Spirit of Halloween I

Autumn Harvest 5
Halloween is just around the corner and decorations are out in Upstate New York!
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All-American Diner Tour: Amsterdam Diner in Amsterdam, New York

North of Amsterdam in the Mohawk Valley, nestled among strip malls near the intersection of Route 30 and Log City Road, sits the Amsterdam Diner. This is the latest establishment to go by that name. Apparently there was an older Amsterdam Diner south of town off Exit 27. This establishment used to be called the Olympic Diner, but came under new ownership. It is a modern or Greek-style diner.

It wasn’t busy when I stopped in for dinner. An old, wiry cowboy sat at the counter and a few families were scattered around the restaurant. I ordered a Greek wrap, which consisted of grilled chicken, fresh baby spinach, mushrooms, honey mustard dressing, and chunks of feta cheese with fries and a small side of coleslaw for $8.99. It was pretty good for the price.

The Amsterdam Diner has a traditional menu mixed with ethnic Greek and Italian cuisine. Italian dishes are mostly parmigiana, which is usually a fried eggplant dish. They offer variations with cheese ravioli, chicken cutlet, butterfly shrimp, and chopped steak. Greek dishes include something called “Spinach Pie and Rise” for $12.99.

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All-American Diner Tour: Alexis Diner in Newburgh, New York

Located off I-84 at the juncture of Route 9W and N. Plank Road at the north end of economically depressed , New York, Alexis Diner is a 24-hour Greek restaurant-diner hybrid with all the chrome you can ask for. Its extensive menu and desert offerings includes a full bar. There is limited counter seating but plenty of booths and tables. Wall murals and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling make for an unusually classy atmosphere.

On my visit, I ordered the Mediterranean Panini with grilled chicken, fresh spinach, mozzarella cheese, and pesto for $10.75. It came with French fries, cole slaw, and half a pickle. I was able to substitute macaroni salad for the French fries for no extra charge. The waitress was attentive and the food was good.

My only complaint was that the chicken pieces in my panini were too large but otherwise it was perfect. I normally don’t eat desert, but my waitress persuaded me to try the rice pudding. I thought it would be served in a small bowl, but it came out in a large glass topped with whip cream and cinnamon! So good.

As mentioned earlier, their menu is quite extensive. At twelve pages, it’d be hard not to find something you like. There is an entire selection of southwestern cuisine, including stir fry, fajitas, quesadillas, nachos, and a taco salad. Their specialty sandwiches include a “Jitterbug,” an open-faced hamburger slathered in gravy, served with French fries or potato salad and cole slaw for $7.25.

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Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016) is one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen in a long time. I try to watch anything with Aubrey Plaza in it, but didn’t catch this one in the theater. Not only is it hilariously improvised, it’s also based on a true story. The unbelievable misadventure of Mike and Dave Stangle, who were instructed to bring dates to their sister’s wedding in Saratoga, New York, inspired the film. They posted an ad on Craigslist in February 2013, which went viral. Real life Mike and Dave, from Albany, even have a cameo in the film.

In the movie version of events, Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) face an ultimatum from family members over a history of hard partying and ruining family gatherings. Their parents, Burt (Stephen Root) and Rosie (Stephanie Faracy) Stangle, insist they bring dates to their sister Jeanie’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding in Hawaii. She is marrying Eric (Sam Richardson), who is grounded and emotionally reserved. After their Craigslist ad goes viral, they run through a series of hilarious dates before meeting Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), another pair of hard-partiers who pretend to be nice girls to get a free trip to Hawaii.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates was written by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien and directed by Jake Szymanski. Szymanski has directed dozens of video shorts and a few television episodes and TV movies, which might explain why the film felt like a series of skits seamlessly woven together. Make no mistake, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates not only has a plot, it also has character development, two things often missing from other recently-released comedies.

The film is simply about four shallow, emotionally juvenile people maturing and finding happiness. Dave learns he needs a separate identity from his brother and decides to pursue his talent at drawing, Alice finally gets over being left at the altar and pursues a relationship with Dave, and Mike and Tatiana go into business together. They patch things up with their sister after derailing her ceremony, and use their talents to make sure Jeanie gets the Hawaii wedding she deserves. Even Eric gets to show he’s not as straight-laced as he appears. It’s not a complex story, but what else can you expect from a raunchy romantic comedy?

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