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Escaping the Madness of Tulip Fest

May 9, 2016

Actually, I had a blast during Tulip Fest this year. The rain stayed away on Saturday. The weather was cool in the shade and warm in the sun. There were good tunes, and I have long since outgrown my desire for public drunkenness.

I even found a way of turning the event into a Yelp game for my own amusement, and was able to meet up with some of my favorite people from the Yelp community.

The secret may be coming early. Because arriving before 11am means that parking isn’t a problem and the lines at the food vendors are short. I was able to score an absolutely delicious buffalo chicken slider from Slidin’ Dirty for lunch, and paired it with an Asian noodle salad. I thought that was a healthy and moderate duo.

It’s hard to be on a diet during Tulip Fest. That is, until I heard someone explaining their approach to enjoying all the culinary delights at festivals just like this one. And it was something I had never even considered.

They took great pleasure in simply walking around and delighting in all the smells!

Woah. That’s brilliant. I’ve often used the smells as a way of figuring out what I wanted to eat, but enjoying the smells as an end in themselves was an entirely new idea for me. And the truth of the matter is that the smells are the best part. Much of the food itself isn’t that great, and most of it is made from inferior ingredients I wouldn’t buy for my family.

How smart is it to eat it with your eyes, taste it with your nose, and skip all the calories and guilt? Which is not to say skip it all. Some things are incredible. Eat those. But also remember that the wide world of Albany is just beyond the park boundaries.

I popped out to Stacks Espresso for an iced pourover. I’ve hear stories that this is truly the best method for brewing delicious iced coffee. And after this first experience, I’m already sold. It’s not inexpensive, a greater quantity of fancy small batch beans need to be ground into the cone filter, because that hot extracted coffee is brewed directly into a couple hundred grams of ice cubes.

Man, all that great acidity that’s lost in cold brewing, totally pops using this method. It’s great.

But Stacks isn’t the only place on the street doing good stuff with coffee. Brew has something special going on too. Since this is a shop that combines coffee and beer, they have brought the two together in a custom batch of beer made at Chatham Brewing. The first one is a maple amber ale, but all will be made with Barkeater Coffee Roasters “Brew Blend” beans. That’s a special blend put together just of this local shop.

It’s like a tesseract of local goodness.

The beer itself is beautifully balanced between bitter coffee, sweet maple, and grainy malts. And somehow it has a wonderfully creamy weight in the mouth. It’s good stuff. Especially for these cool spring evenings. I’m looking forward to seeing how the beers change with the seasons, and the coffee is incorporated with the beer in a variety of different ways.

Sometimes a little bit of sweet can inspire one’s sweet tooth to find something delicious. Sure, Tulip Fest had deep fried Oreos, but those aren’t for me. At some point over the summer I’ll cave and have a few bites of a funnel cake. It’s going to happen. Diet be damned. But just around the corner from the park, Crisan has its new cafe inside the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Did you know they are open until 5pm on Saturday? You don’t even have to pay to go in. Just tell the person at the front desk you are headed up to the cafe.

Quick confession. In my almost nine years living in the Capital Region, do you know how many times I’ve been into Albany Institute? Twice. You know how many times I’ve been to the Crisan Cafe since it’s opened? Four times. In a few weeks, I’ve more than tripled my total visits through those doors.

It’s such a blessing to have a place where you can pop in for a small decadent treat. And I was able to find a small platter of goodies to bring to a friend’s party later that evening. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one invited who brought treats from Albany’s best pastry shop.

Hopefully, more people will get there soon. There is even free parking behind the museum for those who are going to be spending time inside its walls. So seriously, I don’t want to hear any excuses.

Man, the smells of Tulip Fest are awesome. But you should make sure to come down to the area other times too and take advantage of some great stuff.

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