Americans 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.
Holy 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.
This 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!
Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, Random, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, vacation
I don’t think I’ve ever been so prepared for a trip before. I’ve been basically packed and ready for almost a week already and I’m actually looking forward to Penn Station because it gets me more near to Newark Airport which makes me that much closer to Rome…
Since time seems to moving at a pace which will surely be acceptable when I’m in Rome, but which I find to be excruciatingly slow while waiting for that to happen, I’ve spent the weekend watching films that are set in Rome. First up was the biggest disappointment – The Da Vinci Code. Truth be told, I saw this movie years ago and I was being way too optimistic to believe that focusing on the scenes set in Rome would be enough to salvage what is essentially a terribly cast adaptation of a book I enjoyed. Lesson learned. Next.
A Special Day, a Carlo Ponti film starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni rocked my world with its incredible performances, camera angles and emotion. The Roman background was overshadowed by the wrenching story told, but I am so glad this movie came into my life. The scene on the rooftop with the laundry left me breathless. Thank you, Google search, for such a great find.
The final movie, Eat, Pray, Love was also a repeat for me, yet unlike Da Vinci Code this one did actually offer more for me the second time around. Somehow I had completely forgotten all of the preliminary action which occurred prior to Elizabeth Gilbert’s arrival in Rome, but that’s one of the funny things about revisiting a book or movie, isn’t it? What you take away is directly related to what you bring and that changes as life changes. What most excited me last night while watching this movie was the sense of injesting Rome – the pasta, the gelato, the scenery, the people, the language… I’m hungry and ready.
Many of the books I read are written for young adults. These include lots of realistic fiction, some fantasy and adventure titles, as well as the occasional nonfiction title. A new box of books arrived the other day in my library – something which still excites even after more than two decades on the job, and I helped myself to a couple of new titles, including The 57 Bus a nonfiction book by Dashka Slater.
You know when you’re reading a book and you find yourself thinking and even talking about it? Well, this is that kind of book. Slater deftly tells the story of two very different teenagers who ride the same city bus for a life changing 8 minutes. She tells the story in brief chapters, a technique I found very effective and one that helps makes the facts related more easily digested. One afternoon on the bus an event occurs during that shared ride which impacts both of their lives, an event which began as a simple prank yet grew to become an incident defined by some as a hate crime.
Oakland, California is a diverse city of 400,000 residents with a wide range of economic levels represented. It has, at times, been cited as the most violent city in America with gangs and guns present in many neighborhoods of the city’s nearly 80 square miles. Oakland was the home of both Sasha and Richard.
Sasha, a teenager who identifies as agender and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, is an intelligent young person with a supportive family and a solid group of friends They (the pronoun they use for themself) attend an alternative high school, wear garments that are typical for both males and females, and are committed to living a life which feels reflective on the exterior of what they are experiencing on the inside.
Richard is a black teenager being raised by his young mom and stepfather in a stable family in a struggling neighborhood. Although he gets into some legal trouble as a juvenile, he is essentially a typical, unmotivated high school boy in an urban school district. The reckless act Richard commits against Sasha is unspeakably horrific, yet not premeditated or truly intended and he in many ways ends up just as scarred as they do.
Reading about the encounter between Sasha and Richard left me breathless and with an aching heart. This is a powerful story that will stay with readers. Read this.
Earlier this month, my oldest son and I went to the city and got us some culture. It began with a cheap (less than $120 for the night) hotel way downtown, which became an afternoon performance at the Met, a Downton Abbey exhibit and visit to the super cool oculus. Our time in NYC coincided with some of the coldest weather of the year (decade?) and we were lucky enough to have some surprisingly good options for dinner nearby in an area that has not always been known for evening dining options. On a friend’s recommendation we decided to give the just-around-the-corner Dead Rabbit try. Here’s how it went…
First of all, I had no idea that this place was so highly regarded. How highly regarded is it? Well, it was dubbed the Best Bar in the WORLD in 2016!
Reading the various reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor also informed me that the space is divided into 3 floors with the middle and upstairs floors requiring entry from a staff member. While the first floor Taproom would have sufficed had I been on a date (as it seemed that many of the pairs surrounding us were), the second floor Parlor was where I set my sights. I had gotten the impression that it might have a bit more elbow room than was available downstairs. I requested seating on the second floor and within 15 minutes, and about midway through my delicious warm Clontarf punch, we were ushered to two seats at the cocktail bar in the Parlor.
My immediate impression? There was so much to check out! Interesting looking people, walls covered in memorabilia, along with an impressive array of small bottles containing various cocktail ingredients provided a visual feast. We were presented with the current cocktail list – a graphic novel telling the story of original Irish gangsters with drinks inspired by their exploits, and adorable little teacups of a special punch. I drank them both since my son is 20 for another 6 weeks and I’m not one to waste good alcohol. The small food menu provided options that were well matched with the frigid weather and overall classic vibe and we selected the fish & chips for my son and the chicken pot pie for me and settled in at the bar. The lighting, music and warmth of the space combined to make a very comfortable spot to spend a couple of hours – at least for me. Liam’s stay was a bit more brief.
Our meals were served piping hot and appropriately portioned for the price. My son polished off his plate completely, while I couldn’t quite manage my entire meal opting instead to sample another concoction created by the friendly and professional bar staff. Not finding exactly what I wanted on their list, I requested a bourbon cocktail with a Manhattan-esque flair and was rewarded with a beautifully balanced drink that was precisely what I was seeking. This is a terrific spot despite all the hype that surrounds it. Check it out!
Filed under art, Boys, Dinner, drinking, Irish, Music, NYC, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, winter
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.
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!
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?