Tag Archives: restaurants

The wisdom of Antonio Banderas

imageAfter spending my first day in Barcelona, I can say I understand exactly what Antonio’s talking about. This place just stimulates the desire for languid pleasure and beautiful people and food are everywhere.

With blue skies above our heads and cobblestones below our feet we wandered around quite a bit yesterday. When it came time to eat, we approached the task of finding a restaurant with an attitude of nonchalance. It all looked pretty good and we were willing to try something new. For Griffin, it was a plate of meat for a late breakfast. He shared a bite of the brightly colored and flavored sausage, but gobbled the rest, saying that the tiny ribs were his favorite but everything on the plate was delicious and cooked perfectly.image

For dinner, which we began eating at 11 p.m., we wandered into a neighborhood spot that contained only 6 tables, although it appeared that the large table filled with either regulars or family, may have been a couple of small tables pushed together. Not being able to read Spanish wasn’t really a problem because we wanted traditional fare – jamon and paella.image

The ham was phenomenal and buried any other ham I’ve ever had. It was sliced beautifully thin with the perfect meat to fat ratio. It was tender, yet firm and had an overwhelming rich flavor of butter. Fantastic. The paella was exactly what I’ve always imagined paella to be – presented in a beautiful low pan and served to us at the table, it was an eye pleasing medley of shrimp, langoustine, mussels, slivers of squid with rice and small bites of red pepper. The fish was mind blowingly fresh and the shells on the shrimp were incredibly tender as we picked them up with our hands to suck every single morsel of deliciousness out.image

Good food was had and the wine I sampled – an intense rose in the afternoon and a simple white of unknown origin with dinner, was pretty damn good, too. From what I observed as we walked around, it seems that romance and sensuality is very much present with young and old couples showing affection and passion freely. Good sex seemed a distinct possibility. As for me, there was good sleep in the form of an hour long nap and a longer overnight rest. Antonio Banderas, and Spanish people in general, are on to something. Viva Espana!

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Filed under Eating, Europe, Food, Observations, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

Le Petit Bistro – Rhinebeck

imageHave you been to Rhinebeck?  Long before Hudson got cool, Rhinebeck was the destination for a Hudson Valley afternoon of fine eating and interesting shopping. The drive is lovely with many different roads which all lead there in a most scenic fashion, as I’ve experienced it, be it from the north, south or west and generally parking is available and free.  It’s worth the slightly over an hour trip from Albany for sure and I recommend it as a terrific day trip for any season.

Yesterday, after an aborted attempt to partake in the offerings at Terrapin Restaurant, Mary Lynn and I decided to try somewhere new and found the specials board at Le Petit Bistro to be quite enticing.  At just about 5:00 we made our way inside the cozy dining room and were offered a table in the front window near the door.  Although it was a less than warm afternoon, we were very comfortable with the temperature of the restaurant and never felt cold despite our proximity to the door.  It was a lovely table.

A chalkboard with the extensive list of specials was presented to us and a short while later a server came to provide details and descriptions of each of the items.  We ordered drinks – a cocktail for Mary Lynn and a glass of sparkling rose for me, and made decisions about food opting for a bowl of asparagus soup, a fish taco starter and the sea scallop entrée accompanied by ramp risotto and hericot vert and the Cuban pork plate with black beans and plantains.  Then we settled in to catch up with one another and enjoy our meal.

Fish tacos

Fish tacos

The fish tacos, two to a serving, were delicious with fresh flavors (cilantro!) and an assertively spicy kick.  Paired with the soup, they were a perfect starter and very shareable.

Scallops with ramp risotto

Scallops with ramp risotto

Our midcourse salad, served with all entrees, was a traditional French green salad with a simple and tasty vinaigrette clinging to the leaves.  I thoroughly enjoyed my entrée.  The scallops were beautifully prepared and the accompaniments heralded spring beautifully.  Unlike many risottos, cheese wasn’t a component and the result was a far lighter rendition of the dish than typical.  I swapped a bite with Mary Lynn for a taste of plantain.  I’m not a fan of bananas or plantains unless they’re cooked and my bite was exactly what I was hoping for – caramelized sweetness with a remaining firmness – delicious!  We finished with a butterscotch crème brulee and a couple of coffees before walking back to our cars and heading off in opposite directions, satiated with hearts and bellies full.

Creme brûlée

Creme brûlée

 

 

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

The turtle that is Terrapin, Rhinebeck

imageTerrapin restaurant in Rhinebeck has been around for a long time, maybe 15 years at their current location inside a beautiful old church right on Route 9. Many years ago, I had dinner there with three other people and was completely put off by the service. I don’t remember anything about the food because the experience was so overshadowed by the snippy bartender and the inexperienced server. I vowed never to go back, a promise easy to keep since A. I don’t go to Rhinebeck frequently and B. There are so many other options in that area.

Today, though, I met one of my besties in Rhinebeck for a bite to eat and some catching up. I offered her two options – Gigi Trattoria, where we’ve been happy before, and Terrapin for a fresh chance at making us happy. She checked out their menus and decided on Terrapin and we agreed to meet at about 4:00.

I arrived first and found a seat at the bar, not a challenge with at least half of the bar stools open. Within a minute or two I was given a cocktail menu on my request. I started reading, pleased with the beer and wine selections. I wondered about their carafes and if they were filling them from draft lines and planned to ask whoever took my drink order about the set up. The man two seats away from me finished his drink and ordered another, as I was told by the bartender that she would be “right with me.” She wasn’t.

I changed my mind about the beer I had been thinking of ordering and selected a glass of wine instead. Unfortunately, I couldn’t share my decision with anyone because the bartender had yet to come over to take my order. The man near me began drinking his fresh Patron margarita, inspiring me to look at the cocktail list. I reconsidered my wine choice and began perusing the “available” cocktails. The sour cherry Manhattan caught my eye…

My friend arrived and I shared my menu with her. The bartender told us she’d be right over. She wasn’t.

The man next to us finished his drink and asked for a check. The bartender took care of that. We sat there, me with probably 15+ minutes invested without even the reward of a glass of water, another moment and then picked up our bags and left. I will never, ever, step foot in that restaurant again and this time I mean it.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, friends, Rant, Restaurants, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

A crap week

The first week of spring, arguably the finest season of the year in upstate New York, was the worst week Lark + Lily has ever experienced. When I say “crappy,” I’m being literal, by the way. I arrived at the restaurant Tuesday afternoon and encountered the plumbers who were working industriously to unclog one of our two toilets.* Despite their best efforts, we were unable to open for service until 7:30 which means we lost 2.5 hours of service. Not a great way to begin the week.

That lack of business seemed to set the tone for the week and our numbers were dramatically down each subsequent night from previous weeks. I’ve said before that I didn’t buy a restaurant to make a ton of money, but obsessively looking at my diminishing online checking account was, said the wine bar owner, sobering.

In addition to the poor week at the restaurant, a fierce early spring cold made for a rough week at home. Quinn, who recently was treated for a mean case of strep throat, came down with a dreadful cough complete with a headache and body soreness. The poor guy was just down for the count. Naturally, he required a lot of coddling and cuddling and he generously returned the favor of my attention by sharing his germs with me. Thanks for the cold, Quinn.

As with any week, there were good things, too. The guests we did have at Lark + Lily, including one who I had only previously “met” online (Hi, Bill!), were great and I believe they all left satisfied with their experience. I went to an awesome wine dinner, ran 20+ miles, including once with both of the lunar b*tches, and hiked a peak (more about that experience soon) in the Catskills. We had some beautiful weather with temperatures that invited bare legs and arms to meet the sun and I got in some quality time at the golf course in advance of the takeover on 4/1 by the golfers.  Saturday’s family dinner, an early Easter meal, was an effortlessly delicious treat and provided me with the perfect starter for a killer split pea soup. There was even a brief dining room dance party with Quinn inspired by his favorite Ray Charles song, Mess Around.

I guess it wasn’t really that bad of a week after all, was it?

*Ladies – let’s make a deal, ok?  You refrain from tossing personal items in the toilet and I’ll remain open during hours of service.  Thanks!

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Exercise, family, friends, musings, Normanskill, Observations, Restaurants, running, sick, Spring, stress, Uncategorized

Celebrating snake eyes and an unexpected trip from Korea to China

IMG_7974Yesterday my youngest son turned 11.  I wish I could remember exactly what time of day he was born, but it’s honestly kind of a blur. I think that happens once you have more than two children, some of the specific details no longer stick.  In complete honesty, I sometimes have to pause to recall if his birthday is the 5th or the 9th of February.  I guess I’ll never win Mother of the Year, but I do think I have a shot at Mother of the Day based upon my efforts yesterday.

The morning started with the scent of chocolate chip/ M&M cookies baking.  You know what?  Everyone should wake up on their birthday to a warm kitchen and the smell of freshly baked cookies. Quinn had Nutella crepes for breakfast, his favorite and he loved the Gryffindor scarf I had bought for him.  When he left the house for school, he kissed me goodbye and thanked me for a “wonderful” morning.  Pretty sweet, right?

I went to Quinn’s school a short while later to join his class for a field trip to the Albany Institute of History and Art.  I know that my chaperoning days are coming to a close and felt really fortunate that he wanted me to attend.  We rode the bus together and I think I succeeded in providing my son with special attention while also giving him his space, a balancing act which becomes more challenging as a child grows.  The exhibit was nicely done and the activities were active and hands on, perfect for a group of 5th graders. It was a nice day.

Our big plan for the evening was dinner out.  Quinn has a thing for Korean barbeque and had been anticipating gorging on dumplings for days.  We trucked up to Colonie, hungry and excited for a special meal, but were disappointed to see that the restaurant was closed.  I had never even considered that possibility!  We sat in the car laughing about our luck and I was incredibly impressed with Quinn’s ability to join in the mirth and indulge his brothers as they teased him about his misfortune.  After a moment’s consideration, Quinn decided that Chinese would hit the spot and we turned around and headed towards Ocean Palace, placing our order as we took the long, leisurely drive back down Central Avenue.

Our indulgent order (Peking Duck, squid with salt and pepper, beef chow fun, 2 orders of steamed dumplings, Chinese broccoli with ginger sauce and sesame chicken) took about 45 minutes to prepare, leaving us with about 25 minutes to kill.  That much time simply waiting can be deadly, but my sons were remarkably chill about the entire dinner fiasco.  There wasn’t a moment of complaining or whining or kvetching and I was left feeling ridiculously proud of their good natured flexibility.  My boys are growing up.

PS – Dinner, as always, was great.  Happy Year of the Monkey, y’all!

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, favorites, Food., Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Crushed for my crush

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Image: timesunion.com

I was absolutely heartbroken yesterday to learn that Sentinel Butchery had closed their doors after a valiant attempt to provide best quality, local meats to the Capital District. Maybe you never had a chance to get to Emily Peterson’s shop or consume the products she brought from farm to table, but I assure it was special and the loss is real. Although the store was open for far too short of a time, it was long enough to demonstrate that what we eat is better when it is personal.

Emily and I opened our businesses within days of one another. When I was putting the finishing touches on the guest list for my Ladies First event, I saw a post on Table Hopping about Sentinel Butchery and was impressed by the rack of lamb pictured (from Washington County!) and Steve Barnes’ positive words about the store. When he stopped in to my place a few days later, I asked him if he thought Emily might be interested in joining my gathering of women who impress, inspiration and influence. He shared her contact information with me and the rest is history – she was the came to the party and knocked everyone’s socks off with her enthusiasm and personality. Steve was right – Emily and I got along famously, to the point that Steve and I “argued” over which of us had the larger crush on her.

Since that first event, Emily and I forged a friendship based upon mutual respect, passion for our work and laughter. Lark + Lily sourced all of our meats from her for our super successful New Year’s Day Open House and had looked forward to further collaboration in the future. The loss of Sentinel Butchery is, of course, a loss to Emily and her family, but it is also a loss to countless others, people who understand that knowing that the person who is selling you your roast or sausage or chops is the very same person who selected and butchered the animal from which those meats came from, is an entirely different level of sourcing ingredients.

Sentinel Butchery may no longer be open, but I’m confident that Emily will move forward and continue on a path which is true and real and genuine. She’s just that kind of woman and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. You should be, too.

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Filed under favorites, Food., friends, Local, Observations, Restaurants, Troy, Uncategorized

Sunday supper – Husk, Nashville

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When the girls and I go away we each have a role to play – Mary Lynn does research on music and shows to attend, Lisa is in charge of outdoor activities and places to visit and I arrange dinner reservations for an indulgent meal out. The Times Union’s Steve Barnes had mentioned Husk to me a couple of months ago and, after doing a bit of research, I was convinced that this was our spot for Nashville. I did my thing and made a reservation.

We arrived about 20 minutes before our 7:15 reservation to enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Husk is a very pretty restaurant, located in a historic house on a hill up above the Cumberland River. The hostess station is anchored by an enormous chalkboard listing the menu’s ingredients and their origin. Not being from the area, we were unfamiliar with most of the farms and producers, but hat in no way diminished how impressed we were with extensive list.

The bar was downstairs and the walk there took us past the open kitchen, an area populated by both kitchen and service staff. It was a cool opportunity to witness the controlled chaos that is the kitchen of a busy restaurant and I struggled against my wish to tuck myself into a corner and just observe the professionals at work. There were cocktails to be had, though, so we moved on.

My initial impression of the bar was mixed. It was attractive and cozy with low ceilings and windows peeking out to a patio, but the bar itself was a little unapproachable. After a couple of minutes of awkwardness we were presented with a lovely cocktail list and placed our orders. As expected, the drinks were meticulously mixed and beautifully presented – and tasty. The single high top table in the bar area became available and was offered to us prompting a change in our plans. We decided to eat in the bar instead of relocating to our table, a pretty remarkable choice since 20 minutes earlier we were feeling less than welcomed.

With some assistance from our bartender, Kenneth, we ordered opening with the available-only-in-the-bar, cut to order cured ham. This perfect starter was accompanied by the definitive version of freshly baked Parker rolls and a lard-butter spread. It was a wonderful introduction of what was to come – best quality ingredients respectfully prepared and presented. Delicious.

We followed with 3 items from the First course menu – Shrimp and Grits ($16), Gourds Roasted Over the Fire, Benne, Arugula, Aged Gouda ($12) and a Seafood Johnny Cake with Kimchi Purée and Benne ($15).  The Johnny Cake was the only one we didn’t enthusiastically finish, it was very good, not that I’m an expert on johnny cakes, but kind of heavy.  The other two were eaten with gusto.

For entrees we went with the Bear Creek Farm Pork with Barefoot Farmer’s Sweet Potatoes, Sassafras and Pecans ($34) and the Field of Dreams Duck with a Chestnut, Pear and Cornbread Dressing with Giblet Gravy ($37).  Just as you might intuit by the titles, these meals celebrated the ingredients and cuisine of the south. The pork was tender and flavorful and was accompanied by classic whipped (mashed?) sweet potatoes presented in a fresh, untraditional manner as thick squiggles painted on the plate, topped with a modern riff on marshmallows.  Very visually appealing.  The duck was hyper-rare and a bit chewy, but very tasty.  I wonder if my palate is so accustomed to large production meats, that maybe that chewiness, accompanied by rich flavor, is the hallmark of more consciously raised meat.  I do think another 60 seconds of cooking time would have elevated the duck even more.

My favorite item was an item which appears on many menus, yet was lifted to a previously unexperienced level – the shrimp and grits.  The grits were creamy and a little toothsome and the shrimp was firm and fresh.  What really pulled it all together was the lightly cooked egg which topped the dish, inviting the serving spoon to mix it all together in a blend of textures and flavor which was outstanding. In a restaurant which seeks to honor and present the local cuisine, their interpretation of a southern staple really scored perfectly.

We didn’t eat dessert but we did get a sweet tip about where to go for a good time on Monday nights.  More on that later. Dinner total for 3: Approximately $200 with a generous tip, including three cocktails, one glass of wine, four smaller plates and two entrees.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Nashville, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation