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The Beers Next Door

July 12, 2018

Not too long ago I walked into Westmere Beverage looking for a beer recommendation. I wanted a six pack of twelve-ounce cans. Something good, but not silly expensive. It needed to be refreshing enough for summer, and a beer I could enjoy without thinking too much about it.

Also known as a six-pack.

Beer is entering a strange era. It seems as if the end of the pool I’ve been playing in lately is filled with four-packs of sixteen-ounce cans. For my own sanity, I try not to look too closely at the prices. Some are more than $20. Most are less. But not much less. And I think Albany is incredibly lucky to have access to as many fantastic beers as we do.

Now, flashback to last week when I took a road trip up to Montreal for candy. I stopped at my old friend’s house in Burlington on the way back. And he took me to his local supermarket to check out the beer selection.

It was a category re-defining moment.

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Tools of Summer

July 11, 2018

It’s probably not a surprise that I define the seasons based on the foods I get to eat.

But time does this crazy thing the older I become. It just gets faster and faster. And even though I remember this past winter seemed to go on forever, there were still some winter foods that I never had the chance to enjoy.

Notably, I never made a batch of the most delicious split pea soup in the known universe. But I also never made a batch of bolognese. There was no chili. I didn’t make a single pot of red beans and rice.

Now summer is here. We put the regrets of the past behind. It’s time to embrace the season and enjoy as much as we can. Strawberries have been consumed with great gusto. Our CSA had its first fruit share today, and we received a basket of cherries.

As we approach the peak of summer, I wanted to take a moment and talk tools.

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Is It Homemade or Is It Memorex

July 10, 2018

If you live in the Capital Region, maybe you’ve heard that Grandma’s Pies & Restaurant is closing. This is the very last week for the decades-old Central Avenue institution.

For some, this is a tragic loss. I’ve heard it said it’s the end of an era.

Personally, I’m more concerned about the neighboring Parivar. While these two are separate businesses, Parivar is on the same property, and both buildings are for sale. Parivar is more up my alley. The kitchen there makes vegetarian South Indian street food, without pretense. It’s a cuisine I never expected to find in upstate New York when we moved here over a decade ago.

Pies? Great pies are everywhere. But the feelings people have about local businesses are just that. Feelings. Although in the last few days, there’s a thorny issue surrounding this beloved local business.

Were the pies actually homemade? A lot of people have their doubts.

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An Immigrant Nation

July 9, 2018

Where did your family come from?

Mine is from eastern Europe, but they have been here for awhile. Fortunately, my ancestors left before the Holocaust. But while Hitler’s Germany may have been the most efficient at slaughtering the Jews and other maligned populations of Europe, it wasn’t the first.

Earlier Jewish immigrants fled religious persecution and violence in their homelands. And they had to endure countless hardships, including further prejudice and discrimination in America.

It’s hard to imagine, especially living in New York, because Jews read largely as white. Italians are now white. Irish seem about as white as white can be. But this did not always used to be the case. We were all foreigners. We were all stereotyped. We were all reviled.

Well, maybe not the British. Except to the Native Americans. Who, incidentally, migrated here from the land bridge across Asia. Or at least that’s what I remember from my school days. The Dutch have always kept a low profile. And obviously, there’s a lot I’m leaving out.

So, what does any of this have to do with food?

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New York Love and Spirit

July 6, 2018

We live in a big, beautiful state. And it’s filled with good stuff.

There is nothing quite like leaving—even for a couple of days—to help remember the magnificence of New York. As the sun set in Burlington, and we watched it descend from the lake’s eastern shore, the Adirondacks dominated the skyline. Those are some majestic mountains. It’s an incredible view.

Just earlier in the day, we had been driving through that very same range. I love long drives. I love experiencing the distance between places, and watching the scenery change from region to region.

It was a poignant reminder of the size and beauty not just of New York, but the country as a whole. Part of me was looking for something to love, and I definitely found it.

Speaking of love, New York, and good stuff, I recently made a delicious discovery.

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Back in the US

July 5, 2018
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Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it’s good to be back home
~The Beatles

Canada is great, but it always feels good to come back home. Even after a quick lunch in Chinatown.

We got really lucky. When Little Miss Fussy and I pulled up to the dragon beard candy shop, they were pulling fresh morsels. That meant our first bite in Canada was exactly what we wanted. Then we made it into Maison Kim Fung and scored a dish of silken tofu pudding, which is now a favorite of both my daughter and myself. After walking off lunch, we went back to Chinatown for some sweet baked buns.

By that point, there was no more sugar being pulled into magical powder white threads. And sadly, one of our favorite bakeries was no longer in business. But you take the good with the bad.

It was hard to leave, with so much left uneaten, but that’s how it goes. Plus we needed to make it to Vermont for dinner and Maple Creemees with friends. Which brings us to today.

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Gone to Look for America

July 4, 2018

Sometimes you just need to hit the road.

If all goes according to plan, tonight I will celebrate our Independence Day with one of my childhood friends in Burlington, Vermont. But before then, I’m going to cross the border.

Have you ever had one of those experiences when something is going wrong, so you decide to leave the room, in the hopes that when you come back everything is better? Well, I think I’m going to try that. But with America.

I am just going to step out for a bit and clear my head. It reminds me of a song.

Actually, my plan in Montreal is even a bit more ridiculous. There is this ancient Chinese candy that Little Miss Fussy wants to try. So we’re going to drive four hours for a bite. I can’t wait to tell that to the border control officer. Read more…