New York

Even on vaca, you can only sit around the lake admiring the water and the weather for so many days in a row. In an ordinary Adirondack summer, you’d have some rain to break up the monotony of one beautiful day after another, but we had no such luck for most of the trip.

Finally, in order to mix things up a bit, we decided to undertake an expedition down the Mohawk River to see what Schenectady had to offer in terms of exotic cuisine.

Like Utica, Schenectady is another city undergoing a long-term decline. The current population of some 66,000 people is far below its 1950 peak of 91,000, while some 24% of the population lives below the poverty line. Downtown, there seem to be more closed storefronts than open ones.

Looking online I came up with Orchid’s Jamaican-American Restaurant, which, according to the net was a little hole-in-the-wall place. In fact, however, we arrived to find that it had moved into an impressive new location about a month ago and had just had it’s grand opening the day before.

The day’s menu was bit limited but I opted for the curried goat plate with rhoti. The portion was generous and the goat was tasty. I enjoyed the sides – and particularly the collared greens – as well.

One of my companions ordered the stewed oxtail, which was very good – in fact, I was a bit jealous after swapping bites with her.

The only real disappointment is that they were out of the peanut butter cupcakes for desert.

1113 State Street
Schenectady, NY

I haven’t been ignoring you but I have been traveling for the past few weeks.  While the authors of many of the food blogs I follow travel to all sorts of exotic locales – Greece, Morocco, Tokyo, etc – I have spent the past couple of weeks or so in Upstate New York, hanging with family and enjoying the Adirondack Mountains.

While there I was finally able to get over to Utica, NY, to take the tour of the Utica Club brewery.

Utica itself, like most of the old industrial cities of the Northeast, has seen better days – the current population, for example, is only about 60% of what it was in 1960. (The last decade has seen modest growth, however, much of it fueled by refugees from Bosnia, who now make up some 10% of the population.)

Most of the industry that led the city’s growth is long gone, however, one business which has been a vital part of the city’s economy for well over 100 years is the F.X. Matt Brewing Company.

The brewery itself dated back to 1853, but was acquired by the predecessor of the current company (West End Brewing Company) in 1888.

Until the 1980s, the Utica Club brand was the company’s staple. (It survived prohibition by producing soda and malt-related products.) In the 1980s, the company introduced the Saranac label, re-inventing itself as a craft-brewery, while maintaining production of Utica Club lager.

So, enough history. The company offers a brewery tour twice a day at a cost of $5.00. It involves a short presentation and then an fairly brief tour of the plant. (Unfortunately for us, no bottling was taking place on the day we visited, so we missed seeing that part of the plant in action.)

When the tour is done, your $5.00 also gets you a couple of pints of your choice. (In fact, since they will let you sample any and all of the offerings, you might walk away with 3 or 4 pints by the time you’re done.)

In my case, however, as the DD, I kept it to a bit under 2. For old times sake, I had a Utica Club lager, as well as an excellent Saranac White IPA.

All that was missing were the brats.