Category Archives: Wine

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

Best bites – Ireland, 2019

People say all kinds of negative things about Irish food – it’s bland or all fried or what in God’s name is black pudding?, but I’m here to tell you there is some excellent food to be had on the Emerald Isle. While my first day of eating was a disaster with two subpar meals, it’s all been good since then. Here’s a round up of my favorite places to get a good quality meal.

Dublin proper

Vintage Kitchen. Apologies in advance for not having photos of my fantastic dinner, but it’s hard to snap pics when your hands are full of wine glasses! This established and highly regarded spot, near Tara Station, is a tough table to get and had been booked a full 6 months prior to our Saturday night reservation. My lamb shank was divine, but following the starter course of a potato gratin with crab (served in an adorable mini copper skillet), I was hopeless to finish it. This place rocks.

Italian food in Ireland can be dodgy, but Ciao Bella Roma, excruciatingly slow service aside, does a good job with a fairly broad menu. Our table of five enjoyed an array of items including pizza, a calzone, three pasta variations and a couple of salads and everything was surprisingly tasty. Was my cacio e pepe as memorable as what I had in Rome? No, but it was really good and the portion was tremendous. Desserts and a cappuccino rounded out the meal and all were thoroughly enjoyed.

Searsons Pub – This large, popular pub serves a terrific pint as well as a full menu of delights. I had the seafood chowder and found it excellent, chocked with fresh fish and a touch of cream. Very nice and social spot.

Outside of Dublin

Tranquil Tearooms in Deansgrange Cemetery. After a drenching walk trying to locate my father’s resting spot, this cafe was like a welcome mirage promising warmth and coziness. I had no expectation for the high quality of the offerings and I only wish I could have justified ordering a slice of any of the cakes on display, following my sweet potato soup with a slice of brown bread. Wholesome, fresh and precisely what my chilled self needed prior to making my way back outside again on a damp day.

Octopussy’s in Howth. Get on the Dart to Howth and make your way to this small tapas place. If you’re lucky, they’ll find a table to tuck you into, but if you need to wait for availability (reservations not taken), settle in. It’s worth waiting for oysters like the 1/2 dozen I enjoyed. Rounds things out with another plate or two – I went with the scallops and patatas brava. Solid selections. Bonus – great music and very capable service.

Galway

Quay Street Kitchen on the lower part of Quay Street, is a wonderful spot to enjoy a meal while watching the crowds make their way up and down the busy pedestrian street. This was probably my favorite chowder of the trip and it’ll be hard for anyone to exceed the quality and freshness of the ingredients prepared with a respectful and light hand. Absolutely delicious and served with warmth and hospitality.

Oslo Bar  in Salthill, luckily for me just a few minutes walk from my Airbnb, is a place that takes it beers quite seriously. Fortunately, their menu rises to the occasion and I thoroughly enjoyed lunch of broccoli salad with a side of the best polenta fries I’ve ever had. The service was a bit distant, but the food hit the mark.

Cava Bodega, a wine bar and tapas spot, made my last evening in Galway a sensory delight. After a bit of negotiating between sitting indoors and out, my server found me a lovely high top table and I settled myself indoors with a view of the street and dining room. My glass of cava came from a fresh bottle and the anchovies with peppers paired beautifully with the dry bubbles. I enjoyed the evening’s special preparation of local mussels in white wine and garlic and despite the loudness of the nearby Americans, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this well lit and cozy nook slightly off Quay Street. Find it.

Maybe you have some recommendations to add to my certainly incomplete list?

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, ideas, Ireland, Recommendations, Restaurants, soup, Spring, travel, vacation, Wine

Becoming Purnomo

Circa 1988

When I first moved to Albany in 1988, I got a job working split doubles at PD. Ladd’s, currently Dove and Deer. My apartment was just around the corner on Washington Avenue and, since I was carless, I needed to work within walking distance. The Ladopolous brother were very kind to me and, while I really enjoyed working there, I wanted to work someplace that was more renowned for their food than their proximity to the Capitol for the political types who regularly filled the bar.

At my 50th birthday party.

I read a story about Yono Purnomo, and his recognition as  Chef of the Year, and set my sights on working at Yono’s in Robinson Square never imagining the impact that decision would have on my life. Thirty years later, my relationship with the Purnomo family continues to affect my life frequently. For instance, yesterday I enjoyed lunch with a friend who I originally met at Yono’s where she was a guest and I a server. Today, I will bring my tax documents to a preparer whose office is next door to the original Yono’s location. Back in the day I would deliver happy hour cocktails to his office, cutting across our rear shared parking lot. My dermatologist, veterinarian practice and optician all were selected upon Donna’s recommendation and I’m still loyal to each of them decades later.

Dinner with the ladies!

Because of this family, on some level, I have a family. My boys’ dad and I met working at Yono’s and we held our pre-wedding fete at the restaurant. When my boys were born, there was bakmi delivered to satisfy the intense hunger caused by birthing babies. Through the Purnomos I’ve met countless hospitality professionals and have enjoyed some terrific industry perks and courtesies. I realized recently that the very first time I ever shared a piece of my writing (some thoughts I had when we lost our resident curmudgeon, John Radley) publicly, was at Yono’s. The response and support I received was encouraging and more than likely influenced me to write and share more.

Is there a word for sister-daughter-niece? Maybe in Italian?

My life has been enriched by this hard-working and gracious family, and the experiences we’ve shared, and I am so glad they allowed me to become part of their extended clan 30 years ago. Happy anniversary, Donna, Yono, Nick & Sis.

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Filed under aging, Albany, family, Food, friends, Local, love, moms, Observations, relationships, Uncategorized, upstate New York, Wine

Randoms – February, 2019

  • I have absolutely zero feelings regarding whether the roll of toilet paper is supposed to be installed over or under.
  • However, double parked vehicles blocking available legal parking will probably be my trigger if I should ever totally lose my sh*t.
  • I’m at a stage in the aging process where I believe liberally applied moisturizer and not wearing my glasses (so I can’t see so well) takes five years off my face.
  • There’s an entrance to the parking lot at the nearby shopping plaza that is one way, but which way is undecided. Traffic uses it both to enter and exit the lot. A street sign was once placed indicating the correct direction. It was lying on the ground within days of installation and was gone in less than a week.
  • I’m obsessed with lentils at the moment. This is the latest recipe I prepared.
  • Made gnudi for the first time this weekend. Like most Italian food I’ve ever prepared, it’s labor intensive, but not particularly difficult to make.
  • We’re expecting some weather this week. If you happen to have a corner lot, please consider the difficulty of those in wheelchairs, or less physically mobile, and shovel a path that includes access to the street.
  • Every single time I’m reminded that I’m going to Greece this year, I can’t help but smile. So excited!
  • If anyone has a suggestion for a company that does basement work, please pass it my way. I’d like that project taken care of this spring.
  • I am dangerously close to renewing my Rent the Runway subscription. I’m just so enjoying it!

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Filed under aging, Albany, DelSo, Dinner, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Greece, house, Local, musings, Observations, Random, Recipes, Recommendations, snow, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation, Wine