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 [Part 3]

This is the final installment of Heather went to South Carolina.

I’m not a travel writer, I’m hardly even a traveler. I’ll go back to posting cooking misadventures soon enough. So bear with me for now.

Brookgreen Gardens [Murrells Inlet, SC]

I’m already regretting putting this in here, but I can’t only post about the good. This place was definitely 100% not worth the money. If you have free tickets, are over the age of 75, or just love being bored – head on over to Brookgreen Gardens. I couldn’t even tell you much about it, because we sped walk through looking for the Labrynth that was on the map. And guess what? The mazes I used to draw in the driveway with chalk were more serious than this thing.

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There were maybe two flowering bushes in the whole garden, and while the area itself could be pretty, it reminded me of the landscaping you would see if a fancy outdoor mall. Does that make me sound like a jerk? Well if not, the next part will; the sculptures were pretty bad. As in, I’m no expert, but a museum wouldn’t be fighting to get their hands on any of these.

Save your money and walk through a public park, or a housing subdivision. Or an airport terrace.

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This picture was clearly taken before the disappointment set in.

 

Russell’s [Murrells Inlet, SC]

This place is so good it doesn’t have a website. This is the second post in a row where I mention a restaurant in relation to its website having status. When a place is thriving and has no website, it is good. That is a fact when we live in an era where people like to look up menus, food pictures, and hours of business before driving down the street.  Or is that just me? Wow I have been asking that a lot lately. Perhaps I really do live in an odd bubble of obsessive restaurant website research.

Anyway, Russell’s is perfection. My father-in-law treated us to dinner here as a gift of nostalgia to my husband on his birthday. My husband used to come here with his brothers when they were younger, and I could tell it brought back happy memories of summer vacations and seafood dinners. With the wood paneling and walls covered with framed photos, some of that warm fuzzy memory feeling even rubbed off on me.

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 This cozy place is located on the opposite side of the road from the Marshwalk restaurants, and just a little bit further down, but is definitely worth a visit for a seafood dinner. Seeing my husband enjoy his dinner with his parents made me so excited to share this special place with the next generation. It also made me feel so blessed to have in-laws that I can spend a week with and still enjoy. I know not everyone is always so lucky, [and I’m pretty sure they don’t read this so I’m getting no brownie points], but I married in to some pretty great folks.  I mean, they treated me to grits, seafood, and golf cart trips to the beach all in one vacation.

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Boone Hall [Mt. Pleasant, SC]

This was the exact opposite on that spectrum of restoration/preservation I mentioned about Drayton Hall. I wanted to squeeze in a visit to a plantation that would have more atmosphere, and more of a feel for what life was actually like. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite hit the mark but was interesting to visit. The weird thing about this place, is that in addition to being highly commercialized [“the most photographed plantation” insert eye roll], its also currently inhabited. That’s right, a family still lives here.

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Wait. What?

That’s right, you’re not allowed to take any photographs inside, and the second floor is off limits to tours. Well honestly I think that first part has nothing to do with the family’s privacy and everything to do with the fact that there is nothing original on display, and if people photographed the three rooms you’re allowed to tour, then no one would pay for the tour itself. Just blew the lid wide open on that one. You’re welcome.

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Its not the original plantation running family or their descendants that live there; in fact, according to the tour, the home changed owners several times throughout history and foreign families set up camp here in relatively recent history. They do interpret the social and cultural history of slavery here, as well as offer a few other attractions; so the ticket price can be worth it.

 

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But their garden is worth it. It was a gorgeous garden just in font of the house to the left and right of the walkway. Look at those poppies. There were flowers and vegetables mixed together in lush harmony.  This only made me madder about that Brookgreen gardens disaster. I was willing to let them off the hook thinking it was the off season, but if Boone Hall can do it, a place with GARDEN in the name should be able to pull off some flora.

South Carolina Getaway [Part 2]

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The beach is always such a meditative place. There is a reason those sound machines have waves as an option; that repetitive and constant noise is therapeutic. Add some sunshine and its restorative.

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While in South Carolina, I went for my first ever beach run. I’ve walked on the beach and I’ve run while on vacation, but I’ve never really had the opportunity to run on the beach. Three times while at Mister’s parent’s house in Surfside, I was able to get a run in.

I’m terrible at running, and with the snow and cold in NY I havn’t really ran in a while. I would love to be one of those people that runs 10 miles a day with a marathon on Saturday, but three miles whoops my lungs and my knees. But when I run its like I forget everything that I had on my mind just minutes ago. Sunshine, breathing, my feet hitting the sand. Just focus on moving and breathing.  Keep moving. Keep breathing.

I don’t know if anyone reads this blog for my running advice. I don’t know if anyone reads this blog at all, but I’ll move on.

Litchfield Restaurant   [Pawleys Island, SC]

Since 1968, Pawleys Island locals and visitors alike have considered the Litchfield Restaurant the “Best Breakfast in Town”. That is as true today as it was back then. More than forty years later, we still serve hearty home-style Southern cooking for both breakfast and lunch. Our full menu is available all day, so sleep in and have a late breakfast if you like.

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I’m genuinely surprised this place even has a website, I mean they aren’t even open past lunch time. I spent a day with my Mother-in-law while Mister and his dad went out to play golf one morning. We started off with a stop for breakfast and this place was definitely worth writing home about.

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We were lucky enough to squeeze in at the counter and I saw the food coming out from the kitchen. That meant I knew I had to order grits and biscuits, the eggs and sausage were kind of an after thought. That biscuit was exactly like I imagined it would be, and yes I slathered it with butter and orange marmalade.

Also, why is food still so regionally divided? Grits in the south, oatmeal in the north. I’m still not sure I fully understand grits, but I can certainly tell you that about a third of that serving kept me feeling stuffed until almost dinner time.

If I get a chance to go back, I’m definitely going to try some sausage gravy.  Now you see why I have to run while I’m on vacation?

The Claw House [Murrells Inlet, SC]

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This was my first time having hot peel and eat shrimp (at least that I can remember?). Crazy good. Like seriously yum. Mister went with crab cakes, which we both think were overpriced for the serving but still good. This place is expensive for the atmosphere, but I think that’s because its located on the Marsh Walk. When the weather is nice, this is a great little section of restaurants and bars linked by a boardwalk. It wasn’t super busy on either of our two visits, but I imagine in the summer season it can get crowded.

Drunken Jack’s [Murrells Inlet, SC]

If you want to feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to the swanky club of another era, check out the lower bar area of Drunken Jacks. Just a few steps down the Marsh Walk from the Claw House, Drunken Jacks has a completely different vibe. This is a great example of something being just old enough to go from dated to retro.

If you keep moving towards the deck area, you’ll have a great view of the Marsh while you sip your drinks. 219.JPG

 

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.

Meal Prep:5/15/16

I’m officially in the habit of prepping all of my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks on Sunday for the upcoming week.  In the past I would do it if I had time, or really felt like cooking a particular dish but it wasn’t a true habit.

This past weekend, however, Sunday night came around and Mister and I were tired, busy, and I only had a few hours left before I had to head to bead early in preparation for my 4am wakeup call Monday morning.

Friday after work, I got in to Albany at about 8pm.  Monday afternoon, Mister and I drove to Binghamton to visit with his family.  We drove to Saratoga to meet with our wedding Rabbi on Sunday, then had to drive to pick my car up from being worked on, then finally arrived back to Mister’s apartment in Albany at about 5pm.  I cooked like a crazy lady to get everything squared away (there was a cutting board casualty) and this morning when I piled all my prepped meals into my work fridge I was finally able to relax.

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For breakfast:

  • Option 1:Full fat pineapple cottage cheese
  • Option 2: Granola and almond milk
  • Option 3: oatmeal (I always have oatmeal and almond butter on hand as an alternative or addition to anything)

For lunch:

  • option 1: salmon (broiled with Trader Joes vidalia onion/bacon vinagrette) over broccoli slaw with green pepper slices and oven roasted portabella mushrooms
  • option 2: baked teriyaki ginger tofu with stir fried vegetables (shredded cabbage, carrots, snow peas, portabella mushrooms) and rice

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For Snacks:

  • Hillshire small plates
  • Sargento balanced breaks
  • sugar snap peas
  • Kind bars

 

On any given work day, I’m in and out of my car or running around Manhattan via subway.  I like to have a stash of snacks on hand for between appointments, or when I have to run out last minute but I’m verging on hangry.  Having lunches cooked and ready is great, but when I can’t get back to the office on time to keep my stomach from grumbling, having a Kind bar or a bag of snap peas in my tote can keep me from buying the first Snickers bar I see.

Restaurant and a Recipe

Most work days are spent visiting job sites or doing paperwork from the office.  Yesterday, I was lucky enough to visit a particularly stunning job site; The Mayflower Grace Hotel in Washington, CT.

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About two hours or so from NYC, this hotel seems like it would be a great oasis from anyone’s hectic life.  While I was there for work, the general manager was gracious enough to offer me a comped lunch.  I’m sure she had some ulterior motives of lowering my quote, but I’ve never been one to say no to a free lunch (especially such a fancy free lunch).

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I propped my paperwork all over the bar of The Taproom, and was treated to a really lovely lunch. The atmosphere of the entire hotel property is very classic, New England elegance; above and beyond historic charm.  This may look like a simple salad, but it had such a level of savoriness I’ve never experienced in a light salad.

Upon the General Manager’s recommendation, I chose The Mayflower Bibb salad, “Maytag Blue cheese, crispy shallots, tomato truffle vinaigrette.”  Perfection.  (Sidenote: I did not pay for this meal, but left a hefty tip.  I’ll admit I’m young and not familiar with the professional prototypical here; what would you recommend?)

After work, I went straight to the kitchen to whip up a dessert to bring to the first night of Passover at my Aunt’s house.  Through the King Arthur Flour website, I found what looked like the perfect recipe to try out, Almond Cloud Cookies.  For those of you whom celebrate Passover, I’m sure you can agree there are only so many times you can make or eat macaroons or chocolate covered matzo.

The recipe is available through that link above, so I won’t go into too much detail.  I did make 1.5 of the recipe, because it called for 10 oz of almond paste and I could only find it in 7 oz packages.  I figured two packages equaling 14 oz was close to 15 oz, or 1 and a half times what the recipe was calling for, so I just multiplied the other ingredients accordingly.

Sugar and almond paste go in the stand mixer to get crumbly.

Whisk egg whites until frothy and add to the crumbly stuff in the mixer.  025.JPGAdd chocolate chips and almond extract. [the recipe calls for bitter almond oil….I’m not a huge baker so I didn’t want to go nuts looking for something so specific]

027.JPGThis is where things got really exciting for me.

I was doing all of this baking in my Mom’s kitchen; which meant I was using all of her gadgets etc.  I have never actually owned one of these cookie scoopers, but there was one in Mom’s drawer!  I felt very fancy following the recipe pictures so perfectly that I had to take a picture.  Take joy in the little things people.

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Scoop out cookie dough onto baking sheets.  030.JPG

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Press three fingers into each to sort of mash them down. Then bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

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Oh man.  I cannot express how wonderful these are; imagine a really good chewy chocolate chip cookie that has a deep almond flavor that hugs your tastebuds.  These are cookies I would eat even when its not Passover, the fact that they are okay for the holiday is just a bonus.  Enjoy!