The best part of the experience, aside from the company.
We stopped in at a little joint Sunday afternoon down in the West Village, Tortilla Flats, hereafter referred to as the place with the worst service. Ever.
Our party of three arrived at what I think of as the “shoulder season” of dining hours, around 3:30 or so. There was a distinct lack of greeting after we entered, but the bartender finally acknowledged us and directed us to the lone waiter, Mr Frazzled and Angry. Just like his hair. He agreed to seat us and selected the only unoccupied dirty table. Naturally, it needs to be bussed and wiped, which he did in between other tasks. His sense of prioritizing was poor.
We sat and perused the menu, giving the margarita list the bulk of our attention. We selected a path to tequila awareness (Sauza Hornitos) and waited for the server’s return. We waited a long ass time, actually. We waited so long that we finally sent a representative to the bar to place the order directly with the bartender. In a remarkably rapid fashion, the server brought us our pitcher, with the correct number of glasses salted (2 out of 3) and garnished with limes. Drinking commenced.
About midway through our first drinks we again flagged the server down to place an order for nachos with sides of guacamole and salsa. A short time later we received our nachos, which were unlike any nachos I’ve ever been served. They were flat, looking more like a quesadilla than a pile of crispy chips topped with cheese and beans and whatnot. For clarification we inquired if we had been served the correct item and to remind the server that we had also ordered a couple of sides and that utensils, plates and napkins would be helpful. With a remarkable level of surliness for a human being over the age of 16 or so, he retrieved our guacamole and salsa, but no plates or napkins.
At this point we were drinking our second drinks on fairly empty stomachs. You see, we didn’t have plates or napkins or utensils with which to eat our food. Even though those are all obviously, to most, considered essential items when consuming food. Eventually, once the ray of sunshine who was our “server” had cleared a neighboring table (which was unoccupied) and stood at the bar for a few minutes, we received plates and napkins. Silverware never was provided. The (finger)food was tasty.
My commitment at that particular moment in time was weighted heavily in favor of the tequila, so I elected to not sit that kid down to painstakingly itemize all of the lapses in service which he had committed. Our interlude ended on a high note when the waiter inquired how everything was – a question he posed for the first and only time as we paid the check. We were able to exit the restaurant laughing, a state I don’t imagine he was able to replicate with the paltry, yet still generous, 15% tip we left for him. At least there’s always tequila, buddy.
The window on Val-Kill’s door.
A long delayed return to Hyde Park finally occurred last weekend as history buff, Liam and I spent the afternoon visiting the Hudson Valley. The primary purpose of the trip was to see Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage retreat. I wasn’t aware of this lovely property prior to Liam and I touring the FDR mansion a year or so ago. Seems that Eleanor’s mother-in-law, Sara Delano, was a bit of a controlling influence in the FDR/ER marriage and Eleanor needed an escape hatch. Thus, Val-Kill came to be.
Our visit took about 90 minutes and included a brief movie in a blessedly air conditioned outbuilding and an organized tour of the home. We also checked out the cutting garden, but did not take the trek to Franklin’s Top Cottage up the hill. Seems Liam was not feeling the 1 mile uphill trek. We wouldn’t have been able to view FDR’s cottage, other than from the outside, due to budget cuts anyway. I’m not embarrassed to admit to being a bit awestruck to walk through the same modest threshold through which JFK and countless other politicians and dignitaries had passed. History can be so cool when there aren’t boring tests to complete or dates to memorize! The cottage was cozy with lots of wood and walls covered haphazardly in family photos and framed holiday cards. There was zero pretension or formality.
We made a quick stop over at the FDR library, but were one day premature for the reopening of what is our country’s first presidential library. There were a couple of rooms of photo exhibits which we both found really interesting and revealing and I know we’ll get back there (maybe in the fall?) to take in the renovated library in its entirety.
Our final stop was for lunch. Since we’re both fans of tacos, we Yelped to locate a nearby joint. Leave it to my son to pick the place that
- A. Didn’t have margaritas
- B. Only accepted cash and
- C. Was really close to the train station and thus offered an opportunity for checking out trains
Taking all of this into account, he did good and we had a terrific lunch for cheap at El Azteca. We went with two chicken quesadillas and the fish taco special with a side of guacamole. Our order, along with a coke and a delicious lime Mexican soda set us back $17. Yes, $17. The food was delicious! Everything was super fresh, tasty and served piping hot. I know where I’m stopping next time I’m taking Metro-North to the city…
There are so many cool spots to visit in our beautiful Hudson Valley, don’t you think? What are your favorites? Tell me!!
Yet another benefit of drinking – flower boxes!
Screw Hallmark – as far as I’m concerned, May 5th was my ideal Mother’s Day. No matter what happens next Sunday, I will cherish the day I had, from the scandalously late start to the fortified-with-an-afternoon-nap late ending – perfect! Let me be a little more specific…
Saturday night, I shot a SEEN gallery down at Prime 677. The occasion was a fundraiser for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and it was a lovely event. The food was spectacular and the folks at Empire Wines rallied the troops to put on an extraordinary wine tasting. It’s been noted by some astute Times Union readers that whenever an event involves wine, I’m usually there. Guilty as charged.
I got home from the party working at about 10:30 only to find my little guy desperately upset that he had been denied a ‘s’more from the neighbor’s party, a situation I was able to correct with a soothing shower and some ice cream. Tucking him in at such a late hour gave me the first gift of Sunday – he slept until 10:00, which gave me an incredibly quiet morning. Soft music, strong coffee and the paper comprise my personal morning bliss trifecta. So far, so good.
After the boys departed at noon for their Dad’s, I got busy in the front yard with mulch and some annuals. The sun was glorious, birds were chirping and the simple joy of getting a little dirty made my heart sing. I had a mid afternoon visit from the person I most love spending time with and the day moved along at a pace that was completely enjoyable. I accomplished some other chores, including eating a fantastic lunch salad, and punctuated the afternoon with an indulgent nap on clean sheets. But, wait – there’s more.
Caesar salad with shaved Romano and grilled asparagus
As the day cooled down a bit, I tied on my running shoes and hit the streets for a 5-mile lap through the neighborhood. I had intended to go a bit further, but contented myself with not pushing myself too hard and tried to just enjoy myself. Done. A shower, a quick visit with the neighbors for a glass of wine and then home again for finale of the only reality show I would ever want to be on, The Amazing Race, and I was in bed by 10:15, thoroughly relaxed and satisfied with my day.
There weren’t any tulips or handmade crafts, but nonetheless it was a lovely day with a wonderful mix of boys, friends, productivity, relaxation and good food and wine. Mother’s Day 2013 is a done deal, as far as I am concerned. Any additional gifts are truly unnecessary, although I do have a fondness for the imperfectly made card along with a hankering for a French lilac bush. Just saying.
Filed under Albany, beauty, Boys, Coffee, DelSo, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Flowers, friends, Gardens, ideas, Local, love, running, SEEN, Spring, sunday, Wine
Yesterday was the first snow day my district has had this academic year – and it was well worth the wait. I understand that we don’t all have the luxury of a delayed start or the cancellation of our work day due to the weather and think you should know I am very appreciative of this career perk. I was so very thankful for yesterday’s surprise (2″-4″ was the forecast, I’d say 6″ or 7″ was the reality) snow day that I just might send my superintendent a thank you note. You know how I like to do that. Or, as my snow day, cross-country skiing partner in crime suggested, perhaps I should send that note of gratitude to the superintendent of my children’s district for not giving them the day off. I certainly have enough appreciation to spread it out, trust me.
As I spent my found day doing fun things, I realized that I had experienced a perfect snow day. Here are the factors which led me to that ultimate conclusion:
- The day off was completely unexpected. I would have been more than contented with a mere delay.
- Speaking of delays, the fact that the boys were delayed and I was off was an incredible gift. We had an easy morning and then there was quiet.
- Coffee with my favorite fellow was another unexpected treat.
- Skiing with one of my best hardcore exercise girls at Capital Hills on a day with incredible light and eventual warm temperatures. Spring skiing rocks!
- A terrific lunch at the golf course’s Club House. Seriously, the food was really good!
- Getting my Saturday chores done a day early. It almost feels like I was given 2 days!
- Afternoon coffee with my favorite fellow
- Making pizza with my boys
- A hot bath
- A reasonable bed time
The secret to homemade pizza? A HOT oven.
I hope you were able to enjoy the recent (bonus) snowfall but, if you didn’t, I think I had enough fun for both of us. You’re welcome!
Filed under Albany, beauty, Eating, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, pizza, Recommendations, skiing, snow, Uncategorized, winter, x-country skiing
On the second day of Christmas my second born was thrilled to receive two freshly filled cannoli from Cardona’s Market. This child, who doesn’t even like cheese, could not consume the lovely Italian pastries fast enough. I mean, the powdered sugar was flying as he gobbled them down, no joke. In addition to their delicious baked goods, Cardona’s offers everything necessary to make a slamming meal. Antipasti, high quality meats (Murray’s chickens!) and cheeses, soups, canned and packaged goods and a full spread of prepared items are all available. And the smell of the place! My goodness, you could practically satisfy a minor hunger with a lungful of Cardona’s succulent aroma! Whether it’s the ingredients for a fantastic lasagna recipe, some speciality items for a favorite hostess, (hint, hint) or a thoughtfully prepared lunch or dinner, Cardona’s is the perfect place any day of the year.
Filed under Albany, Christmas, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Eating, Food, holidays, ideas, Recipes, Recommendations, Uncategorized
A couple of weeks ago, I realized it was starting to feel like I hadn’t seen my bestie in a long time. Within hours, an indication of how psychically in tune we are, I got a text from her requesting a get together. We decided on a date and a destination and I immediately began to breathe easier.
Woodstock, one of our favorite girls’ rendezvous points, was our meeting place for a few hours of shopping, talking and eating. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon which had just transitioned from overcast to gorgeous – a perfect day to walk and talk at a relaxed pace. The Woodstock Film Festival was wrapping up and town was bustling with parking at a premium. We usually park for free, but on this beautiful day, parking set us back $5. After parking, we set out to hit up some of our favorite spots beginning with Jean Turmo.
I have a thing for good quality bath soap and I love soaps from Pre de Provence. I find it really difficult to find my most favorite fragrance (eucalyptus) but I also adore their sage, oatmeal and coco butter versions so I stocked up with a few large bars of indulgence. Pricy at $7.19 a bar, but they last for a long time and give me pleasure, so they’re worth the expense to me. The makeup counter at Jean Turmo is pretty awesome – they make their own line of cosmetics and I really like their lipsticks, so I added a new shade to my fall palette. Another thing they available is a line of shampoos and conditioners which you can have scented with essential oils to your personal specifications. One of my sons is a big fan of the tea tree oil conditioner and I plan to pick up a bottle for his Christmas stocking on my next trip down.
I was ridiculously pleased with myself that I remembered to bring along a necklace which I had originally purchased at Timbuktu, a lovely little shop in town. The beautiful beaded necklace had suffered from a run-in with a piece of furniture and had broken and strewn itself all over my dining room floor. I had collected as many of the beads as possible and had them restrung locally by my friend, Elissa, but I missed the original design and was hoping the artist could replicate the necklace’s former appearance. The jewelry maker, Jaime Surgill, was great and I hope to have my new/old necklace back in a couple of weeks.
Our lunch choice required a short drive south of town to the Little Bear, a Chinese restaurant that shares a parking lot with the Bear Cafe and the Bearsville Theater. I was concerned that they might be crowded because of the Film Fest but their location provided a buffer to the events in town and we scored a great table overlooking the stream without a problem. The food at this place is consistently great and the scallion pancakes have forever defined this delicacy for me. They are served piping hot with a delectable crisp exterior and are full of flavor. We also enjoyed a pot of house special soup (with pork and chicken and shrimp), an order of har kow and pork chow fun. Each item was delicious and our over-ordering indulgence provided me with Monday’s lunch.
Here – feast on these photos from our fun, delicious and productive afternoon:
More rolls, please!
Early in the summer I had a craving for an inexpensive, light lunch and remembered that Linh Diep from My Linh, had opened a place right in the area I happened to be. I am a huge fan of the simple fresh flavors of Vietnamese food, although I can’t claim a wealth of experience or knowledge of the cuisine. One of my favorite quick meals is a fresh summer roll from Kinnaree. I love the soft rice paper roll filled with chilled shrimp, basil and crunchy sprouts – especially when I dredge through some of that delicious peanut sauce. Oh, yes, good stuff!
That day in June I found a couple of things I really like at Pho Yum, one being a friend whose familiarity with Asian food far exceeds my own enjoying lunch, and the other being a terrific example of a fresh summer roll. Perfectly fresh, beautifully presented and exactly what I was looking for in a quick lunch. I knew I needed to get back there to sample more of the menu. The opportunity presented itself as summer, sadly enough, drew to a close when three of us, post-pedicures, stopped in for a tasty lunch.
A sandwich I feel good eating
Linh was on premises, as I imagine she often is, and she came to our assistance as we perused the menu. We ultimately went with a couple of summer rolls, (because I can’t imagine not ordering those) two versions of pho and a banh mi, all washed down with beautiful rich and creamy iced Vietnamese coffee. Everything we ate was balanced and perfectly seasoned. The food was hot, temperature-wise, and able to be spiced to individual preference. And fresh, remarkably fresh, as a matter of fact. Our server was sweet as she struggled with English, but still served us with grace and competence. There were no complaints, only happy sighs at our table and I very much look forward to getting back there as the season turns . I imagine pho must be one of the great comfort foods of a cold winter and I hope to warm up with the version that Pho Yum offers.
A note about complaints: it seems as if some of the Yelp reviews take issue with the pricing of what it essentially “street food.” I found our lunch for three to be very reasonably priced for the quality and quantity of food we were served. It is naive to think that “street food,” when served in a storefront, sit-down restaurant, complete with utility bills, dishwashers, servers and linens can compete pricewise with a menu served from a truck or cart. Come on, people, you know that.