Tag Archives: eating

Holiday parties

“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.

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

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.

Chinese bacon

Chinese bacon

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!

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Dinner, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, holidays, Local, Restaurants, sunday

17 Things to love about Valentine’s Day 2017

16715920_1844113935853351_7426409160263547542_o• 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.   16716184_1844117485852996_4174399207922838321_o
• Finishing the night with something bubbly and pink.

16797713_1844175939180484_5675353717826130564_oAnd 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.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, holidays, Local, love, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine, winter

Bravo, Brava

img_0864On a mellow Sunday evening, I was fortunate enough to revisit Brava Wine Bar in Lenox. It’s hard to say exactly what made it the perfect evening, but the scenery, complete with a dusting of fresh snow, certainly contributed. Seriously, with the holiday lights still on display Lennox looked absolutely magical! What a beautiful little town that is…

We pulled up to Brava early, probably at about 6:00, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only other time I was there was Labor Day Weekend and the place was humming. This night, though, things were quiet. We selected a spot at the bar, as far from the door as possible on a cold evening, and joined two other parties in the small space.

After ordering a couple of red sangrias (they offer white as well) , we decided to make a meal from a kale salad, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, and a pizza with Italian sausage, onions and mushrooms. Noticing the charcuterie options, we quickly added two meats (a mousse/pate and prosciutto) and a Spanish goat’s milk cheese with a paprika rind to our order. Then we sat back and let the refreshingly professional and competent staff take care of us.  What a treat.

The food, like my last visit, was right on. The salad was adorned with a light, creamy dressing and was perfect for sharing. The Brussels sprout were cut in half prior to roasting and they were tender and coupled with crispy bacon. The add-on charcuterie plate was delightful with plenty of pâté for me and some of the most buttery prosciutto I’ve ever had, while the cheese had a not unpleasant funk to balance both of the meats. The accompaniments, including dried apricots reminiscent of my childhood, made for the perfect foil. And that pizza? Blistery on the bottom and topped with simple, but delicious flavors. I’d go back just for that again.img_0865

img_0867 img_0866The atmosphere was relaxed and cozy and the company was perfect. We extended our meal with a moist, delicious bread pudding, a tawny port and a fantastic “bowl” of coffee. Two leisurely hours after we arrived, we departed Brava and headed back to Albany. That, my friends, is how I do Sunday. How about you?

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, love, pizza, Recommendations, road trips, snow, sunday, Wine, winter

The New York Times: all the recipes fit to cook

image: rubylane.com

image: rubylane.com

One of the things I really miss about my life pre-restaurant ownership (in addition to loved ones, fretless sleep and true downtime) is cooking. Remember the days when I would have recipes and pictures posted here of yummy food made in my very own kitchen? These days, I’m lucky if I cook an evening meal for my family twice a week. Well, three if you’re willing to count grilled cheese and ramen. While it is certainly a luxury to eat meals prepared, served and cleaned up by others, I definitely miss being in my own kitchen puttering around sometimes.

During a recent break from school, I took advantage of having some extra time by indulging myself in a little kitchen therapy. Actually, I indulged all of us now that I think about it. One of the items I prepared was a new recipe while the other was an old favorite. Both were from recipes I had originally found in the New York Times. Maybe you don’t think of the NYT as a source for recipes, but my vintage copy (1966, baby!) of the NYT Cookbook would prove you wrong. It is one of my favorite recipe collections and I refer to it frequently.

The sides puffed up remarkably.

The sides puffed up remarkably.

The new recipe that I attempted, with great success, was for breakfast Christmas morning. In years past, bagels, cream cheese and lox were our holiday morning go-to meal, but since my divorce things have been a bit more unpredictable. I’ve made variations on pancakes and waffles and one year went to great trouble to make cinnamon rolls. They were good, but not great and, in my opinion, not worth my efforts. Crepes were requested for this year, but, honestly they’re a little more labor intensive than I like at the start of a long day. But, the Dutch Baby recipe from the Times? Well, that was perfect!

img_0778Requiring only 5 ingredients, all pantry staples, this oven baked “pancake” was one of the easiest and most satisfying breakfasts I’ve ever made. Taking only 40 minutes, start to finish, the Dutch Baby is something that can be made even on a regular school morning. It is my new favorite breakfast treat and I think I’m going to make it again this weekend. You should, too.

img_0848The ease of the Dutch Baby was definitely offset by the work involved with making the Meat Lover’s Lasagna. I’ve been using this recipe for more than a decade, despite the extensive list of ingredients and time demanded, and consider it to be a solid version of lasagna, but it comes at a price. First, there’s the actual cost of ingredients – pancetta, pecorino romano and sirloin aren’t cheap, my friend. Then, there’s the time involved in preparing this beauty. Conservatively, it takes about of 4 hours to put this delight together, maybe less if you cheat on the meatballs step. The payoff, though, is good. It is a dense, delicious and hearty entree that will provide multiple meals. That’s a good thing since I won’t have another chance to cook for days!

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Filed under breakfast, Christmas, Cooking, family, favorites, Food, holidays, Recipes, Uncategorized, vacation

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.

beans

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.

fullsizerender

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

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.

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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