I don’t remember what made me buy the first one. Despite my mother’s German origins, it wasn’t as if fruit cake was part of my holiday traditions. As a matter of fact, I had distinct and negative memories of an episode involving fruitcakes baked in November, and left to soak in rum until Christmas, and a curious and subsequently drunk puppy that had left my mother pretty damn pissed. Nope, fruitcake didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. At all.
But, somehow I found myself leaving Rocco’s with a hefty 2lb loaf of something called panettone that seemed to be the perfect addition to my mornings during the holiday season. I happily carried my panettone to Albany. The next morning when I released the bread from its airtight wrapping I was provided with an intense aromatic assault – citrus, anise, unimagined spices…heaven. Since that first time, Christmas feels incomplete without this baked treat and I make it a point to get to the city in December to score one, or four as the case may be.
I’ve learned that there are two traditional varieties – Milanese and Genovese. The first is a taller version, more like a crown, light and studded with dried fruit. The Genovese is lower, wider and has the addition of anise and pignoli making for a more earthy, denser taste. I like them equally, toasted and slathered with unsalted butter.
My Rome connection (grazie, Alex!) has gifted me with an imported loaf for the last two years. I haven’t yet opened this year’s special panettone, but I’m eager to see how it compares to my beloved Rocco’s version. I noted that by appearance, it looks to be a Milanese version which should be the perfect way to come full circle in my panettone season. Six pounds of panettone later, that is.
Have you had panettone? This article in the NYT gives some excellent information about this special bread, yet doesn’t provide a recipe for baking your own. It seems to be quite complicated, by I’m putting panettone baking on my bucket list. Until I have time to devote to learning how to make it myself, I’m content to travel to NYC for a fix because at this point, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without it. How about you? What baked goods define this season for you?
The best honey I’ve ever had.
I made some granola Saturday and used almost the very last drops of a jar of honey that I bought last spring while I was in Germany. I say “almost” because I intentionally saved a teeny bit for a soothing cup or two of tea (with bourbon and lemon) that I will savor during my inevitable and eventual winter cold. I think I’ll need it then.
Honey has kind of become a thing in our house, like refrigerator magnets and miniature models of landmarks. I buy it when I travel and it’s like bringing home a literal sweet reminder of where I was.
The jar that I nearly kicked today was purchased on a drizzly day in April, at the Saturday market in the Munsterplatz in Freiburg. I’ve visited this market a number of times over the years, but, this was the first time my youngest son experienced it. Unimagined by us, it was also the last time I would go there with my uncle.
The beautiful Munster, perpetually wrapped in scaffolding, has stood in that square for centuries providing shelter and comfort to generations. We ate sausages made by the same family who had been selling their delicious wursts in that same spot for decades. The honey, in its squat jar, tasted like pine or cedar and was the best honey I’ve ever eaten. I’m a little embarrassed about how sad I am that it’s nearly gone.
A year ago, my uncle was here, in my home. We visited Olana and attended Oktoberfest. He, as a consummate German, made himself useful and cleaned my toaster oven. It was a special time, made even more so retrospectively, after his sudden death. Like that jar of honey it was sweet and I wish it hadn’t come to an end so damned quickly.
Friday nights can be hard, especially at the beginning of a new school year. While I would have been very happy to make it a movie night at home with my youngest son, I was too interested to check out the brand new Pony Barn and June Farms to stay at home. So, what’s a girl to do? Get dressed, swipe on some of that new Poppy lipstick you just bought from Origins and get to the farm.
June Farms is a quick 15 minute drive from Albany – which is remarkable because it feels very much like it’s in the middle of nowhere. We drove, but I know some folks who Ubered out of Troy for less than $15, not a bad idea if you want to indulge in multiple tasty cocktails. There are a couple of turns off of Route 43 to reach the farm’s winding driveway, but the directions were easy enough and the drive, even after dark, was pretty.
We parked and made our way inside the beautiful and newly built barn, passing the pizza oven on our way. The interior smells like sawdust and fresh air – a combination of odors I’ve never before encountered in a barn or a bar, for that matter. The rustically beautiful bar to the left beckons and holds a nicely curated selection of liquor, including many local and other New York State products. The lighting is flattering and the numerous seating areas invite guests to indulge in conversations, perhaps even with a side of tasteful making out. A patio promises to be the ideal spot to catch a full moon view and the spacious upstairs loft is finished, yet unfurnished, leaving lots of opportunity for eventual renters of the space to use the area in a manner that makes sense for their event.
Event? Yes, the entire barn, as well as overnight accommodations, are available for rent. I can see this property as the perfect location for all sorts of parties, ceremonies and getaways. Check out their website for more info and to see photos of all June Farms has to offer. I’ve got a video that I can’t embed here, but check out my Instagram post to get a sense of the interior of the bar.
As for the pigs mentioned in the title – they were the genuine article, not your usual bar animals. We took a quad ride out to the pig barn and were completely taken by the half dozen swine we caught in the middle of their night’s slumber. They were beautiful, not smelly in the slightest and adorable with their snoring. I can’t wait to go back to meet the ducks, chickens, cows and horses and to explore more of the trails in daylight. What a great new spot for daytime and evening fun. Well done, Matt Baumgartner. This place is special.
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!
Filed under beauty, breakfast, Brunch, Eating, friends, Local, Recipes, Restaurants, road trips, Saratoga, Summer, upstate New York
Straining my high pulp oj this morning.
If you see me this weekend and I seem a little out of sorts, it might be from eating too much ice cream and pastry. I’m on a diet and limited to a menu of foods that I only truly enjoy in small doses – things like white bread, peanut butter, cookies and ice cream. You know, the diet of a typical two year-old. It’s a low fiber diet and apparently it’s necessary prep for a colonoscopy, something I’m looking forward to having on Monday. Looking forward to as in looking forward to getting it over and done with, that is.
I’m not a dieter. I don’t respond well to being limited, I guess. That being said, I’m an excellent moderator and generally eat pretty well. Breakfast is usually cereal with fruit, oj and coffee. Lunch is a salad or yogurt and fruit and dinner varies between some kind of protein or pasta with veggies. Turns out most of this stuff is fairly high in fiber and, thus, not allowed prior to a colonoscopy. Who knew that my typical diet was an innately high fiber one?
How do people not eat fresh vegetables and salad greens? Or cherries and raspberries in July? It seems that all of my favorite things are verboten and it’s making me cranky. I haven’t eaten canned asparagus since I was a child and, after years of roasting or grilling them, there’s no way I’m ever going back to that soggy mess, so it looks like I’ll be carb loading and sweet toothing it for the next few days. I have no interest in eating canned fruits, Cream of Rice (whatever the hell that is) or lima beans, waffles and ice cream are what it’ll be for the next couple of days.
Anybody have an extra quart of consommé in their freezer? Maybe some bouillon to spare?
“What holidays?” you ask? Well, in this instance I’m talking about the big ones – Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. While each of these may seem like ancient history to non-hospitality folk, we at Lark + Lily celebrated these occasions just last week. It’s how we do it.
From an epic Yono’s/Stone Ends holiday party.
Some of my favorite memories from my days working for Donna & Yono Purnomo revolve around the staff parties they generously sponsored for us back in the day. There were a couple of years when our Yono’s crew was treated to a fabulous holiday party at Dale Miller’s Stone Ends. We gussied up like nobody’s business and were feted by a staff who indulged us beautifully. We, of course, reciprocated when they came to our place for their party. Really good times.
Last Sunday, the entire L+L staff headed to Ocean Palace on Central Avenue to celebrate a successful holiday season. We selected this casual; mostly take out spot because we’re all fans of their food and we’re in agreement that supporting a (practically) neighbor’s business is what we’re all about. It was an excellent decision.
Whole flounder, salt and pepper
Because we’re industry people and we understand the challenges of essentially having a walk-in table of 14 (significant others were included in our party), we ordered some items in advance to give Peter, the chef-owner, a headstart. After consultation with staff and Ocean Palace, we went with the following:
· A variety of dumplings, vegetarian, pork, shrimp, fried and steamed.
· Squid with salt and pepper – a personal favorite of many of us.
· Scallion pancakes.
· Chinese “bacon” which was essentially pork belly. We ordered a second one as soon as the first one hit the table.
· Sautéed stringbeans.
· A whole flounder prepared salt & pepper style – very impressive!
· Roast duck chow fun
· Shrimp with pan fried noodles.
I had imagined “fleshing” things out once we were actually at the restaurant, but, I actually nailed it in terms of how much food would satisfy. We were pleasantly satiated with the amount of food we had been served and didn’t feel the need to add anything to our order. However, there are definitely things on that menu that we still need to explore and I don’t think anyone from Lark + Lily would protest a return to this quality spot. It was worth the wait!
Filed under Albany, Christmas, Dinner, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, holidays, Local, Restaurants, sunday
• When the 14th of February falls on a Tuesday.
• Speaking of falling – no additional snow falling.
• A great menu created and executed by a professional kitchen – thanks, John & Zach & Ben.
• Competent and attentive front of the house staff – I’m talking about you, Jackie, Jammella & Trudy.
• A tightly mapped seating chart with 2 hour turns for every table.
• Appreciative walk ins who are grateful and work with what you can offer them.
• Solo diners who are comfortable enough to dine with you on the biggest couple night of the year.
• Guests who span the spectrum – white, black, brown, straight and gay. I’m really proud of the diverse clientele we have at Lark + Lily.
• Music that set the mood beautifully – thanks, Trudy!
• Friends stopping in for dessert.
• Mild weather and cozy fireplaces.
• A sense of relaxed pleasure wafting through the dining rooms.
• Finding the perfect card for your honey at Elissa Halloran’s.
• A steady stream of pleasant people populating our bar.
• Guests thanking you for providing them with a place they love to visit.
• Having the prettiest Valentine’s menus ever! Thanks, Lori Hansen & Laura Glazer.
• Finishing the night with something bubbly and pink.
And one thing not to love – please, please, please have the decency to call and cancel your reservation if your plans change. Having an empty table that might have been filled by someone looking to celebrate is really frustrating. On a related note, if you are going to be more than 20 minutes late for your reservation, I’d suggest calling to let the restaurant know. After 20 minutes (without a phone call), your table becomes mine again.
Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, holidays, Local, love, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine, winter