Sunday supper – Carbonara with delicata squash

imageThings have been so busy lately that I’ve fallen a bit behind in my Bon Appetits. I finally took a few minutes this weekend to catch up on the most recent issues, and the timing couldn’t have been better – there was a simple pasta recipe and, other than the pancetta, I had everything on hand. A quick trip to the grocery store and I was all set.

This recipe is easy – a handful of ingredients and very little hands on prep until the very end. I could definitely imagine swapping out the squash for cauliflower or some other roastable vegetable (sweet onions?) according to season.

Bon Appetit has really been killing it lately. The recipes, articles and illustrations have been wonderfully inspiring while remaining approachable, unlike, in my opinion, Gourmet. If you’re looking for a simple and quick meal that is perfect for family, or someone you may be interested in impressing, this just might be the one. Two thumbs up.

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Filed under Cooking, Dinner, Food, Recipes

18 thoughts from the weekend my son turned 18

  • When he was born, my oldest son scared me. That changed.
  • Now, I’m in awe of him.
  • According to my sons, the plural of penis is penis. (The “s” is silent when it’s plural)
  • Crazy > Creepy
  • The Olde English was the perfect place to celebrate my Anglophile son’s birthday.
  • Molly, our server, deserves a raise. She was terrific, as was my fish and chips.
  • The skiing this weekend was wonderfully challenging.
  • Ryan, the guy at Best Buy who set me up with my new phone, was a super representative.
  • The woman who violently slammed my car with her hand in the parking lot at Crossgates Mall represented “ugly with anger” beautifully.
  • It feels good when someone you’ve known for 20+ years tells you that you look happy.
  • Troy really isn’t that far from Albany.
  • The old fashioned at The Wine Bar and Bistro and the new fashioned at New World Bistro Bar are equally perfect.
  • Applying for my son’s third passport in 18 years fills me with pride.
  • 8 countries in 18 years is pretty damn impressive.  I can’t wait to see where else my children venture.
  • McGeary’s on a Saturday night was wonderfully diverse, a testament to Tess’ ability to create an atmosphere that is welcoming.
  • Putting on a pretty dress and lipstick for an evening out doesn’t ever get tired.
  • It has been a remarkable season for x-country skiing.  That being said, I’m excited to hit the pavement in my sneakers soon.
  • The seasons, the years, life go(es) by so very quickly.  Get it while you can.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, family, Food, Lark Street, Local, Observations, Restaurants, skiing, Troy, Uncategorized, x-country skiing

Cuomo: failing to understand the problem

image: NYdailynews.com

Governor Cuomo  has released a report which concludes that many of New York State’s public schools are failing.  As I skimmed the lengthy document online, I noticed a consistency which, to me, was critical in understanding why these schools are struggling.  With only two exceptions (Amsterdam and Buffalo’s South Park),  the schools which have been deemed failing are attempting to educate populations in which the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and the percentage of minority students both exceed 50% of the total enrollment.  In most cases, those two figures both reside firmly in the 90th + percentile.

In my mind, this failure lies not at the hands of educators, but instead with the lack of services and support that New York State’s poor residents receive.  I’ve worked in an urban school district and witnessed the lack of resources provided to poor children by parents who are unable to do much more than get by as they contend with meeting their family’s most essential needs.  Of course, education is an essential need but try telling that to someone who never attained a diploma and is struggling to feed, clothe and shelter their family.

Why doesn’t this report include charter schools?  Since  the Governor wants to add an additional 100 charter schools to our state shouldn’t we be privy to how they’re performing?

This governor’s attack on public education and teachers must stop.  His focus on rigorous standardized testing  for elementary age children is developmentally inappropriate and my child will not be participating any longer.  Will yours?

I think it’s interesting that his report was published on Scribd, yet I couldn’t locate it on the state education department’s website.  Speaking of publications, if you’re not one of the few people who purchased a copy of Cuomo’s recent autobiography, you can purchase it online as an eBook.  I’m sure it is just coincidental that Cuomo’s administration backed a “bill that created a special sales tax break for online-only publications that charge for subscriptions,” like Scribd and for eBook publications.

Yep, New York State – the State of Opportunity.

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Filed under Education, News, politics

A sure sign of spring…

960x540Last weekend’s New York in Bloom flower show at the NYS museum is the ultimate harbinger of spring’s impending arrival. Click through for my Seen gallery on the TU site. As always, the museum and the exhibitor’s did us proud while raising funds for a worthy cause!

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Filed under Albany, favorites, Flowers, SEEN, Spring, Uncategorized

Restaurant families

imageAfter more than three decades in the restaurant business, I know a few things. Some of the knowledge I’ve gained is related to food – how to make a buerre blanc or hollandaise and what to do with an excess of vegetables (frittata, risotto or soup).

I’ve learned about wine and spirits and the significance of all the minutia that is involved with creating an atmosphere that welcomes guests and makes them want to return. All of this is important to being successful in the hospitality industry but it pales in comparison to what I’ve come to know about people.

As a server my focus, naturally, is on my guests. I sincerely want those that I take care of to be happy and I have been so fortunate to be able to wait on some of the same people since my long ago undergraduate days. They’ve witnessed my life and the connection we share crosses our respective sides of the table to a place somewhere in the middle. Many of them know which nights I work and I do my best to recall who likes to sit where and which glass of wine they enjoyed last time they were in. We’re familiar with one another.

Over the years, though, there have been situations which have proven that the most valuable thing I have learned about the restaurant business is that the people I have worked with are my family. We’ve shared annoyances, laughter and the stress of a life that is utterly unpredictable every single shift. At the end of the night, while counting money and emptying trash bins, we have connected over a glass of wine (or two) and then hugged good night before heading to our cars to return to our other families.

It’s been a really tough couple of months for my family. The losses right now are so utterly outweighing triumphs and joys that my heart is echoing with absence. As we come together again to support one another, to embrace each other in love and sorrow during a time which feels impossibly tragic, the ability of our industry to create connections between people eclipses in importance any other aspect of the job.

Each shift on the floor comes with the guarantee of there being something new to witness or with which to contend. At this time of sadness, it is vital that we also remember with that same certainty that we are a family.  Always.

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Filed under Albany, family, friends, Observations, relationships, Restaurants

Ugly Girls – a(n ugly) novel

Ever start reading a book and get a sense pretty early on that you’re not going to enjoy it? What do you do? Push through or bail? For much of my reading life, I’ve opted to push through and have, on occasion, been pleasantly surprised when something shifts or clicks and the book becomes enjoyable. Well, that was not the case with Lindsay Hunter’s Ugly Girls.

If you can imagine a social issue, it’s in this book – alcoholism, poverty, prison conditions, stalking, social network deception, violence, prostitution, vandalism, theft, promiscuity and hypersexuality, adultery, incest…yep, all in this 229 page novel.

When I initially began the book, I was put off by the somewhat confusing narrative – the characters’ names were not indicative of gender (Perry, Jamey) and the alternating voices took a while to become distinct. I stuck with it and was somewhat rewarded by the quality of the writing, which really wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an equally redemptive moment in terms of plot – this story just became increasingly more bleak and dark. I don’t think there was a single happy scene or genuine laugh in the entire book.

If you’re into sad stories, complete with boatloads of wasted opportunities and stomach turning interactions, read this book. Just be sure to keep some hand sanitizer nearby.

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Filed under Books

Dirty in the DelSo

Tuesday was a long day in my neighborhood. I first got the news in the early morning – a water main had burst and the police, but not yet the water department, were on hand. I considered getting up and running some water in my bath tub, but since I’m on vacation, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

When I finally did get out of bed, my water flowed like normal from the pipes and I immediately forgot my earlier plan to store some water in the tub. I made coffee, gave Jeter fresh water and even mopped with no apparent end in sight to my water supply. Until I wanted to wash my hands a short time later and instead of water, I got spitting air from the faucet. My hands immediately felt filthy.

The neighbors started checking in via text and calls – one had been mid-shower when her water dried up, others had immediately assumed that the problem was more localized, perhaps even limited to their own homes in the form of burst pipes. Fortunately, we shared the limited information we had since the city wasn’t exactly forthcoming. It was after 10:00 before we received some official information when a water department employee canvassed the neighborhood and informed us that we would be without water until approximately 4:30 in the afternoon. Great.

Surprisingly, I had water for a brief moment midmorning and was able to get 8″ of dirty water in my tub for toilet flushing. It’s the little things, right? When the water still wasn’t on (without benefit of any updates from the water department) by 5:15, I abandoned hopes of roasting a chicken and ordered Chinese* instead. Naturally, while I was in the parking lot I received a text that the water was flowing again.

I arrived home with a Chinese feast for the boys and the promise of a hot bath for me. I had a renewed appreciation for running water along with the hope that our city’s infrastructure might be shown some love and attention in the city budget.It wasn’t a tremendous inconvenience for us to be without water for 12 hours, but I worry that other residents might really be challenged when basic services fail.

*Ocean Palace does such a great job – and such nice people!

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Filed under Albany, DelSo, Local, winter