Items tagged with 'Casey Normile'

Altamont Vineyard & Winery

altamont vineyard composite

By Casey Normile

The leaves have turned, the sun's setting earlier, and the air grows colder. It's wine season, folks. Time to hide from the cold by crowding into a cozy winery and warming yourself with sips of Riesling.

And, as it happens, a winery might be closer than you think. The Altamont Vineyard & Winery -- llocated along the Albany/Schenectady county line -- is a small venue that's been in operation since 2006.

But its grapes were established long before that.

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Are you sure you want a macchiato?

macchiato at window counter

Not the Starbucks kind.

Love them or hate them, one thing that can be said about Starbucks is that they make their own rules. They've made up their own sizes, they've coined terms such as "frappuccino," and have changed skim milk into "skinny."

Most of those changes are relatively harmless, except for your poor local coffee shop barista who genuinely isn't sure what size people want when they say "grande."

But one Starbucks change is just plain wrong: the macchiato.

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In-between places: Scotia

in between places scotia

By Casey Normile

The Capital Region is full of cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. And some of these places -- like Albany or Saratoga Springs or Troy or Schenectady -- get lots of attention. This series isn't about those places. It's about those other spots -- the "in-between" places.

Next up: Scotia -- the tiny village on the Mohawk River in Schenectady County.

If you haven't visited in a while, or ever, here's a quick look at the place named after Scotland...

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Grazin'

Grazin diner in Hudson exterior

Worth looking a little closer.

By Casey Normile

On first glance Grazin' in Hudson doesn't stand out much. The diner's metal and neon front is tucked in along the streetscape toward one end of Warren Street. Inside there are vinyl-lined booths and a jukebox. The menu? Burgers and a few other things. If anything, Grazin' just seems kind of retro.

But look closer and you'll notice what makes Grazin' stand out. That focused menu is truly farm to table -- as in, Grazin' gets its beef from its own farm. And Grazin's attention to how it sources its animal products has earned it the distinction of being the first Animal Welfare Approved restaurant in the country.

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At the fair, competing for a ribbon

cattle in the show ring with their handlers

By Casey Normile

We're right in the middle of county fair season in the Capital Region. For a lot of people, that means rides on the Ferris wheel, games, and food on a stick.

But for some kids the county fair is the culmination of months, even years, of hard work. It's a step toward a future career. It's an opportunity to compete. It's a chance to win a ribbon.

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You won't regret bringing toilet paper

campfire at a lake

One of the joys of camping.

By Casey Normile

One of the good things about the Capital Region is how close it is to spots for hiking and camping -- whether it's a state park or preserve close to the region's core or, a little farther out, the many opportunities in a place like the Adirondacks.

You get out of town, among the trees, and bask in the joys of a tent, a quiet lake, a can of beans, and a little bit of dirt under your fingernails.

There's still plenty of time to venture out to the woods this summer. And if you want to be one with nature, but you're not too experienced with roughing it, here are a few things to keep in mind -- they'll make camping a little more enjoyable.

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In-between places: Mechanicville and Stillwater

welcome to mechanicville sign

By Casey Normile

The Capital Region is full of cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. And some of these places -- like Albany or Saratoga Springs or Troy -- get lots of attention. This series isn't about those places. It's about those other spots -- the "in-between" places.

Next up: Mechanicville and Stillwater -- a city and town (and village) alongside the Hudson in Saratoga County.

If you haven't visited in a while, or ever, here's a quick look at the side-by-side river places.

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The Giddy Up

giddy up bus exterior

By Casey Normile

Traci Cornwell comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her grandparents opened Cornwell Appliance on Central Ave in Colonie over sixty years ago. And her great-grandfather owned a shuttle business in Coxsackie. So her current path probably shouldn't be a surprise.

Traci was a finalist in last year's startup grant contest with what was then called The Bridge Runner Express, a plan to transport people between Albany and Saratoga. She didn't win the grant, but the judges were big fans of her, and they liked the idea -- they just thought it needed some more development.

A little more than a year later, her idea is up and running as The Giddy Up, offering $10 rides between Albany, Clifton Park, and Saratoga for Track season -- with plans for more.

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In-between places: Ballston Spa

in between ballston spa composite

By Casey Normile

The Capital Region is full of cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. And some of these places -- like Albany or Saratoga Springs or Troy -- get lots of attention. This series isn't about those places. It's about those other spots -- the "in-between" places.

First up: Ballston Spa.

If you haven't visited in a while -- or have never been -- here are a bunch of facts, tips, and highlights to get you started...

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Once noticed, they're everywhere

boot scraper in Albany

By Casey Normile

You know when you learn about something new and for the next month or so it somehow pops up everywhere in your life? Like when you learned that Caesar dressing has anchovies in it -- and then all of sudden it seemed like every restaurant had a Caesar special?

Well, about a month ago, I learned about boot scrapers.

And I now seem them everywhere.

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Hiking in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt

trail Teddry Roosevelt hiked to Mt Marcy

By Casey Normile

At the end of a long and winding road in the Adirondacks there is a trail to Mt. Marcy that includes a bit of history along the way. It was on this path that Teddy Roosevelt hiked during his last day as Vice President of the United States.

Today, you can take the same trail the Rough Rider/cowboy/future president walked over a century ago. Climbing the tallest peak in the state is enough of an accomplishment, but doing it in the footsteps of a president who once rode a moose like a horse? Well, that's just about as cool as you can get.

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The Arkell Museum

arkell museum composite

By Casey Normile

Sometimes you don't need a whole day trip, right? It can get tiring, to have the whole long day away from the joy of work and traffic, to just shop and eat and enjoy the day. No, thank you, just a half-day for me. That's all I need.

One destination for a quick half-day trip: the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie.

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Trying the "best craft beer in New York State"

peekskill brewery higher standard ipa

By Casey Normile

Have you ever tried a beer and thought to yourself: "This is the best beer around."

Well, this year at TAP NY, they made it official. For the first time, the New York beer festival awarded the Governors' Cup to a brewery for best craft beer in New York State.

The winner: the Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill, for its Higher Standard IPA.

So I obviously had to try the best beer in the state... you know, for journalism.

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Albany as his temporary hometown

graham schultz all saints cathedral

By Casey Normile

When Graham Schultz first learned he would be moving to Albany, the Cathedral of All Saints organ fellow says all he heard from people was, "Oh, Albany. It sort of sucks." Well, they were wrong. And Graham figured that out pretty quickly.

Originally from Arkansas, he didn't really know much about the northeast or upstate New York in general. But now, after three years here, he'd probably be one of the best people to ask about Albany.

"I consider myself from Albany now, but I wouldn't say I'm a New Yorker," he says.

Graham's final performance at the cathedral is during services this Sunday (May 19) and he leaves Albany shortly after that for a new post in Dallas. But talking with him about some of what he's learned about the city and its history reveals what happens when someone embraces their adopted town.

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Portraits of tulips

double beauty of apeldoorn tulip closeup portrait

That's Double Beauty of Apeldoorn to you.

By Casey Normile

Sure, you've seen plenty of tulips. But do you really know them?

Intrigued by these famous floral personalities from Washington Park, we had them sit for portraits -- and a look into their psyches...

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Spa City Farmer's Market

spa city farmers market founders

From left to right: Shannon Campagna, The Peanut Principle; Sue Kerber, RAD Soap Co.; Colleen Zorbas, Zorbas Natural Foods.

By Casey Normile

What's the hardest part about starting a new farmers' market?

All the texting.

At least, that's what Sue Kerber, Colleen Zorbas and Shannon Campagna think. Together, they're the founders of the new Spa City Farmer's Market. And after three months of planning, the business owners admit 2 am texting has gotten old for them... and their husbands.

But that planning has the new Sunday market ready to launch later this month.

So why start another farmers' market?

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A short tour of Capital Region juice bars

juice bars lil buddha green juice

That is very green.

By Casey Normile

Juicing is the new (fill in the blank).

The new cleanse. The new vegetarian. The new subject of grand theft.

Jam-packing an entire day's worth of fruits and vegetables into one tasty cup appeals to both the health-conscious -- and those who don't like veggies but know they should have them.

Here's quick tour of a handful of juice bars around the Capital Region, with suggestions for both beginning and experienced juicers.

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Capital Region food challenges

wagon train graveyard challenge by jay travis

The Graveyard Challenge at the Wagon Train BBQ in Schenectady County.

By Casey Normile

Do you ever get to the end of a meal and think, "I should be rewarded for how much I ate just now?"

Well, finally, your hard work and determination can be recognized. There are plenty of food challenges in the area where those with a hearty appetite and a willing spirit can pit their powers of digestion against an impossible amount of food.

Grab a fork...

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The Beer Diviner

beer diviner composite

By Casey Normile

For a decade, Jonathan Post -- who has a Ph.D. in English -- worked at colleges and universities around the area. But when a program he was connected to at UAlbany ended, he decided, "Fine, if I can't be a doctor of English, I'll be a doctor of beer."

So last April, he started The Beer Diviner. He now brews from his nano-brewery in Cherry Plain -- about an hour east of Albany in Renssealer County, out past Averill Park.

But Post's journey as a brewer took an important step a bit farther away than that: in a small village in Burkina Faso.

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Downstate day trip: Hyde Park

downstate daytrip composite

By Casey Normile

Upstate New York is clearly the most interesting part of the state. Clearly. But, begrudgingly, we have to admit that downstate has a lot to offer as well.

One example: our recent destination, Hyde Park -- pleasantly situated on the east side of the Hudson, just north of Poughkeepsie, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Albany on I-87.

The surrounding area is full of food, scenic views, historical sites, and shopping...

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Trying the alligator at Café NOLA

cafe nola alligator bites

They won't bite back. Probably.

By Casey Normile

I'm not a big fan of seafood. But I don't really know my stance on reptile.

So I decided to try some alligator at Café NOLA in Schenectady.

The restaurant specializes in all things Cajun, with po' boys, etouffee, jambalaya, dirty rice, gumbo, beignets -- and my dinner: alligator bites.

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The ladies who (prepare and serve) lunch

shen skano tesago cafeteria lunch line

By Casey Normile

On Fridays at Shenendahowa's Skano and Tesago elementary schools, the kids know what they want for lunch. The menu includes chef salad and fish nuggets, but those mostly go untouched. Because it's not just any Friday -- it's Pizza Friday.

The tiny students run in to the cafeteria, excited and hungry, lining up by class. Finally, when they're up, they turn shy and quietly tell the energetic lunch lady, Libby: "Pizza, please."

Principals and teachers get a lot of the attention when we talk about schools, and rightfully so. Lunch ladies? Even with a job that involves making sure hundreds of kids are fed, they don't come up in the conversation as often. Maybe it's the old "lunch lady" stereotype: a cartoonish character with a hairnet, a snarl on her face, and a ladle full of cole slaw.

But that image doesn't do the ladies at Shenendehowa's elementary schools any justice.

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The Irish American Heritage Museum

irish american heritage museum exterior

By Casey Normile

You may be feeling particularly Irish this week. All of the sudden, you want to eat corned beef and cabbage, put on a wool sweater, and talk about the good old days. And if you want to make your St. Patrick's Day more than just a parade and a pint? You can learn some history, too.

The Irish American Heritage Museum in downtown Albany offers a year-round look into the story of the Irish in this area. It's usually a small, quiet space focusing on the history and impact of the people who trace their roots to Ireland.

But this time of year for the museum is kind of like what Halloween is for a costume shop.

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Checking out the monthly tea tasting at The Whistling Kettle

whistling kettle tea tasting composite

By Casey Normile

I think drinking tea should be more of an affair. Once in a while, it should have a sense of occasion. And for that, there's the monthly tea tasting event at The Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa.

"There are more tea drinkers than just a few years ago - those who want to expand their horizons or try something new," explains owner Kevin Borowsky.

So for those feeling adventurous, or just curious, the restaurant stays open late one Friday a month and offers a sampling of rare exotic teas from around the world.

At each event they put together a list of teas not available on their menu for you to sample. And to sweeten the deal, they also include their "afternoon tea" menu: a three-tiered meal of two savory dishes of your choice and one sweet. All together it's $19.95 per person.

After attending a recent tasting, here are five things to know about the events...

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The Rapp Road Community Historic District

rapp road historic district composite

By Casey Normile

When you think of Rapp Road, in the far west part of Albany, a couple of things might come to mind: Crossgates, a shortcut to the Northway, and, well, the landfill.

But for the past 11 years, this unassuming residential back road has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Stopping by Butternuts Beer and Ale

butternuts brewery exterior

By Casey Normile

Twenty miles outside of Cooperstown, in a hamlet called Garrattsville, there's a brewery housed in an old dairy barn. It doesn't even really look open when you drive up to it.

But despite its humble dwellings, Butternuts Beer and Ale is sending out beer to fourteen states around the country.

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Staying warm outside -- when it's your job

hounds on the hudson jen pursley cold weather

Hounds on the Hudson's Jen Pursley Guidice. The dogs are also bundled.

By Casey Normile

We're having an actual yes-it's-cold-and-snowing winter this year. And during a few recent stretches of especially cold weather, we've wondered how people who work outside keep warm.

So we asked them.

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He has the bull by the controls

mechanical bull city beer hall triptych

It's OK -- we all fall off.

By Casey Normile

Something you may not know about the mechanic bull operator at the City Beer Hall: he's usually trying to help you.

"You know, I'll get tips from guys and they'll be like, 'Make me look good bro, make me look good,'" says bull operator Tim Bultman, who is an actual professional bull rider. "They don't realize there's only so much I can do for them."

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Capital Region spots for tea snobs

tea snobs composite

Tea time.

By Casey Normile

This time of year is prime tea-drinking season. And much like coffee, there's a wide range of teas -- from black to green, from organic to single estate.

Here are some local spots where tea snobs* can cozy up to a cup of tea and explore...

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The Winter 46ers

a snowy slide on the way to Dix Mt

A snowy slide on the way to Dix Mountain.

By Casey Normile

Winter is usually the season where people try to stay indoors as much as possible. The cold, wind, and snow usually drive us into our sweaters and onto our couches.

But not the Winter 46ers. This elite group of fewer than 600 people have climbed all 46 Adirondack High Peaks during winter (December 21 through March 21).

They are, in a word, hardcore.

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Surveying the hot food at Stewart's

stewarts_eggwich_clamshell.jpg

By Casey Normile

Stewart's is a local favorite, of course. Whenever you see their famous maroon and white signs, you know there's a place to get a cup of coffee, a buttered hard roll, snacks, or ice cream.

But a part of the Stewart's lineup I had never tried was their spinning shelves of hot food -- things like the eggwich, hamburger, and... pizza.

So I decided to try it.

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Adirondack Pub and Brewery

adirondack pub and brewery exterior

By Casey Normile

It's off-season in Lake George. That means no kayaks, no swimming, no souvenir shopping, and no tourists. As you drive down Canada Street, most of the buildings are dark with signs in the window reading "Closed for the Season!"

But there is still beer.

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Taking in a game at the Schenectady Curling Club

schenectady curling club ice wide

By Casey Normile

When I first found out my roommate and her family were curlers, I pictured a large, strange rink with equally large men quietly moving around the ice while you sat in a cold seat, cheering them on without really understanding what they were doing.

But in reality, going to the Schenectady Curling Club to watch a game is just like watching from the comfort of home. You get to watch other people physically exert themselves while you sit in a warm viewing room with a fully stocked bar, leather couches, and a fire place.

I love sports.

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Trying the tableside s'mores at Madison Station

madison station roasting marshmallow

Roasting marshmallows -- inside.

By Casey Normile

Summer is usually s'more season. You gather around the campfire, stick in hand, and get ready to accidentally set some marshmallows on fire in the quest to get a perfectly golden brown 'mallow.

But the new Madison Station in Albany has decided to lengthen s'mores season by offering tableside make-your-own s'mores.

You don't have to sit out in the cold for a campfire, the ingredients are brought to your table, and you can accidentally overcook your marshmallows from the warmth of a café stool.

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This is how they roll

Colonie Central High School girls bowling team practice

By Casey Normile

For most people bowling is a hobby. A way to hang with friends, a reason to hit up the snack bar.

For a handful of local high schools, though, bowling is a sport. Columbia, Lansingburgh, Niskayuna, Schenectady, and RCS are among the local schools that have teams.

But the best of the bunch could be Colonie Central High School. The girls and boys bowling teams there have combined for three state championships (and one state runner-up) over the past three seasons.

And they don't even get a pep rally.

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The Excelsior Pub: exclusively New York

Excelsior Pub: Empire State beer, wine and spirits.

By Casey Normile

Jason Bowers spent years tending bar at Capital District pubs known for their beer selections -- places like The Lionheart Pub and The Van Dyck. And the longer he tended bar, the more he noticed something about his customers' ordering habits: New York brews like Brooklyn Brown were being ordered as often as big-name imports like England's Newcastle Brown.

The popularity of New York beers led him to start The Excelsior Pub, a recently opened pub attached to Cafe 217 in Albany that offers only New York beers and wines, and a host of New York spirits.

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Why that monument in Townsend Park says Porto Rico

The Hiker side view.jpg

Porto Rico -- set in stone.

By Casey Normile

After they're up for a while, statues and monuments can just become part of the landscape --that thing you pass by everyday on your way to work or the grocery store. You might give them a fleeting thought as you drive or walk by -- or you might not.

One thing that can make a statue stand out and get your curiosity going, though -- an error. An error like the one on the towering Spanish American War monument in Albany's Townsend Park, where a statue of an armed soldier rests on a stone base, each side listing one of four territories involved in the warL "Cuba, Hawaii, Philippines and Porto Rico." Wait, what? Yep. "Porto Rico."

Before you etch something in stone, you'd think you'd have a proofreader look it over. One proofreader, at least. Yet somehow "Porto Rico" slipped by.

So how does an error like that get etched into stone for all eternity?

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Trying the Growler Station at Price Chopper

growler station price chopper slingerlands

Tucked between the rotisserie and the deli.

By Casey Normile

With a new ShopRite right across the street, the Slingerlands Price Chopper has upped its game. Among the upgrades at the remodeled store: a Growler Station Express.

It's pretty much what it sounds like -- a counter in the prepared foods section for getting growlers filled with craft beer. And it's the Chopper's first test of the concept.

So how does it work?

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Helsinki Hudson

helsinki hudson dance class

By Casey Normile

The owners of Helsinki Hudson have a goal: to bring the community of Hudson together through food and music. And after only two and a half years, they say they're pretty happy with their progress.

The club moved to Hudson about two years ago after 15 years in Great Barrington. Owners Deborah McDowell and Marc Schafler say they wanted a bigger space that they could own themselves, and a spot closer to Shafler's home in Columbia County.

"But we also really wanted to be an integral part of the change in Hudson and help in their renewal," says McDowell.

"Let me tell you something," Schafler, "Hudson is happening."

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The Soldiers and Sailors Monument

soldiers and sailors monument front

By Casey Normile

Sometimes you drive by something so often, you don't even really see it anymore. A historical monument that once drew thousands to the city becomes just as much a part of the landscape as a Dunkin' Donuts.

You've probably noticed that a large stone monument in Washington Park near Henry Johnson Boulevard.

What is that? And why is it there?

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Peaceful Acres

peaceful acres horses with autumn foliage

By Casey Normile

Ten years ago Nanci Beyerl moved to a plot of 10 acres in Pattersonville with four horses. She was looking to escape her own past, and decided offering sanctuary to abused, neglected and overworked horses could be a way to do that.

The horse sanctuary she created -- Peaceful Acres -- is now a 156 acre farm and provides a home to 54 horses. And Nanci is helping other people find peace through what she calls "equine guided experimental learning."

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It's fall -- take a hike

sleeping beauty trail in autumn

Everything's a little more beautiful in autumn.

By Casey Normile

Autumn in upstate makes almost everything more beautiful. The leaves change colors and all of the sudden you notice that the exit you take on the Thruway isn't just a dingy road, it's a gorgeous sun-soaked landscape.

But while you can enjoy the fall colors all over, the best views are, indisputably, in the woods. So if you really want to enjoy the autumn landscapes, take a hike.

Fall hiking isn't always like looking through an L.L. Bean catalog. You have to be prepared for almost any weather. Hiking in the fall means you can park at your trailhead in the warm sun, find yourself trudging through mud halfway through, and then find ice and snow on the summit. So prepare for sun, rain, mud and snow. Especially after this month's rainfall, be ready for some wet trails.

But there are some great perks to fall hiking. Hiking in the summer usually means black flies, mosquitoes and walking through spider webs for most of the day. But in the fall, you're insect free! It's also great because the temperature is very hike-friendly. It's right between summer's 80-degree-sun-burnt-dehydrated weather and winter's biting-cold-can't-feel-my-toes weather.

Here are a few good options for fall hikes...

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Trying Jose Malone's watermelon-habanero margarita

watermelon-habenero margarita

Look past the pink.

By Casey Normile

I have a very Irish mouth.

That is, I enjoy salt and can handle more than most in my food and drinks, but heat -- not so much. It took me years to be able to eat the pepperoni on my pizza. Then I trained to work my way up from mild to hot salsa and sriracha.

Next?

Jose Malone's watermelon habanero margarita.

A spicy Margarita? Yes.

I had to try it.

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The Wandering Dago food truck

wandering dago food truck schenectady

By Casey Normile

You might call Andrea Loguidice and Brandon Snooks a little crazy for leaving their jobs in law and marketing and moving from Denver, Colorado to Schenectady to open a food truck.

You might even call them a lot crazy.

But this couple -- one raised on a ranch in Montana, and the other a vegetarian from Long Island -- are excited to bring their Wandering Dago food truck to Schenectady.

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Pumpkin (fill in the blank) season has begun

pumpkin food composite

By Casey Normile

It's everybody's favorite season!

No, not fall -- pumpkin season.

It seems that as soon as the air gets a chill, we begin to see pumpkin everything -- breads, pies, soups, ice creams, beer. You can't toss a gourd without hitting something made with pumpkin. So, what to try first?

Here are some favorites to maximize your pumpkin enjoyment this fall.

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Not your average Capital Region bar

different bars composite

By Casey Normile

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Sometimes, maybe not so much.

Sure, it's nice to have a comfort zone -- that bar where you're a regular and you know exactly what to expect.

But if you're in a rut, or looking to change it up a little, here are a handful of Capital Region bars that I've found offer an experience with a little something different.

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New York hops

Hops

Little flower, big taste.

By Casey Normile

Beer enthusiasts showed up Brown's in Troy last week for the release of the brewery's annual fall Harvest IPA brew. What's so special about this brew? Well, for one thing, the hops used in the beer were grown right here in New York.

Brown's is part of a growing movement to restore New York to what it once was -- one of the country's leading hop producers.

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Crossroads Brewing Company

crossroads brewing company composite

By Casey Normile

Ken Landin never meant to put his brewery in Athens.

The owner of Crossroads Brewing Company looked at about 100 other locations before he ever thought of what now seems obvious -- the town where he'd been vacationing for over 20 years.

The Greene County brewery is now producing some high quality brews, and it's creating an interest in Athens as a destination for beer-loving tourists.

Is it a little out of the way? Sure. But for beer lovers, it's worth the trip.

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Road Trip: Great Barrington

great barrington composite

A day in Great Barrington.

By Casey Normile

Road trips are pretty high on the list of fun things to do with a fall day in the Capital Region. A scenic drive on an autumn weekend can take you to mountains, lakes, wineries, cities, and small towns in time to explore, enjoy and be home in time to sleep in your own bed.

Great Barrington, Massachusetts is one of those places.

Lesson number one: Barrington and Great Barrington are not the same place. This may seem as obvious to you as it did to me, but for some reason every time I told someone from the Capital Region that I was going to Great Barrington, they said things like "have a good time in Vermont."

This quaint little Massachusetts town is a pretty common destination for people fleeing NYC or Boston for the weekend. The shops are eclectic, the food is interesting, there's plenty of nature -- and good beer.

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Apple picking 2012

apples in tree at samascott 2011

Harder to find this year.

By Casey Normile

The last days of summer usually mean the start of apple picking season in the Capital Region. But this year's warm winter, as well as April frosts and summer hailstorms, have forced many farms and orchards to choose whether to open to fall crowds at all.

"For some farmers it was the hailstorms, for some it was hailstorms and the frost, and for some it was the hailstorms, frost and the drought," said Gillian Sherington, owner of Smith Farms in Hudson. "You name it, we had it."

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How to win a mayors race

valleycats mayors mascots

A rare time out from the intensity of the race for (left to right) "Gary McCarthy," "Lou Rosamilia," and "Jerry Jennings."

By Casey Normile

While many politicians are just gearing up for the fall elections, some Capital Region politicians have been at it since the beginning of summer.

The nightly mayors race at the Tri-City ValleyCats games have kept Albany mayor "Jerry Jennings," Troy mayor "Lou Rosamilia," and Schenectady mayor "Gary McCarthy" in peak political shape.

Hardened with the fire of intense competition, honed to a razor sharp edge by experience, the three mayors now graciously offer some tips to other local politicians on how to win...

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The odds have been in his favor

matthew pierce poker chips

Pro poker player -- and Albany resident -- Matthew Pierce.

By Casey Normile

Matthew Pierce was playing no limit hold 'em recently at an underground poker club in Albany. He had two jacks in his hand and two jacks waiting for him in the flop. Almost nothing could beat him.

Then, against astronomical odds, the other guy in the pot got all four kings. And a sure win turned into a loss.

Luckily, Pierce was out only $60 that night. As a professional poker player he's usually playing for much higher stakes.

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Talking peaches with Tom Maynard

maynard farms white doughnut peach

There's a secret to picking the best doughnut peaches.

By Casey Normile

Tom Maynard of Maynard Farms is a fixture at the Schenectady Greenmarket. He's been selling a wide variety of peaches, plums, nectarines and pears since the market started in 2008. And he grows some delicious fruit on his Hudson Valley farm.

"We try to deliver an honest-to-god good product to every customer who leaves here," he says. "My goal is for people to come here, buy our peaches and then come back next week saying, 'Wow, that was a really great peach.' Once they try it, they realize this isn't supermarket fruit."

Maynard has a friendly, outgoing presence, and you can often catch him talking about the finer points of fruit with customers.

I talked with him at the market recently for a quick guide on peaches and nectarines -- what separates the different varieties, how to make sure they're ripe, what the fuzz is called, and why you should look for the ugly ones.

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How to hike the High Peaks and not be That Guy

high peaks Mt. Marcy summit

From the summit of Mt. Marcy, the highest of the High Peaks. (No, don't start here.)

By Casey Normile

So you've decided to you want to hike up one of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. That's great -- the High Peaks are one of the best parts about upstate New York (if not THE best part, though I'm biased).

But when you climb your first Adirondack High Peak, you don't want to be THAT guy. You know him -- the guy with only one water bottle, jean shorts, Converse sneakers, and a camera. Not only will you look silly when the fully geared-up 46ers pass by you on the trail, you'll also feel ridiculous when you're thirsty, hungry, tired, and blistered halfway up the mountain.

After hiking 21 of the 46 High Peaks, you can now learn from the many mistakes I've made...

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The Albany carillon

albany carillon bells looking up

By Casey Normile

A few days ago, the carillon bells atop Albany's city hall played something a bit unusual. Instead of Mozart, The Beatles' "Michelle" rang out over the city.

Charles Semowich smiled as he played from his Hits from the 60s book. He gets to pick the music he plays and usually tends to play the loudest songs he can find. Because from this seat above city hall, the carillon players of Albany can be heard by every state worker, police officer, pedestrian, politician and park walker.

And they like that power.

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Capital Region vinyl shops

Fuzz Records Front door.jpg

Step into music's past -- and present.

By Casey Normile

If you're looking for CDs, the new Fuzz Records on Lark Street only has about six on sale.

Open since June in the basement storefront of a condo building at State and Lark in Albany, Fuzz is not interested in selling portable music. It's focused on new vinyl releases -- and getting people involved in the local music scene, with limited releases and live
shows.

Sales of vinyl records have been on the upswing nationally over the last five years -- and a majority of those sales have been at independent record stores.

Here in the Capital Region, there are a handful of vinyl shops still holding on, riding the new wave.

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Why Ommegang became a concert destination

cake concert at ommegang Skyla Pojednic

Cake performing at Ommegang earlier this year. / photo: Skyla Pojednic - photoset

By Casey Normile

When the band Cake showed up for their concert at Brewery Ommegang earlier this summer, their first question was: "Where's the ping-pong table?"

And that question helps explain how Cooperstown, better known for baseball, has become a destination for big music shows this summer, including Wilco this week -- and Bon Iver in September.

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New lives for old churches

new lives for churches composite
By Casey Normile

Many Capital Region churches have closed in recent years due to dwindling congregations, parish mergers, or financial difficulties. And when the congregations go, they leave behind some grand buildings. So what happens to these empty churches?

The issue has been in the news a lot lately because of the controversy surrounding St. Patrick's in Watervliet and a proposal on the table to turn St. Joseph's in Albany into a brewery.

But there are lots of old churches in the Capital Region that have already found new lives. Here's a look at a few.

AOACrisbroSmallV2.jpg

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The Tailored Tea

Tailored Tea exterior.jpg

Tea with a view

By Casey Normile

The historic farmhouse at the end of the runway at Albany International Airport runway sat vacant and in disrepair for years.

It had once served as a private home, a post office, a town hall, an inn, and was where a plan was hatched for the infamous Cherry Hill murder. It was even moved -- the whole house, moved -- 600 feet, at one point.

The house has now found a new life as the home of The Tailored Tea -- a tea room for breakfast, lunch, brunch, afternoon tea... and plane watching.

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Where to see the fireworks 2012

By Casey Normile

Happy birthday America!

The 4th of July isn't here until Wednesday, but the fireworks are starting already.

If you're feeling patriotic, or you just want to oooh and ahh at pretty lights in the sky, you'll find a listing of local displays after the jump.

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The Bier Abbey

bier abbey exterior closeup

Beer, with church pews.

By Casey Normile

After more than a year of buzz, The Bier Abbey in Schenectady quietly opened its doors to the beer geeks on that side of the Capital Region.

His first time in business, owner George Collentine says he wanted to open the Bier Abbey "out of pure passion." He first ventured into the world of craft beer in the early 90s and was encouraged to open his own bar by the growing interest in microbreweries and craft beers, especially in the Northeast.

"We want to lean toward beer geeks and there are no places in Schenectady that really cater to them," he explained.

So what will beer geeks find there?

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Vegan dishes worth trying -- even if you're not a vegan

composite of five vegan dishes

There are some "meaty" options.

By Casey Normile

Vegan food often gets a bad rap from non-vegans. For many people, the thought of cutting out not only meat but also dairy and eggs is just too much to imagine.

But there is good vegan food in Capital Region. Here are a few local dishes worth trying, whether you're a vegan -- or a carnivore.

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RAD Soap Co.

RAD soap products

Yep, the soap with hemp seed oil is called "Toke."

By Casey Normile

Sue Kerber thinks the Capital Region needs to use more soap.

More specifically, her soap.

A familiar face and vendor at local farmers markets, Cohoes-based RAD Soap Co. has grown quickly in its four years. Sue's soaps and lotions began as a natural remedy to her family's ailments, from eczema to muscle pain to sinusitis. Those home remedies eventually turned into a full line of soaps, lotions, crèmes, balms and teas made from all natural ingredients -- and shipped all over the country.

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Footsy Magoo's

footsy magoo's interior

Do those stools swivel? Yes, yes they do.

By Casey Normile

On the corner of 1st Street and State Street in Troy, a chalkboard stands in the street announcing drink specials. To the untrained eye, though, there's no bar to be found.

But behind those corner windows lies Footsy Magoo's, a bar that's more about good atmosphere than a packed, pick-up scene.

Here are a few reasons why it's worth stopping in for a drink...

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The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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