Category Archives: winter

When culinary worlds collide – Peking Duck Mac and Cheese at New World Bistro Bar

Mashed potatoes aside, mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food in my world. When I make it at home, I consider it an emptying-of-the-cheese -drawer exercise, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy in multiple ways. (I hate wasting food.) The randomness of the cheese selections means it may never quite taste exactly the same twice, but believe me, it’s always good.

While consistency may not be my personal strength, chef Ric Orlando has been hitting it out of the proverbial ballpark for decades. I can’t think of another person (except maybe Dimitrios at City Beer Hall) who has so successfully merged seemingly disparate cuisines into fantastic and memorable dishes. Thai and Italian? IRC’s done that. Traditional dish with an ingredients twist? Of course!

For the recently held Mac & Cheese Bake Off at Keegan Ales, Ric combined two of my favorite dishes – Peking Duck and Mac & Cheese into a dynamite skillet of deliciousness. I dropped in on Tuesday night to sample the dish and was very happy to have had the opportunity to make a meal out of this small plate which satisfied two cravings with each forkful. Three, if you count bullshitting with Nick at the bar.

Served piping hot in a cast iron vessel, the plate was a delight of creamy, crunchy goodness with lovely and tender slices of duck hidden beneath toothsome noodles, mung bean sprouts and chopped scallions. There were also swirls of hoisin (plum?) sauce and gorgeous buttery breadcrumbs, making this a perfect marriage of many flavors taken from two very different and individual cuisines.

The dish was a special Tuesday, (3/3/20), so call ahead or check NWBB’s website for availability. At $12 it was a bargain, paired with a glass of wine it was a meal. Can’t get enough of Mac and Cheese in all its glory?   Here’s your chance to sample more delectable variations this weekend – and raise some $$ for a good cause.

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, upstate New York, winter

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

Defining luxury

I’m mentally packing for an upcoming weekend in Florida. Carry on only, of course. The weather looks a little dicey, but I’m sure that I’ll enjoy the warm air and my rented summer-esque wardrobe, even if it rains a little.

My plan is no plan – visiting friends and walking on the beach are the only things I really hope to do for the couple of days I’m away. If you have any recommendations for places to eat or drink in the Palm Beach vicinity, let me know.

So, does jetting off to Florida for three nights and two days sound to you like the ultimate indulgence? While it’s definitely a treat to escape New York in February, there’s something else going on in my life that feels a lot more luxurious…

Yesterday, I went to see a surgeon about my torn meniscus. I drove to the appointment in my cute and reasonably safe car, leaving work early using some of my accumulated paid sick time. The doctor reviewed the MRI, for which my HMO paid a negotiated and agreed upon price of $350. Had I not been insured, the out of pocket cost would have been closer to $900.

The orthopedist and I discussed treatment options and quickly agreed that a surgical approach was my best course of action. We picked a date two weeks out, during my official (paid) winter break from school. Prior to that date I will meet with my primary care provider for medical clearance for the procedure. I expect that appointment, like the office visit Monday, will cost me $25, which I will pay from my pre-tax flex spending plan.

After surgery, there will be a follow up visit to have the sutures removed and physical therapy to help me regain strength in my knee. My insurance will pay for all of this.

During these months of discomfort and pain and missing running, my favorite physical activity, I have never once had to consider how I would pay for the necessary medical care to help me get better. There hasn’t been a single moment when I’ve been concerned about not being able to go to work and receive my salary because I did not have paid sick time available.

Not once.

Now that, my friend, is genuine and real luxury.

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Filed under aging, Exercise, medical, musings, Observations, running, travel, winter

Medical Monday with mixed results

I’m pretty stingy with my sick days. It’s not like when the kids were younger, and finally all in school, when I would take a sick day just to be in my own house in the quiet. No, these days I get plenty of alone time so I try to hoard my sick days and take care of medical matters at off work hours. So, guess what my Monday holiday looked like?

 

Yes, I opened the day with a 9:00 appointment for an MRI. My knee pain hasn’t really diminished, despite not running, and an X-ray last week revealed nothing remarkable. Have you ever had an MRI? I’ve had at least one before and they’re really not very pleasant, although yesterday’s was far more tolerable than the head/neck one I experienced in the past. On both occasions my coping mechanism was to close my eyes and not open them again until it was over. If you’re remotely claustrophobic, I’d recommend you do the same should you find yourself in the same situation.

Immediately after my appointment, I dashed home to get Jeter to his appointment at the veterinarian. Just before Christmas during a belly rub session, I found a lump on his tummy. My response was panic. Cancer. Once I started breathing again, I calmed myself down by doing some research and considered that his behavior in every way was unchanged. I would keep an eye on it for a couple of weeks.

Last Friday I had a mini panic attack about the lump, despite the fact that there hadn’t been any changes, and scheduled a veterinarian visit for Monday to follow my own appointment. I hustled (on my bad knee!) home to collect Jeter and off we went to the animal clinic. 

Jeter was evaluated and the mass was aspirated with the results confirming the veterinarian’s assessment – a common fatty tumor. I couldn’t have been more relieved with the news and Jeter and I celebrated with a brisk walk around the front nine at Muni.

Well, at least as briskly as I could move with my injured knee. 

While my dog’s diagnosis was all I had hoped for, the findings from my MRI were less welcome.  Apparently I have a tear in my meniscus – and a complex one at that. Shit.


So, next up is an appointment with an ortho guy recommended by a friend who has had some knees issues of his own. I’m not really sure what he’ll recommend but it’s possible PT and a continued moratorium on running may be enough to get me back doing what I miss and love – running. 
Guess I’ll have to take a couple of hours of sick time to find out.

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Filed under aging, Exercise, holidays, medical, running, sick, stress, winter

Thoughts I’ve been thinking

  • It sucks that my knee is injured and I can’t fully do the active things I enjoy doing. I see a surgeon in early February and my only question will be: In your experience, what is the most successful plan of treatment for women in my age and activity range who are most interested in being able to resume normal activities (even at a modestly modified level) in the speediest fashion?  That’s my bottom line. I want to run.
  • There were two articles which really spoke to, and for, me recently.  There are things in life which will forever cause me to shake my head, sometimes in a nod and other times in “no.” Both of these NYT pieces made me forget to breathe. I can only link to one because they other one, “I Quit a Seven-Year Affair,” has been removed from the Times’ site.* I’m not sure how I feel about that move, but the piece did remind me of Mrs. Maisel’s choice to share as much about Shy Baldwin as she did in her performance at the Apollo. I knew there would be repercussions.
  • For god’s sake can we leave Megan and Harry alone? They’re entitled to their one precious life, too and Harry’s already seen how an uncivilized society can kill a woman he loves. Who cares how they choose to live?

  • Speaking of caring, there’s so little of that in the world right now. This recent picture of an absolutely beaming Megan Markle walking with her baby and dogs, collected some heated comments about Megan’s son not being safely fastened in his front carrier. Everyone had something critical or nasty or judgmental to say and no one simply offered to help her accomplish the task. We’re moms. We need to be nicer to each other.
  • At a just-turned-green light, I hesitated prior to shifting into first gear and the man in the big truck behind honked his horn and then pulled into the left lane to pass me, giving me the finger as he jerked his vehicle in front of me. I shrugged. Whatever. As we approached Fuller Road, I moved into the right hand turn lane and, again, he aggressively yanked his truck partially in my path. I’d be afraid to witness his response to something beyond a too slow start at a green light.
  • This morning, J, shared a story about some kids pulling a Ding-Dong Ditch which resulted in the deaths of three teenagers. The home owner whose bell was rung, felt the need to pursue these kids at high rates of speed prior to ramming his vehicle into theirs and forcing them off the road and causing them to crash. What is the matter with people? Why are folks overly reactive to minor transgressions, yet numb to the way our government is broken? Is it an assertion of control in a world which feels increasingly unspun. Or maybe it’s actually overspun. 
  • In the last week I was recognized by a reader I had never met (Hi P!) in a really complimentary way and told at an event a few nights later that I looked like Emma Stone.  That’s a good week right there.
  • I read a book this week and can’t stop thinking about, Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. I’m working on a full post.
  • I can’t imagine a better Friday night than a winter one spent at Cafe Capriccio eating eggplant, drinking red wine and hearing a set of quality live jazz.
  • Happy Chinese New Year.  It’s the Year of the Rat, but, honestly, isn’t that what we’ve been living with for the last three years?
Let’s all make the best of it, shall we?
*maybe you can find it in print somewhere?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Books, Eating, Exercise, Food, Librarians, Local, love, medical, moms, musings, News, Observations, politics, relationships, running, secrets, television, winter

Entering Palm Springs…

When I travel my preferred method of transportation, when possible, is walking. It’s the best way to capture images of sites and to feel a connection to the land, so to speak.

On my recent trip to the desert I logged miles on my feet, crisscrossing my way around the city of Palm Springs utterly charmed by the beauty, both natural and manmade. Here are some of my favorite doors and gates…

Can’t wait for my next opportunity to visit this special place in the high desert.

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Filed under beauty, California, Christmas, favorites, holidays, Observations, travel, vacation, winter

The enchantment of the holidays

The holidays are a magical season. Money, resolve and time all disappear faster than you can say “abracadabra” during these short December days. Accepting that what one gets in exchange for those commodities are opportunities to share time and laughter making new memories, it’s a trade I’m happy to make.

This first weekend of my holiday break has been filled with activity – and cookies. Lots of cookies. Friday’s original evening plan had been to revisit Soul Night downtown at Lost & Found. We went last month and really enjoyed the music, vibe and diverse crowd. But, I caught an ad on Facebook for a Funk Night at Savoy, which was easily within walking distance, and it appealed on a cold night. No regrets – DJ Trumastr was on his game as usual and the Manhattans (yes, two) were impeccably crafted. It was a fun night.

Saturday brought another opportunity to stay in the neighborhood, but this time it was DelSo, rather than Center Square. A neighbor’s annual holiday party brought together a wonderful crowd of yogis/educators/creative types who all shared at least one common friend, the hostess, but often the connections between guests exceeded that minimal number. Albany, Smalbany, I love you. Another merry event with lots of laughs.

Sunday it was our turn to host for the first night of Hanukkah. The plan was traditional latkes, soup, salad and a couple of quiches. And cookies, of course. Prep, beyond the task of preparing and frying latkes, was well in hand until minor tragedy struck – or stubbed, as in a broken toe which required medical attention and prevented the potatoes from being transformed into latkes. What to do?

Not actually our latkes. We ate them too fast for photos.

My friend and uber talented chef, Ric Orlando, had shared on FaceBook that New World Bistro Bar was featuring his “Beat Bobby Flay” latkes…hmmm. Why stress when I could place an order and simply stop to pick them up on my way to my sweetie’s house? Done – and no lingering odor of frying at home with which to contend.

While nothing replaces a hot latke out of the pan, Ric’s latkes were wonderful. They’re large and magically manage to be crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and nearly devoid of oil or greasiness. After reheating them on a rack on a baking sheet, everyone happily loaded on sour cream and applesauce and we feasted. Crisis diverted, we enjoyed  a festive evening with lovely people.

I’m  not going to claim that bringing latkes to dinner for the first night of Hanukkah is a miracle or anything, but I believe many would be happier to see a resourceful woman  arriving with award winning latkes, than three “wise” men bearing Frankincense.  I know I would.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Cooking, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Dinner, Eating, Events, Food, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, Recommendations, sunday, vacation, winter