Category Archives: Irish

The lively Dead Rabbit

CAA4E970-6891-4F2F-8F5A-3FE5A16745FFEarlier this month, my oldest son and I went to the city and got us some culture. It began with a cheap (less than $120 for the night) hotel way downtown, which became an afternoon performance at the Met, a Downton Abbey exhibit and visit to the super cool oculus. Our time in NYC coincided with some of the coldest weather of the year (decade?) and we were lucky enough to have some surprisingly good options for dinner nearby in an area that has not always been known for evening dining options. On a friend’s recommendation we decided to give the just-around-the-corner Dead Rabbit try. Here’s how it went…

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First of all, I had no idea that this place was so highly regarded. How highly regarded is it? Well, it was dubbed the Best Bar in the WORLD in 2016!

Reading the various reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor also informed me that the space is divided into 3 floors with the middle and upstairs floors requiring entry from a staff member. While the first floor Taproom would have sufficed had I been on a date (as it seemed that many of the pairs surrounding us were), the second floor Parlor was where I set my sights. I had gotten the impression that it might have a bit more elbow room than was available downstairs. I requested seating on the second floor and within 15 minutes, and about midway through my delicious warm Clontarf punch, we were ushered to two seats at the cocktail bar in the Parlor.

My immediate impression? There was so much to check out! Interesting looking people, walls covered in memorabilia, along with an impressive array of small bottles containing various cocktail ingredients provided a visual feast. We were presented with the current cocktail list – a graphic novel telling the story of original Irish gangsters with drinks inspired by their exploits, and adorable little teacups of a special punch. I drank them both since my son is 20 for another 6 weeks and I’m not one to waste good alcohol. The small food menu provided options that were well matched with the frigid weather and overall classic vibe and we selected the fish & chips for my son and the chicken pot pie for me and settled in at the bar. The lighting, music and warmth of the space combined to make a very comfortable spot to spend a couple of hours – at least for me. Liam’s stay was a bit more brief.

Our meals were served piping hot and appropriately portioned for the price. My son polished off his plate completely, while I couldn’t quite manage my entire meal opting instead to sample another concoction created by the friendly and professional bar staff. Not finding exactly what I wanted on their list, I requested a bourbon cocktail with a Manhattan-esque flair and was rewarded with a beautifully balanced drink that was precisely what I was seeking. This is a terrific spot despite all the hype that surrounds it. Check it out!

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Filed under art, Boys, Dinner, drinking, Irish, Music, NYC, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, winter

What William Kennedy gave me on his 90th birthday

Tuesday night I was lucky enough to join an already in progress festive event down at Cafe Capriccio. Gathered together to celebrate Albany’s literary native son William Kennedy’s birthday were dozens of family members, friends and colleagues. I arrived as speakers began to share their thoughts, memories and best wishes and it was remarkable. The evening’s host, New York State Writers Institute director, Paul Grondahl, invited those present to share their own words in Bill’s honor and for a brief second I considered accepting the offer. It probably would have taken 2 more glasses of wine to get me to speak publicly, but the thoughts that were prompted can just as easily be shared here.

Albany has a modern literary tradition thanks to William Kennedy. His characters populate the streets and the imagination of a city which has been maligned and misrepresented for decades, if not centuries. The stories he has told portray a city filled with residents, frequently Irish American, living hardscrabble lives, corrupt, violent and often tragically funny. The struggles of his characters are familiar and universal, yet because they take place in Albany, N.Y., they are our stories. We own them, just like William Kennedy belongs to us, and despite the less than stellar reputations possessed by so many of his characters, we embrace them.

Because of William Kennedy, and his vision in founding the New York State Writer’s Institute, acclaimed authors have visited our area and shared their craft with audiences at no cost to attendees.  As an undergraduate, I was thrilled to listen to Allen Ginsberg and Joyce Carol Oates read from their work. More recently, an in-depth symposium focused on telling the truth in a post-truth era brought heavyweight journalists to our area for a weekend of timely and interesting events.  None of these experiences would have been available without the NYSWI and we as a city are indebted to Bill Kennedy for the opportunities to hear and learn from literary luminaries and embattled professional journalists.

The third gift I received that night was less tangible than the others and I don’t know if I have the words to describe it. The best I can come up with is it was a combined sense of pride, belonging and possibility. As the child of an Irishman I never met, I’ve sought out Irish culture and traditions for as long as I can remember. Witnessing a roomful of people singing a rousing chorus of Molly Malone (and joining in!) fed my soul as delightfully as Jim Rua’s always-prepared-with-love meals feed my belly. The thrill and privilege of being present at such an incredibly special event is something I will never forget. While I don’t imagine ever writing a book, the fact that Ironweed wasn’t published until Bill Kennedy was 55, and that I was present at his 90th birthday party, reminds me that just about anything is possible.

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Filed under Albany, Books, Events, favorites, Irish, Local, Observations, Restaurants, upstate New York

Seeing the whole of the moon – U2 at MetLife

Note the vintage baseball jersey.

I’ve seen U2 a half dozen times, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a show as I was last Wednesday. Every single thing aligned to make for a perfect night – the weather was phenomenal, the company was sublime and our seats exceeded my expectations. The foundation was all in place and Bono and the boys stepped up and provided yet another musical experience to treasure. Unbelievable.

The last U2 show I attended was in Montreal. My middle son and I drove up and had a great night. As had been my previous experiences, the show was fantastic and I was so happy that I had made the effort to get there. While I didn’t imagine it as my last U2 show, it seemed that that was what it would be. After that tour, Bono had a cycling accident that did some damage and then the Edge fell off the stage at the beginning of their next tour. Having no interest in seeing a broken down band, I figured I was done. Until they announced the 30th anniversary tour of the Joshua Tree, that is. Game on.

The Joshua Tree is my favorite all-time album. I fell in love with it during my very first heartbreak. I had gone to the desert to escape and my jet-lagged body walked the streets of Palm Springs with my headphones in place and Walkman in hand. It was magical. I’ve never heard that record without feeling a tide of emotion and the opportunity to see it performed was undeniable. I re-upped my fan club membership and dropped a bunch of money for tickets.

The Lumineers opened and were just fantastic. Our seats were directly across from the stage and the sound was incredible. The temperature was ideal and the tequila buzz was delicious. All systems were go. The message of the night began with a huge display of rolling poems, sobering and inspirational all at once. The huge speakers started to crank out the Waterboy’s The Whole of the Moon and a piece of my mind was blown away. Unimaginable joy.

When the band came out is was, as always for me, like church with the Pope officiating. I feel their music in every part of my physical body. Without question, I am Irish and flawed and optimistic and sad and filled with compassion and hope. There’s no other way to describe it. My favorite songs of the night were the ones I’ve never heard live before – Red Hill Mining Town and One Tree Hill with another nugget, Running to Stand Still, that is my ultimate favorite U2 song. So tasty, so mind blowing.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again, but I’ll never forget the times that I have. I hope everyone reading this has been fortunate enough to connect and be moved by music or art or some other undeniable external force. It’s magic. It’s what makes life glorious.

Setlist here.

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Filed under concerts, Events, favorites, friends, Irish, Music, road trips, Summer, Uncategorized

New St. Patrick’s Day parade rules

I couldn’t be happier about the new rules announced this morning regarding Albany’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. In years past this event has been an absolute sh*t show and I haven’t felt comfortable taking my kids there in many years. If you know me, you know I’m all about having fun and a couple of drinks, but this annual event has repeatedly proven that far too many people have no capacity for moderation – or alcohol.

I think the comments posted under the TU article are representative of a smallminded percent of the population, but maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?  How do you feel about these new policies?  The response I would provide to the commenters is below.

I assume you all live in the city of Albany, right? You probably own property and pay taxes, too, don’t you? And vote, also. Maybe you have children you would like to bring to the parade but haven’t in years past because of the drunken and disorderly crowd in attendance? Well, I meet all of the preceding criteria and I am thrilled by the crackdown on public intoxication and the promised enforcement of appropriate public behavior. I love this mayor – she represents me and thousands of Albany citizens who want our city to be a place for families and residents who understand and appreciate that quality of life for citizens is an important factor in the place we have chosen to call home.  

I’m seriously considering going to the parade this year, my youngest child has never been and I’d like for him to experience festivities relating to his heritage.  The weather forecast isn’t great, but as long as it is only the sky pissing on me, I think we might just get there.  Erin Go Bragh!

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Filed under Albany, drinking, Events, family, Irish, Local, politics

Giving up

You may not know this, but both of my parents came from large Catholic families.  Is that redundant?  I actually have an aunt and two deceased great aunts, who became nuns, for real.  I grew up hearing about how my mother’s family went to morning mass every day, staying for a marathon mass on Sundays.  It was kind of our family’s version of “I walked to school, uphill and in the snow…”  You get it.

Believe it or not, my mother somehow managed to have her two illegitimate children baptized in the mid-60s.  I can’t imagine that was an easy task.  Growing up, my brother and I made Holy Communion, but did not, other than on Christmas Eve, attend mass with our mother.  She was done.  I remember the challenge of being still and quiet for an hour, while outside the stained glass window summer’s blue sky beckoned.  It was harder than those wooden pews.  As I grew older, I developed more of an appreciation for the ritual – the readings, the up, down, kneel, the music and faces which grew familiar over the years.  And the sooty smoke wafting from those brass orbs dangling from the altar boys’ hands?  I loved it

Eventually, though, I really started listening to gospel, to the word, and some of what I heard I didn’t like.  I was in disagreement about gays and euthanasia and punishment for mistakes made.  I pictured a more benevolent god, sort of a cross between George Burns and John Denver.  I met with a priest at the Cathedral downtown and we talked and I explained my inability to own only part of my religion.  If I couldn’t believe in the whole thing, how could I practice?  Wasn’t it wrong to turn a blind eye to the tenets I found it impossible to embrace?  He echoed what I had been previously told by my Uncle Eamon, “Take what you believe in and leave off the rest.”  I walked away, sad, but committed to no longer feeling partially invested.  I left all of it.

On days, though, like today, I miss it.  The crossed ashes on my forehead, the quiet of the altar and the echo of feet on the stone floors, the honor of sacrifice… I think I’m going to mark Lent this year by exploring churches, be they literal or figurative.  A cathedral, a ski slope, a path through the woods, can’t they all be considered churches?  I’m hoping to hit each of those places within the next 40 days.  If you see me at any of those places, be sure to say hello.  Just don’t ask me join you for Burger Night at the Capital City Gastropub.  I gave up meat.

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Filed under aging, family, Germany, girlhood, holidays, Irish, musings

Things you may not know about Ireland

I’m not here to talk to you about the likelihood of spotting a leprechaun or the intense greenness of the countryside. No, I’m here to tell you about some things you may not know. For instance, are you familiar with the phrase “going out for a bit of craic?” True confession: the first time I was in Ireland and my cousin suggested we partake in some craic, I was worried. Come to find out that “craic” is a term for fun. This craic isn’t whack – promise.

Another thing that I found confusing are the road signs, particularly one that says “Ramps.” This word refers to neither the entrance or exit to a motorway or those spring onions for which everyone goes crazy. Instead “Ramps” essentially mean speed bumps in the road. You’re welcome.

Most Americans have figured out that chips are fries and crisps are chips, but how about aubergines? Familiar? Well, aubergines are eggplants and they seem to be pretty popular, especially in Asian cuisine and vegetarian dishes. It is a much more elegant word for those purple orbs, don’t you think?

Speaking of colors, it is possible to get a lovely tan in Ireland if you happen to visit during the best summer in years. As a matter of fact, if you neglect to put sunscreen on your feet you just might end up with sunburn on your feet. At least that’s what a leprechaun once told me.

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Filed under Ireland, Irish, Observations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Superpowers!

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?  Nope.  More powerful than a locomotive?  Sometimes.  Proficient at getting a healthy, fast dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time?  Now you’re talking!  How about you?  What’s your superpower?

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Filed under Cooking, Dinner, favorites, Irish, Moms@Work, Recipes