Beer Alarm!

I was in a local convenient store in a not-so-great Albany neighborhood recently when I set off the beer alarm.

Yes the beer alarm.

It seems the South End Stewart’s has the beer cooler rigged with an alarm that goes off when you open the door:

The alarm sounds for as long as the door remains open. It’s possible that this is effort to save energy, a reminder not to keep the door open unnecessarily, but I’m guessing it’s actually a loss prevention measure.

If you’re like me, you feel slightly self-conscious when buying beer at convenience stores. It’s like everyone standing their with their eggs and milk are looking at you saying, “Oh, sure… here’s the miscreant buying beer. You gonna drink those in the car on the way home?”

So, having an alarm go off when you open the cooler doesn’t help.

I’m hoping my wife doesn’t catch wind of this. The thought of an alarm on my refrigerator door at home is beyond disturbing. It’s bad enough she can see me poking my head in there from the family room.

Ireland

One of my favorite memories of visiting Ireland was visiting the ruins of Rahinnane Castle in Ventry, up in the hills outside Dingle.

To access the castle, you pay 5 Euros to park at a nearby farm and walk out across a field dotted with sheep. A boy from the farm came with us and brought along a few border collie pups — who in short order started herding the sheep — herding them directly at us!

I managed to retain my composure — even while a herd of sheep raced directly at me — and shoot this video:

It was one of the highlights of a trip filled with strange, poignant and unforgettable experiences. Yes, that’s my wife in the background saying, “Oh, sh*t… watch out!”

Baked: Adventures in Soda Bread

Last year I was put squarely in my place when the soda bread I keep bragging about failed to place in the Irish American Heritage Museum’s baking contest.

Undeterred, I plunged back in this year armed not only with my family recipe, but with an entry in their traditional brown category.

Traditional? Yes.

You see, what passes for soda bread in America is a sweet, cakey bread that’s often filled with raisins, caraway seeds, and other fancy things. But real soda bread, the type served at every meal if you visit Ireland, has just four ingredients: flour, buttermilk, salt, and baking soda. It’s rustic and simple, but spread with a little butter there are few things more delicious.

So, Saturday March 8 was a grand day down on Broadway at the the storefront museum; the whole place was fragrant with soda bread, and as the judges ploughed through their tasting, the contestants and others were digging into huge piles of soda bread, from the diverse assortment of American style recipes to the rough loaves of traditional bread made with either wheat or white flour.

To my surprise and amazement, my brown soda bread caught the fancy of the judges and was awarded first prize. Dumbstruck, when asked for my secret, I blurted out that my grandparents came from County Cork and that I’d been working hard for years on my bread recipe. The first part was true, but the second? That might have been a bit of blarney.

Oh… the winning recipe: Continue reading

Learned Behavior

THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP…

That’s the sound of a ball bouncing down the basement steps, which I’ve now heard three times this morning.

Our dog Scarlett has learned that if she drops a ball down the steps I will often retrieve it and toss it back to her. Then she drops it down the steps again.

It occurs to me now that this is a bizarre turnaround in the training routine; she is giving a cue that makes me spring into action. I have been conditioned to react in a certain way, and she knows — to the extent that dogs know anything — what I’ll do.

Predictable behavior on command. That sounds a lot like training to me.

But she’s just a dog and she can never get me trained properly. I’m quite sure that no matter what she does, I’ll continue to eat food off the counter, lay on the couch, and poop in the house. So there.

 

Diner

I like the drive south down River Road.

Glenmont, Selkirk, Coeymans, New Baltimore — keep going and you’ll go through Coxsackie and to Catskill. Route 144 gives way to Route 61 which leads to Route 385, but it’s all the same.

Roads like this were busier before the Thruway, and if you look closely you’ll see the remains of old gas stations and tourist cabins that dotted way — and places like the Bridge Diner.

It’s near two bridges in Coeymans, actually; the railroad bridge that carries freight across the river and the Thruway’s Castleton Bridge. The diner must have been a busy place when that Thruway bridge was being built in the late 1950s – ironic,  because it was the Thruway itself, not far behind the diner, which must have stolen a lot of the traffic away from Rt. 144.

Bridge Diner Coeymans

While the building looks vaguely like a railroad car, the only time it rolled anywhere was when it was shipped to its destination in four-foot segments and assembled on site. The diner was built by the Bixler Manufacturing Company of Norwalk, Ohio sometime between 1931 and 1937 when the firm went out of business. Back in the day, you could buy a pre-fab diner like this one on credit — and hope you got enough business to make your payment.

Bridge Diner Coeymans

I don’t know anything about how the Bridge Diner ended up as it is today. It’s too bad somebody couldn’t have put the building to use — or break it back down into four-foot sections and cart it off to where it could be live again, a place for a couple of fried eggs and some hash browns on a chilly morning.

A Dollar and a Dream

When it comes to shaving, I go with the cheapest. The cheapest shaving cream, the cheapest blades and no fancy balms or lotions.

But it’s not just about money.

One time my wife brought home a big bag of remarkably elaborate and expensive looking razors. They came from someone who works in R&D for a big razor company; he was hoping me and the boys would try these fancy things and provide feedback. I didn’t touch them. Nope. Just give me my plastic disposable twin blader. You, know, the kind of razor they let prison inmates use. Seems to work just fine!

Being so cheap committed to the basics,  I was intrigued by the Dollar Shave Club. It seems that a dollar — and another two dollars for shipping — will get you five blades a month. They even throw in a free handle. Very well, let’s give it a go. This could mean I never have to even think about razors again, and that I like the sound of that.

I’ll let you all know how this goes. In the meantime, watch this tremendous video from Dollar Shave Club. It’s one of the big reasons I signed up.

Attack of the Food Bloggers

Bloggers get no love. Consider this headline from the Times Union:

Ex-blogger Arrested on Child Porn Charges

I like how they give blogger equal billing with child porn. “Child porn? That figures! Filthy blogger!”

So, when somebody treats local bloggers special, believe me, it’s a pretty big deal — like this week when Price Chopper invited a bunch of local food bloggers to the opening of their new Market Bistro store in Latham.

Price Chopper has smart PR people, so they know that if you schmooze a bunch of bloggers and feed them you’ll get results — like seven blog posts the next day. There may be more out there; these are just the ones I found in a two-minute search:

Tablehopping
The Angel Forever
Albany Eats
All Over Albany
Eat Local
Jon in Albany
CR Foodies

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s terrific that blogs are considered an important part of a media campaign — and it does seem to work. Now, if I can only get myself invited somewhere they have free food. I promise to write a blog post about it.

Wordless Wednesday

0113

I knew exactly what I’d hear when I picked up the phone at 1:13am. Read this in shouting mode for the full effect:

Hello, this is recruit Madeo!
I have arrived safely at Parris Island!
Please do not send any food or bulky items!
I will contact you in 3 to 5 days via postcard with my new mailing address!
Thank you for your support!
Goodbye for now!

We tried to queeeze in a few words at the end of his scripted call, but he was gone in a flash, off for 12 weeks we can read about, but hardly imagine.