Category Archives: Albany

Trader Joe’s – when it’s your first time, you get flowers

I’m about to tell you something you may find surprising…despite my reputation as a bit of a “foodie,” until just a couple of weeks ago I had never been to Trader Joe’s. Truth. I know, I know, they “have the best prepared foods!” and the “produce is fantastic.” I’d heard it all, yet remained disinterested. The Wolf Road location always seemed like a clusterf*ck and I do all right with P Chops, Shop Rite and Honest Weight with the occasional Aldi foray. There really isn’t room in the rotation for another grocery store.

But, when a special friend invites a girl to a wonderful “new” place, she goes, right? And that’s how I found myself on a recent Sunday evening cruising the aisles of TJ’s for the very first time. First impression: we picked a good time to go. The parking lot was more empty than full and the store itself was surprisingly mellow. Despite my intention to merely browse, we had a full sized cart and plenty of time in case I changed my mind.

So, what did I walk out of there with? Although the produce looked good and more fairly priced than I had anticipated, I passed since I had already done my pre-Thanksgiving shopping and was set on fruits and veggies. The cheese and meats cases held my attention and I was unable to resist the sliced German smoked ham, at $3.99 for 4 oz it gave me a cheap olfactory trip to my Opa’s house in the Black Forest. Also in the cart were 2 bags of frozen potstickers (chicken and pork at $2.99 each), 2 bags of frozen seasoned corn (haven’t tried them yet), a bar of goat’s milk soap for my weirdo son who wanted goat’s milk, a large bottle of all-in-one shampoo/conditioner/body wash (just trying to cover the bases for my 12 y/o!) and 6-pack of something the guy selected. There might have been another item or three, but I honestly can’t remember – except, of course, for the sweet bouquet of flowers I received once our check out dude learned that it was my very first visit. Nice touch.

The takeaway – there were some cool things and most items were less expensive than I had anticipated. Am I going back? Well, if the fella asks again, of course! But, seriously, I do like the size of the store and the items I’ve purchased and sampled. There was definitely some other stuff that I’d be game to try, but I’m not in a big rush to go back. It’s kind of the same way I feel about places like Marshall’s – when I’ve got some extra time and money, I’m game to recreationally browse.

How about you? Are you a regular at Trader Joe’s? What should I get next time?

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, Food, Uncategorized

Getting schooled at Cafe Capriccio

C407CADB-0DA3-41F5-808A-FC99748F03B1.pngI’ve been a devotee of Grand Street’s Café Capriccio for so very long that if I had a sip of Chianti to match each wonderful memory I’m lucky enough to have created there…well, I’d be pretty damn drunk. I’ve experienced just about every type of event imaginable in this incredibly cozy space – romantic date, girls’ night, Mother’s Day, countless dinners at the bar, chef’s table parties upstairs, significant birthdays, a bridal shower, musical performances, a psychic reading, pre-concert meals, staff holiday dinners and after hours dance parties*. I won’t say that each and every visit to the Café has been stellar, but I can count the disappointments on a single hand and when you’re talking about 25 years’ worth of dining, well, that adds up to a pretty solid history.

A couple of Mondays ago, I added a new experience to my Capriccio memories – Cooking School. I had tried to register for classes in the past but had been shut out, as they’re limited to a dozen attendees and fill up quickly.  A friend and I jumped on the opportunity quickly this time and successfully landed a couple of spots at the table. Our menu:

img_3262Beans and greens – made with Franco Rua’s house cured pancetta, broccoli raabe, white beans, garlic and hot red pepper flakes.

Salad of chicory and endive tossed with tomatoes, celery, onion, oil and vinegar

Pasta with Italian canned tomatoes, house made guanciale, cheese

img_3263Lamb chops – pan seared and finished in the over, served with a pan sauce of anchovy, garlic, rosemary

Walnut torte

I may have forgotten a few ingredients in the above dishes (it was 2 weeks ago!), but I won’t forget how much fun the night was. The group seated around the table was convivial, friendly and definitely interested in cooking, food and travel. While we didn’t actually participate in the preparation of the meal, it was a very casual evening and guests were certainly welcome to move around and get as close to the action as they desired. Service was excellent and the flow of wine (the Palladio Chianti was delish) was bountiful, a couple of classic Capriccio features I always have appreciated. The Ruas know how to run a restaurant and have never been miserly with their stories or knowledge and  I’m very much looking forward to getting more educated in 2018.

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, Dinner, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recipes, Recommendations, Restaurants, Wine

Music to my ears – Modern English and Albert Cummings

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My new favorite cocktail – Cimarron Tequila,Pear Liqueur, Allspice Dram, Lemon Juice

2017 has been a year of great live performances, with a couple of exceptions. The most recent disappointing musical act I saw was Modern English at The Hollow earlier this month. I was so excited for this throwback band – the timing was ideal (the night before a holiday), I had plenty of friends going and their big single “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” is a classic 80s tune. What could go wrong?

Well, the tickets ($25) said 8:00 and we arrived pretty close to that time only to find the band’s equipment just being loaded into the venue. After about 20 or 30 minutes, some guys got on stage without introduction (that I heard at least) and played a song that was so friggin loud that we left the spot we had nabbed near the back bar and headed to the dining area where we wouldn’t be blasted at an obscene volume. Shortly after they left the stage an opening act came on and played some noise that just didn’t appeal to us, so we left and grabbed a drink at dp’s. Come to think about it, that drink (the Autumn in Jalisco) was probably the best part of the night. Maybe tequila isn’t just for summer.

We went back to The Hollow at about 10:30 and Modern English was just coming on stage. We stood about 20-25 feet back from the stage, but again, the music was damn loud that I just couldn’t deal. By this point, I was pretty much thinking “just play the song so I can go home, please.” They didn’t hear my mental plea, so I left. Too late and too loud = no fun for me.

Now, last night I had a completely different experience. After vowing to not squander an infrequent Saturday night off, my favorite guy and I made a pretty darn spontaneous decision to check out a blues performer downtown at The Upper Room. The space was new to us (I never went to Jillian’s) and had two distinct areas depending upon whether one had purchased general admission tickets ($20 at the door) or made a reservation prior to the show. We weren’t able to get a table so we instead staked out a spot near the railing which divided the sections and had a decent view of the stage and excellent proximity to the bar.

B44FCCA2-7D59-4CF3-B07C-B2C690A38E50Albert Cummings has played around Albany a number of times, but it was our first time seeing him and from start (when we walked past him behind the venue) to finish (when guitar geek guy copped a pick and we complimented the band on their set) it was an awesome show. The sound mix was solid, the volume was on point and the crowd was enthusiastic and fun. I was disappointed by the lack of cider as a beverage option, but the Jack’s Abbey Oktoberfest that we opted for was so very tasty that I had three. Yes, three!

Somehow I missed the fact that The Upper Room was doing a blues series, but there is one more show scheduled for next month and I’d go back again in a heartbeat. The show started on time, the band was tight (that drummer!) and the value in terms of price was terrific. I’ve enjoyed other shows (and meals) at The Hollow and will continue to keep an eye on their events calendar. Multiple entertainment options downtown are a good thing. Now, if we could just get some residents to occupy some of the space above the businesses downtown, we’d really be making progress, Albany.

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Filed under Albany, beer, concerts, drinking, Events, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations

Time is short

I’ve been so busy doing things and going places that I haven’t had a moment to chronicle any of it. It’s kind of getting me frustrated, but that’s how I typically react to not having what I want – in this case more time. I’ve made some notes and I swear I’m going to carve out some time over Thanksgiving break (See what I did there? Carve??) to share things that I’ve seen (an 80s band, some television and a couple of movies), a couple of books that I’ve recently read, some delicious things I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking, a week focused on health maintenance, and a couple of Albany experiences that I was lucky enough to take in. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Albany, art, birthdays, Books, breakfast, Coffee, concerts, Cooking, Dinner, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Food, house, Local, medical, Movies, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips

I like that

2B1BA3C8-94F6-4EDB-BBAF-12E804849B00When I was an undergraduate, studying English and Women’s Studies at the University at Albany, I didn’t often buy prepared food in the basement of the campus center. There was one occasion, though, when I was on campus in the evening for a panel discussion and needed a bite to eat. I walked downstairs and hesitated a moment before entering what was then the grill area of the food services concession. As I stood at the doorway I witnessed the cooks behind the line blatantly eyeing up (and down) each woman. As the women approached the counter to place an order I could clearly hear the men saying “I like that. I like that.” They made no attempt to hide what they were saying, nudging each other and smirking. Did they think they were offering compliments as a side order?

I, being full on a diet of Women’s Studies, stepped up to the counter and addressed the cooks and informed them that what they were doing was unacceptable and they needed to stop. Their response? “What are you? Anita Hill?” This was late fall, 1991 and the news was full of Clarence Thomas’s nomination to the Supreme Court and Anita Hill’s testimony accusing him of sexual harassment. Knowing that I wasn’t going to get anywhere dealing directly with the kitchen guys, I walked away shaking my head.

The next day, I wrote a letter to the then head of Food Services at the university. A couple of days later, I received a phone call from his office and arranged for a meeting with him on campus. He complimented me on my letter writing skills and we discussed the incident. I explained my position and the concern I felt for 17 and 18 year-old women who might not be comfortable confronting men who were engaging in inappropriate verbal harassment and that campus should be a safe place for everyone. He was sympathetic, understanding and assured me that the situation would be addressed. I never went back to the cafeteria again.

Maybe those men were spoken to and developed a new understanding of what is acceptable in terms of addressing women and professional demeanor. Maybe they have daughters of their own now. Maybe they even now know that we don’t like it. At all.

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Filed under Albany, Education, girlhood, Local, musings, writing

Telling the truth – in Albany

We are living in scary times, friends. I don’t know about you, but I feel anxious about the state of our country and the relationships we have internationally. It seems like a long time since I’ve woken up without having to wonder what kind of outrageous statement or action with which Donald Trump has greeted the new day. It simply doesn’t always feel good to be an American in 2017.

Last Friday, though, was a bright spot in an otherwise dark time thanks to the New York State Writers Institute. Their schedule this fall is fantastic and the symposium they hosted over the weekend was absolutely tremendous. Although I was able to attend only two sessions of the event, I walked away with a glimmer of hope and a new sense of pride in my city. Bravo, Paul Grondahl and the NYSWI.

A few observations about the panels I attended:

  • The participants* were smart.
  • The audience was interested and mostly respectful.
  • Page Hall was packed.
  • The time went remarkably fast.
  • It was affirming, inspiring and reassuring.

Check out the rest of their schedule of events. There’s something there for everyone – and it’s free.

*Participants included moderator, Bob Schieffer, Douglas Brinkley, Franklin Foer, Amy and David Goodman, Maria Hinojas, Harry Rosenfeld and Tim Wu.

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Filed under Albany, Education, Events, Local, News, Observations, Recommendations, upstate New York

When the spot for hot yoga is South Pearl Street

View from my mat

Last Saturday I had the unique experience of doing yoga with more than 80 other people downtown. If that doesn’t sound all that exceptional, let me add another detail – our mats were set up in the middle of South Pearl Street. Pretty cool, right?

                                #YogaPalooza, held in conjunction with Pearlpalooza 2017, was a free one-hour yoga class facilitated by the terrific staff of my favorite studio, the Hot Yoga Spot. As bands tuned up around us, we stretched and posed under gloriously beautiful blue skies for 60 minutes. It was a struggle occasionally to hear all of the cues, but I mostly was able to follow along by checking out my mat mates for a clue. Ultimately, for me, the practice became more about finding balance between being on my mat and being part of a large group in a novel place. It was really awesome.

Following shavasana, attendees were rewarded for their participation with an array of door prizes and this lucky girl won a cozy wrap from Athleta, making for a perfect morning. Special events like #YogaPalooza only make me love you more, Albany. 

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Filed under Albany, Events, Exercise, Local, Recommendations, yoga