Tag Archives: drinking

Whole hog at The Purple Pig

img_0489One of the best parts of being a runner is the license it gives one to eat. Believe me, pushing through a ten mile run is a lot easier when you know that the evening’s meal is a reward worth working towards. My second Chicago run led me along the lake, north of the Navy Pier and then back down Michigan Avenue and finally, to my hotel. I was in no rush and genuinely enjoyed the experience, wrapping things up with some time in the sauna and a relaxing shower.

Ready to eat, I headed up town to The Purple Pig, planning to make my way to the bar in a restaurant that I imagined would be busy during prime time on a Saturday night. Once again, I got lucky and scored a prime spot (at the far left of the bar – a lefty’s dream) within minutes. The interior was a bit more casual than The Girl and the Goat and the style of ordering was also different. My server suggested ordering a single course at a time, which offered more flexibility to change my mind as I caught glimpses of dishes being served around me. Menu in hand, I consulted with the bartender about how hungry I was and for what I had a hankering.

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fullsizerender-2Breaking with expectations, I ordered a bottle of Clos Normand Brut cider from Normandy rather than wine. It was the perfect accompaniment to my meal and gave me a pleasant buzz without the fogginess that I get when I drink more than two glasses of wine. It was particularly tasty with my first course – a liver pate served with crostini and a small mound of greens on the side. The cider cut through the creamy and delicious fat and danced on my tongue with happiness as the flavors reminded me of my time in France last year. It was the ideal way to start my meal.

fullsizerender-3I followed the pate with Patatas Bravas, the Pig’s take on tater tots. These were really good, but didn’t give me the same level of joy that the potatoes at Brava in Lenox had provided a couple of months ago. I think I’d try a different veggie next time, especially if I was going to revisit the octopus which is served with fingerling potatoes and green beans. The octopus was beautifully charred, smoky and tender and matched with a salsa verde that radiated freshness. It was a stellar preparation and I absolutely housed that plate. Fantastic.

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fullsizerenderBecause a meal out is incomplete without dessert, I indulged myself with their version of a lemon bar and was thrilled with my plate. Tart and refreshing with a wonderful texture, it was truly memorable and went surprisingly well with the last of my cider. Dinner, including tip, was a $100, which I found reasonable for the quality of the meal and service. If I lived in Chicago I could see myself becoming a regular at this spot, like the man who sat next to me at the bar. Just like the city itself, there were lots of things on that menu left to explore. I can’t wait to go back.

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Filed under Chicago, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel

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

Things to do on Cape Cod without children

How many articles have you read over the years describing all the wonderful and fun things to do with your children while visiting Cape Cod? Since there seem to be countless opportunities to learn about family time adventures to be had when visiting Cape Cod, please allow me to share some ideas for what to do when you’re without children.

  1. Ride your bike everywhere. Load your saddlebags or a backpack with a towel, a sheet or lightweight blanket, reading material, sunscreen, a snack and cold drink and you’re ready to hit the road. Don’t forget your helmet!IMG_9418
  2. Come and go on your own schedule. If you feel like leaving the beach after an hour or two, hop on your bike and go for it. Want to stop for a quick dip at a pond on the way home? Go for it! There’s no one to complain.
  3. Speaking of the beach – why not bring a book for a change? Without children to supervise you might actually read a few pages before you indulge in a nap.
  4. Eat ice cream for lunch and whatever you feel like for dinner. There will be no chicken fingers or grilled cheeses consumed in your company for the duration of your getaway.IMG_9435
  5. Do minimal laundry (because you know how to hang wet towels up and refrain from getting filthy) and sleep in almost sand free sheets.
  6. Run without the worry of wondering when your phone will ring with a crisis (“Can I have ice cream?” or “Where is my whatever?”).
  7. Watch as many sunsets and sunrises as you like.DSC_0073
  8. Go to Provincetown and do adult things like drink tasty cocktails and eat Brussels sprouts and fried oysters.

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  9. Wander in and out of shops filled with fragile and delicate items without fear.
  10. Enjoy your relative freedom knowing that it is for only a few days and that your children are just fine hanging with their dad.

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Filed under Boys, Cape Cod, drinking, Eating, Exercise, favorites, ideas, Observations, Recommendations, road trips, running, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

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

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

This is my last day of work until New Year’s Eve, a fact which I’m kind of excited about. When you factor in that I’ll be away with a couple of my best girlfriends exploring bourbon a new city, I get almost a little giddy. Good times are ahead and I’m ready for them!

Last Saturday, for either the 5th or 6th consecutive year, I ran Albany’s Last Run. This event is absolutely my favorite run of the year – the course is terrific with a wonderful downhill finish and I just think Albany shines in a particularly bright fashion on this night. This year’s weather was perfect, it finally felt like winter for the night yet there was no precipitation or slippery stuff on the ground.

I have to admit that I nailed it, in terms of prep, parking my car near the restaurant in the early afternoon before they closed the streets, and leaving a change of clothes so I could shower at the Morgan State House, where friends were staying for the night. I ran to the course from the DelSo, arriving at the starting line warmed up and ready for the 5K and, without even really trying, finished with a decent enough time in a sometimes crowded race.

One of the best things about this time of the year, what really makes it wonderful, are the visits from friends who no longer live in the area. I absolutely love the way Lark + Lily has become almost an extension of my home as familiar faces stop in for a drink, a hug and even a bite to eat. It’s an unexpected and very welcome perk of this new life of mine.

At my real home, the cookies are nearly all baked, the stockings are hung and the ham is in the refrigerator waiting for its star turn on my dining room table on Christmas Eve. The next two days will be a balance between traditions (bagels and smoked salmon for breakfast, the holiday linens and Elvis) and winging it in a year with bizarrely warm temperatures and my resolve to simply enjoy the time with the guys I love.

My heart will be glowing.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Events, Exercise, family, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, travel

Let’s make every day Cider Sunday!

DSC_0004Wouldn’t it be cool if you could close your eyes and read at the same time? Since that isn’t possible, read the next few sentences and then close your eyes for a moment and imagine the picture I’m trying to paint for you…

A gorgeously sunny afternoon in early autumn. Blue skies with the occasional fluffy white cloud. Leaves colored in vivid shades of orange and red and yellow. The fragrance of ripe apples permeating the air along with the buzzing of yellow jackets seeking their own share of the harvest. Cold, delicious cider and smoky pork. The warmth of the sun on that spot on your lower back where your shirt and shorts don’t meet.

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That was how I spent a glorious couple of hours yesterday down in Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook. The crowd, impressive in both size and mellowness, was friendly and fun, happy to sip Nine-Pin and toss beanbags as they played cornhole. It was truly the epitome of an upstate October Sunday.DSC_0002

I saw some familiar faces and made some new acquaintances who I’ll be working with to get Nine-Pin on draft for Lark + Lily.

I can’t make the perfection of an autumn day last forever, but I can arrange for the taste of the day to be made available all year long. We’ll have Cider Tuesday through Saturday instead.

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Filed under beauty, drinking, Local, Recommendations, road trips, upstate New York

No safe harbor – Mariner’s Harbor, Kingston

imageYou’ve probably considered at least once what defines a restaurant experience as a positive one. Was it the menu? The presentation of the plates? The value? Maybe location or ambience? Or was it the service and attention to detail? While we all may have personal opinions about which components of dining out are most significance, I’m here to provide you with an example of the incredible importance of having an educated, competent and polite front of the house staff.

Last night I met my girlfriends for a dinner in Kingston’s Rondout district. Post-dinner we decided to find a place for an after dinner drink and found ourselves at a well established place none of us had ever ventured in before – Mariner’s Harbor. It was about 8:15 when we arrived and, after consulting with the accommodating hostess, we elected to take a high-top table at the bar where we would be able to enjoy our drinks after ordering and purchasing them at the bar. This is where things got bizarre…

I asked the young bartender if she had port. She looked puzzled. I asked again this time adding the word “tawny” as if that was going to get me somewhere. She shook her head with confusion. I spelled P-O-R-T and explained what it was to no avail. Realizing the futility of my quest, I asked for a wine/drink list. That, at least, she was able to provide.

My friends ordered a couple of cappuccinos and a Sambuca while I came to terms with the limitations of the list I had been handed. I asked if maybe they might have specialty coffees or cordials. Her eyes lit up with a glimmer of life and she dashed away to retrieve a different version of the wine list. Or so it seemed. In actuality, it was the very same offerings I had previously perused, only this time they were in a more elegantly bound list. Sigh.

I stepped away from the bar and asked my friend to order a sombrero for me, explaining that it was Kahlua and milk. The bartender apparently went right to work searching for guidance as to how to make a sombrero. When my friend, Lisa, interrupted her research and described the drink’s ingredients, she was rewarded with a muttered “Why didn’t you just say ‘Kahlua and milk?'” Um, I don’t know. I wouldn’t order a vodka and o.j., I’d order a screwdriver, right? Was it really unreasonable for me to order a drink by its proper name?

My friends and I moved on from our head shaking about the attitude and incompetence at the bar and spent some time visiting. At about 9:00, Virginia and I decided to hit the bathroom before hitting the road. When we approached the bathroom (which was directly across from the kitchen doorway) there seemed to be a crisis of sorts. It appeared that a number of servers had been congregating and then subsequently disbursed at our approach. Kind of like cockroaches when a light goes on.

We entered the bathroom where we were immediately confronted by the sight of a woman vomiting in the sink. She was being consoled by a friend and reassured that she was just fine. I beg to differ. It is not “just fine” to vomit in the (only!) sink of a public bathroom. If you’re sick (or have been over served) and vomiting is unavoidable, the spacious stall would be the more appropriate venue for your regurgitations.

During the few minutes we were in the bathroom, taking turns with one of the two stalls since the other stall was occupied by a server, as evidenced by her black apron on the stall floor, no employees addressed the situation. For all we know, that woman is still prone in the sink, thong exposed and mumbling. We won’t be back to check. Ever.

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