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maple syrup, maple candy, maple creme, maple coffee, maple tea, maple pulled pork, maple syrup boiling… need I say more?*

* plus one cute pug puppy

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Dr. Temple Grandin

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing one of my heroes, Dr. Temple Grandin, live in person at TC3. (The event was sponsored by one of my clients, Franziska Racker Centers, an organization based in Tompkins County, NY, that serves people with autism and other developmental disabilities).

Her talk was about her experiences with autism, and what it’s like to be a visual learner (as opposed to auditory or other type; being one myself, I perked up and listened closely to what she had to say on the topic). She also mentioned the new HBO movie that just came out about her, starring Claire Danes. Dr. Grandin seems very pleased with the movie and feels the actress portrayed her very accurately, in the phase of her life when she was young, and what she defines as being “pre-anti-depressants” (FYI, it’s playing at Cornell Cinema this Thursday, and Temple Grandin will be there)

Although I am interested in the subject of autism, and cannot applaud this amazing woman hard & long enough for all she has manged to accomplish in her life and career as an autistic person, what makes her my hero is what she has accomplished working with the handling of animal factory farms in this country, to make them more humane.

This is a really important subject to me – if you know anything about me you’ll know I’m a foodie, and I always think about where my meat comes from when making purchasing decisions. I was a vegetarian for many years, mostly because I abhor the conditions of animals kept in factory farms and the cruel manner in which I learned the slaughterhouses handle them. I started eating meat again about three years ago when I moved to the Finger Lakes region because I was able to locate farms where animals are raised and slaughtered compassionately, and buy directly from them (a good example, and one of my faves, is PDH Buffalo Farm, located in Sempronius, NY).

Dr. Temple Grandin’s work in this area is the subject of the book, Animals in Translation. Last night I purchased another book (which she signed), Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. I look forward to reading it and gaining insight into the care I provide my beloved pets.

William & I decided to take a break from late summer bliss and head into NYC for a few days on the cheap. I had an offer of a free fancy place to stay that could not be refused – and William was able to squeak out a little free time from his pre-semester craziness to join me.

You either have to drive thru the Poconoes or the Catskills to get from CNY to NYC and I always prefer the latter – there’s never any traffic on rt 17; driving along the Delaware River is lovely; and there’s the opportunity to stop at Woodbury Commons during the last leg of the trip in order to get out, stretch the legs, and do some bargain shopping.

Score! Arriving in the city around 6pm, I used my superlative car parking acumen to find a (free) space on Riverside Drive, in the 80s, where I would not have to move the vehicle for alternate side during the course of our stay. As we rolled our suitcase thru the streets of the city, William and I giddily tossed dinner ideas back and forth. Ah, to have the culinary world once again at our fingertips. It came down to Artie’s (Jewish deli) or The Hampton Chutney Co (unique Indian dosas), finally ending up at Land, a commendable Thai eatery that is physically little more than a hallway.

After dinner we stopped at Emack & Bolio so William could get a scoop of his favorite flavor, Heaven. More sidewalk suitcase rolling till we finally arrived at our destination, sweaty and tired. We were happy to relax in air-conditioned bliss when suddenly, a freaky summer storm unleashed sheets of rain, lighting bolts and hailstones outside our 23rd floor suite window.

First stop next morning was Sarabeths so William could satisfy a craving for goldilox, and which give him the energy he’d need for a fully sustained day of museum-going. I accompanied him to the Folk Art Museum (kaleidoscopic quilts – beautiful) and

Paula Nadelstern, quilt artist

Paula Nadelstern, quilt artist

MoMA (Ron Arad, visually stunning exhibit); and the Gug, but had to pass up more art by that time because my ankle – recently sprained  – was feeling sore. Besides, the experience at MoMA left me really irritated. Many visitors carrying cameras seem not so much interested in viewing art but taking photos of themselves in the museum. I was constantly getting in someone’s way as I attempted to look at the objects, while they were shooting pics of their boyfriend. It was really out of control.

Ron Arad//No Discipline//MoMA

Ron Arad//No Discipline//MoMA

While William checked out Frank Lloyd Wright at the Guggenheim, I sat on a bench for a good while to rest my foot and had ample opportunity to observe people. There’s a lot of people playing with a lot of electronic gadgets. What are they actually learning from the museum exhibits, the world around them, their visit to NYC? One family with two teenage boys didn’t really seem to know why they were there; maybe their guidebook told them it was not to be missed. Mother: “What is there to see here?” Father: “I don’t know, but for $50 I guess we’ll go see.”

I departed museum mile for a slow hobble across Central Park to the west side, while William continued on to the Whitney and the Met. Did I mention that all of these museums were free for both of us since William is a card-carrying member of the American Association of Museums?

On Broadway in the 70’s I found a great little generic nail salon where I was able to give my ankle a break and freshen up a little with some wax and polish (hold the spit). Manicure – only ten bucks.

Dinner that night was at The Green Table in Chelsea Market. (I did some graphic design work for them a while back and was partially paid with a gift certificate for a nice amount). It was a lovely locavore meal, save for a bottle of French rose. Leafing through the latest copy of

the latest issue

the latest issue

Edible Manhattan, we started with cold corn chowder with curry, then worked our way across a delightful cheese plate where we were pleased to discover a new favorite – Old Chatham Sheepherding Co‘s rich and creamy Camembert, accompanied by drunken figs dipped in honey. Entree for her – fish tacos; for him – pork prepared in a tasty, unidentified southeast Asian style. The meal was flavorful, fresh and unpretentious. I was happy to discover that there was more than enough money left on the gift certificate to merit a return trip.

the High Line

the High Line

We took a post-prandial expedition to the nearby and newly-renovated High Line, which was a revelation. Ambling north for a few blocks, on one side of the roughly 30-yard wide walkway were plantings of native grasses partially obscuring vestigial train tracks. On the other, custom-designed wooden-slatted lounge chairs on rollers and also set in a track. People of all ages lolled above the meatpacking district enjoying the cool night air and a festive, if anonymous, block-party ambiance. A large group of people in their twenties went past, each wearing a furry animal mask. Traveling through an open-air tunnel lit by overhead blue lights, we descended the stairs and headed back.

On the way back to the car the next morning, we popped into Zabar’s to purchase some of the aforementioned delicious sheep’s milk cheese (AND lox, AND rugelach) to take home with us.

Mac's drive-in

Mac's drive-in

Week before last, I was in NYC on business. It struck me how everyone looked so well-dressed, successful, good-looking, and fit. It’s not like this is news to me – after all, I lived in Manhattan up until two years ago. I guess being a country girl is starting to shape my perceptions of the world, because it all seemed so pretentious. There’s so much going on, that in order to garner attention each store, restaurant, and person needs to stand out from the crowd in some new, clever, and garish way. customers_recieipts

Then I came home and over the weekend, my husband and I found ourselves traveling through Waterloo on route 5/20 around dinner-time, when I spotted the vintage red and white Mac’s Drive-In sign, so out of curiosity, we pulled in. The place is proudly stuck in time from the day it opened, 49 years ago. It actually features bellhop service, but we decided to get out of the car to see what the place was like inside. Two words: fun and fried. I ordered fish and William ordered shrimp, accompanied by real potato-ed french fries the joint claims are homemade. Dessert – two honeybuns- come with each dinner and while I was intently surveying the food prep, watched a teenage line cook pull a Pillsbury dough canister out of the fridge and squeeze two pieces into the deep fryer. When they were done, he scooped them out and covered them with a stream of honey from a plastic bear. Utterly disgusting, but still, I was compelled to try one, and yeah – it was yummy, although there’s no way I could bring myself to eat both. If you go, try the root beer, it’s excellent.

Fried fish dinner

Fried fish dinner

In comparison with my recent experience in the big city, this place seems like the real deal. The kind of place urban New Yorkers seeking comfort food are endlessly trying to emulate.

fish dinner

fish dinner

Joe and the fish

Joe and the fish

My friend Joe is an avid fisherman. This is a pic he took of a landlocked salmon he caught in Skaneateles Lake a few weeks ago.

“As you can tell from the picture of the fillets – coming out of the cold Skaneateles water in April, the meat is as pink as an Alaskan run true Atlantic Salmon. As with any good piece of fish, the secret was in the handling of the meat, not so much the recipe – I caught the fish at 5:30 am, put the fillets immediately on ice for 12 hours and broiled it that night for dinner with nothing more than a hoisin/soy sauce glaze for 10 minutes and it was fabulous. I brush the glaze on before I put it under the broiler, which acts to protect the meat from burning, and again halfway through cooking it. The two fillets with a side of steamed asparagus were more than my wife and I could eat. Just for kicks, we also drank a bottle of Salmon Run Riesling with it from Keuka Lake and called it dinner!”

salmon fillets

salmon fillets

This morning before work, my designer Melissa and I took a walk with the dog out back, through the alfalfa fields, on the edge of some scraggly moist woods. Melissa has an even more valid claim to being nature-girl-turned-designer than I do – I grew up in the NJ ‘burbs, but she is a true country girl, raised right here in central NY. She spent childhood summers catching crayfish and nightcrawlers for her dad’s bait business.

Later that evening (for my dog’s second daily walk) I went to the same place and pulled a handful to use for dinner in conjunction with freshly-harvested asparagus, the first of the season (which happily grows unassisted-remember, I’m a citiot – in a plot in my yard). I sauteed the minced wild leeks (also called ramps) with garlic and olive oil, added the fresh asparagus, and then some cooked spinach and cheese ravioli to coat. The asparagus was sweet and tender, not woody and slightly bitter the way it can be from the store. Delish!

sauteed asparagus and ramps

sauteed asparagus and ramps

ravioli with wild leeks and asparagus

ravioli with wild leeks and asparagus

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