Tag Archives: vacation

Taking tips from bartenders – Motown Mondays at the 5 Spot

kom-nashville-2015-poster_webHaving a good guide book when you visit a new city is generally not a bad idea if you’re looking to become familiar with where to eat or shop. Making friends with a bartender or two, though, is an even better idea if you’re interested in hanging out where the locals do. Case in point – the excellent tip we received from Kenneth at Husk about where the cool kids go on Monday nights – East Nashville’s 5 Spot.

Now, we really didn’t know all that much about Nashville when we decided to make it our girls’ getaway destination. We certainly didn’t know anything about East Nashville. Well, it seems that this area east of the Cumberland River is an upcoming neighborhood populated, as we learned from our Uber driver, with hipsters. This isn’t my assessment, just what we learned from the locals, my friends. I have to say, judging from the facial hair, plaid shirts and smart spectacles, it seems a pretty valid conclusion.

We arrived at the 5 Spot somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00, it’s kind of blurry. We anted up $5 a piece and joined the healthy crowd inside, already nodding our heads to the music and the scene. This was not a place for posers – just a whole bunch of people who wanted to have fun and dance. I love a good dive bar and this place has the vibe down – a little gritty, a lot dark with cheap beer and a small back “patio” to escape to when the need to cool down trumps the need to boogie down. If this place was in Albany, I’d make it my home away from home for good, clean fun.

This might be a fine time to note that I DO NOT dance generally. I’m not sure if it was the pre-game shots of Maker’s Mark, the anonymity of being a stranger or just that damn Motown beat, but I couldn’t quit moving on the dance floor. For three roughly mid-century girls, we were spun around with enthusiasm by an array of partners, but there wasn’t any handsy gropping or grinding going on. It was just about the music and dancing without any aggressive, cruisy bullshit. It was ultimately the perfect girls night out. The 5 Spot on Monday night is a game changer when it comes to the Monday blues

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Filed under friends, Music, Nashville, Recommendations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Shopping Nashville

I went to Nashville with the thought of buying myself a Christmas present, most likely a pair of cowboy boots. I mean that’s what you get when you go to Nashville, right? What I came home with was two vintage inspired dresses, a super cool poster, a couple of Christmas ornaments and a straw cowboy hat that I plan to rock on the beach this summer. Read on to find out how I came to purchase these seemingly disparate mementos from my most recent girls’ getaway.

I kind of liked the red ones on the left...

I kind of liked the red ones on the left…

Downtown Nashville’s strip is filled with stores filled with a dazzling selection of cowboy boots in every color, texture and height imaginable. All the major brands, Dingo, Tony Lama, Lucchese, Ariat, to name a few, are well represented and the prices that I observed ranged from about $125 – $800 a pair with some stores offering a buy 1 get 2 free deal. I’m pretty certain we went into every single boot shop, some more than once, without my finding a pair that I needed to own. As usual, my champagne taste reared its pretty head and each pair of boots that I considered buying was priced beyond what I was willing to pay, even the gorgeous Lucchese boots which spoke to me with a charming “y’all want to take me home, don’t you?” I consoled myself with a glass boot ornament for next year’s Christmas tree along with a cute guitar ornament bought to honor my guitar playing guy.

Evening-In-Paris-480x720As we went in and out of boot stores, which are open relatively late when compared to other shops, I noticed a clothing shop, Tatyana,  which screamed my name with its windows filled with frocks and such. We made our way there and I was completely taken by the sweet dresses beautifully displayed in the two room store. The clerks were adorable with their vintage, pin up style and tattoos and I quickly grabbed a couple of items which were placed in a dressing room for “Miss Silvia” by a helpful employee. It was with great restraint that I selected only two dresses to purchase, both at 50% off the regular price. I’ve worn both already and received numerous compliments, particularly on the green dress which I think of as my Judy Jetson dress.

I think I tried on even more hats than boots on this trip but was unwilling to spend a lot of money on an item that I didn’t imagine myself wearing with any regularity. There were some really handsome hats to be had, but I thought that my inexpensive ($20) straw version was the most practical choice for a girl who doesn’t really do rockabilly with any frequency. I’m looking forward to shielding my face from the sun with my low budget selection.

As for the poster, that’s another story in itself that I’ll share later in the week. ..

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Filed under Fashion, friends, Nashville, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

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

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

This is my last day of work until New Year’s Eve, a fact which I’m kind of excited about. When you factor in that I’ll be away with a couple of my best girlfriends exploring bourbon a new city, I get almost a little giddy. Good times are ahead and I’m ready for them!

Last Saturday, for either the 5th or 6th consecutive year, I ran Albany’s Last Run. This event is absolutely my favorite run of the year – the course is terrific with a wonderful downhill finish and I just think Albany shines in a particularly bright fashion on this night. This year’s weather was perfect, it finally felt like winter for the night yet there was no precipitation or slippery stuff on the ground.

I have to admit that I nailed it, in terms of prep, parking my car near the restaurant in the early afternoon before they closed the streets, and leaving a change of clothes so I could shower at the Morgan State House, where friends were staying for the night. I ran to the course from the DelSo, arriving at the starting line warmed up and ready for the 5K and, without even really trying, finished with a decent enough time in a sometimes crowded race.

One of the best things about this time of the year, what really makes it wonderful, are the visits from friends who no longer live in the area. I absolutely love the way Lark + Lily has become almost an extension of my home as familiar faces stop in for a drink, a hug and even a bite to eat. It’s an unexpected and very welcome perk of this new life of mine.

At my real home, the cookies are nearly all baked, the stockings are hung and the ham is in the refrigerator waiting for its star turn on my dining room table on Christmas Eve. The next two days will be a balance between traditions (bagels and smoked salmon for breakfast, the holiday linens and Elvis) and winging it in a year with bizarrely warm temperatures and my resolve to simply enjoy the time with the guys I love.

My heart will be glowing.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Events, Exercise, family, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, travel

How Asheville became Nashville

If you said “by adding an N,” you’d be on the right track. An N as is No way, Not possible, Never happening and Not since you bought that wine bar. You see, the girls and I decided months ago that a road trip between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to Asheville seemed like the kind of adventure with which we could be down. I had read an article or two about Asheville and it sounded like a cool destination with plenty to do and lots of good food and drink to be had, aka our kind of place.

But then, I bought a restaurant and the idea of 12+ hours in a car began to feel not so fun, even with my best girlfriends riding shotgun. I needed to be home for New Year’s Eve – and not after 12 hours of driving, either. I explored some options for flying home, but abandoned that idea after determining that it was just getting too complicated, exactly what a quick getaway is not supposed to be.

On a whim, I took a quick look at the Southwest website and came across a sweet deal – to Nashville. It really doesn’t take much to persuade my friends to go anywhere, so changing the destination and getting them to fly rather than drive didn’t take much effort at all. So, Nashville it is!

None of us have ever been to Tennessee before and we’re getting pretty excited. Our plan is our usual modus operandus – eat, drink, shop and hang, but we’re open to suggestions.  We’re booked into a swanky hotel and  Steve Barnes recommended a restaurant, Husk, where we’ve already made a reservation. I imagine we’ll drink some bourbon and eat some bar-b-q, and I’m sure we’ll get to some music venues, too. I know that we’ll have a fantastic time because we always do.

Any recommendations from y’all? (That’s how I say it, right?) Have any of you visited Nashville?

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Filed under Christmas, drinking, Eating, friends, holidays, travel, vacation

PB Boulangerie

When you think of beach food, French pastry probably doesn’t usually come to mind. While I certainly love fried scallops, chowder and s’mores, sometimes I want something a little more refined. For those instances, PB Boulangerie fits the bill perfectly.

Croissant and pain au chocolate

Croissant and pain au chocolate

I’ve been interested in getting to this spot for a good number of years, however, the queue has always put me off. This year, though, the gods conspired (Quinn got up early, we needed to take a quick run out to Provincetown and there was a severe weather warning which limited traffic) and we found ourselves there before 8:00 a.m., meaning the line was manageable. While Quinn and Jeter rode the storm out in the car, windows open natch, I took in the selection and settled on 4 croissants, 2 almond croissants, 2 pain au chocolate and 2 jars of apricot jam. Total price: $46.00.

Without exception, everything I tasted was outstanding. The almond croissant (my favorite!) was terrific – flaky, buttery and deliciously almond-y. It was big and I struggled to eat the entire thing, but, you know me, I’m a trooper and managed it just fine. The pain au chocolate was beautifully punctuated with small chunks of chocolate and the traditional croissant was everything a croissant should be.

The jam has been a revelation. Apparently the chef/owner’s mother, Pascaline, visits periodically to make and jar her special preserves and she has a deft hand with the 4 ingredients included – apricots, lavender, vanilla and sugar. So simple, so delectable.

I’m already thinking about sampling the Croque Monsieur I saw on display, as well as expanding my jam collection. PB Boulangerie is the real deal.

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Filed under breakfast, Cape Cod, Eating, Food, Recommendations, Summer, vacation

Painted skies

As I raced to the beach to catch the impending sunset, I couldn’t help but smile. This, I thought, is what I do. I chase beauty. Here’s a gallery of some of what I was fortunate enough  to catch during my recent Wellfleet vacation.

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One last thought – while the sky was magnificent to observe as the sun slipped down and away, the most stunning moments were those of the afterglow.  Truly understanding that almost makes the sunset foreplay for what comes next.

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Filed under beauty, Cape Cod, favorites, musings, Observations, Summer, travel, vacation