Category Archives: Recommendations

A rave for Crave

I know, I know, I’m late to the game on this place. What can I say? I’ve been busy and since they’re closed Monday nights, I haven’t been able to take advantage of this spot as an easy and quick dinner spot with my guys at the start of a week. Last Saturday, though, the day got away from me with a hair appointment and errands and I found myself approaching hangry with limited on time. I grabbed 2 of my kids and headed over to the corner of Western and Quail for my first Crave experience.

 

Bacon cheeseburger

Bacon cheeseburger

The space is simple and clean with a menu that is equally focused. I needed a burger so I directed my attention to that part of the menu and was quickly taken in by the Black & Blue burger – Gorgonzola, caramelized onions and arugula. I wasn’t feeling blue cheese, so I requested that my burger come medium rare and topped with cheddar. My son went with a bacon cheeseburger and we added a basket of fries to round things off for a total under $25.

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My modified black and blue burger

Service was prompt and our food was delivered quickly and piping hot. My burger was served on a roll so delicious that I broke my “no bun” rule and ate every last carb-y crumb. The beef was cooked perfectly and was remarkably juicy and the onions had obviously been cooked low and slow creating a sweet and succulent layer of deliciousness. It was a fantastic burger. Period. The accompanying fries were equally perfect – fried a little beyond golden, piping hot and salted with a deft hand. I’ve never had better.

imageLiam seemed equally pleased with his burger, but to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of conversation. I was too busy eating.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Eating, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Summer, Uncategorized

May’s best bites

  • Presenting, in no particular order, the 5 best things I ate in the 5th month of the year…IMG_9002
  • Softshell crabs at New World Bistro Bar. It might be the fleeting availability of this spring delicacy that makes them so damn special, but the capable hands of the kitchen at NWBB elevated them to a new level of awesomeness. The Asian noodle pancake, viet slaw and tamarind peanut sauce accompanying the crabs provided the perfect foil for the sweetness of the meat. I housed the entire plate.
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  • Gnocchi with a gorgonzola cream at Lark + Lily. What can I say? Chef John Futia used the ultimate light hand with both the pasta and the sauce to create a dish that was delicate and satisfying without being weighty or overly rich. A heavenly pillow of deliciousness.
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  • Ceviche at Rosa Mexicano, NYC. Firm shrimp and pungent onions joined together with tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado served appropriately chilled made for a wonderful light lunch course. The pomegranate margarita wasn’t bad either.
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  • French Onion soup at La Bonne Soupe, NYC.  This crock of goodness provided the ultimate example of French Onion soup – a strong beef stock, tender and sweet onions, gooey strings of cheese… Not my usual pick on a hot late May evening, but I am so happy to have not missed this wonderful representation of a classic dish. C’est bon!
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  • Kurver Kreme Sundae – Soft serve vanilla ice cream, chunks of toffee, hot fudge and butterscotch sauce with whipped cream and a cherry made for the perfect treat on a cool Sunday afternoon following a run. Dessert before dinner may be the ultimate perk of adulthood.

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, NYC, Recommendations, Restaurants, soup, Uncategorized

Le Petit Bistro – Rhinebeck

imageHave you been to Rhinebeck?  Long before Hudson got cool, Rhinebeck was the destination for a Hudson Valley afternoon of fine eating and interesting shopping. The drive is lovely with many different roads which all lead there in a most scenic fashion, as I’ve experienced it, be it from the north, south or west and generally parking is available and free.  It’s worth the slightly over an hour trip from Albany for sure and I recommend it as a terrific day trip for any season.

Yesterday, after an aborted attempt to partake in the offerings at Terrapin Restaurant, Mary Lynn and I decided to try somewhere new and found the specials board at Le Petit Bistro to be quite enticing.  At just about 5:00 we made our way inside the cozy dining room and were offered a table in the front window near the door.  Although it was a less than warm afternoon, we were very comfortable with the temperature of the restaurant and never felt cold despite our proximity to the door.  It was a lovely table.

A chalkboard with the extensive list of specials was presented to us and a short while later a server came to provide details and descriptions of each of the items.  We ordered drinks – a cocktail for Mary Lynn and a glass of sparkling rose for me, and made decisions about food opting for a bowl of asparagus soup, a fish taco starter and the sea scallop entrée accompanied by ramp risotto and hericot vert and the Cuban pork plate with black beans and plantains.  Then we settled in to catch up with one another and enjoy our meal.

Fish tacos

Fish tacos

The fish tacos, two to a serving, were delicious with fresh flavors (cilantro!) and an assertively spicy kick.  Paired with the soup, they were a perfect starter and very shareable.

Scallops with ramp risotto

Scallops with ramp risotto

Our midcourse salad, served with all entrees, was a traditional French green salad with a simple and tasty vinaigrette clinging to the leaves.  I thoroughly enjoyed my entrée.  The scallops were beautifully prepared and the accompaniments heralded spring beautifully.  Unlike many risottos, cheese wasn’t a component and the result was a far lighter rendition of the dish than typical.  I swapped a bite with Mary Lynn for a taste of plantain.  I’m not a fan of bananas or plantains unless they’re cooked and my bite was exactly what I was hoping for – caramelized sweetness with a remaining firmness – delicious!  We finished with a butterscotch crème brulee and a couple of coffees before walking back to our cars and heading off in opposite directions, satiated with hearts and bellies full.

Creme brûlée

Creme brûlée

 

 

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Taking a hike with a runner

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My very first vacation with my former husband was a trip to Washington State where we spent a week or so camping and hiking.  It was a memorable trip for many reasons (the San Juan Islands – oh my goodness!) but by no means did the experience turn me into an outdoors women a la Anne LaBastille.  I enjoyed the time, however, in my world hiking means taking a walk in the woods with a flask camera, not aggressively conquering a mountain.   Alas, he and I were different.

You might be surprised to learn that despite living in Albany for close to 30 years, nestled between the Catskills and Adirondacks, I’ve never really gone hiking since that long ago trip.  Last month that finally changed as I hit the trail.  Let me tell you about it…

I’m training for a trail race on Mother’s Day and decided to incorporate some activities beyond merely running.  The course I’m taking on next month includes, from what I’ve read and heard, some serious elevation complete with rock scrambling.  Getting out into the woods, particularly with someone adept at both hiking and running, seemed to be the ideal cross training opportunity.  Next stop – the Catskills.

One of the things I most enjoy about running is the endorphin rush – I love the feeling of my spine tingling as my body releases a combination of energy and exertion.  Amazing.  When it came time to take a hike, I requested one which would challenge and push me a bit beyond a mere meandering.  The hike up Blackhead, a loop of approximately 4.5 miles, was just what the doctor ordered and I loved it.  Total elevation gain – approximately 2,000 with a significant part of that (~1,100 feet) coming in less than a mile.  I said I wanted a challenge, right?

The weather on Easter Sunday was perfect early spring – mild, with hazy sun.  The forest in springtime is a magical place with signs of life* to be discovered around every twist in the trail.  The fresh air, with a hint of cedar was invigorating and our path included mossy green spots promising softness to the touch, as well as boulders and ice that demanded cautious attention. There was a quietly babbling brook to be crossed, an easy feat in a year with barely any snow melt, along with the remains of a stone dam from decades gone past.  It really was an afternoon for the senses.

I think I’m hooked.

*Along with evidence of the demise of an unfortunate bird. Check out the photos…

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Filed under Exercise, Hiking, Hiking, holidays, Local, Recommendations, road trips, running, Spring, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

The Withers – wine and words

IMG_8339I don’t know if you’ve ever been able to sit with the owner of a winery or a winemaker and listen to them speak about their product, but it will forever change your perspective about that stuff in the bottle. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a number of winemakers/winery owners and those encounters have forever changed the way I view a bottle of wine. After walking through a vineyard, tasting from a barrel or simply talking with a winery owner, viewing a product becomes a much more personal experience.

Tuesday night I had a rare opportunity to attend a wine dinner, hosted by one of my sales reps, downtown at dp’s. I say rare opportunity because most of these events are either during a time when I’m not available or are held out of town. The timing for this, though, was perfect and I was thrilled to sit down with Andrew Tow of the Withers Winery, along with a handful of other industry professionals, to learn about some wines of which I had no prior knowledge.

Here’s what I learned –

  • Andrew Tow is an articulate, passionate man who helps to craft wines that are elegant yet accessible.
  • Although the Withers Winery has only been in existence for a few short years, it has achieved remarkable success and earned accolades from numerous national publications.
  • Their wines sell out – especially the rose and the chardonnay.  I’ve got my hand out hoping to land some of the rose at the moment. My luck will be your luck, friends.
  • Everything we tasted was enjoyable and seemed to be equally adept at being paired with foods or sipped sans food.
  • The project has some rock star investors – like Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. Cool, right?
  • The wines are affordably priced, in fact, part of the impetus for Tow to produce his rose was a desire to drink something delicious without breaking the bank.  If I can land any I’ll probably price it between $30-35 a bottle which makes it on the higher end of my roses, but within reach of most diners.
  • The Pinot Noirs are dynamite.  I don’t have room on my list right now, but when I sell a couple of my higher end Pinots out, I hope there are still a few bottles of the English Hill for me to buy.  When I tasted this the other night, the nose was so damn heady it almost satiated my desire to consume it without even taking a sip.  Wow.

IMG_8326If you were to look at my wine list at Lark + Lily you’d see approximately 100 different labels.  I’ve selected probably 65% of those labels with the others coming as an inventory purchase when I originally opened last fall.  The bottles that I find myself reaching for when a guest asks for a recommendation are the ones that I can share story about – the Hendry, the Biale, the Bonny Doon.  These are wines which were introduced to me by their producers – I walked the vineyard with George Hendry, ate lunch and tasted wine with Robert Biale, barrel sampled at Bonny Doon.  Hopefully, one day, the Withers will have a similar presence on my list.

 

 

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, Recommendations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, winter

Cucina Woodstock rivisitato

After an active weekend and the theft of an hour, I wasn’t feeling much like cooking. When the opportunity presented to meet Aloysius for dinner it felt like the ideal way to punctuate a weekend and I jumped on it. As we considered a comfortable meeting spot, Woodstock’s Cucina popped into my mind with an undeniable vengeance. A finely mixed cocktail and pasta were exactly what I was seeking and based upon my prior visit with the girls, I knew I would not be disappointed.

I arrived a few minutes later than expected and found Aloysius at the bar enjoying a beer. I took a quick look at the cocktail menu and selected the Orient Old Fashioned, which I believe is the same cocktail I had on my last visit. Bulliet and house made ginger simple syrup simply calls my name, what can I say?

As we caught up and sipped our drinks, I eyed the plate of a gentleman sitting near us at the bar. The tuna served with white beans, micro greens and thinly sliced spicy red peppers helped to seal deal for both Aloysius and myself and we decided to go with the very reasonable 3 course Prix Fixe menu for $33 per person beginning with the tuna as our first course.  It was excellent with a hint of heat, beautifully firm beans and tender and flavorful tuna.

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We diverged for main course selections with Aloysius going with a pork dish loaded with mushrooms and served with polenta.  The taste I had was delicious, but I was really satisfied with the pasta dish I had selected – taleggio filled ravioli with a porcini sauce.  The ravioli were delicate  and tender and just filled with flavor.  Aloysius barely got a forkful.

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The pasta, along with the dessert, probably would have been more than enough to eat, but I do like to eat a vegetable, too, so I added a side of  broccoli rabe.  It was very similar to how I make it, al dente and generously seasoned with garlic.

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I finished with a butterscotch, salted caramel confection that I’m pretty sure I had last time around.  I inhaled it so quickly that there wasn’t an opportunity to take a photo.  This is the dessert of my dreams and if you want to be my favorite, show up at my door with an order of this and you’re in – guaranteed.  I’m not willing to wait another 2 years before getting a spoon into this stuff again.

Cucina remains one of my two favorite spots in Woodstock and I’m already mentally trying to arrange a rendezvous with the girls to get there again.  Dinner for two (not including the drinks at the bar, but with a beer and a glass and tip set us back $125. This place absolutely rocks.

 

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Filed under Aloysius, Dinner, Eating, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, Spring, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

In the flesh – Princess Leia’s bikini

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As we traveled to NYC last Saturday morning my oldest son brought my attention to an event currently being held at the Discovery Center,  Star Wars and the Power of Costume.  We’ve been to a couple of other exhibitions at this venue and have always been satisfied with the experience and, seeing that my youngest is a huge Star Wars fan, this seemed like something we wouldn’t want to miss.

Sunday morning I purchased tickets online (even sussing out a discount code) and we planned our visit. I briefly considered just sending the two of them in, but ultimately was really glad to have seen the show myself. We arrived a little earlier than our reserved time and quickly checked our coats and our one piece of luggage. There were no lines or crowds and we were viewing the brief pre-exhibit movie within 10 minutes of our arrival. From there, we stepped into a moodily dark room and began our tour.

Even for someone who isn’t obsessed with the Lucas films (that would be me),it was an awesome and impressive exhibit. The costumes on display are all actual costumes, not replicas or copies. The fabrics and embellishments were remarkably rich and the workmanship so impressive. A number of the displays included fabric swatches adding a tactile element to the experience that even an 11 year-old boy could appreciate. Speaking of that boy, it was wonderfully gratifying to see Quinn’s eye wide as he took in the attire and weapons of his heroes. Worth every dollar. As for that bikini, it didn’t look any more comfortable to wear than it was to watch Princess Leia unknowingly kiss her brother. The bikini didn’t photograph well so I didn’t include it – I suspect you probably know exactly what it looks like anyway.

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Filed under Boys, family, Movies, NYC, Recommendations, road trips, Uncategorized