Tag Archives: favorites

Thoughts inspired by dinner at Enzo29

img_4217-1Americans are always the loudest. They want everyone to hear them but they don’t know how to listen. I want to softly tell the table of 6-Got-SUNY-semester-abroad written all over them, (unfortunately not in invisible ink), that I adore their enthusiasm and excitement but couldn’t they enjoy themselves just as much if they spoke in more quiet voices?

Waiting for a seat in a restaurant that I saved my cacio e pepe cherry for. Sorry if that sounds vulgar. It wasn’t my intent.

The crew here is outstanding. The door guy, smoothly and with a discreet disdain that even Paul McCullough could learn from, was impressive. The servers all served smiles.

This restaurant is at the end of a street named Salumi… Come on.

If I knew how to say it I’d say “I’m so sorry I don’t speak Italian because it is such a beautiful language.,” to every Italian I was lucky enough to encounter.

I just said “no bread.” I had the bread last night and it was delicious. I didn’t need it again, though.

It’s ok cool to be recognized with smiles when you frequent the same trattoria two nights in a row.

There’s a man wearing a lavender, I assume cashmere, turtleneck seated directly in front of me. He isn’t even trying to be ironic.

img_4221-1Holy shit. This cacio e pepe is the best pasta I’ve ever had. Ever. Period. The sautéed chicory on the side is a spicy green vegetable nirvana. Contrasted, yet companionable, to the pasta it all creates something which can only be described as sublime.

img_4222-1This meal is one of those that can be described as “final meal request” material.

I ate my full leaving enough on my plate(s) to prompt a couple of queries to confirm that I had found everything molto bene. Si! I just wanted to save room for dolce.

The tiramisu was worthy of service in this very, very fine trattoria. Bene. Molte bene!

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, Random, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, vacation

A few brief thoughts early in a short month

  • Everyone should have footwear that makes them feel like a rockstar.  
  • And friends who remind them how special they are.
  • Seeing my children express their interests is the best part of parenting for me.
  • My excitement for travel remains undiminished.
  • February 2018 is the month in which one of my sons becomes an “adult” and the other becomes a teen. In theory at least.
  • Packing for a trip challenges me in a way that I enjoy. The measure of success for me is wearing every thing I’ve packed.
  • I believe there’s little in life that can’t be improved by fresh air, exercise and water.
  • Fresh flowers in my house are an indulgence that I never imagined being able to afford. PS most of my bouquets come from the grocery store or my own garden.  
  • The days are getting longer, a fact which makes both cross-country skiers and folks who don’t like winter happy.
  • I try to avoid scheduling much on Sundays, but don’t truly relax until the sheets are changed and the papers are read.  
  • In my retirement I want to explore yeast and dough. I love the smell, the magic and the kneading. Until then, it’s quickbreads and whisking.  
  • Long runs are Sunday are never the same but always appreciated.

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Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, DelSo, Europe, Exercise, family, Fashion, Flowers, friends, Italy, musings, Observations, Random, running, sunday, travel

What William Kennedy gave me on his 90th birthday

Tuesday night I was lucky enough to join an already in progress festive event down at Cafe Capriccio. Gathered together to celebrate Albany’s literary native son William Kennedy’s birthday were dozens of family members, friends and colleagues. I arrived as speakers began to share their thoughts, memories and best wishes and it was remarkable. The evening’s host, New York State Writers Institute director, Paul Grondahl, invited those present to share their own words in Bill’s honor and for a brief second I considered accepting the offer. It probably would have taken 2 more glasses of wine to get me to speak publicly, but the thoughts that were prompted can just as easily be shared here.

Albany has a modern literary tradition thanks to William Kennedy. His characters populate the streets and the imagination of a city which has been maligned and misrepresented for decades, if not centuries. The stories he has told portray a city filled with residents, frequently Irish American, living hardscrabble lives, corrupt, violent and often tragically funny. The struggles of his characters are familiar and universal, yet because they take place in Albany, N.Y., they are our stories. We own them, just like William Kennedy belongs to us, and despite the less than stellar reputations possessed by so many of his characters, we embrace them.

Because of William Kennedy, and his vision in founding the New York State Writer’s Institute, acclaimed authors have visited our area and shared their craft with audiences at no cost to attendees.  As an undergraduate, I was thrilled to listen to Allen Ginsberg and Joyce Carol Oates read from their work. More recently, an in-depth symposium focused on telling the truth in a post-truth era brought heavyweight journalists to our area for a weekend of timely and interesting events.  None of these experiences would have been available without the NYSWI and we as a city are indebted to Bill Kennedy for the opportunities to hear and learn from literary luminaries and embattled professional journalists.

The third gift I received that night was less tangible than the others and I don’t know if I have the words to describe it. The best I can come up with is it was a combined sense of pride, belonging and possibility. As the child of an Irishman I never met, I’ve sought out Irish culture and traditions for as long as I can remember. Witnessing a roomful of people singing a rousing chorus of Molly Malone (and joining in!) fed my soul as delightfully as Jim Rua’s always-prepared-with-love meals feed my belly. The thrill and privilege of being present at such an incredibly special event is something I will never forget. While I don’t imagine ever writing a book, the fact that Ironweed wasn’t published until Bill Kennedy was 55, and that I was present at his 90th birthday party, reminds me that just about anything is possible.

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Filed under Albany, Books, Events, favorites, Irish, Local, Observations, Restaurants, upstate New York

But, Daddy, I want to cross country ski TODAY!

Christmas Day was pretty stunning this year with that gorgeous fresh snow. Once the boys were on their way, I grabbed the dog and my skis and headed to Muni for my first ski of the season. Conditions were decent and I went straight out past the driving range towards a wooded trail I like. After a few hundred yards something weird starting happening with my left ski. My foot kept coming loose and the binding just wasn’t cooperating. I ended up taking both skis off, tossing them over my shoulder and simply enjoying the walk.

After I got home I looked closely at the skis and realized that one of the bindings was missing a piece. No worries, until I could it repaired I could use skis that belonged to the Lilly boys. Jeter and I got back out to the golf course the next day. Imagine my annoyance surprise when I realized that these skis also had a malfunctioning binding. The good news that day was that I discovered the problem before I attempted to ski. I put the skis back in the car and, again, we took a walk.

A local ski shop suggested I check out LL Bean for replacement bindings and I headed there bright and early the 27th. I got lucky and was assisted by a super knowledgeable salesperson. I didn’t catch his name but he really knew his stuff and he was more helpful than any other ski salesperson I’ve worked with in the past. The replacement bindings he had available were clearly not great quality and he offered to mount bindings that I might buy somewhere else. Unfortunately, the nearest locations to purchase the NNN bindings I needed was more than a 30 minute drive and I wanted to ski NOW.

The salesman and I talked about the life expectancy of a pair of cross country skis and the cost of new boots, which I needed. My boots had been splitting at the seams for the past three years and I had tossed them at the end of last year’s season. The boys’ boots were about a size and a half too big, but I had planned to make them work until I had a chance to replace my own. Impulsively, I asked how much it would cost to put me in a completely new set of skis…

Twenty-five minutes (and $360) later I walked out of LL Bean with a completely new ski package. The shopping experience was great and I love my skis. This equipment is exactly what I’ve been looking for in terms of ski length and width for the kind of skiing I do on mostly ungroomed trails and Jeter and I have been tearing up the golf course every chance we’ve had since. Maybe we’ll see you there!

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Exercise, favorites, Local, Recommendations, snow, Uncategorized, winter, x-country skiing

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

Crying with a “purpose” and laughing when “life is beautiful”

9FFEF99C-3B5B-4088-8289-19E0167F6853A Dog’s Purpose” crushed me. I knew it was a bad idea to watch this movie, yet cuddled on the couch with my boy, I thought I’d make it through ok. I didn’t. It’s probably time for me to accept the fact that I can’t tolerate watching animals or humans, particularly children, being mistreated and dying. It guts me. It probably started with “Old Yeller,” a classic book turned movie that ended, for me, with a horrific gunshot. I understand that the movie actually ends with a new puppy and some happiness, but, by the time that final scene occurred, I was already in my room crying into my pillow.

How Jeter and I slept after watching “A Dog’s Purpose.”

After watching “A Dog’s Purpose, “Old Yeller” seems almost  cloyingly sweet. You see, unlike the dog in the more recent movie, Old Yeller mercifully only had to die once. The only thing worse for me than watching the same dog die multiple times is my newfound and overwhelming feeling that Jeter is narrating our life together. Thanks to that damn movie I keep wondering if my dog is sharing his thoughts and experiences like Bailey did. If he is, I hope that it’s a good story he’s telling.

Speaking of good stories, the Italian film “Life is Beautiful” is one that will remain with you long after the final credits role. Although the movie is more than 20 years old, the impact of the story and the performances remains vivid and I strongly encourage you to watch it whether it’s your first time or your tenth. Humor and the holocaust don’t go together in a single sentence often, but this film manages to combine the two into a tour de force that touched me deeply.

If you’re not familiar with “Life is Beautiful” the movie, set in Italy during WW II, tells the story of a Jewish waiter, Guido, who works to hide the reality of concentration camp life to his young son by presenting their situation as a game they must try to win. His commitment to making the best of their circumstances to protect his child and assure his wife of their well being is inspiring. The depth of love he exhibits for his wife and child in many ways transcends the horrors of their circumstances and managed to lift my heart despite the film’s inherent sadness. I need to watch this movie more frequently. It is simply beautiful – watch it with your family over the holidays.

Have you seen either (or both) of these movies? What movie makes you cry?

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Filed under favorites, Movies, Observations, Recommendations

Friday night at S & S Farm Brewery

F0E15BAC-3120-4965-BA64-9C6AEE710813Back in the day when I owned a restaurant, we had a collection of draft beverages of which I was pretty proud. We worked with local brewers and brought in small production brews that our guests really enjoyed. One of my favorite breweries, S & S Farm Brewery in Nassau, consistently produces some great beer and I always enjoyed working directly with family members when I needed a delivery.

I’ve heard that they throw a good party and for a long time now, I’ve wanted to get out to the farm to check out one of their events. Friday night, I finally got it together and wrangled two of my three sons into the car and headed east at about 5:45, having been warned that it gets crowded. Not an exaggeration, we would come to learn.

The ride out was stunning. I have a lot of really great memories that involve driving Route 20, but I’d not driven on Jefferson Hill Road before and it was so very pretty. The foliage and the old homes definitely had me considering if city life was as superior as I always think it is…

Upon arrival we were directed towards a parking area which was a short walk from the tasting room, tables, band and food. I had been warned that these Friday night things are popular, but I was stunned by the size of the crowd. There were probably 500 people there! Everyone we talked to was super nice and we got to spend some time chatting with a few folks as we waited in line to place our Burger21 order. Of course, being a practical person, I had thrown $20 to my kids and suggested they get soup or hot dogs from the second food truck since there wasn’t a line for the more simple fare being sold, while I grabbed a beer inside. With all of us placated, we committed to the approximately 40 minute wait for our excellent burgers and baskets of fries.

The food, my Brown Chicken Brown Ale and the setting were perfect. It’s been a particularly beautiful October and last night’s star filled sky was exceptional. I can’t imagine there was a better place to spend a couple of hours last night than exactly where I was. Let’s go again!

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Filed under beer, Boys, favorites, Local, Recommendations, road trips, upstate New York