Category Archives: Wine

Reflections after 2 days of being Wined and Dined

DSC_0060

Me and “my” Sis

I was lucky enough to shoot photos at two related events this past weekend in downtown Albany.  In case you are one of the few residents of the Capital District who I didn’t run into (and have been living under a rock), this weekend was the 5th annual Albany Wine and Dine for the Arts, an outstanding culinary event which is rapidly growing into the highlight of what can often be a grey month in upstate New York.

I began the weekend with Friday evening’s Grand Tasting.  This event is truly a terrific way to start a three-day weekend and people really seemed to be enjoying themselves.  The sizable crowd was wonderfully diverse with couples, both young and old, as well as groups of friends, meandering around the ballroom carefully balancing tasting plates of food and adult beverages.  If you’re someone who is intimidated by “haute cuisine,” this would be a perfect opportunity to expand your culinary horizons in a completely low-key fashion.

As I roamed, snapping photos for a Seen gallery, I was able to make connections with old friends and new faces.  In all honesty, I didn’t eat or drink because I was working planning to take an evening run and didn’t want the excess ballast.  If I had been indulging, the offerings from Cafe Capriccio, Bake for You and Javier’s all would have attracted my fork and, while I didn’t transition to the Slider Slam, held at 90 State, it looked like quite a party!  Next year, for sure.

Saturday, though, was my night to indulge and I do believe I did justice to the fabulous offerings.  I had originally planned to attend an old friend’s party in Troy, but the sloppy weather prevented me from making the trek.  I like to ski on snow, not drive.  I consoled myself by finagling a spot at one of the Gala’s tables and tucked into pretty much every course which came my way.  Oh, and there was wine, too!  Lots of tastes of lots of wines, including an ’81 Chateau Margaux and a ’66 Talbot.  What an evening…

Vintage '66 for both me and the wine!

Vintage ’66 for both me and the wine!

I wish I had been more disciplined about taking notes about the individual courses along with the wine pairings, but Friday had been the time for discipline.  Saturday was all about dining with friends and filling my mouth with tastiness.  And taking pictures, of course.

There was one aspect of the event which left me a bit disgruntled… This event would be impossible to pull off without the tireless efforts of the committee, the chefs and all of the professional hospitality industry employees.  Prior to the start of meal service, there were a number of honors, awards and recognitions which needed to be presented.  Unfortunately, there were quite a few tables which lacked appropriate decorum during this time and it was often difficult to hear the individual presenters and recipients.  There was no lack of food or beverage served during the one-hour cocktail reception prior to the commencement of the sit down portion of the meal and it would have been nice if the attendees could have closed their mouths for just a short while.

Mark your calendars for mid-January 2015  – this event is going to continue to be the premier food and wine event in the Capital Region and you’ll want to be there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, SEEN, upstate New York, Wine, winter

Last weekend – in photos

a bonfire with friends

photo(152)

soccer season opener

a memorial service
image: http://www.gbgm-umc.org

Were you Seen at September Splendor to benefit the Washington Park Conservancy at the Washington Par

an event – September Splendor
image: Joe Putrock

photo(153)

there were flowers

photo(154)

and a trip to the Hyde Collection

to see this…
image:nytimes.com

I think I finally caught my breath…

1 Comment

Filed under Albany, art, Boys, Events, Flowers, friends, Lark Street, Local, road trips, Wine

Everything I know about Troy, I learned from Mary Panza

A flower grows in South Troy

A flower grows in South Troy

Ok, maybe that isn’t 100% true, but she really did get me started on my Troy education.  When I first moved to Albany almost 25 years ago, I received some advice from a childhood friend regarding Troy.  He said, and I quote, “Troy is the armpit of the Universe.” I was uncertain exactly what that meant, but seeing as how I didn’t have a car, Troy wasn’t an area that I planned to explore with any haste anyway.  No problem.

But, then I met Mary Panza, South Troy denizen extraordinaire, and began venturing across the river.  We generally ended up at her sister’s house, where we consumed fantastic quantities of eggplant and pasta, all bathed in the senior Mary Panza’s fabulous red sauce.  My personal opinion began to form about the collar city – Troy was ok with me.

Since that time, I’ve been pulled to Troy for their superior Farmer’s Market, beer and music venues, restaurants and unique shops.  I learned to never move a folding chair left in the street and to maintain a sense of the river’s location to navigate the grid of one-way streets.  I like Troy – there, I said it.

Last night I intensified my like of Troy to a level of affectionate love.  Granted, the company I was in was a definite factor, but the charm of Troy is strong and it has never looked better. Speaking of looking, our evening began at the beautiful and historic St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands. Photographer and TU blogger, Chuck Miller, had an event to celebrate the opening of his stellar photo exhibit.  The images he captures are primarily local and demonstrate a keen eye for both lighthearted humor and thoughtful observation.  Cool venue, great show, get there before it’s all gone.

Plenty for two - with leftovers for lunch!

Plenty for two – with leftovers for lunch!

Our next stop was DeFazio’s in Troy for some real pizza.  Everything about this joint charms me – the almost magical way the simple ingredients combine for a pizza that is the best I’ve ever had outside of NYC, the politeness of every person who helped to take care of us, the black and white tiled floor, and the red convertible the delivery guy drives.  Everything!  We went with an antipasto and a small pizza with olives and prosciutto.  The antipasto is substantial (served with crunchy garlic bread) and the small pizza was the perfect size for 2.  I think we may need to try the pasta next time because we witnessed a plate of it being served and were practically in need of restraints.  Have any of you ever had their pasta?

The pizza is all that.

The pizza is all that.

We ended the evening with a visit to the Charles F. Lucas Confectionary around the corner from Monument Square, in downtown Troy.  I would feel guilty about not getting to this place sooner, but I believe last night was the first time I’ve been in Troy since this fantastic place opened.  I have to say, it isn’t as if I’ve been missed, because the joint was positively jumping!  The waves of guests entering and departing during our 90 minutes there, was impressive.  We had a tour of the space by the owner, Vic Christopher, and I can’t say enough about the vision he and his wife, Heather, made into a dreamy reality for us all to share.  Wow.  Our bellies were full of pizza and cappicola, but the beautiful glass of Cote du Rhone rose’ Vic brought my way was exactly the crowning touch to a memorable May evening.  I am incredibly enthusiastic about this project. the additional related grocery store business in the preliminary works and the new-to-me term “reclamation construction.”  Troy is a lucky city to have landed such super smart and cool entrepreneurs and I imagine myself finding my way to the Collar City with previously unimagined frequency.

Armpit of the universe?  Au contraire – more like the heart of the Capital District.  Let’s hope our next Albany mayor fosters the kind of growth Troy is now experiencing – and that Mary invites me over for eggplant really soon.

2 Comments

Filed under art, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, friends, Local, pizza, Recommendations, Restaurants, Spring, Troy, Uncategorized, upstate New York, Wine

Done with Mother’s Day

Yet another benefit of drinking - flower boxes!

Yet another benefit of drinking – flower boxes!

Screw Hallmark – as far as I’m concerned, May 5th was my ideal Mother’s Day. No matter what happens next Sunday, I will cherish the day I had, from the scandalously late start to the fortified-with-an-afternoon-nap late ending – perfect! Let me be a little more specific…

Saturday night, I shot a SEEN gallery down at Prime 677.  The occasion was a fundraiser for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and it was a lovely event.  The food was spectacular and the folks at Empire Wines rallied the troops to put on an extraordinary wine tasting.  It’s been noted by some astute Times Union readers that whenever an event involves wine, I’m usually there.  Guilty as charged.

I got home from the party working at about 10:30 only to find my little guy desperately upset that he had been denied a ‘s’more from the neighbor’s party, a situation I was able to correct with a soothing shower and some ice cream.  Tucking him in at such a late hour gave me the first gift of Sunday – he slept until 10:00, which gave me an incredibly quiet morning.  Soft music, strong coffee and the paper comprise my personal morning bliss trifecta.  So far, so good.

After the boys departed at noon for their Dad’s, I got busy in the front yard with mulch and some annuals.  The sun was glorious, birds were chirping and the simple joy of getting a little dirty made my heart sing.  I had a mid afternoon visit from the person I most love spending time with and the day moved along at a pace that was completely enjoyable.  I accomplished some other chores, including eating a fantastic lunch salad, and punctuated the afternoon with an indulgent nap on clean sheets. But, wait – there’s more.

Caesar salad with shaved Romano and grilled asparagus

Caesar salad with shaved Romano and grilled asparagus

As the day cooled down a bit, I tied on my running shoes and hit the streets for a 5-mile lap through the neighborhood.  I had intended to go a bit further, but contented myself with not pushing myself too hard and tried to just enjoy myself.  Done.  A shower, a quick visit with the neighbors for a glass of wine and then home again for finale of the only reality show I would ever want to be on, The Amazing Race, and I was in bed by 10:15, thoroughly relaxed and satisfied with my day.

There weren’t any tulips or handmade crafts, but nonetheless it was a lovely day with a wonderful mix of boys, friends, productivity, relaxation and good food and wine.  Mother’s Day 2013 is a done deal, as far as I am concerned.  Any additional gifts are truly unnecessary, although I do have a fondness for the imperfectly made card along with a hankering for a French lilac bush.  Just saying.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, beauty, Boys, Coffee, DelSo, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Flowers, friends, Gardens, ideas, Local, love, running, SEEN, Spring, sunday, Wine

Feasting my way around Freiburg

My flammkuchen

My flammkuchen

A big part of traveling, for me at least,  is the food.  I’ve seen some stuff written recently about Michelin starred restaurants in Germany, but that wasn’t what this trip was about.  No, this time with family was more focused on home-style cooking a la Deutschland.

Wandering around Freiburg’s Munsterplatz earned us a delicious sausage sandwich from Meister’s food truck.  Topped with beautifully browned onions and a dab of mustard, it was the perfect snack to tide us over until dinner.  Next time I’m in Germany I hope to schedule an entire day in Freiburg eating, beginning with strong coffee and pretzel rolls smeared with unsalted butter.  I hope to make lunch a leisurely enough event that it will effortlessly flow into the evening’s repast.  I think the best way to accomplish this lofty goal would be to begin at the Munsterplatz’s food trucks with some version of wurst, washed down, naturally, with a fine hefeweizen or two.

For dinner, I plan to wander down to the Markthalle (food court) and sample as many different offerings as humanly possible.  “Food court” is a bit of a misnomer because this place is nothing like what you might find at Crossgates.

If the broom is out, they're open!

If the broom is out, they’re open!

It’s more like a German version of the restaurants at Eataly except the individual kiosks are each independent and devoted to an eclectic array of international cuisines.  There are tables and central gathering spots where one can enjoy a bite to eat and/or a drink and there is a bustling sense of activity akin to that of a bee hive. That’s where I want to be.

Unless, of course, I’ve got wheels and get a little outside of the city and find a Straussen or Broom restaurant.  We hit one of these last month in the Markgrafler wine region and thoroughly enjoyed the meal, the local wine and the cozy makeshift dining room in the winery’s tasting room.  I had the Flammkuchen and it was delicious – and perfect with the local wine!  Flammkuchen, or fire cake, is sort of like a pizza, but instead of tomato sauce, the top is spread with some sort of creamy yumminess.  I had mine with diced veggies and it was a satisfying yet not too heavy dinner.

All this food talk and I still haven’t shared any images of our traditional Black Forest breakfasts…until I get to it, imagine plates holding meats and cheeses accompanied by a basket of freshly baked breads and rolls.  Yes, save that thought and trust me, morning was definitely not anything to dread.

Leave a comment

Filed under beer, Eating, Europe, family, Food, Germany, Recommendations, travel, vacation, Wine

Soap scum and love for the Wine Bar!

image: Joe Keegan

Check out Joe Keegan’s blog over at the TU for some tips on cleaning glass shower doors and his impressions of the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark.  I had a blast taking care of his party and was tickled to be included in his post.  I’ve been reading his blog, which deals with the painstaking, but not annoyingly so, restoration of the home he shares with his family, for a couple of years and I’m always happy when he posts a new entry.

PS.  I’m not the soap scum of which he speaks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, house, Lark Street, Recommendations, Restaurants, Wine

Gala is my 2nd favorite word for “party.”

DSC_0057A close second, I might add.  Just for the record, my most favorite is “fete,” but enough of language.  Here are the pictures which tell a thousand words!  Seeing as how everyone at the fete event looked like a million bucks, let me add a few additional words of the text variety:

  • This was a really fun crowd with many familiar faces.  Not one person declined to pose for a picture and I didn’t hear a single complaint while I worked the crowd.
  • The staff at the Hilton Crowne Plaza Albany Hotel were all professional and pleasant.
  • It was fun shooting pictures of some of the same people from Thursday’s event.  It didn’t feel indulgent or redundant – the faces you see in both photo sets are the faces of the folks who make the restaurant industry happen.
  • The Times Union merged my two galleries with another set of photos taken during Friday’s Grand Tasting event – you’ll know mine by the credit in the caption.
  • Personal shout out to a former student and his lovely fiancee* ~ It made my night to see you!  And I told you that you weren’t a Republican – thanks for listening.

*two French words in one post – Mon dieu! That’s 3…

1 Comment

Filed under Albany, art, drinking, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, Local, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, SEEN, upstate New York, Wine, winter