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.
Here's what's in one Saratogian's mind as he wonders how summer snuck up on him yet again.
Geez what a shame I'll Have Another didn't run in the Belmont. On the positive side, at least the injury was something that's manageable and wasn't a tragedy. I'll Have Another's running would have been great for NYRA too, although I guess they had a strong crowd and tremendous betting nonetheless. Well congratulations to Union Rags and his Team. Let's hope we see him at the Travers.
I wonder what the sales figures are at the new Price Chopper, and if it will spur similar Golub family ventures in other urban areas. Hello Golubs, are you reading this? Downtown Albany, near my office please.
The Chestnut Tree Inn is back on the Market - this time for $649,000. It has been on and off the market since 2009, when it was originally listed for $725,000.
And still not far away from those three places, over on South Broadway, the Pizza House/Alexandra's Ice Cream was sold to Adirondack Trust for $410,000. I assume that is a foreclosure or another less aggressive bank takeover of a mortgaged property. The Fun Saratoga field agent, who has apparently been on strike because this is the first good tip he's given me since winter, alerted me to that one in the Saratogian.
Boy that old Beverly's location sure looks...empty.
Is that patio in the back of the West Side Stadium new?
I sure wish the Wednesday Farmer's Market would go from 4-7pm, instead of 3-6. Those of us coming from Albany have a tough time making it there by 6.
The singer announced Spring Tour with J. Cole, Waka Flocka Flame, & 2 Chainz and will appear at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on June 14th. You can find out more on the official Drake web site here.
Well it's not my intention to make this the "Saratoga Thoughts" blog, but lately my schedule has limited my efforts, at least somewhat, to these types of postings. OK, with that half apology out of the way, here we go:
Well I went to the Beer Week events, sort of. I stopped out for some food and beer with the Funsaratoga field agent and an out-of-town guest. I'm glad to have any event that brings visitors (and their wallets) to Saratoga Springs in late winter, but as someone who was in several of the venues, it didn't seem so well organized. Perhaps if I actually bought tickets and went as an attendee, it would have been better, but as an accidental attendee, I was underwhelmed
I saw the Maestro's porch was getting some use in Thursday's and Friday's nice weather. Who ever thought that porch would get nearly year-round use in 2011-2012?
Well it sure seems like there are several Saratoga restaurants that are hiring. A perusal of Craig's list shows that Ravenous, Forno Bistro, Jacob & Anthony's, Sabina's, The Parting Glass, and Angelo Mazzone's several restaurants and catering establishments are looking for employees. That doesn't count the several unnamed Saratoga restaurants that were advertising jobs as well, including one "new restaurant opening in late March" that I assume is Russo's, which is opening in the former Brindisi's location.
Speaking of Craig's list, you'll never know what you'll find on there - here's an ad from someone looking to have a partner in opening a bar in downtown Saratoga. Yea, bars and business partnerships always work out well - especially when they start out from Craig's list.
Continuing with the Saratoga bar/restaurant scene, I reported way back when that Mine would have a full menu and I noticed them promoting it along the sidewalk on Broadway this past Friday night, as evidenced by the picture below.
I give Mine credit for trying, and their menu looks like it has reasonable prices, but I'm not sure if I can take a dining establishment seriously that is offering a full dinner menu, and also a "Pisces night" (it was last night - "Pisces get in free all night"), a teen night (tonight - for all of you under-21 kids that fanatically read this blog), and has a web site that is not working (at least when I checked). My casual walk by and internet look gives me the feeling they are all over the board. Just my thoughts.
When I was a kid, there was just one free newspaper, and that was of course the Pennysaver. Saratoga Springs has Saratoga Today, The Spotlight, and the Spa City Moneysaver - and there seem to be many other free specialty publications as well. It's almost overwhelming - and all this in the internet era. Go figure.
With Saratoga diners dropping left and right (namely Beverly's, Friendly's, and the Saratoga Family Restaurant), I thought it would be a good time to check out Shirley's, on West Avenue. You may recall it was purchased last year by someone who was going to add some Montreal, Quebec cuisine to the menu. Well the chowder was excellent but the grilled haddock I ordered came out cold - I think it was prebaked and never heated for me. Oh well, if I ever get my fat blogging butt to the YMCA anytime soon perhaps I'll get rid of enough guilt to try Shirley's rather fattening sounding Poutine - which is a French-Canadian specialty consisting of french fries, gravy and cheese curds. I'm half intrigued and half disgusted, but my gluttonous curiosity will get the better of me eventually and I'll report on here how it was - and what my cholesterol was before and after.
Speaking of eating things I shouldn't - the wings at the Stadium pass my four-part test - and I'm from Buffalo, which makes me an expert. The four part test is as follows: (1) Wings should be big with plenty of meat - not those wimpy tiny ones you get in some restaurants. (2) The sauce should have the right balanced flavor and have enough substance to cling to the wings. (3) They should never be undercooked, and in fact should be cooked extra crispy, and (4) the blue cheese should be of high quality. The Stadium passes all four of those tests, with an extra star for their chunky blue cheese.
And finally, Saratogian editor Barbara Lombardo had a great idea when she proposed that the Skidmore bookstore move into the empty former Borders location. She asked "I can dream, can't I?" Yes you can, and I like your thinking Barbara.
I see the third annual Saratoga County Restaurant Week goes this year from March 16-25. For $20.12 you will get a three-course dinner at more than 40 participating Saratoga County restaurants, many right here in the Spa City. When this first started in 2010, there were very few Saratoga Springs restaurants that participated, but that changed starting last year.
I pointed out last week that Mayor Scott Johnson made the right call on the South Side Rec center, and I was happy to see the Mayor mention South Broadway's problems in his recent state-of-the-city address. The only problem is that I was pointing out these same problems over a year ago. The city Democratic Committee recently wrote an opinion piece in The Saratogian accusing His Honor of having no vision, being slow to react, and certainly not being proactive. With the aforementioned Rec Center being the lone exception, I couldn't agree more.
Speaking of failing to be proactive and lacking foresight, I haven't heard much lately about the dangerous traffic situation on South Broadway. Did NY State DOT go back to sleep? I certainly hope I'm wrong, but I just have a feeling there is another awful accident pending on that deadly stretch of highway.
I don't know if I'm a subscriber, member, customer or what of Groupon, but I've recently signed on and have noticed there are not too many offerings for places here in the Spa City. Most offerings seem to be centered around Albany.
There seems to be quite a buzz about the Brad Pitt movie about Solomon Northrup. That's great that this historical figure, who certainly had an amazing life, will be getting his due on the big screen. I just am not expecting a shot in the arm for the local economy from it - there are no indications that any of the filming will be done here. In fact, why would they film here? It would be very costly and there isn't a whole lot left, as far as buildings and such, from Northrup's time in this region. I'm not saying this won't have some positive effects for our region; I'm just not expecting those effects to be significant.
I'm hearing word that the Oklahoma Track may open early this year. Well that would be a good thing - and would be something that could give the local economy a shot with horse owners and trainers moving here that much earlier. If this is true I'm assuming it means 2 or 3 weeks early, meaning a very late March/early April opening. The buildings there aren't winterized, so I couldn't imagine how they could open up any earlier.
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How sad that Saratoga's own Tuskegee Airman Clarence Dart died a few days ago. At least he was able to see the movie Red Tails, and he even received a standing ovation when introduced at the Wilton Cinemas' debut of the movie last month. His death is sad, but I'm very happy that he at least lived long enough to receive honors from the President, Congress, and Hollywood, and knew before he died that neither he nor his fellow Tuskegee Airmen would ever be forgotten.
February is almost done and Saratoga Springs organizations are talking summer. SPAC recently announced the lineup for the 35th annual Freihofer's Jazz Fesival on June 30 & July 1. The Oklahoma Track is opening soon and we're talking about summer concerts. Life is looking good in Saratoga Springs!