAC, 9/16/12

ImageLast weekend may have been one of the best weekends ever.  The weather was outstanding, the Wine Bar was beautifully busy, Lark Fest was once again a joy, and I got to take my middle son to SPAC to close out the season.  Yep, pretty friggin’ awesome.

When the show was first announced, I decided a Sunday night show in September was undo-able.  Especially during the early weeks of school when my body is still craving the languidness of summer.  Nope, not happening.  But, once I realized that the following day was a holiday (Happy New Year!) and I was offered the opportunity to shoot pictures for a Times Union SEEN gallery, everything changed.  We were there!

I have to admit, I don’t really know a lot of the band’s music, but there are a couple of tunes that almost have an anthemic quality that I really like.  I think Greg Haymes gave a really fair and accurate review of the show here.  It was an absolutely gorgeous night and I think I won some “cool mom” points with my boy – winning!  I had hoped to slip a photo of he and I together into the SEEN gallery, an idea which was nixed by my teen.  Oddly enough, he acquiesced to having a photo taken with three beautiful college coeds…See if you can find that picture.  If you can’t locate it on the TU site, you might want to check inside his middle school locker.

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Filed under Boys, concerts, Events, family, Music, Saratoga, SEEN, SPAC

Rock & Run recap

SPAC ~ May 20, 2012
Can I blame my less than stellar time (28:27) on Max London?  No, probably not, but I can thank Capriccio Saratoga for the excellent Pasta Puttanesca carb load we enjoyed Saturday night.  I can also say,  that it was a hot morning and a hillier than expected course.  And a lot of fun!  I wish I had taken more photos but I learned during this event that it is really difficult to participate in and photograph the same event.  There were so many shots I didn’t get, including of the bands scattered along the course, that I left feeling a tad disappointed.  Really though, how down can a girl feel after running on a beautiful day with a couple of great friends?

This was the third year for this event and I’m already looking forward to running it again in 2013.  And besting my time, of course.

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Filed under birthdays, Events, Exercise, friends, Recommendations, running, Saratoga, SPAC, sunday