Category Archives: Wine

Greek whine

8D5167CA-F3FC-4D28-85D0-705B0FE3B728In case you missed it, I really fell hard for Greece last year. That two week trip had provided a sampling of sights and this year, I intended to go back with more focus, spending 2020’s two weeks in just three locations. Two of the planned locations were repeats from last year, places I wanted to explore more deeply.

When this whole Covid-19 thing started getting really ugly, I couldn’t imagine my trip planned for an entire 4 months into the future wouldn’t occur as  scheduled. What do I know? This is my first pandemic.

In early April, my transatlantic flights were cancelled by American Airlines. Receiving a refund is in process and has been fairly painless so far. Not willing to immediately declare my trip cancelled, I looked for other travel options. I’ve been keeping up on reports out of Europe about the havoc from this international health crisis and I’m in contact with two people in Greece, one in Athens, one on a larger island. After considering the information I was receiving, I believed there was still a solid possibility that Greece would be open for mid-July.

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Taking advantage of a great price, ($530 r/t w luggage), I bought a new ticket to get me to Athens and, presumably, back. The transaction felt pretty risk free because if the flight were cancelled, I would have a year from purchase to use the voucher. Also, United has been my choice in recent years for their (formerly) nonstop EWK to PSP flight for the holidays. I could use the credit then.

Barely two weeks later, that nonstop United flight was cancelled. Adding insult to injury,* I hadn’t even received the courtesy of an email notification. I had stumbled on the cancellation as I was seeking my details about my reservation and noted a message in my United mailbox.

After speaking with a customer service representative, I felt pretty comfortable about the situation. It seemed that my voucher would entitle (not a word I often own) me to a comparable ticket on a future flight even if there was a price increase.  Cool.

I took a moment yesterday to take a look at flight availability. There’ve been some positive indicators around much of the world and many people want to start moving around again. Obviously, I’m one of them. Very quickly, going old school with Travelocity, I located a newly scheduled United flight on my preferred days. The seats were much more expensive, but I phoned United and, again, received capable and professional assistance. I was booked on the flight for my previously scheduled dates and charged no additional money, despite the fare now being approximately twice as much as I had paid last month.

So, maybe third time’s the charm?

As I said in a travel site post:

If my flight remains scheduled and my hosts in Greece still want me to come and the airports are open and I’ve met all the conditions in place required for traveling, I intend to go to Greece this summer. If I am unable to meet these standards, I won’t go. I’ve sheltered in place, worked from home, abided by social distancing, wear a mask as necessary and wash my hands meticulously and frequently. I’ve accepted all of the recommendations set forth by the government, so if the government loosens restrictions, I will continue to use their rules to guide me. I’ve adjusted my plans (canceled 2 weeks in Spain preceding Greece) to minimize risk and am traveling alone. I’m not reckless, but as an adult I can make decisions for myself.

There’s no tragedy in my staying home, as necessary, but there’s no crime in my popping open a bottle of Assyrtiko and making a wish, either.

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How are you managing anticipated travel plans and arrangements?

*this is obvious hyperbole, friends..

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Filed under beauty, Europe, favorites, Greece, medical, Observations, Summer, travel, Vermont, Wine

Galentine’s Eve

Last night, after far too long, I finally saw my running friends. Getting a date on the calendar was a challenge only slightly less difficult than running a half marathon together, but a special screening at the Spectrum provided the perfect occasion.

February 12th would have been The Doors keyboard player, Ray Manzarek’s 81st birthday. The two surviving members of the band worked to honor the life of Manzarek and helped to produce a feature length movie, The Doors: Break on Through, which included footage from a 2016 tribute concert with an impressive roster of musicians, along with archival footage and personal recollections and anecdotes.

Show time for this One Night Only film was 7:00 which gave us just enough time to slip into New World Bistro Bar for a quick bite to eat. I had been craving a burger all day and the deluxe Kilcoyne Farms version that I ordered last night rang all the bells. Delivered perfectly medium rare with peppered bacon, Cabot sharp cheddar, grilled onion and a chipotle aioli it was everything for which I had hoped. Paired with an excellent bottle of Tempranillo, and great company, it was the ideal dinner.

As for the movie, I had no real expectations or assumptions about what I might see. While there was a definite buzz about the showing (and the theater was at least ⅔ full), I hadn’t seen any critical response to the film, so I walked in completely open to the experience. And slightly buzzed.

I don’t often see these types of movies and I’ve got to check my life and do this more often because I had so much fun. When I was about 15 I went through the standard Jim Morrison phase and crushed on him pretty damn hard. Seeing his hot and handsome self on the big screen elicited more than a few sighs, and not just from me. The musical performances from the tribute concert were for the most part fantastic. Warren Haynes and his guitar prowess were definite highlights, but a couple of the singers who boldly took on Morrison’s leading role also were impressive.

The audience at the theater was enthusiastic with lots of shoulders moving and singing along with the music. One guy could not control himself and took over the aisle to make it into a dancefloor – a move I greatly admired. I wish there had been a designated area to get my groove on, because I would have been inspired to join him.

It was an awesome night. Galentine’s Eve just might be my favorite new holiday to celebrate.

 

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, friends, Local, Movies, Music, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, Wine

When flying south flies out the window

Last night I should have been settling in to my second cocktail of the weekend with the sound of waves in my ears and the scent of salt water filling my nostrils. Instead, I was cozied up on the couch wrapped in a cashmere robe with more holes in it than my aborted weekend plans, watching yet another episode of Sex Education…what is it that they say about the best laid plans?

I initially booked a quick trip to Florida as a chance to see friends and get a dose of vitamin D. I had enough JetBlue points for a free ticket, multiple options for places to stay and plenty of people whom I love and enjoy spending time with. A $100 rental car would cover my three days and provide me with the independence to come and go as I please. Seemed pretty ideal.

Admittedly, the fact that I forgot my son’s birthday took a bit of shine off the weekend, but he was okay with it and his present was on track to be delivered precisely on his birthday. I was covered.

As the weather report evolved and Friday afternoon seemingly became the absolute worst imaginable time to fly with mixed precipitation and wild winds, I started getting concerned about my ability to get out of town. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and settled in at the gate to wait. That’s when things took a bad turn.

Our plane had been unable to land in Albany due to weather conditions and had been diverted to JFK to refuel. We were going to be delayed. I started thinking about arriving in Fort Lauderdale closer to 9:30 instead of 8:20. Next we heard our plane from JFK couldn’t take off because of weather conditions in NYC. Our expected departure time changed again. I called my car rental company to talk about a later pick up time.

Phones in the waiting area chimed again – our flight was going to be further delayed. I approached the check in desk to ask about cancelling my ticket, and having my points returned to me, and was advised to call the 800 number to speak with someone who might be able to help me.

The expected departure time changed again – best case scenario had the flight arriving in Fort Lauderdale close to midnight. The car rental office closed at 12:30, making that an uncomfortably tight transition for me. I called JetBlue and was completely satisfied with their willingness to cancel my ticket and refund my points to use another time. I made a couple more calls, notifying friends and cancelling the car rental.

I retrieved my car from the valet and decided to treat myself to dinner, craving anything that would go well with a glass of rich red wine. I drove towards Yono’s but, upon seeing the marquee at The Palace, realized that getting in an hour before Cheap Trick hit the stage wasn’t likely. I crossed Lark St. thinking I would finally try the cacio e pepe at 288 Lark Wine & Tap, but just felt the need to be closer to home. Nicole’s it was.

I settled in at the bar with a menu and the capable Logan in attendance, He poured me a gorgeous glass of Valpolicella and I eventually selected the fried artichokes and a half order of pappardelle with a hearty beef short rib ragu. It was exactly the kind of meal a snowy February night demanded.

I heard familiar voices from the dining room and was really happy to see some folks that I’ve known since the McGuire’s heyday. We caught up and shared a few laughs. It might not have been Florida, but it still felt pretty warm to me.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Eating, Food, friends, Lark Street, snow, stress, travel, upstate New York, vacation, Wine, winter

Throwback thanksgiving

Pies from Debbie’s Kitchen, Albany NY

When I was a kid I had faux aunts and uncles. There were no true relatives (that I knew about) in the States, so my mother provided close friends who functioned on some level as family. It was a laudable attempt and there were some good people in our lives during those years, some of whom remain to this day.

One of these families, the Ls, had the most multi limbed family tree in the my world and I loved the holidays we shared with them over the years. Dinner usually included all of the following: the married couple, (about the same age as my mom), and their daughter, who was a toddler when we met, his son from his first marriage, joined by her two children from her first marriage. Also present, her first husband with his son from his second marriage. And the three of us.

It seemed like the most exciting, bizarre and totally normal holiday gathering ever. The traditions all blurred together, Jewish, Italian American, German, and the food was crazy – lasagna, bagels with lox, ham and fruit cake. Thinking about those days always makes me smile big.

Yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends. It was very low key and comfortable. We brought desserts and a savory vegetable casserole to join the bounty that was already present. While we didn’t play backgammon for boxes of Marlboro Reds, (as I might have decades ago with “my” extended family), we sipped far better wine than in those long ago days, with a mood which was comparably mellow.

My first attempt at curd – Cranberry Curd Tart from the NYT.

At the table was my UG* and his children. And his children’s mom and her partner, along with her partner’s parents and her brother and sister in law. Looking around the table and seeing the threads that tied us all together, I couldn’t help but smile at the familiarity of the situation.

We recreate the chaos with which we are most comfortable. (I use “chaos” here to suggest a familiar dynamic with lots of activity, not as an indication of lack of control.) There’s a vibe or pace that we try to replicate, whether it’s conscious or not, because that’s what we grew up knowing.

Sitting at the dining table with a bunch of people who, through the years, have chosen to share their lives with one another, defines the holidays for me, even more than turkey and cranberry sauce. The combination of common histories and yet-to-be-explored future activities is what I was raised on and yesterday was the first time I felt that familiar energy in a long time.

It was a good holiday.

How was yours?

*don’t ask me what it means, it’s a private joke term of endearment

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, Christmas, Dinner, drinking, Eating, family, Food, friends, girlhood, holidays, Local, love, marriage, musings, Observations, relationships, upstate New York, Wine

Catching up – CivMix & Silvia

I’m really enjoying being a part of CivMix! The site is still being developed, but I think you will find there to be some cool features, both in terms of content and interface, once the website is fully fleshed out.

Here are my most recent posts over there. Why not give a read and some feedback – here or there!

Dispatch from Greece

What makes a meal memorable?

I want to get away – Part I

…and Part II

 

 

 

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Filed under Albany, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Greece, ideas, Local, Observations, Recommendations, travel, vacation, Wine

Missing Naxos

It’s that time of the evening again. The sun has set, with me as its sole witness on our rooftop deck, and I’m alternating between cold white wine and cold water. I don’t really need dinner after another late lunch, but some ice cream might be nice and, since it’s our final night on this island, I probably should indulge myself. F*ck it. I don’t know when I’ll be fortunate enough to return to this, my first Greek island, and I think I want to spend a little more time wandering the maze of streets and, perhaps, say goodbye to the cats and views which have left me utterly charmed.

I miss Naxos already.

And I haven’t even left yet.

We arrived on a day when it seemed the island was trying to keep us offshore, as the wind blew with 50 mph gusts and the ferry workers practically shoved us off the ramp and it’s barely contained bucking. It was intense. Since that day, though, Naxos has softened and accepted our presence with grace. The skies have been blue and the water is warm and the food has been fantastic. We’ve hiked and biked and paddle boarded and swam and the sun has been kind and only slightly burned us. I’m thinking of the redness on my shoulders as a means of taking a little bit of Mediterranean sunshine back home with me. I’m ok with it.

I’ll miss the sounds of sweeping brooms and the water hoses perpetually battling with the sandy soil and the dust it leaves on every single surface. I hope to always remember the noises of the birds and crickets and church bells. I’m certain I’ve never eaten as many tomatoes or capers or olives and I know, that when I eat those things in the future again, they will remind me of my time here. Just like the gelato I’m about to go into town to enjoy.

Thanks, Naxos. It’s been wonderful.

Next stop: Mykonos.

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Filed under beauty, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Greece, musings, Summer, Tomatoes, travel, vacation, Wine

Things I’ve given up on vacation

Wearing makeup*

or a bra if I don’t feel like it.

Counting calories

or glasses of wine.

Checking the clock

or my email.

Caring about an extra couple of pounds

or the silver threads in my hair.

Having three meals a day

or even keeping track of how many there have been.

Running

or any exercise beyond walking.

Knowing what day of the week it is

or remembering why that matters other than so I know which island I’m on.

 

*except for a pop of lipstick

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Europe, Greece, musings, Observations, Random, Summer, travel, vacation, Wine