Tag Archives: favorites

My first focaccia


B195A6C6-71CE-4356-8AE6-69EADC0DCEFCTwenty-five years ago I went to Italy for the first time. It was my honeymoon and we intended to spend a couple of days in the Lake Como area as part of our five week trip. We were about 2 weeks into our vacation, having already visited rainy Ireland and soggy Germany, when we drove into Lake Como under foggy skies.

It’s hard to recall what made this scenic city feel unwelcoming, but we made the decision to stay in the car and keep driving.  I remember we committed to not getting out of that damn car again until we found sunshine. Three hours later, under sunny skies, we hit Genoa.

The next few days contained some of the most memorable moments of our honeymoon. We had a couple of fantastic meals, were eaten alive by mosquitos and discovered Pigato, still one of my favorite white wines. When we eventually left Liguria to rendezvous with friends in Switzerland, we were sunkissed and happy.

As we departed, we stopped for bread, cheese and tomatoes to make lunch on the road during our drive north. The aroma of the still warm bread filled the car as we drove away from the bakery and proved to be irresistible. We tore into it, our hands and mouths becoming shiny from the olive oil which had been brushed over the top of the loaf. There were deep dimples in the loaf which became wells for rosemary and salt and the dough had been baked to an ever so slight chewiness. It was the best bread I had every eaten – and my first ever focaccia.

It seems that many home bakers, during our current time of forced isolation, are exploring bread baking and I’ve heard about shortages of both flour and yeast in local stores. A friend of mine has been teaching her social media followers how to make and feed their own sourdough starter, a project I’ve never attempted. I’m more a no-knead girl and have used Mark Bittman’s recipe with great success over the years.

When I saw this recipe in the April 2020 issue of Bon Appetit, it immediately called my name. “Shockingly easy?” Yes, please. I’d like to make that. After consulting with my baker friend, I tested the yeast I’ve had in my refrigerator for at least 3 years and was happy to see it was still alive. Time to get busy.D84604E7-2845-4528-8EAD-45D295804B53


I prepped the dough on Friday and placed it in the fridge for an overnight rise. When I pulled it out the next morning, it seemed to have just about doubled, so I continued with the recipe. About 4 hours later, following the directions, I got my hands into the dough a bit, stretching it to completely fill the rimmed baking sheet. The texture was surprisingly silken and poking my fingers into the dough was incredibly satisfying. Excitedly, I dusted salt and fresh rosemary over the dough and slid it into the oven for 25 minutes.

Once out of the oven, there was a final basting of butter* and grated garlic and my first focaccia was complete. It may not have been exactly like the one I greedily ate all those years ago, but I could not have been prouder of the result. Make this!

BDCC4EB3-51BA-4F86-A385-91D35B909848*I used a combination of butter and olive oil.

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Filed under baking, Food, ideas, Italy, Recipes, Recommendations, road trips, Spring, travel

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

Where to stay in NYC?

Over the years I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels in New York City. Most of them have been perfectly fine, especially since I’ve only required accommodations for a single night or maybe two. There have been a couple that I won’t book again – The Empire across from Lincoln Center comes immediately to mind. That room was so damn small that it was impossible to navigate, even though there were only two Lilly boys at the time we stayed there and they were significantly smaller than they are now. Pass.

My favorite hotels, the ones I return to repeatedly, are my picks because of a combination of amenities, space and location. Value for the price, basically. The Millennium Hilton on Church Street is my absolute favorite place to stay because it checks every box for me – I love that area of the city for an evening run, on weekends it’s possible to actually find on street parking, and the shopping and eating options are decent. Oh – and there’s an indoor pool, something rarely seen in my experience in NYC.

While I tend to stay at Hilton properties (including Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Doubletree) because of rewards programs related to my credit card, there are times when I go off brand and try someplace different. TravelZoo sends a weekly email with some good deals and I’ve discovered some terrific, new-to-me hotels by taking advantage of these opportunities when the price is right.

The hallway and the closet which was larger than many NYC kitchens I’ve been in.

Last weekend my son and were in the city to celebrate his birthday. I had a reservation at a Hilton, but canceled when I received an email offering a night’s stay at the St. Giles Tuscany on E. 39th. A few years back I spent a night at a different St. Giles property, now closed, and found it to be comfortable, chic and well located, especially when Amtrak was using Grand Central as their NYC station. The deal being offered through TravelZoo was unbeatable at $140 total. I booked it.

We arrived too early to get into our room prior to our matinee at Lincoln Center, but we were welcomed and invited to enjoy the complimentary hot beverages in the lovely lobby while our bags were checked. We returned hours later, after dinner and a walk around Bryant Park, to finally see our room and I was blown away.

The room was easily the largest NYC hotel room I’ve ever been in. There was a hallway with the bathroom to one side and a gigantic walk in closet on the other. The bedroom had two queen beds with enough room remaining to move around without bumping into one another. It was just enormous! The bathroom was a dream with gorgeous tile, a floating vanity and a tub that made me regret having had recent surgery which prevented me from indulging in a deep, sudsy soak.

#bathroomgoals

Generally speaking, I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time in any hotel room, much preferring to be outdoors or doing fun things. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate having somewhere comfortable and well laid out to return to after a full day of activity. Maybe you’re the same? What are your favorite places to stay in NYC?

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Filed under birthdays, family, favorites, NYC, Recommendations, travel

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

Holiday gifts, 2019

Christmas Eve dinner with all my favorite guys at our favorite Chinese place.

Learning the blue jay song on a walk with Jeter at Albany Muni. Now I can identify two bird calls!
A new kitchen faucet and dish draining rack, because I’m a 50 something homeowner.
The gift of safe travel via train and plane.
Three days in the desert with someone who’s always willing to go places with me.
A couple of hours soaking in mineral waters heated by the earth staring at mountains capped with snow.
Time spent with the person most responsible for my ability to create a life filled with happiness.
Challenging myself with a hike that scared me a little.
A delicious cinnamon roll that I allowed myself to eat in its entirety. In tiny bites.
Joy found in the most basic moments in an extraordinary world.

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Filed under beauty, California, Christmas, Dinner, Eating, favorites, friends, Hiking, holidays, musings, Observations, relationships, travel, vacation

Next week, when I’m in California.

(I just like saying that. Wink.)

Christmas, the year and the decade will all end.

I’ll be traveling with a companion for the first time in a long time.

My Jewish mom will meet my Jewish boyfriend, to put it in its most simple terms.

We’ll spend two hours soaking in springs heated by the San Andreas fault, which just goes to show that sometimes even the least stable situation can bring maximum relaxation.

I’ll get to see and walk and hike and maybe run in some of my favorite mountains.

There will be a respite from the barrage of politics and news.

We will go to the nice Aldi’s and get avocados for guacamole.

There’s the the possibility of rain. And dancing. And maybe dancing in the rain.

Next week when I’m in California is going to be fun.

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Filed under beauty, California, Christmas, favorites, friends, holidays, musings, News, politics, travel, vacation, winter

So many pancakes, so little time

After not getting around to making a pot of sauce with meatballs and sausage a few weeks ago, I found myself with a container of ricotta cheese for which I needed to find a purpose. After a quick Epicurious search I came up with the perfect use – Ricotta Pancakes.

In my house, we’re big on pancakes. Since being shamed by a foodie friend for using Bisquik, I’ve been making mine from scratch and I actually have the recipe* committed to memory. It’s so easy it makes me regret all those years of paying for a packaged mix filled with all sorts of unpronounceable ingredients. I use the same basic recipe for waffles and play around by adding canned pumpkin and nutmeg or using buttermilk or almond extract to change things up because, like I said, we like pancakes and variety isn’t a bad thing when it comes to breakfast.

But, back to those ricotta pancakes.

The recipe I found was simple and used common ingredients. Separating the eggs and beating the whites into lovely peaks is the second hardest part, with the most challenging thing being finding the ability to stop after eating two. Or three. These pancakes are wonderfully light and airy with orange zest adding a delicious punch. I bet a dash of Grand Marnier would be an amazing addition.

This recipe, along with the NYT’s Dutch Baby recipe, is a keeper. Do you have a favorite pancake recipe I should try?

 

*1 1/4 c flour

2 T sugar

2 t baking powder

1 egg

milk to the consistency you like, more milk = thinner pancakes

dash of salt

maybe a t of vanilla or almond extract?

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Cooking, Eating, family, favorites, Food, ideas, Recipes, Recommendations