Tag Archives: New York State

Poppy, Pony Barn Bar and Pigs

“Poppy” lips

Friday nights can be hard, especially at the beginning of a new school year. While I would have been very happy to make it a movie night at home with my youngest son, I was too interested to check out the brand new Pony Barn and June Farms to stay at home. So, what’s a girl to do? Get dressed, swipe on some of that new Poppy lipstick you just bought from Origins and get to the farm.

June Farms is a quick 15 minute drive from Albany – which is remarkable because it feels very much like it’s in the middle of nowhere. We drove, but I know some folks who Ubered out of Troy for less than $15, not a bad idea if you want to indulge in multiple tasty cocktails. There are a couple of turns off of Route 43 to reach the farm’s winding driveway, but the directions were easy enough and the drive, even after dark, was pretty.

We parked and made our way inside the beautiful and newly built barn, passing the pizza oven on our way. The interior smells like sawdust and fresh air – a combination of odors I’ve never before encountered in a barn or a bar, for that matter. The rustically beautiful bar to the left beckons and holds a nicely curated selection of liquor, including many local and other New York State products. The lighting is flattering and the numerous seating areas invite guests to indulge in conversations, perhaps even with a side of tasteful making out. A patio promises to be the ideal spot to catch a full moon view and the spacious upstairs loft is finished, yet unfurnished, leaving lots of opportunity for eventual renters of the space to use the area in a manner that makes sense for their event.

Event? Yes, the entire barn, as well as overnight accommodations, are available for rent. I can see this property as the perfect location for all sorts of parties, ceremonies and getaways. Check out their website for more info and to see photos of all June Farms has to offer. I’ve got a video that I can’t embed here, but check out my Instagram post to get a sense of the interior of the bar.

As for the pigs mentioned in the title – they were the genuine article, not your usual bar animals. We took a quad ride out to the pig barn and were completely taken by the half dozen swine we caught in the middle of their night’s slumber. They were beautiful, not smelly in the slightest and adorable with their snoring. I can’t wait to go back to meet the ducks, chickens, cows and horses and to explore more of the trails in daylight. What a great new spot for daytime and evening fun. Well done, Matt Baumgartner. This place is special.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under beauty, drinking, Local, Recommendations, upstate New York

A Saratoga Trifecta – Track, Farmers Hardware & Violet’s

Going to the track has never been my thing. Gambling doesn’t appeal to me, I don’t like big crowds and I’m really distressed by the number of horses which have died this season. It’s all just too much. But, I do enjoy early mornings in Saratoga. There’s a simple beauty to the horses trotting around in the often misty morning and the general vibe is relaxed and quiet. It’s really lovely and I can’t imagine a prettier racetrack. Yesterday, there was an undercurrent of excitement as Traver’s Weekend approached and things were looking particularly spiffy as the track prepared to welcome an expected 50,000 spectators for Saturday’s biggest race of the season.

We spent a very enjoyable hour or so trackside before our appetites got the better of us and we headed to a fairly new spot downtown for breakfast. Farmers Hardware, reviewed just last week by Susie Davidson Powell who had some very positive things to say, is conveniently located right next a public parking lot which allows for 2 hours of free parking. We rolled in at about 9:00 or so and found our way, with encouragement from a very enthusiastic server, to the upstairs counter where we placed our order.

I had hoped to have the Eggs Shorty, but alas they were out of short ribs. There was an offer to substitute bacon for the beef, but I opted for the Staple instead – scrambled eggs, bacon, maple sriricha and cheddar on a brioche roll. For my side, I selected a toasted coconut yogurt parfait and threw in a large coffee for good measure. My total was about $15 with a couple of dollars tossed into the counter jar. Fair enough. I gathered plastic flatware (recyclable according to Susie, but still a bit unsatisfying to me) and napkins and headed downstairs and outside to await delivery of our orders, happily sipping a mimosa purchased by a friend.

Food arrived quickly and was uniformly well received. My eggs were hot, as we were Will’s salt and pepper fries, which he shared, and the bacon was nicely cooked. The coffee was flavorful, my yogurt parfait delicious  and the additional sides I sampled, a bean and corn salad and roasted beets, were all simple and well prepared. A very solid breakfast that I would happily order again.

Our last stop was at Violet’s, a boutique where I had done well earlier this summer with a couple of great items on sale. My luck held yesterday and I picked up an adorable ruched skirt and asymmetrical pull over, again on sale, that will find their way into my wardrobe rotation with little effort. That store is definitely on my radar for funky, slightly off the beaten path clothing and accessories and I suggest you check it out.

No gambling, all winning, makes for a perfect Saratoga morning. I love New York!

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Filed under beauty, breakfast, Brunch, Eating, friends, Local, Recipes, Restaurants, road trips, Saratoga, Summer, upstate New York

3 friends, 2 cities, 1 lucky human – part 2

On Sunday, it was time to head north of Albany with two vintage friends for a little time in Saratoga Springs. We were at our hotel by noon, parked the car and took off on foot to explore Broadway and all it offers. The Holiday Inn where we stayed was super convenient to Congress Park and we again had dreamy weather. We allowed ourselves to be entertained by the ducklings for a bit as we strolled into town, feeling zero urgency to do anything. Saratoga was hopping and filled with tourists and we thoroughly enjoyed window shopping, sussing out a place for dinner and picking places to stop in on Monday, not wanting to deal with shopping bags and dressing rooms on such a blazingly beautiful day.

Lunch was takeout from Putnam Market, a variety of salads and a lemon bar to share, which we took to a shady bench in the park. At that point I was totally ready for a siesta, but we reinterpreted that as some chill time by the hotel pool. We lucked out and achieved bliss with a quick dip or two alternated with stretching out on a chaise in the sun. Refreshed, we took a long walk into and around Saratoga State Park and I realized how well I’ve come to know that piece of land in my time upstate. It was fun to show it off.

Dinner was at Forno Bistro, coincidentally this week’s restaurant review in the Times Union. Before dinner, though, we were compelled to have a cocktail on the veranda at Salt & Char. I completely enjoyed my very first Moscow Mule, essentially dubbing this my official cocktail of Summer, 2017. After our drinks and a lot of giggles, we went to Forno and had a positive dinner experience, made even more exceptional by my being greeted by a former student, who was dining, with an enthusiastic “Hi, Silvia!” We shared a couple of antipasti, a pasta and a pizza and left satiated. It was too nice to go directly “home,” so we took a walk around Caroline Street and found ourselves at Ben & Jerry’s where I stepped out of my comfort zone of Cherry Garcia and Coffee Buzz Buzz and tried Coconut Seven Layer Bar instead. It was a great way to end the night.

Our first stop Monday morning was Mrs. London’s where my friends experienced their first almond croissants. These are no joke and since we were early (9:00), we had the place nearly to ourselves and were able to enjoy our cafe au laits in a most leisurely fashion. We timed things perfectly and, fully caffeinated, we got some quality shopping in. At our first stop, Violet, we were presented with the opportunity to purchase a coupon book filled with special offers from local businesses. From an initial $15 investment, I saved more than $40 which made this a really good buy. The shopping was pretty epic and I cleaned up with 4 dresses, a skirt and a super cute pair of cropped Hudson jeans. After what feels like months and months of exclusively online shopping because of my schedule, boutique shopping felt like a real luxury.

Who am I kidding? It’s all such a luxury. To have the friends, time and money to make quick getaways like these possible is an indulgence that I’ll never take for granted. That’s why I’m one lucky lady.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, road trips, Saratoga, SPAC, Summer, upstate New York

Walkway over the Hudson Half Marathon – 6/11/17

In our ongoing quest to check items off our runner’s bucket list, Chrissy and I headed south to take on Sunday’s Walkway over the Hudson half. Due to the crazy early start time (7:00 a.m. with a suggested arrival time of 90 minutes earlier), we drove down Saturday evening and enjoyed a few hours of hanging out with friends, including another Sunday morning warrior, and an ideal sunset walk.

Morning came early. We bumbled around having some breakfast, preparing our gear, and getting sunscreen-ed prior to leaving the house well before 6:00. Parking was kind of a pain in the ass, but after a solid 15 minute walk we found our way to the port-a-potty line, right in front of the starting line. After a flyover by some historic planes and the national anthem, we were off promptly at 7:00.

The first couple of miles were challenging with what felt like a few decent hills. On a hot morning I worked really hard to pace myself and committed myself to maintaining a slow and steady pace. We traveled from the roads to the beautifully shaded rail trail before we ventured out onto the walkway and crossed to the west side of the Hudson. The sun was really beating down by this point, mile 7 or 8, and I took my brag worthy 7 Sisters shirt off and continued in my tank, relishing the faint breeze on my shoulders. I began taking two cups at the water stations, drinking one and dumping the other over my head.

The mile markers were great with notes about the environmental themes the race is based upon and encouraging images. The support was great with lots of spectators and enthusiastic folks lining the trail in numerous spots. Mile 8 was particularly significant because of the height I reached as I jumped into air after noticing the snake curled up on the side of the trail. I got elevation!

Not being familiar with the course was a little disconcerting. I just didn’t know what remained between me and the finish line. Fortunately, it was surprisingly shady and not terribly hilly. Despite those positive conditions, I was friggin spent and the last two miles were kind of hellacious as my feet burned uncomfortably and I rode the line between muscling though and feeling nauseous and a tad dizzy. When I finally caught a glimpse of the finish line, I couldn’t have been happier. Half marathon #5 in the past 10 months is in the books. Time to find another race.

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

Celebrate Life – even in 5 degrees!

IMG_1140Yesterday was a day I was not looking forward to – the forecast for frigid weather, the loss of an hour, the long bus ride… I had a few moments when I even considered bailing on the half marathon I had committed to running, but I dug deep and found the motivation to get my a** out of bed and over to East Greenbush to meet the bus that had been organized to take a couple of dozen runners to Rock Hill, N. Y. for the Celebrate Life Half Marathon. I’m glad I did.

I don’t know when I started to get blasé about running 13.1 miles, but somehow it happened. When my Lunar B*tch Karen asked if I was interested in running this particular race, I don’t think I even looked at the course or hesitated. Bundle in the fact that the race is a fundraiser to support those struggling with cancer and I was all in.

The weather forecast for the race changed at least three times in the week prior to the run – from rain to cloudy and finally, to plain old cold. Like, really cold. Single digits cold. The morning of the run I dressed in a single layer on the bottom and 3 layers on the top, and boarding the bus with an assortment of additional UnderArmor items in a bag. Can I tell you how different activities are when you have the right clothes? There’s a reason I troll Marshall’s for running gear, people!

The bus ride was great – a pleasant ride through beautiful scenery and well worth the $25. As we drove along in our warm bus it was easy to forget how truly cold it was outside those windows. Once we were parked, though, the bitter temperatures slapped me in the face and reminded me what I’d be facing for the next couple of hours. I picked up my race packet and started layering up eventually going with 2 bottom layers, 4 layers on top finished with a vest, 2 pairs of gloves and a fleece hat that velcroed under my chin that I am so glad I tossed in at the last minute. I was as ready as I was ever going to be!

We started at 10:00 a.m. I didn’t know it at the time, but the temperature was 5 degrees. The wind chill brought it down to -4. My ignorance was bliss. The first mile was brutal – the wind was blowing and my nose was running like mad. My face hurt and I was almost overwhelmed by the thought of another 2+ hours in those conditions, but that first hill warmed me up a bit and my playlist was great. I settled into a comfortable pace and started to enjoy the challenge.

The course was beautiful, circling around a couple of small lakes and reminiscent of my hometown. There were some hills for sure and the lakeside pieces were definitely cold, but the sun was shining and I eventually warmed up enough to unfasten my hat’s chinstrap and remove both layers of gloves for a short time. The body is an amazing thing.

Towards the end of my run, as the hills continued unrelentingly, I started to think of people I care for who have struggled with cancer and I ran for them. When my phone died at 12.89 miles, I kept running without music, but with heart, eventually  finishing in 2:25 with a deep sense of satisfaction and sore feet. Like life, it felt like something to celebrate.

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Filed under cancer, Exercise, friends, road trips, running, sunday, upstate New York, winter

What I’ve learned from owning a business

facebook-profile-icon_lark-and-lily-07I know that sugarcoating reality is often considered positive behavior, but you know that I’m not one to claim to see unicorns and rainbows when it simply isn’t true, so let me tell you how things really are…

On October 20th, 2015 I picked up my liquor license and officially opened for business as Lark + Lily Wine Bar and Kitchen. On some days it doesn’t seem possible that a year has already passed, other nights, when I toss and turn, unable to sleep, it feels like this business has taken years from life.

Being a small business owner is beyond challenging. The expenses involved with maintaining a cozy wine bar sometimes overwhelm me – between payroll, rent, utilities, trash collection, alarm services, draft line maintenance and insurance, we’re talking a minimum of $4000 a week in expenses. Did you notice I didn’t even mention food, liquor or wine? Yeah, that’s a whole ‘nother nut.

I am the lowest paid person in the restaurant, by a long shot. That is honestly ok, even factoring in that my 17 year-old son makes more money than me, because I have a career which provides me with an adequate salary, but if I, or my brother, were dependent upon this project for an income, we’d be completely and utterly broke.

My motivation for being in the restaurant industry remains the same – I have a sincere interest in creating an atmosphere where guests feel welcome and well taken care of. I want to provide a space that lends itself to enjoying a glass of wine or cocktail, a light meal, dinner or dessert, be it with friends, family or that special someone who makes you want to snuggle closer in the make-out booth.

At a year in I’m gaining confidence in my ability to conceive and execute a special event. I trust my instincts a little more now and I am not hesitant to prepare a dessert or orchestrate a continental brunch. I know that I’m not capable of cooking a full menu to order and leave that to the professionals who grace my kitchen (thank you, John, Zach & Ben), but I definitely have some fun pop up events in my head that I’m excited to give a whirl. I’m thinking about themed Sunday suppers or other fun gatherings in conjunction with some of Lark Street’s activities. Sign up for our mailing list for first notice on those!

There are days when I am so proud of Lark + Lily and what we are trying to do – they far outnumber the times when I feel frustrated and stressed. That being said, if I didn’t have a staff of hardworking professionals (Trudy, Jammella, Griffin & Jackie) understanding family and friends (who know who they are) and wine running, I’d be done. The pressure on me (mostly from me) is intense.

To the people who, through their patronage, have become my friends, I am so appreciative. I sincerely hope that I don’t ever fail to convey my gratitude for you and your continued presence at Lark + Lily. I feel fortunate to have met so many other small business owners who are purveyors and as such provide us with the wonderful and local fruits of their own labors. There are, joyfully, too many of them to name. Take a peek at my menu or beverage list to see them all. I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention the media who, despite what Donald Trump might claim, have been unremittingly kind and generous to us in their acknowledgement of our efforts.  Thank you!

While I’ve come to understand that it isn’t possible to please everyone, it remains our ultimate goal and we can only improve with honest feedback and constructive criticism. And if you haven’t been in, I hope you will consider stopping by and checking us out, maybe even Thursday night. I hear there might be some celebrating going on.

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Filed under Albany, Events, Lark Street, Local, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine

Yurt adventure

dsc_0022What would you do if you arrived at your Adirondack getaway, a yurt in a semi-remote location accessible only by foot, in the dark? Would you confidently venture up a trail that you vaguely remember from that one other time you were there? Keep in mind, of course, that you’re toting a ridiculous amount of gourmet food, as well as 3 hardcover books, a heavy (and delicious) bottle of wine, bottles of water and some other stuff that you think you absolutely must have for the night, all of which equals a heavy load. Oh – and you have a city dog on a leash who just might be afraid of the forest.

Well, if you’re me, you take purposeful strides up that steep hill in the direction that seemed familiar until it no longer felt familiar. After a few minutes of consultation and consideration, you conclude that continuing blindly in the dark is more than a little irresponsible and you head back down the trail which, not too surprisingly, leads to a place other than your original starting point.  Bearings now gained, thanks to an app on your iPhone, you walk out to the road with all of that prosciutto and pâté getting heavier by the minute, and then back up the long and rugged driveway to your car and declare Take 2, summit to yurt.  And this time, you are successful.  Those small reflectors marking the trail really helped.

Once in the yurt, ridiculous city shoes off and fantastic bottle of wine opened, you settle in and begin to enjoy the sense of being away.  Food gets busted out, without benefit of plates or utensils, other than the plastic ones tossed into the Cardona’s bag at the last minute. Candles are lit and the wine is uncorked and then swilled directly from the bottle since you remembered a corkscrew, but not a cup, much less a glass.  You begin to truly relax, charmed by the coziness of the yurt and the company.  Surprisingly, the dog who seemed more than a little tense on the walk (it’s become a “walk” rather than a hike, retrospectively. Thank you, wine) up to camp settles down nicely at the foot of the futon and the sound of a nearby train only adds to the atmosphere. Lovely.

Morning breaks slowly and much later than expected. The skylight above filled with grey then shades of blue which grow increasingly more saturated. The first peek out of the door reveals a golden view of leaves and water and mountains. The air outside doesn’t jar as expected  because it is nearly the same temperature as indoors. A mid-morning meal gets made from last night’s leftovers in the hopes that our load on the way down would be lighter, as were our spirits.  A brief escape successfully managed. We’re definitely doing this again – but with less food and more appropriate footwear.

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Filed under beauty, holidays, road trips, upstate New York