Category Archives: Recommendations

On the beach…

…there’s sand.  Grains and grains of sand.  Because of this condition, this year I committed to taking only paperback books to the beach.  I mean, really, when it comes to reading at the beach, something I can finally do now that my boys are older, the paperback is the only way to go.

There are a couple of books which left a big impression upon me when I first read them many years ago.  I decided to revisit them to see if they still would move me after so many years had gone past.

I started with Hemingway’s  A Moveable Feast.  When I first read it, I was an undergraduate infatuated with the romance of Europe and expatriates.  Two of those three have not changed.  Reading it last week,  I was once again  transported to Paris, witnessing the cafe life of some of America’s finest writers during the 1920s.  Hemingway’s observations, recounted from memory decades later, are remarkable as he paints such vivid scenes with an almost miserly number of words.  It still works for me.

A couple of favorite passages:

“We’ll come home and eat here and we’ll have a lovely meal and drink Beaune from the co-operative you can see right out of the window there with the price of the Beaune on the window. And afterwards we’ll read and then go to bed and make love.”

“In Europe then we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism not a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary, and I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking either wine or cider or beer.”

The other title I picked up for the first time in years was Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.  I remember being absolutely charmed by this wonderful novel when I initially encountered it.  The passion!  The deftly handled magical realism!  I loved it then and I love it now.  I could almost taste the words.

Here are a few morsels to savor.

“To the table or to bed
You must come when you are bid.”

“A man equal to loving someone who needed love as much as she did, a man like him.”

“…within our bodies each of us has the elements needed to produce phosphorus… each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them by ourselves…each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live, since the combustion that occurs when one of them is ignited is what nourishes the soul.”

What are your favorites?  Have you revisited any recently?

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Filed under Books, Cape Cod, favorites, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Summer, vacation

Popping cherries

imageIs it me or have the cherries this year been terrific? I’ve really been enjoying them with plain Greek yogurt and granola as a light lunch or pre-run snack in recent weeks and will be sad to see the season end. Especially since I just bought a new kitchen gadget to make eating even easier. Meet my new favorite kitchen toy – the cherry pitter!

You may be familiar with my resistance to buying one-trick wonder items. I’m more into multitasking, you know. When I hit up Utilities in Provincetown for my annual shopping spree, though, I was willing to take a break from my usual state of efficiency to simplify my life by buying a cherry pitter. Of course, as always, when I go to a store seeking a specific item they were sold out. Boo.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to reside in the pits for long because Vineyard Haven has an awesome home store, Le Roux, that had exactly what I was seeking – in three different versions! I went with the Cadillac version in the hopes that I will never have to make this purchase again. At least that’s what the salesman promised.

So? How does it work? It’s pretty damn amazing! Stem the cherries and place them in the pitter and press. Bam! The pit drops out and you’re left with a nearly intact cherry. Easy-peasy, as they say. As a matter of fact, I just may pick up a couple of more to have on hand for gifts for friends who are tired of living in the pits.

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Filed under favorites, ideas, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Uncategorized

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

The berry best

berriesYou know how, as a parent, you want your child(ren) to eat well and appreciate simple pleasures?  We work to expose them to flavors and provide them with options when it comes to satisfying their appetites as well as their curiosity about what things taste like, and where they come from.  Well, there is no better time to do that than now – it’s strawberry season and nothing will teach your kid faster about the superiority of fresh local produce than some time spent in a field picking (and eating) berries.

All over Albany did a great post last week summarizing many of the options available in the Capital District for picking your own berries.  On Saturday, Quinn and I headed out to Altamont Orchards and quickly picked three quarts of juicy fruit.  We were prepared with our own containers (not too deep because the berries will crush under their own weight), sunscreen and clothing we wouldn’t mind becoming stained from the berry juice.  The drive took a little longer than I had expected, but Quinn’s company pretty much entertained me the entire way.  Note: the pick-your-own fields are not located in the same location as the farm stand/market.  Call for clarification if you plan to head out there.

 I wish I had the words to describe how amazingly delicious that first berry I popped into my mouth was…warm from the sun, succulent, juicy, sweet…it tasted so different from a supermarket berry that it isn’t accurate to call them both the same name.  When my middle son sampled a couple of berries after we got home, he asked “How come they make the ones in the store taste so different?”  I’ve got no answer for that, just a suggestion for him – eat as many of these as you can because the season is way too short.  I guess we could take that advice about living in general, right?

For three fine mornings I enjoyed berries in my cereal and with my waffles.  Jeter, who is inclined to sit at my feet when he sees me slicing strawberries, also appreciated the berries which I shared with him.  We’ve got a quart of cleaned berries in the freezer at the ready for smoothie-making and I’m trying to figure out a way to get back to the fields this coming weekend.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Filed under Boys, family, Local, Recommendations, Summer

World Cup mayhem!

photo(171)How was your Sunday?  Mine was wonderfully insane, thank you very much.  Why, you ask? Well, I spent my day selling mugs and beer tokens down at Wolff’s Biergarten, which may not sound very fun to those of you who aren’t into crowds or soccer, but it was right up my alley.  There were hundreds (thousand+?) of folks sporting red, white and blue looking to have a great time on a gorgeous day.  What could be bad about that?

While the match may not have ended soon enough for team USA to walk away with a win rather than a tie, it was still a fantastic day.  I’ll be working a number of additional shifts in the next few weeks and hope you all make it down to take in a match and indulge in some tasty beer and a scene unlike you’ll find anywhere for this event.

photo(172)For the uninitiated, here’s how it works:  for $20 bucks you get a 1 liter plastic stein and 2 beer tokens.  The tokens are good for .5 liters of beer so you can fill your mug fully once or halfway twice, your call.  Personally, I’d go with the halfway twice because I like my beer cold and I like to wander between the Biergarten and the Bier Tent.  Since taking beer from one location to the other isn’t permitted, you’d probably want to enjoy a beer in both places to catch the full scope of fandom.  Need more beer?  Additional tokens are $7 each or 3 for $20 and the tokens don’t expire.  Speaking of not expiring – your stein will get you entry into any and all subsequent games so make sure you hold on to it.  Bring it with you for any matches during the World Cup and you get in without any additional charge.

So, there you have it.  Soccer, bier, peanuts.  Come get some.

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Filed under Albany, beer, Events, Local, Recommendations, soccer, Summer, sunday

Every boy an island

Yep, there were three boys and yes, we did visit three islands. Mission accomplished.  Here are some highlights.
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  • We actually got on the road precisely on time.  This is such a rare occurrence that I could not let it pass without acknowledgement.
  • The drive was uneventful and we encountered no traffic until we got to the Holland tunnel.  This was a different route for me, but it made sense to avoid the West Side Highway and enter Manhattan in TriBeCa.
  • We parked for free right in front of the hotel.  Really.
  • After leaving our luggage behind, we hopped a subway to Battery Park and  made our way to Staten Island, fortifying ourselves with some Sabrett’s along the way.  I eat a hotdog maybe once every few years.  This one was with onions and mustard.  It was divine.
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  • After docking, we jumped on a train for two stops and then walked the remainder of the way to Stapleton Pier where we got in line to tour the U.S.S. McFaul.  Also present was the U.S.S. Cole, but that line was even longer.
  • Our tour was informative and free and the perfect activity for Memorial Day Weekend.  Recommended.
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  • After docking again in Manhattan, we walked to Chinatown where we gorged on soup dumplings, crispy duck, Shanghai noodles, squid with salted vegetables and peppers and, my favorite, green beans with pork.
  • A leisurely walk back to our hotel followed dinner, with the boys remaining behind while I hoofed it up to Rocco’s for pastry.  It was a beautiful evening for a walk and I was thrilled with the patriotically lit Empire State Building and Freedom Tower.
  • Have I mentioned before how much I love the green spaces in lower Manhattan?  The west side, with its meandering paths which hug the Hudson is so lovely, particularly in the spring.  I couldn’t resist a quick run to start my day, while the boys slept in.
  • Our reservations for the Statue of Liberty (obtained online a couple of weeks prior) were for noon.  We again headed to Battery Park via the subway and were through security and waiting on the dock in little time.  But, then the waiting really began.  Waiting for the boat to arrive and unload.  Loading the boat.  Arriving on Liberty Island and unloading the boat.  Waiting to go through security again… The 196 steps which took us to the base of Lady Liberty were the least painful part of the entire process.  Unless the National Park Service figures out a more efficient way to get people on and off those boats, I don’t imagine myself ever returning to Liberty Island.  If you plan to go there, look into departing from the Jersey side.  I think it would be faster.
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  • The boat ride does provide a fantastic view of lower Manhattan and it is impossible to take in the sights without imagining what newcomers to America must have seen.  On a sunny day in May it must have been magnificent.
    DSC_0030We were in the car and driving north only 4 minutes beyond my target time.  There was a quick stop in Jersey for some diner chow and then it was back to Albany for the Head and the Heart show, courtesy of 97.7 WEXT, at the Upstate Concert Hall.  I had a great weekend – hope you did, too!

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Filed under Boys, Events, family, favorites, NYC, Recommendations, road trips

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.

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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