Category Archives: Restaurants

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 margarite 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

Balancing act

I can see June around the corner and she looks beautiful. Only a few more weeks and I’ll be enjoying 10 weeks of summer vacation – more time with loved ones, late nights, somewhat unstructured days and actual free time. As you might imagine, I’m really looking forward to that. My front garden is a bit of a disaster and the rear one is currently nonexistent. My wardrobe is a disorganized mess of winter and summer clothing haphazardly hanging and in drawers and I have yet to pull out any shorts or t-shirts for my youngest son. It’s a good thing he’s going through a flannel shirt phase.

Next weekend is Mountain Jam and I’m planning to take two nights off and head south to one of the best annual music festivals to grace our area. As of now, those are the only concerts I have on my calendar and I’m excited for the opportunity to indulge in one of my other interests, photography – I’ll be taking pictures for the Times Union. For the first time ever, though, my eagerness to get to the mountain is being tempered by my guilt about being away from Lark + Lily. Sigh.

How do you deal with the struggle between responsibilities and fun? Is there a secret formula to achieving some semblance of comfort when it comes to allocating finite time towards family, work and recreation? Do you have a rationalization method you might care to share with me?

Until I hear from you, here’s my approach – I can delegate more of the household chores to my children, who honestly, have a pretty cushy life and might benefit from getting their hands a little dirty. I’ll make sure the restaurant is adequately staffed and imagine that guests will understand my need to take the occasional Friday or Saturday off, especially when Beck and Wilco are playing close by. Rather than bemoan the multi-seasonal state of my wardrobe, I’ll try to celebrate the fact that my clothing is washed, dried and put away. And, I’ll heed this wisdom from Albert Einstein:

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

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Filed under aging, Boys, Observations, Restaurants, stress, Summer

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

The turtle that is Terrapin, Rhinebeck

imageTerrapin restaurant in Rhinebeck has been around for a long time, maybe 15 years at their current location inside a beautiful old church right on Route 9. Many years ago, I had dinner there with three other people and was completely put off by the service. I don’t remember anything about the food because the experience was so overshadowed by the snippy bartender and the inexperienced server. I vowed never to go back, a promise easy to keep since A. I don’t go to Rhinebeck frequently and B. There are so many other options in that area.

Today, though, I met one of my besties in Rhinebeck for a bite to eat and some catching up. I offered her two options – Gigi Trattoria, where we’ve been happy before, and Terrapin for a fresh chance at making us happy. She checked out their menus and decided on Terrapin and we agreed to meet at about 4:00.

I arrived first and found a seat at the bar, not a challenge with at least half of the bar stools open. Within a minute or two I was given a cocktail menu on my request. I started reading, pleased with the beer and wine selections. I wondered about their carafes and if they were filling them from draft lines and planned to ask whoever took my drink order about the set up. The man two seats away from me finished his drink and ordered another, as I was told by the bartender that she would be “right with me.” She wasn’t.

I changed my mind about the beer I had been thinking of ordering and selected a glass of wine instead. Unfortunately, I couldn’t share my decision with anyone because the bartender had yet to come over to take my order. The man near me began drinking his fresh Patron margarita, inspiring me to look at the cocktail list. I reconsidered my wine choice and began perusing the “available” cocktails. The sour cherry Manhattan caught my eye…

My friend arrived and I shared my menu with her. The bartender told us she’d be right over. She wasn’t.

The man next to us finished his drink and asked for a check. The bartender took care of that. We sat there, me with probably 15+ minutes invested without even the reward of a glass of water, another moment and then picked up our bags and left. I will never, ever, step foot in that restaurant again and this time I mean it.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, friends, Rant, Restaurants, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

A crap week

The first week of spring, arguably the finest season of the year in upstate New York, was the worst week Lark + Lily has ever experienced. When I say “crappy,” I’m being literal, by the way. I arrived at the restaurant Tuesday afternoon and encountered the plumbers who were working industriously to unclog one of our two toilets.* Despite their best efforts, we were unable to open for service until 7:30 which means we lost 2.5 hours of service. Not a great way to begin the week.

That lack of business seemed to set the tone for the week and our numbers were dramatically down each subsequent night from previous weeks. I’ve said before that I didn’t buy a restaurant to make a ton of money, but obsessively looking at my diminishing online checking account was, said the wine bar owner, sobering.

In addition to the poor week at the restaurant, a fierce early spring cold made for a rough week at home. Quinn, who recently was treated for a mean case of strep throat, came down with a dreadful cough complete with a headache and body soreness. The poor guy was just down for the count. Naturally, he required a lot of coddling and cuddling and he generously returned the favor of my attention by sharing his germs with me. Thanks for the cold, Quinn.

As with any week, there were good things, too. The guests we did have at Lark + Lily, including one who I had only previously “met” online (Hi, Bill!), were great and I believe they all left satisfied with their experience. I went to an awesome wine dinner, ran 20+ miles, including once with both of the lunar b*tches, and hiked a peak (more about that experience soon) in the Catskills. We had some beautiful weather with temperatures that invited bare legs and arms to meet the sun and I got in some quality time at the golf course in advance of the takeover on 4/1 by the golfers.  Saturday’s family dinner, an early Easter meal, was an effortlessly delicious treat and provided me with the perfect starter for a killer split pea soup. There was even a brief dining room dance party with Quinn inspired by his favorite Ray Charles song, Mess Around.

I guess it wasn’t really that bad of a week after all, was it?

*Ladies – let’s make a deal, ok?  You refrain from tossing personal items in the toilet and I’ll remain open during hours of service.  Thanks!

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Exercise, family, friends, musings, Normanskill, Observations, Restaurants, running, sick, Spring, stress, Uncategorized

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

Are you the owner?

image: alloveralbany.com

During my years as a server, I’ve been asked this question dozens of times so forgive me if I stumble over my answer these days.  After decades of saying “No,” my new affirmative answer still feels a little odd coming out of my mouth.  But, I’m getting used to it.

It’s an interesting thing, owning a restaurant after working in so many throughout the years.  The other night I apologized to a guest for not having tea available.  He quickly said “Oh, it’s not your fault,” to which I replied “Um, yes, it kind of is.” It’s my choice to not venture at this time down the expanded hot beverage route due to space and time constraints in an 11 table restaurant, but I am sorry.

The follow-up question, nine times out of ten, to “Are you the owner?” is “Are you Lily?” Well, yes, sort of…in all honesty, I’m not even a little offended when people use my last name as my first name.  I understand – I suck at remembering names, and I really don’t care if anyone calls me Lily instead of Silvia.  It’s all good.

Sometimes I think that buying a restaurant has provided me with two more bathrooms to clean and three more “children” to supervise.  Regarding the latter, I’m not suggesting that my front of the house staff is immature or requires parenting, it’s more that I observe their interactions and individual personalities and sometimes find myself steering them in the direction where I want our service to be.  Service is so very important to me and I’ve learned from the best that treating guests with considerate attention is the foundation for success in the hospitality industry. That is what I want to do in the restaurant of which, yes, I am the owner.

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