Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Party Food

I don't know how you cook, but for me it is a little like writing. I take an idea or thought and let it germinate... fester... ferment. I try to consider what I have available, who I am cooking for and what the occasion is. For this weekend's party, I also needed to prepare something that wouldn't take much time - thus, the world's fastest pasta was the perfect solution. I originally had this more than 20 years ago at a family friend's house and have been making it ever since.

Put a cup of good olive oil in a glass jar. Add 2 or 3 minced garlic cloves and about 4 chopped tomatoes to the olive oil. Chop a large handful of herbs - I used flat leaf parsley and basil, and add them to the olive oil mixture. Place the lid on the jar and periodically give it a good rolling shake. Cook a pound of pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water. Add the water to your jar of loveliness and give things a good roll or 2. Pour sauce over pasta and finish by seasoning with salt and pepper and cheese, if you like. I had some fresh mozzarella which I cubed and added. Serve hot, warm of cold.

I was asked to bring a dessert item to the party, but didn't have an incredible amount of time to get overly creative. I did, however, have boxed angel food cake mix which I knew would suffice. I've never made an angel food cake before - perhaps, you will argue, I still have not. Believe me, I know my friends - by the time dessert rolls around their primary concern will be eating something sweet - not whether the cake is from a mix or hand measured. The mix was pretty cool - just add water and beat for about 2 minutes, it couldn't have been any easier. I don't have an angel food cake pan, so I opted to make 2 loaves instead. I had a couple of fresh mangoes, which I cut and then grilled over low to medium fire to get a little char on them. While they cooled, I had the hubby pick some mint in the backyard which I then soaked in Hypnotiq. After a couple of hours, I chopped the mint and the mango and combined them with the soaking liquid to make a nice compote to jazz up the cake. Prior to serving, I sliced the angel food cake (with a sharp serrated knife), fanned it out on a platter and placed the mango-mint compote on the side. So easy - so delicious.

Memorial Day

Laying in bed this morning, I was thinking about Memorial Day and what it means, other than the official start of the summer season. I don't know many veterans - there are no family graves for me to place poppies and flags upon. While I deeply appreciate the tremendous sacrifices men and women have made for my freedom, there is something I would cherish even more - the lack of need for veterans due to the absence of war.

It seems that humans have occupied the Earth for about 200,000 years, which is certainly a lot longer than I've been married. Why is it then, that as a species, we have been unable to develop a process, other than war, to resolve our discrepancies? In the brief 15+ years since our wedding, my husband and I have discovered that, while we may have different methods for accomplishing a goal, generally we are hoping to achieve the same positive outcome for ourselves and our family. We understand that we can't each have our way every time and that compromise is necessary to achieve a generally peaceful coexistence. Why can't we as a global community understand and accept this?

Someday, in my little peace-filled, fantasy world, I'd like to see Memorial Day become a day when the world can come together to remember, to memorialize, a time when there was war. Instead of reminiscing about those we have lost, we will talk about what can be done with all the resources we formerly used to fight wars. Young people around the world will be able to devote their efforts and energy to creating rather than destroying. Citizens can have an opportunity to fulfill community service obligations which will result in their feeling a sense of accomplishment rather than personal devastation.

When War is merely a distant memory, we will truly have something worthy of celebration.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tasting Tuesday - Joe Carr Edition

This week's Tasting Tuesday at Dale Miller Restaurant featured Joseph Carr - the man and his wines. If you aren't familiar with Joe, you should know that he is a local guy, originally from Berlin, N.Y., who has followed his passion for wine and created a successful career doing something which he loves. In 2005, following a number of years working in the hospitality industry, as well as for major wine importers and distributors, Joe, along with his wife, daughter and dog, began his own wine company. He is a negotiant - which means he buys fruit and makes wine which he bottles under his own Carr label. His wines are available in both retail stores, and select restaurants, in a fairly broad geographic area.

This would probably be a good time for me to mention that I have no formal wine training or knowledge - that would be the husband's forte. My hope is to not be embarrass myself here by revealing how little I truly know about wine, I'm only offering my own impressions.

Joe offers an array of varietals, all fairly priced, and we sampled six wines Tuesday evening. The first two wines were from his Josh line; the Chardonnay (2008) and the Cabernet Sauvignon (2007). These wines are named after his father, and are considered to be his entry level wines. They can be found in local retail stores (try Capital, Empire, Delaware Plaza) for about $18 per bottle. Both of these wines were easy to enjoy and had the characteristics that one would expect from their respective grapes.

The order we sampled the wines in was a bit unique. I'm accustomed to starting with the lightest of whites and then proceeding to more substantial whites, light reds and then full bodied reds, but this particular evening we bounced around a bit as Joe led us through his offerings. We followed the Josh Cabernet with a delicious Sauvignon Blanc (2008). I found this wine to be an ideal warm weather sipping wine - with or without food. Lovely.

Our next wine was one with which I was familiar, the 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, which retails for about $20. I have been a fan of this wine since it was initially released and it remains a household favorite. If you haven't tried this wine, you'd better get it soon - there isn't much left and the '08 release is going to be a bit different as the fruit is being sourced from the Santa Cruz Mountains rather than the coast. This is a terrific Pinot, with berry flavors and a wonderful viscosity for dangerously easy drinking.

We finished with two of Joe's Reserve selections. The Reserve Chardonnay (2008) was my absolute favorite wine of the event. It was intense without being woody and had a beautiful straw color. Joe only made 500 cases of this wine and, upon release, it will be available both on Tom's winelist at Dale Miller and at Tom's house, because we're getting one of those cases - hello, Summer 2010 wine. This wine should retail for about $28 a bottle, while the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2007), the event's final wine, is currently retailing for ~$25. I wish I remembered to take more notes about where Joe sourced his fruit from, or more detailed tasting impressions, but after about 5 different tastings, I honestly get a bit muddy. Sorry.

There are two more Tasting Tuesday events prior to our family trip to Italy - go ahead, hate me now. On June 8th, Joe Armstrong will be presenting wines (and sake!) from his portfolio and on June 22nd Old World selections from Michael Skurnick's portfolio will be offered by sales rep, Doug Berenthal. Of course, I'll be present at both of these educational opportunities trying, as ever, to expand my knowledge. Maybe I'll see you there!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Me - All Over Albany!

Two very cool things occurred recently relating to my little blog and I wanted to share them with you. The first relates to some very nice words sent my way via All Over Albany. For the past month or so, these nice folks have been linking to the DelSo in their weekly Around the Neighborhood postings. I must admit, the first time I saw a link I started calling everyone I knew to share the exciting news. This euphoria was rather short lived, however, because there was a formidable amount of explaining involved to convince some people of the significance of the "linkage." It kind of went like this:

Me: "Guess what? All Over Albany linked to one of my blog postings."
Them: "You have a blog?"
Me: "Yes, for about 6 months now. It's called DelSo."
Them: "What's a DelSo?"

Needless to say, it quickly became less than satisfying. Fortunately, All Over Albany gave me a terrific shout out in mid-May, that more than made up for the lack of social media awareness of which some of my friends are guilty. Check this one out! I'm so happy they picked this posting to highlight (it is one of my personal favorites) and that I intentionally omitted the name of the restaurant.

Now, the second nifty thing that I recently experienced, basically directly countered the conversations regarding my blog which I shared above. Last week I was working at the restaurant and a woman at the bar initiated a conversation with me. It went like this:

Her: "Do you have a blog?"
Me (nervously blushing): "Yes."
Her: "What is it called?"
Me: "DelSo."
Her: "I knew you looked familiar! I read your blog and I really like it."

My first paparazzi experience!! Ok - there were no flashbulbs, cameras, or Lady Gaga lyrics, but still - I was recognized from this little blog. Damned cool! Thanks for reading DelSo - and come back soon.

image courtesy of Amy Mengel.


Despite what you may have heard about me, I definitely have a heart. Yes, yes, sometimes it can be icy cold, and on occasion it may be perceived as a tad hardened, but I most certainly do have a heart. Unfortunately, however, my heart doesn't seem to be normal - whatever that means.

Yesterday I had a very disappointing pre-op cardiac evaluation. See, I have a cardiologist. She's in that big group in Corporate Woods and, despite yesterday afternoon's less than stellar performance by my heart, I was finally convinced that she is really assessing my health in a careful, thoughtful manner. She and I initially met when I had one of my fainting episodes, (which I only seem to have, of course, in public locations with many witnesses), and ended up spending a weekend in the cardiac unit. Believe me, a weekend on the cardiac floor is not nearly as much fun as a weekend in the city with the girls. The food sucks, there's no getting any rest and people are constantly coming into your room and poking at you. Yuck. After three days of this treatment, I was released and monitored for 30 days with no tangible diagnosis other than a malformed chest bone. And I always thought my chest was one of my better features!

Yesterday's failure was the result of my wacky ekg that revealed a heart rate in the 30-40 beats per minute range. Apparently the norm for women is more in the 70-80 beats per minute range. While I'd like to think that I'm the picture of health, despite cancer and erratic heart function and public fainting spells, I guess it would be a bit of a stretch to place myself on par with Lance Armstrong's cardiac performance, huh? Although, seriously, if you saw me climb Krumkill Road hill on my bike, perhaps the comparison would be a bit more believable.

So, here I am, eight days pre-surgery looking for confirmation that my heart is in fact strong and healthy. Since, as the doctor explained to me yesterday, the heart is an electrical unit, any, and all, positive energy is welcomed. To be continued...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chaine des Rotisseurs Dinner - Dale Miller

Last night I attended (or kind of crashed) a lovely party. Dale Miller Restaurant hosted an induction ceremony and dinner for The Chaine des Rotisseurs and I can't imagine a more perfect evening for such a wonderful event. The sun was shining, and there was a delightful bigger-than-a-breeze-but-not-quite-a-wind making the terrace an ideal spot to enjoy cocktail hour. Have you ever attended one of these things? The amount of work that goes into planning and executing a Chaine dinner is mind boggling - the details (especially in Dale's hands) are positively overwhelming! And - I must admit, it is much more enjoyable to attend one of these things than it is to attend the attendees. Trust me, I've been on both sides of the white gloves, so to speak, and I'd much rather not be the one wearing them.

The theme for the evening was Andy Warhol/Pop Art and Dale and his team did an amazing job interpreting and playing with the premise. There was a vividness to the food and the setting that certainly did justice to the Warhol legacy and it seemed to me that everyone had a fantastic time. I mean, seriously, if you know something better to do on a brilliant Sunday evening, than pose on the rooftop veranda at Dale Miller with a glass of rose' Cremant in hand, please share. Speaking of sharing... enjoy the photo album below.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flowers in the DelSo

Another gorgeous day to get my hands dirty! The front yard is finished, the deck has flowers and I'm nearly ready for summer...

The first of my peonies is looking good and Lucy's big, purple, onion-y thing is spectacular. This is the first of an anticipated series of photo postings highlighting gardens in the DelSo. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Pandered to the Vegetarians and Other Confessions and Observations from a Neighborhood Potluck

An invite appeared in my mailbox last week inviting us to attend a Neighborhood Potluck Dinner. Amazingly enough, the date and time worked for us, and we were able to spend an enjoyable hour or two getting to know other residents of the DelSo. Who, by the way, now know they live in the DelSo - I'm telling you, this DelSo thing is catching on.

It has been such a crazy week at my house that I didn't even have an opportunity to consult on the grocery list, thus leaving me to scramble about what to prepare to share with my neighbors. We had a few pounds of sweet and hot Italian sausages in the freezer, so that was my ground zero. I poked around a bit and came up with a bunch of broccoli rabe, some beet greens, a couple of vidalia onions, a few cloves of garlic and two cans of red kidney beans. I started to see some potential...

To begin, I fired up the grill and browned the sausage. While they were doing their thing, I got a deep saute pan going with the onions (coarsely chopped) and the garlic (minced). As the vegetables became soft I tossed in the beet greens, seasoned with sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes, and turned the heat down to low and covered the pan. At this point my intention was to slice the sausage and toss it with the greens for a one pot dish, but something came over me, some sort of vegetarian empathy, and I decided to make it a 2 pot Potluck. This is the pandering to which I alluded in the title of this posting. Anyway - the beet greens were done and I emptied the saute pan of vegetable goodness into a bowl. I then tossed the broccoli rabe and two cans of rinsed and drained red kidney beans into that same saute pan (give me a break, I'm already washing 2 serving bowls to appease the vegetarians!) and warmed things through - maybe 3 or 4 minutes tops. I combined the broccoli rabe and beans and the other vegetables, and placed a small dish of sea salt within the bowl so folks could add salt as necessary. I sliced the sausages and put them in a serving dish garnished with a chiffonade of fresh basil. Ta da! I have to say, I thought the greens were delicious. If I had had a little more time to play around, it might have occurred to me that a balsamic vinegar deglazing of the pan between the cooking of the greens would have been a nice touch. Next time, ok?

Now, some observations:

  1. I don't when or know how it happened, but my oldest son, Liam has evolved from the Pied Piper to The Catcher in the Rye. It was pretty cool watching him take charge of the little guys at the party giving the Mommies a break.
  2. The soft sell on the weekly Bible Study was expected, but still a bit of an intrusion on an otherwise good time. I guess I have a problem when people try to sell religion - and Amway, but that's another story.
  3. How were the guests invited? Was it selective? Were we chosen a la Jack Shephard on LOST? Where was the other pastor from our block? Is there some religious conflict on our very own street?
  4. I was interested to learn some random things about my neighbors. Like Lori can keep a white shirt pristine all day despite the perils of coffee and wine, that Ken is an admitted carb whore and that Ed eats bread all day long. Good stuff, people!
  5. The next Neighborhood Potluck is already in the planning stages for August. I suspect there will be copious amounts of wine, so keep your calendars open, DelSo.

Neil Young ~ Palace Theater 5/18/10

You know I worship Neil Young and I'm all about hanging out with my friends, having some food and drink (delicious pregaming @dp's!), and then going to a show, which made Tuesday night an almost perfect night. Oh, what the heck - it was perfect, once security ejected the moron, perhaps suffering from drunken Tourette's, a couple of rows behind us. During the entire opening act (Bert Jansch) he kept yelling "Neil. Where's Neil?" and unfortunately he persisted in expressing his idiocy even when Neil was on stage. Good riddance - and good luck with that lawsuit you and your bride threatened to pursue against the Palace.

Neil Young opened his current tour, known as the Twisted Road tour, in our fair city and I was fortunate enough to be there. There are many reviews of the show available online but all I can say is permasmile. My face actually ached from the smile pasted upon it for the 90+ minutes Neil was on stage. Magnificent. I think the ultimate moment was After the Gold Rush on organ - it was absolutely breathtaking. My only minor complaint about the night was the fact that I felt pressured to sit down when all I really wanted to do was stand up and dance, but, that's the difference between an arena show and a theater venue, I suppose. And for those people who complained about the price of the tickets, did you notice all those people who work for Neil? Well, I imagine they all get paid, as well as travel expenses, transportation, etc. If the Palace has 2844 seats (which it does) and tickets were an average of $125 each, that means about $35,000 coming in as revenue and honestly, that doesn't really seem like that much money to me. Or Aloysius.

While Neil did not come to my house for a home cooked meal, I was able to put a couple of growlers of local beer into the hands of my sound engineer friend, Mark, as an attempt to thank him for the sweet hookup that put Tom and I in seats right behind the sound board. The karma train continues along its musical tracks...

1. My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) (acoustic guitar)
2. Tell Me Why (acoustic guitar)
3. Helpless (acoustic guitar)
4. You Never Call (acoustic guitar w/ pickup)
5. Peaceful Valley (acoustic guitar w/ pickup)
6. Love And War (acoustic guitar w/ pickup)
7. Down By The River (electric guitar - Old Black)
8. Hitchhiker (electric guitar - Old Black)
9. Ohio (electric guitar - white falcon)
10. Sign Of Love (electric guitar - white falcon)
11. Leia (upright piano)
12. After The Gold Rush (pump organ)
13. I Believe In You (grand piano)
14. Rumblin' (electric guitar - Old Black)
15. Cortez The Killer (electric guitar - Old Black)
16. Cinnamon Girl (electric guitar - Old Black)
17. Walk With Me (electric guitar - white falcon)
18. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) (electric guitar - Old Black)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sam's Italian-American

For the past few weeks, I've been driving by an intriguing sign offering a chicken parmesan meal, with salad and pasta, for two for $22 at Sam's Italian American restaurant. I understand that there are people who take their chicken parm very seriously, but for me, it isn't at the top of my list for red sauce Italian menu options. I'd much rather have eggplant parm if I'm going the parm route, but a busy evening and the bargain price combined to make this offer one I could not refuse. Nice Godfather reference, huh?

The special which I took advantage of, is offered Tues-Thurs evenings for take out only. When I called (463-3433) at about 5:30, I was given the option to have 2 chicken parms or one chicken parm and one chicken marsala. I kept it simple with two of the same items and arranged to pick up our meals in 30 minutes. I arrived at Sam's with a minute to spare, which gave me a moment to chat with a colleague who was also picking up his dinner. Apparently, he and his wife have been taking advantage of this super deal on a weekly basis and he had only positive things to share about the food. Now, we've eaten at Sam's before, but in all honesty, it has been a while. You know we're Cafe Capriccio lovers, and we've been happy at Caffe Italia, but we don't really go out often for Italian-American cuisine. And, I'm not certain that we'll be heading to eat at Sam's for chicken parm anytime soon, but I do know that getting takeout is definitely something we will repeat.

The picture below shows the full spread minus the half loaf of (Prinzo's?) bread. The meals were carefully packed, piping hot where appropriate, and thoughtful accompaniments like grated cheese and salad dressing were also included. The chicken was really very good - pounded thin, moist with a bit of crispy-crunchiness to the coating. The cheese was not overwhelming, perhaps even a bit scant, and the sauce ratio on both the pasta and chicken was the way I like it - not too heavy. The sauce itself is not my favorite style of red sauce. I found the sauce to be a little sweet and I more enjoy a sauce that has been simmered with a generous amount of red wine to achieve richer, more dense flavor, but that is simply my preference.

The chicken parmesan dinner for two special actually translated in my house to five meals - dinner for two the first night, a colorful salad for lunch the next day for me, half an order of chicken for the hubby's next day lunch and the remaining pasta rounded out my dinner two nights later. For folks who are looking for a reasonably good meal at an excellent price ($29 with tax and a generous fiver to the server) - I definitely recommend Sam's. There's a reason they've been a neighborhood staple for 40+ years.

School Budget Vote - Today

Don't forget that today is the day school budgets come up for a vote across New York State. I don't necessarily think holding these votes in May is ideal (what we the Legislature's work still undone and uncertainty everywhere) but, this is the day and you all need to participate in the process. And if you don't vote today, remember to not talk to me about schools because I don't want to hear it. Clear?

Albany's proposed budget is another reduction from the previous year's budget and hopefully this proposal will be passed. Remember that disliking Charter schools is not a valid reason to vote "no" on this thing because somehow they still get their funding even if this budget goes down. Don't know where to vote? Here is a link to a searchable street directory. Get there!

image from

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spectacular Sunday

Have you ever ridden your bicycle for 50 miles? Well, I have - almost 3 times. The "almost" was my first attempt at the distance in 2008. I'll show you the evidence of my failure sometime - my separated right shoulder, if you're interested.

Yesterday, Tom & I, along with a number of other teachers in my district, rode to raise money for Brain Tumor Research. This is the second year we've done this particular ride, but last year we did the more manageable 25 miles. Just so you know, going from 25 miles to 50 is like going from one child to two. It doesn't simply double the effort required, instead some weird math thing that I could never understand occurs, and it multiplies everything by about x to the 10th power or something. But, this isn't about math, this post is supposed to be about what an amazing bike ride we had yesterday.

To begin, the weather was absolutely spectacular - blue skies, light breezes, temperatures in the high 60's to low 70's. Perfect bike riding weather. And the route? Gorgeous rolling hills, panoramic views of the mountains and Saratoga Lake, beautiful homes and horse farms... If I were a horse, I would definitely want to live in Saratoga County. The ride included a 10 mile loop through the Saratoga Battleground, which I've never visited before, and it was like a history lesson on two wheels! The landscape below was taken from a vantage point in the park, and I imagine the view hasn't changed much since we were fighting the British. And, thanks to the hippie rider in the Hendrix jersey on the purple (microdot?) bicycle for giving us the heads up on the photo op. Good call, dude!

A couple of things I've learned on these long (for me) rides which I'd like to share with you:
  1. If you fall off your bike - get back on it. After the ride in the ambulance to the E.R., that is.
  2. Ride your own pace - the rides I do are fun(d)raisers, not races.
  3. "Down" hills are more than likely going to be paired with "up" hills. Be prepared for the ups and the downs.
  4. Be sure to keep your lips sealed when riding past dairy farms unless you like eating bugs.
  5. If you're planning to post a picture of yourself on your blog, remember to take a minute for mascara and lip gloss. A good alternative is a handsome husband and cropping.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Porto Rico Importing Company

So, where do you get your caffeine fix? Do you brew at home? Perhaps even grind your beans each morning? And, where are you getting your beans? For more than 15 years we've been getting our beans, Bleeker Street fresh, from Porto Rico Importing Co.

I originally stumbled (probably literally) upon this place when I lived in Chelsea. Now, this was a long time ago - B.S., as in Before Starbucks, but I guess we were still a little late to the game because in the back of my 1966 edition of the New York Times Cookbook, Porto Rico was listed as a recommended purveyor. They've actually been in business for more than 100 years!

I was probably initially enticed by the incredible, rich aroma of roasting beans, but I must say, what has kept us going back is the terrific value Porto Rico offers to coffee (and tea) lovers far and near. You know I am all about the local and independent business, but this is one of those occasions when I can't afford to not go with mail order, because their coffee really is that good and the price can't be beat. A couple of weeks ago we received 9 lbs of coffee, as well as a box of unbleached coffee filters, delivered via UPS, for less than $75! Unfortunately, I've never had local coffee that compares in quality and value, although I'm certainly open to your suggestions.

A couple of things to know when ordering - there is always a weekly sale but the time to really stock up (if you have freezer room) is during one of their two BIG sales in either April or October. During these sales the volume of their business generally slows down the delivery schedule - it may take a week or more to receive your order. They also sell tea, coffee machines and some funky candy, including espresso bean confections. If you have a chance to visit the store there are some cool French presses, assorted creamers, and teapots also available. If it is your first time to the store and it seems familiar, perhaps you're recognizing it as one of the locations used to film one of those Healthy New York television commercial a number of years ago. There are four locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, for you hipsters. Check it out - let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Breakfast Burrito!

There is something about a breakfast burrito that I adore. And I'm not talking about some crappy fast food excuse of a burrito - I'm talking about a luscious blend of velvety scrambled eggs, some avocado, a smear of vegetarian refried beans and a healthy dollop of salsa all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. A little spicy, a bit creamy, and an excellent opportunity to work vegetables into the first meal of the day. Although the combination of ingredients is my standard burrito combination there are so many other items that would fit perfectly into a tortilla - perhaps a pork product, cheese, tomatoes, spinach, asparagus from Amy & Gretchen's asparagus patch...

Do you have a favorite out of the ordinary breakfast treat with which you like to start the day?

Monday, May 10, 2010

10 Things Restaurant Guests Should Never Do

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Bruce Bushel's 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (parts 1 and 2), perhaps you have even contributed your own personal pet peeve(s) in the form of a comment. A recent incident at the restaurant caused me to consider what Restaurant Guests should never do - although I would never be didactic enough to compile 100 items. I mean, really, 100?!?

1. Do not call a restaurant on a Saturday night at 6:45 and demand a table for 10 in 20 minutes. Believe me, I would love to accommodate your party but when you consider the size of a restaurant, the size of your party and the fact that it is Mother's Day weekend, it just isn't happening.

2. When I explain all of these circumstances to you please do not assert that you are "good friends" with the restaurant's owner. You know what? The owner of the restaurant and I share a great mutual respect - and that's why he trusts me to represent his business on the busiest night of the week. By all means - call him. Tell him I said "hi."

3. When your party arrives an hour earlier than your reservation, please make yourself comfortable at the bar and enjoy yourselves. This does not include standing on a booth to take photos of your group. Believe me, your faces are indelibly engraved on quite a few memories after your behavior - no photo necessary.

4. How about acknowledging the fact that you are in a nice restaurant on a Saturday night with your attire? Baseball hats and t-shirts don't really impress anyone or at least not in the right way.

5. Having some fun and shared laughter is wonderful and what the hospitality industry encourages and supports. This does not mean you are welcome to inflict your humor, or a conversation about how "hot " you are, on my entire dining room. They were having their own conversations until the volume of your conversation made their own impossible to maintain.

6. When your excessive volume is pointed out to you, in a direct but quiet manner, the appropriate response is not "REALLY???" Nor is it appropriate to repeatedly give me the stink eye and mumble each time I walk past you. Please - this Saturday thing that I do is supposed to be more dissimilar to my Monday -Friday gig working with teenagers. Really.

7. After spending more than an hour at the bar, completely stiffing the bartender is an irrefutable display of classlessness. Well done.

8. Having a discussion at an elevated volume about whether you are going to stay at the restaurant to eat should have occurred prior to your being graciously brought to your table. And that nice party of 4 at the nearby table might have remained for dessert if they knew you were leaving.

9. When you loudly declare that you are leaving because you are unhappy with the way you have been treated, it probably isn't really necessary to loudly state where you are going to eat instead. Especially since I know people who work there and will be calling them as soon as you leave.

10. Do not equate the possession of cash with the ownership of class. Believe me, I never do.

Photo courtesy Joe Schumacher.

Mother's Day ~ Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Is it just me, or does it seem that the purpose of Mother's Day is to make so much food available that you end the day looking at least 4 months pregnant? Sorry if I'm projecting, but I definitely have a food hangover today - and I wish had like 3 more hours of sleep. After an intensely busy Saturday night at the restaurant, Sunday morning began far too early, with breakfast in bed. The ritual of breakfast in bed escapes me after a childhood of not being allowed to eat in my room, but it was pleasant to stay warm and cozy, and read the paper, while enjoying breakfast. Definitely fine for once a year. After hearing Griffin and/or Quinn "tiptoe" in for the 3rd or 4th time to check if I was still sleeping, I abandoned any hope of additional sleep at about 7:30 and allowed them to serve me breakfast.

I had requested a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, thinking that if I kept it simple the chances of a messy kitchen would be minimized. The family came through with an enormous bagel from the Uncommon Grounds topped with scallion cream cheese, tomato and tender Alaskan smoked salmon. And the kitchen was really in excellent shape when I finally made it downstairs to get myself and the boys ready for lunch. Yes, lunch.

Lunch was in Chatham, at Godmother Amy's house, and she put out quite a spread. For the second time (but not the last time) of the day, I ate despite not really feeling hungry. Amy made a pile of asparagus wrapped in turkey bacon and these little tidbits were irresistible, especially when you factor in that the asparagus were from her very own asparagus patch. An aside - I tried to read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle , by Barbara Kingsolver last year, and couldn't get past her tone of superiority, however I did become fascinated by the concept of an asparagus patch - and Amy's asparagus were lovely. Accompanying the asparagus were a vegetable frittata, creamy mac n cheese, home fry style potatoes and fruit salad - yummy, yummy.

The boys & I headed back to Albany and I managed a solid 45 minute catnap before Tom finally made it home from brunch at Dale Miller. By the time Tom & I headed to the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark I was a little hungry - almost. We settled into the make-out booth and perused the menu. We decided to start with the arugula salad and an order of escargot. The salad was a beautiful mound of mild, small leaf arugula and large enough for us to share. The escargot were fantastic - butter, garlic and spinach simply can't be wrong together and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Although I love the hangar steak at the Wine Bar, I decided to try something new based on Steve Barnes' suggestion - the wagyu flatiron steak, and I was not disappointed. The beef was perfectly prepared and delicious. I had prematurely requested some coarse salt to flavor the beef, but the salt remained untouched - the seasoning was perfect and needed no adjustment. On the side were some nicely sauteed vegetables and a layered potato and cheese gratin which was perfectly satisfying. Tom had the tuna and was raving over the fish as well as the accompanying garlic mashed potatoes.

To take advantage of their evening's special (25% off all European bottles), I left my domestic comfort zone and selected a terrific Chateauneuf du Pape, 2006 GRENACHE/SYRAH, CLOS DE BRUSQUIERES. I seriously don't know that much about Old World wines, (which is probably why I gravitate to New World selections), but I really appreciate the organization of the WB&B's wine list and the inclusion of the varietal, because it made me feel confident that I was selecting a wine I was going to enjoy. And enjoy, I did. Our delightful, dinner with hot food (mothers, you know what I'm talking about here), and romantic candlelit ambiance was a bargain at $125 pre-tip, post wine discount. An exhausting (food-filled) day, but isn't that what being a mother is all about?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Emperor's Palace

At our house one of the birthday traditions is that the honoree gets to choose dinner and their cake. I will devote this post to the dinner - the cake was a bit complicated and will require an additional post. This year (and last year, if I remember correctly) Griffin requested Chinese food on his birthday; specifically Emperor's Palace. All of those discussions about independent restaurants seem to be making an impact on our children and it is extremely gratifying to think we are doing something right, in terms of parenting. Hey - you take it when you can get it.

We've been fans of Emperor's Palace since their days on Lark Street and it is the place we go to for both birthday celebrations and pre-birth meals. Quick story to explain "pre-birth meals:" When I was in early labor for Quinn, Tom & I did a lot of walking - laps around Stuyvesant Plaza, Sears to Macy's at Colonie Center, etc. We crossed Wolf Road to grab a bite to eat at Emperor's Palace, (I think we may have had the stuffed eggplant for it's reputed labor inducing properties), and the waiter promised me that I would have my baby the next day, Chinese New Year. And I did. Ok, back to the birthday instead of the birth day....

We are definitely hooked on a couple of items at Emperor's. Their fried squid with salt and hot peppers (pictured above on left) is fantastic almost every time. Once in a great while it is chewy, but not last week - it was hot, crispy yet tender and salty. And the four of us devoured it in no time flat. I ordered the Har Kow (above on right) which are always good - flavorful, soft on the outside and filled with shrimp. I love these things and it took great restraint for me not to eat all of them myself, but I did manage to bring some home for the husband and they reheated in the microwave fairly well. We also had an order of pork dumplings, which we requested steamed but arrived fried instead. No biggie. These were primarily for the boys and they are years away from worrying about fat calories or cholesterol. And how could I send them back after the waiter told me I was "so very kind?"

Griffin requested Peking Duck aka as the one dish the entire family will eat. We've had this dish in four different (Montreal, NYC, D.C., Philadelphia) Chinatowns and Emperor's Palace does a nice job with it, although my absolute favorite was in Philadelphia where they actually made a quick soup from the duck and served it as an additional course. The steamed buns, scallions and thick hoisin sauce make for some tasty little sandwiches when they are paired with the crispy and moist duck meat. Quinn had his go to dish - sesame chicken and I rounded the feast out with an order of Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce.

One of the nicest things, for my family, about Emperor's Palace is the service. The two or three regular servers remember us, always remark on the how big the children are getting and graciously take care of us. We've had excellent food from CCK, and I'm willing to give Ala Shanghai another shot, but Emperor's Palace is the place where we always feel like royalty. D'oh!

Champagne on the Park

Last night I was lucky enough to attend this event in beautiful Washington Park. To me, this has become the event of Tulip Fest weekend and I really look forward to it every year. I mean, if I want to have a couple of drinks in the park, I'd much rather do it with people who are dressed nicely, know what I'm saying? I was a little bummed that there were actually two events last night that I would have liked to attend. Maybe next year Taste of Albany and Champagne on the Park will each of their own night and I can make it to both. Last night's crowd was decidedly younger than in years' past and a bit hipper, too, I'd have to say. The band, whose name I never caught, was terrific and people seemed to be having a good time, despite the terrible tragedy that struck Tess' Lark Tavern Wednesday night. Both the Lark and Tess are Albany landmarks and I know they will be back and better than ever as soon as possible.

I've got some photos up from the party that you might enjoy.

Champagne on the Park

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Most delicious ribs ever!

Since Tom is at work most nights of the week, I look for ways to make him feel included in our evening meals. You know, little prep tasks he can accomplish during the day to facilitate dinner preparations to help him to feel involved. That might be a bit of b.s. - it may really be more a matter of my needing all the help I can get feeding these kids, especially on soccer practice nights. Last night's family meal was a rack of ribs which Tom had picked up this week, except for Quinn who is going through an incredibly annoying phase where he seems to only eat yogurt, wheat thins and peanut butter.

I've been toying with various cooking methods for ribs for awhile and have tried low heat, indirect heat, slow cooking in the crock pot and broiling. I've heard that some folks boil their meat (keep it clean, folks) prior to grilling, but I wasn't interested in taking that route. I do believe, that yesterday's attempt was my (ok, our) best attempt yet, and here's what I (we) did:

Wrap the ribs in foil, place them on a baking sheet and put in the oven for about 2.5 hours @ 325F. Tom did this in the morning and then refrigerated the ribs until late afternoon. Fire up half of the grill (we actually have 3 burners, so it is more like 2/3 of the grill) to medium hot. Put ribs on the "off" side of the grill for about 40 minutes, turning once. Lower grill to low and baste with the sauce of your choice - I had some commercial bar-b-q sauce, probably loaded with corn syrup, that I mixed together with kecap manis. I generously brushed them with the sauce and cooked them for about 15-18 minutes, turning them 3 or 4 times. They were truly everything I want in a rib - tender, sweet, smoky, falling off the bone...yum. It took a tremendous effort on my part (way more effort than throwing some ribs in foil and abandoning them to the oven for a couple of hours), but I did manage to save one meaty one for the hubby. And that's the closest we get to family dinner mid-week.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Celebrity Whores

An open letter to the women who sleep with famous married men and then try to sell their stories:

Dear Loose Lips -
I wanted to congratulate you on reaching new depths in whoredom. You've really upped the ante for all of the future infidels because it is no longer enough to simply sleep with another woman's husband. Oh, no. Thanks to your capitalist nature and opportunistic ways, the act of deception is insufficient unless the entire universe hears your version of the sordid affair. Well done!! You're famous and perhaps have even gained financially from some woman's husband's transgression. You do, of course, realize that you are famous for being a whore, right? I'm sure your family is really proud.

Marriage is challenging and I do understand that extramarital affairs sometimes occur. What I do not understand is why anyone would value celebrity and money so much that they are willing to abandon any shred of self-respect or integrity. But, please stop trying to explain to the media (and to the wronged wife) what happened, marital interloper. I think the only person who might care to hear your perspective less than me is busy right now meeting with a really good divorce lawyer.

Sincerely - Mrs. Silvia Lilly


Today marks 73 years since my mother-in-law, Sheila, was born. Even though we lost her more than two years ago, it just wouldn't be right to not honor her on this day. There aren't many days that pass without my thinking of her, or our family not sharing a memory of when she was still with us. Last Sunday, our family went to services at her church outside of Pittsfield to celebrate her birthday. Representing the family were three of her children, as well as her three youngest grandchildren, and we were warmly welcomed by the congregation. There is a beautiful wall hanging created in her honor very prominently displayed, and numerous people expressed their fondness of Sheila, and the loss they still feel by her absence.

Poor Quinn was just a few days shy of his third birthday when she died and hasn't quite grasped where she went. I've always tried to keep it simple for him and explained that Grandma's body had a sickness which meant she could no longer be with us in person, but that her love and spirit continue to live in our hearts. He seems to have held onto this fairly well, and I really do believe he has nonspecific memories of her, and the love she showered on her family, but there are times when he asks questions and I really fumble for an answer which will satisfy him.

After church we all took a ride to visit the cemetery where Sheila is buried, near her parents, two of her brothers, and her beloved sister, Patty. In the car, Quinn told us that he wanted Grandma to come back and be normal again. Tom explained that she was never "normal" and that we just had to remember her and, in that way, she would always be alive inside of each of us. This triggered a barrage of additional questions and comments that eventually overwhelmed us - not really in an emotional way, but more of in an intellectual way. How does one explain death when one doesn't really know what their own understanding of it is?

The cemetery in Dalton is small, filled with Irish surnames and surrounded by tall evergreen trees - a lovely setting. Across the street from the family plot, there is a large house seemingly as filled with children as the yard is filled by a pool and a trampoline and an oversized tent. The noise of the children, their shrieks and laughter, are the perfect soundtrack for Sheila's final resting place. Happy birthday, Sheila. We love you and you do indeed live in our hearts.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Oh, Albany!

Last Saturday, I met a couple at the restaurant who were in the process of moving to Albany from San Francisco. Now, there are others who have made this same trek East only to be disappointed by some of what the Capital Region has to offer. I don't know if it is a question of expectations, personal values or perception, but after more than 20 years living in Albany, I can emphatically say (politics and orange mayors aside) that I love Albany. Don't get me wrong - in my heart, Greenwood Lake, N.Y. will always be the place that I envision when I hear the word home, but, Albany is where I am able to provide my family with a good quality of life at an incredibly reasonable cost and I celebrate that with sincerity.

Since Saturday, I've been considering how much Albany has changed since I first moved here. The most obvious change, to me, is the increase in dining options. In 1988, there were very few fine dining spots downtown and little variety in ethnic food choices. The Lark Street area then was home to a mediocre Chinese place, El Loco and Mamoun's Falafel, all of which remain, but they have been joined by Indian, Thai and Greek options. Seriously, there have to be at least 7 or 8 countries represented by menus on Lark Street these days - and that is a good thing. And for fine dining downtown there are terrific options like Yono's/DP, Angelo's 677, Marche, Dale Miller, and The Brown Derby - all of which have made their debut in the past 5 years. Pretty impressive.

I grew up outside of NYC, and it was initially a challenge to consider Albany a "city," but over the years, I've grown to appreciate Smalbany and am quite content here. If you're local, be it native or transplanted, to the Capital District, what are your favorite places? Share.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wine -N- Diner

We have another dining option in the DelSo - and this one is open for breakfast, lunch & dinner. The Wine-N-Diner has opened in the former Avenue A space and I'm really looking forward to giving it a try. The menu is unpretentiously creative and includes Appetizers, All Day Breakfast, Sandwiches (including some club sandwich choices), Burgers, Blue Plate items, Vegetarian selections, Salads and substantial Entrees after 4 pm. Pricing begins at $4 for soups and tops out at $27 for the Cowboy Ribeye, described as "Dry-rubbed, bone-in Hereford , served with mashed potatoes." The Ribeye is by far the most expensive item on the menu with the appetizers and breakfast $8>, sandwiches range from a $4 grilled cheese to an $11 Squat Lobster Roll (Langoustine). Half-pound burgers are served with chips and start at $6. The burger I need to try is the Carpet Baggin' Burger (w/cheddar, bacon, fried oysters and spicy remoulade, $9). Blue Plate items include Chicken Fried Steak ($6.5), Meatloaf ($7) and Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles (with mash & maple gravy, $9). There is also a selection of $5 items for children. The Greek watermelon salad looks enticing - watermelon, red onions, fresh basil and feta, $7, as does the All Thai's Up entree - veggies simmered in coconut mile and red curry broth served over cellophane noodles, $10.

Hours are: Tues-Thurs 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.,
Friday 7 a.m. - 12 a.m.,
Saturday brunch 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. - 12 a.m.
Sunday brunch 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

I'm not really clear if "brunch" means an abbreviated menu, but I'll find out as soon as we find the time to get there. I'm hoping to wrangle the boys there in the next week or two and am confident that the menu will provide satisfying options for each of us, despite the introductory lack of alcohol availability. Their web page is more a "place holder" than anything else but they do have a preliminary sort of Facebook page, as well. I'll try to add a picture or 2 later in the weekend to this post and, of course, will share our impressions once we have an opportunity to have a meal. If you go - please share your experiences here.