Category Archives: Food

Man Crush Monday – Massimo Bottura

imageOver the summer, I did a little more than my usual television watching. It was too hot to do anything else, people. Don’t judge!  I binge watched the entire Breaking Bad series, finally finished Downton Abbey and, on my chiropractor’s recommendation, blew through Grace and Frankie. I don’t regret the hours I spent on the couch with the remote nearby, but I do wish I had devoted more time to another Netflix series, Chef’s Table. I mean, if I had, I could have spent longer mooning over Massimo Bottura…

Despite working in restaurant for decades, I’ve never dated a chef, (hmmm, maybe that’s because I’ve worked in restaurants for decades?) but this Massimo guy is absolutely dreamy. He’s handsome, funny, beyond creative in the kitchen, appreciative of his employees, generous  and madly in love with his wife. Pretty much the ideal guy.

Read this article, preferably with a hunk of good Parmesan-Reggiano and a glass of wine.  I think you’ll like him, too. Do you have a chef crush?

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Filed under Cooking, favorites, Food, Restaurants, television, 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

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

The pasta that made Matt Baumgartner a dad

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All grilled up and ready to go.

Summer at my house is a very different beast this year. A big part of it, of course, is Lark + Lily and the related demands of owning a business. But, there’s more. My two teenaged sons, perhaps in an attempt to make up for lost time, are each working two jobs. With our combined three schedules, family time has become increasingly rare and I’m trying to adjust to catching mere glimpses of my boys as they fulfill their responsibilities. It’s definitely different.

Yesterday evening, as I was preparing dinner, I asked my oldest son to text his brother to let him know that family dinner was at 5:00 and that he would be disinherited if he failed to join us. In response, middle son asked what was on the menu.* Upon being apprised of my dinner plan (pasta with grilled vegetables and sausage), he decided that he would prefer to eat with his friends at Bombers. I jokingly told him to change his name now that he was no longer in our family. Not one to miss a trick, he introduced himself as Griffin Bomber. Congratulations, Matt! It’s a boy!

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Ingredients: 1 medium summer squash, 1 medium zucchini, 10-12 oz sliced mushrooms, 1 Vidalia or other sweet onion, 8-10 Italian sausages (hot, sweet or combination), fresh basil or spinach, Pellegrino Italian seasoning, 8oz cooked al dente pasta – reserve 1/2-3/4 c pasta cooking water.

Slice squash and zucchini lengthwise into 1/4″ pieces. Season with salt, olive oil and Pellegrino seasoning. Slice onion into 1/4″ rounds. Grill vegetables (other than mushrooms and spinach) along with sausages over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms in a combination of butter and olive oil until soft. When sausage are at a temperature to be handled, slice into 1″ rounds. Place sausage and all vegetables, including any remaining liquid from the mushroom pan, in a large bowl with pasta, spinach and/or basil, and reserved pasta cooking water and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with grated cheese. Super delicious, seasonal and way easier than parenting.

*This is the kind of bs one faces when they expose their children to the world of restaurants from a young age.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, Lark Street, Recipes, Summer, Uncategorized