Showing posts from 2013

Book Review: Homeward Bound

I have just finished reading Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar. I thought it was a really interesting book, and during the time I was reading it I would talk about it to anyone who would listen. Basically, it explores trends and attitudes as far back as the 1880s regarding homemaking, and she interviews a lot of individuals currently involved in urban homesteading, attachment parenting, blogging about cupcakes, and selling scarves on Etsy. I definitely find myself very low on the spectrum of DIY compared to most of these people, and I have to say right now that I think reusable toilet paper is gross. A big part of the desire to return to the home as the author lays it out, is that the workplace hasn't really been that great for women, especially mothers. When you're unsatisfied with your job, it is a lot easier to glorify ways of doing things that were left behind decades ago for good reasons. I don't really fanta

Judy Rogers's Pasta with Spicy Broccoli & Cauliflower

Judy Rogers, the chef at the Zuni Cafe in San Fransisco, has passed away at the far too young age of 57.  I've been using The Zuni Cafe Cookbook for more than a decade now, and love it so much that Ms. Garlic and I ate at Zuni on our honeymoon.  I now make sure to get there every time I'm in the Bay Area; it's fantastic.  This seems like a good time to share a slight adaptation of my favorite recipe from the cookbook, a wonderful one-pot pasta dish: 1)Saute cauliflower and broccoli florets in olive oil over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, with a generous portion of red pepper flakes. (Start salted water for the pasta in the meantime.) 2)Roughly when the pasta's ready to go in (assuming it's dried, which you definitely want with this sauce), make a little hole in the center of the veggies, add a little more olive oil, and then a healthy portion of mixed garlic and finely minced anchovies.  3)After you've put in the pasta and the garlic is fragrant, mix

The Astonishing Quasi-Return of Mahar's


Dancing Ewe Cooking Class

My in-laws bought me a gift certificate to the Arts Center of the Capital Region for Christmas last year, and last week I used the certificate on a cooking class. It was so fun. Have you seen the Dancing Ewe Farm at the Troy Farmer's Market? They usually have a line of admiring onlookers and really attractive looking charcuterie. Dancing Ewe Farm is a farm in Washington County ran by Louisa and Jody Somers. They have 150 sheep , spend part of the year in Italy harvesting olives to make olive oil, and are all around really impressive, laid-back people. The class that I took was about how to make things with ricotta. I personally love ricotta, but I don't ever really know what to do with it. First, Jody explained to us the whole history of making ricotta in Italy and what it is used for over there (hint: its not globbed into lasagna the way it is here, its more likely to be served with an appetizer plate and some bread slices). Then, we made a dessert. It was a really deli

Squash and Squash and Squash

A couple weeks ago I was at The Berry Patch in Stephentown looking at produce. They had 18 different kinds of delicious looking squash, and the nice farmer lady, Dale, told me I should try them all and blog about my comparisons between all the different types. Well, that was a great idea, but I have to say I'm not sure I can eat enough to keep up. I bought this beautiful Blue Hubbard from them at the farm store and then went on to buy an acorn and a butternut from them at the Troy Farmer's Market a couple weeks later, and just this first one alone created 10 portions of soup. Isn't it a beautiful squash? I had never really heard of a Blue Hubbard before, and it is so delicious. It has a really unique flavor - not too sweet like some other ones. It took me like an entire Saturday night to carve it on up. I was talking on the phone to my mom for a very long time and at the end she said "That must be a whole lot of squash!" It was. I measured it - 6 po

Bonefish Grill, Colonie

Ms. Garlic and I were fortunate to be invited to the new Bonefish Grill on Wolf Road.  Obviously, there are certain limitations to this kind of event.  It's not really possible to evaluate the service an ordinary diner will receive, and presumably the kitchen is likely to be on its best behavior.  On the other hand, we were able to sample a much wider range of food than would otherwise be possible for one or two visits, and everything we sampled was available to all diners and prepared as stated on the menu, so in that way it would be representative of a typical visit. With however many grains of salt you would like to add, what did we think?  Well, overall I would have to say that it exceeded my expectations substantially.  Two of the dishes we tried were outstanding.  And by this I don't mean "better than I would expect from a chain" but just flat-out good, something I would be pleased to be served anywhere.  The first knockout was the Ahi Tuna Sashimi: This

The Towne Tavern, Averill Park

I've been out dogsitting quite a bit lately in North Adams on the weekends. I've been watching these dogs for almost four years, which seems crazy. This has meant marathons of David Tutera and Bridezillas and the sort (last night was the last episode of Bridezillas ever, how is that even possible? End of an era!). It has also caused me to feel incredibly nostalgic for my old job. What is nostalgia really? How are you nostalgic for things you chose to leave behind? Are you nostalgic for parts of yourself you seem to have lost, or some rosier version of life that never really existed? An important ingredient for nostalgia to exist is time - enough time gone by to forget negative aspects of things. One thing I know is that the more ambitious you are, the more difficult it is to feel grateful for what you have, so there's that. Anyways, so I've been meeting my husband at The Towne Tavern in Averill Park because it is a good halfway point. We've been exploring differe

Let's talk about breakfast again

Years ago I wrote a post about breakfast . What I think is funny is my tone that I actually knew anything (calling it a guide, for example) and then not really seeming to like any of the options I could think of except for carbs. What I also think is funny is that I was mentioning the very recipe I just sat down to type out right now because I was telling my mom about it on the phone today. If you are still thinking about a recipe three years later, you were pretty much meant to make it. I still agree with that first paragraph in that post about not really knowing what to eat for breakfast. But I have also tried a few new approaches lately that I can elaborate on. For a long time I was going with the idea that protein for breakfast would make me feel full longer than carbs would. I got really into cooking hard boiled eggs and tried many different recipes to find the perfect way of doing it. The best way of doing it turned out to be Jacques Pepin's, and here it is: "Put the

Beer Snobs Rejoice!

Important breaking news for craft beer fans in the Capitol Region.  I saw at Oliver's today that later this month the superb Kalamazoo, MI brewery Bell's will be making their beers available in New York later this month . Strongly recommended!  And the Michigander half of this blog will be especially happy...

Festivals and Tastings

A couple weeks ago I attended the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival with my friend Jessica who wrote about it on the Fussy Little Blog . Last week I attended the Capital Region Apple and Wine Festival with my husband, which was a very different event, and this weekend we did a little bit of wine tasting in the Hudson Valley. Here's what I have to say about all this. First of all, the Albany Chef's Food and Wine Festival in the winter is so great because you get to try so many different things ( here is my post from 2012 ). We first learned of All Good Bakers and The Hungry Fish there.  Because I was thinking of how much food you normally eat at the Albany food and wine event, I didn't eat breakfast before going to the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival. There were about 5 bites of food offered at the entire event and endless tables of wine. Now, maybe you shouldn't try so many things in this situation unless you want to get to a point where you announce to your friend

A Place After My Own Heart

Good to see Brown's opening a place with priorities that match my own: Brown’s co-owner Garry Brown has personally been leading the construction project since early last year. The pub and tapas bar will be for adults seeking a quiet, relaxed adult experience — no big screen TV sets blaring sports, no loud music, no flavored vodkas. What it will have is Brown’s own beers and ales on six taps and three beers from cask-conditioned gravity pumps, as well as some 30 scotches and 20 bourbons. And actually, the ban on loud music is more important to me than the anti-vodka bias.  There's nothing worse than sitting down with friends in a nice pub and then have them insist on playing music at ear-splitting volume even though there's no dancing.  At any rate, I'm sure we'll have a report soon...

The Bier Abbey, Schenectady

With the closure of Mahar's , I've been looking for a place that had a similarly excellent beer selection and atmosphere.  I've been told mutliple times that the Bier Abbey was great, but hadn't made it.  On Sunday,  we happened to be visiting the Place Beyond the Pines to visit a friend who's a big fan, so we decided to finally check it out.  I can't really make this claim after only one visit, but I'm tempted to say it anyway -- this is the best beer bar in the capital region.   More importantly, the selection of beers is outstanding, comparable to Mahar's.  Also nice is that they offer 4 oz. pours, which allows you to try multiple offerings and still drive home.&nbsp. I had Southern Tier's sublime milk stout , poured at the perfect temperature, as well as Nøgne Ø's sweet and smoky Tiger Tripel , which I hadn't had before but was fantastic. Ms. Garlic tried the Elysian pumpkin, a good version although it's not my favorite gen

Four Recommended Finger Lakes Wineries

Since we've had a couple friends ask us for tips after visiting the Finger Lakes the last two years, I thought it would be useful to put up a post we could point to, and that other people might find as well. This list is far from exhaustive, and of course what you'd choose to visit will depend on what kind of wines you like and experience you want. I'm not including Dr. Konstantin Frank on this list, for example, but that's not a criticism. It just reflects that 1)almost everyone who cares will know about it and their wines are widely available, and 2)they have so many visitors that I found the tastings a little corporate and impersonal for my tastes. But the spot is lovely, and if you're a big fan of sparkling wines it's a must visit -- there are a lot of good Reislings out there but the sparkling wines at DKF are really first-rate. But here are some lesser known ones worth visiting:   Ravines On Keuka (with another tasting room in Penn Yan we have

Ratatouille Pie

I love the Gardner Museum Cafe Cookbook , because who doesn't want to cook luncheon pies and party like its 1890? I also love the photos in the book from the archives at the museum taken during many of Gardner's fancy dinner parties. Everyone looks so relaxed in their tight-fitting Victorian outfits. I made the ratatouille pie recipe last night from this cookbook. I have to admit to having felt a bit stressed. I remember when I was in college and reading in the bath a short story in The Atlantic about a doctor who got to Friday night and collapsed and thought to himself "This is professional life?" I remember thinking "That can't be right, clearly you finish all your school assignments and the whole rest of life is easy." Where I got this idea I can't ever recall. When I was a kid it was always all this pressure to do well at each thing so that you could get onto the next thing ("You better be perfect in high school so that you can go to co

Brimfield Flea Market

I checked out the Brimfield Flea Market just like I did last year (in July and September ). We had a fabulous time. What did I get this year, you ask? A cute hair comb, postcards of beloved Michigan places like Frankenmuth, Mackinaw City, and the Father Marquette Museum, some cute jewelry (including a Girl Scout pin from the 1920s). This ring says on it that it is from 1957, and I plan on cleaning it up a bit. I also bought this cool plate to hang on the wall: Oh, and this cute portrait of a little girl on the bottom here, which plays great on the wall next to the above pictured Lilly Martin Spencer's "The Jolly Washerwoman: We enjoyed sitting on some furniture: And my friend Julie bought this awesome arrow: Most of all the exciting score for me was a vintage Westinghouse roaster with stand. I plan on using it as an awesome shelving unit and conversation piece in my dining room. It seemed like a steal at $50. Can't wait to go

The Speakeasy Albany

Both Steve Barnes and Danielle Sanzone had good writeups of the new Speakeasy in the basement of the City Beer Hall. Since I've been hoping that an equivalent to my beloved Clover Club would open in Albany eventually, I've been excited to try it. Tonight we did, and...I would have to say that is surpassed my already high expectations. About a month after opening, it's already a local treasure. The Speakeasy has some of the rituals of a speakeasy -- you can see the full list of "rules" at Sanzone's post -- including the need to ring the doorbell, an dark old-fashioned decor, and reservations recommended for the very comfy booths. But this doesn't mean that there's anything pretentious or forbidding about the friendly, knowledgeable service. And the cocktails are simply outstanding. I had a variation on the Rittenhouse Manhattan made with cognac and a classic Sazerac, both of which were beautifully done. Perhaps the star of the night was the

Summer Weekends

It's officially summer, and on the weekends I can't seem to get up off my chaise lounge. For this, I made up a great cocktail (pictured above - you can also tell I mean business by my Ryan Gosling Hey Girl notebook ). The consists of a lot of lemon juice, some honey, and a good amount of water, stirred and then topped with some gin and Lillet. I love Lillet, especially the back of the label, which when you read it out loud sounds like pure class (something about being meant to be enjoyed at the moment when evening becomes night). This drink also needs a ton of ice so it will stay cold long enough for you to sip it and get a lot of reading done. Recently, I read a very interesting book called Inside Christie's by John Herbert about the auction house. What I really enjoyed about it was reading about all these stories which would start out with the person from the auction house starting up a relationship with someone, some long winding plot ensues with colorful charact

Crossroads Brewery: Athens NY

On Memorial Day weekend, Ms. Garlic and I decided to take a trip to the Hudson Valley.  On the way down, we decided to check out the Crossroads Brewing Company in Athens (across the river from Hudson).  I'm a big fan of their Outrage IPA, a nicely balanced west-coast style that is commonly available in Albany.   As it turns out, they've opened a nice pub in a newly renovated building.   We can't say a great deal about the food, since we just split a salad, although it was really good -- real greens (not just iceberg or romaine) with other fresh veggies and a nice homemade vinagrette.  For the "main course," we decided to try the above-pictured flight of six beers.   All were at least decent.  I was particularly impressed with the lovely Black Rock Stout and the Abbey Road Dubbel, with the Homewrecker 2xIPA a close third.   Ms. Garlic was also a big fan of the Brick Row Red, which I also quite liked.   I wasn't overwhelmed by the Lighthouse Wheat, althoug

Cod In Spicy Tomato Sauce

The meal pictured above wasn't the typical version of this recipe, since the cauliflower we had turned out not to be usable, so we had to improvise with broccoli instead. (Which worked fine!) But this is a really good one. How does one go about making it, you might ask? Well: Cut enough cauliflower (or broccoli) for your party into florets, quickly blanch.  Season cod (or other whitefish filets) with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. OPTIONAL BUT REALLY GOOD: mince an anchovy or two and put into the oil at this stage. Add the cauliflower, sautee for a few minutes.  Add a minced shallot and a minced jalapeno pepper, saute for a couple more minutes. Add a clove or three (I would say the latter) of garlic, saute for 30 seconds of so. Add several fresh tomatoes (if in season) or a can (14 or 28 ox/ depending on the amount of fish) of high-quality canned tomatoes, diced either way.  Let them cook down for a couple minutes.


You know it is spring around here when the Jim's Tastee Freez opens up again! We tend to think that the Kurver Kreme is a little overrated. We haven't been to all the places in the area (we still want to visit On the Farm in Latham), but we really like the Tastee Freez. My husband loves the Boston Shake ( see also Mr. Dave's post from three years ago - probably where Scott got the idea to try it to begin with), which is vanilla soft serve in a chocolate shake. On this particular day, they had pistachio soft serve. I can't be sure that any real pistachios were included in the concoction, but it was refreshing and delicious with a nice mild flavor. I'll never understand why pistachio flavored things have to be green. I was raised with green pistachio pudding, and then eventually went to Belgium where their amazing white pistachio ice cream sort of blew my mind. But this green stuff made into a marshmallow sundae - I also enjoy. Working on a college

Talking about Troy

I'm feeling really hopeful about the future of Troy nowadays. Back last year when the Pioneer Co-op closed, I wasn't feeling as hopeful. I have a friend who used to shop there who now walks across the bridge to use the Watervliet Price Chopper (its not their best location). I really feel that things are looking up though, and not in a way like realtors have been saying that Long Island City in Queens has been looking up for the last ten years - where they build luxury condos assuming other businesses will follow, and they never seem to (unless you want to count the gentlemen's clubs under the subway tracks). The Troy Farmer's Market is great. Next week is the first week they are going to be outside, and as a bonus they are also going to keep things going an hour later (untill 2). They are also adding a twilight market on Friday nights. Some of our favorites at the market include: Danascara Cheese , Pika's Farm Table (I really like to throw a couple of their quic

Tara Kitchen: "Pure Joy"

Cheryl Clark definitely speaks the truth about the Tara Kitchen here . The tagines there are remarkably flavorful, and I also love the atmosphere. One one the best food values in the Capital Region. The chicken with preserved lemon and olives pictured in the photo is what I had, and it was remarkably good.

Business Trips and Housewives

I was in Michigan last week on my way to a work errand in Chicago, and my grandfather said to me at his 90th birthday party "How can you stand to live in a place you aren't from?" It was an interesting question. He was asking me about my new-ish job and Saratoga, and I said to him "I think you can like many places".  I've taken to this new theory nowadays that there can be several happy endings to everyone's stories, instead of only one. Perhaps life is less fated, and more "Choose Your Own Adventure".  I went to Chicago where I met up with some friends of ours who are originally from the San Francisco area and moved to Albany around the same time we did. We went to a Starbucks that serves wine (what? what? see for yourself below! It was great fun actually!) They talked about the difficulty of moving to a new area, the difficulty of making friends, finding work, and fostering a sense of community. They didn't seem to like Chicago