Category Archives: upstate New York

Saratoga morning

I understand that, to some people, going to the track involves a pink sheet and placing bets, but I’ve always enjoyed it best early in the morning before the crowds arrive.  The true beauty of the facility and the horses just shines when the day is new and the air is fresh.  It was a gorgeous morning today and I would have regretted missing the time spent with a good friend far more than I missed those couple of hours of sleep.  You see, Will, is an early riser and I was on the road a little after 6:00 a.m. to meet him.  Watching those horses, full of personality with an apparent need to stretch their legs, was a wonderful way to start the day.  Our post-track breakfast at Siro’s, prepared by the legendary Debbie Klauber, felt very much like a reward for our efforts.  I hope those horses are fed half as good as we were!

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Filed under beauty, breakfast, friends, Local, Recommendations, Saratoga, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

A challenge of a run

imageSo, on Saturday I ran a half marathon. Yep, that’s right, 13.1 big ones. How was it? I’ll tell you about it, but bear with me – it’s going to be kind of long. You know, like the race was.

The race, called the Camp Chingachgook Challenge, was the first road half that I’ve ever registered to run. The course was reputed to be hilly, but I figured the Seven Sisters run in May had prepared me for hills. I was right. Kind of. The rolling hills of this course, I would come to learn, were certainly less intimidating than the mountains we encountered in Massachusetts, but they were nearly as exhausting as they clustered with an annoying frequency towards the end of the route. More on that later.

I arrived at the starting point 35 minutes before start time which gave me plenty of time to:

a. Park

b. Check in and get my shirt

c. Use the portapotty and

d. Feel a bit outclassed by the other remarkably fit looking runners.

I talked myself down by reminding myself that I wasn’t in it to win, but instead to challenge myself with a new experience. Head on straight, I joined the rear of the pack and took off when the horn blew, promising myself to run my own race.

The first few miles were great and I was surprised each time my Runmeter ticked off another mile. The morning was humid as hell, but there wasn’t any sun to contend with, so it was bearable. The first water station came up pretty quick at about 3 miles and I walked through it, enjoying my drink. I considered using the portapotty again (Anyone who knows me, knows how frequently I pee. Actually, I guess everyone knows that now.) but decided to wait for the next water station. Bad move – the next stop didn’t have any toilet facilities which meant I had to leave the course and make use of a bathroom at an accommodating resort. I imagine that added a minimum of 4 minutes to my time, but whatever. It beat any alternative.

I’d say the opening 8 miles were the most pleasant – there were lots of gorgeous homes to see, the hills were fairly manageable and my body felt strong. At about the 9 mile mark, I started seeing a significant discrepancy between my app’s measurement of mileage and the painted markers on the road, which was a bit discouraging. By the finish, my app read close to .5 of a mile over the course of 13.1. It might not sound like much, but, believe me towards the end if felt like a lot.

Things started to get a little gnarly for me at about mile 9. My legs were getting heavy and the bottom of my left foot was on fire. The sun started to peek out from behind the clouds and my body was simply dripping with effort. Cue rolling hills… At this point I started allowing myself to walk a little. I could feel myself getting a little light headed and chose to not push myself beyond where I was comfortable, and by “comfortable” I mean endurable discomfort. I don’t know if any of you experience foot pain when you run, but it is the worst thing I’ve ever felt during a race. I really need to get this figured out – hopefully before next month’s Palio in Saratoga.

I crossed the finish line at 2:27, which was fine for me. I immediately took my shoes off and waded into the refreshingly cool lake for a quick dip. My next stop was the showers, which was really an exercise in futility – I hadn’t brought soap or anything so it was a mere rinse off. Despite my oversized beach towel, it was impossible to get dry due to the extreme humidity. I dressed my still damp body and went to wait for the shuttle bus to take me back to the start and, of course, that’s when the rain finally started. I basically got drenched for the fourth time of the day (sweat, lake, shower, rain) only to finally get on the bus where I came as close as possible to passing out without actually losing consciousness. I’m not 100% sure what it was about, but I’m thinking dehydration and my generally low blood pressure weren’t a great fit with the outrageously humid and hot bus ride. Reflecting back, my lack of need to urinate is a huge red flag for me and I didn’t pee for at least 3.5 hours despite my taking in close to 64 oz of water – so unlike me.

Regardless, I made it back to my car and ate a perfect peach to rally myself for the drive home. I had an invite for a celebratory breakfast, but I requested a big, fat burger instead and met my friend at Crave, which was exactly what I wanted.

Our table number at Crave - perfect!

Our table number at Crave – perfect!

I continued pounding water before finally crawling into bed for a nap. I’d definitely consider doing this race again, but the experience only affirmed my disinterest in ever doing a marathon. I just don’t think that 26.2 miles sounds fun and if it isn’t fun, I’m not in.

Until next time – Summer Mountain Runner (my new Native American name courtesy of my lunar b*tch friend, Karen)

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Filed under Eating, Events, road trips, running, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Millions of (bad tasting) peaches

imageI don’t know when it happened but it seems that finding a delicious peach has become a challenge on par with picking the trifecta at Saratoga. I mean, your odds of buying a flavorful, juicy peach are even less favorable than that of a thoroughbred surviving a hot summer season in the Spa City.

After buying too many bad peaches from the grocery store, I’ve given up on peaches which do not come from a farmstand or farmer’s market. I’ve been stalking the Troy Farmers’ Market the last few weeks sniffing around for my favorite summer fruit, but seem to have been a bit premature in my hunt. I did, however, score some amazing ricotta cheese from R&G which we paired with local blueberries, honey, candied pecans and chocolate mint from St Anne’s Institute for a dynamite dessert at Lark + Lily. But, I digress…image

Yesterday, though, my perseverance paid off. I stopped at my favorite farmstand, Burger’s on Route 7, and found exactly what I been dreaming about – a luscious, succulent peach. It was the perfect size, not overly large, and the ideal temperature, not refrigerated. My first bite was juicy and sweet, unlike the mealy, dry peaches I’ve suffered through this summer. I sat in my car and devoured it with glee. Nirvana! Get some.

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Gardens, Local, Recommendations, Summer, Uncategorized, 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