Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day in the DelSo

Christmas Eve was a food-filled extravaganza! From the delicious antipasti items from Cardona's (stuffed olives, prosciutto, spicy sopressata) to the 5 year aged gouda from the Honest Weight, we started the evening on a high note. I must admit, I was on my game and the herb-encrusted rack of lamb I roasted was AMAZING! We bought the lamb from Falvo's in Slingerlands and it was absolutely delicious - tender, flavor-filled, perfect. Before we tucked into the tiramisu we enjoyed a walk around the neighborhood and snapped some photos of the beautifully decorated homes in the 'hood.

Christmas Day we were up by 7 a.m. dealing with 3 excited boys, who had a very satisfying Christmas haul. I got a great gift - the opportunity to go back to bed and read and doze for a couple of hours. It was the promise of bagels from The Uncommon Grounds complete with smoked salmon and Porto Rico Importers coffee that finally got me moving. We walked to the Spectrum for a matinee of Sherlock Holmes (lots of fun - looking forward to the sequel already!) and finished our neighborhood trek with cocktails at New World. I seriously don't know another area of Albany that is blessed with so many fine options for entertainment and eating/drinking. It has been a good year for the DelSo!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let the festivities begin!

Tonight the girls are coming over for brisket and copious amounts of red wine. Since Jaclyn is Jewish and we're having brisket, the theme for the night is "Mock Chanukah." If you say Mock Chanukah fast and kind of meld the words into one, and make that "k" sound in your throat with some excess saliva, it sounds downright Yiddish. Try it.

Christmas Eve will be an orgy of baking, cooking, eating & drinking. Perhaps the best day of the year, in my opinion. I'll deliver some baked goods to a neighbor, and bake some scones for friends. I have a fantasy that at some point after the Christmas Eve feast, I'll wander through the neighborhood, camera in hand, and snap some pictures of the more colorfully decorated houses. Maybe I'll make this a little contest...hmmm. If I view the lights tonight, I can reward the winner with a loaf of fresh bread tomorrow. I must to admit, that house on Delaware Avenue all decked out in red and white lights is on the top of my list.

Hope you're all feeling prepared to celebrate. Don't stress about the minor things, just enjoy the chance to share time, love, and laughter with those you care about. Too bad we don't make the time to do that more often.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The days are about to get longer...

which is a good thing, because it is hard getting everything done, that I would like to get done, in a short day. In 2 days it will be the Winter Solstice, then we will be heading into the light of the Summer Solstice. Definitely half-full.

After a hectic week of concerts, meetings and get-togethers, I finally got a chance to continue my baking and gifting tasks. Yesterday I made a couple of batches of Honey-Cinnamon Granola and prepped a couple of loaves of that yummy bread that I love to bake on a cold day. I also took the cookie dough that I made the other night, out of the fridge and baked a few dozen M&M cookies - red and green, of course. It was so nice to have the oven on for a few hours, that I celebrated by scandalously opening a bottle of sparkling wine. Isn't that what the holidays are all about?

I ventured out about 4 o'clock and delivered granola, cookies and bread to 3 of my neighbors. Which leaves me 5 more homes to visit, in my quest to celebrate 12 Days of Christmas. Despite which days may considered the true "12 days of Christmas," I am confident that the ones a person feels in their heart are the days that certainly count.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas - updated

I've come to the realization that, while I may be Wonder Woman, I am not Sara Lee or Betty Crocker and I do not have time to bake something homemade every single day. Don't be disheartened! My commitment to provide yumminess to 12 neighbors is intact, I'm just going to have to consolidate my baking and cluster my deliveries. Yesterday I was able to make Lori and Ken happy with my scones, and today I shared a loaf and muffins of banana-chocolate chip goodness, as well as a loaf of No-Knead Bread to the newest neighbors on Arcadia Avenue, Rob & Dan. I shared some scones with Donna, but since she lives in the Delmar rather than the DelSo, I'm not counting that one. So, Day 2 and I have gifted 4 neighbors so far. I do like knocking on doors and delivering friendship warm from the oven - this is what makes the holiday a joy rather than a chore.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Hour #4 - Kitchen Pass Edition

Yes, I know that I am posting my Happy Hour experiences out of order, but it is my blog. I wanted to share my experiences from Friday while they are fresh since I've already proven that I lose details as time passes. To begin - is anyone familiar with the term "Kitchen Pass" or is just a term known to my Greenwood Lake friends? Where I come from, a Kitchen Pass means that there is an opportunity to get out of the house untethered. A friend, who likes to be called Aloysius, advertised that he had a such a Pass so I suggested he come up to Albany and join me for some shopping in Saratoga. (Despite his staunch heterosexualness, the girls have always considered Aloysius to be one of us.) He declined, so I upped the ante with an offer of Happy Hour research. To this, he agreed.

We started at Wolff's Biergarten on Broadway. We arrived at about 6:15, well into the FridayPuppy Happy Hour event. The place was hopping (beer joke) and filled with folks ranging in age from early 20's to AARP members. It took some effort to initially get a beer, but the music was great, the people were friendly and the beer delicious. I even made an instant Facebook friend! A great start to our night.

We decided to visit the hubby at work and headed to Dale Miller for a cocktail. As fate would have it, the available bar stools were directly in front of the Jameson's, so Aloysius was immediately comfortable despite the leap we made in swankiness. Lars made me my favorite martini of all time - this delicious chocolate-raspberry concoction that she has dubbed the "Lilly." I am not a martini girl, but this taste of heaven in a glass is enough to convert me. John, I mean Aloysius, had a very interesting conversation at the bar with a man who may have offered him the opportunity to purchase his multi-million dollar software business. We'll know more about that next week. Since I can only drink 1 martini, it was time to move on to the next place.

New World Bistro Bar has quickly become our favorite neighborhood place for a drink and a light bite. The atmosphere is inviting, the staff familiar and friendly, and it is a terrific last stop on the way home place. We finished up here with a delicious cheeseburger, perfectly medium rare, and an order of Duck Picadillo Empanadas and a couple of beers. Very enjoyable.

One of my oldest friends + 3 fairly new Albany dining & drinking spots = a great night out. Happy Hour #4 was a resounding success.

12 days of Christmas

This year I decided to try a new tradition. For each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas, I am going to bake something and surprise a DelSo neighbor with a holiday treat. Maybe I'll come to your house with some warm-from-the-oven goodness! Today I am trying a recipe from this month's Bon Appetit, Giant Apricot Scones. I've never made scones before, but the recipe seems pretty simple. The recipe doesn't seem to be accessible from the Epicurious website, but I found it online on this blog:

It has been an intensely busy weekend with lots of activities. I will catch you all up on Happy Hours 2, 3 &4, not necessarily in that order, asap. Until that opportunity arises, get cozy on your couch because maybe I'll be stopping over with something freshly baked.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy Hour experience #1 - D.P.'s

We began our Happy Hour journey appropriately enough at D.P.'s. Appropriately enough, because Tom & I met while working for the Purnomo family at the original Yono's on Robinson Square. A long time ago. We dropped on one late afternoon in October and cozied up to the bar. The Happy Hour special features 5 appetizers available for $5, as well as a selection of wines by the glass for $6. The crowd at D.P.'s in interesting - a mix of out-of-towners that I attributed to the hotel location and some locals in the 30-40ish range. The service at the bar is excellent - it is nice to be acknowledged quickly in a bar and dealt with professionally. We selected 3 appetizers from the menu: fried oysters, seared sea scallops and a gourmet ravioli. All of the appetizers were good although the temperature of the items was a bit lacking. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of dry rose (A-Z Pinot Noir Rose)which paired really well with the food, the weather, my mood, etc. Pink wine is pretty, what can I say? In all honesty, I should have taken some detailed notes about the preparation of the items, but I forgot that my memory isn't what it used to be before children. The best way to rectify my vagueness, will be a repeat trip downtown - and at a total cost of $38.20 pre-tip, I can afford to do that even during the holiday season.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Hour Research - someone has to do it.

Tom & I are on a mission to explore Monday night Happy Hour opportunities around town. So far, we have three under our belt, and we are beginning to mentally describe our experiences within some sort of formal structure. Because there is too much describe right now, I will instead try to verbalize what our criteria were as we were evaluating our experience: the primary of which is value. Our definition of "value" is based upon the following concept: Were we more happy than resentful when we forked over the $ to pay the check? We feel that Happy Hour is low key, ideally something we can manage a couple of times of month - not a "chargeable" expense. It should be an indulgence that a couple can pay for without resorting to plastic - immediate gratification and obligation, shall we say. We like to frequent independently owned restaurants, we aren't chain people, particularly when we are traveling light - w/o children. And we'd like the evening to be about 2 (happy) hours. Based upon these considerations and factors, this week I will begin to describe the experiences we have had so far, at three terrific, independently owned restaurants here in town.

~ to be continued

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Football Sunday

Football Sunday is a weekly holiday at our house during the fall and early winter. The ideal day shapes up as a mix of outdoor time (Normanskill walk anyone?), cooking and television time watching a game. Or two. Once in a while, 3. On the entertainment menu for today - 2 or 3 games followed by a trek downtown to see the fireworks. The all-important dining menu will be a cozy combination of baked mac, ham and cheese, turkey noodle soup and turkey pot pie. The theme for the week is "cleaning out the refrigerator," perhaps my greatest talent. The mac n cheese is something I've been making for years, yet it never is exactly the same twice. This might be because I always seem to have different bits of cheese in the drawer and the purpose of this dish, aside from providing creamy comfort, is to clean out the cheese drawer. Today's combination will include parmesan, mozzarella, sharp cheddar and gruyere. A recipe (or general outline for how I put it together follows.)

1 lb al dente cooked pasta of your choice
3-4 c. of milk (we use 2%)
2-3 c coarsely shredded assorted cheese
4 T butter
3 T flour

options: cubed ham, lightly steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets, bread crumbs, smoked paprika

Set up a double boiler (a pot with 3 or 4 inches of water with a smaller pot or bowl inside) and melt 3 T of butter. Whisk in flour and continually stir for about 2 minutes. Begin adding milk to the flour and butter roux, stirring constantly. As sauce thickens add more milk. After you have added ~3 c of milk, beginning incorporating cheese, allowing each addition to melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, taste your sauce and decide if you'd like to add more milk to adjust the cheese flavor. Your mac n cheese - your call. In large bowl or pot, mix sauce and pasta, and any optional additional ingredients. Using reserved T of butter, grease a baking pan (I use a rectangular glass pan.) and pour in mac n cheese. Top with a layer of bread crumbs, if desired and dot with any remaining butter. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. If you'd like to "crunch up" the top, broil for the last minute or so of baking. Yummy!

What is DelSo?

DelSo is a neighborhood comprised of committed, creative and conscious citizens residing in an undefined area on the south end of Delaware Avenue, thus DelSo. This blog is my opportunity to interact with friends, neighbors, and the community at large.