Category Archives: Restaurants

Crushed for my crush

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Image: timesunion.com

I was absolutely heartbroken yesterday to learn that Sentinel Butchery had closed their doors after a valiant attempt to provide best quality, local meats to the Capital District. Maybe you never had a chance to get to Emily Peterson’s shop or consume the products she brought from farm to table, but I assure it was special and the loss is real. Although the store was open for far too short of a time, it was long enough to demonstrate that what we eat is better when it is personal.

Emily and I opened our businesses within days of one another. When I was putting the finishing touches on the guest list for my Ladies First event, I saw a post on Table Hopping about Sentinel Butchery and was impressed by the rack of lamb pictured (from Washington County!) and Steve Barnes’ positive words about the store. When he stopped in to my place a few days later, I asked him if he thought Emily might be interested in joining my gathering of women who impress, inspiration and influence. He shared her contact information with me and the rest is history – she was the came to the party and knocked everyone’s socks off with her enthusiasm and personality. Steve was right – Emily and I got along famously, to the point that Steve and I “argued” over which of us had the larger crush on her.

Since that first event, Emily and I forged a friendship based upon mutual respect, passion for our work and laughter. Lark + Lily sourced all of our meats from her for our super successful New Year’s Day Open House and had looked forward to further collaboration in the future. The loss of Sentinel Butchery is, of course, a loss to Emily and her family, but it is also a loss to countless others, people who understand that knowing that the person who is selling you your roast or sausage or chops is the very same person who selected and butchered the animal from which those meats came from, is an entirely different level of sourcing ingredients.

Sentinel Butchery may no longer be open, but I’m confident that Emily will move forward and continue on a path which is true and real and genuine. She’s just that kind of woman and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. You should be, too.

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Filed under favorites, Food., friends, Local, Observations, Restaurants, Troy, Uncategorized

Sunday supper – Husk, Nashville

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When the girls and I go away we each have a role to play – Mary Lynn does research on music and shows to attend, Lisa is in charge of outdoor activities and places to visit and I arrange dinner reservations for an indulgent meal out. The Times Union’s Steve Barnes had mentioned Husk to me a couple of months ago and, after doing a bit of research, I was convinced that this was our spot for Nashville. I did my thing and made a reservation.

We arrived about 20 minutes before our 7:15 reservation to enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Husk is a very pretty restaurant, located in a historic house on a hill up above the Cumberland River. The hostess station is anchored by an enormous chalkboard listing the menu’s ingredients and their origin. Not being from the area, we were unfamiliar with most of the farms and producers, but hat in no way diminished how impressed we were with extensive list.

The bar was downstairs and the walk there took us past the open kitchen, an area populated by both kitchen and service staff. It was a cool opportunity to witness the controlled chaos that is the kitchen of a busy restaurant and I struggled against my wish to tuck myself into a corner and just observe the professionals at work. There were cocktails to be had, though, so we moved on.

My initial impression of the bar was mixed. It was attractive and cozy with low ceilings and windows peeking out to a patio, but the bar itself was a little unapproachable. After a couple of minutes of awkwardness we were presented with a lovely cocktail list and placed our orders. As expected, the drinks were meticulously mixed and beautifully presented – and tasty. The single high top table in the bar area became available and was offered to us prompting a change in our plans. We decided to eat in the bar instead of relocating to our table, a pretty remarkable choice since 20 minutes earlier we were feeling less than welcomed.

With some assistance from our bartender, Kenneth, we ordered opening with the available-only-in-the-bar, cut to order cured ham. This perfect starter was accompanied by the definitive version of freshly baked Parker rolls and a lard-butter spread. It was a wonderful introduction of what was to come – best quality ingredients respectfully prepared and presented. Delicious.

We followed with 3 items from the First course menu – Shrimp and Grits ($16), Gourds Roasted Over the Fire, Benne, Arugula, Aged Gouda ($12) and a Seafood Johnny Cake with Kimchi Purée and Benne ($15).  The Johnny Cake was the only one we didn’t enthusiastically finish, it was very good, not that I’m an expert on johnny cakes, but kind of heavy.  The other two were eaten with gusto.

For entrees we went with the Bear Creek Farm Pork with Barefoot Farmer’s Sweet Potatoes, Sassafras and Pecans ($34) and the Field of Dreams Duck with a Chestnut, Pear and Cornbread Dressing with Giblet Gravy ($37).  Just as you might intuit by the titles, these meals celebrated the ingredients and cuisine of the south. The pork was tender and flavorful and was accompanied by classic whipped (mashed?) sweet potatoes presented in a fresh, untraditional manner as thick squiggles painted on the plate, topped with a modern riff on marshmallows.  Very visually appealing.  The duck was hyper-rare and a bit chewy, but very tasty.  I wonder if my palate is so accustomed to large production meats, that maybe that chewiness, accompanied by rich flavor, is the hallmark of more consciously raised meat.  I do think another 60 seconds of cooking time would have elevated the duck even more.

My favorite item was an item which appears on many menus, yet was lifted to a previously unexperienced level – the shrimp and grits.  The grits were creamy and a little toothsome and the shrimp was firm and fresh.  What really pulled it all together was the lightly cooked egg which topped the dish, inviting the serving spoon to mix it all together in a blend of textures and flavor which was outstanding. In a restaurant which seeks to honor and present the local cuisine, their interpretation of a southern staple really scored perfectly.

We didn’t eat dessert but we did get a sweet tip about where to go for a good time on Monday nights.  More on that later. Dinner total for 3: Approximately $200 with a generous tip, including three cocktails, one glass of wine, four smaller plates and two entrees.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Nashville, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Tara Kitchen

olive tapenade with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes

olive tapenade with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes

Sunday, more than ever, has become my “Me” day. Yesterday I had hours to myself to do whatever I felt like – once the waffles and bacon had been cooked, served and cleaned up and payroll had been done and the sheets had been changed and I had met with Linda Kindlon at Bake for You about adding her cookies to Lark + Lily’s dessert options…hours, I tell you.

Following an afternoon run (down one lunar b*tch, missed you, Chrissy!), I decided to follow through on my intention to eat at Tara Kitchen. I’ve been wanting to get to this spot in Schenectady forever and this post  in All Over Albany’s weekly roundup of what’s going on in the neighborhood, forced my hand.

I’m not very familiar with Schenectady, but I have spent some time in the area where Tara Kitchen is. Parking was readily available in the lot directly across the street from the restaurant. I arrived at about 5:30 and the place was hopping with nearly all the tables seated. Bar seating was plentiful. I sat at a table in front of the window and was completely comfortable even with the door opening and closing. The upstairs seating was definitely toasty warm due to, I imagine, the heat rising off of the big range in the open kitchen.

spinach with potatoes and poached eggs

spinach with potatoes and poached eggs

As I browsed the menu, I sipped a delightful tea from a small glass.  It was a magical elixir, I swear, stimulating my taste buds and giving me a boost.  I eventually ordered three courses – opening with the olive tapenade served with warm triangles of pita. It was delicious, wonderfully salty and earthy with a hint of heat. For my entrée, which was served blazingly hot, I had the spinach, potatoes and eggs, the kind of meal which would be perfect at any time of the day. There was more pita and rice served along side the tagine, I imagine just to give a diner something to pick on while they’re waiting not so patiently for their main course to cool off. The flavors were fantastic – I especially loved the cardamom, and the vegetables were beautifully cooked retaining just a touch of firmness.  I  requested some harissa to add a little zip, since I felt a cold threatening and I loved the smoky quality it lent to the dish.

warm delicious baklava

warm delicious baklava

I finished with the baklava, because, why not? Unlike some renditions of this dish, it was not overly sweet or buttery and it actually was perfect with my remaining half glass of Moroccan Pinot Grigio  (Ouled Thaleb White).  Service throughout was comfortably casual and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to this terrific little spot.  Total for my meal including tip: $43.  Pretty reasonable for a trip to Morocco, don’t you think?

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Filed under Dinner, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Schenectady, sunday, Uncategorized

W(h)ine List

How I've been feeling.

How I had been feeling.

There have been a few moments in the past week or two when I’ve felt reasonably competent when it comes to keeping all of the necessary balls in the air when it involves Lark + Lily. I’ve moved forward from the preliminary weeks of being a business owner when I felt nearly overwhelmed by the responsibilities I had taken on. It seemed as if nearly every hour of the day was consumed by school followed by errands, meetings and tasks related to the restaurant, capped by evenings on premise. It was mentally, and on a lesser scale, physically exhausting.

I was struggling with balance – and you know how I thrive on cultivating balance. Eating, sleeping and running were becoming distant memories and I wondered when I would achieve some control over my life again. Well, I’m happy to report that I feel as if I’ve moved on from the daily-putting-out-fires stage of entrepreneurship to a more even state of composure. I’m breathing (and sleeping and eating) better.

The Lilly guys and I are creating a new normal with shared dinners each of the nights they spend at my house, even if one of those meals is takeout and another is leftovers. I’m pretty much getting my miles in each week which really helps with my energy level and mental well-being and I’m eating more consistently. It’s all working and I’m beginning to feel as if my life is merely pleasantly full rather than completely drowned by demands. It’s even starting to get kind of fun.

This week I added 8 new labels to my wine list, bringing my total selection to almost 70 labels. I’ve also tweaked some of the wines by the glass and spirits we offer. The list is growing to reflect my palate, while also representing varietals that guests expect to be present on a wine bar’s menu, things which I don’t necessarily gravitate to like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. A couple of my favorite recent picks are a lovely Alsatian Riesling from Rolly Gossman and a bold Zinfandel, Valravn from Sonoma County. Maybe you’ll stop in sometime soon for a taste.

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Filed under Boys, family, Lark Street, Restaurants, stress, Uncategorized, Wine

Ladies First

12187768_1654731661458247_6615095249070919957_nMonths ago, as I started to imagine what Lark + Lily might look like, I had an idea about how I would like to officially launch the new business my brother and I were in the process of purchasing. I’ve been to soft openings, friends and family events and ribbon cuttings over the years and felt compelled to do something just a little bit different. Surprise, surprise, right?

I decided that I wanted to host an event exclusively for women, more specifically women who I found to be inspiring, influential and impressive. Once I had that sentiment as my motivation, the details rapidly fell into place. I settled on a date I found auspicious – the first day of a new month. Sunday, November 1st also felt perfect since we had been gifted with an extra hour with the previous night’s turn of the clock. My chef, John Futia and I developed a simple menu of finger foods, which we accompanied with sparkling wine and other gifts from the grape. It all came together with a remarkable ease.

The most challenging aspect of the entire afternoon was the guest list. Limiting my invitations to what our capacity is, was a Herculean* effort. As I considered all of the women who have inspired, influenced and impressed me over the years, the number became significant and I was placed in the unfortunate position of having to make some very difficult decisions. My only consolation? The fact that I was fortunate enough to be acquainted with so very many fabulous women. Truly.

On Sunday afternoon, as we lit candles and fireplaces, the skies turned blue. Lark + Lily soon filled with dynamic, interesting women and I was overwhelmed by joy as I watched business cards and handshakes and hugs being exchanged. Present were business owners, neighborhood activists, politicians, professionals and dear friends. The buzz was tremendous and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the afternoon – it was powerful.

If you were at Lark + Lily, thank you. I hope you found the mixer to be both enjoyable and valuable. And, if you couldn’t make it for whatever reason, please know that this was the first event for us, but certainly not the last.

*Should I say an Alcmenean effort since I’m being female-centric?

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Filed under Albany, Events, Lark Street, Local, Restaurants

A rock star Halloween

Gold Dust Woman

Gold Dust Woman

I should start by admitting that the same dark green velvet dress has been the base of my Halloween costume for three consecutive years. Do not underestimate my ability to be creative when it comes to working a pretty gown into the plan! Last night I covered the top of the dress with a lace blouse, leaving the dress to look like a skirt as I attempted to channel Stevie Nicks.

I suppose I should confess right now that, beyond the glittery scarves, wig and tambourine, everything for my costume came directly from my own closet. That says something, doesn’t it?

imageAs I get older, I find myself I’ve returning to my younger years when it comes to adopting a costume for a night. The Stevie Nicks thing was inspired by that biography I read a couple of months ago and, even though quite a few people thought I was a gypsy rather than a rock and roll goddess, I enjoyed last night’s adopted persona. Special points to those who detected the powdery residue on my nostrils.

The front of the house staff at Lark + Lily proved that they are indeed a family, specifically one with the last name of Ramone. They really rock.

imageHope your Halloween was fun and filled with more treats than tricks!

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Filed under aging, Albany, holidays, Lark Street, Local, Observations, Restaurants

Pride (In the name of love)

It can be music to a person's ears.

It can be music to a person’s ears.

What a week! As I anticipated sitting still for an hour or so to have my nails attended to, I finally had some time to reflect upon what has transpired in the last 7 days. Taking a few moments to consider all that has happened felt like a wonderful luxury – even more so than soaking my feet in a hot bath and having the pedicure chair’s magic fingers digging into my spine. Time is truly life’s greatest gift.

Following closely behind the present of time, are the countless people who have encouraged, supported and advised me during the months-long process of becoming a restaurant owner. I know that the intensity of this last week would never have been realized, or survived, without the presence of friends who I have felt in my court during each and every moment.

If you know me, or have read me, you’re aware that I am not an overly emotional woman. Sure, pictures of animals and people suffering in poverty always make me tear up, but, generally I’m a pretty cool character. Unless, you tell me you’re proud of me. Hearing that sentiment directed towards me is guaranteed to penetrate my reserved exterior faster than Superman falls to kryptonite.

Never in my life have so many friends expressed their pride in me. I am overwhelmed, and occasionally overcome, by the outpouring of respect and pleasure for this wonderful adventure, Lark + Lily, on which my brother and I have embarked. Thank you, so very much. It means more than you will ever know.

Love, Silvia

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Filed under Albany, family, friends, love, Restaurants, sunday