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Albany… To Go

December 9, 2014

It’s taken a while, but over the past several years I have developed a deep affection for the Capital Region. Is it perfect? Far from it. But dammit, the place has character. And more than that, it has potential.

So it’s the holiday season and I’m going to go visit some friends. Some friends who may not quite fully understand why or how I live here. And I want to bring one thing that embodies this place I calling home.

But I’m going to have to lug it on an airplane, so that really rules out some of the obvious suspects. Neither mini hot dogs, fish fry, nor mozz and melba will hold up to the rigors of travel. Even apple cider donuts would be a shadow of their former glory after a day of transit. And it doesn’t have to be edible either.

Naturally, I have a few ideas to share. Maybe you’ll think of something I omitted, or perhaps you may just want to vote for one of the things below.

Stewart’s is the heart and soul of the region. I can’t bring a cup of Stewart’s coffee. The milk, eggs and ice cream don’t travel well either. It would feel wrong to steal one of their homemade signs. Stewart’s Mountain Brew has a certain appeal. But while that cheap beer may be a very good representation of the region, I’m afraid it doesn’t represent us well.

History. We have a lot of history here. And one modern outfit that is capitalizing on this history is the Albany Distilling Company. After all, they are making rum very much like it was made on virtually the same site over a hundred years ago. Or do you bring a bottle of Ironweed whiskey, especially since it is reminiscent of the William Kennedy book by the same name, which of course is set in Albany and is the basis of a Jack Nicholson picture.

Architecture. Somewhere there has to be a snow globe with the Empire State Plaza inside. The repetitive row of squat government buildings with the infamous Egg theater in the foreground and the imposing Corning tower flanking the scene is the icon of Albany. I will admit to loving the sight of these buildings, and how they mark a few square miles of civilization in what would otherwise be the wilderness of upstate New York.

How about a vial of water from the Hudson river? Sure, I’ve been told that it’s no river but rather a tidal estuary. It may be polluted and we may no longer be able to eat its once plentiful supply of sturgeon. But without the river, there wouldn’t be anything here in the first place. But the waterfront is a big part of the region’s potential. We just need to do something about that pesky highway.

Perhaps a jar of Hot Dog Charlie’s chili sauce isn’t entirely out of the question.

We do live in apple country. And while apple cider donuts don’t travel well, apples do a good bit better. Even better than apples, though, are spirits made from apples. I do really love that Cornelius Applejack from Harvest Spirits, and their Core Vodka is pretty special too. Plus this also taps into the whole craft spirits boom that we’re experiencing as a region. It’s not the worst idea.

Or maybe I’d be better served heading down to The Book House and checking into buying some kind of volume about our fair region. I do recall when originally considering the move to Albany that finding books on tourism to the area was all but impossible. All the book stores had giant New York sections, but they seemed be stuffed to the gills with volumes on NYC and all of its neighborhoods, museums, and restaurants. I couldn’t find a single slim softcover on the capital of the Empire State. It was shocking.

It’s a hard task, to be sure. And maybe I shouldn’t completely rule out apple cider donuts. But for some reason, I’m having a little bit of a hard time getting excited about donuts these days.

So, what say you?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2014 10:50 am

    A jar of Charlie’s and a bottle of Applejack. And something from Oscars!

  2. Lydia Kulbida permalink
    December 9, 2014 11:12 am

    Oddly enough, I was just thinking about local food, specifically sweets, to send to nieces/nephews out of town. So far I have the Peppermint Pig and Barkeater Chocolate.

  3. December 9, 2014 11:29 am

    My family loves chocolates from Krause’s, as do I. Their peanut brittle is also amazing. Uh, it travels well if you are lugging it on a plane, but they will also ship for you. They do a better job of packing than most mere mortals are able to.

  4. DEN permalink
    December 9, 2014 12:54 pm

    Your comment about the ESP is unintentionally timely, as last night I attended the premiere of a locally made documentary about the immigrant neighborhoods in the South End that were razed to built the ESP. While the edifice is impressive to look at, many of the small business and shops and neighborhoods that we yearn for (and that Troy is recreating) were lost and what remained became starved, by the arteries from the highway. Furthermore, the ESP is a deeply lonely place. The list of businesses that were closed because of eminent domain that scrolled up the screen at the end of the movie was chilling. A quote at the end summed it up, and I paraphrase “The ESP is a grand structure in a certain way, but only if you have no memory.”

  5. December 9, 2014 2:49 pm

    Saratoga water (in the blue bottle), Schmaltz’s brews, Olde Saratoga Brews.

  6. Randy K permalink
    December 9, 2014 2:57 pm

    ooh and Ninepin Cider!

  7. December 9, 2014 3:26 pm

    Speaking as someone who has left the Capital Region, I can tell you a couple things that I would recommend:
    -Anything from Stewart’s. There’s nothing even close to that here in Cleveland, and I miss having 6 (yes, SIX) of them on my commute to/from work.
    -Fudge Fancies (not their name anymore, though): The Cookie Factory makes them (now called Fudge Fantasies?) but they used to be made by the Vanilla Bean Bakery. My friend from DC (another expat) always buys a bunch to take back when she visits the 518

    Yeah, my suggestions are food. I can’t think of anything else that defines the area, except maybe negativity and high taxes, but you can’t bottle those.

  8. Jenny permalink
    December 10, 2014 10:25 am

    I always find this a hard exercise, because so much of why I love living here is my proximity to places and foods. But that doesn’t travel. Summer sausage from Oscar’s travels well, although the joy of Oscar’s for me is actually buying a bag full of goodies from the store itself, and summer sausage doesn’t quite convey that same joy and bounty.

    I agree with the Applejack idea(it has local and history — to some degree — rolled into one). I often bring people “Adirondack Jack” peanut butter from the Saratoga Peanut butter company. And while Maple Syrup maybe available everywhere, a Grade A or B dark that you got directly from the producer is a great gift. And for the kiddies — Maple cotton candy. Available all year round at the Troy Farmer’s Market and something you don’t see everywhere!

  9. Jessica R W permalink
    December 10, 2014 4:20 pm

    Fudge Fantasies from the Cookie Factory
    Peanut Principle specialized peanut butter (most portable)
    Budda Pesto
    Hudson Valley Camembert from the Old Chatham Shepherding Company

  10. December 15, 2014 6:13 pm

    Tierra Farms maple pecan butter.

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