Monday, August 30, 2010

Our Great (Big, Fat) Escape

Not the only large round thing at the park.
So we went to the Great Escape yesterday for family day.  The weather was perfect and the boys are the ideal age for many of the attractions and the water park activities.  I think we were last there 2 years ago and there were a couple of new things my husband wanted to try - some water ride that looks like a huge striped toilet and a knock-off of Universal's Tower of Terror
elevator ride called the Sasquatch. 

Sweet ride, huh?
What?  But it looks so easy!


We arrived at 11 a.m., paid our $10 to park and then bought our way in to the tune of $137.  That was the price for three of us,  we had free admission tickets, carefully cut from cereal boxes, for our two younger boys.  Okay - let's have some fun!  First up was the antique car ride thing.  Insider tipIf you're looking for this ride it is really close to the smoking section that was so thoughtfully placed in close proximity to the children's rides.  The line was about 30 minutes long and would certainly have been shortened had the Great Escape folks repaired the 3 or 4 cars which were parked to the side seemingly out of commission.  No worries, the wait gave our middle son the opportunity to attempt climbing the rope ladder at an additional cost of $5.  

During all of this activity, the husband did laps between our location and the nearby Boomerang roller coaster, trying to get information about when that attraction would be running since it was not currently open.  The estimate was an hour, meaning 2+ hours after the park opened.  We moved on and headed over to the Ghost Town to give the log flume thing a whirl.

On our walk we couldn't help but notice how many of the park's visitors were overweight. I'm not talking about an extra 5 or 10 lbs, I'm talking about grossly, morbidly, tremendously obese - children as well as adults.  Unfortunately this condition only became more noticeable (unavoidable?) when we arrived at the Splashwater Kingdom area of the park.  I'm sorry.  I try to not be overly critical (although it is a part of my astrological make-up as a Virgo) but these people were hugely overweight and seeing children with stretchmarks just freaks me out.  Keep in mind that it was a hot day and it seemed as if the larger people were suffering in the heat even more than the folks of more moderate size. And, in all honesty, I was feeling a little angry at the clothing manufacturers who produce clothing items that reveal more than I want to see in a stranger.  I decided to relax and take a float in the Lazy River, however, there weren't nearly enough tubes for the number of people present, which annoyed me all over again.  If I were an emotional eater, I might have indulged myself in ice cream at this point, but I honestly don't know if I will ever be able to drop $4.99 for a small Ben & Jerry's.  Ever. 
It was really nice to cool off in the Lumberjack water area.  Too bad 2 of the 4 slides were unavailable.  I understand that staffing becomes an issue in late summer when many of the college student employees depart for campus, but, if you're giving me reduced attractions how about giving me a comparable reduction somewhere else?  We could start with the $36 for three orders of chicken tenders with (half-cooked) fries. We never made it into the Tidal Wave pool because each time we walked past it, they life guards didn't appear to be allowing anyone in.  It must have just been poor timing on our part, huh?

As the day wore on, we hit a couple of more rides before heading back to Albany for our date night at Cafe Capriccio, including the River Rapids, which was the perfect ride for our entire family, and the Ferris wheel.  It seemed like there were more rides that we didn't try than those we did manage to attempt and I completely lay the blame on the people who "run" this theme park.  The lines were ridiculous and I left with the pervasive feeling that there were not enough employees to supervise and maintain the attractions.  Period.  The next time Tom suggests we take the longer drive to Six Flags New England, I may actually acquiesce. 


I wished that I had thought to bring our trusty red wagon because I got tired of carrying all of our crap and lockers were not an option at these incredibly ridiculous prices.  Really? $16 to use a locker for the day?  Is that $480 a month?

You folks know that I will happily drop $300 on dinner for two, but paying $3.50 for a small water is offensive, in my opinion.  I also don't appreciate being solicited for vacation giveaways when I am arguably already "enjoying" leisure time.  That sense of being offended, unfortunately,  is what remains a day later.  That, and a deep regret that I agreed to return to the Great Escape in October for their Halloween Fright Fest.  Hopefully, the attractions and entertainment will manage to be more frightening than the park guests and prices.


Friday, August 27, 2010

5 Things I hadn't considered when I decided to have children...

I feel like I'm in a pretty good place with my family.  While it would have been interesting to experience parenting a daughter, I'm more than okay with the fact that I have 3 healthy, wanted boys.  There are some things, however, that I hadn't anticipated about being a parent.  Things like:
  • They would be such perceptive creatures and so willing to share their observations.  Especially about things like my roots showing and the zit that popped up (literally) on my chin.  Thanks, guys.  How about you go pick up from your bedroom floors the clothes you are apparently immune to noticing?
  • That the day would come when I would ask them how I rate on a scale of 1-10 as a Mom and feel challenged by my ratings (6.5 and 7.5) average of 7.  I was gratified to learn that I earned big points for "taking us to cool places," and secretly pleased that I lost points for "being embarrassing."  What can I say?  It is such a typical, traditional parent thing to do that I find it funny.
  • There would be occasions when I would mentally call my children names not to be shared here.  Parents - use your imagination.
  • How funny kids are and the way their laughter is infectious.  And how pleased I would be knowing they share private jokes among themselves.
  • The consistent and reliable response my body evokes when I imagine something happening to one of my children - bottom dropping out of stomach, blurred vision complete with tear-filled eyes, immediate clamminess... Being a parent truly is like having a vital organ living outside of your body.
Parents - what has surprised you about parenthood?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

51 Park

Although I didn't personally lose anyone on September 11th, 2001, I did lose a piece of myself.  A sense of safety and security, which I had been afforded in my position as an American citizen, was stripped from me that day, and I will never forget the reluctance I felt to close my eyes that night, and for many subsequent nights, because all I could see were the towers falling, falling, falling.  My husband and I had spent our anniversary, the previous week, in Battery Park and were so impressed with the liveliness of the neighborhood in an area known in earlier years as purely the Financial District.  That Labor Day weekend, it was a hub of activity with recreational ballfields in use, cyclists and families filling the pathways and a real sense of community present.  Beautiful.

The days following the terrorist attacks remain, for me, a blur of silent skies and roads filled with trucks pulling huge generators southbound.  I've met people in subsequent years who were much more directly involved with the events and their aftermath, NYC firefighters who can't sleep unless they pass out from alcohol consumption, individuals who lost loved ones, and I've imagined on many occasions the void thousands of families have suffered and my heart breaks for them.

I don't often delve into the political here, but there's this situation which keeps escalating that I'm struggling with - this whole 51 Park thing in New York City, aka the Muslim Mosque or Community Center.  I think I understand the argument that just because "they" can build it  "they" shouldn't because it is disrespectful.  Build it someplace else, opponents say, a location not sacred, somewhere more appropriate - 2 full city blocks away from the perimeter of the World Trade Center site is not distant enough.  Permitting an extremist training camp (really?!) to be built in the shadow of the towers is perceived as an affront to families still raw from their losses nearly a decade later.  My concern, however, about what is being taught is directed more towards what our politicians, our media and our religious and educational institutions, are teaching our citizens.

Yesterday an intoxicated man entered a Mosque in Queens shouting racial insults and urinated on sacred prayer rugs.  Earlier in the week a 21 year-old man in NYC repeatedly stabbed a cab driver after confirming that he was, in fact, Muslim.  Isn't it possible that the  the construction of a community center, which is to be available to all, could improve relations rather than contribute to this escalation of violence we are currently experiencing?  Wouldn't this new building project be a positive contribution to NYC's economic woes?  And, can't we , as a nation, as a community, try to understand that an anti-Muslim stance benefits no one - other than the extremists grasping for validation for their views?  And the politicians trying to corrupt our intelligence by promoting fear as an ideology, of course.

I can't say it any better than this, but I certainly am receptive to hearing your perspective.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tongue Diving with Adam Lambert

I watch American Idol.  There - I said it.  It may in fact be a reality show, on a network that can not distinguish the difference between bonafide news and propaganda, but it is something I can watch with the boys and be reasonably entertained.  Yesterday afternoon I went down to Dale Miller for a Meet & Greet with Season 8's runner-up, Adam Lambert, who was performing Monday night at the Palace Theater in Albany.  I've never attended a M&G and was unsure what to expect.  I'm not really into "bothering" celebrities and don't understand the value of an autograph or a photo taken with someone famous, but, in my continuing attempt to bring you all interesting material, the Nikon and I went.  

NOT Adam Lambert!
A real fan and her Adam photos


The restaurant had put out a lunch buffet for the 60 or so attendees, and everyone filled the time eating and chatting with the friendly on-air personalities and staff from Fly 92, the promoters of the event.  Of course, Adam was late arriving and I had to re-feed the meter more than once, but I'm glad I stuck it out.  He was really warm and funny and came across in person exactly how he had on Idol.  The radio folks did a little interview and I was introduced to a new term which Adam had apparently coined a few days previously via Twitter: TongueDiving.  It seems that while performing in Providence (not Provincetown, but it probably would have been an equally receptive crowd), Adam had swapped some spit with a couple of concert goers during an instrumental interlude.  

Comparing hair with someone from Fly 92.
After the show, Adam tweeted that "TongueDiving is the new StageDiving,"  starting an outcry about appropriateness and acceptable performer behavior.  Oh, please, I'm sure the recipients of his enthusiastic affectionate attention weren't complaining. One of the funniest exchanges during yesterday's interview occurred when the djs grilled Adam on which celebrities he would be interested in practicing  this Tonguediving on -  Susan Boyle (no), Gaga (yes!), Tom Petty (no)... Adam's response to TongueDiving Justin Beiber was priceless, "No!  He's too young.  His tongue still needs training wheels." 

I didn't stick around to get my photo taken with him, but I am glad I went, if only to ear his sincere appreciation for the architecture of the Empire State Plaza.  I believe he used the word "fabulous," or maybe "fantastic" to describe our ESP.  It was definitely an "F" word and I know it wasn't the same one I use when I am forced to cross the frozen tundra of the plaza in the middle of winter to get to the Egg.

Did any of you go to the show last night?  Here's Steve Barnes' review from the Times-Union.  Looks like the attendees have some strong feelings about Adam, and last night's show, and are not afraid to express them.

Tasting Tuesday - August 24, 2010

The theme for tonight's bi-weekly Tasting Tuesday at Dale Miller Restaurant is "An American Affair." As always, the wines featured were carefully selected by Tom, and he has included a couple of my favorites.

Pacific Rim Riesling, 'Organic,' Columbia Valley, WA, 2008 
Have you had this before?  It was originally a Bonny Doon product but it looks like Randall Graham spun this popular bottling off to some former employees who moved the operations from California to Washington.  A lovely, drinkable wine that goes really well with fish and spicy food.

Four Vines 'Naked" Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, CA, 2008
100% Stainless steel for those of us who prefer to not drink wood.

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier, CA, 2008I am convinced that more people would order viognier if they were more comfortable pronouncing it - (vee-ohn-yay).  This wine was selected by Robert Parker as one the top 50 super domestic value wines for their 2008 vintage.

Gary Farrell Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA, 2006 
The Wine Spectator gave this vintage an 87, perhaps not the strongest bottling from Gary Farrell, but I think it would be lovely with lamb or salmon nonetheless.

Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel, Arroyo Canyon, CA, 2006
It looks like zinfandel is what the Saucelito canyon folks specialize in.  On an overcast August evening, this might be just the ticket to help ease me into autumn.

Selby Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, CA, 2006
Susie (yeah, I've met her, I can call her Susie.  Actually everyone calls her Susie) made 2000 cases of this Cabernet and released it last August.  She is an incredibly thoughtful winemaker and I enjoy her wines, which I think she makes in a perfectly balanced feminine/masculine style I'm going tonight to drink taste this wine specifically.

Hedges Red Mountain '3 Vineyards' Red Mountain District, Washington, 2005
This is considered by some to be Hedges' flagship bottling.  Primarily Cabernet and Merlot with a bit of Cabernet Franc, this should be drinking really well.  Another reason to love Washington State.  

So, you know where I'll be tonight - why don't you join me?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Three Little Words

What more could you want?
There's something about a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich...the way the clearly identified ingredients come together in a harmony of flavors that more than multiplies those three simple items into a symphony of taste.  The possible variations on these specified ingredients are seemingly limited only by imagination.   Have you seen the one they're serving at dp?  Or did you realize that an entire cookbook was devoted to this sandwich dubbed "America's Favorite?"  There must be something going on this week, perhaps the moon is at  a nearly full phase mimicking a huge tomato in the sky, because even Daniel over at the Fussy Little Blog has had BLTs  on his mind. 

I probably  eat only one or two of these exclusively summer sandwiches a year.  I don't know if the rarity of my eating a BLT is more a function of when I have the components on hand in their optimum state or, an unconscious impulse to limit my consumption to preserve their elevated status as seasonal treats.  Sometimes limiting access keeps things special, don't you think?  

Well, yesterday was my day to indulge and I may need to change my tune regarding frequency of BLT gratification - how could I ever become immune to the charms of the BLT?  Crunchy, whole grain toast, between a smear and a dollop of mayonnaise, crisp, warm bacon, thickly sliced tomato lavishly seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper and bright green arugula - one of the most masterful assemblies of fundamental ingredients ever.  Go make one.  Right now.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Who are you, DelSo reader?

If you would indulge me by taking a brief (5 question) survey, I would appreciate it.  I've been growing this blog for about 9 months now and am curious to know who is reading.  Thanks!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Madison-Bouckville Outdoor Antique Fair

image from bouckvilleantiqueshows.com
It's not like I need an excuse to hit the road, but the proximity of this antique fair to my brother's house provided an easy opening, or out, as the case may be.  I do not consider myself an antique-y sort of girl, but I was positively awestruck by this place and the treasures it held.  "Treasures," by the way, was the word, Lisa, my passenger on this adventure, and I agreed upon as our code word to pull the car over if she wanted to investigate one of the satellite yard/barn/garage sales as we approached the main sales area.  I don't like people yelling at me when I drive and would not have been comfortable with my copilot yelling "Stop!" or "Oh, my God!!" each time she wanted to check something out.   Feel free to file this Silvia tidbit in a useful place for future reference.
                                    
Check out the flour dispenser -
built right in!
This goes perfectly
in my dream kitchen
Unfortunately, I hadn't anticipated how much I was going to enjoy the whole scene and hadn't allotted enough time to adequately explore the acres and acres of merchandise, but, we did find some awesome things.   I didn't take photos of anything we actually purchased, (no reason  for Lisa's husband to know exactly what she bought, right?), but here are a couple of snaps of things we regrettably left behind.  It was certainly a good plan to drive my wagon instead of Lisa's Bug - the back of my car ultimately held two totally sweet more-than-slightly neglected wooden chairs, a completely cool bird cage with stand, and some small shelf-space worthy tchotchkes.  And a hot, (not really) vintage dress, for me.  This Fair is without a doubt on our calendars for Summer 2011  - meet me there.

Country Eggs Benedict at the Old Tymes Cafe

Just off of Route 20, east of Syracuse
Hello, heart attack
There's this little joint, just southeast of my brother's place outside of Syracuse, that is the real deal.  Cash only, lots of regulars, good coffee, and hearty food served fast and hot - the perfect place for a breakfast or lunch when we're taking the "slow" way home.  Despite my being filled with disdain regarding the September issue of Food & Wine and its unyielding focus on Southern cuisine, a menu item here caught my eye - Country Eggs Benedict.  Although I don't usually order this sort of thing, I was intrigued...English muffins, topped with sausage patties and poached eggs drowned in sausage gravy.  This was definitely something I wasn't ever making at home.  I threw caution to the wind, glad that I had worn a skirt with a (previously) loose waistband, and ordered this new-to-me version of one of my favorite morning meals.  Holy crap!  I've never had a breakfast that I could have  so easily shared.  I know the photo isn't great (I feel a little self-conscious whipping the Nikon out sometimes) because I used my crackberry, but the plate was lumberjack massive.  Sadly enough, I ate only one of the two eggs and barely put a dent into the perfectly prepared, crispy home-fries before admitting defeat.  The good news, though, is that we're heading back to Syracuse at the end of the month for the State Fair.  And I know Liam, who loves breakfast sausage, is going to be as excited as I am to share this previously unimagined riff on Eggs Benedict.

Le Canard Enchaine - Kingston

Long lasting friendship can often be a testament to finding a middle ground.  When friends live 2 hours from one another, finding a middle ground takes on an entirely new, literal meaning.  With my oldest girlfriends living in Orange County, and me here in Albany, we have many years experience meeting in the middle.  After exploring places like New Paltz, Woodstock and Rhinebeck, our rendezvous, like our friendship, continue to bring us to new places to reconnoiter.  Those French words were a clue as to where we most recently found ourselves....Le Canard Enchaine in Kingston.  

I must admit, I never made it to the Albany outpost of this restaurant and after our experience at the original location this week, I regret it.  Fortunately, I can be at the Kingston spot in less than an hour and, unlike the Albany location, this one is in a cool, walkable historic location.   I just can't warm up to that Quackenbush House locale, sorry. 
Revolution couple
Historic Landmark Church
Enticing sidewalk



Beautiful firehouse, but still not Hook & Ladder #4
Impressive, right?


















We were a few minutes early for our reservation so we took a little walk around the block.  This area is really interesting with the original New York State Capital nearby and other places I'd like to spend more time poking around.  an aside:  is it just me or is Cappy Weiner one of the funniest names ever? I apologize for my juvenile sense of humor but, in my defense, I do live in a house filled with males.
 
(No offense to Cappy intended.  Please don't sue me)

Entering the restaurant was a bit like going into a cave - and not in a bad way.  A heavy curtain separates the entry from the bar area and seems to preserve a smell I typically associate with pubs, kind of smoky but in an inoffensive way.  We were greeted by the bartender and shown to a table in an adjoining room, not quite next to the window, but close enough to catch the evening's waning light as our dinner progressed.  The menu offered quite a few options including a 3-course meal, with a glass of house wine, for $30.  Wednesday was also Pasta Night and there was some sort of deal involving salad, pasta and a bottle of Chianti for the ridiculous price of $25 (per person?? for two??) was available and seemed to be a popular choice.

Of course, we girls did things our own way.  I started with a salad Lyonnaise (Boston lettuce, potatoes, bacon, hard boiled egg), which was delicious and substantial.  It was perfect for swapping back and forth with Virginia, who had ordered (fantastic) pate',  while Mary Lynn enjoyed her bowl of creamy mushroom soup (du jour).

For entrees we selected the mussels (Les Moules Mariniรจres), the Beef Short Ribs and an evening's special, Shrimp Indochine.  The mussels were everything I want in a mussel - clean, tender and plentiful.  I loved that our server brought additional crusty bread without prompting because, in my world, soaking up the broth is a big part of mollusk eating joy.  A general note about the server - she was in the weeds and, once she sussed out our timing and realized we were there to visit and laugh and eat, she relaxed knowing that we required little attention.  Her sophistication about dining was definitely trumped by her sincere enthusiasm and respect for the food, which always works for me.  Virginia's short ribs were a generous portion, tender, and served with a wonderful Merlot reduction atop a mound of sweetened orange root vegetables (carrots? potatoes?).  The shrimp special was served skewered and served with a Thai influenced sauce - there was a little zip to the sauce and the shrimp were perfectly cooked.  No misses in our selections.

We shared a couple of desserts - an apple tatin and a slice of lemon pie.  The apples were gorgeous - brown with caramelization and tender without being mush.   The lemon pie, decorated with vertically placed squiggles (technical term - ha!) of chocolate, was the perfect dessert for a person who wants the refreshing qualities of citrus but also the indulgent sensation of chocolate.  Delicious. The food was really, really solid - defining French country fare beautifully and I am saddened anew that this place couldn't make a go of it in Albany.  And, I am eternally grateful that, despite miles of distance and years of life, my girlfriends and I continue to make our friendship work. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A to Z in the Delso, Part IV

Finally - a conclusion to the alphabet.  You knew it was coming and where it was going to end, so, without further ado, I bring you R-Z.

In the DelSo we Recycle.  It makes it really weird when we visit places that don't recycle.  Really weird.

I can't say I've gotten any Shoes here.  Yet. 
Although I'm past that "going out and drinking too much and then eating whatever crap is available" stage of life, I'm sure some DelSo-ites take advantage of the Taco Bell option.

The hours are a little odd, but we've still got a U.S. Post Office.
Terrific Vietnamese food and have you tried their amazing coffee??
Turducken sandwich?  Fried chicken and waffles?  Yes, please, Wine n Diner!

X

I've got nothing...other than taxi service and Stanwix Street.  X-cuse me.



Yoga - check out the Sunday Sadhana, 9:30 - 11, rotating teachers,
class fees donated to various charities.  Feel good all over!
Zinnias!!  They seem to be the flower of choice this year and look at these beauties.


Grilled Eggplant - ground zero for good summer eating

I had the hugest eggplant, perhaps ever, in my refrigerator just waiting for the right moment to be introduced to the grill.  This morning, in anticipation of an afternoon spent poolside in the Berkshires, turned out to be the perfect time to get those two together.  I don't know if you grill eggplant, but you should.  I do know that you know, I have no formal training in cooking (unless you count high school home-ec courses, which is what we called them in the 80's) but, I've learned that eggplant likes to be cooked at a fairly high temperature and grilling releases a lot of pent up flavor and moisture in this beautiful, but sometimes misunderstood, vegetable.

When I roasted those tomatoes last week I didn't consider tossing the remaining flavored olive oil knowing it would be put to good use in a yet unimagined way.  A couple of tablespoons of it tossed with chunks of mozzarella, grape tomatoes and corn shaved off the cob, made a perfect light dinner the other night.  I still had about 1/3 of a cup of it left so I decided to use it to baste my eggplant.  I sliced the eggplant fairly thick, perhaps 1/2" to 3/4,"  and placed it dry (no basting yet) on a fairly hot grill - 400 degrees.  I grilled both sides dry for about 4 minutes and then  brushed the tops lightly with the rosemary-garlic olive oil, grilling another 3 minutes on each side.  Maybe I turned them another time, I kind of lost track in my morning pre-coffee fog.  It really isn't important - cook them until they are a softness that you like, keeping in mind that you may want to assemble them into something that requires additional cooking (pizza topping, warm napoleon with goat cheese and roasted red peppers) and  wouldn't want them to be mushy.  Unless you like your eggplant that way, of course. 

After I placed my circles of eggplant love on a platter, I thought about all the different ways they could be enjoyed...chopped with other grilled vegetables and rolled in tortillas, layered with pesto, grilled zucchini and mozzarella in a tower of summer delight, smeared with hummus and tahini and stuffed into warm pita bread with some feta,  sliced on a salad with olives and lemon, topped with slices of tomatoes and mozzarella and then broiled for a completely easy bastardized eggplant parmigiana... Get yourself an eggplant and get inspired.  And don't forget to share!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A to Z in the DelSo, Part III

Believe me, I am not trying to milk this A to Z thing, I was just buying myself some time to figure out what to do about some of those challenging letters, like O and K and X.  No worries - I've got it all worked out and will speed things up a bit.  It's not like I'm overly interested in the alphabet, despite what you might expect from a librarian, and I should be to Z in no time.  And Z was really easy, for the record.

Sam's Italian American Restaurant - You know I like this place and there's a reason they've been doing their thing for more than 40 years.  Have you tried that weeknight special yet?



There seem to be lots of supporters of Judge Heath-Roland.  I'm no expert, but I have met her and she seems lovely.  Good luck in the September primary, Judge!

Norman's Kill - where dogs swim and gardens grow.  Need more info?  Check here.
Fortunately, my Laundromat days are over, but proximity to one certainly was a consideration for many years.  Imagine if they gussied this one up a bit?
Totally cool Movies like these at the Spectrum. 'Nuff said, but we can talk snack bar if you'd like.

I know everyone is all about the food, but how about the wonderful bartending skills of Nick and Kevin?  That's what keeps us hitting up this place on our way home. New World, thank you for coming to our neighborhood.

Oh, no!  Guess what is missing from the Delso?  Trashcans.  Maybe we can pair them with those awesome new crosswalks?

Another new spot coming to the DelSo in the old Vinnie's Pizza location.  The space is looking good and I'm looking forward to trying Pizzalo when they're open for biz.
Quinn - every neighborhood should have one, but stop at one.  Trust me.