Category Archives: upstate New York

Lunch at Dancing Ewe Farm

Ever since I first heard from friends about Dancing Ewe Farm in Washington County, I’ve wanted to get there. I loved the romantic story about the owners meeting in Italy and coming together to create a life that includes family, sheep, cheese and authentic small production Italian products imported and sold from their barn and presumably online.

Yesterday was the day.

The trek north took approximately 90 minutes each way, a bit of a commitment for a midday meal but by no means a punishment on a glorious early July day. There was no traffic in our direction, but heading west into Lake George was definitely congested. Plan accordingly.

We arrived about noon, figured out parking and started checking the place out. Near the parking area, a canopied table was set up to offer guests a taste of the day’s wine selections. We sampled both the rosato and a bianco and found them both light and refreshing. Ultimately we selected a bottle (included in the price for lunch) of Sauvignon Blanc which was lovely with the three courses which we were soon to enjoy.

The aroma was intoxicating.

But, before the meal, there was first an informative history walking tour of the farm and some of the facilities. There were “Mexican” chickens,* herding dogs, sheep galore and milking, cheese making and storage areas. The tour was maybe 30 minutes or so and was interesting and totally casual.

When we arrived back at the barn, the long table was beautifully set with fresh flowers and a place setting which was substantial in both flatware (chintzy flatware is a pet peeve) and antipasti. Our plates were artfully arranged with 3 examples of bruschetta (roasted red pepper, sausage and mozzarella and, my favorite, roasted cauliflower which came with a wonderfully spicy little kick), 3 varieties of their cheese, one of which was drizzled with honey, presumably local to the farm or to the owners’ home in Tuscany. Also on the plate were a marinated artichoke heart, a sweet cipollini onion, some coins of dried sausage and a marvelous wedge of vegetable frittata. It was all killer and almost completely vegetarian friendly.

Next up was the main course, a gorgeous plate of four handmade ravioli served in a simple sage butter. The large pockets of pasta, filled with ricotta and spinach, were fantastically delicate, yet completely satisfying. Perfect.

We finished with a delightful panne cotta served with tender strawberries. Satiated, yet not stuffed we paid our check ($60pp +tax) and made our way slowly back to Albany with the remainder of our wine corked to enjoy later. Dancing Ewe is a lovely place and if you haven’t yet experienced it, I highly recommend it. $60 is bit indulgent for a midday meal, but it sure felt like a bargain ticket to Tuscany. Thanks, Mike & Leslie!

* a completely benign and inoffensive joke

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Filed under beauty, Brunch, Eating, Food, ideas, Italy, Observations, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York, Wine

Ghosts and cobwebs

Exiting and entering a relationship is never the same twice. I guess that makes sense since I’ve come to learn that the only truly consistent thing I’ve found in my own romantic pairings has been that they all leave a mark.

I ran a race on Wednesday, almost the longest day of the year, that I had also run two years ago. My previous experience had been as close to perfect as I would ever dare hope, the weather, course and company were ideal. I couldn’t imagine it ever being better.

Yet, on Wednesday it was.

Photo: C. Allen

The event was very different this year. We were sans guys, more relaxed (I think) with weather that was kind of misty, rather than sunny, but with fairly delicious air. It was wonderful in a new way. The trails in Minnewaska are lovely, wide with a fairly soft surface, and amazing views. Fantastic.

Photo: C. Allen

As I ran, I felt strong. My feet hurt a little, but my heart felt powerful and I enjoyed the run. Along the course there were parts that were familiar, and others that I didn’t recall from previous races. I started thinking about how the trail was kind of a metaphor for how I’m feeling these days, like there are parts of myself that seem familiar, while others I don’t remember ever encountering before. Ghosts and cobwebs.

Past relationships kind of stick with us in a variety of different ways. At least that’s been my experience. Maybe you wear the color (s)he always liked best and can’t help but to remember how you felt each time (s)he said blue was your color. Like those parts of the trail, that’s a ghost. It stays with you.

The cobwebs, though…those, for me, are the places of which I have no memory at all, because those parts haven’t been used in so very long. Maybe not even ever. It’s like virgin territory. Exploring this new terrain is exciting, but by a certain age, or level of experience, you’ve probably learned to pay close attention to where you step. Keeping one’s feet on the ground and trying to not fall down can be a struggle, but they’re good goals for a trail and a relationship.

A becoming-more-familiar race and a new romance seem to be just about the best way to experience ghosts and cobwebs.  And, like that solstice run, I’ll do it again.

Thoughts to share?

 

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Filed under aging, favorites, friends, musings, Observations, relationships, road trips, running, Uncategorized, upstate New York

City Squire Ale House

#sillyandwillyreunited

Friday night, after far too long of a separation, my friend Will and I reunited for an evening of fun and food. Initially I thought we were going to hang in Albany for First Friday, but he felt the need to check out a friend’s new spot on Union Street in Schenectady since he been away when they celebrated the grand opening. Our night could not have been better.

The space, from what I understand, is a complete new build on what had previously been a tavern sort of place, the original City Squire. From the charming front porch, which blurs the line between indoors and outdoors with its floor to ceiling doors which open wide, to the upstairs deck, the building was simply beautiful. The color palette, the floors, the attention to detail, everything about the place combined to make a really pretty setting for what became an indulgent and prolonged meal.

We started at the bar with 3 items from the menu and drinks. Making selections was a challenge because so much sounded good, but we went with the Mexican cauliflower (a recommendation from the owner), a dozen steamers and the fish tacos which were made with fried shrimp on that particular day. Our bartender, Kevin, was great making sure we were comfortable and well taken care of, and went as far as to have other guests at the bar shift over to provide us with seating. Nice.

The cauliflower, served in a cast iron casserole dish, was fantastic. Florets of cauliflower, corn kernels, scallions and queso fresco came together perfectly in a flavorful array of textures. Ordered with a salad, it would make a dynamite and satisfying meatless meal. The clams were lovely – fresh and clean lacking only a vessel in which to place the quickly emptied shells. The tacos were a tremendous portion – 3 soft shelled beauties bursting with shrimp and assorted shredded vegetables served in a perfectly designed holder. We probably could have stopped there, but were joined by our third guest and moved to a table to sample a few more items.

Mexican cauliflower heaven

Clams, butter, crostini simplicity

Fish tacos – outstanding!

Will opted for a salad and a beef entree, while Raj selected two more small plate options – the Korean wings (spicy with a Korean chili garlic sauce) and the grilled flatbread a bruschetta-y sort of prep of naan, tomatoes, chicken and mozzarella. I sampled everything at the table and found it all to be well prepared and nicely seasoned. It is a casual place with paper napkins, yet the dishes and glasses were thoughtfully selected and our server was attentive to our needs.

As we wrapped things up to take home, we were joined by the chef, who actually oversees all four of the restaurants the family owns. While we didn’t order dessert, his enthusiasm and joy in being part of this project, as well as the others, was a super sweet way to end a meal. There is a real sense of family and teamwork that I really appreciated seeing. So many industry folks struggle with cynicism, but without exception, everyone we encountered was positive and upbeat. I was a guest of my friends and don’t know our total for the night, but can’t imagine it was out of line for the quality of the experience. Can’t wait to go back!

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, Happy Hour, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Schenectady, Spring, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Soaking it in

How do you follow a terrific meal in Saratoga’s finest restaurant? The answer (for me) was an overnight stay followed by a few hours enjoying some of Saratoga’s other assets. First stop – Mrs. London’s for my usual almond croissant and glorious bowl of latte.

Carbed and caffeined, I made my way to Saratoga National Park determined to either ski or run a few miles. Conditions were better than I had originally thought and skiing won out. After parking near the warming hut, I stepped into my skis and spent the next hour exploring the golf course. It wasn’t the most challenging ski I’ve ever had, but it certainly was a great way to spend some time outdoors in the fresh air.

12FD5032-D25B-471B-AE4D-43A08306264AI wrapped things up and drove over to the Roosevelt Bathhouse for my scheduled appointment, allowing for a little extra time to enjoy the steam room. I’ve only ever been to the baths once before, and it was a long time ago, so the experience felt new. The facility is a positive blend of old school classic and new age modern with a comfortable lounge area to enjoy while waiting for one’s bath attendant. After taking about 20 minutes to enjoy the steam room, I relaxed on a chaise with my book until Colleen came to escort me to my personal bath room.

Ok, maybe a bit “The Shining,” but lovely nonetheless.

The room was fairly spacious with an original and deep cast iron tub, a massage table, chair and a curtained window which I was invited to adjust to my preference for natural light. The bath was already drawn and I was given instructions as to how to moderate the water, but Colleen had nailed the temperature perfectly and all I needed to do was relax. The folded towel beneath my head and the plastic step stool placed in the tub for my feet to rest against showed a welcome attention to my comfort.

For 40 minutes I soaked the waters in and allowed them to extract stress, tension and negativity from my body and brain. Thoroughly refreshed, I stepped out of the tub and into a warm towel, got myself dressed and departed feeling like a million bucks. For $45 + tip, that is a far better way of getting soaked than playing the ponies. If you haven’t been – go!

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Filed under breakfast, Exercise, favorites, Local, Recommendations, road trips, Saratoga, stress, upstate New York, x-country skiing

Deliver this love letter to 15 Church

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I had dinner last week for the first time ever at 15 Church. I’ve been there a number of times for drinks or something to eat on the patio, but as for sitting down and getting the full 15 Church soup to nuts treatment, well, this was my maiden voyage. It was so worth the wait.

We arrived at about 8:30, a little late for most places on a weeknight but 15 Church was still jumping. We were welcomed, ushered to a comfortable booth and given menus as well as a verbal recitation of the evening’s specials. So many delicious sounding options!

As we considered the offerings, the fella sipped his Paper Plane cocktail, adorably garnished with a tiny paper plane. A well-made bourbon cocktail really is a wonderful way to start a meal.

After a few minutes we came up with a plan – 2 appetizers, a salad of sorts and a single entrée to share. The fantastic warm bread service and amuse bouche of beef tartare provided a lovely start prior to our first official course, the fried oysters and an evening special of gorgeous tuna. I’ve had fried oysters, even really, really good fried oysters before, but these were on a whole other level. I would consider them to be a PhD dissertation in texture, flavor and presentation. Fantastic. The tuna was remarkably fresh with interesting accompaniments including charred pineapple. Personally, I would have preferred the tuna to be sliced thinner, but that’s just my preference, not a flaw by any means.

We were graciously served an unexpected midcourse of pasta with a flavorful ragu of rabbit and mushrooms. Surprisingly, this was the third time in a month that I’ve had a similar dish, the other occasions being while I was in Rome and more recently at MezzeNotte in Guilderland. All three renditions were perfectly seasonal and delicious, this particular plate contained the largest pieces of rabbit loin and, Easter bunny be damned – I’d eat this dish all year long.

The burrata was beautifully presented and a wonderful combination of a salad and cheese course to prep us for our final plate – the pork shank evening special. My fella hadn’t ever experienced a pork shank before and I’m so glad that his first was prepared as masterfully as the one we enjoyed together.  It was a marvel of rich flavor, tender yet with a barely discernible crunch to the exterior, and perfectly accompanied by a marsala reduction and whipped potatoes laced with more butter than I ever want to know about. An absolute revelation.

Our meal was accompanied by a wallet friendly Rioja and punctuated at its conclusion with an order of their famous fried to order donuts with a tiny chocolate mousse on the side. Because – why not? If you’ve made the excellent decision to indulge yourself, you’ve most definitely come to the right place.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Saratoga, upstate New York, winter

G.W.T.F. and Celebrate Life

Sunday morning, at an hour far too early, I drove to meet the chartered bus which would be taking a bunch of runners to a race in Rock Hill, N.Y. I had the radio on to a Rick Steve’s broadcast. The topic was women and solo travel, a subject that felt really timely in light of last month’s trip to Rome and a recent DelSo post. The female guests shared their experiences and advice and it was pretty interesting. I especially loved the new abbreviation I picked up – Go With The Flow. It was a good way to start the day.

This was my second time doing this particular race and the fact that I opted to run it again, after the subzero temperatures from last year, is a real testament to how beautiful the course is. The hills are mostly rolling, the homes are beautiful, and there seem to be lakes in every direction. The scenery compelled us to pause repeatedly for photos, while the challenge of running 13.1 miles forced us to stay hydrated with frequent water stops. We weren’t in a rush. Lunar B*tches are all about the journey, friends!

This race is a fundraiser to help support people battling cancer, a fact which made my own state of exhaustion from lack of sleep and adequate fueling seem pretty damn minor. Signs line the course, honoring the people who have lost their battles with cancer and naming runners participating on their behalf. I remembered this from last year, but there was something about it on Sunday that just wrecked me. One sign in particular hit me hard. It listed a woman’s name and a simple sentence: She lived every second.

I’m so not ready to depart this life yet, but if I did, I would want to be remembered just like that. Until my time comes I’ll continue to go with the flow and celebrate life every second. How about you?

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Filed under beauty, cancer, Events, Exercise, favorites, friends, musings, Recommendations, road trips, running, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

What William Kennedy gave me on his 90th birthday

Tuesday night I was lucky enough to join an already in progress festive event down at Cafe Capriccio. Gathered together to celebrate Albany’s literary native son William Kennedy’s birthday were dozens of family members, friends and colleagues. I arrived as speakers began to share their thoughts, memories and best wishes and it was remarkable. The evening’s host, New York State Writers Institute director, Paul Grondahl, invited those present to share their own words in Bill’s honor and for a brief second I considered accepting the offer. It probably would have taken 2 more glasses of wine to get me to speak publicly, but the thoughts that were prompted can just as easily be shared here.

Albany has a modern literary tradition thanks to William Kennedy. His characters populate the streets and the imagination of a city which has been maligned and misrepresented for decades, if not centuries. The stories he has told portray a city filled with residents, frequently Irish American, living hardscrabble lives, corrupt, violent and often tragically funny. The struggles of his characters are familiar and universal, yet because they take place in Albany, N.Y., they are our stories. We own them, just like William Kennedy belongs to us, and despite the less than stellar reputations possessed by so many of his characters, we embrace them.

Because of William Kennedy, and his vision in founding the New York State Writer’s Institute, acclaimed authors have visited our area and shared their craft with audiences at no cost to attendees.  As an undergraduate, I was thrilled to listen to Allen Ginsberg and Joyce Carol Oates read from their work. More recently, an in-depth symposium focused on telling the truth in a post-truth era brought heavyweight journalists to our area for a weekend of timely and interesting events.  None of these experiences would have been available without the NYSWI and we as a city are indebted to Bill Kennedy for the opportunities to hear and learn from literary luminaries and embattled professional journalists.

The third gift I received that night was less tangible than the others and I don’t know if I have the words to describe it. The best I can come up with is it was a combined sense of pride, belonging and possibility. As the child of an Irishman I never met, I’ve sought out Irish culture and traditions for as long as I can remember. Witnessing a roomful of people singing a rousing chorus of Molly Malone (and joining in!) fed my soul as delightfully as Jim Rua’s always-prepared-with-love meals feed my belly. The thrill and privilege of being present at such an incredibly special event is something I will never forget. While I don’t imagine ever writing a book, the fact that Ironweed wasn’t published until Bill Kennedy was 55, and that I was present at his 90th birthday party, reminds me that just about anything is possible.

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Filed under Albany, Books, Events, favorites, Irish, Local, Observations, Restaurants, upstate New York