I’ve been so busy doing things and going places that I haven’t had a moment to chronicle any of it. It’s kind of getting me frustrated, but that’s how I typically react to not having what I want – in this case more time. I’ve made some notes and I swear I’m going to carve out some time over Thanksgiving break (See what I did there? Carve??) to share things that I’ve seen (an 80s band, some television and a couple of movies), a couple of books that I’ve recently read, some delicious things I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking, a week focused on health maintenance, and a couple of Albany experiences that I was lucky enough to take in. Stay tuned.
Category Archives: Restaurants
Yes, RLJ at the Cohoes Music Hall. I was on the Cape when the tickets went on sale and immediately snatched up six, knowing that it wouldn’t be hard to share them with likeminded friends. You know, people who would also be blown away by the fact that RLJ was playing in a 475 seat venue in our area, even if it is a place that always feels like a firetrap to me.
I’ve seen RLJ a couple of times before and I’m familiar with her reputation for being ah…a bit
difficult eccentric. The last time I saw her was maybe 7 or 8 years ago at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie. It was a beautiful venue, but what has stayed with me since that particular show was something Rickie did to one of her percussionists. As I recall, he wasn’t a regular in her band at that time, but was filling in for an absent member. At one point, apparently, he wasn’t playing the little handheld instrument the way she wanted him to. She walked over to him, took the shaker out of his hand and stared him in the eyes as she demonstrated how she wanted it played. It was awkward.
Wednesday night, though, she seemed very pleased with her two band mates, a percussionist and a guitarist. Actually, in general, Rickie seemed to be in a good place, sharing stories and soaking in the love the audience (less than capacity) freely showered upon her. She explained that she preferred to play for small audiences of adorers rather than larger groups who might not really be present for the music. Recalling a story Aloysius had once told me about Rickie leaving the outdoor stage at a show he attended and inviting true fans to follow her to a different, more intimate venue, I took her at her word.
The show was magnificent. Her voice sounded incredible and she retains a control over her instrument which is remarkable. Her setlist was amply stocked with old favorites and more than once she brought me to tears, an experience I don’t have very often at a musical performance. There’s just a raw quality to her work that penetrated that particular evening. I was mesmerized – and not just by the fact that seemed to be wearing the same red velvet Frye boots I scored last month. It was easily my favorite performance of hers ever and I swear it’s going to be one of those shows that becomes legend.
My only criticism goes to the venue’s employees. There was way too much noise being made in the balcony where we were seated as the bar staff broke down their service bar. Buckets of ice being dumped and bottles clanging did not add to the event. What did add to the night, though, was a really good meal pre-show at The Hollow. I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries and look forward to eating there again in a couple of weeks pre-show for the Modern English concert. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Going to the track has never been my thing. Gambling doesn’t appeal to me, I don’t like big crowds and I’m really distressed by the number of horses which have died this season. It’s all just too much. But, I do enjoy early mornings in Saratoga. There’s a simple beauty to the horses trotting around in the often misty morning and the general vibe is relaxed and quiet. It’s really lovely and I can’t imagine a prettier racetrack. Yesterday, there was an undercurrent of excitement as Traver’s Weekend approached and things were looking particularly spiffy as the track prepared to welcome an expected 50,000 spectators for Saturday’s biggest race of the season.
We spent a very enjoyable hour or so trackside before our appetites got the better of us and we headed to a fairly new spot downtown for breakfast. Farmers Hardware, reviewed just last week by Susie Davidson Powell who had some very positive things to say, is conveniently located right next a public parking lot which allows for 2 hours of free parking. We rolled in at about 9:00 or so and found our way, with encouragement from a very enthusiastic server, to the upstairs counter where we placed our order.
I had hoped to have the Eggs Shorty, but alas they were out of short ribs. There was an offer to substitute bacon for the beef, but I opted for the Staple instead – scrambled eggs, bacon, maple sriricha and cheddar on a brioche roll. For my side, I selected a toasted coconut yogurt parfait and threw in a large coffee for good measure. My total was about $15 with a couple of dollars tossed into the counter jar. Fair enough. I gathered plastic flatware (recyclable according to Susie, but still a bit unsatisfying to me) and napkins and headed downstairs and outside to await delivery of our orders, happily sipping a mimosa purchased by a friend.
Food arrived quickly and was uniformly well received. My eggs were hot, as we were Will’s salt and pepper fries, which he shared, and the bacon was nicely cooked. The coffee was flavorful, my yogurt parfait delicious and the additional sides I sampled, a bean and corn salad and roasted beets, were all simple and well prepared. A very solid breakfast that I would happily order again.
Our last stop was at Violet’s, a boutique where I had done well earlier this summer with a couple of great items on sale. My luck held yesterday and I picked up an adorable ruched skirt and asymmetrical pull over, again on sale, that will find their way into my wardrobe rotation with little effort. That store is definitely on my radar for funky, slightly off the beaten path clothing and accessories and I suggest you check it out.
No gambling, all winning, makes for a perfect Saratoga morning. I love New York!
Most of the art that hung on the beautiful brick walls of Lark + Lily was curated by Ken Ragsdale. His connections in the artist community provided me the opportunity to display some truly special work. Ken did a wonderful job selecting pieces and he exposed me to numerous artists whom I’d never known before. To say he was discerning would be an understatement, and from all of the artists who approached either of us seeking to display work, Ken opted to accept work from only one – Ritvik Sharma. There was just something about his watercolors that fit the space, captured a moment and simply belonged.
When I sold Lark + Lily, Ritvik came collect his work and I decided to purchase one. I selected the image below because I loved his depiction of the Capitol with the addition of an imagined farmer’s market on the west lawn. The lines are simple, the palette pleasing and I knew it would make a wonderful addition to my collection.
A few days later, I had an unprecedented idea – perhaps Ritvik would do a commission piece for me. Now, before you think I’m some kind of high flying art patron, get real. I’ve never done (or imagined doing) this ever before and was completely uncertain how to proceed. So, I emailed Ritvik and asked him if he would consider taking on the task. I sent him a photo of what I was hoping for and he quoted a very, very reasonable price and proceeded in a remarkably short amount of time to create the image below for me.
I couldn’t have been happier with the result and am thrilled to have Lark + Lily in a place of honor in my living room. If you are seeking a unique and special piece of art, I highly recommend Ritvik. He’s a wonderful artist and a really nice man. Support the arts, people. They provide beauty in a world that sometimes feels as if it is full of ugliness.
My time as a restaurant owner provided me with some wonderful memories, a banging wine cellar and a collection of Albany-centric art. Not a bad take away really. I’ve finally hung the pieces I collected and couldn’t be happier with how they look on my walls. There are photographs, prints, a fine pencil drawing and a couple of watercolors and they’re a wonderful, tangible reminder of a chapter of my life that I was fortunate enough to experience.
First up, and apologies in advance for the less than stellar photo, is this incredible sketch of the interior of 200 Lark St. When I asked my friend, Ken Ragsdale, to do my required schematic for my liquor license application I had no idea that I would have this wonderfully detailed framed architectural drawing. It hung in a spot of honor at Lark + Lily and always garnered a tremendous amount of attention and I’m proud to have it now in my home.
The photos below were given to me by the remarkable Albert Gnidica, the man who is everywhere judging from the photos he posts on social media. I’m a fan of his work, particularly his skyline photos of downtown Albany, and I had these two mounted and framed locally. They did a really nice job and the photos looked great in the restaurant and equally good now in my living room.
A map of Albany’s neighborhoods is an image that evokes a few different emotions for me. I originally bought it at the Fort Orange General Store and was thrilled to see that the artist had included DelSo as one of the neighborhoods. Amazing, right? After popping the print into a frame and hanging it in one of the restrooms in L+L, where it perfectly covered an unsightly hole in the wall, it suffered some graffiti. Someone decided to take a black pen and, for reasons I’ll never know, attempted to scratch out DelSo. I was able to wipe it off, but it does make me a little sad sometimes when I think about what might motivate a person to do something like that. You can order one for yourself here. I think I want shirt.
This print, though, can cure any melancholia I might be feeling. I won it at Champagne on the Park’s silent auction and it is the last thing I see when I walk out of my house. I don’t knows how about art, but it feels kind of deco and the colors and depictions of Albany’s landmarks are joyful. Lee Dixon, the artist and graphic designer is a super nice guy and I’ve often seen his works for sale at local art events. He’s also done some awesome postcards that I’ve seen at Elissa Halloran’s shop on Lark Street.
Stay tuned for Picturing Albany – Part II
As of 4:55 on a Wednesday in June, I no longer belong to the ranks of business owner – and it feels great. The transaction was as low-key and undramatic as are all of the involved parties. The deal was put together without realtor representation and the terms were easily agreed upon with minimal negotiation. I walked out of the attorney’s office downtown positively elated.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments in the past few months when I had twinges of regret and times when I had to fight against a feeling of having failed. Maybe if I had done X or Y differently, perhaps I needed to stick it out longer or make dramatic changes to achieve the level of success necessary to make remaining in business an appealing prospect. Ultimately though, I know this was the right move. I can return to what I do best and enjoy most – providing hospitality. Later, for you Quickbooks and Paychex. We’re officially over.
The experience of owning a business has been life changing. I tried something I never imagined doing. I stretched myself thinner than ever before and did not allow myself to get broken. It was more than, as I overheard one of my former employees say, “that old cliche, a waitress who thinks she can be an owner.” See, unlike the person who uttered that statement, I could be an owner. It just didn’t bring me joy and joy, not money, not ego, is the currency of my life.
I’m so excited to witness the success of Mio Posto and to play even a small part in that goal. I’ve worked a couple of nights already and Danny’s food is exactly at the level that I knew it would be – creative, high quality and composed with passion and professionalism. It’s wonderful. I wasn’t certain how it would feel to be “just” an employee, but I’m really happy to fill that role and to realize that my pride comes from providing guests with a memorable dining experience, not from signing paychecks.
It’s been a weird week. I’ve consistently been one day ahead of the calendar, thinking today was tomorrow, and each time I mentally corrected myself, I was disappointed to find myself a day “behind.” See? This is what happens when I have too much free time – I can’t keep track of it.
While concluding that what I thought was Thursday was really only Wednesday was a bit of a bummer, what didn’t disappoint were the meals I ate on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Let’s start at the beginning…
Wednesday was the night of the sick storm that dumped rain, and even hail, around the area. It was the last pre-half marathon, long run that Chrissy and I were doing and we organized ourselves so that we left a car in Troy, drove to Albany and then ran back to Troy to get the car. When we met in Troy jagged bolts of lightning were flying to the west and, as we headed south on 787, the rain began. Out timing, though, was perfect and by the time we parked at my house and got ourselves ready to run, the sky was clearing and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees – perfect weather for a run along the Hudson.
That 10+ miles left us hungry with me craving a burger and an adult beverage. We made our way to McGeary’s, where Tess’ warm welcome and the kitchen’s well executed plate set us right. The burger was generously portioned (Seriously, I could have been satisfied with half the burger. Naturally, I ate all of it.) and nicely cooked to the requested medium rare. The fries were crispy like I requested and the draft cider, recommended by our server, was perfect. I slept well that night.
The next night, Thursday, I finally made my way down to Nine-Pin for their Cider and Sliders event. I’ve been wanting get to one of these forever to have a cider and some food from one of the food trucks they have organized and I picked a good night – the weather was ideal and I got the chance to try Slidin Dirty. I had a really hard time choosing from the menu options, but eventually selected the Dirty Bird BLT, a delicious chicken burger with bacon, cheddar, arugula, tomato, red onion, avocado and chipotle cream. I mean, really? There’s nothing on there that I don’t love! I added some Asian noodle on the side (I’m carb loading, people!) and washed it all down with a raspberry cider. It was a terrific al fresco meal for less than $20.
Friday night my son filled up on pizza and popcorn at his school’s carnival and my older guys were out and about, leaving me solo for dinner. I impulsively decided to walk to the Cheese Traveler to see what was on their Friday Night Cookout menu and was lucky to find a seat outside within range of the grill and its wafting aromas. The lamb burger was an easy choice and, after some assistance from my server, I chose an interesting cider that featured hops. As the sky darkened and night fell, I lingered, savoring my dinner and the live jazz music. It was a great way to ease into the weekend and I really hope to repeat that experience soon.