Category Archives: Eating

Smitten with Salzburg

B72CE3D0-3C28-478F-8CA4-3B2E81DDB72DAfter spending a couple of hours becoming familiar with Salzburg’s historic and beautiful city center, I returned to the flat and collected my son. There was so much more to experience! We didn’t really have a plan, but I wanted him to see this picturesque city and there seemed to be plenty with which to keep ourselves occupied without the need for an itinerary.

We traced my earlier footsteps and went along the river where vendors were set up displaying and selling their artwork, artisanal food items, clothing, jewelry and crafts. While there was nothing that I was interested in enough to commit to carrying it home, there were lovely items available and the quality definitely seemed high. Continuing past the market, I shepherded Liam to the tourist office so he could collect brochures and, after some consultation, we decided that the funicular to the Fortress Hohensalzburg was a must do. Twenty minutes, and about 22 euro, later we were on top of the city.

8A1E4474-351D-4A0E-9E04-BC6162F71D07The views as we walked up to the castle were fabulous and as we went by the cafe’s terrace an open table near the vista beckoned. Sitting there in the sun sipping on a glass of gruner veltliner was a perfect moment that I hope to never forget. The castle itself, open since 1077, was great. The video presentation which told the history of the fort was really well done and the artifacts and limited furnishings were tremendous. The torture devices on display were interesting, but, for me, it was all about the view.

 

We walked down to the city center rather than taking the funicular again, and sought out a spot for lunch. I had a craving for trout and we came across Restaurant Elefant that offered a wonderful seasonal preparation with a simple brown butter and chanterelle mushrooms. It was really fantastic, perfectly cooked and fresh as hell, as was the simple green salad that I had also ordered. We finished with a local speciality that Liam had noticed, the Salzburger Nockerl, a raspberry and meringue dessert that was massive, yet fairly light. We were unable to finish it, but I’m glad we splurged on something we had never before tried.

 

It was about 4:30 when we finished lunch and I was ready for a nap or another glass of wine. Since I needed wanted to run that evening, I went with the first option. Liam was interested in a Mozart musical thing that began at 8:00, so we returned to the flat where I settled in for a power nap and he relaxed a short while before leaving solo to see his performance.

My run is a whole ‘nother post, mostly just visual, but just to give you an example of why I am so smitten with this city, I’ll tell you this – as I was running back north after covering a few miles on the east side of the river, who did I literally run into? My son. How crazy is that? I paused to chat with him for a moment and we made a plan to meet after I showered. I ran the rest of the way home with a huge smile on my face and anticipation for yet another round of gelato. How can I not love this place?

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Filed under Austria, beauty, Boys, drinking, Eating, family, Food, Recommendations, Restaurants, Summer, travel, Wine

Lunch at Dancing Ewe Farm

Ever since I first heard from friends about Dancing Ewe Farm in Washington County, I’ve wanted to get there. I loved the romantic story about the owners meeting in Italy and coming together to create a life that includes family, sheep, cheese and authentic small production Italian products imported and sold from their barn and presumably online.

Yesterday was the day.

The trek north took approximately 90 minutes each way, a bit of a commitment for a midday meal but by no means a punishment on a glorious early July day. There was no traffic in our direction, but heading west into Lake George was definitely congested. Plan accordingly.

We arrived about noon, figured out parking and started checking the place out. Near the parking area, a canopied table was set up to offer guests a taste of the day’s wine selections. We sampled both the rosato and a bianco and found them both light and refreshing. Ultimately we selected a bottle (included in the price for lunch) of Sauvignon Blanc which was lovely with the three courses which we were soon to enjoy.

The aroma was intoxicating.

But, before the meal, there was first an informative history walking tour of the farm and some of the facilities. There were “Mexican” chickens,* herding dogs, sheep galore and milking, cheese making and storage areas. The tour was maybe 30 minutes or so and was interesting and totally casual.

When we arrived back at the barn, the long table was beautifully set with fresh flowers and a place setting which was substantial in both flatware (chintzy flatware is a pet peeve) and antipasti. Our plates were artfully arranged with 3 examples of bruschetta (roasted red pepper, sausage and mozzarella and, my favorite, roasted cauliflower which came with a wonderfully spicy little kick), 3 varieties of their cheese, one of which was drizzled with honey, presumably local to the farm or to the owners’ home in Tuscany. Also on the plate were a marinated artichoke heart, a sweet cipollini onion, some coins of dried sausage and a marvelous wedge of vegetable frittata. It was all killer and almost completely vegetarian friendly.

Next up was the main course, a gorgeous plate of four handmade ravioli served in a simple sage butter. The large pockets of pasta, filled with ricotta and spinach, were fantastically delicate, yet completely satisfying. Perfect.

We finished with a delightful panne cotta served with tender strawberries. Satiated, yet not stuffed we paid our check ($60pp +tax) and made our way slowly back to Albany with the remainder of our wine corked to enjoy later. Dancing Ewe is a lovely place and if you haven’t yet experienced it, I highly recommend it. $60 is bit indulgent for a midday meal, but it sure felt like a bargain ticket to Tuscany. Thanks, Mike & Leslie!

* a completely benign and inoffensive joke

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Filed under beauty, Brunch, Eating, Food, ideas, Italy, Observations, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York, Wine

J is for…

J is for…

  • June and what an unexpectedly fantastic month it turned out to be.
  • Joy and the way it comes back into your life when you let go of what’s been taking it’s place for far too long.  
  • Jarred by how hard it is to get your feet back under yourself after learning that not everything is what you believed, but more importantly, that sometimes surprises can be an unexpected delight, instead of a disappointment.
  • Jaded a bit, but committed to putting the focus on what’s ahead rather than what has been left behind.
  • Just thrilled to be looking ahead to July and another month of hot days, bike rides, concerts, meals with friends, hours on a paddle board and cold wine.

 

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Filed under biking, drinking, Eating, Events, favorites, friends, love, musings, Observations, relationships, secrets, Summer, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

City Squire Ale House

#sillyandwillyreunited

Friday night, after far too long of a separation, my friend Will and I reunited for an evening of fun and food. Initially I thought we were going to hang in Albany for First Friday, but he felt the need to check out a friend’s new spot on Union Street in Schenectady since he been away when they celebrated the grand opening. Our night could not have been better.

The space, from what I understand, is a complete new build on what had previously been a tavern sort of place, the original City Squire. From the charming front porch, which blurs the line between indoors and outdoors with its floor to ceiling doors which open wide, to the upstairs deck, the building was simply beautiful. The color palette, the floors, the attention to detail, everything about the place combined to make a really pretty setting for what became an indulgent and prolonged meal.

We started at the bar with 3 items from the menu and drinks. Making selections was a challenge because so much sounded good, but we went with the Mexican cauliflower (a recommendation from the owner), a dozen steamers and the fish tacos which were made with fried shrimp on that particular day. Our bartender, Kevin, was great making sure we were comfortable and well taken care of, and went as far as to have other guests at the bar shift over to provide us with seating. Nice.

The cauliflower, served in a cast iron casserole dish, was fantastic. Florets of cauliflower, corn kernels, scallions and queso fresco came together perfectly in a flavorful array of textures. Ordered with a salad, it would make a dynamite and satisfying meatless meal. The clams were lovely – fresh and clean lacking only a vessel in which to place the quickly emptied shells. The tacos were a tremendous portion – 3 soft shelled beauties bursting with shrimp and assorted shredded vegetables served in a perfectly designed holder. We probably could have stopped there, but were joined by our third guest and moved to a table to sample a few more items.

Mexican cauliflower heaven

Clams, butter, crostini simplicity

Fish tacos – outstanding!

Will opted for a salad and a beef entree, while Raj selected two more small plate options – the Korean wings (spicy with a Korean chili garlic sauce) and the grilled flatbread a bruschetta-y sort of prep of naan, tomatoes, chicken and mozzarella. I sampled everything at the table and found it all to be well prepared and nicely seasoned. It is a casual place with paper napkins, yet the dishes and glasses were thoughtfully selected and our server was attentive to our needs.

As we wrapped things up to take home, we were joined by the chef, who actually oversees all four of the restaurants the family owns. While we didn’t order dessert, his enthusiasm and joy in being part of this project, as well as the others, was a super sweet way to end a meal. There is a real sense of family and teamwork that I really appreciated seeing. So many industry folks struggle with cynicism, but without exception, everyone we encountered was positive and upbeat. I was a guest of my friends and don’t know our total for the night, but can’t imagine it was out of line for the quality of the experience. Can’t wait to go back!

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, Happy Hour, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Schenectady, Spring, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Restaurant Navona

Last night my guys and I had dinner to celebrate middle son’s birthday. His birthday was actually on Monday, but he requested a Tuesday dinner because he felt that he would have more options from which to choose since many places are closed Mondays. This is what happens when you raise foodie kids.

We arrived on time for our 6:30 reservation and were seated after a couple of confusing moments. I’ve only been to Restaurant Navona on one other occasion and last night there seemed to be an event taking place which made it less than clear to me who to approach for seating. Once seated we were given menus, followed by water a few minutes later.

We were all hungry and made quick work of the menus selecting 3 starters followed by 4 main courses. Our server was very capable, but it seemed that she had quite a few tables and placing our order wasn’t accomplished until almost 7:00. We weren’t served bread or the glass of wine I had ordered for what felt like a long time, with the wine barely beating the appetizers to the table and the bread served after we were midway through our first course.

The prosecco I ordered was very sweet making me think I had perhaps been poured the asti spumante rather than what I requested. I drank it anyway. You would have too had you been out with my crew, believe me. Our first course was nicely presented and delicious. The evening’s special of grilled octopus served with beans, fennel and capers was perfectly cooked and tender. My Caesar salad was generously portioned and the bruschetta presentation was unique with the fresh ricotta, peperonata and tomatoes each being served on the side of a stack of very thinly sliced, crisp bread. The bread service was great – warm and oily focaccia with a smear of fresh ricotta and olive oil on the plate. It may have been the best focaccia I’ve had since I visited Genoa more than 20 years ago. I’d happily go back to Navona just to order that again.

Our main course followed very quickly behind our appetizers. The birthday boy had the pork chop, one of the night’s specials, which was accompanied by creamy spinach and roasted potato coins which he found lacking in salt, but I found perfect. The chop itself was beautifully cooked and of high quality but we both agreed that the spice rub was more a detraction than an embellishment.

My oldest son went with the evening’s fish special – roasted cod, faro, and greens. This was a simple dish and the quality of the ingredients and the skill in preparation was evident. My youngest had the Navona pizza with sweet Italian sausage added and he was quite pleased with his choice. The large dinner plate sized pizza was thin crusted with tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil. We all sampled it and agreed that it was a really nice pizza.

I had the gnocchi de pepi which was a risk knowing that it would never reach the level of the cacio e pepe that I fell in love with when I was in Rome. This preparation had the addition of “crispy artichoke hearts,” which I thought were unnecessary to the dish. (Also, they weren’t crispy by any stretch of the imagination.) I would have happily seen them replaced with more cheese and black pepper to suit my own personal taste. I ate about half of the dish, saving room for dessert and today’s lunch.

We finished with two orders of the carrot cake and a coconut cream tart. The carrot cake was an individual-sized loaf with plenty of piped frosting and praline pecans on the side and it was really outstanding. The tart was also very good, but didn’t quite reach the level of the one at Mio Posto although the crust was excellent. Desserts were served on rectangular slate “plates,” a choice we found to be consistent with some of the other unique decorative touches such as the plethora of clocks and pottery scattered about the restaurant. It seemed a little overdecorated to us, but we’re simple people.

Overall, we were impressed with the food, but would have preferred a bit more attention in terms of service. The table where we were seated was less than ideal with lots of traffic continually going back and forth. I think I’d be inclined to return for a bite at the bar or perhaps a table less in the middle of things. The food really was delicious, though, and judging from the crowd that was there last night, they’re doing well and I couldn’t be happier for them.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, Local, Restaurants, Spring

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

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams at Caffe Lena

Last fall I heard a song on my favorite local radio station WEXT which introduced me to musicians who were new to me, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams. This couple who have been married for nearly 30 years, have recently begun performing music together as a duo following years of performing with other legendary musicians such as Bob Dylan and Levon Helm. The song, When I Stop Loving You, which is the first single from their fall release Contraband Love just touched me with its beautiful melody and touching lyrics. I promised myself I would check them out if they came around our area and, lucky me, they played Caffe Lena last week.

Incredibly, this was my very first time attending a show at Cafe Lena and I couldn’t have been happier with the experience. Tickets were reasonably priced, our table was just one back from the small stage and the performance was excellent. Being as unfamiliar with Larry and Teresa’s* work as we were, our expectations were pretty low and we were both blown away. His musicianship was remarkable to witness and her ultimate instrument, her voice, was masterfully controlled. Campbell played three instruments, all with equal ease, and neither of them had a sheet of music in front of them, playing from memory songs that were mostly unknown to me with an occasional cover such as Long Black Veil thrown in that thrilled. The audience was filled with true fans and their enthusiasm fed the performers and made the evening a real treat to witness.

After the show we headed out to grab a bite to eat before driving home and found ourselves at The Parting Glass where I had a sandwich billed as a Salmon Burger, but in fact it was a really well prepared salmon fillet offered up on a roll. I skipped the bread, but thoroughly enjoyed the fish and accompanying sweet potato fries. If somebody could just get in that place and give it a good spring cleaning I’d be inclined to visit there more often.

Two Thursday evenings spent in Saratoga and both were winners. Who needs horses anyway?

*after you see someone in a space as intimate as Cafe Lena being on a first same basis seems appropriate.

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Filed under concerts, Eating, Local, Music, road trips, Saratoga, Uncategorized