Tag Archives: drinking

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

She’s gotta have it – the soft shell crab sandwich at New World Bistro Bar

Image: NWBB Facebook page

A couple of days ago an image came across my Facebook feed* that I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was a photo. Of a sandwich, of all things. What would make a sandwich so compelling? Well, it was a fried soft shell crab BLT served with chipotle mayo and poblano slaw. What else do I need to say?

Knowing that soft shell crab season is over in the blink of an eye, I decided last night to make my way to New World Bistro Bar for dinner. Of course, me being me, I called first to confirm that the sandwich was on the evening’s menu and that there would be one available when I arrived. You do that, too, right?

Anyway, I settled in at the bar and asked Nick to make me a Stoli gimlet, a cocktail that I thought would go swimmingly with my dinner. As has been my experience without fail, my drink was perfectly executed and delivered refreshingly cold and slightly tart. Yum.I sipped my drink and chatted with Nick about travel and music, two favorite topics for both of us, until my date arrived and we placed our dinner orders. I tweaked mine a little, opting to skip the roll and save my carb intake for the hand cut fries as my side.

A short while later I was rewarded with the gorgeous plate you see here. The crab had a meaty body and crunchy legs and was everything I had hoped it would be – and, seriously, how often in life does that happen? The mayo had a pleasant heat to it and the slaw provided a great crunch to the dish. In place of the roll, I had a combination of lettuces and some cooked greens, which were a lovely surprise.

Get it while you can, people. Tell Nick I sent you.

*how appropriate a term!

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Dinner, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Spring, Uncategorized

Greece is the word

Planning my upcoming trip to Greece was a formidable task. I struggled with the incredible array of options in terms of where to go and how to get there. After polling some friends and seeking some assistance on the Fodor’s Greece Forum, I came up with a loose itinerary and booked our flights (from Montreal) and accomodations (all Airbnb other than on one island). At that point, I shifted my focus to Easter in Ireland and took a break from the remaining details of our Greek adventures.

Now that the end of the school year and Greece are finally in view, it’s time to get a little more specific about what the trip is going to look like. Here’s what we’ve got so far –

Flying out of Canada is going to be a new experience. I booked the tickets primarily because the flight was nonstop and the fare was approximately $900 r/t, a fairly reasonable price for summer travel in my opinion. The drive to Montreal is admittedly further than NYC or Boston, but it’s a straight shot and I don’t anticipate much traffic along the way. I scored a park and stay package that provides us with 15 days of parking and a room on our return for just over $200, which I think is a good deal. An overnight in Montreal is never a bad thing and we’ll definitely score some croissants and bagels for the ride home.

We land in Athens and will spend two nights there at the beginning of the trip, as well as a single night at the end. The time difference is 7 hours and since I imagine we’ll be whooped from flying (and personally, that valium) I made no plans for that first afternoon/evening. We’ll find our way to our apartment, unload our bags and do our best to acclimate. My goal is to stay on my feet until at least 9:00 or 10:00 and score a few food items for our breakfast.

The highlight of our first entire day is a 3.5 hour walking food tour, an Airbnb experience, I booked. My son is an adventurous eater and we’re excited to explore some places recommended by a local guide and sample authentic and traditional Greek cuisine. Since we’ll depart the next morning for our first island, Naxos, the tour will also give us a chance to gather some sundries for our island stay. The temperature could be a real factor in how active we’ll want to be and I imagine the day as pretty relaxed, with some day drinking. Yum, Assyrtiko!

An early morning four-hour ferry* ride gets us to Naxos, which we’ll have the next few days to explore. I imagine that we’ll spend our time visiting the windmills, eating, walking and checking out some beaches. The only plan we have is to take a small, private boat excursion that includes grilled octopus on the beach, a remote grotto swim and an on deck bar-b-q aboard on our way back to Naxos. Ok. I’m in.

Our next stop is a single overnight in Mykonos. I understand it isn’t much time, but it’s a very expensive island filled with people who have no limits on their budgets. That’s not how I travel but I do want to see the beautiful things without getting jaded from the extreme and obvious consumption. Kind of how I feel about Chatham, MA. We’ll stretch the time by arriving before noon and departing the following day in the late afternoon for Paros, our last island.

I’m picturing Paros as the quietest spot we’ll be and I’m looking forward to just savoring the last nights of the trip in a place that looks and sounds beautiful. I found a 5-hour farm to table experience, again on Airbnb that I went ahead and reserved. It involves picking produce on a farm and then preparing a meal whilst we sip local wines and beers and sample small dairy cheeses as the sun sets over the nearby Antiparos. I’m practically there already.

Our last night will be in Athens. We’ll have time to hit any last sights before our return home. Maybe you might have some suggestions?

*I went ahead and booked all of our ferries in advance spending about $300 total for two. That seems remarkably cheap to someone accustomed to paying $100 to travel r/t to NYC from Albany on Amtrak.

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Filed under beauty, Boys, drinking, Eating, Europe, family, Greece, ideas, Summer, travel, vacation

In Memoriam – holiday weekends and me

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Always with a cherry on top.

In the past decade there was a run of not so great holiday weekends in my life. There had been discoveries and recollections which had left in their wake a slight dread when a three or four-day holiday weekend approached. A good time for all was not guaranteed since unexpected and bad news seemed to arrive as reliably as holiday weekend sales on new cars and large appliances – and I’m not interested in buying any of those things. I’m good, thanks.

This recent extended weekend, though, was different. There was a loose plan for a quick overnight getaway in the Berkshires. Cocktails in a cool and semi-swanky bar bid adieu to the work week and hello to a mini vaca in a delicious way. Museum passes were borrowed from the public library for free admission to a museum that I’ve wanted to visit for some time. The forecast changed from rainy to sunny, a positive change that provided an obvious example of how things can also unexpectedly improve.

Strolling through farmers markets and sipping a Bellini on a sunny terrace are two of the most perfect things to do under blue skies. Especially with someone who treats you well and makes you laugh.

The weekend rolled on with a full morning on the deck with the Sunday NYT, followed by a party with interesting people and a fire which left my hair and clothing pungent with the smell of wood smoke. Spreading four bags of mulch and planting the flowers and herbs from Saturday’s market was Monday’s warmup to a five mile run – with an al fresco nap sandwiched between the more vigorous activities. The grill is definitely back in the rotation and I can’t believe I forgot how easy it is cook dinner when there are not pots or pans left behind to scrub. Ah, the almost summer vibe is strong…

I don’t know that I’ll ever completely forget the bad holiday weekends I’ve experienced, but I also don’t know that’s necessarily a negative thing. We should remember important things and lessons learned, especially when they help one to appreciate their current situation.

Memorial Day Weekend 2019 was, at last, a completely sunny, relaxing, fun, leisurely and most of all, happy, stretch of days. I hope yours was similar.*

*If it wasn’t, keep the faith. There’s always next year – or July 4th.

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Filed under Albany, art, beauty, Events, Exercise, friends, holidays, musings, Observations, Random, relationships, road trips, secrets, Spring, vacation

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

Mums the word – Mumford and Sons at the Times Union Center

Confession: three concerts in three nights nearly broke me. By the time Sunday morning rolled around last weekend, I was completely exhausted, but I couldn’t stop smiling. What a great few nights this little city of ours showed visitors, local music fans and me! Here’s how this early March Bucket List concert went down…

After hearing from friends about the impressive wait lines they had encountered at the City Beer Hall on Elton John night, I made sure that I called in a favor we arrived before 5:00 for dinner pre-show. Cozy and warm by the fire, our party of 5 ordered an array of food, including burgers and two chicken sandwich variations along with drinks. Despite the fact that the inside of this place was absolutely jammed, the kitchen and front of the house staff were on their game and absolutely humming with professional competence. Food and drink were without exception excellent and I highly recommend this place whether its pre or post show or any other occasion when you want quality ingredients well prepared. I’m still thinking about that burger!

While the girls continued socializing I grabbed my crowd photos for the TU, which was a blast. It was an awesome crowd and there was no shortage of folks willing to pose for me, including a fair number of my friends. This was Mumford and Sons first Albany show and there were lots of excited people, including me. I had been shut out when they last came around for a sold out concert at SPAC and I was still kicking myself for missing that show. By the time the lights went down, I was comfortable in my seat and ready to enjoy some music.

And, boy, did I! Marcus Mumford was absolutely mesmerizing singing his pipes out and playing whatever instrument he happened to land in front of as he ran around the stage. There appeared to nothing he couldn’t play and somehow, the sound mix was remarkably good, something I’ve never thought before at this particular arena. At one point during their set, I couldn’t stop myself from texting a friend with this message: I am so happy.

I will not miss this band again. Maybe you’ll go next time too?

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Filed under Albany, concerts, Dinner, drinking, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Restaurants, SEEN, upstate New York, winter

Memories of Miami

Last weekend, while Albany hunkered down for a powerful snowstorm and arctic temperatures, I hopped on a nonstop flight to Ft. Lauderdale. Ultimate destination: Miami Beach. Despite the government shutdown, my timing was good and I made it through Albany International (*giggle*) Airport security in no time and boarded the JetBlue flight in the second group, pretty much ensuring that there would be space for my carry-on bag. I’d been burned in both directions on my recent trip to California when I’d had to surrender my bag to be checked and I had no time to waste waiting on checked luggage on a tight weekend. Minutes count, you know?

 

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Following a comfortable flight, my first on JetBlue, I was collected curbside by a very old friend and we headed to South Beach for drinks. It was Art Deco Weekend, an event with all sorts of activities like music, performances, dancing and food and drink related happenings. Ocean Drive was closed to traffic and under the light of an increasingly larger moon, we walked around checking out the scene. It felt incredible to be outdoors, walking with a mojito in hand, and my indulgent decision to take this trip was confirmed as the correct impulse. I was so happy to be there!

The remainder of my brief time in Miami was spent walking for miles, eating and drinking liberally, gazing at Deco buildings and the Atlantic, and simply relaxing whether that came in the form of a run, a nap, or a lounge chair with a view. And a cushion. I stayed with a friend (Thanks, MB!) and the location of his rental house was fantastic well within my range of walking distance from the terrace of The Standard, Lincoln Road Mall and the ocean. When the destination was deemed as too far, we Ubered and Lyfted, but I also noticed a free shuttle that might have been an option if your budget was particularly limited.

There was a bountiful meal at Mr. Chow in the W Hotel, the decided upon location when I explained that I needed a place to wear a special dress and delicious baked goods and cafe con leche from a place filled with flavor, both local and imported. I had a wonderful meal of the evening’s special preparation of red snapper at the bar of Stiltsville Fish Bar, watching the Patriots game, before we Ubered to a cash only dive bar, where the game continued. I drank too much tequila, but my sunscreen application was mostly on point and I came home a bit worse for the wear, but with a glow that was more golden than green. Or so I’d like to think.

 

I wouldn’t hesitate to do this again. It was a terrific little almost-mid-winter getaway. Have you ever split town for a weekend in a similar fashion? Where did you go?

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Filed under beauty, breakfast, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Exercise, friends, ideas, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, snow, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, winter