Olde York Farm [Claverack, NY]

This past weekend was hectic – not necessarily a lot on the schedule, but small things that added up to a lot of time. Errands, yard work, and picking up chairs from an hour and half away.

The bonus of that last part was a visit to Olde York Farm Distillery’s tasting room. I had tried some of their liquors months ago at the Hudson Berkshire Wine and Food Festival and ended up falling in love with their Cacao Maple Vodka. When we were back in that area and looking for a break between some distance highway driving, I used it as a great excuse to finally let Mister try some of their stuff [since I had hoarded the vodka in secrecy].

034.JPG It was pretty chilly and the sun had only just starting peeking out at around 2:30, so a drink sounded perfect. While I had been following the farm on Instagram for months after meeting them at the festival, this was the first time actually visiting the tasting room.

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Perfection.

Aesthetically, the bar is exactly what it should be; cozy, inviting, rustic with a slight industrial lean, and filled with touches that make it feel incredibly one of a kind and familiar at the same time.

When we first walked in, the bar itself was pretty crowded, but it cleared out by the time we were leaving about an hour or so later. There was still plenty of room, and one of the guys from behind the bar brought some menus to us super quick. There is a full cocktail menu, as well as beer and wine. You can also sample their different whiskeys, bourbon, vodkas, and liquors at no charge.

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I selfishly picked two drinks before Mister had a chance to provide input:

  • Hot Toddy: mulled peach whiskey, honey, lemon, hot water, cinnamon
  • Sugar Shack Old Fashioned: Smoked maple bourbon, bruleed maple sugar, peach bitters, luxardo cherry, orange peel

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This hot toddy was exactly what I needed and wanted; if I could’ve jumped right into that mug it would’ve happened. It was warm, smooth, and gave me just enough buzz to make Sunday feel like Sunday. It smelled like something warm from the oven, and tasted like everything that is good and right with the world. I’m not exaggerating, not even a little.

Mister’s old fashioned was on par, and I’m thankful he liked it more than the hot toddy so I didn’t have to share.

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We were able to unwind, enjoy some drinks, get some dog cuddles in and felt genuinely renewed. I really debated even posting about Olde York Farm, because I want it to stay exactly what it is; but I also want to share the experience with everyone else. What an odd feeling.

If you happen to see them out at a fair/festival/farmer’s market, grab some of their unique spirits- but if you’re in the area, definitely go for their cocktails.  If you’re not from the area, they’re also an AirBnB site, so if you want to drive out to Columbia County, or don’t want to drive home after too many drinks, you can stay right on site.

 

 

 

 

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South Carolina Getaway [Part 1]

Mister and I made it back from South Carolina just as the latest snow storm was hitting New York. It wasn’t the welcome back we were looking forward to, but after 8 days of traveling around it felt good to be snuggled up with our dogs on a cozy snow day.

This was part vacation, part family visit, and part Mister’s birthday present; we went to visit his parents [who split their time between Binghamton, NY and Surfside Beach, SC], with an added stop in Charleston to visit a friend while taking advantage of the cheaper flights through their versus Myrtle Beach.

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We ended up in downtown Charleston pretty late on Wednesday, and I was excited to see everything but also hungry and tired – add that to the fact that it was way colder than we were anticipating and I was getting a little bit cranky.

Mister spotted Poogan’s Smokehouse and it was exactly what we I needed.

Local IPA’s, live music, smokey pork belly, and a pile of BBQ. Two sticky thumbs up.

The next morning I made a quick trip to a local supermarket for yogurt, fruit, and muffins that made an easy breakfast. My biggest budget travel tip for anyone is don’t go to a restaurant for every meal – buy like you would at home. Bananas were a cheap snack that we could take with us, and smaller things like a box of granola bars and bringing reusable water bottles meant the snack/water break costs didn’t add up as fast.

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On our way from Charleston to Surfside Beach, we stopped at Drayton Hall. I’ve always had a love for visiting historic sites – particularly homes. Coming from New York, plantation houses have always been sort of a fascinating existence within the realm of history and Hollywood. While they are always associated with the dark history of human enslavement, they are also landmarks of a way of life, an era of American history, and a display of a culture I havn’t really gotten to “touch” in person before.

Drayton Hall is incredible in the sense that it is entirely preserved rather than restored. The building hasn’t been turned into a Disneyland approximation of how grand southern life was; its a house that holds so much history that even the vacant rooms breathe whispers of the lives that have passed through.

The preservation versus restoration issue was something that Mister didn’t quite understand; and coming from a History/Public History background, I wasn’t sure if it was something that didn’t really make sense to everyone else as well.

Preserve: They do the minimal amount necessary to maintain the house exactly as it was when it became a historic site. They interpret the paint colors as they were found, instead of repainting the house the original color from the first moment of construction. They point out where the outbuildings once stood, instead of rebuilding them for an easier tour.

Restoration: Bringing the building back to the way it looked when first built, or back to a specific time period. This includes furnishings being brought in or custom made, sometimes costumed interpreters, and often times erasing the changes that were made over time.

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Whenever visiting a historic site of this magnitude, I relish the opportunity to consider who built this house. Why? How? Where did the wood come from? Who made the bricks? Why was the house built in this exact place?

Imagine the first owners crossing the threshold. The last family to run down the stairs. The first tourists to open the door.

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After a few hours spent taking the formal tour and walking the grounds, we had to switch cars and found ourselves looking for food outside of town, in a highly commercialized area. It wasn’t looking promising.

I pulled up Yelp and did some serious reading before finding Boxcar Betty’s. Perfection. Small menu, specializing in chicken; fast, cheap, good.

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Museum of the Month: February

This year, Mister and I have decided to visit one New York City area museum per month – in an effort to get out and do more, but also to help Mister really feel more a part of the area. This is also a vaguely selfish plan: I have a Master’s in Public History, aka I specialized in museum studies. Museums are my thing, so this is a way to get Mister more into them. Hopefully.  I planned out a schedule of 12 museum/sites, and so far we’ve been two for two.

In January we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a quick stop at the Cloisters on our way home.  This was a huge hit – full suits of armor, incredible artwork, mummies.

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One really important thing to note about *most* NYC museums – the admission fees are “suggested donation amounts.” What that means, is that while it says $25 per person admission, you can still pay $1 and get the same ticket.

February, I kept up the theme of the big classics by choosing the Museum of Natural History.   Not at big of a hit, I’ll be honest. The first floor felt crazy dated, but thats almost part of the appeal of the place in a way. The dinosaurs were pretty cool. But I mean, how many bone displays can you look at with awe? No, maybe just me?

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Of course all the dinosaur spotting paired with the rainy weather made me want a snack before we headed back home.

A quick Yelp search gave us Levain Bakery  , which ended up being on the block between the museum and our car.

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There was no line when we walked in to get cookies, but while we were sitting inside eating them, the line backed up long enough to just about hit the door. Luck was definitely on our side that afternoon.

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We sort of panic ordered – thats where we see a short menu and just yell things out without any discussion. Mister got the walnut chocolate chip, I got the dark chocolate peanut butter.

These are big, [under baked] gooey, bites of cookie goodness. First bite verdict: dark chocolate peanut butter was way better. Last bite verdict: walnut chocolate chip was better. Thankfully we had a bottle of water with us, because that dark chocolate monster was so rich it was almost hard to get down after a few bites.

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I mean, I’m not complaining about either cookie. Trust me, these were both intensely good. If you’re going to share, go for the dark chocolate; otherwise stick with a classic.

We paid $5 per person museum admission, parked for free on the street, and treated ourselves to cookies afterwards.  It was a pretty fun rainy day date for just about $20.  I call that a win.

Sur La Table: Pasta Reinvented

For my birthday, my sister in law gifted me a cooking class at Sur La Table. After a few back and forths, we nailed down a date and class that worked with both of our schedules.

We met up at The Westchester location, which is between where she lives in CT and my house in lower Westchester. We didn’t plan on the class starting at the same time the mall opened, so we had to do a few laps to kill time before we got started.

I had taken cooking class in Albany with Chef Gio while living in Albany [highly recommend for all levels of cooking!!] but hadn’t taken any cooking classes at a more commercial type setting.  The kitchen set up at Sur La Table was impressive, and the chef we had as an instructor was great at keeping things moving while entertaining us on a Saturday morning.

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We definitely started off on the right foot with complimentary cappuccinos and focaccia. Since the class started at 10am, it was the perfect timing for a pick me up.

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One thing about the kitchen that was really well thought out – there was an angled mirror above the chef’s work station so that the whole room could see what was going on without straining to peer around or stand on their tip toes. We were lucky to be part of a small class [ 8 people total], but it still felt very Food Network.

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The title of the class was Pasta Reinvented – meant to be twists on traditional pasta dishes.

Menu: Sweet Potato Gnocchi & Hazelnut Gremolata – Corn Flour Pappardelle & Slow-Cooked Beef Rib Ragu – Caesar Pasta Salad with Anchovy Croutons

Class Description: Bored with boxed noodles? Rethink pasta—put a delicious twist on classic gnocchi and use corn to create a classic pappardelle with an alternative flour. Plus, we’ll show you how to add depth of flavor with easy braising techniques and round out the meal with a jazzed-up Caesar salad.

I learned a great tip for how to hold my knife the right more correct way when chopping – and it was really interesting to go through some basic prep for each dish. It was definitely a hands on class, with lots of time for questions.

The most surprising thing about the class, was what I ended up liking the most; while I started the class really interested in the short rib ragu – it was a tie between the gnocchi and the ceasar for my favorite.

The Chefstructor [yes I made that up] wasn’t shy to explain that he didn’t create the recipes, and he would’ve thickened the ragu up more. That was one of the biggest differences between going to a more commercialized class like this Sur La Table class sponsored by Kitchenaid versus an independent class like Chef Gio. With Chef Gio – they were his recipes that he tweaked, and he was showing you exactly what he recommended and how to duplicate it. This class, however, was more of a direct cookbook demonstration with some expert level instruction.

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The corn pappardelle was a miss for me, but maybe would be popular for someone maintaining a gluten free diet. It was too dense and for some reason reminded me of a soup noodle in a bad, off-brand freeze dried soup mix.  I can’t really pin point that correlation though.

029.JPGI almost don’t want to admit how many serving spoonfuls of this Caesar salad I had. The dressing was made fresh in a blender [so easy, I will actually try this soon], while the oil from the anchovies was used to make the croutons. I said it at least five times while eating, but I want to eat this for lunch every day. Forever. It was so light, and crunchy, and had so much flavor without any salt or pepper being added anywhere.

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Then there was the sweet potato gnocchi with hazelnut gremulata. I don’t even know what gremulata means. But I like saying it over and over again because this dish was everything. Sister and I agreed this would be an epic Thanksgiving sidedish. Sage and sweet potato gnocchi broiled under cheese and topped with a combination of hazelnuts, parsley, and parmesan.  It was savory, melty, not too sweet or salty, crunchy bits.  All that aside, as a bonus its a pretty gorgeous dish.

I’m so excited that I gifted Mom a class for the holidays as well – so I’m excited to see what she picks for us to try. As a little reward for paying to take these classes, Sur La Table offers a 10% discount on anything in the store for a few days after you take the class. We definitely took advantage stocking up on a few gadgets we had used during the class [ hello lemon squeezer!], and I picked up a magnetic timer that I’m already in love with. So win win!

Mr. and Mrs. Valentine

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day – and I don’t know why, but I love celebrating holidays. Even the ones that people say are fake or too commercialized; what is so wrong about sharing love and appreciating who we having in our lives? Especially after hearing about the tragedy in Florida – take a moment to appreciate who you have.

I started the day early with an at home yoga session [as part of my 30 day yoga journey].  I even treated myself to a new yoga mat this week as a form of some self love. I read a quote on social media that has been resonating with me,  “you can’t fill from an empty cup”. Take care of yourself, put on your own oxygen mask first.

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After yoga I put in a donut order via the Dunkin Donuts app. They were actually running a special on Valentine’s Day for bonus points if you ordered a dozen donuts. I’m not sure if all locations are as efficient, but the one closest to my house was impressive. I walked in, grabbed the waiting box of donuts, and walked out.  They even apologized that one of the donuts I had requested wasn’t available – so they threw in two donuts of their choice to replace it.

Look at all those happy hearts and sprinkles.  How can you be upset when you start your work day with a heart shaped donut?

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They aren’t healthy, they aren’t home made, they aren’t gourmet. But they’re happy and fun and sometimes you have to eat the heart shaped donuts with pink frosting because its Valentine’s Day.

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Then came the main event. Dinner.

This was our first Valentine’s Day as husband and wife. I wanted to make a big deal about it. I set the table, used candles from our wedding ceremony and glasses from my Grandparents.

The night before I picked up filet mignon, cocktail shrimp, asparagus, and potatoes from the Fresh Market. Everything was an expensive splurge and it made me feel even happier that we’re in a situation where we can afford to indulge ourselves.

Mister wore a tie, I wore heels. We sipped wine, exchanged presents. It was exactly what we wanted it to be.

The meat was under cooked after our first attempt, but we figured it out together after some combined online searches. It was so incredibly tender and definitely worth the splurge.

I had even planned for a dessert of cheesecake and strawberries, but after everything we snuggled up on the couch with wine and a box of chocolates.

Here’s to Valentine’s Day. To love. To newlyweds, to families, to laughter, to happily ever after. Eat your donuts, share a meal, take some time. And always fill your own up first.

New Gym Connundrum

This isn’t about food. I’m sorry in advance if that’s a problem.

The long weekend of New Years Eve started with a visit to a newly opened gym, so see if I could get back in the groove of working out regularly in a gym. This was in part due to the New Year push everyone falls into – partially due to the slump I’ve fallen into recently.

While in Albany, I worked out as regularly as possible at a close-ish, franchised gym that was reasonable priced, had plenty of parking, and had classes. Unfortunately, in Westchester – that sort of gym doesn’t seem to exist. Or at least I havn’t found it yet.

For a while, I was working out at Blink Fitness across the street from my office in the Bronx. This meant leaving for work an hour earlier, showering at the gym and eating breakfast at my desk. It was a routine I actually found that worked pretty well for me but there were some issues; the gym is very small, the weight equipment was always crowded with some intimidating groups (not the friendliest neighborhood), they didn’t have any sort of classes or really enough room to try new things. When Mister moved from Albany to Westchester, we shared a portion of our commute which meant that early mornings weren’t an option anymore and I cancelled my membership.

That was just about a year ago and since then, I have worked with a personal trainer in a private gym regularly, tried Soul Cycle classes sparingly (too expensive), tried one Barre Class (too intimidating), a handful of yoga classes (couldn’t find any that fit my schedule and were within my budget).

Lately, for the most part, I work out in my basement. We invested in a second hand elliptical a few months ago, I have two sets of weights, and a kettlebell. Motivation, and the cold, are my biggest hurdles now. The basement ceiling is too low for the elliptical, so we have to keep it in the garage. The unheated garage.

For reference it was 8 degrees when I woke up this morning. Thats about 30 degrees too cold to be working out in the unheated garage. Thats not to say I don’t do it – but I’m finding a hard time staying consistent.

When I pay for classes, I feel committed to going. But the cost adds up and I lose enthusiasm. For at home, I’ve tried the Beachbody workouts, and on demand – I don’t really have the space in our basement to be jumping around that much and try to stick to strength based workouts.

Suggestions? Great class recommendations? At home workouts worth the money? Motivation?

Oh and yes I did check out that new gym. The traffic getting there from the office, and the traffic getting home, were terrible. Like I would never want to be driving in that direction.

As if that wasn’t enough, all of the amenities advertised weren’t available yet;  i.e. the pool/sauna/steam room level weren’t set to be finished for a few months. But the gym bills itself as having those amenities, and therefore membership is more expensive then the locations that do not have them. Which is absurd to if you can’t use them.

Add to that, it was like trying to work out in a shark tank. The sales team was pushing hard to lock in a deal, and nearly every person working out there was either with a personal trainer, or taking a lot of pictures of themselves while listening to incredibly loud music via headphones. It wasn’t friendly, it wasn’t encouraging – in short I’ll never feel comfortable working out there.

The new gym versus my home gym

 

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

I’ve spent many winter vacations in Puerto Rico (see last post), but I havn’t really explored San Juan, particularly the historic district of Old San Juan at all.  In the past few years, Mister and I have tackled one adventure per vacations [kayaking in the bioluminesent bay, rappelling down waterfalls, etc.], so I wanted to take the opportunity for some exploring.

Via Air BnB, I booked a two night stay at Portal del Sol.  This was my first experience with Air BnB, but after seeing the amazing architecture of Old San Juan I knew I really wanted to be able to live in it, even if just for a nanosecond.  This apartment was perfect, and our host Juan was great at making us feel welcome, even going so far as to giving us dinner advice via text when we were overwhelmed with options.

We were warned that parking can be tricky in Old San Juan; the combination of narrow streets, cobblestone, and limited parking was a recipe for some frustration for sure.  We found the apartment, then circled the block a dozen times looking for any available parking.  At peak crankiness, we saw a car just leaving and decided to nab the spot and then find our way back to the apartment on Calle de Sol; as luck would have it, we plugged the address into our phone GPS only to find we had literally parked right outside of the rental!

We explored the city, the sights, the food, the forts.

This city is so incredibly vibrant and alive, while being overwhelmingly historic all at the same time.  Being the history nerd that I am (BA American History, MA Public History), I was running around the forts like a kid in a candy store. The forts are National Parks, and one admission pass is good for both for a few days.

In addition to the two forts, definitely take the time to stop by La Casa Blanca, which was only a few blocks away from our apartment (and the forts, everything is within relative walking distance).

It was originally built as a home and protecting fort in 1521 for Juan Ponce de Leon, though he died prior to inhabiting the home.  For the next 250 years, Casa Blanca was home to the descendants of Ponce de Leon, up until Puerto Rico became a United States territory, at which time the house became home to the locally stationed US Army commander.  We arrived about a minute before they opened, and Mister asked if we could receive a tour; I’m thankful he did because the government employed staff member was so incredibly enthusiastic about the home that it was contagious.

I was so excited about seeing every square inch of cobblestone and Spanish architecture, that every morning I woke up just a bit before Mister to explore the city on foot, filling my backpack with breakfast treats and my hands with coffee along the way.

Recommendations for grab and go breakfast:

1.)Cafeteria Mallorca had a window full of freshly baked goodies, with an old school diner vibe inside.  The place was packed with locals and touring families alike enjoying sit down meals, but I focused on the cheese and fruit filled danishes that were too tempting to pass up.  Their specialty is the mallorca their named after, which is a  ham and cheese (sometimes egg) sandwich on a buttery, sweet bread.  I wanted to enjoy the sweet bread on its own, but maybe next year I’ll be able to pass up the sweets in favor of the sandwich.

2.) Bad Ass Coffee, now I know that Puerto Rico is known for some really amazing coffee so stick with me on this one.  If you havn’t had it, Puerto Ricaan coffee is more like espresso on the range of intensity and servings; sometimes when its hot and humid you want something colder and sweeter.  This place is a franchise based out of Hawaii, and while I downed some local coffee in the afternoons and evenings, I was all about their blended chais and almond milk lattes at Bad Ass Coffee in the morning.

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(proof that I had local coffee, and that I apparently have a weird lobster hand)

3.) SuperMax, yup a supermarket.  The Old San Juan location had a great selection of fresh fruits and veggies, plus bottled drinks and booze to keep our temporary home stocked with some options.  The other location of SuperMax, outside of Old San Juan was closer to the major hotels, open 24 hours, and had a giant parking lot.  In addition to these minor luxuries, it has a little coffee shop, a giant wine selection, full service deli, hot food, store made sushi, and even an in-store, make your own acai bowl/smoothie option.  Live like a local, right?

For dinner in Old San Juan, the restaurant options can be overwhelming and a bit daunting.  Some are clearly tourist traps, some are hard to identify as tourist traps, and some are really amazing food.  How do you tell the difference?

On our first night, we consulted Yelp as much as we could, but we were still sort of confused, hungry, and tired.  As I mentioned earlier, we turned to our Air BnB host, Juan, via text and he was gracious enough to recommend El Jibarito, which was just a block or so away from our apartment.  If the pictures above don’t speak for themselves, let me just tell you that this was the perfect blend of vacation indulgence (i.e. sweet, blended rum drinks) and fresh local flavor.  It was a great way to start our mini vacation within our vacation.

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Our second dinner was at Verde Mesa.  This was an experience unlike anything else we had on the island, and that I’ve probably had in a while.  This restaurant had a whimsical environment, with a menu focusing on pescetarian and vegetarian options exclusively.  The service, though sometimes slow, was impeccable.  The bill was high, but the experience was definitely worth it; scallops so buttery in texture that they literally melted in your mouth, or a black olive couscous that was so flavorful it could have stood on its own as a dish.

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Seriously, just looking at those perfectly boiled eggs makes me want to eat that dish a million times over.