Wow! What terrific weather for opening weekend. What unfortunately wasn't so terrific seemed to be the attendance - there was a nice crowd but plenty of empty seats, parking spaces, and from my very unscientific perusal - hotel parking spaces. That is not a dismal thing - I think it's just the fact that many people, both Capital District residents as well as out-of-towners, don't get too excited about track season until August. Still, with the near-perfect weather, I would have liked more people.
One guy who wasn't complaining this weekend was jockey Ramon Dominguez. Congratulations Ramon on your record six wins on Sunday!
I really appreciated the weather during the Silks and Satins 5K. It was cool and almost misty during the race - and Margarita and I enjoyed the run through the east side. A big thanks to all the volunteers and corporate sponsors.
Well there sure was a lot of hoopla about the food choices this season at the track. The owner of Hattie's sure complained with her new location in the Carousel, but there was a line for me to wait in when I went to Hattie's stand at the track on Sunday. I would think twice about going to Hattie's again - I made what I thought was a simple request and asked for an extra plate so the three of us could share a fried chicken dinner and a few salads and they said they didn't have any. I pointed to the containers they serve the food in and they said they are inventoried and they couldn't give one of them either. Four pieces of fried chicken is a lot for one person for lunch on a hot day - so we wanted to share. C'mon Hattie's get with it.
On that subject, it would be nice if they could reserve some of the tables in the Carousel for the diners at Hattie's, Shirley's etc. - there was nowhere to sit because the betters just sort of squatted there. The kicker, and therefore the answer, was that the upstairs part of the Carousel was completely empty. If they set it up for betters to sit (with TVs etc.) so the diners could dine downstairs that would work.
Still talking about track food - I see Duo also has a booth. I'm just not feelin Sushi at the track. I'm also not feelin Moe's - not so much an anti-Mexican thing - just an anti chain thing. Chains are fine in their place - like Wilton.
The music at Hats Off Weekend was fantastic as well - at least the two bands I saw were. Maximus, playing on Caroline Street, was really good. The lead singer reminded me of Leather Tuscadaro - at least from 30 feet without my glasses (You probably have to be over 40 to get that Leather Tuscadaro reference). Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers were just phenomenal, and I really enjoyed their last set, which included not only their signature cajun numbers, but some inspired renditions of Beatles and Doobies songs, to name a few.
What wasn't so great was my experience on the Saratoga Chamber's web site when I looked up info for the Hats Off Festival. I had to search the relatively small font on the front page to find the Hats Off information. That information should have been featured in a large banner or something, but the Saratoga chamber's web site is old and tired - even the colors are drab - and doesn't offer a way to feature timely information. Maybe a new site is already in the works, but if not then they really should get going on that.
When I was downtown during the festival I hated seeing the empty storefronts - the old Borders and Grey Gelding locations sure stood out. But there were some bright spots - like the new place in the old Divinly Revolution location, and Boca Bistro sure looked great.
Going further down Broadway, I predicted a while back that the Thirsty Owl Wine Tasting room would be open by track season. As the below picture shows, it sure seems like they are doing major work there and there is still a ways to go. They originally hoped to open by July 1st, but it seems more like it will be late August before they finish. Travers weekend?
Attorneys for trainer Rick Dutrow, whose 10 year suspension was just upheld by the State Supreme Court Appelate Division, defiantly declared they would appeal the latest ruling to the New York State Court of Appeals. The sports reporters covering this case apparently weren't well versed on the New York court system, because the two articles I read failed to mention that Dutrow has an extremely low chance to even have his appeal heard by New York's top court, much less win. Dutrow must request "leave to appeal" and those requests are rarely granted - in probably well less than five percent of the cases. Obtaining leave to appeal can be done, in fact I was involved in a successful effort once, but the odds are against him - and this is just to get his case before the court - then he has to win. If Rick Dutrow doesn't think these justices read the papers, and therefore know about the problems in the horse racing industry as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo's recently expressed concerns, he's not smelling the coffee. My money says this appeal goes nowhere.
Let's end with some pizza. I'm not a big coupon user but Inferno Pizza has some pretty good coupon deals in the Saratogian's What's Happening Thursday insert, as well as on-line here.
Heeere's Johnny Track season! And here's what I'm thinking near the eve of the 144th meet of the Saratoga Race Course:
If you love Saratoga a fraction as much as I do, then give a hand to John Morrissey, whose vision a century and a half ago to make Saratoga Springs a horse racing center (OK, a horse racing and gambling center) really made the Spa City what it is today, and ultimately saved us from becoming another Amsterdam, Utica etc. Without John Morrissey (and William R. Travers, John R. Hunter, and Leonard Jerome) we likely would not have a track season in Saratoga. If you don't know who John Morrissey is, then I'll link a Wikipedia entry on him here. That entry doesn't do him justice - and he wasn't all good - but he sure was a thinker and a doer, not to mention a great boxer.
The Saratoga Race Course meet may be starting on July 20th, but NBC's TV coverage of Saratoga won't start until three weeks into the season, on August 11th when the NBC Sports Network broadcasts the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap. That's a big difference from last year, when NBC was covering races starting on July 23rd. Tell me again why Time-Warner doesn't carry HRTV?
Virgin Alexander, the movie filmed in and around Saratoga Springs, gets released on Amazon today, and presumably will also be available on Netflix as well. Margarita and I saw it last year at the Spectrum, and you can read my review that I wrote about the movie here. I'll also post a video of the trailer below - note that the opening scene is Gardiner's Alley behind Uncommon Grounds above Putnam Den.
Damn they did a nice job on the Route 9P bridge over the Northway. It looks clean and modern - not to mention roomy enough for bicyclists and pedestrians.
If you were wondering what happened to Jamie Munks, who recently left the Saratogian, she is now writing for the Post-Star, which I believe is where she originally was working. She wrote this article this week about the upcoming track season.
Here's a Forbes article about Philanthropy in Saratoga Springs. Don't worry, I didn't read it either.
So is Siro's Restaurant ever going to acknowledge on their web site that their original restaurant, you know, the one that's been around since World War 2, is located in Saratoga Springs - and not Manhattan? Other than the music calendar and some historical references, you'd never know there is a Siro's in upstate NY. Ditto Siro's Facebook page, which is all about Manhattan - just three days before track season.
Speaking of NYC, a reader alerted me to this New York Times article about Genting's Aqueduct Casino, which of course affects NYRA and therefore Saratoga directly.
It's summertime, summertime, sum sum-summertime, summertime, summertime, sum sum...you get the idea. Here's one Saratogian's thoughts a third of the way through July:
Damn can you believe track season starts at the end of next week? I'm excited, albeit a bit concerned with how summer is flying by. I took this pic below off of NYRA's Facebook page.
I hate to see SPAC reduce the NYC Ballet's residency here to just one week. I enjoy going, and I enjoy the fact that our city is about more than just horses. The Saratogian had a good editorial on that important issue here.
Elizabeth's Table has its outdoor patio set up. I stopped in with my father-in-law on Saturday for a great lunch.
It seems like the Great American Grill restaurant at the Hilton Garden Inn is actually trying to be a....restaurant. I keep seeing signs out there advertising breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I think I saw some advertising in the Saratogian. It just doesn't feel like a dining place that can get traction from much other than the hotel's guests.
I guess it was pretty obvious that the Post-Star had given up on reporting Saratoga Springs news when they let Tom Dimopoulos go. If there were any lingering doubts, they were erased when I noticed that the Saratoga Snippets blog is no more. It only made sense, since Dimopoulos left there was no one left to keep it updated.
The Firecracker 4 was certainly a success this year. Both Margarita and I, not to mention my sister-in-law and father-in-law, ran it. Looking forward to the Silks and Satins.
It's blueberry season at the Saratoga Farmers' Market. Don't forget the market is also open from 3-6pm on Wednesdays. Also don't forget you can take the Saratoga Springs Food Tour at 12:30 from the Saturday market - damn I keep forgetting about that.
Saratoga Springs Supervisor Matt Veitch was quoted in yesterday's Times Union about his appreciation for the Louden Trail, in Wilton, just outside the city limits. It was a nice article that asked "three long-time Saratogians about their favorite Summertime Pursuits", but I can't find a link. The piece also included answers to that question from City Center President Mark Baker and Hatties Owner Beth Alexander (who incidentally did not list the Race Course Carousel as one of her favorite Spa City places). In any event the article prodded Margarita and I to trek out to the country, strap on the high-end hiking gear (old running shoes and cotton shorts), spray on liberal doses of bug spray, and go on a long journey to find the Louden Trail. The reality is that it was about 10 minutes away off the BJ's parking lot, but what a great little trail it was. We enjoyed our 1 mile hike through the woods - where it was hard to believe that there was a shopping mall just hundreds of yards away. It's a nice little gem and Matt Veitch should be proud of his accomplishment in getting that trail built. If you haven't checked it out it's worth going to.
Margarita and I also made hopped on the Congress Park Carousel. No matter how old you are you should take a few rides per summer on the historic carousel, which is so perfectly situated in the park off of Springs Street.
Margarita and I also stopped out to the Ice House Saturday night and danced a little to Garland Nelson and Soul Session. That's a great band and! The Ice House used to seem so obnoxious to me (read: crowded) but that place is starting to grow on me.
And let's see if I can start the week off with getting the ol' blog updated. Here are one Saratogian' thoughts two and a half weeks away from track season:
Speaking of track season, it sure is starting to feel like it already arrived with the crowds, traffic etc. It's not quite up to August levels, but you can feel the proximity. That is a good thing.
Catching up on some old news, despite the limited reassurances from the Saratogian, I can't help but feel sad to know their building got sold and they'll likely be out of there in three years. I get it, it's cheaper to park someone at Uncommon Grounds on a laptop than to pay for an office in a valuable building - I just don't like it.
Speaking of the Saratogian, Jamie - we hardly knew ya! Recently departed reporter Jamie Munks was there for about a cup of coffee before she left. Let's hope they are able to find someone who sticks around for a while - JRC upping the paltry salary may help.
I missed strawberry season at the Farmers' Market! Damn. I went there a couple of weeks ago later in the morning and they were sold out. I went early on Saturday, but it's the very end of the season and the pickings were slim.
There is a pasta dinner at the Holiday Inn tonight (7/3) for those running in tomorrow's Firecracker 4. $12 will get you a dinner that Includes tossed salad, pasta with or without sauce and meatballs, rolls and iced tea or lemonade. There will also be a doughboy eating contest right after the race with 7 Esperanto customers facing off against 7 chosen Firecracker 4 runners.
When did the Mexican Connection become a "Tequilaria"? I ran by there last week and saw the sign said it was a Tequilaria and I didn't know if that was a new branding thing or something that's been around for years that I didn't notice. I found some old pics online where the Mexican Connection sign said "Cantina", so there was a change somewhere along the way. I see Mannix Marketing is handling their web site - well someone is doing a sloppy job along the way because the web site and Facebook Page alternately refer to the Nelson Avenue Restaurant as a "Tequilaria" and a "Tequilera".
On that same run, I noticed that the South Broadway Mobil is now a Red-Kap store. As is the case with all Spa City gas stations, the gas there is still overpriced, in case you were wondering.
I'm damn excited about the new theater planned for the old Price Chopper location. Tom Dimopoulos had an interesting idea when he tweeted that he'd like to see the Theater open up showing Saratoga films on all 11 screens. The Times Union also had an article last week about the movie theaters that were in the Spa City decades ago.
Another blog I like is Saratoga Mama, but she has gone back to family-friendly posts like "Vacation Bible School in Saratoga County – 2012 Roundup" and "More Perks from the Libraries in Saratoga County". C'mon Colleen! You have to utilize both of your talents, the first of course being the ability to write well on parenting issues in the Saratoga region, and the second to get fired up and go off on sub-par Saratoga Springs restaurants, and Ellwood Commons being a bust so far. Sigh. I guess I'll go back to reading You Idiot for controversy and drama.
Speaking of Ellwood Commons, I see BBL Construction is opening a Recovery Sports Bar there. Maybe they read Saratoga Mama's blog.
OK folks, that's it for now. See you at the Firecracker 4!
Well I was sure busy last week, and therefore have not done much blogging. I had a little bit of extra time this weekend, so here are one Saratogian's thoughts to start off the week:
The Thirsty Owl Wine Tasting Room, at the former Kimberly Inn, sure is coming along. The owners told the Saratogian back in October that they hoped to open by July 1st. I'm not sure if they'll make that date, but track season seems like a go. You can link Thirsty Owl's Facebook Page here. That's good to see new signs of life on South Broadway - now if only the diner would open back up.
Speaking of out of town businesses opening Spa City locations, I checked with Spot Coffee, the Canadian company with several locations in Buffalo that is planning on opening a location in the Market Center Building. It looks like that location won't open until fall. I recently stopped by one of the suburban Buffalo locations -it's a clean bright store that looks like it will fit in well on Railroad Avenue.
The vacant Peppers Market on Lake Avenue sure is looking...abandoned. I think it's leaning even more than ever. I'd like to see someone go in there and open it back up - I love cool neighborhood delis where you can get some good prepared food, the newspaper, and even a few groceries.
Did you see Universal Preservation Hall profiled in the Times Union in their front page article headlined "Old Churches Still have Prayer"? Good for Teddy Foster and UPH for some positive press! Check out the pics with the article. Click here for UPH's monthly newsletter.
The movie Virgin Alexander, filmed in and around Saratoga Springs, will be released on DVD on July 17. Well it wasn't a great movie but it was still filmed in Saratoga.
I attended a function at Longfellows recently - damn they have a good operation there. The food was served to 70 people quickly and it was hot and delicious. I was at a different catered event recently in a supposedly nice place (out-of town) and the food was cold and not good. Good for Longfellows for being a great place - as well as its sister restaurant The Olde Bryan Inn.
That was sure a rough storm last Tuesday. What a shame that old tree at Empire State College fell down - those big old trees are treasures and really add to the feel of Union Avenue. Oh well I guess it's just Mother Nature again showing us who's boss.
Around and about:
The Final Deadline for the Firecracker 4 is June 4th - that's today folks.
You can register on line for SPAC's Rock and Run 5K to be held this Sunday at the SPAC grounds inside the beautiful Saratoga Spa State Park. You must register by Monday June 14th to receive the reduced $27 fee. The proceeds goes to SPAC’s Vivienne Anderson Program, an effort to give underserved children the opportunity to attend classical performances. The kids 1K starts at 10, and the 5K at 10:30. It's a real nice run through the park, and here is a list of the bands performing along the way:
My Pet Dragon Headband Jack Black Mountain Symphony Jenson Rhodes Band The City Never Sleeps Garland Nelson Lost Cantina Tamer Lane Dirt Cheap Kemp Avenue Band Betsy and the Bygones John Donvito Tracy Corey
It may still be April but some days last week felt more like July - so start thinking about summer and track season and register for the Silks and Satins 5K race to be held on July 21, 2012 on the East Side of Saratoga Springs. It's a great race and goes through some historic neighborhoods, including past the track. See you there!