Category Archives: Wine

The Girl and the Goat and I

img_0454Heading into Chicago I had only a few intentions – to run, to eat and to nap, all on my own schedule. Knowing that the city had no shortage of great restaurants, I decided to do my best to make it to a couple of them, without making reservations or arrangements in advance. I didn’t want to be pinned down to a specific time, preferring to satisfy my appetite when it demanded attention, and I was fairly confident that as a single I’d be able to belly up to the bar for a meal without too long of a wait. It worked.

I made my way uptown to the Girl and the Goat on the train, deciding my nearly 11 mile run was enough exercise for the day. Upon arriving, I was greeted and shepherded to the hopping bar area. As I prepared to order a drink, my veteran restaurant eyes assessed a soon to be open seat and I quickly swooped in to grab it. Seated in less than 5 minutes, I settled in with menus and consulted with a bartender to come up with an order. alsace

After determining that I was free to take any remaining wine with me, I selected an Alsatian Gewürztraminer, a wine that I enjoy and find to be food friendly. With my server’s guidance, I selected a number of items from the menu, ordering everything at once as is the preference in the restaurant.

sweetFirst up were the blue cheese sweet potato pierogis accompanied with a mushroom ragout, mushroom crema and fried capers and finished with microgreens. The flavors were beautifully balanced – earthy, pungent, salty and sweet and the texture of the pierogi was firm in a way that reminded me of samosa more than pasta. Delicious.

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I followed with some vegetables – green beans with a fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews. I’d say these were the most perfectly cooked green beans I’ve ever had in my life – firm, yet with an easy give, the bowl disappeared into my mouth with barely restrained haste. Again, the textures were spot on and the portion size was generous.

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My final savory course was the crispy pork shank, which was served on an individual cutting board along with a buttermilk dressing, grilled spring onion kimchee and naan. There was also a hot sauce and pickled carrot ribbons rounding out the plate in a cheeky nod to Buffalo style chicken wings. As I was still finishing up the green beans (I’m a slow eater!), the pork was placed slightly to the left of my bar space and after a few moments a server came by and “cracked” my shank open to reveal the moist and tender insides of my meat course. I was starting to slow down a little, but managed to eat nearly all of the pork appreciating the server’s instructions to use the naan to make mini sandwiches. I think I scarfed down 3 or 4 before deciding I really needed and deserved dessert.

dessertThe caramel corn and malt balls – vanilla malt gelato, popcorn caramel and chocolate magic shell, was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. There was crunch in abundance along with sweet and buttery sensations which had my mouth popping – fantastic!

Service was attentive without being invasive and my wine was kept chilled with my glass never empty. The view of the kitchen added to the meal and I enjoyed watching the kitchen crew working through what appeared to be a perennial slam. Satiated, without being stuffed,  my remaining wine (nearly a half bottle) was bagged and I happily paid my check ($120 with tip and a $44 bottle of wine) and called for an Uber. Well done, Chicago.

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Filed under Chicago, drinking, Eating, Food, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, Wine

Is Chicago my kind of town?

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

Last summer I made plans to go to Niagara Falls and Toronto with my kids for a few days. We’d never been and it seemed like a cool and economical getaway. I made hotel reservations and enthusiastically crowd sourced for some tourist recommendations. Then my two older sons got jobs. Plural. Not one to complain about employed children, I cancelled the trip and instead took my youngest down to NYC for a couple of days. That slacker doesn’t have a job, but I suppose he is only 11. Soon enough, little man.

A few weeks after the change in plans, I ended with both a Southwest voucher and a credit on my credit card, a situation which I immediately interpreted as a sign from the universe to buy a plane ticket. I reached out to my posse of friends, a number of whom were also celebrating a milestone birthday this year, to gauge interest in taking a weekend trip somewhere. While there was interest, it didn’t translate into action, so I decided it was time for me to take my first ever multiple night solo – Chicago, here I come!

So, I’ve got three nights in Chicago coming up in a few weeks and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of the things there are to do! The luxury of traveling alone means I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to, which is pretty amazing. Knowing myself, I see my days being structured kind of like this:

  • Wake up, get out and do something.
  • Go back to the hotel for a nap.
  • Take a run.
  • Take a shower.
  • Go out and eat something tasty.

I imagine there will be alcohol involved, at times, too.

The two things I definitely want to do are the architectural boat tour and an art museum or two. I know there are a million places to eat, but I’m most interested in places where I can eat at the bar.

What can you tell me about Chicago?

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Filed under art, drinking, Eating, ideas, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

What I’ve learned from owning a business

facebook-profile-icon_lark-and-lily-07I know that sugarcoating reality is often considered positive behavior, but you know that I’m not one to claim to see unicorns and rainbows when it simply isn’t true, so let me tell you how things really are…

On October 20th, 2015 I picked up my liquor license and officially opened for business as Lark + Lily Wine Bar and Kitchen. On some days it doesn’t seem possible that a year has already passed, other nights, when I toss and turn, unable to sleep, it feels like this business has taken years from life.

Being a small business owner is beyond challenging. The expenses involved with maintaining a cozy wine bar sometimes overwhelm me – between payroll, rent, utilities, trash collection, alarm services, draft line maintenance and insurance, we’re talking a minimum of $4000 a week in expenses. Did you notice I didn’t even mention food, liquor or wine? Yeah, that’s a whole ‘nother nut.

I am the lowest paid person in the restaurant, by a long shot. That is honestly ok, even factoring in that my 17 year-old son makes more money than me, because I have a career which provides me with an adequate salary, but if I, or my brother, were dependent upon this project for an income, we’d be completely and utterly broke.

My motivation for being in the restaurant industry remains the same – I have a sincere interest in creating an atmosphere where guests feel welcome and well taken care of. I want to provide a space that lends itself to enjoying a glass of wine or cocktail, a light meal, dinner or dessert, be it with friends, family or that special someone who makes you want to snuggle closer in the make-out booth.

At a year in I’m gaining confidence in my ability to conceive and execute a special event. I trust my instincts a little more now and I am not hesitant to prepare a dessert or orchestrate a continental brunch. I know that I’m not capable of cooking a full menu to order and leave that to the professionals who grace my kitchen (thank you, John, Zach & Ben), but I definitely have some fun pop up events in my head that I’m excited to give a whirl. I’m thinking about themed Sunday suppers or other fun gatherings in conjunction with some of Lark Street’s activities. Sign up for our mailing list for first notice on those!

There are days when I am so proud of Lark + Lily and what we are trying to do – they far outnumber the times when I feel frustrated and stressed. That being said, if I didn’t have a staff of hardworking professionals (Trudy, Jammella, Griffin & Jackie) understanding family and friends (who know who they are) and wine running, I’d be done. The pressure on me (mostly from me) is intense.

To the people who, through their patronage, have become my friends, I am so appreciative. I sincerely hope that I don’t ever fail to convey my gratitude for you and your continued presence at Lark + Lily. I feel fortunate to have met so many other small business owners who are purveyors and as such provide us with the wonderful and local fruits of their own labors. There are, joyfully, too many of them to name. Take a peek at my menu or beverage list to see them all. I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention the media who, despite what Donald Trump might claim, have been unremittingly kind and generous to us in their acknowledgement of our efforts.  Thank you!

While I’ve come to understand that it isn’t possible to please everyone, it remains our ultimate goal and we can only improve with honest feedback and constructive criticism. And if you haven’t been in, I hope you will consider stopping by and checking us out, maybe even Thursday night. I hear there might be some celebrating going on.

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Filed under Albany, Events, Lark Street, Local, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine

50 ways to leave your 40s

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  1. Run a half marathon.
  2. Check out the sales at Macy’s.
  3. Buy nothing. You really don’t need a thing.
  4. Have dinner out.
  5. Get a pedicure.
  6. Go to bed early.
  7. Eat a delicious salad.
  8. Take a run.
  9. Have a beer.
  10. And a shot.
  11. Laze in bed an extra 20 minutes.
  12. Feed the birds.
  13. Put on a pretty white linen dress (because it’s still summer, at least for today).
  14. Read birthday messages on Facebook.
  15. Smile.
  16. Try not to listen to the news of the latest unarmed black man being killed by the police.
  17. Charge the battery for your 35mm camera. You’ll need it.
  18. Have a hot flash.
  19. Ask your flag waving children to fly the Irish flag just for today in your honor.
  20. Arrange to have a carrot cake baked by the same friend who made your wedding cake.
  21. Order 15 pizzas from DeFazio’s.
  22. Open the sunroof on your car on the way to work.
  23. Turn up the radio.
  24. Treat yourself to a blow out – that’s blow out, guys.
  25. Imagine that Elizabeth Warren was running for President.
  26. Have a hot flash.
  27. Eat tasty treats from your coworkers.
  28. Read birthday messages on Facebook again.
  29. Take phone calls from both the friend who has been there for 35 years and the one you hope sticks around for the next 35.
  30. Accept happy birthday greetings from dozens of middle school students after your birthday is announced over the school PA system.
  31. Wear the beautiful necklace you had made for yourself.
  32. Remove the modesty-lending shirt over your pretty dress because of another hot flash.
  33. Book Talk challenged books to 8th grade students and watch them become agitated about censorship.
  34. Glance out the window at the cloudless, blue skies.
  35. Hope, just this once, that time moves just a little faster for the next 60 minutes only.
  36. Pound water in anticipation of the evening’s libations.
  37. Crave a coffee.
  38. Figure out a way to swing by Starbucks between school and a salon appointment.
  39. Get excited thinking about having so many loved ones in one spot.
  40. Wish Jeter could come, too.
  41. Smile.
  42. Get home in time to freshen up and gather loved ones together.
  43. Take a walk with your brother.
  44. Mingle and mix with folks from all corners of your life.
  45. Beam with pride watching your children do the same.
  46. Toast repeatedly with gifted Prosecco.
  47. Worry when the pizza is late.
  48. Remind yourself that it isn’t your fault.
  49. Relax.
  50. Sigh with happiness. Best birthday ever.

 

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Events, family, friends, Lark Street, love, Wine

Lisbon Love

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Home, sweet home

After more than 20 hours on a bus (actually, 3 buses) we arrived in Lisbon as darkness fell. There was a failed connection with an Uber driver and an eventual cab ride with a driver who could not locate our desired address and instead dropped us off at the bottom of a formidable hill and advised us to simply walk an unknown distance until we located #4 Beco do Mirante. We wandered down a street so narrow that it felt more like an extended driveway than a road, before encountering a mound of trash and a gang of street cats taking their evening meal. We turned around and started over, eventually stumbling upon our home for the next three nights and being warmly welcomed by Renata, our AirBandB host.

It was not an auspicious start.

Despite the less than positive beginning to our stay, Lisbon absolutely captivated me. The view from our flat, both from the front and rear balconies, was memorable, with a beautifully lit dome filling the night sky when we arrived and the rising sun glowing over the river greeting me in the morning. The architecture was remarkable with many of the building facades tiled in dizzying patterns to whose charm I could never imagine becoming immune. 13131683_10154099899137889_3291232505187124338_o

The sounds of Lisbon included barking dogs and cooing pigeons and Fado music. Of the three, I preferred the pigeons. The sidewalks are made from small, rough cut stones which are surprisingly slippery even when dry and the narrow streets wind about with complete disregard for a more modern city’s commitment to a grid pattern. The hills are impressive and I felt no guilt about not running when I instead happily walked for hours up and down and around and about.

Portuguese people are handsome – both males and females. Dark hair and eyes and golden brown skin dominate. The men are more direct with their attentions than I had expected, dispelling any stereotypes I previously held about aggressive Italian or Spanish men. These guys were open about their admiration without being threatening.  If I were younger I might have found it intimidating, but, at my age, I’ll take it as a compliment.

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Look at that tile!

The wines, (with decent rosés  selling for 2 euro a bottle in the corner grocery store), and sangria we sampled were tasty, as were both the red and white ports we tried.  The traditional custard tart, pastéis de nata, was a delicious treat any and all times of day and there were other baked goods, including a bread studded with chorizo and ham, that were also excellent.  The meals we had were not quite on par with the food in Barcelona, but there weren’t really any bad dining experiences.  I could not find the fish stew I had imagined, but it gives me yet another reason to go back.

Breakfast with meat bread front and center.

Breakfast with meat bread front and center.

This is a place I definitely want to revisit.

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Filed under Europe, Observations, Portugal, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

The wisdom of Antonio Banderas

imageAfter spending my first day in Barcelona, I can say I understand exactly what Antonio’s talking about. This place just stimulates the desire for languid pleasure and beautiful people and food are everywhere.

With blue skies above our heads and cobblestones below our feet we wandered around quite a bit yesterday. When it came time to eat, we approached the task of finding a restaurant with an attitude of nonchalance. It all looked pretty good and we were willing to try something new. For Griffin, it was a plate of meat for a late breakfast. He shared a bite of the brightly colored and flavored sausage, but gobbled the rest, saying that the tiny ribs were his favorite but everything on the plate was delicious and cooked perfectly.image

For dinner, which we began eating at 11 p.m., we wandered into a neighborhood spot that contained only 6 tables, although it appeared that the large table filled with either regulars or family, may have been a couple of small tables pushed together. Not being able to read Spanish wasn’t really a problem because we wanted traditional fare – jamon and paella.image

The ham was phenomenal and buried any other ham I’ve ever had. It was sliced beautifully thin with the perfect meat to fat ratio. It was tender, yet firm and had an overwhelming rich flavor of butter. Fantastic. The paella was exactly what I’ve always imagined paella to be – presented in a beautiful low pan and served to us at the table, it was an eye pleasing medley of shrimp, langoustine, mussels, slivers of squid with rice and small bites of red pepper. The fish was mind blowingly fresh and the shells on the shrimp were incredibly tender as we picked them up with our hands to suck every single morsel of deliciousness out.image

Good food was had and the wine I sampled – an intense rose in the afternoon and a simple white of unknown origin with dinner, was pretty damn good, too. From what I observed as we walked around, it seems that romance and sensuality is very much present with young and old couples showing affection and passion freely. Good sex seemed a distinct possibility. As for me, there was good sleep in the form of an hour long nap and a longer overnight rest. Antonio Banderas, and Spanish people in general, are on to something. Viva Espana!

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Filed under Eating, Europe, Food, Observations, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

How do you say Barcelona?

Although I was charmed by the myth that Barcelona is pronounced with a th sound rather than a soft c as an accommodation for a long since dead member of the Spanish royal family, I’m going to probably pronounce it with a c sound.  At least until I’ve had a few glasses of Rioja, that is.  After that, bets are off.

My long awaited trip with middle son is finally approaching so it’s time to start gathering ideas about what to do and see and taste in Barcelona. It’s our first visit to Spain and I think we’re both getting pretty excited. To be perfectly honest, I’m anticipating the time away from all of my work responsibilities almost as much as I am the time I’ll be spending on the beach sipping Albarino.  Despite the lack of snow, it’s been a long winter, folks.

Yesterday I advised my son that it was time to begin considering activities for our trip, what sort of things might you like to do?, I asked.  His answer: hangout and eat.  Actually, it might have been “eat and hangout.” Well, sounds like this is going to be just the sort of vacation I’m looking for!

Now, obviously we’re going to check out some of the sights like the nearly completed Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia and the Picasso Museum.  We’ve also got tickets for a soccer match which should be a blast. Beyond that, though?  We’ve got nothing.  I came across a cool website recently called Vayable which looks like it might be just the ticket for G and me if we feel like we want to add a little structure to a day or an evening.  A gourmet tapas tour or a bicycle ride to some wineries would be an enjoyable to experience a new city and its cuisine.

Tell me – What would you do if you had a few days in Barcelona?  Keep in mind that I don’t like being indoors, unless it is pissing rain, and I like staying active so some physical activity needs to be part of the itinerary.  Ok – go!

 

 

 

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Filed under Boys, drinking, Eating, Europe, Events, family, Food, Spain, Spring, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine