Tag Archives: eating

City Squire Ale House

#sillyandwillyreunited

Friday night, after far too long of a separation, my friend Will and I reunited for an evening of fun and food. Initially I thought we were going to hang in Albany for First Friday, but he felt the need to check out a friend’s new spot on Union Street in Schenectady since he been away when they celebrated the grand opening. Our night could not have been better.

The space, from what I understand, is a complete new build on what had previously been a tavern sort of place, the original City Squire. From the charming front porch, which blurs the line between indoors and outdoors with its floor to ceiling doors which open wide, to the upstairs deck, the building was simply beautiful. The color palette, the floors, the attention to detail, everything about the place combined to make a really pretty setting for what became an indulgent and prolonged meal.

We started at the bar with 3 items from the menu and drinks. Making selections was a challenge because so much sounded good, but we went with the Mexican cauliflower (a recommendation from the owner), a dozen steamers and the fish tacos which were made with fried shrimp on that particular day. Our bartender, Kevin, was great making sure we were comfortable and well taken care of, and went as far as to have other guests at the bar shift over to provide us with seating. Nice.

The cauliflower, served in a cast iron casserole dish, was fantastic. Florets of cauliflower, corn kernels, scallions and queso fresco came together perfectly in a flavorful array of textures. Ordered with a salad, it would make a dynamite and satisfying meatless meal. The clams were lovely – fresh and clean lacking only a vessel in which to place the quickly emptied shells. The tacos were a tremendous portion – 3 soft shelled beauties bursting with shrimp and assorted shredded vegetables served in a perfectly designed holder. We probably could have stopped there, but were joined by our third guest and moved to a table to sample a few more items.

Mexican cauliflower heaven

Clams, butter, crostini simplicity

Fish tacos – outstanding!

Will opted for a salad and a beef entree, while Raj selected two more small plate options – the Korean wings (spicy with a Korean chili garlic sauce) and the grilled flatbread a bruschetta-y sort of prep of naan, tomatoes, chicken and mozzarella. I sampled everything at the table and found it all to be well prepared and nicely seasoned. It is a casual place with paper napkins, yet the dishes and glasses were thoughtfully selected and our server was attentive to our needs.

As we wrapped things up to take home, we were joined by the chef, who actually oversees all four of the restaurants the family owns. While we didn’t order dessert, his enthusiasm and joy in being part of this project, as well as the others, was a super sweet way to end a meal. There is a real sense of family and teamwork that I really appreciated seeing. So many industry folks struggle with cynicism, but without exception, everyone we encountered was positive and upbeat. I was a guest of my friends and don’t know our total for the night, but can’t imagine it was out of line for the quality of the experience. Can’t wait to go back!

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, Happy Hour, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Schenectady, Spring, Uncategorized, upstate New York

#solotravel

I’m cozy in my Rome AirBandB with a glass (or 2) of wine and vague plan of taking a hot shower and heading out for dinner. I think I’m going back to the same place I enjoyed last night because I must have the cacao e pepe there. It wasn’t possible to fit it in my belly last night, but, tonight there’s room after a day of walking without a stop for lunch. I mean, if you don’t count gelato as a legitimate meal, that is.

It’s been a wonderful few days – actually I can’t believe I’ve already been in Italy for 5 days. It doesn’t seem possible. My pace has been mostly leisurely, but the days have passed quickly and I’m hyper focused on how many more meals I get to indulge in before I head home. Not enough.

When you travel by yourself, hours may pass with the only conversation you have is with yourself. Getting “lost” means nothing because there’s no place you really need to be. Taking a left instead of a right is ok. Eventually you’ll find your way to where it is you want to be. Yesterday, in Pompeii, I stood in the same spot for more than 10 minutes waiting for the clouds to offer me a peek at Vesuvius. I felt no haste, only gratitude for the luxury of time of my own.

Coming to Italy solo was a big leap. Of course, traveling to what feels like the most romantic city in the world would be lovely with a partner, but to not come alone would be a disservice to myself. Not experiencing this beautiful country, or the world at large, would be regrettable in a way that I’m not willing to know. Time to go shower. It’s almost my dinner time.

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Filed under beauty, Dinner, Eating, Europe, Food, Italy, Observations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Rome in films

I don’t think I’ve ever been so prepared for a trip before. I’ve been basically packed and ready for almost a week already and I’m actually looking forward to Penn Station because it gets me more near to Newark Airport which makes me that much closer to Rome…

Since time seems to moving at a pace which will surely be acceptable when I’m in Rome, but which I find to be excruciatingly slow while waiting for that to happen, I’ve spent the weekend watching films that are set in Rome. First up was the biggest disappointment – The Da Vinci Code. Truth be told, I saw this movie years ago and I was being way too optimistic to believe that focusing on the scenes set in Rome would be enough to salvage what is essentially a terribly cast adaptation of a book I enjoyed. Lesson learned. Next.

A Special Daya Carlo Ponti film starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni rocked my world with its incredible performances, camera angles and emotion. The Roman background was overshadowed by the wrenching story told, but I am so glad this movie came into my life. The scene on the rooftop with the laundry left me breathless. Thank you, Google search, for such a great find.

The final movie, Eat, Pray, Love was also a repeat for me, yet unlike Da Vinci Code this one did actually offer more for me the second time around. Somehow I had completely forgotten all of the preliminary action which occurred prior to Elizabeth Gilbert’s arrival in Rome, but that’s one of the funny things about revisiting a book or movie, isn’t it? What you take away is directly related to what you bring and that changes as life changes. What most excited me last night while watching this movie was the sense of injesting Rome – the pasta, the gelato, the scenery, the people, the language… I’m hungry and ready.

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Filed under beauty, Europe, Food, Italy, Movies, Recommendations, travel, vacation

Ode to panettone

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?

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Filed under baking, breakfast, Christmas, Eating, favorites, Food, holidays, NYC, Recommendations

Sweetness

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.

Our collection.

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.

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Filed under family, favorites, Food., Germany, musings, Recommendations, travel

Poppy, Pony Barn Bar and Pigs

“Poppy” lips

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.

 

 

 

 

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

A Saratoga Trifecta – Track, Farmers Hardware & Violet’s

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!

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Filed under beauty, breakfast, Brunch, Eating, friends, Local, Recipes, Restaurants, road trips, Saratoga, Summer, upstate New York