This weekend I was reminded by an old friend that I was a far lot fussier when I first moved to the region. And it’s true. It would be pointless to deny such a thing, since evidence of that time is littered all around the internet. Here’s just one example of many.
It took a long time before I could see the Capital Region with fresh eyes. With eyes that weren’t clouded by my West Coast experiences. It was only when I started writing for All Over Albany, and I was compelled to come up with one great dish every other week, that I started to piece together a better appreciation for the goodness that surrounded me. Also, by then, things objectively began to improve.
A little bit of context about what preceded my arrival in Albany might also be interesting.
So, I undertook the move to Albany with great trepidation. Never in my life had I lived somewhere so small. So I did a lot of research before coming out. What I found extremely discouraging was that even in the greatest bookstores in the Bay Area, overflowing with books on travel and tourism, both foreign and domestic, I couldn’t even find a pamphlet on upstate New York.
Oh, they all had New York sections. In fact, the New York sections were jam packed with countless volumes shoved into the shelves. Except all of those books. Every. Single. One. Were for New York City.
What does it say about a region, when there isn’t one tour guide to be found anywhere?
This is a long standing complaint. We get people to come to Albany to take the bar exam. There must be other occasions when visitors flock to the area too. But mostly, tourists bypass Albany, Schenectady, and Troy on their way to Saratoga Springs during track season. And then there are those who will spend some time in Lake George or the Adirondacks.
The Capital Region has a ton of history. Maybe post-Tony-Awards someone will capitalize on it and do some kind of Hamilton tour. Heck, maybe it’s already being done and is just off my radar.
But this past weekend, I was invited on a different kind of tour, hosted by Amy Koren-Roth. She has founded Taste of Troy food tours. Why have you not heard of this yet? Well, this is her first year, and last weekend was only her fourth tour.
They only happen on Saturdays during the months when people leave their homes, and take off during holiday weekends. Plus, you have to book your spot in advance, if you want to come along.
Have you ever been on a food tour? The Fussy Little Tours don’t count. Those are a different animal. I’m talking about an experience where you get to learn about a city by walking around and eating its foodstuffs.
I had not. This was new to me. So I can’t say how it compares with other food tours. What I can say was that it was an enjoyable day out, even in the pounding rain and my poor choice in footwear.
The idea was that we were going to try New-York-centric foodstuffs that are available throughout Troy. And as we walked around the city, we learned a bit about its history in addition to the businesses were were visiting.
Which meant we heard how Laura started Psychedelicatessen and got to try her house-cured salmon on a bagel with cream cheese. Then it was off to The Whistling Kettle for a conversation about tea and colonial America. We popped into St. Paul’s Church, which was stunningly beautiful, to admire the Tiffany-designed interior. Then it was back to eating with stops at Illium, Brown’s Brewing Company, and Sweet Sue’s.
Now it’s true confession time. I moved out here in 2007. The Troy Farmers Market was one of our first stops that summer. Troy has been on my radar for a long time. And all the same, this three hour tour was an avalanche of firsts.
I had never been into St. Paul’s Church. This was my first time sitting down for a pot of tea at The Whistling Kettle. An everything bagel with coffee had been the extent of my exposure to the menu at Psychedelicatessen. While I have tried Brown’s beers, and been to the downstairs malt room and the music hall, I’ve never stepped foot in the main brewery. This was also my first taste of Marla’s housemade corned beef at Ilium.
Wow. It’s almost like I never get out at all.
The fun part about doing all of this on an organized food tour, is that you can go into each business, get a little bite of something, and leave for the next one. Amy has cleverly decided to work with the local businesses, so they know exactly how many people are coming, and when they plan to arrive.
It’s kind of like Uber. You show up. The food comes without having to order it. You eat it. And when you are done, you stand up and leave. All the food costs and gratuities at each stop are included with the price of the ticket. What’s not included is a gratuity for the tour guide, which the Taste of Troy food tours FAQ suggests is 15%.
The tour is not inexpensive, but it provides a great service. It might take weeks or months — or in my case nine years — before you get to visit these great local businesses in Troy. Taste of Troy gets your butt in the seat of five different businesses (and a church) in one day.
I’m looking forward to getting back to Whistling Kettle for their sniff bar of teas, and to pick up a sample bag or two. I really want to get some more of that corned beef that Marla makes. And I’m curious if my love for Brown’s new fruited sours would extend to a whole glass, or if I only enjoy it in small tastes. There’s only one way to find out.
And there are free concerts at the church every Tuesday at noon which are open to the public. I’ve got to get over there. Maybe I can even take the kids when school is out this summer.
Speaking of summer, my own Fussy Little Tour de Ice Cream may end up being pushed back to summer. Sorry about that. But I think it will be fine. Still, that’s a conversation for another time. I’m just amazed at how quickly the time passes these days.
Thanks again to Amy and to the other couples who were on the most recent tour. It’s always fun to hang out with the food lovers of the region and beyond. Which is a perfect parting plug for this Thursday’s Tavern Time. These things are open to anyone, you just need to RSVP. All the details are here.
Of course, if you can’t make it, I’m sure you’ll be hearing all about it in some corner of the internet.