Danny & Heidi Urschel
Thursday night I had the pleasure of working alongside Danny & Heidi Urschel, the couple who are in the process of purchasing my business. Weeks ago I had mentioned to them that Champagne on the Park was a big event for our neighborhood and suggested they participate by providing some food and their presence as a means of introducing themselves to Lark St. It was a perfect evening and I was really pleased by the welcome offered by residents and Lark + Lily regulars. Mio Posto is going to be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.
In the weeks since Danny, Heidi and I first met to talk about their business occupying 200 Lark Street our “negotiations” have consistently been easy. We have the same goal – get me out and get them in and make them successful. Simple. They, and their concept, are absolutely perfect for the beautiful space I’ve called my own and it truly feels like the stars aligned to bring us all together in the right place at the right time.
In some ways, the sale of my business reminds me of my divorce. There’s a lot of stuff to itemize and assign ownership, lawyers are involved and there’s a mess of paperwork. Similar, right? The other thing consistent with my divorce process and the sale of the business, is a conscious effort to keep an eye on the ultimate goal. In the first instance it was all about what was best for the children, while in the current situation it is about what is best for the very special space that is 200 Lark. The civility of our divorce earned the boys’ dad and me the title of posterchildren of healthy divorce and I fully expect the same positive transition to occur with the business transaction.
As I get closer to the end of my business endeavor, I feel an array of emotions – satisfaction, twinges of sadness, excitement, relief and acceptance. I’ve learned a lot of things in the past two years and it’s going to take some time for me to process it all. The takeaway, though, is that I have few regrets. As Memorial Day weekend and finalizing the sale draws closer, I’m truly looking forward to the summer with a new appreciation of the time I will have available to spend doing things I’ve missed. It’s going to be fun.
Whenever the conversation turns to city life you know that the topic of parking is going to come up. While many of us have no issue with doing a couple of laps, or even walking a few blocks from our car to our destination, there are quite a few people who absolutely will not venture somewhere without “convenient” parking. Truth.
As someone who is accustomed to considering a parking spot within a half mile of my location when in NYC to be a real find, I don’t completely understand that mindset, but as a business owner, I need to be cognizant of it. Since purchasing my Lark Street business, I’ve spent a fair amount of time eyeing the county owned parking lot a half a block from Lark Street. You know, the one between Lark and Henry Johnson on Washington Avenue that essentially is nearly empty beyond the county business day? Yeah. That one.
I’ve had conversations with the Lark Street BID, a person from the county, people from the city and someone from the parking authority. The end result: nothing. Zero progress.
Here’s the thing – some businesses in the neighborhood have promoted the evening use of that parking facility to their guests via social media. I’ve got pictures to prove it. There’s a nearby church that has a sandwich board which they place in the lot of Sundays inviting their worshippers to park in that very lot during services. Have they been given the green light by officials or are they merely rolling the dice and taking a chance?
I’m not going to lie – I’m really irked by the lack of consistency regarding both permission to park and the enforcement of the county’s policy that the lot is exclusively for county employees. It seems unfair, incredibly inefficient and it bothers me. Why is a prime asset to neighborhood businesses not being used to its potential? At a time when localities are struggling for revenue, wouldn’t it be logical to make this lot available in the evenings and on the weekends to potential customers and charge them a fair fee for the convenience?
Come on, Albany. You can and must do better.
“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.
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
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.
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!
Filed under Albany, Christmas, Dinner, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, holidays, Local, Restaurants, sunday
• 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.
• Finishing the night with something bubbly and pink.
And 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.
Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, holidays, Local, love, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine, winter
Yesterday 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.
On 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.
The 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?
Filed under Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, love, pizza, Recommendations, road trips, snow, sunday, Wine, winter
One 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.
Breaking 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.
I 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.
Because 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.