Monday, June 2, 2008

Playing Catch Up

Did you know that just a 75 minute drive from New York City lies a serene state park where hiking trails abound and a blue lake awaits you? It's called Clarence Fahnestock State Park and I had passed it many times on so many drives up and down the Taconic during college, but had never ventured inward until this Memorial Day weekend.

With our beach plans thwarted, Jesse and I wanted some other naturesque escape from the city's grey blocks. Guessing that Bear Mountain would be crowded with similar-minded Memorial weekend escapees, we decided on Fahnestock park, which is much less known, left at 2pm, and found ourselves there after what felt like a short drive later. Even better, entrance was free! The park covers a larger area than I had imagined, filled with hiking trails, and smoky campsites, and a clear blue lake perfect for exploration via canoes and rowboats. It also supposedly boasts a beautiful white sand beach, but that did cost money, so we didn't get to see it.

After a couple hours traversing a short pass over the Appalachian trail we simply headed back home and were back in Brooklyn for dinnertime. It seemed almost too easy of a getaway. But those simple hours in the woods restored our hearts and minds and prepared us for the remainder of the alcohol hazed weekend.

On the way home we stopped at Fairway to pick up soft shell crabs. I'd been wanting to try them for so long, since Jesse had extolled their virtues as a seasonal delicacy. He grilled them to perfection according to Jen's directions on Last Night's Dinner, along with grilled asparagus. Meanwhile, I prepared a lemon thyme vinaigrette for a simple salad with fresh lettuce. We usually put together balsamic vinaigrette for our salads, so I wanted to try something new. It wasn't quite right - the flavor of the olive oil was too prominent. But it was a nice change of pace, and certainly heading in the right direction for bright summery salads.

As for the soft shell crabs, I wasn't the biggest fan. The texture of the shell wasn't as crispy as I expected and was just a little too tough. I found myself hankering for the pure unadulterated crab meat inside, but couldn't get a bite without the exoskeleton. I have hope though that maybe it's a taste that will grow on me - after all, Jesse wasn't such a fan the first time he tried soft shell crabs, but he oohed and aahed over his creation this time.

As for the rest of our long weekend, it involved an easy bike ride down to our favorite spot in Prospect Park, at the bottom of the lake, where we had beer and sandwiches from Bierkraft nestled against a tree with the wide blue lake before us;

pitchers of margaritas out in the sun on Flatbush Avenue; many more bars; and burgers delivered to our rooftop gathering because it was too much to ask everyone to coordinate a potluck barbecue when all we wanted to do was go on drinking and relaxing some more in the sun and the night. And now back to the workweek.

Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tsp fresh thyme (I used dried because my thyme plant isn't looking quite big enough yet)
2 stalks spring garlic, minced
1/2 tsp mustard

Whisk ingredients together and adjust to taste. Serve over fresh lettuces for a delightful salad.

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