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Growing a Wine Culture

June 28, 2019

The Capital Region isn’t quite the same heavy drinking place it may have been twenty years ago. I wasn’t here then, but I’ve heard stories. There’s a reason we have so many neighborhood taverns. And I’m not passing any judgement. I love these local places, where you can go to feed your soul, and warm your bones in the frigid depths of an Albany winter.

More than anything, we’ve got a beer culture. And it’s amazing. I have a hypothesis or two about how this relatively small part of upstate New York is able to get its hands on such amazing beers, but that’s a conversation for another time. Get yourself to one of our better breweries, beer stores, or beer bars, and prepare to be delighted.

However, after moving here from California, I was dismayed at the state of wine at our local wine bar, most of our better restaurants, and at our regional wineries themselves. We had no wine culture, and it showed. Okay, “no wine culture” may be a bit strong as dp’s was the notable exception. Plus the Fort Orange Wine Society was surely still carrying the flame.

Today, I’m thrilled to say we’re at a point of inflection.

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An Era Ends

June 27, 2019

Tomorrow is my last day with Yelp as Albany’s first Community Ambassador. It’s been one helluva ride, and to date, the most fun job I’ve ever had. There will be a new Community Ambassador coming soon, but before they can be announced, they have to be trained. And Yelp training includes being flown out to San Francisco to visit Yelp HQ and attend boot camp.

It’s a fantastic opportunity, and I remember my own boot camp experience fondly. There, I got to meet Community Ambassadors from smaller markets throughout the country, and learn more about the love they felt for their own hometowns, from El Paso to Kalamazoo. Over the years I’ve gotten to meet more of my colleagues from all around the country, and am delighted to consider many of them friends.

While I once was less enamored by small town America, through their eyes I’ve learned to see its charms.

As far as the work I did in the Capital Region, there were lots of ways that I was able to shine the white hot spotlight of Yelp on great local businesses. One of those ways was through Official Yelp Events. Some of you may have been able to attend these free outings, that focus on highlighting the specialties of each place.

But before I leave, I want to chronicle these on the blog for future reference. If you’re curious, the links go back to the Yelp pages for the event, so you can see pictures, and read some impressions of those who were lucky enough to make the guest list.

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Better Than Blaze

June 26, 2019

Last night we were evicted from our home. Maybe evicted is the wrong word. We’re selling the house, and we had to vacate the premisses for a showing around dinner time. Certainly, things could be worse than being forced to go out to eat on on Tuesday night.

And really, things are much much worse for so many people these days. But we’re going to focus on something positive on the blog today.

With my son away at camp, the door was open for us to take a trip to Blaze, which Mrs. Fussy enjoys. Even that might be the wrong word. It’s just that she can get a lot of vegetables and a little bit of cheese on a bespoke pizza, and that’s appealing. What’s less appealing to her is the interminable wait in the line. For me, it’s the noise, filth, and chaos of the place. Well, that and the underwhelming quality of the pizza.

However, I was willing to go for her sake, since our son always vetoes Blaze as an option. But even though we had some time to kill, Mrs. Fussy still wasn’t thrilled about facing the line, and opened up the door for us to grab a light meal from Marisa’s Place instead.

That was a great call.

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Utica Greens: Repetition and Variation

June 25, 2019

The other night I found myself talking about the Cobb salad on some Facebook group. A member had ordered the Cobb and felt shorted, because it didn’t come with what they felt was the full array of traditional toppings. However, when reading her complaint, even she didn’t include all of this salad’s ingredients.

There is a current notion that EAT COBB is good mnemonic device for remembering the salad’s components: egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon, and blue cheese. But there’s an argument to be made that the cheese should be roquefort. And some will say onions were not included in the original. These things get lost to time and are often apocryphal.

So what does it mean to leave one ingredient out of the dish? What are the implications of adding another. How much room is there for variation in a classic dish, which may itself have evolved over time? And what if the variation is even tastier than the original?

These are issues I struggle with all the time. Just last Friday, I found myself in Utica, staring down two plates of greens. One was a traditional preparation, and the other? Well, let’s just say the restaurant took some liberties.

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Driving Through Deliciousness

June 24, 2019

Today, my daughter is an only child. But it’s not just for today. It’s for the next three weeks while her brother is at sleep away camp. Yesterday, I was tasked with the drop off outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Because we’re gearing up for the move, I made the trip by myself. Besides, Little Miss Fussy wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of spending over twelve hours in the car over the course of two days, for the sake of her brother’s summer fun. Although, I did try to tempt her with promises of listening to the full Hamilton soundtrack multiple times on the drive home. And, of course, the assurance our adventure would be fueled by all kinds of deliciousness.

Still, her answer was no.

So yesterday, left to my own devices, I turned a six hour and twelve minute drive into a seven hour and twenty minute one. What made it a little easier is that there were a lot of stops. All told, fourteen hours elapsed from the time I set out, to the time I finally arrived home. But every stop along the way was filled with deliciousness.

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Utica to Pennsylvania to Delaware

June 21, 2019

You might think that as we’re trying to sell our house and pack up all our worldly possessions, it would be prudent to stay close to home and busy ourselves with the tasks at hand. But sometimes family calls, and you’ve got to hit the road.

So this weekend, I’ll be traveling. Actually the first of my travels start today. Next weekend I’ll spend out of the Capital Region too. Which isn’t to say I don’t have fun plans to share in the 518. I totally do, and in between trips, I’m hoping you will join me.

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Farm Food

June 20, 2019

When I first arrived in the Capital Region, I learned that we were surrounded by farms, and yet precious few of them were represented on local menus. These days, you can read a lot about restaurants who support the idea of using local produce when available, but in many ways that’s a cop-out. And then there’s the other story of restaurants that cite specific farms on their menus, but haven’t purchased anything from that farm in a long long time.

However, it’s encouraging to see the growth of food being prepared and sold directly on the farm. Nine Miles East built its business around seasonally inspired farm-made pizza, but has expanded to weekly dinners at Saratoga Apple. If you haven’t been, you owe it to yourself to go. And Indian Ladder Farms has been slowly and steadily improving and expanding its brewery and dining operations. The beer garden is an amazing place to eat, drink, and relax at foot of the Helderberg escarpment.

But today, I share news from two of my favorites that aren’t even out in the countryside. Forts Ferry Farm and Lansing Farm are right here. Just minutes off the Northway. And if you haven’t been following them closely, you may have missed some exciting news.

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