Tag Archives: eating

Lunch at the Culinary Institute of America

imageSome days my good fortune threatens to overwhelm me. For instance last Friday, as part of a day of professional development, I had the opportunity to enjoy a three-course meal at Ristorante Caterina de Medici, the CIA’s Italian restaurant. What a treat! image

Have you dined at the CIA before? I think it’s been close to 20 years since I was last there and, boy, does it look different! I wish I had more time to roam around and check out what’s new (to me), but I was with a group and we had a schedule to maintain. Andiamo!

We began with a Caprese salad, which was lovely. I mean, seriously, if you can’t produce a tasty and beautiful tomato-centric plate in the Hudson Valley in late August, well, you might want to find a different career. This plate was a winner with an unexpected touch – green olives. Nice. imageOur second course was pretty dreamy – portions of 3 different pasta dishes. I really wish I could order this again because sometimes I struggle with decisions and it was the perfect entree for a girl who can’t always easily make up her mind. The ziti was pretty forgettable but both the lasagna and the risotto were really nicely done. The lasagna was definitely my favorite but an impressive amount of flavor came out of the vegetable risotto. imageDessert was tiramisu – really good and generously portioned, leaving me only hungry for a nap. image

Other items of note, the dining room was beautiful with excellent service and two somewhat garish Murano glass chandeliers suspended overhead. There was also a very coolly repurposed card catalog that charmed this wine bar owner – librarian. Check it out!

Isn’t this awesome?


Not my style but I do appreciate the craftsmanship.

Not my style but I do appreciate the craftsmanship.


Filed under Eating, Food, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Dueling croissants aux amandes

A number of years ago my friend, Paul, turned me on to almond croissants and my world became a sweeter place. I think there were three in the box he originally brought to my house. I know I wished there were more. On Paul’s advice, prior to stuffing my face, I placed my croissant in the microwave for about 15 seconds which made it a touch softer and unbelievably flaky. I was immediately a fan and have sampled almond croissants from a number of different bakeries, both local and abroad.*

Last weekend I pedaled to the Troy Farmer’s Market to earn my anticipated calorie splurge. You see, I had a plan – a taste off between Mrs. London’s and The Placid Baker’s versions of almond croissant. But, before I share my impressions, let me tell what I learned from the interwebs about almond croissant. Maybe you already know this, but I was surprised to learn that almond croissants originated as a thrifty way of repurposing regular croissant. The shelf life of a croissant is ever so brief, but if one slices them in half and spreads them with an almond paste or custard known as frangipane and then dusts them with powdered sugar and sliced almonds and pops them in the oven for a second baking, well, that’s a whole new pastry. Damn, those French are smart when it comes to tasty baked goods!

So – here’s the Mrs. London’s version…

It’s huge, but you’ll still wish there was even more.  The somewhat terse man was kind enough to toss some stray broken off pieces when he bagged my two croissants ($4.25 each) which was a welcome treat. The dusting of powdered sugar was kind of sparse, but keep in mind that I had the bakery bag in my saddlebags on my bicycle for 10 miles or so. The frangipane was thick in consistency, but thinly layered and the croissant itself was flaky but not incredibly airy. Taste? Delicious, but a bit sweet, said my 11 year-old.

To score an almond croissant from The Placid Baker, I had to venture beyond the Farmer’s Market to get to the source. You see, they’d sold out at the market but still had a couple available at the shop. Here’s the one ($3.00) I brought home.

It was a tad smaller than Mrs. London’s and definitely baked to a darker shade. The real surprise, though, was the generous layer of frangipane. It was a much “looser” version of frangipane, dripping onto the plate when I bit into it. Despite the abundance of almond custard, this croissant was less sweet and somehow lighter than the Mrs. London’s version. The pastry layers were well separated and excruciatingly light. C’est Bon!

Bottom line – they’re both terrific, but The Placid Baker has stolen my heart from Mrs. London. How about you? Do you have a preference?

*Abroad. Doesn’t that sound tres fancy?

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Saratoga, Troy

Yo – go get this yogurt!

imageI grew up on “fruit on the bottom” Dannon yogurt. As I got older, though, I was put off by how much sugar (approximately 30+ grams of added sugar) was packed into that 6 oz container. I remember wishing that it could come unsweetened, giving me the option to add sugar to my own taste. Since that wasn’t an option, I began eating vanilla yogurt believing that I was improving my diet. Of course, once I realized how much sugar was in that, I was screwed and pretty much stopped eating yogurt.

Finally, about 2 years ago, I bit the bullet and committed to eating plain yogurt. You know, like a big girl. I generally buy whatever is on sale, be it regular or Greek style, in a 32 oz container. I’ve enjoyed Brown Cow and Upstate Farms particularly, mixing the yogurt with fresh fruit and topping it with granola for a meal that I enjoy and can live with in terms of nutritional value.

Yesterday I finally made it over to the Troy Farmer’s market. It was a hot morning and my stomach wasn’t feeling great after a weird episode of sickness on Friday. I bypassed the almond croissants from Mrs. London’s and ignored the artfully displayed cookies and breads from the Placid Baker, consoling myself with the promise of future indulgence on a morning when I earned my carbs by biking to Troy.

Cream on top

Cream on top

What caught my eye, though, were the offerings from Troy’s own R&G Cheesemakers. We’ve featured some of their cheeses in the past, always with good response, but what I came home with was their plain, cream on top, yogurt. I pitted some cherries and sliced a few strawberries into a bowl and then spooned a couple of tablespoons of yogurt on top, finishing with a scoop of granola.

imageThis yogurt is the bomb. Pleasantly tart, rich yet light and delicious. At $4 for 32 oz, it is a steal. Factor in that it was made 2 days before I purchased it and I’ve got myself a new favorite. Go, get this yogurt but please save one for me.

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Troy

The pasta that made Matt Baumgartner a dad


All grilled up and ready to go.

Summer at my house is a very different beast this year. A big part of it, of course, is Lark + Lily and the related demands of owning a business. But, there’s more. My two teenaged sons, perhaps in an attempt to make up for lost time, are each working two jobs. With our combined three schedules, family time has become increasingly rare and I’m trying to adjust to catching mere glimpses of my boys as they fulfill their responsibilities. It’s definitely different.

Yesterday evening, as I was preparing dinner, I asked my oldest son to text his brother to let him know that family dinner was at 5:00 and that he would be disinherited if he failed to join us. In response, middle son asked what was on the menu.* Upon being apprised of my dinner plan (pasta with grilled vegetables and sausage), he decided that he would prefer to eat with his friends at Bombers. I jokingly told him to change his name now that he was no longer in our family. Not one to miss a trick, he introduced himself as Griffin Bomber. Congratulations, Matt! It’s a boy!


Ingredients: 1 medium summer squash, 1 medium zucchini, 10-12 oz sliced mushrooms, 1 Vidalia or other sweet onion, 8-10 Italian sausages (hot, sweet or combination), fresh basil or spinach, Pellegrino Italian seasoning, 8oz cooked al dente pasta – reserve 1/2-3/4 c pasta cooking water.

Slice squash and zucchini lengthwise into 1/4″ pieces. Season with salt, olive oil and Pellegrino seasoning. Slice onion into 1/4″ rounds. Grill vegetables (other than mushrooms and spinach) along with sausages over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms in a combination of butter and olive oil until soft. When sausage are at a temperature to be handled, slice into 1″ rounds. Place sausage and all vegetables, including any remaining liquid from the mushroom pan, in a large bowl with pasta, spinach and/or basil, and reserved pasta cooking water and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with grated cheese. Super delicious, seasonal and way easier than parenting.

*This is the kind of bs one faces when they expose their children to the world of restaurants from a young age.


Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, Lark Street, Recipes, Summer, Uncategorized

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

A rave for Crave

I know, I know, I’m late to the game on this place. What can I say? I’ve been busy and since they’re closed Monday nights, I haven’t been able to take advantage of this spot as an easy and quick dinner spot with my guys at the start of a week. Last Saturday, though, the day got away from me with a hair appointment and errands and I found myself approaching hangry and limited on time. I grabbed 2 of my kids and headed over to the corner of Western and Quail for my first Crave experience.


Bacon cheeseburger

Bacon cheeseburger

The space is simple and clean with a menu that is equally focused. I needed a burger so I directed my attention to that part of the menu and was quickly taken in by the Black & Blue burger – Gorgonzola, caramelized onions and arugula. I wasn’t feeling blue cheese, so I requested that my burger come medium rare and topped with cheddar. My son went with a bacon cheeseburger and we added a basket of fries to round things off for a total under $25.


My modified black and blue burger

Service was prompt and our food was delivered quickly and piping hot. My burger was served on a roll so delicious that I broke my “no bun” rule and ate every last carb-y crumb. The beef was cooked perfectly and was remarkably juicy and the onions had obviously been cooked low and slow creating a sweet and succulent layer of deliciousness. It was a fantastic burger. Period. The accompanying fries were equally perfect – fried a little beyond golden, piping hot and salted with a deft hand. I’ve never had better.

imageLiam seemed equally pleased with his burger, but to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of conversation. I was too busy eating.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Eating, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Summer, Uncategorized

Pieces of summer

I’ve booked the first of our mini family vacations and I’m kind of excited about going somewhere new. Once the Cape thing fell apart, I consulted with my crew and Toronto came up as a potential destination. After a moment of insanity when I actually considered doing Cleveland, Niagara Falls and Toronto, I got real and settled on Niagara Falls and Toronto. Despite the appeal of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that 7 additional hours in the car would just break me.

None of us have ever visited Canada beyond Montreal and I’m looking forward to seeing a new place. I mean, life’s all about that, isn’t it? I’ve booked the hotels, all in Canada, but beyond that we’re completely open. It seems that we must do some sort of boat ride at the Falls, right? Do any of you have a recommendation or do we just go with Maid of the Mist? My oldest son is set on visiting the CN Tower and Casa Loma in Toronto, so I’m thinking it might make sense to buy this city pass.  I’m sure we can fit another attraction or two in from what’s included and it sure would simplify things. Simple is what I need right now.

Seeing that Toronto has a Chinatown and we have a tradition of having Peking Duck in Chinatowns in 6 cities in 3 countries on 2 continents, so far, I’m sure one of our meals will be Chinese. What other foods should we sample? Our location looks pretty central and I’m hoping to park the car and either walk or take transportation to most of the sights. Any tips for that?

My next task is to organize a little getaway for August – I’m thinking maybe a cabin on a lake for a few nights. Feel free to make recommendations – dog friendly, if possible. Jeter deserves a little vacation, too!


Filed under Boys, Eating, family, ideas, road trips, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation