Category Archives: drinking

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

Music to my ears – Modern English and Albert Cummings

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My new favorite cocktail – Cimarron Tequila,Pear Liqueur, Allspice Dram, Lemon Juice

2017 has been a year of great live performances, with a couple of exceptions. The most recent disappointing musical act I saw was Modern English at The Hollow earlier this month. I was so excited for this throwback band – the timing was ideal (the night before a holiday), I had plenty of friends going and their big single “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” is a classic 80s tune. What could go wrong?

Well, the tickets ($25) said 8:00 and we arrived pretty close to that time only to find the band’s equipment just being loaded into the venue. After about 20 or 30 minutes, some guys got on stage without introduction (that I heard at least) and played a song that was so friggin loud that we left the spot we had nabbed near the back bar and headed to the dining area where we wouldn’t be blasted at an obscene volume. Shortly after they left the stage an opening act came on and played some noise that just didn’t appeal to us, so we left and grabbed a drink at dp’s. Come to think about it, that drink (the Autumn in Jalisco) was probably the best part of the night. Maybe tequila isn’t just for summer.

We went back to The Hollow at about 10:30 and Modern English was just coming on stage. We stood about 20-25 feet back from the stage, but again, the music was damn loud that I just couldn’t deal. By this point, I was pretty much thinking “just play the song so I can go home, please.” They didn’t hear my mental plea, so I left. Too late and too loud = no fun for me.

Now, last night I had a completely different experience. After vowing to not squander an infrequent Saturday night off, my favorite guy and I made a pretty darn spontaneous decision to check out a blues performer downtown at The Upper Room. The space was new to us (I never went to Jillian’s) and had two distinct areas depending upon whether one had purchased general admission tickets ($20 at the door) or made a reservation prior to the show. We weren’t able to get a table so we instead staked out a spot near the railing which divided the sections and had a decent view of the stage and excellent proximity to the bar.

B44FCCA2-7D59-4CF3-B07C-B2C690A38E50Albert Cummings has played around Albany a number of times, but it was our first time seeing him and from start (when we walked past him behind the venue) to finish (when guitar geek guy copped a pick and we complimented the band on their set) it was an awesome show. The sound mix was solid, the volume was on point and the crowd was enthusiastic and fun. I was disappointed by the lack of cider as a beverage option, but the Jack’s Abbey Oktoberfest that we opted for was so very tasty that I had three. Yes, three!

Somehow I missed the fact that The Upper Room was doing a blues series, but there is one more show scheduled for next month and I’d go back again in a heartbeat. The show started on time, the band was tight (that drummer!) and the value in terms of price was terrific. I’ve enjoyed other shows (and meals) at The Hollow and will continue to keep an eye on their events calendar. Multiple entertainment options downtown are a good thing. Now, if we could just get some residents to occupy some of the space above the businesses downtown, we’d really be making progress, Albany.

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Filed under Albany, beer, concerts, drinking, Events, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations

Poppy, Pony Barn Bar and Pigs

“Poppy” lips

Friday nights can be hard, especially at the beginning of a new school year. While I would have been very happy to make it a movie night at home with my youngest son, I was too interested to check out the brand new Pony Barn and June Farms to stay at home. So, what’s a girl to do? Get dressed, swipe on some of that new Poppy lipstick you just bought from Origins and get to the farm.

June Farms is a quick 15 minute drive from Albany – which is remarkable because it feels very much like it’s in the middle of nowhere. We drove, but I know some folks who Ubered out of Troy for less than $15, not a bad idea if you want to indulge in multiple tasty cocktails. There are a couple of turns off of Route 43 to reach the farm’s winding driveway, but the directions were easy enough and the drive, even after dark, was pretty.

We parked and made our way inside the beautiful and newly built barn, passing the pizza oven on our way. The interior smells like sawdust and fresh air – a combination of odors I’ve never before encountered in a barn or a bar, for that matter. The rustically beautiful bar to the left beckons and holds a nicely curated selection of liquor, including many local and other New York State products. The lighting is flattering and the numerous seating areas invite guests to indulge in conversations, perhaps even with a side of tasteful making out. A patio promises to be the ideal spot to catch a full moon view and the spacious upstairs loft is finished, yet unfurnished, leaving lots of opportunity for eventual renters of the space to use the area in a manner that makes sense for their event.

Event? Yes, the entire barn, as well as overnight accommodations, are available for rent. I can see this property as the perfect location for all sorts of parties, ceremonies and getaways. Check out their website for more info and to see photos of all June Farms has to offer. I’ve got a video that I can’t embed here, but check out my Instagram post to get a sense of the interior of the bar.

As for the pigs mentioned in the title – they were the genuine article, not your usual bar animals. We took a quad ride out to the pig barn and were completely taken by the half dozen swine we caught in the middle of their night’s slumber. They were beautiful, not smelly in the slightest and adorable with their snoring. I can’t wait to go back to meet the ducks, chickens, cows and horses and to explore more of the trails in daylight. What a great new spot for daytime and evening fun. Well done, Matt Baumgartner. This place is special.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under beauty, drinking, Local, Recommendations, upstate New York

Drinking and driving*

I’m back from vacation and bracing myself for the return to school and all the activity that entails. It’s almost enough to make me console myself with a glass of wine or a last of the summer margarita, except, I’m really tired of drinking. I seriously don’t know how people drink every day or even just multiple times a week. It is just not my thing.

There were 3 adults in our beach house and I brought 2 bottles of rosé, a bottle of white, 2 bottles of red and an additional magnum of red. There was also a honking big bottle of tequila, some gin and a little vodka in the mix. Is that excessive for a week? Before you answer, let me tell you what I brought back home – the magnum, 1 bottle of white, 1 bottle of rosé and a half bottle of red that I just couldn’t part with. It was a Turley! The vodka went quickly in about 4 Moscow Mules, I don’t drink gin and there was 2/3 of the tequila left. Now – do you think that is a lot of booze consumed?

While you consider that question, let me tell you about my drive home from the Cape. First, you should know that I despise driving on the Mass Pike. I may be exaggerating but, I swear, every single time I drive on the damn Pike it rains – and I hate driving in the rain. The only thing I hate more than driving in the rain, is driving in the dark in the rain. Until last Sunday, that is.

During our vacation in Wellfleet my car started acting up, stalling at weird random times. It happened three times over a couple of days with no real pattern. Each time, I coasted to the shoulder, put the car in park and then restarted it with no real issues. I attempted to get it into a local garage, but was thwarted by the holiday weekend. After talking to my mechanic in Albany, who suspected a problem with the fuel thingamabob, I felt prepared to attempt the trip home – or so I thought.

The drive home was hellacious. It rained, naturally, and there was moderate traffic. My sweet Volvo crapped out three times over the course of 260 miles, including once on a bridge. I was reasonably certain that the car would restart, but those few minutes on the side of the road were incredibly stressful. Cars were traveling so fast, visibility was so poor and I was afraid that we would be rear ended. By the time I made it home my hands hurt from clenching the steering wheel. It was all I could to do to unpack the car and climb into the tub. With a glass of wine.

*No, not at the same time. I don’t do that.

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Filed under Cape Cod, drinking, Random, road trips, stress, Summer

Catching a Lyft to see the Shakes

Following what may have been the best June ever and a July that was fantastic, August has started with a bang! Last night I had a primo Albany evening – drinks with friends, a concert that was beyond all expectations and a late night walk around the Empire State Plaza. Plus, there was the bonus of leaving my car at home and relying on Lyft for transportation, a new and welcome option in our area.

Let’s start with my getting a Lyft. I got an email this week offering me up to $100 off of my next 20 rides within a specific time period. Knowing that I’ll be traveling for some of this time, I decided to initiate the offer last night and start saving $. I requested a ride from my home in the DelSo to McGeary’s, where I was meeting friends to pregame before the Alabama Shakes show. My driver arrived in less than 5 minutes and for a discounted total of $4.50 (plus a $3 tip) I was dropped off downtown at my requested destination. Hours later, I paid a similar amount to get from Lark St. back home. Again, the wait for my ride was mere minutes, unlike any time I’ve ever taken a cab in Albany. Total and complete game changer.

The concert was phenomenal. Thanks to the power of Facebook, I scored tickets after appealing to my friends that I needed to see this show. My seats were in the balcony, I had lots of friends in the venue and Albany welcomed the Alabama Shakes with great enthusiasm. I was lucky enough to have seen the band a couple of years ago down at Mountain Jam and their performance last night again demonstrated what a great band they really are. Lead singer and guitarist, Brittany Howard, is a force to witness and her modest, low key personality is a rare thing in the music industry. I absolutely loved the show. Put them on your list to go see next time they come around.

In between Lyfts and the show were a couple of tasty beverages with a group of people who I was happy to mix together. There was a lot of laughter, good conversation, a few tall tales and a stroll around the Capitol on a gorgeous summer night. Oh, August, you’re killing it! Summer, 2017 is turning out to be epic.

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Filed under Albany, Aloysius, beauty, concerts, drinking, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Summer

3 friends, 2 cities, 1 lucky human – part 2

On Sunday, it was time to head north of Albany with two vintage friends for a little time in Saratoga Springs. We were at our hotel by noon, parked the car and took off on foot to explore Broadway and all it offers. The Holiday Inn where we stayed was super convenient to Congress Park and we again had dreamy weather. We allowed ourselves to be entertained by the ducklings for a bit as we strolled into town, feeling zero urgency to do anything. Saratoga was hopping and filled with tourists and we thoroughly enjoyed window shopping, sussing out a place for dinner and picking places to stop in on Monday, not wanting to deal with shopping bags and dressing rooms on such a blazingly beautiful day.

Lunch was takeout from Putnam Market, a variety of salads and a lemon bar to share, which we took to a shady bench in the park. At that point I was totally ready for a siesta, but we reinterpreted that as some chill time by the hotel pool. We lucked out and achieved bliss with a quick dip or two alternated with stretching out on a chaise in the sun. Refreshed, we took a long walk into and around Saratoga State Park and I realized how well I’ve come to know that piece of land in my time upstate. It was fun to show it off.

Dinner was at Forno Bistro, coincidentally this week’s restaurant review in the Times Union. Before dinner, though, we were compelled to have a cocktail on the veranda at Salt & Char. I completely enjoyed my very first Moscow Mule, essentially dubbing this my official cocktail of Summer, 2017. After our drinks and a lot of giggles, we went to Forno and had a positive dinner experience, made even more exceptional by my being greeted by a former student, who was dining, with an enthusiastic “Hi, Silvia!” We shared a couple of antipasti, a pasta and a pizza and left satiated. It was too nice to go directly “home,” so we took a walk around Caroline Street and found ourselves at Ben & Jerry’s where I stepped out of my comfort zone of Cherry Garcia and Coffee Buzz Buzz and tried Coconut Seven Layer Bar instead. It was a great way to end the night.

Our first stop Monday morning was Mrs. London’s where my friends experienced their first almond croissants. These are no joke and since we were early (9:00), we had the place nearly to ourselves and were able to enjoy our cafe au laits in a most leisurely fashion. We timed things perfectly and, fully caffeinated, we got some quality shopping in. At our first stop, Violet, we were presented with the opportunity to purchase a coupon book filled with special offers from local businesses. From an initial $15 investment, I saved more than $40 which made this a really good buy. The shopping was pretty epic and I cleaned up with 4 dresses, a skirt and a super cute pair of cropped Hudson jeans. After what feels like months and months of exclusively online shopping because of my schedule, boutique shopping felt like a real luxury.

Who am I kidding? It’s all such a luxury. To have the friends, time and money to make quick getaways like these possible is an indulgence that I’ll never take for granted. That’s why I’m one lucky lady.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, road trips, Saratoga, SPAC, Summer, upstate New York

17 Things to love about Valentine’s Day 2017

16715920_1844113935853351_7426409160263547542_o• When the 14th of February falls on a Tuesday.
• Speaking of falling – no additional snow falling.
• A great menu created and executed by a professional kitchen – thanks, John & Zach & Ben.
• Competent and attentive front of the house staff – I’m talking about you, Jackie, Jammella & Trudy.
• A tightly mapped seating chart with 2 hour turns for every table.
• Appreciative walk ins who are grateful and work with what you can offer them.
• Solo diners who are comfortable enough to dine with you on the biggest couple night of the year.
• Guests who span the spectrum – white, black, brown, straight and gay. I’m really proud of the diverse clientele we have at Lark + Lily.
• Music that set the mood beautifully – thanks, Trudy!
• Friends stopping in for dessert.
• Mild weather and cozy fireplaces.
• A sense of relaxed pleasure wafting through the dining rooms.
• Finding the perfect card for your honey at Elissa Halloran’s.
• A steady stream of pleasant people populating our bar.
• Guests thanking you for providing them with a place they love to visit.
• Having the prettiest Valentine’s menus ever! Thanks, Lori Hansen & Laura Glazer.   16716184_1844117485852996_4174399207922838321_o
• Finishing the night with something bubbly and pink.

16797713_1844175939180484_5675353717826130564_oAnd one thing not to love – please, please, please have the decency to call and cancel your reservation if your plans change. Having an empty table that might have been filled by someone looking to celebrate is really frustrating. On a related note, if you are going to be more than 20 minutes late for your reservation, I’d suggest calling to let the restaurant know. After 20 minutes (without a phone call), your table becomes mine again.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, holidays, Local, love, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine, winter