The Saratoga Traveler: Day Trips, Weekend Getaways & Hidden Gems

I Met Rachael Ray

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As many of you may know Rachael Ray is from the Saratoga Springs area, at least from some where around Saratoga Springs. Anyway.... she recently came out with a new cookbook -- Look + Cook-- which features photos for every step in the recipes along with access to online videos minus commercial breaks so that you can see exactly how to make the recipes. So its virtually foolproof.
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Well there are 3 things that I dearly love.... 1. writing, 2. cooking and 3. travel .... so I took the opportunity to combine all 3 of these things by going to Connecticut and meeting Rachael herself at a book signing. I ordered the book online (also got one for my niece Laura who is a HUGE Rachael fan) from R.J. Julia's website. They held the books there until we got there the day before the signing. We decided to make it a late anniversary trip and got a room in the inn across the street from the bookstore. No way was I going to stay somewhere that wasn't within walking distance of the bookstore and risk getting lost. The inn was part of a restaurant and bar called The Inn at Lafayette. There were only 5 rooms that were much nicer in the pictures and description on the website. Since it was part of the restaurant and bar, it was very noisy and we were able to hear just about every word coming up through the floor from the bar below.
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But it was across the street from the bookstore and Madison Connecticut is a picturesque little town so I was willing to deal with the accommodations. We arrived on Friday night and the book signing was the next day at 2 pm. We got continental breakfast with our room which was served at the coffee shop across the street, stale bagels and muffin and mediocre coffee....but while there we heard someone say that people were already lining up for the book signing, so we finished quickly and went to the bookstore. Outside were a man and his mother, then 2 sisters (one had her daughter with her) so we were essentially 3rd in line!! One of the sisters was nice enough to loan us a camp chair that she had in her car, which was a good thing since it was 9:30 and the book signing started at 2! While we were waiting (and freezing) we learned that the man in the front of the line is an avid celebrity hound and used to be a body guard for some pretty famous wrestlers and he has met some pretty famous people among them was Beyonce. During the conversation I found out about Carlo's bakery in Hoboken, the home of the Cake Boss and Buddy Valastro. He gave directions and it turned out that it wasn't that far from Madison so we thought that we would try it on Sunday on the way home. But that's another story...
The time started to pass and the line grew longer and longer. I was really glad that I decided to pre-order my books and get in line when we did. Finally came the time to meet Rachael. Someone from the bookstore came along and asked us who she was to make the book out to, then she wrote in on post it note and put it in the book, the book was then opened to the page she was going to sign. I had planned in my head every thing that I was going to say, I knew I didn't have much time since there were no photos allowed and I only had 2 books to be signed.
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I told her that we drove from Saratoga Springs and she smiled that big Rachael smile and said "Hey neighbor!" The man standing on the side who I assume was some sort of security asked if we were driving back today. I told him that we are staying at the Inn across the street. While she was signing Laura's book I told her that Laura is a big fan and that when she came to visit we took her to some of Rachael's favorite places like Oscar's Smokehouse (then she gave me a high five and said "Isn't Oscar's awesome!") and Hick's Apple Orchard (which warranted another high five!).
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After she was done signing my books I told her "We only waited 4 1/2 hours, no big deal." After hearing that she grabbed and patted my hand. I told her my hands are cold and she said "I'll warm them up for you." and rubbed my hand between hers. It was so nice to meet the person that I watch on tv day after day and find out that she as genuine in person as she is on screen. And yes, it was worth the 4 1/2 hour wait even though our meeting was about 2 minutes long. The one thing that I wished I would have told her was that this trip was to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary! Maybe then we would have gotten a photo with her.
Now onto the cookbook itself. The title is Look + Cook and is perfect for the novice cook. There are 600 photos that take you step by step through every recipe. I'm not a novice cook but I still tried the recipes and found them to be easy and quite tasty. My husband and son are fans of Rachael's recipes as am I for the flavors and ease of preparation. My only complaint is that some of the ingredients can be pricey and a little difficult to find. I've tried a good portion of the recipes in the cook book, among those that are favorites are Knife and Fork Burgers with Stewed Vegetable Gravy (p. 201) which is a frequent request. Double-Bacon-Beer-Braised Cheeseburgers (p. 218) also known as the Adirondacker. Bocconcini Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato-Pesto Sauce (p 181) which is a favorite of mine. Like Rachael says: "What's better than big roasted meatballs wrapped around fresh mozarella cheese?" There is also Crispy Curried Fried Chicken (p. 151), Pork Chops Pizzaiola (p. 147) Crispy Parm-Crusted Fillet of Fish & Buttery Bow Ties with Peas (p. 136), French Onion & Wild Mushroom Soup (p. 86) Steakhouse Chili Pot (p. 76) and Paprika Chicken with Egg Noodles (p. 41). Those are only the ones I've tried so far!
To sum it up, I love the cook book, the recipes and Rachael! The only thing that would make the cookbook perfect would be for it to be spiral bound so that it lies flat to make it easier to follow the photos.

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Kim Bernard

Moved to Saratoga from St Louis MO (home of The Gateway Arch, Baseball Cardinals and of course Anheuser-Busch) with my family for my husband's job. In the last 2 1/2 years we've had the opportunity to explore and discover day trips, hidden gems, along with some of the most beautiful, historic, interesting and curious places in New England. So come with me and look through a Midwesterner's eyes at Saratoga and beyond. I hope you enjoy your adventures and feel free to share yours and together we can feed our travel bug!