Category Archives: Food

Ode to panettone

I don’t remember what made me buy the first one. Despite my mother’s German origins, it wasn’t as if fruit cake was part of my holiday traditions. As a matter of fact, I had distinct and negative memories of an episode involving fruitcakes baked in November, and left to soak in rum until Christmas, and a curious and subsequently drunk puppy that had left my mother pretty damn pissed. Nope, fruitcake didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. At all.

But, somehow I found myself leaving Rocco’s with a hefty 2lb loaf of something called panettone that seemed to be the perfect addition to my mornings during the holiday season. I happily carried my panettone to Albany. The next morning when I released the bread from its airtight wrapping I was provided with an intense aromatic assault – citrus, anise, unimagined spices…heaven. Since that first time, Christmas feels incomplete without this baked treat and I make it a point to get to the city in December to score one, or four as the case may be.

I’ve learned that there are two traditional varieties – Milanese and Genovese. The first is a taller version, more like a crown, light and studded with dried fruit. The Genovese is lower, wider and has the addition of anise and pignoli making for a more earthy, denser taste. I like them equally, toasted and slathered with unsalted butter.

My Rome connection (grazie, Alex!) has gifted me with an imported loaf for the last two years. I haven’t yet opened this year’s special panettone, but I’m eager to see how it compares to my beloved Rocco’s version. I noted that by appearance, it looks to be a Milanese version which should be the perfect way to come full circle in my panettone season. Six pounds of panettone later, that is.

Have you had panettone? This article in the NYT gives some excellent information about this special bread, yet doesn’t provide a recipe for baking your own. It seems to be quite complicated, by I’m putting panettone baking on my bucket list. Until I have time to devote to learning how to make it myself, I’m content to travel to NYC for a fix because at this point, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without it. How about you? What baked goods define this season for you?

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Filed under baking, breakfast, Christmas, Eating, favorites, Food, holidays, NYC, Recommendations

Christmas gift to myself (Aside from the gifts I’ve already given myself)

I’ve decided to abstain from weighing myself from the remainder of the month. That’s right, I’m going to deny myself the chance to feel badly beginning first thing in the morning when I step on the scale. Because that’s what inevitably happens if the number reads higher than I had hoped.

Not checking in daily on my weight makes me uncomfortable. I guess I can be a bit of a control freak and the daily weight check helps me to determine what level of indulgence I “deserve.” I suspect that it will eventually prompt me to eat less, instead of more, since I’m already concerned about what I’ll see when I finally revert to my daily weigh in on January 1st.

On any given day I could probably list every single item I consumed. Confession – sometimes I fall asleep at night counting calories instead of sheep. I try to be a conscious consumer and don’t eat mindlessly. Respecting the connection between what one eats and how much exercise will be needed to balance one’s consumption, requires attention and I try to stay tuned in. I truly consider every day how I’m doing in terms of fruits, vegetables, carbs and protein striving to achieve a reasonable representation from all food groups.

Are you exhausted yet? Or, maybe you approach food in a similarly controlled fashion?

At the holidays when my kitchen is filled with delicious baked goods, I find myself challenged. “Life is short, Silvia, eat the damn cookies,” I say to myself. But, the calories, the sugar, the butter…but the panettone! The chocolates! The linzer cookies! What’s a girl with a tight leash on her appetite to do?

My solution for the rest of 2017 is to put the digital scale on vacation and resort to a more intuitive way of eating. I suspect it will involve lots of baked goods offset by fruits and vegetables in copious amounts, along with as many miles as I can muster. Wish me luck – or better yet, help me eat some cookies.

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Filed under baking, Eating, Exercise, Food, holidays

Trader Joe’s – when it’s your first time, you get flowers

I’m about to tell you something you may find surprising…despite my reputation as a bit of a “foodie,” until just a couple of weeks ago I had never been to Trader Joe’s. Truth. I know, I know, they “have the best prepared foods!” and the “produce is fantastic.” I’d heard it all, yet remained disinterested. The Wolf Road location always seemed like a clusterf*ck and I do all right with P Chops, Shop Rite and Honest Weight with the occasional Aldi foray. There really isn’t room in the rotation for another grocery store.

But, when a special friend invites a girl to a wonderful “new” place, she goes, right? And that’s how I found myself on a recent Sunday evening cruising the aisles of TJ’s for the very first time. First impression: we picked a good time to go. The parking lot was more empty than full and the store itself was surprisingly mellow. Despite my intention to merely browse, we had a full sized cart and plenty of time in case I changed my mind.

So, what did I walk out of there with? Although the produce looked good and more fairly priced than I had anticipated, I passed since I had already done my pre-Thanksgiving shopping and was set on fruits and veggies. The cheese and meats cases held my attention and I was unable to resist the sliced German smoked ham, at $3.99 for 4 oz it gave me a cheap olfactory trip to my Opa’s house in the Black Forest. Also in the cart were 2 bags of frozen potstickers (chicken and pork at $2.99 each), 2 bags of frozen seasoned corn (haven’t tried them yet), a bar of goat’s milk soap for my weirdo son who wanted goat’s milk, a large bottle of all-in-one shampoo/conditioner/body wash (just trying to cover the bases for my 12 y/o!) and 6-pack of something the guy selected. There might have been another item or three, but I honestly can’t remember – except, of course, for the sweet bouquet of flowers I received once our check out dude learned that it was my very first visit. Nice touch.

The takeaway – there were some cool things and most items were less expensive than I had anticipated. Am I going back? Well, if the fella asks again, of course! But, seriously, I do like the size of the store and the items I’ve purchased and sampled. There was definitely some other stuff that I’d be game to try, but I’m not in a big rush to go back. It’s kind of the same way I feel about places like Marshall’s – when I’ve got some extra time and money, I’m game to recreationally browse.

How about you? Are you a regular at Trader Joe’s? What should I get next time?

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, Food, Uncategorized

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

Time is short

I’ve been so busy doing things and going places that I haven’t had a moment to chronicle any of it. It’s kind of getting me frustrated, but that’s how I typically react to not having what I want – in this case more time. I’ve made some notes and I swear I’m going to carve out some time over Thanksgiving break (See what I did there? Carve??) to share things that I’ve seen (an 80s band, some television and a couple of movies), a couple of books that I’ve recently read, some delicious things I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking, a week focused on health maintenance, and a couple of Albany experiences that I was lucky enough to take in. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Albany, art, birthdays, Books, breakfast, Coffee, concerts, Cooking, Dinner, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Food, house, Local, medical, Movies, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips

(My own)National Night Out

Tonight, August 1st is National Night Out (NNO). There are all sorts of cool things going on around our pretty little city and I hope that you’ll get to enjoy some of the planned events. I scored a ticket yesterday for tonight’s Alabama Shakes show at the Palace, so I’ll be missing the celebration. Or, really, trading one fun event for another. Remember back when we Albany residents didn’t have the entertainment options that we now have? These days, there are choices!

I did my own NNO last night and couldn’t have been more pleased with my evening. Following an afternoon spent paddle boarding up in Saratoga, I popped open a bottle of Alsatian white and took a quick shower before getting on my bike and heading to Tricentennial Park for Bites, Camera, Action, a food truck and film event organized and sponsored by the Downtown BID. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hungry and curious, so off I went.

The ride down was great. I mean, it’s basically all downhill. Aside from the ease of the ride, it was interesting with an event held in the park at the intersection of Delaware and Madison and a few of the new bike share stations along my route. It seems like those bikes are getting some use with one station completely empty and a couple of actual riders observed. Cool beans.

Speaking of bikes, Tricentennial Park needs a bike rack! I ended up locking up to a metal sign, but it wasn’t ideal. That is my only criticism of what downtown has going on – it was a really fun, relaxed event and I was very happy with my meal and my good fortune to run into a number of former students. I had a hankering for a burger and the super friendly folks at Burger 21 did me right with a delicious burger with bacon, cheddar, lettuce and tomato and a side of the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. It was everything I hoped for – and only $13.

The ride home, once I made it up to Eagle Street, was great. The half moon hanging in the sky shed light on City Hall and the Capitol and Albany looked absolutely beautiful. It might not be perfect, but it’s getting better all the time.

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Filed under Albany, biking, Events, Food, Local, Movies, Music, Recommendations, Summer

Don’t tell me what to eat

Straining my high pulp oj this morning.

If you see me this weekend and I seem a little out of sorts, it might be from eating too much ice cream and pastry. I’m on a diet and limited to a menu of foods that I only truly enjoy in small doses – things like white bread, peanut butter, cookies and ice cream. You know, the diet of a typical two year-old. It’s a low fiber diet and apparently it’s necessary prep for a colonoscopy, something I’m looking forward to having on Monday. Looking forward to as in looking forward to getting it over and done with, that is.

I’m not a dieter. I don’t respond well to being limited, I guess. That being said, I’m an excellent moderator and generally eat pretty well. Breakfast is usually cereal with fruit, oj and coffee. Lunch is a salad or yogurt and fruit and dinner varies between some kind of protein or pasta with veggies. Turns out most of this stuff is fairly high in fiber and, thus, not allowed prior to a colonoscopy. Who knew that my typical diet was an innately high fiber one?

How do people not eat fresh vegetables and salad greens? Or cherries and raspberries in July? It seems that all of my favorite things are verboten and it’s making me cranky. I haven’t eaten canned asparagus since I was a child and, after years of roasting or grilling them, there’s no way I’m ever going back to that soggy mess, so it looks like I’ll be carb loading and sweet toothing it for the next few days. I have no interest in eating canned fruits, Cream of Rice (whatever the hell that is) or lima beans, waffles and ice cream are what it’ll be for the next couple of days.

Anybody have an extra quart of consommé in their freezer? Maybe some bouillon to spare?

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Filed under aging, Eating, Food, medical, Rant