My Happy Places
Grotesque. The news of the world is just grotesque.
Sunday night is erev Rosh Hashanah. It’s the start of the Jewish New Year. Monday, I’ll be in the synagogue. I’ll be praying for peace. And we need it. There is so much violence. So much killing. Far too much hatred and anger. Way too much fear. Way too little compassion. Almost no understanding. There’s an absence of dialog. A vacuum of compromise.
And it seems like we’ve gotten used to it. Elementary school shootings fail to shock us. We’re far too accustomed to unarmed civilians being shot by police. The media is more concerned about a candidate not knowing what to do about Aleppo, than with what’s going on inside the besieged city. The Dakota Pipeline construction desecrates sacred native lands without creating an outrage. The presidential candidate who wants to initiate a national stop and frisk program and build a great wall between the US and Mexico is in a virtual dead heat with a centrist Democrat with a lifetime of public service who has won the endorsement of conservative newspapers, some of which have never endorsed a Democratic party candidate in their existence.
It’s sad. And it’s exhausting. But this isn’t how I want to end my year. So instead, I’m going to retreat to my happy place. Or maybe that should be happy places.
The Cheese Traveler makes me happy. This past week when I was there I bumped into Doc Sconz. But in the past I’ve met local chefs, and had conversations with local foodies. The place is almost like a salon for people who care about great food. However it also draws in the food curious. Just this past month, while enjoying a light lunch, I witnessed a woman have her first experience with a fresh fig. That was a joyful moment for all concerned.
Even though it’s been a long time since I’ve been into Swifty’s, just knowing that it’s there makes me happy. Now that I’ve received a good report from my doctor, one of these days I’ll come back to this local tavern for its soon-to-be-famous deep fried buffalo burger. That “soon-to-be-famous” part is really more of a pipe-dream, because it isn’t quite yet on the radar of the national food press. Maybe one of these days. For right now, it’s all ours. And I’m lucky to have it.
All of our coffee places! And each one has it’s own personality. Stacks is perfect for Lark Street. Superior Merchandise & Co. is just right for the arts scene. little pecks with its tile floor and pink espresso machine is filled with joy and delicious things from Greg K. Kru Coffee has a Saratoga Springs style, that brings big city standards to a small town setting. They all fill me with joy.
Beer. I’m going to butcher this quotation, but someone once said that the existence of beer is proof that God loves us. Not only do we have serious beer bars, but we have great beer stores. And even places that aren’t beer bars, and starting to bring in amazing bers. Did you see what Lucas Confectionery is tapping for Troy Night Out? And someone recently posted a pic of Grimm’s Lambo Door that they bought at a food court in Albany. That’s just nuts. But I’m looking forward to getting back into The Bier Abbey during Schenectady’s Wing Walk on Saturday. The City Beer Hall, Madison Pour House, The Hollow, Slidin’ Dirty, The Ruck, Albany Ale & Oyster (formerly The Beer Belly), The Gastropub, and others are knocking it out of the park.
Let’s hear it for comfort foods. Comfort Kitchen has those glorious house made tots. Ralph’s has my absolute favorite mozzarella sticks with melba sauce. Bella Napoli makes an incredible Boston cream donut. The Cookie Factory’s chocolate frosted donut is the standard all others should strive to achieve. And of course, my favorite donut in the entire Capital Region is the old fashioned at Schuyler bakery. As long as we’re on the subject of fried things, I can’t leave out the fried avocado (aka fravos) at Slidin’ Dirty.
Chinese food is mighty comforting too. Especially the rice rolls at Hong Kong Bakery and Bistro, the soup dumplings at Ala Shanghai, and the fried wheat collar with warm soy milk at Taiwan Noodle. The turnip cakes at Ocean Palace are also deeply soothing.
Can you be unhappy at a bright Yellow food truck called Eggy’s Place? I don’t think so. Especially not when he makes such an amazing bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. Man, it’s been too long since I’ve had one of those from Eggy.
And the list goes on and on.
This wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive list. Rather, my hope was that listing just a few of my favorites might pull me out of the dumps. There’s a lot of truly awful things going on in the world. Much of it is beyond our control. It’s good to remember to take joy where you can find it.
Sometimes one finds joy with friends and family. But you can also get it from a slice of pizza.