Yesterday I bought three copies of the Albany Times Union at my local Stewart’s. It seems like I’ve been in the paper a bunch lately. Last month it was for the blog. Yesterday it was for Yelp. That’s just crazy.
This Yelp gig, much like the All Over Albany one before it, has really helped to shape the way I think about what’s going on in the world of food throughout the Capital Region. When I arrived here over eight years ago, I was focused on the area’s lapses and failings. The AOA work required me to actively find good things. And as a Yelp Community Ambassador, I find myself actively looking for the good in a place.
It’s been so long since I’ve eaten at a Sonic Drive-In, I honestly can’t even remember if I had positive associations with the chain or not. The first Sonic opened up in the Capital Region this week, and the cover story on yesterday’s Times Union was an irate opinion piece by Chris Churchill. This was A1, above the fold, and it begins, “It’s happening once again. The opening of a national chain is causing the good people of the Capital Region to act like a bunch of yokels.”
Honestly, the old me would have loved a story like this. And part of me still does. But writing this blog over the years has taught me a thing or two about the nature of our culinary scene. And I have to say, I may see things a little bit differently than Mr. Churchill.
This week at Indian Ladder Farms, they were expecting to begin blueberry picking season. That means you can go to the farm and start picking fresh berries from the bush. Or maybe you’ve got your own plants in the garden, which would mean the distance between you and fresh berries bursting with flavor from the sun and earth, is much much shorter.
I love blueberries. But we don’t have a blueberry bush. And while the farm isn’t too far to drive, it’s a bit out of the way.
Luckily, I just learned how to make your very own blueberries at home with ingredients you may already have around the house. No kidding.
Albany is an old town. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s kind of awesome. Old towns have character. Old towns have souls. Newer places may be shiny and attractive, but their appeal rarely goes beyond the superficial.
We’ve got history here. And one of these days, more people will realize that it’s our history that makes us special, and not the possibility of a convention center, an aquarium, or a monorail.
Which isn’t to say one has to live in the past. Change is the natural state of affairs in the universe, and it’s thrilling to see some positive changes in the Capital Region. Especially in a place that has historically seemed to resist change, and where change has come slowly.
But the change that’s bringing some great new stuff to the area may ultimately come at a cost.
It’s great to have guests. Sure, there are some segments of the Capital Region dining scene that can be really frustrating, but the things we do well are pretty darn impressive.
As I mentioned yesterday, Dr. B and his family are visiting from California. And while he may not live in SF proper, great food is just an arm’s length away at almost all times. I just think of all those beautiful tacos, tortas, and tamales, and I start to weep.
There are some challenges when another whole family comes out to visit. Now, instead of being a party of four, we’re a party of eight. And a bunch of us are very small humans. Some of us are so small that table manners are a concept as incomprehensible as the Fibonacci numbers.
But I can work with that. It just requires a slightly modified local tour.
Man, it would be nice to have a summer break. I say that, but in actuality, my whole life is like a break. Really, I’m a very lucky fellow.
Summer in the Capital Region is just chock-a-block filled with things to do. And it’s impossible to do all the things, regardless of how much you want to do all the things. I’m just going to run you through my weekend real quick, just to give you a taste of what went down.
I wish I could spend the time going through each item, but then this post would be silly long. Perhaps if anyone actually wants to hear more on one of the topics mentioned, I can try to find a way to expand upon it later this week. But it all started innocently enough on Friday doing what I always do, hunting for my weekly challah and roast chicken.
It’s strawberry season here in upstate New York. The season is short. And honestly, even at the peak of the season I’ve yet to have a berry that even come remotely close to what’s so readily available throughout California in the summer.
Those garnet jewels are just so damn ripe and fragrant with deep red fruit that permeates all the way to the soft, juicy core. I have very little patience for anything white or woody inside my strawberries. And if, God forbid, you come across these underripe specimens, the only decent thing to do is macerate them.
Although, I suppose you could blend them up into a sauce, or find another creative way to salvage the fruit in a way that’s palatable. Maybe cook them down into a jam or spin them into an ice cream.
But what’s this I hear about strawberries in coffee?