Category Archives: Food

Rainy run reward

When you make plans with your two favorite running partners more than a week in advance, it isn’t possible to predict the weather. No surprise then that the evening arrived with a pissing rain that would inspire most folks to skip the 5 miles and head directly to a restaurant for some holiday cheer. But, we luna b*tches are a hearty breed and despite a moment’s wishful thinking, we were committed. We headed out at about 6:30 and, surprisingly, the rain wasn’t nearly as bad as we had anticipated. I mean, we got soaked, but it wasn’t particularly cold, and the holiday lights decorating the homes along our route provided a warmth of their own.

Following our run, we cleaned up and drove to our dinner destination – Capital City Gastropub. I hadn’t been there in a few months, the menu is always interesting, and their burger is consistently dynamite. We arrived a bit after 8:00 and were immediately seated in a comfy corner. After selecting drinks (the Cremant I wanted wasn’t available, but I was happy with my Sauvignon Blanc) and an order of Brussels sprouts, we made some decisions about what to eat.

My go to order here is the Kilcoyne burger, rare, no bun but with cheddar cheese and carmelized onions. Fries crispy, please. Without fail, my burger arrives exactly as requested with a great sear, beautifully seasoned and always perfectly cooked. The fries, such a seemingly simple side dish, are burn-my-mouth hot and worth every fatty calorie, something that is far too frequently not the case when I order them at other places. 

The Brussels sprouts arrived, firm and bright in a light sweet and sour sauce filled with umami. So different than the usual fried or bacon garnished preparations seen around town. We finished them up and shortly afterwards, our mains arrived. My burger was prepared precisely as ordered and the other two plates were also well received. K went with the New Scotland Hot Chicken sandwich, a riff on Nashville style hot chicken and was really happy with her choice. The spice level was balanced and not blazing and the portion was generous without being overwhelming. C’s Grilled Squash Sandwich was nicely presented and seemed to satisfy the need for a solid, but not too heavy meal. We shared a Bibb lettuce salad on the side which was the ideal accompaniment to our plates and tweaked K’s fondness for citrus and greens.

There were no pictures taken of the food because we were too busy eating and talking and laughing to pause for anything beyond this little selfie.

Dinner – an appetizer, a salad, three sandwiches, 3 glasses of wine and a soda totaled $96 pre-tip, a small price to pay for the satisfaction we got from running 5 miles in the rain and rewarding ourselves with simple food made from quality ingredients. You’re welcome to skip the run, but don’t miss eating here.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Exercise, favorites, Food, friends, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, Uncategorized

Little Pecks knows what you want

At a time of the year occupied with what one wants for Christmas, I’ve found myself twice in the past week in a position where it’s lunch time, but I’m lunchless without a clue as to what I want to eat. You know I’ve got some food issues and I’m kind of particular about what I eat, so these kind of situations stress me out. Often I know what I don’t want – food that’s expensive, unnecessarily heavy or too time consuming, but I’m at a loss as to what will satisfy.

On the first recent occasion, I selected a couple of items from the prepared case at the nearby deli which left me feeling less than satisfied. The tuna salad, with a side of pickled beets and onions, I bought was tasty but it just didn’t fill me up. I regretted my choices.

Monday afternoon I found myself between appointments in Troy, hungry. I made my way to Broadway, parked and considered my options. The Placid Baker was closed, the Whistling Kettle felt like too much of a commitment, and the Illium Cafe seemed like more than I was looking for in the 30 minutes I had available. Little Pecks for the win.

While the baked goods looked awesome, I knew that I wanted something more substantial and less carb-y. The chalkboard menu had a number of items that sounded delicious, but nothing really appealed until I read this:

CHICKPEA & SQUASH STEW
salsa verde, fried breadcrumb

Yes, this was exactly what I craved. I placed my order at the counter, took my table marker and made my way to the light-filled atrium where I found a seat. A few minutes later, I was spooning into a flavorful stew of firm chickpeas and tender squash, finished with buttery breadcrumbs, bright salsa verde and the unexpected brininess of capers. It was perfect.

Thanks, Little Pecks, for giving me my belief in an unplanned lunch back. Now, back to that holiday shopping list…

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Filed under Eating, Food, holidays, Local, Recommendations, Troy, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Bread. Alone.

When I carried a two pound loaf of Genovese style pannetone and a dozen bagels in a bag topped with a single bialy around the city, I knew I had to acknowledge how much I sincerely love bread. It might just be my favorite food group and it definitely would be my desert island wish. Truth be told, the thought of being sensitive to gluten makes me sick to my stomach. Yes, I love bread.

The best part of an early Thanksgiving is a bonus week of Christmas eating.

Let me counts the ways…

Italian holiday breads such as panettone at Christmas and pane di Pasqua at Easter. I love a bread that marks a holiday, what can I say?

Irish breads like soda bread and whole wheat brown bread lightly dusted with oats. With rough cut orange marmalade, please.

Croissants, particularly those that leave a petite souvenir of their presence in the form of scattered flaky crumbs and a glisten of butter on one’s fingertips.

Bagels and bialys, with whipped cream cheese to smear on, for the win.

Focaccia like the one you get in Genoa, tasting salty like the ocean and herbaceous from rosemary as you tear into it.

Challah, yellow with eggs and used in every single bread pudding and French toast recipe forever and ever.

Naan, stuffed with slightly bitter garlic and a tad oily.

The Placid Baker makes some damn tasty breads.

German fruit stollen, the city cousin to the more well-known, country style dark fruit bread that is the perpetual butt of jokes.

My own version of no-knead bread in which I tweak the recipe a tad by increasing both the salt and the yeast.

What’s your favorite bread? Where do you get it?

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Filed under baking, Eating, favorites, Food, love, Observations, Recommendations

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

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