An Unexpectedly Fall-like Weekend

This past weekend my dear friend JoAnn (a.k.a. Josie/Jo-Jo) visited us here in upstate New York. I always adore our time together, and whenever she leaves things are a bit quieter and sadder for several days in her absence. Luckily, we made the most of the weekend, which took us by surprise in its coolness – the sudden descent of Fall into what had been a hot and sultry summer.

It still feels a little early to let go of the summer, but the break in heat was actually a welcome relief from the stifling high temps of late, and the signs of Fall are all around. JoAnn said she had seen a  few trees already changing colors on her drive here.

Pumpkins, gourds, everlastings, asters, and chrysanthemums are already out as well. We stopped at Faddegon’s to greet the season in its infancy. The avalanche of apples is about to begin. One of the solaces of impending cold is the promise of cozy oven treats (provided our new oven gets delivered soon).

After Faddegon’s, we stopped at the Wit’s End Giftique, another cozy oasis in the face of cool wind, and a harbinger of Fall. I picked up a few cards, and JoAnn found several gifts. From there we headed over to the new Fresh Market to find provisions for dinner.

JoAnn was in tow for my first visit to the new Fresh Market that just opened in Latham. Both Andy and I had been putting it off in the hopes that the curious crowds would soon dissipate, but Jo Jo and I took the plunge and headed in prepared for battle.

It certainly is a pretty store, but the walkways are a bit small for the amount of people currently milling about in the place, and I can’t imagine how we would have made our way through the place with a cart if we’d had one.

As it was, there seemed to be a long line of carts slinking slowly around the store, but it looked impossible for one to pass another, and that would have driven me crazy. We managed to do all right, seeing most of the place in good time, and finding everything we needed (though the fresh pasta was elusive enough to warrant some help from one of the employees – all of whom were courteous, professional, and generous with the smiles).

The prices were as high as anticipated, but there’s a lot that you can’t get at Price Chopper or Hannaford, so for those items a once-a-month stop here seems the ideal plan. Andy would still need for there to be a lot less people inside to enjoy it, but I’m guessing weekday mornings/early afternoons are a lot quieter than a holiday weekend.

JoAnn and I made quick work of our trip, grabbing Coconut water, peach soda, grapefruit juice, tortellini, lime/chili chips, brie, crackers, and salad greens. (Somehow it would all come together…)

Somehow we resisted the temptation of sweets and chocolates and candy all around us, making our way to the registers and escaping largely unscathed. Though the lines looked a little long, and the register space miniscule, it went surprisingly fast, and the staff was overwhelmingly friendly and helpful. All in all it was a pretty good first-time experience at the Fresh Market. Cocktails and dinner were up next – along with some silly FaceBooking and a phone call from an old friend we haven’t seen in a dozen years…

Back home, we began the preparations for dinner, which naturally started with a  cocktail and some crackers and cheese. Somehow we managed to warm the brie without a fully-functioning oven, and the martini of the evening was a sparkling peach concoction – about one part each citrus vodka, peach schnapps, and Izze sparkling peach soda.

Usually something like that would prove too sweet for a dry-loving palette, but this one was just tart enough to take away the sweetness. Andy made a killer bolognese sauce that had reduced to a thick, chunky mass of tomatoes, basil and tender meat – atop the fresh tortellini it was a little taste of glory.

After a few more cocktails, Jo Jo and I attempted to begin planning a Boston reunion of our John Hancock co-workers. We tried FaceBook with little success – the lone person we cound find has not yet accepted my request (ouch). We did, however, find the number of our friend Kira, who was at JH with us all those years ago, and after leaving a message with whomever had answered, Kira called us back.

Alas, Kira remembered even less than we did – so we don’t know anyone’s last name to even begin a proper search and find quest. However, we remain undaunted, and will try to do some sleuthing. Somewhere I have a notebook that I had everyone sign on my last day working there – that may hold the key.

After dinner, JoAnn and I stepped onto the back patio and had another lengthy discussion about family and friends. Things have shifted quite a bit for both of us, so it was good to be a sounding board for one another. The night closed in, darkly shading our tete-a-tete, and the long weekend was drawing to its close. The next morning she would depart, returning to Boston.

On JoAnn’s last morning in upstate, I awoke and made some scrambled eggs with herbs and truffle oil, along with a batch of homefires. JoAnn is the one who taught me how to make these, way back over in the North Beach house by the pond, so in some ways we have come full circle. It felt good to do something for her, since she always does things like this for everyone else.

We had a loaf of zucchini bread that my Mom had made, filled with the shredded summer vegetable and supplemented with some coconut and chocolate chips. Outside on the backyard patio we ate and made plans for our next rendezvous in Boston or Cape Cod. I am on Tour, after all, and the Fall season is about to begin… Many thanks to Jo Jo for a  wonderful end-of-the-summer weekend.

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