Category Archives: Eating

Yoga Brunch

imageOne of the most exciting parts of owning a restaurant, for me, is conceiving and hosting events. The Ladies First party last fall and our New Year’s Day Open House, were two of my favorite afternoons spent at Lark + Lily in the  near year (!) since we opened. Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to add a third such afternoon event to my chain of satisfying and happy hospitality experiences, yoga brunch.

Originally planned for August, but rescheduled for after Labor Day, our introductory yoga brunch had a reasonable attendance on a morning that threatened rain. I definitely went big in terms of food, but I’m pretty certain the menu was well received and enjoyed. It was challenging to know how much to prepare since Albany is such a last-minute town and people don’t necessarily honor commitments made without prepayment. I get that, but next time a deposit might be necessary to better help me have the appropriate amount of food available. Believe me, there was no hardship in taking a dozen bagels home for the Lilly boys and it seemed more than acceptable to stop at the St. James Firehouse on September 11th to drop off an extra dozen donuts.

Because I didn’t want to interfere with the kitchen’s well deserved weekend, I made myself responsible for the prep and kept things fairly simple by creating a spread of bagels, veggie cream cheese (thanks, John!), Cider Belly donuts, hard-boiled eggs, lots of fresh fruit, homemade granola and R&G’s fantastic yogurt and ricotta cheese. I think I’ll keep the format similar, maybe mixing up the carbs a little and keeping the fruit as seasonal as possible. It’s a fun little project for me that I really enjoy.

I didn’t get to take the class, unfortunately, but everyone came back from the park a bit flushed and more than a little livelier than they were before class. There are some great photos taken by Trudy that really capture the bliss of being outdoors on a late summer morning. Be sure to check them out and mark your calendars for our next class led by the wonderful Jammella – October 23rd. Keep an eye on the Lark + Lily Facebook page for more details.

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Filed under Albany, Brunch, Eating, Events, Exercise, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Summer, sunday, Uncategorized

Anniversary dinner

Anniversary: a date that is remembered or celebrated because a special or notable event occurred on that date in a previous year

imageYesterday was my 22nd wedding anniversary. I’ve been divorced for 5 years, so there weren’t any cards or flowers to mark the occasion, yet I felt surprisingly sentimental about the day. I think it may have been because of the drive I took which literally brought me down memory lane. It was a good place for a visit.

On a beautiful early September afternoon, I passed off two of my children to their cousins in Lee, MA, a perfect midpoint between Albany and the lake house where their father’s clan would be gathered for the long weekend. Seeing those young men, along with the brother-in-law who was the best man in my wedding, unexpectedly filled my heart with happiness. I’m so grateful that my sons belong to such a wonderful family. Good things came from that equally beautiful early September morning 22 years previously.

Upon recommendation (thanks, Michelle), I headed to Lenox for an early and indulgent dinner. Brava, an intimate wine bar on Housatonic Street, was nearly at capacity when I rolled in and bellied up to the bar at about 5:30. The space is simply and cozy with a couple of big windows and small tables that can be pushed together for larger groups. Flexibility is key in a dining room of this size, particularly when there is a no reservations policy. This theory was quickly proven when the guy next to me and I were each asked to shift left one stool to make room at the bar for a party of five who were facing a 30+ minute wait for a table. Request cheerfully accommodated.

imageI wasn’t in the mood to peruse the wine list so I just asked for a glass of rosé and was quickly provided with a delicious Bandol. After consulting with one of the servers, I placed my order. I opened with the marinated white anchovies and was immediately transported back to a sunny day in Barcelona. They were perfect and paired beautifully with my wine. The portion was ideal – enough to satisfy without overwhelming my taste buds. Great start.

Next up was a salad of roasted beets and basil chèvre. The serving was generous, presented on a simple white rectangular plate which was the ideal backdrop to the vivid colors of the dish. The beets were sweet and the components were nicely balanced without any single ingredient outshining another. As I was making my through the salad, my next (and final) two plates arrived: the patatas brava and the lamb chops.image

The potatoes were amazing – cubed and perfectly cooked with a crisp exterior and fluffy inside, generously accompanied by a smoky, spicy remoulade of sorts. My first bite inspired hiccups, my usual response to spicy food, but they quickly abated and I focused my attention on this plate because potatoes need to be eaten hot. So damn good.

imageThe lamb chops, two on the plate and served with mint sauce (not mint jelly), were fantastic. Cooked to a perfect pink, flavorful and tender, these chops were exactly the protein I wanted to accompany my otherwise vegetable centric meal. I’ll confess right now that, after cutting away all of the meat possible, I finished by picking up the chops and getting a good gnaw in before acknowledging that I was perfectly satiated and ready to continue my drive back to Albany. image

It’s kind of funny that I had such an exceptionally satisfying dinner on 9/4/16. I recall being famished post-wedding festivities 9/4/94, having neglected the food, which I heard was delicious, in favor of enjoying our guests. Yesterday, though, was different. I found myself on familiar roads from long ago, appreciating the turns my life has taken and holding on to the gifts I received from a marriage which ended, yet continues to provide unanticipated joy. It was a day to be celebrated.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, marriage, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, sunday

Lunch at the Culinary Institute of America

imageSome days my good fortune threatens to overwhelm me. For instance last Friday, as part of a day of professional development, I had the opportunity to enjoy a three-course meal at Ristorante Caterina de Medici, the CIA’s Italian restaurant. What a treat! image

Have you dined at the CIA before? I think it’s been close to 20 years since I was last there and, boy, does it look different! I wish I had more time to roam around and check out what’s new (to me), but I was with a group and we had a schedule to maintain. Andiamo!

We began with a Caprese salad, which was lovely. I mean, seriously, if you can’t produce a tasty and beautiful tomato-centric plate in the Hudson Valley in late August, well, you might want to find a different career. This plate was a winner with an unexpected touch – green olives. Nice. imageOur second course was pretty dreamy – portions of 3 different pasta dishes. I really wish I could order this again because sometimes I struggle with decisions and it was the perfect entree for a girl who can’t always easily make up her mind. The ziti was pretty forgettable but both the lasagna and the risotto were really nicely done. The lasagna was definitely my favorite but an impressive amount of flavor came out of the vegetable risotto. imageDessert was tiramisu – really good and generously portioned, leaving me only hungry for a nap. image

Other items of note, the dining room was beautiful with excellent service and two somewhat garish Murano glass chandeliers suspended overhead. There was also a very coolly repurposed card catalog that charmed this wine bar owner – librarian. Check it out!

Isn’t this awesome?

 

Not my style but I do appreciate the craftsmanship.

Not my style but I do appreciate the craftsmanship.

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

A challenge of a run

imageSo, on Saturday I ran a half marathon. Yep, that’s right, 13.1 big ones. How was it? I’ll tell you about it, but bear with me – it’s going to be kind of long. You know, like the race was.

The race, called the Camp Chingachgook Challenge, was the first road half that I’ve ever registered to run. The course was reputed to be hilly, but I figured the Seven Sisters run in May had prepared me for hills. I was right. Kind of. The rolling hills of this course, I would come to learn, were certainly less intimidating than the mountains we encountered in Massachusetts, but they were nearly as exhausting as they clustered with an annoying frequency towards the end of the route. More on that later.

I arrived at the starting point 35 minutes before start time which gave me plenty of time to:

a. Park

b. Check in and get my shirt

c. Use the portapotty and

d. Feel a bit outclassed by the other remarkably fit looking runners.

I talked myself down by reminding myself that I wasn’t in it to win, but instead to challenge myself with a new experience. Head on straight, I joined the rear of the pack and took off when the horn blew, promising myself to run my own race.

The first few miles were great and I was surprised each time my Runmeter ticked off another mile. The morning was humid as hell, but there wasn’t any sun to contend with, so it was bearable. The first water station came up pretty quick at about 3 miles and I walked through it, enjoying my drink. I considered using the portapotty again (Anyone who knows me, knows how frequently I pee. Actually, I guess everyone knows that now.) but decided to wait for the next water station. Bad move – the next stop didn’t have any toilet facilities which meant I had to leave the course and make use of a bathroom at an accommodating resort. I imagine that added a minimum of 4 minutes to my time, but whatever. It beat any alternative.

I’d say the opening 8 miles were the most pleasant – there were lots of gorgeous homes to see, the hills were fairly manageable and my body felt strong. At about the 9 mile mark, I started seeing a significant discrepancy between my app’s measurement of mileage and the painted markers on the road, which was a bit discouraging. By the finish, my app read close to .5 of a mile over the course of 13.1. It might not sound like much, but, believe me towards the end if felt like a lot.

Things started to get a little gnarly for me at about mile 9. My legs were getting heavy and the bottom of my left foot was on fire. The sun started to peek out from behind the clouds and my body was simply dripping with effort. Cue rolling hills… At this point I started allowing myself to walk a little. I could feel myself getting a little light headed and chose to not push myself beyond where I was comfortable, and by “comfortable” I mean endurable discomfort. I don’t know if any of you experience foot pain when you run, but it is the worst thing I’ve ever felt during a race. I really need to get this figured out – hopefully before next month’s Palio in Saratoga.

I crossed the finish line at 2:27, which was fine for me. I immediately took my shoes off and waded into the refreshingly cool lake for a quick dip. My next stop was the showers, which was really an exercise in futility – I hadn’t brought soap or anything so it was a mere rinse off. Despite my oversized beach towel, it was impossible to get dry due to the extreme humidity. I dressed my still damp body and went to wait for the shuttle bus to take me back to the start and, of course, that’s when the rain finally started. I basically got drenched for the fourth time of the day (sweat, lake, shower, rain) only to finally get on the bus where I came as close as possible to passing out without actually losing consciousness. I’m not 100% sure what it was about, but I’m thinking dehydration and my generally low blood pressure weren’t a great fit with the outrageously humid and hot bus ride. Reflecting back, my lack of need to urinate is a huge red flag for me and I didn’t pee for at least 3.5 hours despite my taking in close to 64 oz of water – so unlike me.

Regardless, I made it back to my car and ate a perfect peach to rally myself for the drive home. I had an invite for a celebratory breakfast, but I requested a big, fat burger instead and met my friend at Crave, which was exactly what I wanted.

Our table number at Crave - perfect!

Our table number at Crave – perfect!

I continued pounding water before finally crawling into bed for a nap. I’d definitely consider doing this race again, but the experience only affirmed my disinterest in ever doing a marathon. I just don’t think that 26.2 miles sounds fun and if it isn’t fun, I’m not in.

Until next time – Summer Mountain Runner (my new Native American name courtesy of my lunar b*tch friend, Karen)

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Filed under Eating, Events, road trips, running, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Millions of (bad tasting) peaches

imageI don’t know when it happened but it seems that finding a delicious peach has become a challenge on par with picking the trifecta at Saratoga. I mean, your odds of buying a flavorful, juicy peach are even less favorable than that of a thoroughbred surviving a hot summer season in the Spa City.

After buying too many bad peaches from the grocery store, I’ve given up on peaches which do not come from a farmstand or farmer’s market. I’ve been stalking the Troy Farmers’ Market the last few weeks sniffing around for my favorite summer fruit, but seem to have been a bit premature in my hunt. I did, however, score some amazing ricotta cheese from R&G which we paired with local blueberries, honey, candied pecans and chocolate mint from St Anne’s Institute for a dynamite dessert at Lark + Lily. But, I digress…image

Yesterday, though, my perseverance paid off. I stopped at my favorite farmstand, Burger’s on Route 7, and found exactly what I been dreaming about – a luscious, succulent peach. It was the perfect size, not overly large, and the ideal temperature, not refrigerated. My first bite was juicy and sweet, unlike the mealy, dry peaches I’ve suffered through this summer. I sat in my car and devoured it with glee. Nirvana! Get some.

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Gardens, Local, Recommendations, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Dueling croissants aux amandes

A number of years ago my friend, Paul, turned me on to almond croissants and my world became a sweeter place. I think there were three in the box he originally brought to my house. I know I wished there were more. On Paul’s advice, prior to stuffing my face, I placed my croissant in the microwave for about 15 seconds which made it a touch softer and unbelievably flaky. I was immediately a fan and have sampled almond croissants from a number of different bakeries, both local and abroad.*

Last weekend I pedaled to the Troy Farmer’s Market to earn my anticipated calorie splurge. You see, I had a plan – a taste off between Mrs. London’s and The Placid Baker’s versions of almond croissant. But, before I share my impressions, let me tell what I learned from the interwebs about almond croissant. Maybe you already know this, but I was surprised to learn that almond croissants originated as a thrifty way of repurposing regular croissant. The shelf life of a croissant is ever so brief, but if one slices them in half and spreads them with an almond paste or custard known as frangipane and then dusts them with powdered sugar and sliced almonds and pops them in the oven for a second baking, well, that’s a whole new pastry. Damn, those French are smart when it comes to tasty baked goods!

So – here’s the Mrs. London’s version…

It’s huge, but you’ll still wish there was even more.  The somewhat terse man was kind enough to toss some stray broken off pieces when he bagged my two croissants ($4.25 each) which was a welcome treat. The dusting of powdered sugar was kind of sparse, but keep in mind that I had the bakery bag in my saddlebags on my bicycle for 10 miles or so. The frangipane was thick in consistency, but thinly layered and the croissant itself was flaky but not incredibly airy. Taste? Delicious, but a bit sweet, said my 11 year-old.

To score an almond croissant from The Placid Baker, I had to venture beyond the Farmer’s Market to get to the source. You see, they’d sold out at the market but still had a couple available at the shop. Here’s the one ($3.00) I brought home.

It was a tad smaller than Mrs. London’s and definitely baked to a darker shade. The real surprise, though, was the generous layer of frangipane. It was a much “looser” version of frangipane, dripping onto the plate when I bit into it. Despite the abundance of almond custard, this croissant was less sweet and somehow lighter than the Mrs. London’s version. The pastry layers were well separated and excruciatingly light. C’est Bon!

Bottom line – they’re both terrific, but The Placid Baker has stolen my heart from Mrs. London. How about you? Do you have a preference?

*Abroad. Doesn’t that sound tres fancy?

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Saratoga, Troy

Yo – go get this yogurt!

imageI grew up on “fruit on the bottom” Dannon yogurt. As I got older, though, I was put off by how much sugar (approximately 30+ grams of added sugar) was packed into that 6 oz container. I remember wishing that it could come unsweetened, giving me the option to add sugar to my own taste. Since that wasn’t an option, I began eating vanilla yogurt believing that I was improving my diet. Of course, once I realized how much sugar was in that, I was screwed and pretty much stopped eating yogurt.

Finally, about 2 years ago, I bit the bullet and committed to eating plain yogurt. You know, like a big girl. I generally buy whatever is on sale, be it regular or Greek style, in a 32 oz container. I’ve enjoyed Brown Cow and Upstate Farms particularly, mixing the yogurt with fresh fruit and topping it with granola for a meal that I enjoy and can live with in terms of nutritional value.

Yesterday I finally made it over to the Troy Farmer’s market. It was a hot morning and my stomach wasn’t feeling great after a weird episode of sickness on Friday. I bypassed the almond croissants from Mrs. London’s and ignored the artfully displayed cookies and breads from the Placid Baker, consoling myself with the promise of future indulgence on a morning when I earned my carbs by biking to Troy.

Cream on top

Cream on top

What caught my eye, though, were the offerings from Troy’s own R&G Cheesemakers. We’ve featured some of their cheeses in the past, always with good response, but what I came home with was their plain, cream on top, yogurt. I pitted some cherries and sliced a few strawberries into a bowl and then spooned a couple of tablespoons of yogurt on top, finishing with a scoop of granola.

imageThis yogurt is the bomb. Pleasantly tart, rich yet light and delicious. At $4 for 32 oz, it is a steal. Factor in that it was made 2 days before I purchased it and I’ve got myself a new favorite. Go, get this yogurt but please save one for me.

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Troy