Category Archives: Dinner

Answering the call of cheese

imageOr maybe I should say the call of The Cheese Traveler. A couple of weeks ago while I was out of town, Eric reached out to me to see if I might lend a hand during his weekly cookouts. His regular servers were moving on to other opportunities and he just needed some help for the last 8 weeks or so of his season. Well, you know me. I like to work and if I can be of assistance to someone in my DelSo neighborhood, I’m in. Plus, there was cheese!

Two weeks ago, along with my neighbor/former McG’s coworker, Emily, I worked my first shift. How did it go? Well, we muddled through by the grace of our experience and the mellowness of everyone involved. If you’ve never done front of the house duties before I don’t know if I can explain to you all the variables and details which are involved with walking into an unknown food business and providing service, but, I’ll give it a shot…

First, there’s the menu. Although Ryan, Eric’s rockstar grill guy, runs a fairly small menu, the individual items feature numerous ingredients. Many of them include source information (for instance “Tilldale Farm“) or require some explanation (what is Halloumi??). Then there’s the beer, wine and cider offerings, which are really extensive and primarily small batch. Add in the need to understand how tickets or orders are placed (who makes the cheese plates vs. the hot items) and how the meal is paced if there are multiple courses. Of course, the server needs to know where to find things like silverware, napkins and glasses. Oh – and what do you when the gentle sprinkle of rain becomes a downpour?

So, Emily and I figured it out. Some familiar faces came out to enjoy a bite to eat and we managed to make it through the night relatively unscathed. Last night, our second dynamic duo evening, we did even better helping The Cheese Traveler to enjoy one of the best Friday night cookouts of the season. And we had a great time doing it!

I’m in for the next two Friday nights beyond point I’ll be occupied with my own project. Check out the menu, which is updated weekly, and stop by and enjoy a tasty dinner al fresco. In addition to my cameo appearance(s), there will be guest chefs featured on 8/28 and 9/4. Come see us!

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Dinner, drinking, Food, Local, Restaurants, Summer

Friday night cookout at The Cheese Traveler

Despite the threat of tornadoes, a couple of the (formerly) McGuire’s girls and I dropped in for the weekly cookout at the DelSo’s own Cheese Traveler. What? You didn’t know they had a dinner menu of delectable, seasonal items available for dine in or take away? Please allow me to share some information about what we ordered from last night’s offerings.

Panzanella

Panzanella

We opened with the salt potatoes, a panzanella salad and a specially requested order of grilled asparagus. The potatoes and asparagus were both accompanied by a delicious aioli, while the panzanella was a medley of gorgeous greens, vegetables and capers tossed with chunks of perfectly grilled bread. We ordered a second one of those bad boys.

imageJaclyn and I each had the #2: a tilldale burger: Shelburne cheddar, pancetta, and garlic aioli ($13), while Emily went with the #3 a lamb burger: chèvre, chutney, garlic aioli ($13). Juicy and beautifully cooked these burgers were exactly what three rather particular restaurant veterans were hoping for – simple, conscientiously sourced components put together for a dynamite casual meal.

The beverage selection has been thoughtfully curated and there were beers, wines and ciders available to enjoy on premise or to take home.  The water that was served was thoughtfully flavored with mint – nice attention to detail.

The menu changes so check here for the week’s offerings.

See you there.

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Dinner, Food, friends, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants

No safe harbor – Mariner’s Harbor, Kingston

imageYou’ve probably considered at least once what defines a restaurant experience as a positive one. Was it the menu? The presentation of the plates? The value? Maybe location or ambience? Or was it the service and attention to detail? While we all may have personal opinions about which components of dining out are most significance, I’m here to provide you with an example of the incredible importance of having an educated, competent and polite front of the house staff.

Last night I met my girlfriends for a dinner in Kingston’s Rondout district. Post-dinner we decided to find a place for an after dinner drink and found ourselves at a well established place none of us had ever ventured in before – Mariner’s Harbor. It was about 8:15 when we arrived and, after consulting with the accommodating hostess, we elected to take a high-top table at the bar where we would be able to enjoy our drinks after ordering and purchasing them at the bar. This is where things got bizarre…

I asked the young bartender if she had port. She looked puzzled. I asked again this time adding the word “tawny” as if that was going to get me somewhere. She shook her head with confusion. I spelled P-O-R-T and explained what it was to no avail. Realizing the futility of my quest, I asked for a wine/drink list. That, at least, she was able to provide.

My friends ordered a couple of cappuccinos and a Sambuca while I came to terms with the limitations of the list I had been handed. I asked if maybe they might have specialty coffees or cordials. Her eyes lit up with a glimmer of life and she dashed away to retrieve a different version of the wine list. Or so it seemed. In actuality, it was the very same offerings I had previously perused, only this time they were in a more elegantly bound list. Sigh.

I stepped away from the bar and asked my friend to order a sombrero for me, explaining that it was Kahlua and milk. The bartender apparently went right to work searching for guidance as to how to make a sombrero. When my friend, Lisa, interrupted her research and described the drink’s ingredients, she was rewarded with a muttered “Why didn’t you just say ‘Kahlua and milk?'” Um, I don’t know. I wouldn’t order a vodka and o.j., I’d order a screwdriver, right? Was it really unreasonable for me to order a drink by its proper name?

My friends and I moved on from our head shaking about the attitude and incompetence at the bar and spent some time visiting. At about 9:00, Virginia and I decided to hit the bathroom before hitting the road. When we approached the bathroom (which was directly across from the kitchen doorway) there seemed to be a crisis of sorts. It appeared that a number of servers had been congregating and then subsequently disbursed at our approach. Kind of like cockroaches when a light goes on.

We entered the bathroom where we were immediately confronted by the sight of a woman vomiting in the sink. She was being consoled by a friend and reassured that she was just fine. I beg to differ. It is not “just fine” to vomit in the (only!) sink of a public bathroom. If you’re sick (or have been over served) and vomiting is unavoidable, the spacious stall would be the more appropriate venue for your regurgitations.

During the few minutes we were in the bathroom, taking turns with one of the two stalls since the other stall was occupied by a server, as evidenced by her black apron on the stall floor, no employees addressed the situation. For all we know, that woman is still prone in the sink, thong exposed and mumbling. We won’t be back to check. Ever.

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

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

Laboring on Christmas Eve

Not to take anything away from Mary, but I did my share of work yesterday, too. The morning began with tending to two loaves of bread, prepping the ultimately fantastic beef roast and driving a friend to the airport, all prior to attending a 10:00 yoga class.

After the sweaty release of 75 minutes of hot yoga and a grande latte, things really got busy. There was brioche dough to make for Christmas morning cinnamon rolls along with sugar cookie dough for a (I swear!) last round of baking. And laundry. And a joyous dog walk/run with Jeter which required a follow-up bath for him and a bathroom scrubbing for me. My final exertions, sweeping, vacuuming, and getting vegetables ready to accompany dinner complete, I made myself a bourbon sour and stepped into the clean shower to wash away the efforts of the day.

The house was filled with the aroma of beef stuffed with garlic, parsley and horseradish roasting and the boys had set the table with festive linens and holiday tableware. I sliced some of the beautiful bread I had baked earlier and prepared to sit down, confident that I had remembered every last detail. Until I smelled smoke. I first looked in the kitchen, but there was nothing out of the norm there. Next stop: the dining room where I found a very different story.

The bread basket had apparently been placed too close to a candle and the wicker basket, linen napkin and nearby placemat were all on fire. This was not a smoldering, it was a full-out flaming situation and I instinctively scooped up the entire mess and hastily made for the sink, yelling for some assistance from the boys. The flames were quickly doused and I headed back to the dining room to survey the damage, duly noting the freshly charred area which will perennially mark Quinn’s place at the table.

After the excitement passed, I confessed to Griffin that I wasn’t sure if I had reacted appropriately. Was picking up the flaming stuff and making for the kitchen the right thing to do? Should I have addressed the situation differently? He looked at me and asked “Did you put the fire out? Is anything else destroyed?” When I admitted that there had been no further damage, he assured me that I had done exactly what needed to be done at precisely the right time.

Which kind of brings me back to Mary and Joseph and that manger. Maybe if we keep our eyes open for guidance, be it from the brightest star in the sky or a wise young man (or 3) it really will all be fine. Merry Christmas.

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Filed under Boys, Christmas, Dinner, family, holidays, musings, Uncategorized

Seven-year (p)itch

So…this Wednesday, 12/17, is the 7th anniversary of the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark. Yes, that did go fast! I’ve been onboard for the last 4 years and consider myself fortunate to be able to continue having a presence in the local food scene in such a special spot, especially since my availability is generally limited to a single night of the week.

Lucky me, though, – I work Wednesday nights and will be on hand to celebrate our milestone. And you know what? You should be, too! We’ll be featuring a few items from the original menu, at the original prices, and selected bottles of 2007 vintage wines will be available at a 50% discount. See? You’re lucky, too!

That’s a date then, right?

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, Eating, Events, Food, Lark Street, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Wine