Tag Archives: food

Mother’s Day moments, 2018

My posse

We’re not really big on Hallmark holidays, but I do indulge in playing the Mother’s Day card once a year. This year I was informed that I could say “but, it’s Mother’s Day” a total of only ten times before the phrase would lose its power to motivate my sons to do something for me. I think I got to number 8 on that before calling it a night. It was a good day weekend. Some highlights:

  • Arriving at home, after walking from work on Lark Street, to find one of my sons beginning to tackle the sink full of dishes left by his brothers.
  • Leisurely reading the NYT and TU at the dining room table while listening to the Spotify station of my choice.
  • Pancakes with strawberries, even if I had to make them myself.
  • A lovely gift. 
  • A few chores crossed off the list.
  • Throwing the ball around with my dog-son.
  • Catnapping on my deck in the sun.
  • Running 7+ miles with my Luna B*tch, Chrissy.
  • A little time spent in Washington Park with the tulips and lilacs.
  • Dinner with all 3 of my sons (sort of, one was working) at one of my favorite Albany spots, Cafe Capriccio.

    Of course I got the eggplant. 

  • Wrapping up the weekend by extending it to Monday with some satisfying yard work and a long phone call to one of my favorite moms.

    Isn’t mulch like magic?

I hope all you other Moms enjoyed your weekends as well.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Boys, Dinner, family, favorites, Flowers, Gardens, holidays, Local, moms, Restaurants, running, Spring, sunday, Uncategorized

Restaurant Navona

Last night my guys and I had dinner to celebrate middle son’s birthday. His birthday was actually on Monday, but he requested a Tuesday dinner because he felt that he would have more options from which to choose since many places are closed Mondays. This is what happens when you raise foodie kids.

We arrived on time for our 6:30 reservation and were seated after a couple of confusing moments. I’ve only been to Restaurant Navona on one other occasion and last night there seemed to be an event taking place which made it less than clear to me who to approach for seating. Once seated we were given menus, followed by water a few minutes later.

We were all hungry and made quick work of the menus selecting 3 starters followed by 4 main courses. Our server was very capable, but it seemed that she had quite a few tables and placing our order wasn’t accomplished until almost 7:00. We weren’t served bread or the glass of wine I had ordered for what felt like a long time, with the wine barely beating the appetizers to the table and the bread served after we were midway through our first course.

The prosecco I ordered was very sweet making me think I had perhaps been poured the asti spumante rather than what I requested. I drank it anyway. You would have too had you been out with my crew, believe me. Our first course was nicely presented and delicious. The evening’s special of grilled octopus served with beans, fennel and capers was perfectly cooked and tender. My Caesar salad was generously portioned and the bruschetta presentation was unique with the fresh ricotta, peperonata and tomatoes each being served on the side of a stack of very thinly sliced, crisp bread. The bread service was great – warm and oily focaccia with a smear of fresh ricotta and olive oil on the plate. It may have been the best focaccia I’ve had since I visited Genoa more than 20 years ago. I’d happily go back to Navona just to order that again.

Our main course followed very quickly behind our appetizers. The birthday boy had the pork chop, one of the night’s specials, which was accompanied by creamy spinach and roasted potato coins which he found lacking in salt, but I found perfect. The chop itself was beautifully cooked and of high quality but we both agreed that the spice rub was more a detraction than an embellishment.

My oldest son went with the evening’s fish special – roasted cod, faro, and greens. This was a simple dish and the quality of the ingredients and the skill in preparation was evident. My youngest had the Navona pizza with sweet Italian sausage added and he was quite pleased with his choice. The large dinner plate sized pizza was thin crusted with tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil. We all sampled it and agreed that it was a really nice pizza.

I had the gnocchi de pepi which was a risk knowing that it would never reach the level of the cacio e pepe that I fell in love with when I was in Rome. This preparation had the addition of “crispy artichoke hearts,” which I thought were unnecessary to the dish. (Also, they weren’t crispy by any stretch of the imagination.) I would have happily seen them replaced with more cheese and black pepper to suit my own personal taste. I ate about half of the dish, saving room for dessert and today’s lunch.

We finished with two orders of the carrot cake and a coconut cream tart. The carrot cake was an individual-sized loaf with plenty of piped frosting and praline pecans on the side and it was really outstanding. The tart was also very good, but didn’t quite reach the level of the one at Mio Posto although the crust was excellent. Desserts were served on rectangular slate “plates,” a choice we found to be consistent with some of the other unique decorative touches such as the plethora of clocks and pottery scattered about the restaurant. It seemed a little overdecorated to us, but we’re simple people.

Overall, we were impressed with the food, but would have preferred a bit more attention in terms of service. The table where we were seated was less than ideal with lots of traffic continually going back and forth. I think I’d be inclined to return for a bite at the bar or perhaps a table less in the middle of things. The food really was delicious, though, and judging from the crowd that was there last night, they’re doing well and I couldn’t be happier for them.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, Local, Restaurants, Spring

Deliver this love letter to 15 Church

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I had dinner last week for the first time ever at 15 Church. I’ve been there a number of times for drinks or something to eat on the patio, but as for sitting down and getting the full 15 Church soup to nuts treatment, well, this was my maiden voyage. It was so worth the wait.

We arrived at about 8:30, a little late for most places on a weeknight but 15 Church was still jumping. We were welcomed, ushered to a comfortable booth and given menus as well as a verbal recitation of the evening’s specials. So many delicious sounding options!

As we considered the offerings, the fella sipped his Paper Plane cocktail, adorably garnished with a tiny paper plane. A well-made bourbon cocktail really is a wonderful way to start a meal.

After a few minutes we came up with a plan – 2 appetizers, a salad of sorts and a single entrée to share. The fantastic warm bread service and amuse bouche of beef tartare provided a lovely start prior to our first official course, the fried oysters and an evening special of gorgeous tuna. I’ve had fried oysters, even really, really good fried oysters before, but these were on a whole other level. I would consider them to be a PhD dissertation in texture, flavor and presentation. Fantastic. The tuna was remarkably fresh with interesting accompaniments including charred pineapple. Personally, I would have preferred the tuna to be sliced thinner, but that’s just my preference, not a flaw by any means.

We were graciously served an unexpected midcourse of pasta with a flavorful ragu of rabbit and mushrooms. Surprisingly, this was the third time in a month that I’ve had a similar dish, the other occasions being while I was in Rome and more recently at MezzeNotte in Guilderland. All three renditions were perfectly seasonal and delicious, this particular plate contained the largest pieces of rabbit loin and, Easter bunny be damned – I’d eat this dish all year long.

The burrata was beautifully presented and a wonderful combination of a salad and cheese course to prep us for our final plate – the pork shank evening special. My fella hadn’t ever experienced a pork shank before and I’m so glad that his first was prepared as masterfully as the one we enjoyed together.  It was a marvel of rich flavor, tender yet with a barely discernible crunch to the exterior, and perfectly accompanied by a marsala reduction and whipped potatoes laced with more butter than I ever want to know about. An absolute revelation.

Our meal was accompanied by a wallet friendly Rioja and punctuated at its conclusion with an order of their famous fried to order donuts with a tiny chocolate mousse on the side. Because – why not? If you’ve made the excellent decision to indulge yourself, you’ve most definitely come to the right place.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Saratoga, upstate New York, winter

I ate (and drank) everything

(Let’s call this a throwback Thursday post. I started it last week on my final evening in Rome.)

It’s 8:00 in Rome and I’m starting to get hungry. The rain is pouring down, which makes my hope to go Enzo 29 again a bit soggy. I think I may need to stay closer to home on a night when the weather makes the prospect of waiting for a table at the perpetually busy Enzo more than a little discouraging. I’m out of wine so going out is my only option.

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But, first, what have I already enjoyed? The cream filled cornetto I had a few days back was pretty spectacular. Actually, all the pastry I’ve sampled have been perfecto. Not too sweet or overly large, but simply created from butter and spectacular dipped into a cappuccino.

I’ve had pasta – a lot. There was with delicate clams in Napoli, and Amatriciana, carbonara and cacio e pepe all from the same wonderful trattoria in Trastevere. Delicate duck filled ravioli and hearty rabbit ragu with paparadelle. Tender prosciutto and bresaola and the best friggin porchetta ever. Cheeses – fresh ricotta, something smoked from the provolone family and a burratta that almost made me cry. I enjoyed pizza margherita in Napoli, but it was trumped by the panini presented to me wrapped in paper and unlike any sandwich I’ve ever had before. There was also pizza in Rome at a special spot recommended by a local (to Albany) pizza aficionado called Bonci. The crust was like eating air.

Don’t worry – I ate my veggies, too, in the form of artichokes (both deep-fried and Roman style), sautéed chicory and other contorno. Oh! I also had zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and anchovies which were divinely addictive.

I drank the most simple of wines. Falanghina in Naples and the house bianco and rosso in the trattorias where I took my meals. Of course, I sipped prosecco and limoncello to bookend a dinner or two and I tasted amaro and found it to my liking as well. The highlight of my wine consumption came in a single glass of absolutely divine Amarone on my last night in Rome, the night I initially began to write this post just a week ago. My belly, and more importantly my soul, remains full. Te amo, bella Italy.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, travel, vacation

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

Trader Joe’s – when it’s your first time, you get flowers

I’m about to tell you something you may find surprising…despite my reputation as a bit of a “foodie,” until just a couple of weeks ago I had never been to Trader Joe’s. Truth. I know, I know, they “have the best prepared foods!” and the “produce is fantastic.” I’d heard it all, yet remained disinterested. The Wolf Road location always seemed like a clusterf*ck and I do all right with P Chops, Shop Rite and Honest Weight with the occasional Aldi foray. There really isn’t room in the rotation for another grocery store.

But, when a special friend invites a girl to a wonderful “new” place, she goes, right? And that’s how I found myself on a recent Sunday evening cruising the aisles of TJ’s for the very first time. First impression: we picked a good time to go. The parking lot was more empty than full and the store itself was surprisingly mellow. Despite my intention to merely browse, we had a full sized cart and plenty of time in case I changed my mind.

So, what did I walk out of there with? Although the produce looked good and more fairly priced than I had anticipated, I passed since I had already done my pre-Thanksgiving shopping and was set on fruits and veggies. The cheese and meats cases held my attention and I was unable to resist the sliced German smoked ham, at $3.99 for 4 oz it gave me a cheap olfactory trip to my Opa’s house in the Black Forest. Also in the cart were 2 bags of frozen potstickers (chicken and pork at $2.99 each), 2 bags of frozen seasoned corn (haven’t tried them yet), a bar of goat’s milk soap for my weirdo son who wanted goat’s milk, a large bottle of all-in-one shampoo/conditioner/body wash (just trying to cover the bases for my 12 y/o!) and 6-pack of something the guy selected. There might have been another item or three, but I honestly can’t remember – except, of course, for the sweet bouquet of flowers I received once our check out dude learned that it was my very first visit. Nice touch.

The takeaway – there were some cool things and most items were less expensive than I had anticipated. Am I going back? Well, if the fella asks again, of course! But, seriously, I do like the size of the store and the items I’ve purchased and sampled. There was definitely some other stuff that I’d be game to try, but I’m not in a big rush to go back. It’s kind of the same way I feel about places like Marshall’s – when I’ve got some extra time and money, I’m game to recreationally browse.

How about you? Are you a regular at Trader Joe’s? What should I get next time?

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, Food, Uncategorized

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