Category Archives: Dinner

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

Christmas (being) present

imageI didn’t make the homemade cinnamon rolls like I did last Christmas. This year I banged open a can instead and, honestly, I think the boys enjoyed them almost as much. It was a fair compromise and followed our simple ham dinner from the eve before perfectly. We were all relaxed and able to enjoy our time together.

After the boys left to join their dad and extended family, I took care of some chores, finished packing and decided to take care of dropping my car off at the garage for a maintenance appointment I scheduled for next week. I drove towards Voorheesville along Whitehall Road, or, as I call it, the Wild West. For the second time in two days, I was passed by another car driven by a person who apparently needed to be somewhere else. I felt irritated by the frivolous law breaking, but decided to let the negative action of someone else inspire me to be positive. I began to feel excited by the thought of my long run home.

The route I was taking was challenging with some intense hills. I’ve never run it before, but I’ve cycled it and I feel pretty familiar with its path. The first mile, complete with short but steep hill, flew by and I got into my zone. I started thinking about the holiday, the pressures of being somewhere and performing and simply being present. Do people really believe that some sort of wrapped package can give them peace and joy?

Bolstered by my belief that I could do it, I ran up hills that had initially seemed intimidating. I considered how fortunate I was to be able to spend an hour and a half feeling the sun on my back and the air on my skin. Like this morning’s dining room dance with my youngest son to an Elvis soundtrack, I was there, in the moment, alive.

I felt sorry for the two drivers who were in such haste that they were willing to break the law to get ahead of me on a residential road. I feel sad when I think of people who spend their time projecting ahead or looking backwards, instead of being where they are right now. If that is your situation, maybe you should consider how to change it. This precious day that we’ve been presented only comes once. Make it your best present ever.

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Christmas, Dinner, Exercise, family, holidays, musings, Observations, running, Uncategorized

Tara Kitchen

olive tapenade with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes

olive tapenade with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes

Sunday, more than ever, has become my “Me” day. Yesterday I had hours to myself to do whatever I felt like – once the waffles and bacon had been cooked, served and cleaned up and payroll had been done and the sheets had been changed and I had met with Linda Kindlon at Bake for You about adding her cookies to Lark + Lily’s dessert options…hours, I tell you.

Following an afternoon run (down one lunar b*tch, missed you, Chrissy!), I decided to follow through on my intention to eat at Tara Kitchen. I’ve been wanting to get to this spot in Schenectady forever and this post  in All Over Albany’s weekly roundup of what’s going on in the neighborhood, forced my hand.

I’m not very familiar with Schenectady, but I have spent some time in the area where Tara Kitchen is. Parking was readily available in the lot directly across the street from the restaurant. I arrived at about 5:30 and the place was hopping with nearly all the tables seated. Bar seating was plentiful. I sat at a table in front of the window and was completely comfortable even with the door opening and closing. The upstairs seating was definitely toasty warm due to, I imagine, the heat rising off of the big range in the open kitchen.

spinach with potatoes and poached eggs

spinach with potatoes and poached eggs

As I browsed the menu, I sipped a delightful tea from a small glass.  It was a magical elixir, I swear, stimulating my taste buds and giving me a boost.  I eventually ordered three courses – opening with the olive tapenade served with warm triangles of pita. It was delicious, wonderfully salty and earthy with a hint of heat. For my entrée, which was served blazingly hot, I had the spinach, potatoes and eggs, the kind of meal which would be perfect at any time of the day. There was more pita and rice served along side the tagine, I imagine just to give a diner something to pick on while they’re waiting not so patiently for their main course to cool off. The flavors were fantastic – I especially loved the cardamom, and the vegetables were beautifully cooked retaining just a touch of firmness.  I  requested some harissa to add a little zip, since I felt a cold threatening and I loved the smoky quality it lent to the dish.

warm delicious baklava

warm delicious baklava

I finished with the baklava, because, why not? Unlike some renditions of this dish, it was not overly sweet or buttery and it actually was perfect with my remaining half glass of Moroccan Pinot Grigio  (Ouled Thaleb White).  Service throughout was comfortably casual and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to this terrific little spot.  Total for my meal including tip: $43.  Pretty reasonable for a trip to Morocco, don’t you think?

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Filed under Dinner, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Schenectady, sunday, Uncategorized

48 was great, I expect 49 to be sublime

When I see a reflection of myself, I don’t think I look how 49 sounds. In many ways I feel younger than ever, the result, I think of being happy and healthy and old enough to truly appreciate it.

“Nobody wants to get old but they don’t want to die young either.” – Keith Richards

I’ve had a wonderful year with many unforgettable moments. I’m in a good place professionally in a really positive place. My boys are gaining independence, venturing forth into college, work and on wheels.* I saw some fantastic concerts and a number of beautiful sunsets. There were moments when my life felt so perfect that I could have died with a contented sigh.

“I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.” – The Faces

When I’m 49, I plan to go to Nashville with my best friends and Spain and Portugal with my middle son. My brother and I will be restaurant owners. I’ll challenge myself with a half marathon and a schedule that will be intense, to say the least. There will be delicious meals and lovely wines and I’ll take pictures and write about all of it.

“Never slow down, never grow old.” – Tom Petty

Age, like weight and height, is a number. It’s up to each of us to decide the importance of it in our lives. I’d like to think that the total of my years is a pretty small figure when compared to the total number of moments I’ve shared with loved ones laughing, making memories and experiencing life.  49 is going to be fine.

*Quinn is obsessed with his bicycle and the freedom it affords him.

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Dinner, family

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