Tag Archives: favorites

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

My life’s soundtrack – my top 50 at 50

Music is an amazing thing – it soothes, excites, inspires, comforts, stimulates and impresses me more than any other art form.  There are songs that take me back to specific moments in my life like no other time machine I’ve ever known and guitar solos that still make me shake my head with wonder. Below I’ve shared 50 of my favorites that will always be on my personal playlist, be it for the tune, the time they recapture or the story the words tell. Each and every one of these songs means something to me and made it onto this list after more thought and consideration than I ‘d like to admit. How about you? What’s your life soundtrack sound like?

1. Is That All There Is? – Peggy Lee
2. Ain’t But One Way Out – Allman Brothers
3. Ain’t Wasting Time No More – Allman Brothers
4. Second Hand News – Fleetwood Mac
5. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
6. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
7. You Make Loving Fun – Fleetwood Mac
8. Oh Daddy – Fleetwood Mac
9. Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac
10. Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
11. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2
12. With or Without You – U2
13. Running to Stand Still – U2
14. In God’s Country – U2
15. Save Me – Aimee Mann
16. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
17. Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye
18. Trouble Man – Marvin Gaye
19. Hold On – Alabama Shakes
20. Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
21. Voodoo Child – Jimi Hendrix
22. If 6 Was 9 – Jimi Hendrix
23. A Sunday Kind of Love – Etta James
24. At Last – Etta James
25. I’m on Fire – Bruce Springsteen
26. American Girl – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
27. Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs
28. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over – Jeff Buckley
29. Just a Little Lovin’ – Shelby Lynne
30. Edge of Seventeen – Stevie Nicks
31. Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked – Cage the Elephant
32. Can’t Find My Way Home – Blind Faith
33. Breakdown – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
34. Lover Lay Down – DMB
35. So Much to Say – DMB
36. Gravity – John Mayer
37. What’d I say, Pt 1 & 2 – Ray Charles
38. The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand
39. Girl on Fire – Alicia Keyes
40. Young Americans – David Bowie
41. Justify My Love – Madonna
42. A Moment Changes Everything – David Gray
43. Thing of Beauty – Hothouse Flowers
44. Nobody’s Fault But Mine – Led Zeppelin
45. Changed the Locks – Lucinda Williams
46. I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons
47. Heart of Gold – Neil Young
48. Just Breathe – Pearl Jam
49. Let’s Go Crazy – Prince
50. Waiting on a Friend – Rolling Stones

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Filed under aging, birthdays, favorites, Music

Man Crush Monday – Massimo Bottura

imageOver the summer, I did a little more than my usual television watching. It was too hot to do anything else, people. Don’t judge!  I binge watched the entire Breaking Bad series, finally finished Downton Abbey and, on my chiropractor’s recommendation, blew through Grace and Frankie. I don’t regret the hours I spent on the couch with the remote nearby, but I do wish I had devoted more time to another Netflix series, Chef’s Table. I mean, if I had, I could have spent longer mooning over Massimo Bottura…

Despite working in restaurant for decades, I’ve never dated a chef, (hmmm, maybe that’s because I’ve worked in restaurants for decades?) but this Massimo guy is absolutely dreamy. He’s handsome, funny, beyond creative in the kitchen, appreciative of his employees, generous  and madly in love with his wife. Pretty much the ideal guy.

Read this article, preferably with a hunk of good Parmesan-Reggiano and a glass of wine.  I think you’ll like him, too. Do you have a chef crush?

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Filed under Cooking, favorites, Food, Restaurants, television, Uncategorized

Ain’t but one way out

imageIf we’ve seen each other in the past week or two, you know exactly where this is going… I am currently obsessed with the Allman Brothers. Like, really, really obsessed. First, some history – I’m lucky enough to have seen the band in its various incarnations, probably a half dozen times, mostly at SPAC. I’ve always had a great time at their shows, but never really considered myself a huge fan of the band. Until I read Gregg Allman’s 2012 autobiography, that is.

Yep, it started with a book. I’ve read a lot of rockstar autobiographies over the years, and My Cross to Bear ranks pretty damn high on my list of best rock and roll life stories. It’s kind of weird because I was so excited a few years ago to read Keith Richards’ book and pretty much hated it. A similar thing happened when I attempted to read Neil Young’s book. Ugh, I thought it sucked. I never finished either of them, for the record.

This book, though? It was hard to put down. The opening pages describe the state of absolute intoxication Gregg was drowning in during the band’s induction ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I was immediately sucked in. This is what I want to read about when I’m learning about a musician’s life – sex, drugs and rock and roll. I don’t want to know about Neil Young’s obsession with trains and cars. I’m not interested. Tell me more about opening up for the friggin Doors on your first trip to Cali, Gregg. I’m all about that!

The book is a super fast read, filled with anecdotes, struggles, shows and wisdom that can only come from life experience. So, if you see me and I feel compelled to share a tidbit or two about what I learned about the Allman Brothers, bear with me. I’m sure I’ll move on soon enough, but until then, I’ll be cranking At Fillmore East. You should, too.

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Filed under Books, Music, Recommendations, SPAC

Millions of (bad tasting) peaches

imageI don’t know when it happened but it seems that finding a delicious peach has become a challenge on par with picking the trifecta at Saratoga. I mean, your odds of buying a flavorful, juicy peach are even less favorable than that of a thoroughbred surviving a hot summer season in the Spa City.

After buying too many bad peaches from the grocery store, I’ve given up on peaches which do not come from a farmstand or farmer’s market. I’ve been stalking the Troy Farmers’ Market the last few weeks sniffing around for my favorite summer fruit, but seem to have been a bit premature in my hunt. I did, however, score some amazing ricotta cheese from R&G which we paired with local blueberries, honey, candied pecans and chocolate mint from St Anne’s Institute for a dynamite dessert at Lark + Lily. But, I digress…image

Yesterday, though, my perseverance paid off. I stopped at my favorite farmstand, Burger’s on Route 7, and found exactly what I been dreaming about – a luscious, succulent peach. It was the perfect size, not overly large, and the ideal temperature, not refrigerated. My first bite was juicy and sweet, unlike the mealy, dry peaches I’ve suffered through this summer. I sat in my car and devoured it with glee. Nirvana! Get some.

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Gardens, Local, Recommendations, Summer, 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