The last day for skating at the rink on the Empire State Plaza is this Sunday, March 9. The rink is open 11 am-8 pm every day (closed 3-4 pm for maintenance). It's free to skate -- and skate rentals are $4 adults / $3 kids / free on Friday.
We got a question today from a reader who, curious because of this winter's deep freeze, wanted to know if there are any officially sanctioned places or events for safely walking across the frozen Hudson River. After a bit of research and asking around, we arrived at the same conclusion she did: no, there are not. So, let's make this clear: Do not ever try to walk across the frozen Hudson -- not here, not upriver, not anywhere.
But, in looking into this topic, we came across some interesting local frozen Hudson River history. That image above is titled "Snow scene in Albany, New York". It's a hand-colored wood engraving on paper, part of the Albany Institute's collection, from around 1850 -- when things, including the river itself, were different.
Are those carriages? On the frozen Hudson? Yes, yes they are. From Hudson River Panorama: A Passage Through Time:
Ice formed regularly on the upper portions of the Hudson River until the 1903s, when deep channels were dredged for the year-round operation of the Port of Albany. A frozen river provided many opportunities to cross from one side to another. Numermous references to people walking or skating across survive, but horse-drawn sleighs provided one of the fastest and most common crossing methods. The popular Albany Sleigh, manufactured by James Goold and Company, was well known throughout the United States and Europe. According to the an 1871-72 brochure, Goold used only the finest wood and steel in his Albany Sleigh, which featured pleasing combinations of colorful paint decorations and included the finest plush upholstery and carpets for interiors. Established in 1813, Goold's company also manufactured carriages, coaches, and wagons.
So not only were people conveyed across the frozen Hudson River in a sleigh -- they were doing it in style. (Here's more on the Albany Sleigh over at Hoxsie.)
Bonus history bit: The frozen Hudson River also plays a role in "The Knox Expedition," a Revolutionary War story.
An article in NYT this week depicts Bennington, Vermont -- just over the border from Rensselaer County -- as a place overrun by heroin. Says a Vermont state trooper in the story: "The quaint town of Bennington has had a rude awakening of drugs ... Everyone is doing it... It's in the high school. The kids are doing it right in school. You find Baggies in the hallway." In January, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address to the topic of heroin and opiate addiction. [NYT] [Shumlin admin]
When I first walked by Plum Dandy Cookies and Milk, with a charming family inside enjoying sweet treats with adorable glassware and fancy straws, I felt like I was staring into a modern-day hipster Norman Rockwell painting. I wanted to stop in right then, but I was on my way to meet friends somewhere else.
I love sweets, so it was only a matter of time before I arranged another chance to stop in. And here's what I discovered when I finally made it inside.
Stock market fact of the day: Of the 11 publicly listed companies headquartered in the Capital Region, the one currently with the highest market cap is Plug Power. The fuel cell system company recently hit a one-year high -- but its share price was once much, much higher. Being the local company with the highest market cap doesn't necessarily make Plug the biggest fish in the pond, though. Example: The Golub Corp -- the parent company of Price Chopper, headquartered in Schenectady -- is privately owned (that is, not listed on the stock market), and has annual revenues of almost $3.5 billion. [Biz Review] [Google Finance] [Forbes]
T asks via the Facebook:
I am having a City Hall wedding in August and I am looking for a nice place to have a decent meal afterward for about 20 people that won't break the bank. I would like it to be an Albany restaurant. I have researched several options and they are just too much. I would like to do something that would work out to be $20 or less per person. Can you throw this out to your readers for suggestions? Thanks.
Sometimes it seems like there's almost no ceiling on how much can be spent on a wedding. But trying to keep the cost down -- that can take some creativity and flexibility.
So... got a suggestion for T? Please share! We're especially curious if maybe there's some sort of non-traditional option that might work.
Earlier on AOA: Planning a Capital Region wedding: catering
Astorino running for governor, church raffles gun in effort to gain parishioners, please don't feed the vultures
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, has announced he's running for governor. Astorino made the announcement on Wednesday in a six-minute video in which he charges that Cuomo is the manager of New York's decline. [WNYT][Capitol Confidential]
Troy City Council Public Safety Committee chair Robert Doherty says that under an ordinance created by the committee, city police officers who try to stop people from filming or photographing them would face a fine and jail time. [TU]
What the unanimous vote by the Saratoga Springs City Council opposing expansion of casino gambling in the city actually means for the expansion of casino gambling in the city depends on where you stand. Opponents of a full casino say they are confident the vote shows there is not support for gambling expansion in Saratoga. Casino advocates say they supported the council's vote because it could help reserve judgement on the casino until more details are revealed in a final bid. [Saratogian][TU][NYT]
A Schenectady man is charged with raping a girl over the course of six years, from the time she was 11 years old, fathering a child with her, and then killing the baby. [Gazette]
The Times Union reports that the new suspect in the Schenectady house fire that killed a father and three children has told them he was in the vicinity of the home on the night of the fire. [TU]
Chipotle recently announced that its much-anticipated vegan "sofritas" would soon be arriving at Northeast locations, and there it was when we stopped into the Stuyvesant Plaza location Tuesday evening.
From the chain's description of the tofu product:
We start with organic tofu from Hodo Soy that we shred and then braise with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices. The result is a delicious, spicy tofu that will give vegans and carnivores something they both will love.
The sofritas has gotten a lot of attention because 1) Chipotle almost never introduces new menu items and 2) it's tofu at a major national chain. The product has been hyped as a tofu "turning point", and the possible beginning of a "chain reaction" that could lead other chains and restaurants to add vegan items. It also didn't hurt that it was developed by Chipotle's star chef/culinary manager Nate Appleman, and that early testers said the stuff actually tasted pretty good -- so much so that it might appeal to non-vegans/vegetarians.
So, anyway, we got the sofritas in a (very not-vegan) burrito bowl. Initial reaction: It's... OK. It has the texture of crumbled sausage or chunky ground beef. And the chipotle flavor definitely registered. It sort of reminded us a little bit of ground beef with "taco" seasoning. We still prefer just the straight-up "vegetarian" bowl (something we get often) over a bowl with the sofritas.
Oh, and it should be mentioned that tofu in a burrito isn't exactly groundbreaking or anything. Bombers has had tofu burritos for a long time.
Earlier on AOA: Vegan dishes worth trying -- even if you're not a vegan
We used to joke that one of the state's main economic development strategies was to just append the word "nano" onto as much stuff as possible. Maybe that actually is the strategy. The latest: The NanoCollege is building a public/private facility near Syracuse that, among other uses, will somehow be merging nanotechnology and film production [Syracuse.com x2]
High speed rail in this country is one of those things that always seems to be happening just over the horizon. And for the Northeast -- and the Capital Region specifically -- this somewhere-out-there future holds all sorts of potential. Imagine what it would be like to hop a train at Albany-Rensselaer -- the 9th busiest station in the nation -- and be in NYC in a little more than an hour.
The thing is, for all the talk, we never seem to get closer to actually arriving at high speed rail. But that might be changing. Slowly.
The state Department of Transportation is currently working to sort out plans for higher speed rail service through New York. And there was a public information session Tuesday at the NanoCollege about the options, the first of series of sessions around the state.
We stopped by, checked out the presentations, and talked with one of the people involved in the planning. Here's a breakdown of the state's current route toward high-speed rail.
Among the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: the spare beauty of winter, thrift, good drivers, Mt. Colden, Market Bistro, red sauce, Nine Pin, 90 State, goat cheese and thyme cheesecake, sushi, tapas, smoked meat, dehydrated oranges, Paint & Sip, the Fagbug, The Joke, and equine tableware.
It's Phantogram's second national TV appearance in less than a month -- they were on Jimmy Kimmel in February.
They're headed for a national tour in late March/April, then over to Europe in May.
I recently moved to Albany from Manhattan and I am looking to get involved in the area and meet new people. Do you have any suggestions on local groups, leagues, clubs, events, etc? I am open to almost anything - sports (softball, dodgeball..), classes (cooking, painting, sewing, music..), outdoor (running, fishing, hiking...), bar leagues (corn hole, darts..), art shows, wine/food events, etc. Is there a good resource that aggregates info on this (other than AOA of course)?
We suspect moving here from a really big metro area -- especially one like NYC or San Francisco or Seattle -- takes a bit of an adjustment in terms of finding the sort of stuff Brian's looking for. Sure, there's a smaller number of total options and the range is maybe not as wide. But there is plenty of stuff to do around here -- it's just that, unlike one of those big metros, you maybe have to put a bit more effort into finding them.
It sounds like Brian's looking for some specific suggestions, and if you have some, great. But we're also curious about more general strategies you might have. Maybe you can share a little bit about your own experiences finding your niche or crowd here. It could be a big help to Brian and other people who move here. Please share!
photo: Andy Kainz Photography
Saratoga Springs council votes no on casino, charter schools and pre-K draw thousands for Lobby Day rallies, Kokopellis owners planning to sue Troy and police, 100 years of Thacher Park
In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Saratoga Springs City Council opposed casino expansion in the city. Nearly 400 people attended the council meeting, which included a heated 90 minute public comment period. Mayor Joanne Yepsen says there is still room for negotiation on the issue if there is a willingness to address the city's concerns and build partnerships with the community. [TU][TWCN][Saratogian]
State Senator Kathy Marchione, whose district includes Saratoga Springs, won't say whether she believes a proposed host community should have a say in the siting of a casino.[Capitol Confidential]
Tuesday was lobby day at the Capitol, with thousands of supporters of pre-K expansion and charters schools holding huge rallies. Andrew Cuomo spoke at the charter school rally, telling the crowd "You are not alone; we will save charter schools." Meanwhile, at the Washington Avenue Armory, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared at a rally to fund universal pre-K with a tax surcharge on the wealthy. [Record][TU][CNY]
Also on Lobby Day, organizations representing small municipalities, mayors, and school boards expressed concerns about what they say is Andrew Cuomo's "flawed" proposed property tax freeze.[TU]
Legislators, concerned parents, and drug treatment professionals were also at the Capitol on Tuesday, asking for $15 million in additional funding to help fight the growing heron and prescription drug problem. [WNYT]
Concerts are returning to Brewery Ommegang again this summer. And the first one was announced today: Modest Mouse is playing at the brewery in Cooperstown May 24. Tickets* go on sale this Friday, March 7 -- they're $45 ahead / another $15/person for camping.
Modest Mouse joins of the string of reasonably big names to play at the brewery over the last few summers, among them: Bon Iver, Cake, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco. The opener for the Modest Mouse show is Brand New, which played a sold-out show at Upstate Concert Hall last fall.
The shows at Ommegang are in the field behind the brewery. On-site camping is available for extra fee.
Earlier on AOA: Why Ommegang became a concert destination
Rodrigo y Gabriela are a little bit hard to describe. Acoustic classic rock? Acoustic guitar metal? Influenced by bands such as Metallica, the Mexican duo first got noticed in Dublin, Ireland. They've since ended up touring all over the world, appearing on TV, with their music ending up in all sorts of other media. They're kind of mesmerizing to watch, seeing just two people get all that sound out of two acoustic guitars.
The show at The Egg is in the 982-seat Hart Theatre. The opener is folk singer/songwriter Bobby Long.
photo: Peter Neill
The popular From Scratch Club food swaps recently started up again, and the next swap is this Saturday, March 8 at Healthy Living Market in Wilton at 5:30 pm. It's free to participate (be sure to read the guidelines), but registration is required and spots often fill up fast.
Slow-braised beef short ribs are the perfect dish for a cold winter night. Rich, heavy, filling, they are quintessential comfort food. And with a long, frigid winter that just won't quit, it's a fitting meal for the first week of March.
That said, it isn't terribly hard to make braised short ribs taste good. So for a time I held off on writing about the Midtown Tap & Tea Room's Vanilla Porter Braised Beef Short Ribs, despite how much I enjoyed them when I first tried the dish last summer, thinking I could probably get a comparably tasty version at many other area restaurants.
But a recent bad experience with short ribs at a different restaurant made me reevaluate -- and re-try -- the Tap & Tea Room's version.
So now that all of the 22 live/work apartments at The Albany Barn are occupied, who lives there? And what does the space look like?
Kristen Holler, The Barn's executive director, says the mix of artists is just what they hoped for. "We couldn't have gotten a more diverse group if we planned it that way. The youngest resident is 23 and the oldest is in his 60s. There's a good mix of men and women and different types of art."
Owens gave us a look at his new place recently, and shared some thoughts on what it's been like for him at the Barn so far.
Bail set for sheriff's deputy snagged in cocaine sting, a hope to extend the focus on Solomon Northup and Saratoga Springs, even the grouchy people liked him
A federal judge set a $25,000 bond for Charles Fuller, the Saratoga County Sheriff's deputy accused by the feds of aiding the transportation of what he thought was cocaine. The US Attorney on the case said the FBI has audio and video from both trips Fuller is accused of taking. Fuller's attorney said Monday that there were indications the confidential informant used in the FBI sting of Fuller had been pressured to participate and that might result in "significant issues." [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]
The planned sentencing of Michael Anderson for the killing of Tonette Thomas in Albany in 2012 turned into a bizarre episode Monday when Anderson tried to reverse his guilty plea and accused his attorney of misconduct. [TU]
Lewis Wood, the Albany man initially rejected by the Albany Fire Department because an investigator had tagged his app for "deceit" because of an undisclosed traffic ticket, was sworn in Monday as an AFD recruit -- becoming one of 13 African-American members of the 243-member fire department. [TU]
Solomon Northup researchers are hoping the Oscar win by 12 Years a Slave will continue to highlight Northup's story and his place in Saratoga Springs history. Said Solomon Northup Day organizer Renee Moore to the Gazette: "I think the awards will bring more attention to the autobiography and more attention to the descendants, and I'm hoping that it increases the attendance by the Saratoga community, and particularly that the African-American community will come out and embrace it as well, because they have a story to tell. There has been more than just Solomon's story here." The day honoring Northup -- July 19 this year -- will now be hosted by Skidmore. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]
And you can always try searching for it: