Category Archives: upstate New York

Taking my guests for a ride – cab service in Albany

imageTuesday night we had a number of diners who were decompressing after Day 1 of the NYS Bar exam. It’s always interesting to meet and talk with young attorneys from literally around the world who are seeking credentials to practice in my home state. A table of six the other night really stood out in my mind. The group consisted of  Brazilians and Argentinians and they were full of life and appreciative of the hospitality we bestowed upon them. They loved our patio and enjoyed the cocktail of the month and our pasta special and it was great to witness their relaxation.

As they were departing Lark + Lily, they were talking about football. You know, soccer. I mentioned that Albany has a terrific soccer bar, Wolff’s Biergarten, and suggested that they might enjoy visiting there after the second day of the exam. One of the men quickly responded that he planned to come back to my place the next night – and he did, bringing four different test takers with him.

After their meal, we were talking together and they related some stories about their experiences taking cabs in Albany. If you’ve ever taken a cab around here, you know what’s coming next… They were completely shocked by the condition of the cab (“the car looked like it had been in a bad accident”), the rudeness of the drivers (“this is how we do it here. I don’t know what it’s like in your country”) and the practice of picking up passengers all around town (“I used my map app to confirm that we were going around in circles rather than directly to my hotel”). Yes, indeed, welcome to Albany, the Capital of New York State.

I agreed with their assessment and apologized for the wretched cab service available in my city. I noted that it is on par with what I would imagine would be present in a third world country. Laughing, they said that they represented 3 third world countries and that their service is far superior to ours. Wow.

When they were getting ready to leave, they asked if the Biergarten was nearby. Could they walk there? I explained that it was some distance from the restaurant and that the walk might be a little ambitious. Seeing the disappointment on their faces, I immediately made the sincere offer to give them a ride. Their disappointment changed to astonishment. “Really?,” they asked. Absolutely.

My friend, who had just arrived, and I piled them into the car and gave them the 10 minute tour of our city. We drove down Washington Avenue to State Street and then across Broadway, filling them on the architecture and history of what is a lovely, lovely city with shitty, shitty cab service. While I completely enjoyed giving them a ride (I’ve been the recipient of many kindnesses myself while traveling and was happy to return the favor), it sure would be nice if visitors and residents of Albany had available quality transportation. Until then, I’m just glad I have a station wagon.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Local, Observations, politics, Rant, Restaurants, soccer, travel, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Best race of the year – so far!

imageI’ve got a few running goals for this year that involve total miles run and participating in some races which I’ve never done before. I’m a little off my mark for meeting my goal of 1,000 miles in 2016, but hope to make up my deficit over the summer. As far as new to me races, I’m picking up steam on that front and have entered (and finished!) two new events so far this year with 2 or 3 others in my sights. That’s the future though, and at this time, I’m here to talk about the fantastic race I ran in last night – Summer Solstice Run 2016 in beyond beautiful Minnewaska State Park.

It is impossible for me to put my finger on a single thing that made this run so incredible. The Lunar B*tches were all in place which certainly contributed to the utter joy of the run. My body felt strong and the weather was sublime, I’m talking perfect – no humidity, with warm sun and zero bugs. A dream!

The course was made for me with an opening challenge of about 3 miles of climbing. Fresh legs, good friends and a riot of fragrant mountain laurel all around, made this part of the race manageable. Unlike last month’s 7 Sisters race, the hills weren’t relentless and I never felt overwhelmed by anything other than the stupendous views. I loved seeing the number of runners who could not resist the selfie siren call as we crested hills that opened up to reveal breathtaking views of the park.

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There were three water stations along the route and as I approached all of them, (other than the first) I was surprised to find myself already there. The time absolutely flew by me. Each time my running app ticked off another mile, I shook my head in disbelief. Amazingly, it just didn’t feel like a 14K trail race to me and I swear I would have happily run much longer. Knowing that the end was near once I hit the 8 mile mark, I decided to release the hounds a little and increased my pace picking off runners ahead of me gleefully. The last climb made me a bit gaspy, but when I hit the peak and saw a friend, camera at the ready, I committed to a final kick and turned on the speed finishing the race at my fastest pace.

I can’t wait to run there again.

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Filed under beauty, Exercise, favorites, friends, road trips, running, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Inspiring vs. Inciting – Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump

Photo credit: Griffin Lilly

Photo credit: Griffin Lilly

Yesterday was a huge day for politics in Albany, our Capital City on the Hudson. My schedule only allowed for me to attend one of the three pre-primary political rallies, but I am ever so proud to say that my older sons represented at the two events held during the early afternoon. How cool is it that they are interested and participating at their ages – 16 and 19?

Photo credit: Liam Lilly

Photo credit: Liam Lilly

Liam, my oldest son attended the Kasich rally in Troy, essentially because he is taking classes at HVCC and the event was very conveniently nearby. Liam leans further to the right than I and often threatens to vote for candidates who hold much more socially conservative positions than I do. He didn’t really have an opportunity to share many impressions of the speech but he did say Kasich is a moderate Republican with a repeated refrain of jobs, jobs, jobs.

Griffin, my middle son, is always game to skip school and the Bernie rally gave him a fine and legitimate reason to cut out of class with my permission. He liked Bernie’s message but found him, when compared to President Obama, to be a less powerful speaker. He was in agreement with the message, but said Sanders had a “Grandpa cute” vibe. Griffin did really enjoy the folks present, though, and felt comfortable in the tightly packed crowd in the Armory. There might have even been some hugging, from what I understand. I was sad to have missed it.

Made in China - worn with total irony

Made in China – worn with total irony

Later in the day, after a fortifying beer meal at McGeary’s, all 3 of my boys and I headed to the Times Union Center for what we referred to as the circus. We arrived at approximately 6:40 and waited in line for entry and security for about 20 minutes. It was an informative time as we looked around at the other folks in line wondering what their stories might be. Were they genuine supporters? Local? Perhaps merely curious, like us, there to see the spectacle? It was impossible to know.

imageWe made it to seats in the upper deck just minutes before Trump graced the enthusiastic crowd with his presence. He immediately launched into his stump speech, littering his diatribe with meaningful phrases such as “New York values,” “building that wall” and “making America great again.” His words were resonating with the crowd who greeted his sound bites with cheers and the frenzied waving of their Trump signs. Other people present began to respond as well to Trump’s claims, but these people were protestors, not supporters. The energy in the arena shifted from simple enthusiasm to a more complicated mélange of fear and anger. My children began to feel uncomfortable.

imageI looked around at the people surrounding us and tried to think about what might have made them so angry. How could they possibly be more furious with Mexican immigrants than they are with corporations which relocate to Mexico to lower production costs and maximize profits? Why are they resentful of citizens desiring comprehensive and affordable healthcare, but not with pharmaceutical companies using government money for research yet not making their products financially within reach of those who may need them? How does a New York City billionaire represent the interests of what looked to be a mostly blue-collar crowd?

We witnessed a couple of fights break out and saw a number of attendees being removed from the facility. The threat of more ugliness was pervasive. The boys asked to leave, which we did just before 8:00.

To me, Bernie Sanders brings light to our country’s political landscape while Donald Trump delivers a fire that threatens to incinerate all it touches. More than once last night I considered the similarities between the scene in front of us and what was Germany in the 1930s. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’ll confess that I repeatedly thought: “Is this how Hitler gained power? Is this how it begins?”

Primary Day can’t come soon enough.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Education, Events, family, Local, Observations, politics, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Le Petit Bistro – Rhinebeck

imageHave you been to Rhinebeck?  Long before Hudson got cool, Rhinebeck was the destination for a Hudson Valley afternoon of fine eating and interesting shopping. The drive is lovely with many different roads which all lead there in a most scenic fashion, as I’ve experienced it, be it from the north, south or west and generally parking is available and free.  It’s worth the slightly over an hour trip from Albany for sure and I recommend it as a terrific day trip for any season.

Yesterday, after an aborted attempt to partake in the offerings at Terrapin Restaurant, Mary Lynn and I decided to try somewhere new and found the specials board at Le Petit Bistro to be quite enticing.  At just about 5:00 we made our way inside the cozy dining room and were offered a table in the front window near the door.  Although it was a less than warm afternoon, we were very comfortable with the temperature of the restaurant and never felt cold despite our proximity to the door.  It was a lovely table.

A chalkboard with the extensive list of specials was presented to us and a short while later a server came to provide details and descriptions of each of the items.  We ordered drinks – a cocktail for Mary Lynn and a glass of sparkling rose for me, and made decisions about food opting for a bowl of asparagus soup, a fish taco starter and the sea scallop entrée accompanied by ramp risotto and hericot vert and the Cuban pork plate with black beans and plantains.  Then we settled in to catch up with one another and enjoy our meal.

Fish tacos

Fish tacos

The fish tacos, two to a serving, were delicious with fresh flavors (cilantro!) and an assertively spicy kick.  Paired with the soup, they were a perfect starter and very shareable.

Scallops with ramp risotto

Scallops with ramp risotto

Our midcourse salad, served with all entrees, was a traditional French green salad with a simple and tasty vinaigrette clinging to the leaves.  I thoroughly enjoyed my entrée.  The scallops were beautifully prepared and the accompaniments heralded spring beautifully.  Unlike many risottos, cheese wasn’t a component and the result was a far lighter rendition of the dish than typical.  I swapped a bite with Mary Lynn for a taste of plantain.  I’m not a fan of bananas or plantains unless they’re cooked and my bite was exactly what I was hoping for – caramelized sweetness with a remaining firmness – delicious!  We finished with a butterscotch crème brulee and a couple of coffees before walking back to our cars and heading off in opposite directions, satiated with hearts and bellies full.

Creme brûlée

Creme brûlée

 

 

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

The turtle that is Terrapin, Rhinebeck

imageTerrapin restaurant in Rhinebeck has been around for a long time, maybe 15 years at their current location inside a beautiful old church right on Route 9. Many years ago, I had dinner there with three other people and was completely put off by the service. I don’t remember anything about the food because the experience was so overshadowed by the snippy bartender and the inexperienced server. I vowed never to go back, a promise easy to keep since A. I don’t go to Rhinebeck frequently and B. There are so many other options in that area.

Today, though, I met one of my besties in Rhinebeck for a bite to eat and some catching up. I offered her two options – Gigi Trattoria, where we’ve been happy before, and Terrapin for a fresh chance at making us happy. She checked out their menus and decided on Terrapin and we agreed to meet at about 4:00.

I arrived first and found a seat at the bar, not a challenge with at least half of the bar stools open. Within a minute or two I was given a cocktail menu on my request. I started reading, pleased with the beer and wine selections. I wondered about their carafes and if they were filling them from draft lines and planned to ask whoever took my drink order about the set up. The man two seats away from me finished his drink and ordered another, as I was told by the bartender that she would be “right with me.” She wasn’t.

I changed my mind about the beer I had been thinking of ordering and selected a glass of wine instead. Unfortunately, I couldn’t share my decision with anyone because the bartender had yet to come over to take my order. The man near me began drinking his fresh Patron margarita, inspiring me to look at the cocktail list. I reconsidered my wine choice and began perusing the “available” cocktails. The sour cherry Manhattan caught my eye…

My friend arrived and I shared my menu with her. The bartender told us she’d be right over. She wasn’t.

The man next to us finished his drink and asked for a check. The bartender took care of that. We sat there, me with probably 15+ minutes invested without even the reward of a glass of water, another moment and then picked up our bags and left. I will never, ever, step foot in that restaurant again and this time I mean it.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, friends, Rant, Restaurants, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Taking a hike with a runner

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My very first vacation with my former husband was a trip to Washington State where we spent a week or so camping and hiking.  It was a memorable trip for many reasons (the San Juan Islands – oh my goodness!) but by no means did the experience turn me into an outdoors women a la Anne LaBastille.  I enjoyed the time, however, in my world hiking means taking a walk in the woods with a flask camera, not aggressively conquering a mountain.   Alas, he and I were different.

You might be surprised to learn that despite living in Albany for close to 30 years, nestled between the Catskills and Adirondacks, I’ve never really gone hiking since that long ago trip.  Last month that finally changed as I hit the trail.  Let me tell you about it…

I’m training for a trail race on Mother’s Day and decided to incorporate some activities beyond merely running.  The course I’m taking on next month includes, from what I’ve read and heard, some serious elevation complete with rock scrambling.  Getting out into the woods, particularly with someone adept at both hiking and running, seemed to be the ideal cross training opportunity.  Next stop – the Catskills.

One of the things I most enjoy about running is the endorphin rush – I love the feeling of my spine tingling as my body releases a combination of energy and exertion.  Amazing.  When it came time to take a hike, I requested one which would challenge and push me a bit beyond a mere meandering.  The hike up Blackhead, a loop of approximately 4.5 miles, was just what the doctor ordered and I loved it.  Total elevation gain – approximately 2,000 with a significant part of that (~1,100 feet) coming in less than a mile.  I said I wanted a challenge, right?

The weather on Easter Sunday was perfect early spring – mild, with hazy sun.  The forest in springtime is a magical place with signs of life* to be discovered around every twist in the trail.  The fresh air, with a hint of cedar was invigorating and our path included mossy green spots promising softness to the touch, as well as boulders and ice that demanded cautious attention. There was a quietly babbling brook to be crossed, an easy feat in a year with barely any snow melt, along with the remains of a stone dam from decades gone past.  It really was an afternoon for the senses.

I think I’m hooked.

*Along with evidence of the demise of an unfortunate bird. Check out the photos…

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Filed under Exercise, Hiking, Hiking, holidays, Local, Recommendations, road trips, running, Spring, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Cucina Woodstock rivisitato

After an active weekend and the theft of an hour, I wasn’t feeling much like cooking. When the opportunity presented to meet Aloysius for dinner it felt like the ideal way to punctuate a weekend and I jumped on it. As we considered a comfortable meeting spot, Woodstock’s Cucina popped into my mind with an undeniable vengeance. A finely mixed cocktail and pasta were exactly what I was seeking and based upon my prior visit with the girls, I knew I would not be disappointed.

I arrived a few minutes later than expected and found Aloysius at the bar enjoying a beer. I took a quick look at the cocktail menu and selected the Orient Old Fashioned, which I believe is the same cocktail I had on my last visit. Bulliet and house made ginger simple syrup simply calls my name, what can I say?

As we caught up and sipped our drinks, I eyed the plate of a gentleman sitting near us at the bar. The tuna served with white beans, micro greens and thinly sliced spicy red peppers helped to seal deal for both Aloysius and myself and we decided to go with the very reasonable 3 course Prix Fixe menu for $33 per person beginning with the tuna as our first course.  It was excellent with a hint of heat, beautifully firm beans and tender and flavorful tuna.

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We diverged for main course selections with Aloysius going with a pork dish loaded with mushrooms and served with polenta.  The taste I had was delicious, but I was really satisfied with the pasta dish I had selected – taleggio filled ravioli with a porcini sauce.  The ravioli were delicate  and tender and just filled with flavor.  Aloysius barely got a forkful.

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The pasta, along with the dessert, probably would have been more than enough to eat, but I do like to eat a vegetable, too, so I added a side of  broccoli rabe.  It was very similar to how I make it, al dente and generously seasoned with garlic.

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I finished with a butterscotch, salted caramel confection that I’m pretty sure I had last time around.  I inhaled it so quickly that there wasn’t an opportunity to take a photo.  This is the dessert of my dreams and if you want to be my favorite, show up at my door with an order of this and you’re in – guaranteed.  I’m not willing to wait another 2 years before getting a spoon into this stuff again.

Cucina remains one of my two favorite spots in Woodstock and I’m already mentally trying to arrange a rendezvous with the girls to get there again.  Dinner for two (not including the drinks at the bar, but with a beer and a glass and tip set us back $125. This place absolutely rocks.

 

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Filed under Aloysius, Dinner, Eating, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, Spring, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York