Category Archives: drinking

Girls’ Getaway – Manchester, VT

It isn’t always easy to find a couple of consecutive days that work for four busy and opinionated individuals. Sometimes, though, we need some recharging of the fun batteries and nothing works better than two days spent in an unfamiliar place with longtime friends. With that in mind, last week we headed to Manchester, a place I haven’t visited in probably close to 15 years, for a mini vaca.

When you’re dealing with four left handed women, organizing a getaway can be a challenge. Everyone has preferences and ideas about where to stay and what to do, but after close to 40 years of friendship, we have mastered group travel. I took charge of our accommodations and we did really well with Hotels.com landing a two night stay at the fairly new Hampton Inn for a total of $340. Divided by four, it was a real bargain at $70 each, including breakfast.

Speaking of bargains, the shops in Manchester were full of them! We did some fun and productive shopping at the outlets and each walked away with a few new items purchased at deeply discounted prices. Personally, I replaced my worn out Kate Spade wallet with a beautiful new aubergine clutch/wallet, picked up a navy blue down vest with a hood that I’m obsessed with at the Bass outlet and scored an adorable black and white print skirt from J.Crew. I also filled in a couple of gaps in my kitchen utensil collection with a new masher, sink sponge holder and some grips for opening jars, something with which I increasingly struggle. Not very exciting, admittedly, but I’m a practical girl at times and I really like buying everyday items when I’m away from home. Somehow it makes the daily seem a bit more exciting, you know?

For eating, we went with recommendations from folks who visit Manchester with more frequency than ourselves. Our first night we opted for a late afternoon drink or two which turned into an early dinner at Gringo Jack’s. Their chips had been described to me as “crack” and I’d have to agree that it was difficult to stop shoving them into my mouth eating them. My shrimp tacos were good and my margaritas were great and we left there completely satisfied.

img_4696For a light lunch we stopped in at Mystic, a wine bar cafe that was absolutely lovely. I went with the soup of the day, a flavorful broth with lamb meatballs and middle eastern spices, and it was perfect. Friday night, on a friend’s recommendation, we dined at Bistro Henry a cozy spot a couple of miles out of town. The menu presented a dilemma because we wanted pretty much everything! Ultimately we chose to share 3 appetizers, 2 salads (one large, one small) and two entrees, a decision that satiated all of us without leaving anyone too stuffed for an after dinner drink at a different spot. Particularly strong were the foie gras and the classic preparation of Steak au Poivre. A note about Bistro Henry – the wine list was filled with reasonably priced and thoughtfully selected options. We were driving  (and only two of us are winos) so we passed, but definitely consider a bottle with your meal if you go. Thanks, Dora!

After dinner we went to Mulligan’s, the only place in town that was purported to have any nightlife. Well…I suppose if you consider a bar that is open after 8:00 p.m. to be the definition of “nightlife” you might have been impressed, but we really weren’t. And that lack of evening entertainment is, to me, the only real drawback to a couple of nights in Manchester. It’s not as if we’re hardcore, late night women, but it would have been fun to go out to hear some live music or to get silly and dance and we couldn’t find an option for either of those activities. Would I hesitate to go back? No, probably not. It’s a pleasant enough drive, and a cute spot for shopping and dining, but if you’re looking for a place to cut loose and hear music, this is not the right village for you. Go to Manchester for a wholesome and reasonably priced good time.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, friends, Recommendations, road trips, Spring, vacation, Vermont

Deliver this love letter to 15 Church

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I had dinner last week for the first time ever at 15 Church. I’ve been there a number of times for drinks or something to eat on the patio, but as for sitting down and getting the full 15 Church soup to nuts treatment, well, this was my maiden voyage. It was so worth the wait.

We arrived at about 8:30, a little late for most places on a weeknight but 15 Church was still jumping. We were welcomed, ushered to a comfortable booth and given menus as well as a verbal recitation of the evening’s specials. So many delicious sounding options!

As we considered the offerings, the fella sipped his Paper Plane cocktail, adorably garnished with a tiny paper plane. A well-made bourbon cocktail really is a wonderful way to start a meal.

After a few minutes we came up with a plan – 2 appetizers, a salad of sorts and a single entrée to share. The fantastic warm bread service and amuse bouche of beef tartare provided a lovely start prior to our first official course, the fried oysters and an evening special of gorgeous tuna. I’ve had fried oysters, even really, really good fried oysters before, but these were on a whole other level. I would consider them to be a PhD dissertation in texture, flavor and presentation. Fantastic. The tuna was remarkably fresh with interesting accompaniments including charred pineapple. Personally, I would have preferred the tuna to be sliced thinner, but that’s just my preference, not a flaw by any means.

We were graciously served an unexpected midcourse of pasta with a flavorful ragu of rabbit and mushrooms. Surprisingly, this was the third time in a month that I’ve had a similar dish, the other occasions being while I was in Rome and more recently at MezzeNotte in Guilderland. All three renditions were perfectly seasonal and delicious, this particular plate contained the largest pieces of rabbit loin and, Easter bunny be damned – I’d eat this dish all year long.

The burrata was beautifully presented and a wonderful combination of a salad and cheese course to prep us for our final plate – the pork shank evening special. My fella hadn’t ever experienced a pork shank before and I’m so glad that his first was prepared as masterfully as the one we enjoyed together.  It was a marvel of rich flavor, tender yet with a barely discernible crunch to the exterior, and perfectly accompanied by a marsala reduction and whipped potatoes laced with more butter than I ever want to know about. An absolute revelation.

Our meal was accompanied by a wallet friendly Rioja and punctuated at its conclusion with an order of their famous fried to order donuts with a tiny chocolate mousse on the side. Because – why not? If you’ve made the excellent decision to indulge yourself, you’ve most definitely come to the right place.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Saratoga, upstate New York, winter

I ate (and drank) everything

(Let’s call this a throwback Thursday post. I started it last week on my final evening in Rome.)

It’s 8:00 in Rome and I’m starting to get hungry. The rain is pouring down, which makes my hope to go Enzo 29 again a bit soggy. I think I may need to stay closer to home on a night when the weather makes the prospect of waiting for a table at the perpetually busy Enzo more than a little discouraging. I’m out of wine so going out is my only option.

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But, first, what have I already enjoyed? The cream filled cornetto I had a few days back was pretty spectacular. Actually, all the pastry I’ve sampled have been perfecto. Not too sweet or overly large, but simply created from butter and spectacular dipped into a cappuccino.

I’ve had pasta – a lot. There was with delicate clams in Napoli, and Amatriciana, carbonara and cacio e pepe all from the same wonderful trattoria in Trastevere. Delicate duck filled ravioli and hearty rabbit ragu with paparadelle. Tender prosciutto and bresaola and the best friggin porchetta ever. Cheeses – fresh ricotta, something smoked from the provolone family and a burratta that almost made me cry. I enjoyed pizza margherita in Napoli, but it was trumped by the panini presented to me wrapped in paper and unlike any sandwich I’ve ever had before. There was also pizza in Rome at a special spot recommended by a local (to Albany) pizza aficionado called Bonci. The crust was like eating air.

Don’t worry – I ate my veggies, too, in the form of artichokes (both deep-fried and Roman style), sautéed chicory and other contorno. Oh! I also had zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and anchovies which were divinely addictive.

I drank the most simple of wines. Falanghina in Naples and the house bianco and rosso in the trattorias where I took my meals. Of course, I sipped prosecco and limoncello to bookend a dinner or two and I tasted amaro and found it to my liking as well. The highlight of my wine consumption came in a single glass of absolutely divine Amarone on my last night in Rome, the night I initially began to write this post just a week ago. My belly, and more importantly my soul, remains full. Te amo, bella Italy.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, travel, vacation

Thoughts inspired by dinner at Enzo29

img_4217-1Americans are always the loudest. They want everyone to hear them but they don’t know how to listen. I want to softly tell the table of 6-Got-SUNY-semester-abroad written all over them, (unfortunately not in invisible ink), that I adore their enthusiasm and excitement but couldn’t they enjoy themselves just as much if they spoke in more quiet voices?

Waiting for a seat in a restaurant that I saved my cacio e pepe cherry for. Sorry if that sounds vulgar. It wasn’t my intent.

The crew here is outstanding. The door guy, smoothly and with a discreet disdain that even Paul McCullough could learn from, was impressive. The servers all served smiles.

This restaurant is at the end of a street named Salumi… Come on.

If I knew how to say it I’d say “I’m so sorry I don’t speak Italian because it is such a beautiful language.,” to every Italian I was lucky enough to encounter.

I just said “no bread.” I had the bread last night and it was delicious. I didn’t need it again, though.

It’s ok cool to be recognized with smiles when you frequent the same trattoria two nights in a row.

There’s a man wearing a lavender, I assume cashmere, turtleneck seated directly in front of me. He isn’t even trying to be ironic.

img_4221-1Holy shit. This cacio e pepe is the best pasta I’ve ever had. Ever. Period. The sautéed chicory on the side is a spicy green vegetable nirvana. Contrasted, yet companionable, to the pasta it all creates something which can only be described as sublime.

img_4222-1This meal is one of those that can be described as “final meal request” material.

I ate my full leaving enough on my plate(s) to prompt a couple of queries to confirm that I had found everything molto bene. Si! I just wanted to save room for dolce.

The tiramisu was worthy of service in this very, very fine trattoria. Bene. Molte bene!

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, Random, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, vacation

The lively Dead Rabbit

CAA4E970-6891-4F2F-8F5A-3FE5A16745FFEarlier this month, my oldest son and I went to the city and got us some culture. It began with a cheap (less than $120 for the night) hotel way downtown, which became an afternoon performance at the Met, a Downton Abbey exhibit and visit to the super cool oculus. Our time in NYC coincided with some of the coldest weather of the year (decade?) and we were lucky enough to have some surprisingly good options for dinner nearby in an area that has not always been known for evening dining options. On a friend’s recommendation we decided to give the just-around-the-corner Dead Rabbit try. Here’s how it went…

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First of all, I had no idea that this place was so highly regarded. How highly regarded is it? Well, it was dubbed the Best Bar in the WORLD in 2016!

Reading the various reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor also informed me that the space is divided into 3 floors with the middle and upstairs floors requiring entry from a staff member. While the first floor Taproom would have sufficed had I been on a date (as it seemed that many of the pairs surrounding us were), the second floor Parlor was where I set my sights. I had gotten the impression that it might have a bit more elbow room than was available downstairs. I requested seating on the second floor and within 15 minutes, and about midway through my delicious warm Clontarf punch, we were ushered to two seats at the cocktail bar in the Parlor.

My immediate impression? There was so much to check out! Interesting looking people, walls covered in memorabilia, along with an impressive array of small bottles containing various cocktail ingredients provided a visual feast. We were presented with the current cocktail list – a graphic novel telling the story of original Irish gangsters with drinks inspired by their exploits, and adorable little teacups of a special punch. I drank them both since my son is 20 for another 6 weeks and I’m not one to waste good alcohol. The small food menu provided options that were well matched with the frigid weather and overall classic vibe and we selected the fish & chips for my son and the chicken pot pie for me and settled in at the bar. The lighting, music and warmth of the space combined to make a very comfortable spot to spend a couple of hours – at least for me. Liam’s stay was a bit more brief.

Our meals were served piping hot and appropriately portioned for the price. My son polished off his plate completely, while I couldn’t quite manage my entire meal opting instead to sample another concoction created by the friendly and professional bar staff. Not finding exactly what I wanted on their list, I requested a bourbon cocktail with a Manhattan-esque flair and was rewarded with a beautifully balanced drink that was precisely what I was seeking. This is a terrific spot despite all the hype that surrounds it. Check it out!

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Filed under art, Boys, Dinner, drinking, Irish, Music, NYC, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, winter

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

(Before you read this I suggest queuing up Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the title song. It’s one of the finest vocals ever.)

New Year’s Eve is kind of a weird holiday to me. Long after the childthood challenge of staying up until the ball dropped lost its novelty, it remains a night of varying significance in my history. Part of the ambivalence I feel probably comes from the fact that I’ve probably worked 80% of the NYEs in my adult life. It’s just an occasion to make money at the expense of folks who feel the desire to celebrate the year’s end publicly, honestly.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not critical of revelers, it’s just that I’m not personally interested in dropping a wad of cash on dinner out and the thought of crowding into Times Square, or some other hyper crowded space, is less appealing to me than a polar plunge on New Year’s Day. I’d much rather start the new year with money in my pocket and a clear head. Crazy, right?

On this sunny and frigid day, I’ll make sure the laundry is done and the sheets are fresh. The bathroom will be scrubbed in anticipation of an afternoon pre-shift bath and the floors will be vacuumed. Jeter will get bundled up in his smart red coat and we’ll meet friends at Muni for a festive year end ski. There will be just enough time post-ski to warm up with a big bowl of lentil soup before I head to work for what will easily be my 25th year of New Year’s Eve service.

How about you? What do you have planned?

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Events, holidays, Lark Street

Getting schooled at Cafe Capriccio

C407CADB-0DA3-41F5-808A-FC99748F03B1.pngI’ve been a devotee of Grand Street’s Café Capriccio for so very long that if I had a sip of Chianti to match each wonderful memory I’m lucky enough to have created there…well, I’d be pretty damn drunk. I’ve experienced just about every type of event imaginable in this incredibly cozy space – romantic date, girls’ night, Mother’s Day, countless dinners at the bar, chef’s table parties upstairs, significant birthdays, a bridal shower, musical performances, a psychic reading, pre-concert meals, staff holiday dinners and after hours dance parties*. I won’t say that each and every visit to the Café has been stellar, but I can count the disappointments on a single hand and when you’re talking about 25 years’ worth of dining, well, that adds up to a pretty solid history.

A couple of Mondays ago, I added a new experience to my Capriccio memories – Cooking School. I had tried to register for classes in the past but had been shut out, as they’re limited to a dozen attendees and fill up quickly.  A friend and I jumped on the opportunity quickly this time and successfully landed a couple of spots at the table. Our menu:

img_3262Beans and greens – made with Franco Rua’s house cured pancetta, broccoli raabe, white beans, garlic and hot red pepper flakes.

Salad of chicory and endive tossed with tomatoes, celery, onion, oil and vinegar

Pasta with Italian canned tomatoes, house made guanciale, cheese

img_3263Lamb chops – pan seared and finished in the over, served with a pan sauce of anchovy, garlic, rosemary

Walnut torte

I may have forgotten a few ingredients in the above dishes (it was 2 weeks ago!), but I won’t forget how much fun the night was. The group seated around the table was convivial, friendly and definitely interested in cooking, food and travel. While we didn’t actually participate in the preparation of the meal, it was a very casual evening and guests were certainly welcome to move around and get as close to the action as they desired. Service was excellent and the flow of wine (the Palladio Chianti was delish) was bountiful, a couple of classic Capriccio features I always have appreciated. The Ruas know how to run a restaurant and have never been miserly with their stories or knowledge and  I’m very much looking forward to getting more educated in 2018.

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, Dinner, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recipes, Recommendations, Restaurants, Wine