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

Growing up in black and white

imageThere’s been a lot of talk about race in our country and its got me thinking about the my own perspective on the relationships between blacks and whites. I was fortunate to have been raised by a woman who did not discriminate between races. My earliest school friendships were with a black girl and a Jewish girl – a real feat in a small town which was almost exclusively Christian and white. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of childhood.

When I was about 12, we moved to a house a couple of miles out of town in a neighborhood I had heard referred to as The Colony. That wasn’t said in a complimentary way. You see, this particular area was populated primarily by black families, including that of my elementary school friend. The house we lived in was only two miles out of town, but it felt pretty far removed. We had the telephone exchange of Warwick, the school district of Greenwood Lake and the zip code of Monroe, perfectly summing up the lack of interest in a single community to “own” this long road. It felt very much like a no man’s land.

In the spring of eighth grade, a number of us tried out for the freshman cheerleading squad in what would be our new high school. I was the only one who was selected and, even then, I felt that it was because I was white. Vicki and Brenda were both better than me and deserved it more. I ended up quitting the squad before football season even started.

A year or so later something happened that changed my comfort level with people of color. My brother had some sort of altercation with Vicki’s brother, I don’t know what it was about, and he got punched in the face as he boarded the school bus one morning. I remember being shocked by the violence and afraid of what might happen next, especially after listening to other students who had witnessed the fight. Their language was new to me and the prejudice they demonstrated was unlike anything I had ever heard, but it gave me a cloak to wrap myself in for protection. I didn’t spend time with Vicki anymore.

In the many years since then, I’ve had very few black friends. I’ve puzzled over this lack of diversity in my life as I’ve celebrated the friendships my own children share with kids from every imaginable ethnic and religious background. The single block in the DelSo where I’ve lived for 20 years is populated by Indians, Blacks, Jews and Whites and I think of them all as neighbors.

Last week, I went back to Greenwood Lake to spend an afternoon with friends. In the early afternoon, I took a run past the haunted houses of my youth accompanied by more memories than I could ever share. My feet took me along the roads I had walked countless times, most frequently to get away from home, but now instead in an attempt to take me back to where I came from. It was a very emotional run, especially once I saw the two “new” (to me) state historic markers declaring the significance of Nelson Road.image

Reading about the history of The Colony caused me for the first time ever to feel a sense of pride about where I spent some pretty influential years of my life. I was reminded of the cultural contributions of Black Americans and wished that those markers had been installed years ago. I hope Vicki has been back to see them.

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Filed under aging, girlhood, musings, Observations, road trips, running, Summer

My favorite governor in New York State – Governor’s Island

image When I mentioned to friends last week that I was heading down to the city for a couple of days, they suggested that I visit Governor’s Island. Although I often stay downtown in the financial district, I’d never really considered taking the ferry to any island other than Staten and knew nothing about Governor’s Island.  Our proximity, though, and the budget fare ($1 each way), made this excursion too appealing to deny.

Monday morning we made our to the dock for the 11:00 a.m. boat. It was a cloudy morning, but dry, and the super quick boat ride was comfortable and refreshingly lacking in diesel fuel aroma. We docked and made our way to the bike rental tent, which was just a bit to the right of where we had disembarked. Within minutes we were set up with 3-speed cruiser bikes at a cost of…zero. Yes, the first hour of bike rental was free. Talk about budget friendly!

imageWe took a quick spin around the island, pausing to capture some pictures of our favorite lady in the harbor, and got the lay of the land. We saw the newly completed “hills,” along with a beautiful wildflower garden, amazing residences and brick dormitory looking buildings and an area that has been utilized as a training site for firefighters. I kept imagining how cool it would be to live on the island in one of the historic looking homes…amazing.

On our second lap around, we parked our bikes and climbed the hills to get the best vantage point of the southern tip of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The skies were clearing at this point and it was just so easy and mellow – no crowds, no stress, barely any expense. Phenomenal.

imageAfter an hour and half or so of island living, we made our way back to the dock and returned to Manhattan, satisfied with our adventure and pleased to know of another inexpensive option for exploring the city. I’d definitely consider going back again to spend an afternoon or take in an event.  On the weekends there are a variety of food options, including food trucks, to sample or you can pack a picnic and go total low budget.  Thanks, Colette and Steve!

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Filed under biking, Boys, ideas, NYC, Recommendations, Summer, Uncategorized

Dueling croissants aux amandes

A number of years ago my friend, Paul, turned me on to almond croissants and my world became a sweeter place. I think there were three in the box he originally brought to my house. I know I wished there were more. On Paul’s advice, prior to stuffing my face, I placed my croissant in the microwave for about 15 seconds which made it a touch softer and unbelievably flaky. I was immediately a fan and have sampled almond croissants from a number of different bakeries, both local and abroad.*

Last weekend I pedaled to the Troy Farmer’s Market to earn my anticipated calorie splurge. You see, I had a plan – a taste off between Mrs. London’s and The Placid Baker’s versions of almond croissant. But, before I share my impressions, let me tell what I learned from the interwebs about almond croissant. Maybe you already know this, but I was surprised to learn that almond croissants originated as a thrifty way of repurposing regular croissant. The shelf life of a croissant is ever so brief, but if one slices them in half and spreads them with an almond paste or custard known as frangipane and then dusts them with powdered sugar and sliced almonds and pops them in the oven for a second baking, well, that’s a whole new pastry. Damn, those French are smart when it comes to tasty baked goods!

So – here’s the Mrs. London’s version…

It’s huge, but you’ll still wish there was even more.  The somewhat terse man was kind enough to toss some stray broken off pieces when he bagged my two croissants ($4.25 each) which was a welcome treat. The dusting of powdered sugar was kind of sparse, but keep in mind that I had the bakery bag in my saddlebags on my bicycle for 10 miles or so. The frangipane was thick in consistency, but thinly layered and the croissant itself was flaky but not incredibly airy. Taste? Delicious, but a bit sweet, said my 11 year-old.

To score an almond croissant from The Placid Baker, I had to venture beyond the Farmer’s Market to get to the source. You see, they’d sold out at the market but still had a couple available at the shop. Here’s the one ($3.00) I brought home.

It was a tad smaller than Mrs. London’s and definitely baked to a darker shade. The real surprise, though, was the generous layer of frangipane. It was a much “looser” version of frangipane, dripping onto the plate when I bit into it. Despite the abundance of almond custard, this croissant was less sweet and somehow lighter than the Mrs. London’s version. The pastry layers were well separated and excruciatingly light. C’est Bon!

Bottom line – they’re both terrific, but The Placid Baker has stolen my heart from Mrs. London. How about you? Do you have a preference?

*Abroad. Doesn’t that sound tres fancy?

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Saratoga, Troy

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

Learning to stand on my own two feet

imageBeing a runner has many health benefits. There are the obvious ones like improved cardiovascular capacity, weight loss and stronger legs, but I’ve found the more subtle ones to be even more impressive. Things like a dramatically tighter core and the mental ability to focus on immediate external conditions while simultaneously allowing my mind to travel to places far away. It’s been a life changer.

Like most things, though, it isn’t all good. I’ve taken a couple of spills over the years and suffered more than one twisted ankle. There’s also been residual discomfort, some might call it pain, that I’ve simply learned to accept. My usual aches are hips and feet, specifically right hip and the ball of my left foot. I went to a podiatrist last year in the hopes that I would be fitted for orthotics, but left the office sad and empty handed after the doctor’s conclusion: running hurts.

Since then, I’ve just carried on with the understanding that yoga helps (find time for yoga), more stretching post run is necessary (find time to stretch) and my foam roller can soothe (find time for the foam roller). This week I finally made good on my intention to have my chiropractor give me a good look over and I am really thrilled with his impressions and recommendations.

First – if you haven’t ever seen a chiropractor, I really recommend it. Mine, Lee Masterson at Delmar Wellness, has singlehandedly (ok, two handedly) made the biggest difference in my balance, comfort and performance in the many years since he began adjusting my body. I originally went to him to have my alignment corrected during a pregnancy, believing that it would be beneficial when it came time to labor. I’m convinced it did – natural, unmedicated childbirth achieved. I continued to see him periodically for years as he helped me to tweak my posture and maintain conscious of how out of whack my body quickly became when I held my children on my hip or torqued in weird ways.

Yesterday’s visit, my first in at least 3 years, was enlightening. Lee began by eyeing my stance and having me walk as he observed. He quickly assessed my right hip’s weakness and lack of flexibility, as compared to my left side, and began working my right leg with a series of stretches and the assistance of some cool little machine that tapped my leg and hip with some force. He talked me through some proactive exercises, such as side planks, and modeled the stance he wanted me to begin developing to offset my current condition. It was a great visit.

Last night’s run felt wonderful – it had finally cooled off a bit and Jeter and I found two sprinklers to play in along our route. My hip felt significantly looser and my left foot hurt only mildly. I’ll be taking all of Lee’s suggestions and am optimistic that running will be even more enjoyable moving forward. If you see me standing with my feet less than 18″ apart, please feel free to correct me.

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Filed under Exercise, Local, medical, Recommendations, running, Uncategorized

Yo – go get this yogurt!

imageI grew up on “fruit on the bottom” Dannon yogurt. As I got older, though, I was put off by how much sugar (approximately 30+ grams of added sugar) was packed into that 6 oz container. I remember wishing that it could come unsweetened, giving me the option to add sugar to my own taste. Since that wasn’t an option, I began eating vanilla yogurt believing that I was improving my diet. Of course, once I realized how much sugar was in that, I was screwed and pretty much stopped eating yogurt.

Finally, about 2 years ago, I bit the bullet and committed to eating plain yogurt. You know, like a big girl. I generally buy whatever is on sale, be it regular or Greek style, in a 32 oz container. I’ve enjoyed Brown Cow and Upstate Farms particularly, mixing the yogurt with fresh fruit and topping it with granola for a meal that I enjoy and can live with in terms of nutritional value.

Yesterday I finally made it over to the Troy Farmer’s market. It was a hot morning and my stomach wasn’t feeling great after a weird episode of sickness on Friday. I bypassed the almond croissants from Mrs. London’s and ignored the artfully displayed cookies and breads from the Placid Baker, consoling myself with the promise of future indulgence on a morning when I earned my carbs by biking to Troy.

Cream on top

Cream on top

What caught my eye, though, were the offerings from Troy’s own R&G Cheesemakers. We’ve featured some of their cheeses in the past, always with good response, but what I came home with was their plain, cream on top, yogurt. I pitted some cherries and sliced a few strawberries into a bowl and then spooned a couple of tablespoons of yogurt on top, finishing with a scoop of granola.

imageThis yogurt is the bomb. Pleasantly tart, rich yet light and delicious. At $4 for 32 oz, it is a steal. Factor in that it was made 2 days before I purchased it and I’ve got myself a new favorite. Go, get this yogurt but please save one for me.

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Troy