Trader Joe’s in the Capital District

After my jog today at The Crossings in Colonie I went to the capital district’s first Trader Joe’s location! Growing up we had local orchards and farm stands, the Troy Farmers’ Market and the Food Co-op in downtown Albany as our main sources for local and organic foods. Finally having a Trader Joe’s in our area is a big deal! Although I would rather eat local meats and produce any day, they certainly have a wide variety of health-oriented specialty foods and products at low prices in a convenient location right next to Colonie Center on Wolf Rd. Now if only we could have a solution to the traffic…

Autumn in New York, Part III

The adventure moves northward…

… through the perilous and infuriating traffic of Long Island, along the Belt Parkway towards JFK, around the Aqueduct Race Track, through the local streets of Queens, over the Throgs Neck Bridge, past the affluent northern suburbs…

Not long after leaving the boroughs of New York our course is set on the winding Taconic Parkway, a road designed for the enjoyment of the sights and sounds of the country, and maintained as such by state troopers every few miles. The fall colors become more pronounced as we drive north, and give visual texture to the haze of fog surrounding us. The day so far has taken what little energy I had out of me, but as we leave the thick, oppressive urban air behind us, my stress and anxiety melts away. My father and I settle in to our drive and ease our minds by doing what we do best: putting them to work planning our next trip to NYC.

We make a quick stop at Taconic State Park. I put my feet in the cool water of the lake and squish them into the soft brown sand. Across the water is a hillside with an impressive display of fall foliage, and in the distance the lake continues to the north.

On our way back to Albany we take the scenic route, the ‘motorcycle route’ as I call it, through Valatie and stop at Golden Valley Farms. The expansive display of apples in crates and buckets can only be compared to a perfume section of the department store. Each varietal has its own texture and flavor, many of which are crosses of each other, with their own unique charm. I wade past classic New York varieties and finally arrive at my objective, the macintosh apple, the grandest of all apples, tart and sweet, like the personality of the New Yorker enjoying it. When I reach the counter I can’t resist a sugar cider donut fresh from the oven. It and my apple strudel, cold cider and two apples are my first meal of the day. Well worth the wait.

We continue our drive through the gentle upstate New York rain storm towards Guilderland. As it is approximately 4:30pm, we hit ‘Albany rush hour’ on I-90, a slight delay of about 2-10 minutes, depending on time of day, where your car may go below 25mph, but most likely not, unless you are merging onto I-87.

Still in a bit of a mental haze, I arrive at my mother’s house and get myself sorted. I make my bed upstairs and have a slice of my mother’s apple pie, fresh out of the oven. I’m home.

I Like Real Food: Tri Training Part III

I finished the bike route today in one hour and nine minutes. My only major slip up was changing gears too quickly on the super steep section after the lake; my chain slipped off and I started to walk my bike up the hill. I rolled the pedals forward to get the chain back into position and hopped back on in the middle of the hill and fortunately was able to regain some momentum. Technically, it was a good practice run. I decided where I should lay forward and coast, and where to stand up to pedal through shorter uphill spots.
I also tried out the other PowerBar energy gel – the latte flavor – over the course of my ride. The tricky part was Continue reading

Old Town, New Shops

Most of today was spent getting ready for my trip back to Utah. I had to unpack and repack the car, and after moving things around I realized just how little I actually had with me. I went to Sprouts to buy quinoa, bulk soup mix, steel cut oats, and 6 grain oatmeal for my breakfast (superior to Bob’s Red Mill 5 Grain Oatmeal – they really need to step it up). I finally picked up Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, the 4th book in the Eragon series at Barnes & Noble, and to my astonishment Continue reading

November 28: Otra Vez

Things to remember: It’s not a rubbish bin, it’s a trash can; it’s not a chemist, it’s a drug store; look left when crossing the road. Ok, it’s spelled Center – I’m definitely in America.

Yesterday was perfect, but today I must have woken up on the wrong side of the air bed. Perhaps it’s my alternate reality Monday, or just Monday. As I type this, the Giants are losing. Definitely not my day. Continue reading

28 November: Flying in Style

There is never a good time to leave New Zealand. It just becomes an inevitability. The ski season is lively and fun, the rugby in the Spring time brought the world together, and the summer provides warmth and daylight for tramping, camping and exploring the world-famous landscape of the islands. I was just getting used to extended daylight hours, the conveniences of the city, and most importantly, the company of good friends in Auckland.

I couldn’t have asked for a better last day, a relaxing Sunday afternoon watching hockey with Brian and laying in the sunshine reading my book and watching my clothes dry. Even knowing that I had a posh comfy seat and complimentary champagne could not entice me to leave.

When the time did come to head to the airport Monday afternoon I was surprised by the extra room I had in my suitcase. Warm weather travel certainly beats hauling around ski gear! In the Duty Free shop I purchased a 1L bottle of 42 Below Feijoa vodka to add to my New Zealand vodka collection back home and continued to the Koru Club Lounge upstairs.

Air New Zealand’s business class lounge has a complimentary buffet as well as wine, beer, spirits and non alcoholic beverages for self-serve. The friendly staff was also available to make espresso drinks and provide assistance. They clearly knew I was coming because they had hockey on TV and a spinach, corn and tomato salad on their dinner buffet.

I was struggling to stay clear of eating too much dessert, but the mini pavlovas were my weakness! I followed up with a mochaccino before heading to my gate.

I got settled into my seat in what I call anti-social class and the flight attendant showed me how the seat rest and table worked. The man in the seat across from me offered to take a photo so I suppose it’s not entirely anti social though you don’t have someone right next to you.

I read up on some Kiwi news, drank some champagne and sparkling wine (to tell the truth I enjoyed the NZ sparkling wine more than the champagne) and committed myself quite enthusiastically to watching four and a half hours of parts one and two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My stipulation for watching the films was that I intended to watch them both sequentially, and this was the perfect opportunity!

I enjoyed my second round of dinner, though I was a bit confused by the diabetic meal I had requested. The entree was a smoked salmon, and in my meal they served prawns; I’m not certain how much more sugar salmon contains, but the prawns were certainly tasty. I selected the lamb as my main dish, and was disappointed when the flight attendant brought my special meal out. As tempting as the spinach looked, I asked if the meat was chicken or pork, and as I don’t eat white meat, requested the lamb dish instead. I think she may have been a bit irritated by that, but it was my last chance to have a nicely prepared medium rare lamb steak and I wasn’t about to give that up!

Quite overfull from the variety of food and drink in my stomach I experimented with laying my bed down, and at first found it a bit confusing the way the seat folds forward, like I was sitting in the back of an SUV. They provide quite nice bedding, and the seat does lie fully flat, parallel to the floor, something I do prefer to the beds on the Qantas flights which sit at a bit of an angle.

I enjoyed the movies, taking an intermission to change my clothes and brush my teeth, and fell asleep over the Pacific Islands.

The Loft – Yoga Studio and Soul Food

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If you have a free evening, and love yoga and good healthy food, I recommend heading to The Loft at 103 Beach St in Auckland’s CBD. At 6pm Monday through Thursday they have a 75 minute yoga session, and the most wholesome, tasty vegetarian food all heaped together on one plate, that I’ve ever eaten. Both yoga and dinner for only $17. Tonight they served a veggie curry, cubed sweet potatoes, salad with olives and walnuts, cauliflower pakora, and cooked buckwheat with beetroot and pumpkin seeds. They also served a whey drink with lemon and ginger, and an apple crumble-type dessert afterwards. Oh, and the yoga was good too.

Damned, Hell Pizza is Still Favorite Pizza

I’m from New York. I should know a thing or two about pizza. Then again, in NY pizza is a thin white crust, doughy around the outside, a bit of tomato sauce, and as much cheese as you can physically fit on top of it, so much that if you’re not careful the hot cheese will dribble down to your shoes. That’s why we fold it in half to eat it, not to mention the fact that the slice is huge, and sometimes covered in pepperoni.

Carefully crafted Chicago style pizza is a delicacy for me. Gino’s East in downtown Chicago makes a fantastic pizza. It takes an hour to prepare, and the crust is crisp and flakey around the edges, and has a full flavor, a bit like a pastry. The dough is thick, which is why the long baking time, and the cheese and toppings are melted together throughout the top of the pie, almost like a bread-based quiche.

California style pizza makes use of the state’s abundance of fruits and vegetables. The pizza has a very thin crust, and the focus is on the toppings. Tomato sauce isn’t necessarily the base. It could be BBQ sauce, a white alfredo sauce, or any kind of creamy sauce that will hold the toppings together. Like Westernized sushi rolls, the creativity is in mixing different ingredients to create a unique taste. Of course there are the classics; the margarita, the hawaiian, meat- and veggie-lovers, but there are also tasty combinations involving seaweed, Thai chicken, or anything else you can throw on there!

Hell’s Pizza in New Zealand is similar to the California style, mixing up combinations of at least 5-6 ingredients per pizza. The Damned is my favorite selection, with fresh avocado, pineapple, mushrooms, big chunks of cashews, toasty camembert cheese, and I generally substitute the onions for crushed garlic. The seafood pizza, The Underworld, with mussels, calamari and prawns is another favorite of mine. I haven’t been disappointed with any of the pizzas I’ve gotten at the Queenstown location. They use a wholemeal crust, baked to a crispy perfection and the ingredients are fresh and tasty.

Unfortunately I didn’t have as good of an experience at the Auckland Quay St location. The pizza itself was barely edible, highly greasy and the ingredients had no flavor whatsoever. Apparently the quality of the pizza varies widely amongst Hell’s locations all over New Zealand. If you’re in Queenstown, I highly recommend trying a snack sized pizza; $10 for 6 small slices is the perfect size for lunch, a late night snack, or a light eater. They also have a tasty selection of sides, like kumara chips – yum!

Hell PIzza in Queenstown is located next to Joe’s Garage, in the same laneway as Cowboy Bar and Barmuda, and just around the corner from Night ‘N Day.

Survey of Indian Food in Queenstown

Today I cheated on my favorite restaurant and went to try out Freiya’s Indian Restaurant on Camp St. They do a $10 curry and rice lunch deal and I decided to check it out today. I returned to town from swimming just around 2:10pm, went across the street, and popped inside, lucky I made it before their 2:30pm closing time.

I wanted to order a vegetarian dish and scanned the menu for something unique. The Navrattan Korma and Malai Kofta caught my attention Continue reading

Spring Snow in Queenstown

This is nothing new, but I figured I would post anyway! I woke up at 5:30am to the sound of cool pelting rain outside my window and a light mist hanging over snow-covered trees on Queenstown Hill. When I came back from breakfast I had snow flakes on my sweater, and when I walked into town around 1pm I was still getting snowed on! I managed to get to the aquatic centre to swim, but used the bus to get out to Frankton ($5 on Connectabus) and hitch hiked back to town. I took my time swimming laps and relaxed in the hot pool while watching the fierce snow and winds outside. I left just before 5pm, when the weather let up.

When I returned to town I had the $10 pad thai dinner at Tham Nak Thai. They have a selection of $10 meals, and $13 for a combo with veggie spring rolls and a beverage. I decided on the jasmine green tea. The quality of the meal was good, the tofu and veggies cooked nice and tenderly without any superfluous use of oils, sauces, or salt in the dish. The dinner was definitely a good value, but as someone who isn’t a huge lover of noodle dishes it wasn’t anything special enough to bring me back again and again. Tham Nak Thai has several other light dishes on their $10 menu from 5-7pm nightly.