Category Archives: 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

Facials at the Jenkinstown Day Spa

When was the last time you had a facial? It’s been a long time since I had one, which almost explains why I refused to abandon the idea of indulging myself during my holiday vacation even though it took some effort to get appointments.

Our original plan was Rhinebeck for an afternoon of window shopping, some food and drinks, maybe a little music and then a night at the Beekman Arms with spa appointments in the morning. When the forecast, though, was for single digit temperatures, we reconsidered. Plan B? A spa treatment in the afternoon, a little walk around New Paltz, cocktails and then takeout Thai at a friend’s house.

We hustled appointments at a place we had never been before, the Jenkinstown Day Spa. Reviews and recommendations considered, we booked a European facial for me and massage for her. Going in, I understood the space was a little unusual and definitely not hyper fancy. I arrived just before 1:00 p.m. to a parking area with only one car other than my own. (Upon departure the lot was full.) The front door opened to a standard bilevel stairway dilemma – up or down? The upstairs beckoned and I was rewarded with a warm greeting and a comfortable seating area, along with a bathroom that immediately transported me to 1978 (and Lisa Dietrich’s house.)

My facial took place in a room that had been carefully put together with decorative touches and all the necessary tools for the provider. The temperature of the room was a degree a two cool, but not in an uncomfortable way. Hangars or hooks for guest’s clothing would be a thoughtful addition.

My technician was very professional and provided me with an excellent facial. There was minimal conversation, which I welcomed, and zero sales pitch. Perfect. There were a couple of times when I was surprised by the texture or temperature of a product on my skin and I would have appreciated a warning, but it wasn’t a big deal. The experience was very positive and my skin felt and looked great at the end of my appointment.

Facials may be my new indulgence in the new year and I very much enjoyed my service at Jenkinstown. At $80 the facial was reasonably priced and good value and I would definitely return to repeat the experience. There are a couple of tweaks that would make the spa a bit more spa-ish, but the pricing is on par with the facilities. It was also the perfect reminder of how much I appreciate a good facial.

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Filed under aging, beauty, Christmas, Recommendations, road trips, upstate New York, winter

An extra hour, a yoga retreat and your favorite breakfast

E5C504E6-72A5-4AD2-90EE-14230974B2E6When I get busy the first thing to get eliminated from my calendar is yoga. I almost wrote “yoga practice,” but quickly decided that phrase would be overstating my commitment to yoga. I mean, I always feel better after I take a class, but making it to a class, even just weekly, is often a challenge for me. I do my best, you know? Anyway, the recent time change gave me only an additional hour, but I was able to parlay that into a full day of various classes and activities thanks to an offering from my favorite studio, The Hot Yoga Spot.

The day began with a really beautiful drive, orchestrated by WAZE, out to the hill town, Berne. The actual location for the retreat was Switzkill Farm, a property I learned was previously a pheasant farm and a Tibetan Buddhist retreat, but is now community owned. The house, situated atop a hill with glorious views, is the kind of dwelling that makes me fantasize about packing up and leaving the city for more rural digs – beautiful, a bit sprawling and absolutely ripe for cosmetic upgrades.

We convened in what must be the living room, adorned on three sides with windows and a large fireplace anchoring the space. I think there were perhaps 30 or so participants and our mats got arranged in rows facing the front of the room and, beyond, the Helderberg Mountains. Prior to beginning our practice, we were invited to introduce ourselves and share our favorite breakfast – a tough choice for me because I basically like everything breakfast – pancakes, French toast, eggs and omelets, cereal, fruit and yogurt, oatmeal, bagels and pastry…there are no bad breakfast choices in my world! I don’t know – it’s generally the first chance in a new day to provide nourishment to your physical self, isn’t it? I just can’t imagine not eating breakfast. How about you?

We settled on our mats and began what would be a 90-minute yoga class. The instructor was new to me and she gave us a great class with plenty of ab work. Next up was a breathing workshop, which isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but there were some cool methods demonstrated and I have to admit to adding one particular technique to my toolkit for middle of the night insomnia episodes. Lunch followed and, despite the limitations of my pre-colonoscopy diet, I was able to enjoy my wrap with hummus and cheese, and especially the gluten-free cookies.

We headed outdoors for a walk through the woods which was a perfect digestif. The trails we were on were beautiful and I can see how the Dalai Lama found the property so appealing. It was lovely. By this point in the day, I had almost hit the end of my self-indulgence limit but I’m really glad I decided to participate in the 30-minute Barre inspired class. It brought me to exactly where I wanted to be – satiated without being exhausted. I cut out before the meditation and flow classes but was completely satisfied with my day and the excellent value I received for my $75 fee.

I’ve not been to Kripalu or any other facility specifically for yoga, but this event definitely leaves me open to exploring other retreats in the future. Would you have one to recommend?

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Filed under beauty, breakfast, Events, Exercise, friends, Local, Recommendations, sunday, upstate New York

3 (Lunar) b*tches and a witch

On a recent and beautiful Sunday morning all three of the Lunar b*tches rendezvoused in Greenwich to run our last scheduled trail race of the season, the Wandering Witch. It was our first time running in this event and we couldn’t have asked for more ideal conditions – the sun was shining, foliage was popping and the scene was completely chill. Truly, perfect race conditions.

Start time was a civilized 9:30, which allowed for plenty of time for packet pickup and use of the real bathrooms. It also provided us with the opportunity to introduce ourselves to a woman we’ve each noticed in other races. I don’t generally approach strangers, but she was familiar to each of us and had a librarian related sticker on her car – done. Turns out she has almost 20 years on me, yet still managed to beat my ass in that particular 10k. Bravo, sister!

The course was a two lap jaunt through the woods, over some hills and around a few turns. Nobody really likes races that simply multiple a 5k route twice to get a 10k or thrice* for. 15k, but this course was so beautiful, that two times around was a treat. So pretty!

I didn’t finish dfl, but I was one of the last finishers. I just didn’t have any juice that day and ended up getting diagnosed with a sinus inflection a few days post-race. If I needed consolation for running this race, my state of health would be a reasonable one. Everyone who got to enjoy that morning was a winner already.

*thrice cracks me up!

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Filed under aging, beauty, Exercise, friends, Recommendations, road trips, running, sunday, upstate New York