Tag Archives: restaurants

Holiday parties

“What holidays?” you ask? Well, in this instance I’m talking about the big ones – Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. While each of these may seem like ancient history to non-hospitality folk, we at Lark + Lily celebrated these occasions just last week. It’s how we do it.

From an epic Yono's/Stone Ends holiday party.

From an epic Yono’s/Stone Ends holiday party.

Some of my favorite memories from my days working for Donna & Yono Purnomo revolve around the staff parties they generously sponsored for us back in the day. There were a couple of years when our Yono’s crew was treated to a fabulous holiday party at Dale Miller’s Stone Ends. We gussied up like nobody’s business and were feted by a staff who indulged us beautifully. We, of course, reciprocated when they came to our place for their party. Really good times.

Last Sunday, the entire L+L staff headed to Ocean Palace on Central Avenue to celebrate a successful holiday season. We selected this casual; mostly take out spot because we’re all fans of their food and we’re in agreement that supporting a (practically) neighbor’s business is what we’re all about. It was an excellent decision.

Whole flounder, salt and pepper

Whole flounder, salt and pepper

Because we’re industry people and we understand the challenges of essentially having a walk-in table of 14 (significant others were included in our party), we ordered some items in advance to give Peter, the chef-owner, a headstart. After consultation with staff and Ocean Palace, we went with the following:

· A variety of dumplings, vegetarian, pork, shrimp, fried and steamed.
· Squid with salt and pepper – a personal favorite of many of us.
· Scallion pancakes.
· Chinese “bacon” which was essentially pork belly. We ordered a second one as soon as the first one hit the table.
· Sautéed stringbeans.
· A whole flounder prepared salt & pepper style – very impressive!
· Roast duck chow fun
· Shrimp with pan fried noodles.

Chinese bacon

Chinese bacon

I had imagined “fleshing” things out once we were actually at the restaurant, but, I actually nailed it in terms of how much food would satisfy. We were pleasantly satiated with the amount of food we had been served and didn’t feel the need to add anything to our order. However, there are definitely things on that menu that we still need to explore and I don’t think anyone from Lark + Lily would protest a return to this quality spot. It was worth the wait!

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Dinner, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, holidays, Local, Restaurants, sunday

17 Things to love about Valentine’s Day 2017

16715920_1844113935853351_7426409160263547542_o• When the 14th of February falls on a Tuesday.
• Speaking of falling – no additional snow falling.
• A great menu created and executed by a professional kitchen – thanks, John & Zach & Ben.
• Competent and attentive front of the house staff – I’m talking about you, Jackie, Jammella & Trudy.
• A tightly mapped seating chart with 2 hour turns for every table.
• Appreciative walk ins who are grateful and work with what you can offer them.
• Solo diners who are comfortable enough to dine with you on the biggest couple night of the year.
• Guests who span the spectrum – white, black, brown, straight and gay. I’m really proud of the diverse clientele we have at Lark + Lily.
• Music that set the mood beautifully – thanks, Trudy!
• Friends stopping in for dessert.
• Mild weather and cozy fireplaces.
• A sense of relaxed pleasure wafting through the dining rooms.
• Finding the perfect card for your honey at Elissa Halloran’s.
• A steady stream of pleasant people populating our bar.
• Guests thanking you for providing them with a place they love to visit.
• Having the prettiest Valentine’s menus ever! Thanks, Lori Hansen & Laura Glazer.   16716184_1844117485852996_4174399207922838321_o
• Finishing the night with something bubbly and pink.

16797713_1844175939180484_5675353717826130564_oAnd one thing not to love – please, please, please have the decency to call and cancel your reservation if your plans change. Having an empty table that might have been filled by someone looking to celebrate is really frustrating. On a related note, if you are going to be more than 20 minutes late for your reservation, I’d suggest calling to let the restaurant know. After 20 minutes (without a phone call), your table becomes mine again.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, holidays, Local, love, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine, winter

Marching, standing and drinking with Planned Parenthood

16113451_1831724210425657_4305376017481846366_oYesterday afternoon, as I met with a representative from the Alliance for Positive Health to discuss our involvement with their annual event,* Dine Out for Life, I learned that we had received a voice mail cancelling a reservation for that night. It seems that the caller had reconsidered spending their money in my business because of something that offended them on one of our social media platforms. Scrolling through our feeds, I can only conclude that our support for the Women’s March, and Planned Parenthood specifically, conflicted with their own beliefs.

My initial reaction was one of angry disdain – screw them, whatever. After 12 hours of contemplation, I’m reconsidering my response and I’ve been able to transition to respectful acceptance. I understand that it is hypocritical for me to mock anyone for their political or religious beliefs. If I allow myself to fall into that trap, I’m truly no better than the current President and I refuse to fall to that level.

I’d like to think that all of us make thoughtful choices about how and where we spend our dollars. I know I do. Owning a business along with a series of social/political beliefs can be challenging and it’s probably inevitable that we will alienate some potential guests with, ironically, our spirit of acceptance. I imagine the folks who cancelled their plans to dine with us were able to find a destination that they deemed more palatable than the one we offered to them. I hope they enjoyed their evening as much as the 44 guests who purchased our Saturday night cocktail special, Pussycat Punch, enjoyed their drinks or close to as much as I enjoyed writing that donation check to Planned Parenthood.

*More about that April 27, 2017 event as it gets closer.

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, Lark Street, politics, Restaurants

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

Whole hog at The Purple Pig

img_0489One of the best parts of being a runner is the license it gives one to eat. Believe me, pushing through a ten mile run is a lot easier when you know that the evening’s meal is a reward worth working towards. My second Chicago run led me along the lake, north of the Navy Pier and then back down Michigan Avenue and finally, to my hotel. I was in no rush and genuinely enjoyed the experience, wrapping things up with some time in the sauna and a relaxing shower.

Ready to eat, I headed up town to The Purple Pig, planning to make my way to the bar in a restaurant that I imagined would be busy during prime time on a Saturday night. Once again, I got lucky and scored a prime spot (at the far left of the bar – a lefty’s dream) within minutes. The interior was a bit more casual than The Girl and the Goat and the style of ordering was also different. My server suggested ordering a single course at a time, which offered more flexibility to change my mind as I caught glimpses of dishes being served around me. Menu in hand, I consulted with the bartender about how hungry I was and for what I had a hankering.

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fullsizerender-2Breaking with expectations, I ordered a bottle of Clos Normand Brut cider from Normandy rather than wine. It was the perfect accompaniment to my meal and gave me a pleasant buzz without the fogginess that I get when I drink more than two glasses of wine. It was particularly tasty with my first course – a liver pate served with crostini and a small mound of greens on the side. The cider cut through the creamy and delicious fat and danced on my tongue with happiness as the flavors reminded me of my time in France last year. It was the ideal way to start my meal.

fullsizerender-3I followed the pate with Patatas Bravas, the Pig’s take on tater tots. These were really good, but didn’t give me the same level of joy that the potatoes at Brava in Lenox had provided a couple of months ago. I think I’d try a different veggie next time, especially if I was going to revisit the octopus which is served with fingerling potatoes and green beans. The octopus was beautifully charred, smoky and tender and matched with a salsa verde that radiated freshness. It was a stellar preparation and I absolutely housed that plate. Fantastic.

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fullsizerenderBecause a meal out is incomplete without dessert, I indulged myself with their version of a lemon bar and was thrilled with my plate. Tart and refreshing with a wonderful texture, it was truly memorable and went surprisingly well with the last of my cider. Dinner, including tip, was a $100, which I found reasonable for the quality of the meal and service. If I lived in Chicago I could see myself becoming a regular at this spot, like the man who sat next to me at the bar. Just like the city itself, there were lots of things on that menu left to explore. I can’t wait to go back.

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Filed under Chicago, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel

The Girl and the Goat and I

img_0454Heading into Chicago I had only a few intentions – to run, to eat and to nap, all on my own schedule. Knowing that the city had no shortage of great restaurants, I decided to do my best to make it to a couple of them, without making reservations or arrangements in advance. I didn’t want to be pinned down to a specific time, preferring to satisfy my appetite when it demanded attention, and I was fairly confident that as a single I’d be able to belly up to the bar for a meal without too long of a wait. It worked.

I made my way uptown to the Girl and the Goat on the train, deciding my nearly 11 mile run was enough exercise for the day. Upon arriving, I was greeted and shepherded to the hopping bar area. As I prepared to order a drink, my veteran restaurant eyes assessed a soon to be open seat and I quickly swooped in to grab it. Seated in less than 5 minutes, I settled in with menus and consulted with a bartender to come up with an order. alsace

After determining that I was free to take any remaining wine with me, I selected an Alsatian Gewürztraminer, a wine that I enjoy and find to be food friendly. With my server’s guidance, I selected a number of items from the menu, ordering everything at once as is the preference in the restaurant.

sweetFirst up were the blue cheese sweet potato pierogis accompanied with a mushroom ragout, mushroom crema and fried capers and finished with microgreens. The flavors were beautifully balanced – earthy, pungent, salty and sweet and the texture of the pierogi was firm in a way that reminded me of samosa more than pasta. Delicious.

beans

I followed with some vegetables – green beans with a fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews. I’d say these were the most perfectly cooked green beans I’ve ever had in my life – firm, yet with an easy give, the bowl disappeared into my mouth with barely restrained haste. Again, the textures were spot on and the portion size was generous.

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My final savory course was the crispy pork shank, which was served on an individual cutting board along with a buttermilk dressing, grilled spring onion kimchee and naan. There was also a hot sauce and pickled carrot ribbons rounding out the plate in a cheeky nod to Buffalo style chicken wings. As I was still finishing up the green beans (I’m a slow eater!), the pork was placed slightly to the left of my bar space and after a few moments a server came by and “cracked” my shank open to reveal the moist and tender insides of my meat course. I was starting to slow down a little, but managed to eat nearly all of the pork appreciating the server’s instructions to use the naan to make mini sandwiches. I think I scarfed down 3 or 4 before deciding I really needed and deserved dessert.

dessertThe caramel corn and malt balls – vanilla malt gelato, popcorn caramel and chocolate magic shell, was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. There was crunch in abundance along with sweet and buttery sensations which had my mouth popping – fantastic!

Service was attentive without being invasive and my wine was kept chilled with my glass never empty. The view of the kitchen added to the meal and I enjoyed watching the kitchen crew working through what appeared to be a perennial slam. Satiated, without being stuffed,  my remaining wine (nearly a half bottle) was bagged and I happily paid my check ($120 with tip and a $44 bottle of wine) and called for an Uber. Well done, Chicago.

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Filed under Chicago, drinking, Eating, Food, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, Wine

Is Chicago my kind of town?

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

Last summer I made plans to go to Niagara Falls and Toronto with my kids for a few days. We’d never been and it seemed like a cool and economical getaway. I made hotel reservations and enthusiastically crowd sourced for some tourist recommendations. Then my two older sons got jobs. Plural. Not one to complain about employed children, I cancelled the trip and instead took my youngest down to NYC for a couple of days. That slacker doesn’t have a job, but I suppose he is only 11. Soon enough, little man.

A few weeks after the change in plans, I ended with both a Southwest voucher and a credit on my credit card, a situation which I immediately interpreted as a sign from the universe to buy a plane ticket. I reached out to my posse of friends, a number of whom were also celebrating a milestone birthday this year, to gauge interest in taking a weekend trip somewhere. While there was interest, it didn’t translate into action, so I decided it was time for me to take my first ever multiple night solo – Chicago, here I come!

So, I’ve got three nights in Chicago coming up in a few weeks and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of the things there are to do! The luxury of traveling alone means I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to, which is pretty amazing. Knowing myself, I see my days being structured kind of like this:

  • Wake up, get out and do something.
  • Go back to the hotel for a nap.
  • Take a run.
  • Take a shower.
  • Go out and eat something tasty.

I imagine there will be alcohol involved, at times, too.

The two things I definitely want to do are the architectural boat tour and an art museum or two. I know there are a million places to eat, but I’m most interested in places where I can eat at the bar.

What can you tell me about Chicago?

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Filed under art, drinking, Eating, ideas, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine