Category Archives: Eating

Dinner at the Art Cliff Diner

During the two weeks we spend at the beach each summer, we eat dinner out maybe a handful of times. Part of that decision is based upon practicalities – kids, expense, day drinking and driving, but the fact that we’ve been disappointed with pricy meals in restaurants with menus that attempt to satisfy adults and children, is the biggest factor in choosing either take out (less expensive than dining in with tip/adult beverages) or cooking at home.

All that said, there’s a place in Vineyard Haven I’d been wanting to try for a few years – the Art Cliff Diner. Sunday the stars aligned and the guys and I finally got there and we couldn’t have been happier. The Art Cliff is both a food truck and a stationary restaurant. We pulled into their shared parking lot at what seemed to be the ideal time, about 5:15. The restaurant wasn’t open for business, but the truck’s menu more than sufficed for us.

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There were maybe a dozen options and we were able to find something for each of us – Liam chose the cheesesteak sandwich ($14?) which was as fine an example of that item as I’ve ever enjoyed. The meat was thinly sliced, maybe even shaved, with sweet onions and the perfect amount of cheese. The portion was more than generous.

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For Griffin it was the pig on a roll ($8?), a moist pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw. He declined the chipotle mayo, but I’m sure it would have added a terrific kick to the tender and overstuffed sandwich. I also went with pork in the form of spicy pork taco. The soft flour tortilla ($8?) was complete with juicy pork, greens, a sour cream based sauce and green salsa. It was really, really delicious.

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Quinn went with a ho-hum hotdog ($4) which he thoroughly enjoyed and we rounded out things with two generous orders of fries – one plain and one dusted with grated Parmesan. The fries were fantastic and would make an awesome and satisfying snack solo at only $6.

Our total for a really high quality and nicely presented meal, with soft drinks was a fair and reasonable $57 before tip. I imagine their offerings change regularly, but can’t imagine ever being disappointed by their food.  Have you been there?  Tell me about it!  If you haven’t yet, try it and let me know.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, Food, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Summer, vacation

Sipping from Siro’s Cup

With Dominick and Carolyn Purnomo.                            Photo by Joe Putrock, Special to the times Union.

Last night I attended my first Saratoga “event,” the 21st Annual Newton Plaza Siro’s Cup.  I was thoughtfully included in a friend’s group and during a very busy week, it was the thing for which I was most excited.  What to wear? Could I forsake peer comfort with foot comfort and wear flats? Accessories were key and I wanted to feel put together from head (day 2 hair, flat ironed and sprayed) to toes (freshly pedicured in a gorgeous shade of pastel sea foam).  I knew I needed to feel confident in my appearance and went with a whole Goddess of Reading look.  I think it worked.

The showers through which I had driven in Albany had completely disappeared and the air in Saratoga was fresh and comfortable.  The fancy cars, Maserartis, Rolls Royces and my dream car, a 2 door Porsche, were parked on display and the whole thing felt about as swanky as you can get when you’re essentially walking barefoot from your own wagon parked in a grassy field.

Inside the party there was an almost overwhelming sense of stimulation.  People were ON.  The multiple bars set up attracted what seemed to be the most outgoing cliques of friend – there was a definite (and deserved) sense of holding court.  The clothes, the makeup, the hair…there was so much to absorb.  Fashion-wise, it seemed that anything went.  Naturally, there were Nantucket Reds, seersucker and linen adorning the guys and dresses in every length and color on the women.  There was a lot of jewelry, along with a fair amount of serious suntan.

A constantly flowing river of attendees were carried on a current of cocktails. People seemed happy and there were many outbursts of laughter to be heard.  The “first party of the season” feel to it made for an excellent vibe.  It was fun.  I loved seeing my favorite Pirate Girl and am so psyched the she has taken up residence for the season, like the ballet or the writers of Yaddo.  There were other hospitality folks there – the generation II Purnomos, Matt Baumgartner, Michael Cocca.  It was nice to see them being on the receiving end of hospitality for a change.

Many familiar faces were in the crowd.  I mean, I’ve worked in local restaurants for long time and have probably served thousands of people. I had a couple of moments, though, of feeling mildly out of place amongst a crowd who have far more lucrative investments than merely budgeting carefully and buying consigned clothes.  A couple of times I greeted attendees I knew from one restaurant or another and I wasn’t recognized without giving my name or context.  Do I look that different?  Am I invisible as a server?  Have I gained weight?*  Am I aging poorly? It was a little awkward to navigate.

Gnocchi and shaved truffles

Gnocchi and shaved truffles

The scene, though, was captivating.  I could have walked, marveling under the star-filled sky, for even longer, but my belly demanded food and I don’t like eating standing up.  I headed to 15 Church and got exactly what I was looking for – something delicious and indulgent to eat and sip and the welcome of friends I’ve worked with over the years.  I wish Saratoga was closer.

Burrata, tomatoes, basil

Burrata, tomatoes, basil

*no charge for that peek inside my head.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Events, Food, friends, Local, Restaurants, Saratoga, Summer, Wine

Expectations

What are “reasonable” expectations?  Are you comfortable with those you have and, presumably, honor?  I was thinking about some of the expectations I have and considering their degree of realism.  I think I do ok with most of them.  My problem comes when I allow something external to start putting the squeeze on me – like Hallmark or Madison Avenue.  That’s when I’m sure to be dissatisfied.

When I recently wrote my list of Mother’s Day wishes, I didn’t think I was asking for all that much.  Most of the items had more to do with thoughtfulness than money.  I thought it was a reasonable list of expectations. Shall I share how many I received and how it made me feel?

There were 10 “things” on the list.  Three were delivered, a number  I can accept.  Well, was actually more like 2 were completely met and two were partially met, which I decided to count as three.  I’m almost always able to see the positive, and the overall spirit of my wish or expectation was met.  For instance, I didn’t have to get up prematurely to take Jeter out, because he wasn’t home yet from Center Square.  That sort of thing.  So, three done with one more  that I’m going to nail before the day is done.

Today, in the morning, I was disappointed.  There was very little showering of attention and there wasn’t a single sweet bakery treat.  I washed and folded four loads of laundry and thawed some chicken for dinner.  I decided I no longer wanted to go out.  I did some puttering around the house, a little garden weeding and then spontaneously joined friends for a glass of prosecco.  The day started to shift.

kale, pears, roth bleu, craisins, sunflower oil, salt

kale, pears, roth bleu, craisins, sunflower oil, salt

I came home and prepared a beautiful dinner of slightly charred chicken with two marinades, grilled local asparagus and a fantastic kale and pear side dish. The boys set the table with minimal protest.  They helped to clean up following dinner, as well.  When the kitchen was tidied up, I headed down to the Normanskill for a walk, minus any FLB, but Jeter with riding shotgun.

Normanskill

Normanskill

I saw the end of my day in sight.  A walk, some writing, a run, a shower and in between the fresh sheets.  My annoyance with the FLB and their fail for Mother’s Day began to roll off my shoulders.  What did it matter?  Why are flowers or candy any more special because they arrive on a specified holiday?  Isn’t it more enjoyable to receive some acknowledgement of our value on a day when our children are inspired, rather than pressured?  Who cares?  Or, more specifically, why should I care?

So, Jeter had his first swim (not as much of a natural as Cassidy), I had a walk in the sunshine and now, my run beckons.  The day didn’t go as expected, but it still was a day of sunshine, good food, new experiences, friends, bubbles, exercise, and being a mom to three “boys.”

Hope your Mother’s Day expectations were met equally well.

not really sure about how he got here...

not really sure about how he got here…

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Filed under aging, Boys, Eating, family, holidays, moms, musings, Normanskill, sunday

Come on in my Cucina

See that post title above?  I have a confession about it… I seriously almost used  a more, shall we say, colorful homophonic version of the word “come,”  but chose not to because I was afraid it might be interpreted as vulgar.  I may be salty at times with my language choices, but crass is something I do not want to be.

So – why the temptation to use a word with carnal connotations to describe a dining experience?  Well, because Cucina, located at the north (east?) end of town in Woodstock, is a very sexy restaurant.  From the wide porch which offers dining al fresco during the warmer months, to the painted plank floors and the understated decor, to the menu which invites exploration and sharing, this place is hot.

My number one advice for planning your meal at Cucina is this: go with people you love because you’re going to want to share your food. Until the dessert course, of course, but we’ll get to that…

My home(town)girls and I selected Cucina for our “midway” dining date based upon recommendations from the Wine Bar & Bistro Chef, Nick, and the prior experience of one of the girls. We had 7pm reservations, but arrived a little early since most of our usual shopping destinations are still on winter hours and had closed by 6pm. We began at the bar, an open, well-lit area, and perused the creative cocktail list. I struggled with personal responsibility wanting to order one of everything, gin drinks aside. Because of our mutual appreciation of wine with dinner, Ginny and I elected to share the Orient Old Fashioned as an aperitif and it was a revelation. Spicy from the ginger syrup, smooth from the Bulleit, refreshing and piquant, I easily could  have gulped this down in record time.

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squid – two sauces

The dinner menu came with its own impressive array of temptations, but as a party of four we were in a good position to try a number of items.  I took charge (imagine!) of how many dishes we would have and collectively we agreed on what each course would contain.  We started with two appetizers – the crispy squid and the shrimp and white beans.  Neither dish broke any new ground in terms of composition, but the execution was exceptional.  The squid was lightly battered and virtually without greasiness, while the shrimp were perfectly cooked and accompanied by beans which retained the ideal amount of firmness.  Great start!

shrimp, white beans, tomatoes

shrimp, white beans, tomatoes

We followed the appetizers with two salads and a special pizza.  The asparagus, snap peas, endive, etc salad was creative and capitalized on ingredients which are coming into their own, seasonwise.  What can you say about roasted beets, Coach Farms goat cheese and balsamic vinegar other than yum?  Exactly.  Our beautiful pizza, topped with a riot of green veggies, including some banging jalapenos, on the thinnest of crusts, was a spicy delight.

pizza

pizza – baby spinach, jalapenos, red onions

We finished our savory experience with two pastas – the spinach and ricotta filled ravioli with brown sage butter and an evening risotto special with scallops, shrimp and saffron.  The portions aren’t tremendous, but the flavors are and we were very content with the quality and amount of food we were served.  Speaking of served, our server was terrific.  No complaints at all , start to finish.  With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, 2010, a wonderful food wine which I am familiar with from the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark.  Perfect.

MY dessert - no sharing

MY dessert – no sharing

When it came time for dessert, I was done with sharing and insisted that it was every woman for herself.  My choice, the butterscotch budino, was off the hook, crazy delicious.  Butterscotch, caramel, toasted coconut and sea salt put together in ideal proportions to make a dreamy pudding-esque climax to a wonderful evening.

Yeah, I’ll come on in Cucina any time.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, upstate New York

“Stuff” to do with your Field Goods

 Have you ever participated with a CSA?  I did one year and found myself more than a little overwhelmed by the array of obscure greens and heritage vegetables.  While I enjoyed the challenge of trying to create meals from previously unknown ingredients, I have never been tempted to commit again to the responsibility of having to retrieve my bag of goods from a remote location.  Field Goods and their convenient delivery to my school has proven to be the ideal solution for getting fresh, and sometimes frozen, produce into my kitchen and my tummy.

This week’s bag included some beautiful Portobello mushrooms and the timing of this exchange on Twitter could not have been more perfect:

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Ding, ding – dinner has been determined!

I started by wiping the mushroom and removing the stems, trimming the ends a bit.  Using a combination of olive oil and butter, I sautéed the chopped stems, adding minced shallots* and chopped onion* and basically softening everything up.  I had about 2/3 of a cup of leftover couscous and tossed that in as well.  Rummaging through the fridge, I also found a few sprigs of (kind of) fresh thyme and minced that up to add to the pan along with about a ½ cup of bread crumbs.  I seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and turned the oven on to 350.
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I placed the intact caps in a shallow baking dish and drizzled them with a little olive oil and put them in the oven to soften up a bit.  After about 10 minutes, I filled the caps, generously piling the stuffing on.  I had some kind of crappy parmesan cheese in the cheese drawer and grated it over the mushrooms and covered the baking dish with foil.  I heated everything through (maybe 7 or 8 minutes) and then uncovered my tasty meatless dinner.

Delicious and satisfying!  I will definitely make these again.  Maybe, once Lent is finally over, I’ll add a little sausage or ground turkey…

Leftovers lunch!

Leftovers lunch!

* the shallots and onions were both from previous weeks’ deliveries.

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Filed under Cooking, Dinner, Eating, Food, Recipes

Sunday dinner out in the DelSo

One of the first images to enter my brain last Sunday morning came to me courtesy of an email from Living Social.  They were offering a deal for Yanni’s Too, a place known for its fried calamari, and the picture accompanying the sales pitch became my obsession and inspiration for the day.  Crispy looking golden brown rings and tentacles… I needed some, but had no desire to drive south and dine riverside.  I explored my options, beginning, and happily ending, in my own neighborhood – Nicole’s Restaurant.  All I had was a 5 mile run to get through first.

Run finished, I quickly called Nicole’s to make sure they still had tables seated at 8:00 on a Sunday.  I never want to be that person who comes in on a quiet night and keeps staff hanging around.  I was assured that they still were doing business and invited to please stop by.  On my arrival I was offered a nice deuce in the front and settled in with the menu and a basket of warm bread accompanied with good quality olive oil and an olive tapenade.
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I was hungry and went a little crazy ordering the fried calamari, the eggplant rollatini and an intriguing sounding Brussels sprouts Caesar salad.  After considering a bottle of wine, with the option to bring home what I didn’t finish, I talked myself down and went with a glass of chianti which satisfied me perfectly.

squid

The calamari was terrific. It was piping hot, crispy and not oily in the slightest.  The accompanying sauce was different and enjoyable, but I’m pretty simple and would have been equally pleased with a marinara sauce on the side.

eggplantThe eggplant was tender, completely devoid of bitterness and wonderfully smoky from the oozing cheese.  Again, the presentation is a little different with only some roasted red peppers topping the eggplant, rather than the more typical bath of red sauce.  Tasty.

ceasarThe salad was a unique spin on Caesar – a feat that is not easily accomplished, but I didn’t really taste the classic Caesar notes of garlic, cheese and anchovy as I had expected.  The anchovies were white which, in my opinion, gives a sharper, more vinegary taste.  I liked the salad more when I finished it up the next day as part of my lunch.  It seemed to have mellowed out a bit.

cheesecakeI wrapped things up with an indulgent slice of chocolate cheesecake – 5 miles, people.  I had just run 5 miles.  Belly full, $50 + tip lighter, I slept like a well fed baby.  Although I don’t get to Nicole’s often enough, it’s nice to know they continue to offer a consistently creative menu that never fails to provide comfort and quality.

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Dinner, Eating, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, sunday

Schooled in cheese.

DSC_0006Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about cheese.  My earliest cheese memories center around my regular lunch order – Muenster on white with mayo.  Simple, a bit tangy and the perfect balance to my other standard sandwich option, liverwurst.  What can I say?  I was raised by a German mother.

As I aged, I expanded my cheese horizons…there was cheddar and provolone, an array of blue-veined beauties, soft delights like Brie, preferably served warm and oozing.  Cheese would most certainly prevent me from being a vegan.  Ever.

While most of my cheesy memories are positive ones, there is one incident which will forever stand out in my memory for both the icky taste and the laughter it ultimately inspired. Many years ago, while visiting Alsace, we lost track of time and missed our opportunity to catch lunch service in the small French town we found ourselves in.  Using my best parlez vous Francais, I asked if perhaps we might have some fruit, cheese and bread to tide us over until dinner could be had.

We were graciously indulged with a lovely plate of local specialties, including a couple of new to us cheeses.  As we dug in, we shared our impressions of the fromage.  One sample stumped my husband and as he struggled to find the words to describe it, I impatiently grabbed a (blessedly) small piece and shoved it into my mouth.  What followed next was a comical series of sputtering, spitting and cursing as I exclaimed “You couldn’t simply say it tastes the way I imagine dog shit might taste?!?”  Bad cheese, but great story.
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Locally, the cheese universe has evolved tremendously over the years.  From Cowen and Lobel to Old Chatham to the Honest Weight, cheese has grown into a specialized niche with plenty of devotees.  When The Cheese Traveler moved into the DelSo bringing his enthusiasm and knowledge with him, I knew I would never again inadvertently place a crappy tasting cheese in my mouth again.

I have to confess, that I find myself gravitating to creamiest of Gorgonzola more often than not, but it is so good to know that I can surrender myself to Eric’s wisdom and explore other cheesy delights.  Last week’s Soup and Grilled Cheese Tasting party was a fun way to sample some flavors which were new to me, including the killer combination of Flying Pigs ham, Fourme d’Ambert and Mingle’s kimchi – an explosion of tastes that I’m still thinking about days later.  Here are a couple of terrific write ups from the event (or shop, in general) which go into far more detail about the grilled cheese offerings.  There are a few upcoming Cheese Traveler events which look both delicious and educational, including Cheese School which begins in April and the fundraiser advertised below which is tonight.  Follow him on Twitter to keep up with how to be your cheesiest best.

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TONIGHT!!!

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, Local, soup