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.

 

 

 

 

Balaboosta [Manhattan]

Balaboosta; n. A Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife, homemaker, a wonderful mother, cook & gracious hostess. she does it all and she does it well!

That’s the description that can be found at the top of their website  and is a perfect way to describe the warm, homey atmosphere in the Mulberry Street restaurant.

While I was running late to meet a few women for brunch, they had already started on cocktails and the Mediterranean Sampler [house made hummus, labne, matbucha, za’atar pita]  Since being introduced to za’atar at the Bronxville Farmer’s market a while ago, I’ve loved the flavor profile but can never really nail the application.

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That is what made my drink so perfect – imagine a middle eastern margarita.

“Lily” Za’atar infused tequila, mezcal, grapefruit, ginger syrup, lime, black saline

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I cannot rave about the cauliflower appetizer enough [lemony + crispy], but the shakshouka I had as my main was incredible. The only real complain from those of us who ordered it was that it was so incredibly hot that in eating it I felt like I was melting from the inside out. Even on a cold day, the physical temperature of this dish was a bit overwhelming.

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The flavor was incredible, and the grilled bread was just enough to soak up the tomatoes and spice. I’m definitely thinking of recreating this at home – which would take some thought because my cast iron pans are quite large and Mister is really focused on not deviating from his chocolate chip pancakes routine in the morning.

Spice Village [Tuckahoe, NY]

We havn’t had Indian food in months and I was craving hot, spicy, full belly goodness of some takeout.

I found Spice Village via Yelp as the closest place, and it had great reviews – so without much research we ordered from there.

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  • garlic naan
  • chicken tikka masala
  • vegetable samosa
  • chana masala

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The chickpeas were a win for me, but they were too spicy for Mister [who prefers things with no level of spicy – weirdo]

The two giant containers of rice felt like overkill, but then I had that moment of realization that maybe we ordered enough food for more than two people. In my defense, this order lasted us for two dinners and two lunches. But there was still too much rice.

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The chicken was incredible, but sadly there was hardly any actual chicken in the container of saucy sauciness.  It was like the chicken was a topping to the sauce instead of the other way around.

With a quick reheat in the oven, the garlic naan was perfection. The samosas were tolerable, and a definite skip for next time. With a mealy crust, they were way too big. If they had been smaller and crunchier, I would’ve been a fan for sure.

We did have the conversation before, during, and after ordering that we always get confused with Indian menus – it seems to be the same handful of ingredients and dishes with all vaguely similar names. Does everyone feel this way, or do I just need to visit more restaurants until I get the hang of what’s going on?

 

 

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!

10 Minute Meal for Two

While getting the ingredients for Valentine’s Day dinner extravaganza at The Fresh Market, I happened to see a pre-packaged meal kit in the produce section that piqued my curiosity enough for me to give it a try.

The meal kit was in a clear, plastic container and contained all the ingredients for a dinner for 2, to be cooked in 10 minutes, and cost $16.  At 6:30pm on Tuesday, they had two options available:

Shrimp Scampi with Squash Blend & Wild Rice Pilaf or Moroccan Harissa chicken with Squash Blend and Cilantro Lime Rice. Looking online , they have a few more options but all include a protein, vegetable, and starch.  In comparison to the Meal Kits that PeaPod offers, they’re based more on whole foods versus canned/packaged ingredients, and this one was certainly more affordable than most FreshDirect options.

The directions are printed right on the label for the kit, and were pretty straightforward. My only real gripe at the start was that the ingredients weren’t labeled. This might sound strange, but there’s an oil packet, two seasoning packets, and a sauce packets. Since the oil had been refrigerated, it solidified a bit – and I had to spend a few minutes just double checking the whole recipe with all the packets to make sure I knew what happened when.

Other than that, the whole recipe did really come together in 10 minutes, with one pan and the microwave.

I was nervous about the scampi sauce, since it was really sort of gloppy looking. But it was incredibly light, lemony, and not heavy at all.  Mister even thought that the summer squash in the bowl might’ve been lemon wedges by accident because it was such a fresh lemon flavor [in comparison to that slightly cleaning product-esque lemon flavoring found in a lot of pre packaged products].

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As I was plating it up, I got curious about the nutrition information.

Please note that the nutrition facts say 4.5 servings per container, when on the front of the packaging it very clearly says serves 2. What is the point in this??

I did some math [you’re welcome], and 260 calories x 4.5 servings = 1,170 calories in the entire kit. Divide that by 2 and you get 585 calories per serving. Factoring in that I left most of the extra sauce in the pan, I’m sure our actual calories were just slightly lower. Not bad, so why play around with the serving size information on the back?

Weirdness aside, it was a great meal that did cook in 10 minutes. Thumbs up Fresh Market.

Spicy Margarita, Bread, and Something for the Dogs

This past weekend was pretty low key – and one of the first weekends that Mister and I both had busy Saturdays planned separately.  While Mister went skiing with my Dad, I met a few women for brunch in Manhattan.

It is nice being walking distance to a Metro North station in Westchester – within 35-40 ish minutes I can go from my front door to Grand Central. Thankfully, the women I met up with were kind enough to choose a place just a few blocks from Grand Central to make brunch even easier.

Salvation Taco was the perfect spot for a girl’s brunch ; there was a steady stream of spicy margaritas and sangria while we were able to lounge around a coffee table on couches.   Thankfully one of us took command and ordered food for the table, which meant we were all able to share tacos, quesadillas, and wings. Everything had great flavor, and I personally loved the extra salty chips that came with an order of guacamole.

By Sunday morning, we were both excited for a lazy couch day – especially Mister after a very early and long day of skiing. We had mini bagels with the works [i.e. smoked salmon, tomato slices, and red onion] and coffee while on the couch. 010.JPG

While waiting for the coffee to brew, I spied the bread cookbook my Mom  had gifted me last week and thought the rainy Sunday was a great time to give something a try.

Bread Illustrated   is an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook – which means I was in love with it before even cracking the binding. For all beginners, scientists, curious cooks, or experimenters – try America’s Test Kitchen. What I love is they explain the why and the how to every single thing. For example, with my favorite meatloaf recipe of their’s – they showed the results from baking it in a glass loaf pan, a metal loaf pan, and free form on a sheetpan. They explain the merits of each situation, and ultimately recommend free form on a sheetpan for the ability to crisp up all the edges. I trust their recipes because they work, and they explain why.

Bread and rice seem to be my two nemesis in the kitchen. I can’t cook rice, and I struggle with bread.

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While it didn’t rise as much as I would’ve liked, the Whole Wheat variation on the American Sandwich Bread was perfection. The taste, texture, and even crust was really impressive. Thanks to the cookbook, I think I was able to pinpoint why the rise wasn’t ideal [water wasn’t warm enough for the yeast in the first rise, and it might’ve been too cold/drafty in my kitchen for the second rise].

I can confidently say, however, that I used said bread for my lunchtime sandwich at work today.  Feels pretty good to say, hey look I made this! [I didn’t actually do that, because I’m pretty sure that would just be strange. But like if someone asked…]

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While all this baking was going on , I felt bad for the dogs. Yes I’m a crazy dog mom, but we keep the dog treats on the counter where I was baking and they kept running in exactingly.  Since I had the oven going, and we weren’t doing anything other than laundry and watching tv most of the day, I decided to try a batch of dog biscuits as well.

I happened to have a set of dog related cookie cutters we had received as a wedding gift – so I was able to come up with a pretty sizeable batch of dog bone shaped treats.  I purposely under baked them by a few minutes, to keep them soft per my dogs’ preference.  These were a HUGE hit – so much so that I’m considering making them as regularly as I can.

 

A surprise and an intention

Yesterday morning I played around with doing a little yoga first thing in the morning. I’m not at the level of awareness or yogi-ability to really settle into a morning practice without any guidance, so during a break in the day I researched some free online yoga options to get started on the right track.

Down a YouTube yoga black hole I did find exactly what I was looking for: Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Journey Its completely free, and you can sign up to get the videos emailed to you every day for 30 days or you can scroll through the sequences on her website. I’m writing it down here as a form of accountability – hopefully 31 days from today I can write about how it went.

What better way to prep for a 30 day yoga journey than by a midweek trip to the bar. We’ve all had those days; work was long, coworkers were terrible, traffic was a nightmare. Sometimes you and Mister just need a beer and some catch up time outside the house.

We stopped by Fogarty’s in Bronxville, which isn’t the closest place to our house but just about the third closest option. We’ve never gone through the door to the dining room, always left straight to the bar side. Its a calm crowd, the beer selection is pretty good  and its an easy choice. Mister likes that its an Irish bar with Irish bartenders; feels more right.  Last night I was feeling kind of hungry in a, maybe we should eat something that resembles dinner, sort of way. But neither of us were really starving.

I ordered the chicken tenders with fries to share, expecting an easy salty snack to tide us over for the night. 026.JPG

I was so excited about what they put out, that I cut it open and took a picture.  In a bar. On a weeknight. Sober.

These aren’t frozen chicken tenders. They’re beer battered beautiful chunks of chicken breast.  They’re crunchy, and just a tiny bit salty.  I would’ve easily eaten them myself if I didn’t have one of those weird husbands that actually expects to share my food when we say yea lets share a plate.

 

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