Category Archives: Dinner

Eating up Barcelona

image.jpegIt’s been amazing how quickly I’ve adjusted to Barcelona’s late night schedule. I can only explain it as a magical alignment of being an early person and having the advantage of a six hour time difference. Whatever the reason, it’s working for me and I haven’t struggled at all with this temporary life of sleeping until 10:00 a.m. and beginning dinner at 11:00 p.m.

We’ve been doing our best to try new things and eat as much traditional food as possible. For Griffin this translates to jamon, while I’m more inclined to sample as much seafood as I can get in my mouth. Here are few particularly tasty items we’ve enjoyed – and one we determined was not for us.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Europe, Food, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Le Petit Bistro – Rhinebeck

imageHave you been to Rhinebeck?  Long before Hudson got cool, Rhinebeck was the destination for a Hudson Valley afternoon of fine eating and interesting shopping. The drive is lovely with many different roads which all lead there in a most scenic fashion, as I’ve experienced it, be it from the north, south or west and generally parking is available and free.  It’s worth the slightly over an hour trip from Albany for sure and I recommend it as a terrific day trip for any season.

Yesterday, after an aborted attempt to partake in the offerings at Terrapin Restaurant, Mary Lynn and I decided to try somewhere new and found the specials board at Le Petit Bistro to be quite enticing.  At just about 5:00 we made our way inside the cozy dining room and were offered a table in the front window near the door.  Although it was a less than warm afternoon, we were very comfortable with the temperature of the restaurant and never felt cold despite our proximity to the door.  It was a lovely table.

A chalkboard with the extensive list of specials was presented to us and a short while later a server came to provide details and descriptions of each of the items.  We ordered drinks – a cocktail for Mary Lynn and a glass of sparkling rose for me, and made decisions about food opting for a bowl of asparagus soup, a fish taco starter and the sea scallop entrée accompanied by ramp risotto and hericot vert and the Cuban pork plate with black beans and plantains.  Then we settled in to catch up with one another and enjoy our meal.

Fish tacos

Fish tacos

The fish tacos, two to a serving, were delicious with fresh flavors (cilantro!) and an assertively spicy kick.  Paired with the soup, they were a perfect starter and very shareable.

Scallops with ramp risotto

Scallops with ramp risotto

Our midcourse salad, served with all entrees, was a traditional French green salad with a simple and tasty vinaigrette clinging to the leaves.  I thoroughly enjoyed my entrée.  The scallops were beautifully prepared and the accompaniments heralded spring beautifully.  Unlike many risottos, cheese wasn’t a component and the result was a far lighter rendition of the dish than typical.  I swapped a bite with Mary Lynn for a taste of plantain.  I’m not a fan of bananas or plantains unless they’re cooked and my bite was exactly what I was hoping for – caramelized sweetness with a remaining firmness – delicious!  We finished with a butterscotch crème brulee and a couple of coffees before walking back to our cars and heading off in opposite directions, satiated with hearts and bellies full.

Creme brûlée

Creme brûlée

 

 

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

The turtle that is Terrapin, Rhinebeck

imageTerrapin restaurant in Rhinebeck has been around for a long time, maybe 15 years at their current location inside a beautiful old church right on Route 9. Many years ago, I had dinner there with three other people and was completely put off by the service. I don’t remember anything about the food because the experience was so overshadowed by the snippy bartender and the inexperienced server. I vowed never to go back, a promise easy to keep since A. I don’t go to Rhinebeck frequently and B. There are so many other options in that area.

Today, though, I met one of my besties in Rhinebeck for a bite to eat and some catching up. I offered her two options – Gigi Trattoria, where we’ve been happy before, and Terrapin for a fresh chance at making us happy. She checked out their menus and decided on Terrapin and we agreed to meet at about 4:00.

I arrived first and found a seat at the bar, not a challenge with at least half of the bar stools open. Within a minute or two I was given a cocktail menu on my request. I started reading, pleased with the beer and wine selections. I wondered about their carafes and if they were filling them from draft lines and planned to ask whoever took my drink order about the set up. The man two seats away from me finished his drink and ordered another, as I was told by the bartender that she would be “right with me.” She wasn’t.

I changed my mind about the beer I had been thinking of ordering and selected a glass of wine instead. Unfortunately, I couldn’t share my decision with anyone because the bartender had yet to come over to take my order. The man near me began drinking his fresh Patron margarita, inspiring me to look at the cocktail list. I reconsidered my wine choice and began perusing the “available” cocktails. The sour cherry Manhattan caught my eye…

My friend arrived and I shared my menu with her. The bartender told us she’d be right over. She wasn’t.

The man next to us finished his drink and asked for a check. The bartender took care of that. We sat there, me with probably 15+ minutes invested without even the reward of a glass of water, another moment and then picked up our bags and left. I will never, ever, step foot in that restaurant again and this time I mean it.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, friends, Rant, Restaurants, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

The Withers – wine and words

IMG_8339I don’t know if you’ve ever been able to sit with the owner of a winery or a winemaker and listen to them speak about their product, but it will forever change your perspective about that stuff in the bottle. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a number of winemakers/winery owners and those encounters have forever changed the way I view a bottle of wine. After walking through a vineyard, tasting from a barrel or simply talking with a winery owner, viewing a product becomes a much more personal experience.

Tuesday night I had a rare opportunity to attend a wine dinner, hosted by one of my sales reps, downtown at dp’s. I say rare opportunity because most of these events are either during a time when I’m not available or are held out of town. The timing for this, though, was perfect and I was thrilled to sit down with Andrew Tow of the Withers Winery, along with a handful of other industry professionals, to learn about some wines of which I had no prior knowledge.

Here’s what I learned –

  • Andrew Tow is an articulate, passionate man who helps to craft wines that are elegant yet accessible.
  • Although the Withers Winery has only been in existence for a few short years, it has achieved remarkable success and earned accolades from numerous national publications.
  • Their wines sell out – especially the rose and the chardonnay.  I’ve got my hand out hoping to land some of the rose at the moment. My luck will be your luck, friends.
  • Everything we tasted was enjoyable and seemed to be equally adept at being paired with foods or sipped sans food.
  • The project has some rock star investors – like Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. Cool, right?
  • The wines are affordably priced, in fact, part of the impetus for Tow to produce his rose was a desire to drink something delicious without breaking the bank.  If I can land any I’ll probably price it between $30-35 a bottle which makes it on the higher end of my roses, but within reach of most diners.
  • The Pinot Noirs are dynamite.  I don’t have room on my list right now, but when I sell a couple of my higher end Pinots out, I hope there are still a few bottles of the English Hill for me to buy.  When I tasted this the other night, the nose was so damn heady it almost satiated my desire to consume it without even taking a sip.  Wow.

IMG_8326If you were to look at my wine list at Lark + Lily you’d see approximately 100 different labels.  I’ve selected probably 65% of those labels with the others coming as an inventory purchase when I originally opened last fall.  The bottles that I find myself reaching for when a guest asks for a recommendation are the ones that I can share story about – the Hendry, the Biale, the Bonny Doon.  These are wines which were introduced to me by their producers – I walked the vineyard with George Hendry, ate lunch and tasted wine with Robert Biale, barrel sampled at Bonny Doon.  Hopefully, one day, the Withers will have a similar presence on my list.

 

 

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, Recommendations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, winter

Cucina Woodstock rivisitato

After an active weekend and the theft of an hour, I wasn’t feeling much like cooking. When the opportunity presented to meet Aloysius for dinner it felt like the ideal way to punctuate a weekend and I jumped on it. As we considered a comfortable meeting spot, Woodstock’s Cucina popped into my mind with an undeniable vengeance. A finely mixed cocktail and pasta were exactly what I was seeking and based upon my prior visit with the girls, I knew I would not be disappointed.

I arrived a few minutes later than expected and found Aloysius at the bar enjoying a beer. I took a quick look at the cocktail menu and selected the Orient Old Fashioned, which I believe is the same cocktail I had on my last visit. Bulliet and house made ginger simple syrup simply calls my name, what can I say?

As we caught up and sipped our drinks, I eyed the plate of a gentleman sitting near us at the bar. The tuna served with white beans, micro greens and thinly sliced spicy red peppers helped to seal deal for both Aloysius and myself and we decided to go with the very reasonable 3 course Prix Fixe menu for $33 per person beginning with the tuna as our first course.  It was excellent with a hint of heat, beautifully firm beans and tender and flavorful tuna.

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We diverged for main course selections with Aloysius going with a pork dish loaded with mushrooms and served with polenta.  The taste I had was delicious, but I was really satisfied with the pasta dish I had selected – taleggio filled ravioli with a porcini sauce.  The ravioli were delicate  and tender and just filled with flavor.  Aloysius barely got a forkful.

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The pasta, along with the dessert, probably would have been more than enough to eat, but I do like to eat a vegetable, too, so I added a side of  broccoli rabe.  It was very similar to how I make it, al dente and generously seasoned with garlic.

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I finished with a butterscotch, salted caramel confection that I’m pretty sure I had last time around.  I inhaled it so quickly that there wasn’t an opportunity to take a photo.  This is the dessert of my dreams and if you want to be my favorite, show up at my door with an order of this and you’re in – guaranteed.  I’m not willing to wait another 2 years before getting a spoon into this stuff again.

Cucina remains one of my two favorite spots in Woodstock and I’m already mentally trying to arrange a rendezvous with the girls to get there again.  Dinner for two (not including the drinks at the bar, but with a beer and a glass and tip set us back $125. This place absolutely rocks.

 

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Filed under Aloysius, Dinner, Eating, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, Spring, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Celebrating snake eyes and an unexpected trip from Korea to China

IMG_7974Yesterday my youngest son turned 11.  I wish I could remember exactly what time of day he was born, but it’s honestly kind of a blur. I think that happens once you have more than two children, some of the specific details no longer stick.  In complete honesty, I sometimes have to pause to recall if his birthday is the 5th or the 9th of February.  I guess I’ll never win Mother of the Year, but I do think I have a shot at Mother of the Day based upon my efforts yesterday.

The morning started with the scent of chocolate chip/ M&M cookies baking.  You know what?  Everyone should wake up on their birthday to a warm kitchen and the smell of freshly baked cookies. Quinn had Nutella crepes for breakfast, his favorite and he loved the Gryffindor scarf I had bought for him.  When he left the house for school, he kissed me goodbye and thanked me for a “wonderful” morning.  Pretty sweet, right?

I went to Quinn’s school a short while later to join his class for a field trip to the Albany Institute of History and Art.  I know that my chaperoning days are coming to a close and felt really fortunate that he wanted me to attend.  We rode the bus together and I think I succeeded in providing my son with special attention while also giving him his space, a balancing act which becomes more challenging as a child grows.  The exhibit was nicely done and the activities were active and hands on, perfect for a group of 5th graders. It was a nice day.

Our big plan for the evening was dinner out.  Quinn has a thing for Korean barbeque and had been anticipating gorging on dumplings for days.  We trucked up to Colonie, hungry and excited for a special meal, but were disappointed to see that the restaurant was closed.  I had never even considered that possibility!  We sat in the car laughing about our luck and I was incredibly impressed with Quinn’s ability to join in the mirth and indulge his brothers as they teased him about his misfortune.  After a moment’s consideration, Quinn decided that Chinese would hit the spot and we turned around and headed towards Ocean Palace, placing our order as we took the long, leisurely drive back down Central Avenue.

Our indulgent order (Peking Duck, squid with salt and pepper, beef chow fun, 2 orders of steamed dumplings, Chinese broccoli with ginger sauce and sesame chicken) took about 45 minutes to prepare, leaving us with about 25 minutes to kill.  That much time simply waiting can be deadly, but my sons were remarkably chill about the entire dinner fiasco.  There wasn’t a moment of complaining or whining or kvetching and I was left feeling ridiculously proud of their good natured flexibility.  My boys are growing up.

PS – Dinner, as always, was great.  Happy Year of the Monkey, y’all!

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, favorites, Food., Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Sunday supper – Husk, Nashville

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When the girls and I go away we each have a role to play – Mary Lynn does research on music and shows to attend, Lisa is in charge of outdoor activities and places to visit and I arrange dinner reservations for an indulgent meal out. The Times Union’s Steve Barnes had mentioned Husk to me a couple of months ago and, after doing a bit of research, I was convinced that this was our spot for Nashville. I did my thing and made a reservation.

We arrived about 20 minutes before our 7:15 reservation to enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Husk is a very pretty restaurant, located in a historic house on a hill up above the Cumberland River. The hostess station is anchored by an enormous chalkboard listing the menu’s ingredients and their origin. Not being from the area, we were unfamiliar with most of the farms and producers, but hat in no way diminished how impressed we were with extensive list.

The bar was downstairs and the walk there took us past the open kitchen, an area populated by both kitchen and service staff. It was a cool opportunity to witness the controlled chaos that is the kitchen of a busy restaurant and I struggled against my wish to tuck myself into a corner and just observe the professionals at work. There were cocktails to be had, though, so we moved on.

My initial impression of the bar was mixed. It was attractive and cozy with low ceilings and windows peeking out to a patio, but the bar itself was a little unapproachable. After a couple of minutes of awkwardness we were presented with a lovely cocktail list and placed our orders. As expected, the drinks were meticulously mixed and beautifully presented – and tasty. The single high top table in the bar area became available and was offered to us prompting a change in our plans. We decided to eat in the bar instead of relocating to our table, a pretty remarkable choice since 20 minutes earlier we were feeling less than welcomed.

With some assistance from our bartender, Kenneth, we ordered opening with the available-only-in-the-bar, cut to order cured ham. This perfect starter was accompanied by the definitive version of freshly baked Parker rolls and a lard-butter spread. It was a wonderful introduction of what was to come – best quality ingredients respectfully prepared and presented. Delicious.

We followed with 3 items from the First course menu – Shrimp and Grits ($16), Gourds Roasted Over the Fire, Benne, Arugula, Aged Gouda ($12) and a Seafood Johnny Cake with Kimchi Purée and Benne ($15).  The Johnny Cake was the only one we didn’t enthusiastically finish, it was very good, not that I’m an expert on johnny cakes, but kind of heavy.  The other two were eaten with gusto.

For entrees we went with the Bear Creek Farm Pork with Barefoot Farmer’s Sweet Potatoes, Sassafras and Pecans ($34) and the Field of Dreams Duck with a Chestnut, Pear and Cornbread Dressing with Giblet Gravy ($37).  Just as you might intuit by the titles, these meals celebrated the ingredients and cuisine of the south. The pork was tender and flavorful and was accompanied by classic whipped (mashed?) sweet potatoes presented in a fresh, untraditional manner as thick squiggles painted on the plate, topped with a modern riff on marshmallows.  Very visually appealing.  The duck was hyper-rare and a bit chewy, but very tasty.  I wonder if my palate is so accustomed to large production meats, that maybe that chewiness, accompanied by rich flavor, is the hallmark of more consciously raised meat.  I do think another 60 seconds of cooking time would have elevated the duck even more.

My favorite item was an item which appears on many menus, yet was lifted to a previously unexperienced level – the shrimp and grits.  The grits were creamy and a little toothsome and the shrimp was firm and fresh.  What really pulled it all together was the lightly cooked egg which topped the dish, inviting the serving spoon to mix it all together in a blend of textures and flavor which was outstanding. In a restaurant which seeks to honor and present the local cuisine, their interpretation of a southern staple really scored perfectly.

We didn’t eat dessert but we did get a sweet tip about where to go for a good time on Monday nights.  More on that later. Dinner total for 3: Approximately $200 with a generous tip, including three cocktails, one glass of wine, four smaller plates and two entrees.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Nashville, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation