Category Archives: 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

Owning it

IMG_7374It’s been nearly 4 months since my brother and I closed on our purchase of Lark + Lily. Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible that a third of a year has already passed, other moments it feels like it’s been forever. I’ve consciously kept the restaurant stuff away from the DelSo stuff, for the most part. After talking with one of the people who months ago helped convince me that I could take on this project, I’ve decided to allow myself a bit more freedom in mixing personal and professional. Hope that’s ok.

Although I never addressed any of the comments made on Table Hopping, there was one that absolutely cracked me up. It was the one when someone questioned my ability to run a restaurant based upon my experience as a part-time server. Maybe there have been people who have made the leap from part-time server to owner, but that’s not my reality. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for a long time – waiting tables, tending bar, hostessing, washing dishes and even cooking. Let’s not discount that.

Owning Lark + Lily has confirmed some of my sensibilities about hospitality. People want to feel welcome and appreciated when they enter (and depart) a restaurant. Clean bathrooms and fresh flowers (thanks, Trudy,) make a positive impression. Promoting other businesses helps to lift the entire industry and builds a community. Speaking of community, our First Friday drink special has evolved into a monthly cocktail special with half of the proceeds being donated to a local not for profit. I’m excited to write a check at the end of the month and make a donation to an organization that needs a boost.IMG_7510

I’ve learned that while we can’t make everyone happy, we are successful meeting that goal much of the time. I know it’s early and there’s plenty of room and time for negative reviews, but right now we’re enjoying the positive press and feedback we’ve received. It seems like folks are receptive to what we’re doing – providing thoughtfully prepared, quality food and beverage to both regulars and newcomers. Maintaining all the social media platforms (Homepage, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, etc) can be a bit intense at times, but it is remarkably satisfying when efforts pay off, like last weekend when I tweeted out one of our Valentine’s weekend cocktail specials and Tito’s Vodka gave us a boost by retweeting us to their 45,000 + followers. Validation feels good.

If you’ve been to Lark + Lily, thank you. It is truly appreciated and I hope we met, or even exceeded, your expectations. If you haven’t yet come in to experience what we’re doing, please consider this an invitation to join us for a drink and something to eat. Hope to see you soon.

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Filed under Albany, family, Lark Street, Local, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine

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

(Not) Making decisions is tiring

Mock up of shingle - Laura Glazer and Lori Hansen

Mock up of shingle – Laura Glazer and Lori Hansen

I think it’s easy to believe that making decisions constantly is an exhausting exercise. From the outside it may seem like the choices necessary when starting a business, which are required constantly – what products to buy, who to buy from, where to buy them, would be completely draining. Pillows and paint samples, ingredients and beverages, paper and fonts, menu backs and rubber bands, services and utilities – it is dizzying at times, but, not necessarily  exhausting.

Actually, it’s kind of more elating. With every choice made the individual pieces come together and the big picture starts to become more focused. The decisions feel like definitive steps in the “right” direction. It’s productive and good.

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Making decisions in reality, though, it is far less taxing than it is to be continually placed in situations where you are not in charge of making the decisions. Instead, you are in a position where you are being intensely examined and documented and vetted. You’re filling out paper after paper and, if you’re anything like me, wondering why there isn’t a Common App for restaurant supply company credit since every form is pretty much exactly the same. And you wait – for paperwork and phone calls and emails and certificates.

Now that shit is truly exhausting.

But, we’re getting closer every day. When all the necessary paperwork has been printed and mailed and signed, you’ll all know. Keep yours eyes peeled. Lark + Lily is coming.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Local, musings, Observations, Restaurants, stress, Wine

My network is > than my paperwork

imageI’ve just returned from a two-week vacation, perhaps my last one for some time. There was lots of beach time, leisurely walks, and evenings devoted to little but enjoying a glass or two of wine, I did also work on the Lark + Lily project. Phone calls and appointments were made and paperwork was collected and completed. It would be a stretch to call it a “working vacation,” but work was definitely on my mind and addressed.

imageThe amount of paperwork required to buy/open a business is remarkable. I’m not going to harangue the State of New York for this, I’m just stating a fact. As I’ve gathered documentation, records and my patience to complete various applications (I’m looking at you, SLA!), I’ve had moments of feeling overwhelmed. Along with a few deep breaths, here’s what is getting me through…

I have an amazing network of friends, professionals and connections who have been incredibly generous with their talents, experience and advice. Seriously, for every single piece of paper with which I’ve had to contend there are 5 people offering their support and assistance. I have a design team (Lori Hansen and Laura Glazer) helping me to create an aesthetic that is clean, warm and modern. A photographer, Jonathan Munshi, made himself available to shoot fantastic photos for the work-in-progress website and other social media platforms.

imageThe uber talented and way over-qualified Ken Ragsdale is doing my schematic drawings for my liquor license application. My wine distributor friends, along with my former husband (a former wine salesman) are waiting in the wings to help me put together a creative wine list with a median bottle price in the $40 range. A stellar mixologist, Larz Davi, offered to develop a couple of signature cocktails and we’ll be playing up the history of 200 Lark St. with her creations. Did you know that 200 Lark St. was formerly a chiropractic office? Look for the “Backcracker” on the cocktail menu!

The industry folks (Tess Collins, Paul McCullough, The Purnomos, Connie Ware, Kevin Everleth, Matt Baumgartner) who have shared their knowledge (and Rolodexes) will eternally hold a place in my heart, along with the legal professionals and realtor who are helping me to make this all happen. Media professionals Steve Barnes and Mary Darcy are also greatly appreciated.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The challenge of the paperwork is surpassed by the challenges trying to remember every single person who has come forward and offered a hand to me. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, but will correct and update this post as necessary.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Local, Restaurants, stress, Wine