Category Archives: SEEN

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

Reflections after 2 days of being Wined and Dined

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Me and “my” Sis

I was lucky enough to shoot photos at two related events this past weekend in downtown Albany.  In case you are one of the few residents of the Capital District who I didn’t run into (and have been living under a rock), this weekend was the 5th annual Albany Wine and Dine for the Arts, an outstanding culinary event which is rapidly growing into the highlight of what can often be a grey month in upstate New York.

I began the weekend with Friday evening’s Grand Tasting.  This event is truly a terrific way to start a three-day weekend and people really seemed to be enjoying themselves.  The sizable crowd was wonderfully diverse with couples, both young and old, as well as groups of friends, meandering around the ballroom carefully balancing tasting plates of food and adult beverages.  If you’re someone who is intimidated by “haute cuisine,” this would be a perfect opportunity to expand your culinary horizons in a completely low-key fashion.

As I roamed, snapping photos for a Seen gallery, I was able to make connections with old friends and new faces.  In all honesty, I didn’t eat or drink because I was working planning to take an evening run and didn’t want the excess ballast.  If I had been indulging, the offerings from Cafe Capriccio, Bake for You and Javier’s all would have attracted my fork and, while I didn’t transition to the Slider Slam, held at 90 State, it looked like quite a party!  Next year, for sure.

Saturday, though, was my night to indulge and I do believe I did justice to the fabulous offerings.  I had originally planned to attend an old friend’s party in Troy, but the sloppy weather prevented me from making the trek.  I like to ski on snow, not drive.  I consoled myself by finagling a spot at one of the Gala’s tables and tucked into pretty much every course which came my way.  Oh, and there was wine, too!  Lots of tastes of lots of wines, including an ’81 Chateau Margaux and a ’66 Talbot.  What an evening…

Vintage '66 for both me and the wine!

Vintage ’66 for both me and the wine!

I wish I had been more disciplined about taking notes about the individual courses along with the wine pairings, but Friday had been the time for discipline.  Saturday was all about dining with friends and filling my mouth with tastiness.  And taking pictures, of course.

There was one aspect of the event which left me a bit disgruntled… This event would be impossible to pull off without the tireless efforts of the committee, the chefs and all of the professional hospitality industry employees.  Prior to the start of meal service, there were a number of honors, awards and recognitions which needed to be presented.  Unfortunately, there were quite a few tables which lacked appropriate decorum during this time and it was often difficult to hear the individual presenters and recipients.  There was no lack of food or beverage served during the one-hour cocktail reception prior to the commencement of the sit down portion of the meal and it would have been nice if the attendees could have closed their mouths for just a short while.

Mark your calendars for mid-January 2015  – this event is going to continue to be the premier food and wine event in the Capital Region and you’ll want to be there.

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, SEEN, upstate New York, Wine, winter

Saturday – a celebration and a speakeasy

DSC_0005Saturday was one of those days when I wished I could get ahold of that special timepiece that Hermione used in the Prisoner of Azkaban – even if it came with a Dementor or two.  There were just too damn many fun things to do!  Had I been able to master the skill of being in two places simultaneously, I would have managed to attend both Winter WonderLARK and the wonderful celebration for newlyweds Amy & Gretchen held in the oh-so-cool space known as Time & Space Limited in Hudson.  After those events wound down, I would have loved to have remained in Hudson for their holiday walk while also attending Albany Center Gallery’s Speakeasy Gala held at 90 State Street.  I did the best I could, believe me.

What I managed to accomplish was a drive to Hudson to toast the brides, a quick run and then a delightful couple of hours at the speakeasy-themed Gala.  The gala was held at Angelo Mazzone”s newest event space on lower State Street in downtown Albany.  Parking was a bit of an issue, but, in all honesty, I found the challenge of parking to be a wonderful indicator of downtown’s appeal on a Saturday night – go, Albany!  The venue, formerly a bank, was magnificent with gorgeous details and elaborate ceilings.  They don’t build ‘em like that anymore. There definitely are some finishing touches which will complete the space, particularly some attention to the acoustics from the lowers level, but it is a incredible option for any of you planning an event.photo

The party was fantastic – a  great crowd of artfully attired guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy the music, food and entertainment.  As always, there were many familiar faces, as well as new folks I hadn’t met previously. There were performers who provided a wonderful theatrical interlude and, as a woman, I was thrilled and appreciative of the beautiful female burlesque dancer whose body was womanly and sexy.  So nice to see in a world filled with lollipop performers!  Here are some pictures to show you what a lovely event Tony Iadicicco and his entire crew put on.  Hope to see you there next time!

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Filed under Albany, art, Events, SEEN

Remember that day I wore leather?

Mine didn’t look quite like these.

To the VegFest? Yes, that was me. In case you missed the APB from the nice vegan folks, let me tell you about it. It was a busy day, filled with errands and chores. I had committed to shooting the 2013 Albany VegFest which was being held at the Polish-American Community Center out on Washington Avenue Extension. I had been warned that it would be crowded with an estimated 2500-4500 expected to be in attendance.

I came close to regretting my professional obligation to take photos when I saw the weather forecast. I would have much preferred taking a long run, on such a spectacular fall day, but I postponed that activity until evening and instead started snapping photos.

I’ve never attended this event before, and was awestruck by much of it – the size of the crowd, the bumper stickers on the cars, the variety of vendors, and the delectable aromas which filled the hall. There were impressive displays of baked goods, condiments, cleaning products and toiletries. Information about animal sanctuaries, green energy and related reading materials, were also present.

I was happy to meet Susan Poisson-Dollar from Field Goods, a produce delivery service which I’ve been using since September. This terrific local business works with independent farmers to gather the freshest produce (organic, low-spray and conventionally raised) and package and deliver it to business locations around the Capital District. I’ve been thrilled with the quality and value of what I’ve received and encourage you to look into it as an excellent resource for vegetables.

I was initially excited to see a couple of current students in the sizable crowd. After pausing to talk with them, I was slightly less elated. You see, they noticed my leather Doc Marten’s. Talk about being embarrassed! Of course, I spent the remainder of my time at the event hoping no one else would notice my faux pas – as well as pulling my sweater down to cover my leather belt. Vegan FAIL!

Here are my photos from the event. Despite my epic lack of vegan cred, I would consider attending this event again. The crowd was smart, the food looked great and everyone I encountered was friendly. I plan to wear my Brooks running shoes.

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Filed under Albany, Eating, Events, Food, Local, SEEN

Another squirrel story!

S6After my previous post, in which I confessed to holding a grudge against some  squirrels, you might be surprised to learn that I spent some time last weekend running a trail race called the Squirrelly Six.  All I can say is this: I mentally made it a grey squirrel rather than the despised red squirrel which caused poor Miss Suzy so much anguish.  Enough about my childhood issues – let me tell you about a great race!

The Squirrelly Six is one of two races run concurrently each fall up at Thacher Park.  The race I ran, as you might guess, is 6 miles of beautiful, challenging trail running.  The other race, perhaps one day in my future, is a ½ marathon known as the Hairy Gorilla.  The races begin together and then split near the finish for the S6 and I hear that the hardest part of the race comes in the first half.  Since I didn’t run the entire course I can’t confirm that, but I can say that there were a couple of intense hills that were kind of ass-kicking.  Or, on a more positive note, ass-firming.

Before and after the race, I shot photos for the TU and it was one of the easiest gigs ever.  The morning began sunny and the crowd was spirited and fun.  The race is extremely well organized and there was a pervasive mood of fun and humor.  It seemed to me that this particular group of runners truly knows how to have a good time and I didn’t feel the intense competition that I sometimes find intimidating.

Since my very first time running trails, I have been smitten with the experience.  The soft earth underfoot, the smells of leaves and dirt, the lighting…it is very much an activity which captures almost all the senses.  Speaking of senses, the aromas from the spread of food in the nearby pavilion were tantalizing!  Next year, I think I’ll attempt the Gorilla and reward my efforts with something from the plentiful buffet.

See you again in 2014, S6/HG!

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Filed under Events, Exercise, friends, Local, running, SEEN, 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 Warrior Dash as a life metaphor – updated*

photo (1)Yesterday, I mastered my third consecutive Warrior Dash down in Windham.  How was it, you ask? Well…it was really hard – maybe the hardest one yet, for me.

A beautiful foggy early morning had turned into a sunny and bright late morning and the temperature had somehow crept up into the 80s.  When I jumped into the second half of the 10:30 “wave,” I faced the mountain with mixed feelings of excitement and dread.  I may have fallen in love with skiing recently, but it really is far more fun to glide down the mountain than run up it, know what I mean?

The course had a certain Disney-esque quality with cleverly constructed trails which did not reveal the full extent of the climb.  There were two occasions when I was convinced that the “up” part surely must be done and the “down” portion was all there was left to complete.  I was wrong.

The obstacles were challenging without being particularly difficult.  I wouldn’t be able to recollect the exact order of the various walls, wire and water hurdles.  There were a couple I would have liked a chance to do over and I can tell you that the walls were my favorite, especially the one with the knotted rope.  I seriously came off of that wall, looked at the guy next to me and roared “I dominated that wall!” Yes, really.

When I finished the race, sneakers saturated, clothing filled with twigs and stained clay red, I was predictably elated.  I tried to itemize the obstacles, along with my bruises, and realized the chronology of the race really didn’t matter. Just like the challenges which are presented by life, getting through them is the most important part.  While some would have indeed benefitted from a repeated attempt or a change in approach, having the ability to smile when it’s all over?  Winning.

*Check out the Seen gallery here!

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Filed under aging, Events, Exercise, SEEN, Summer, upstate New York