Saratoga Arts has announced their 2012 workshop series. They are all free and open to the public, and include topics like making slide presentations, copywrite and intellectual property, grantwriting workshop, and gallery submission process. Click here to learn more.
The Saratoga Farmers Market has a new Saturday vendor - Slyboro Cider House. This isn't Hannaford mass produced cider, these people take it to a new old level: Still ciders, sparkling ciders, ice ciders...Slyboro Cider House reintroduces the lost craft of American Ciders." Cool! I hope they have samples - I would like to try the ice ciders. They sound sweet.
Click here for the May newsletter for Longfellow's and the Olde Bryan Inn.
It would appear that Chianti is going after the Vegetarian/Vegan dollar - at least on Tuesdays:
Chianti's sister restaurant, Forno Bistro, is continuing it's Tuesday night takeout special:
Every Tuesday get two wood-fired pizzas or stuffed focaccie breads to-go for just $12. Add a 1/2 Tray of Forno’s Classic Mista Insalata for just $6 more. Join our email list or Facebook page to find out the featured pizza or focaccie ahead of time.
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.
Click here for the latest newsletter from Saratoga Bridges
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!
Had I won Powerball, I wouldn't be blogging today but....
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the South Side Rec Center is a great asset to our city and I will give Mayor Scott Johnson two thumbs up for his decisiveness and leadership on getting that place built on an underused park site. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of The Mayor, but he made the right call on the rec center.
The You Idiot blog has become a great source for rumors, many of which turn out to be accurate. The latest rumors he is reporting on, and again these are just rumors and not confirmed, is that Virgil's House and Pizza Works, both on Henry Street, may be closing. He also is reporting an unnamed popular NYC eatery may be opening in the Bonacio Price Chopper building. He also showed a picture of a sign announcing the new beer garden on Broadway - which is news I believe he originally broke as well.
I was out with a few friends last night at Cantina and the Franklin Micare duo was rocking the house. They had the place jumping and it was really an enjoyable show. It's good to be in a bar and not feel like you have to be 22 years old, and it's also good to see Franklin Micare still in town on Saturday nights now that the Grey Gelding is long gone.
Yours truly (in my scruffy phase) with my wife Margarita and Franklin Micare in 2009
Bed and Breakfast update: The Batchellor Mansion Inn price has been lowered again, to $2.9 million, and the Westchester Inn is not only for sale, but also for rent at $3,500 a month. Hmmmmm.
Congress Plaza could use a dollar store. It just seems right. Besides, what else is going to move in there anytime soon?
In a post last month I noted The Saratogian had well-written editorials, but that there were too few of them. I encouraged our hometown daily to write more of these opinion pieces, suggesting a goal of two per week. The Saratogian acknowledged that post of mine in a tweet of their own, and since then there have been editorials written consistently every Sunday. Although short of my suggested two a week, these Sunday editorials have been comprehensive, well-written, and well researched on topics of high importance to Saratoga Springs. Today's editorial, about the numerous empty buildings on South Broadway, also had numerous pictures of the several vacated premises along one of the key our gateways to the city. The editorial was laudatory of the city's efforts in some respects, but encouraged the city officials to cooperate and communicate more - it noted there were two different plans that were seemingly created without inclusion of all officials. It's good to see The Saratogian as an advocate for a reasoned and apolitical approach in fixing some of the city's problems, and I look forward to a continued effort in that role.
Although I somewhat agreed with the Saratogian's point (above) regarding the need for cooperation and communication, I nonetheless applaud Supervisor Matt Veitch and City Council Member John Franck for trying to take some action on South Broadway. I appreciate their initiative and effort; let's hope they can make some headway on this.
I was glad to see the Rail, Ski, and Stay package offered utilizing Saratoga Springs hotels, restaurants, and shops. I hope it is successful - although I imagine this winter's mild weather isn't exactly helping.
I wrote a few weeks ago how the T-U lost interest in their Community Blogs, and now I see the Post Star's Saratoga Snippets blog hasn't been updated in almost two months. Not sure what's up with that but I may give reporter Tom Dimopoulos a quick email to inquire.
It looks like Maestro's is starting a monthly newsletter announcing specials and other offers, such as their Valentines Day menu. Their February issue can be found here.
OK so Saratoga the Musical is not such a surprise, but Saratoga Ointment???? Yup. Not kidding, and you can buy that on Amazon as well. Oh the City Hall jokes I can come up with on that one....
I know the Saratogian has assured us that the sale of their Lake Avenue building was just a simple "internal transaction", but I'm reserving the right to let it get me nervous for reasons I can't exactly articulate.
I'm pretty pissed off to find out how quickly the Genting Corporation, the ones who run the Casino down at Aqueduct, is apparently willing to jettison the horse racing at Aqueduct so they can knock things down, kick everybody out, and build a huge convention center, hotels, and an even bigger casino. Maybe I was a bit naive and my love for horse racing blinded what should have been obvious. Genting looks more to me like a wolf in sheep's clothing a Trojan horse (pun not really intended) than a savior. I'm not against a Convention Center there, but does that really mean they have to end horse racing too? Why can't we have a gigantic and unique convention center, one with something special in addition to the mundane slot machines and table games?
I see the Horse Racing Museum and Hall of Fame is closing until March 1st for some "exhibit updates". I don't doubt that is the reason, but something tells me the slow winter months likely influenced their decision to stay closed for a little longer than they may have otherwise.
And finally, the best happy hour in Saratoga Springs? The Turf Club, at least according to some of my friends. I was there once recently and would tend to agree, if for no other reasons than the warm fireplace and the neighborhood feel. That's all for now folks, have a great weekend.
This was a link to the Saratogian's Sunday editorial about the mess at the Saratoga Housing Authority. It was not only well written - but appropriately hard hitting too! I like to see the Saratogian taking a lead in the community, and this editorial was a great example of that.
I attended Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's State of the State speech last week. It was probably the 9th or 10th State of the State address I attended in my life, and this one was certainly the most captivating. The Governor had my attention for his entire speech - partially because he has an excellent conversational speaking style and he simply makes sense when he talks, and partially because much of what he had to say affected me either personally or professionally.
From a personal perspective, my ears opened wide when The Governor proposed building what would be the nation's largest convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack site. I wondered for a minute if this meant that there would be a racetrack AND a convention center, or would the racetrack simply go bye-bye and in its place would be a gigantic building. Knowing the Governor is apparently not a fan of racing and considering the tremendous size of the building he proposed, along with the likely parking and other ancillary needs, it didn't take me long to conclude that "The Big A" likely has its days as a thoroughbred track numbered.
I see both sides of the coin here; Aqueduct is a large site within a mile of JFK airport and less than 10 miles from Manhattan, and the largest city in the country needs a convention center bigger and better than the relatively small and dated Javits Center. The jobs and spinoff economic development benefits of a convention center make a compelling argument for converting the underused facility. Governor Cuomo is not only über-competent, but he's starting to show some great vision and is thinking big. I like that, I like that a lot.
Photo courtesy of Timesunion.com
On the other side of the coin, and perhaps from a selfish standpoint, I can't help but be disappointed that just when NYRA and thoroughbred racing in New York State, and perhaps even the rest of the country, appear to be on a positive trajectory caused largely by the new and so far wildly successful Casino at Aqueduct, that whole uplifting ride may perhaps be derailed. Not only will Aqueduct no longer be a thoroughbred track (I assume, anyway), but the funding source, Genting's VLT gaming, that finally put NYRA in a position to make New York Racing a leader again, may be disappearing as well. That funding could disappear whether or not New York changes its Constitution to allow full casino gaming, as the Governor has proposed.
But so far no one in the press, at least from what I have seen, is commenting or asking the key questions about just what does this mean to thoroughbred racing in New York State, and what does this mean to Saratoga Race Course? NYRA's President and CEO Charles Hayward is so far punting on the issue by tersely responding "We have no comment until we see the proposal". The best commentary I have seen so far has been from Nick Kling of the Saratogian's sister publication Troy Record, but while he seems to flag some key questions, I still haven't seen a discussion initiated that centers around "What happens to Aqueduct racing, what does that mean to Saratoga, and what happens to VLT money that presently is going to NYRA?"
Here's my guess as to what the future holds for Aqueduct: The Queens racetrack as we know it is done, at least after a few years of planning, legislating, and building, but NYRA will get oodles of money which will allow them to build a winterized track at Belmont. Beyond that, I have to believe that NYRA, which will then have only two tracks with which to fill an entire year, will expand the Saratoga meet yet again. Two extreme possibilities even include a separate spring Saratoga meet and perhaps a NYRA involvement/partnership at some level with Finger Lakes Race Track. I'm admittedly just guessing on those two points, but I'll stick by my general points that NYRA racing as we know it will change significantly, and part of that change will involve some level of an expansion of Saratoga racing. Those logical implications are huge, but again I haven't heard much from the Capital Region or Horse Racing press on this. God I miss the I-Saratoga blog.
So let's hope the deeper discussion will soon commence - namely what does the Governor's proposal mean for NYRA, and what does it mean for Saratoga? Inquiring minds want to know - because many of those minds have their livelihoods depending on those answers. Stay tuned.