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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Food in Life and in Death

In life we meet people, build relationships and some are easy to define: boss, co-worker or business acquaintance.  Sometimes, the lines blur and a woman who was my boss, has since transferred to another department and remains my friend cannot be categorized. The bottom line is, after years of battling to stay healthy, her husband died this past week and now, if she must be given a term to define her it is, "grieving spouse," for she does not appreciate the word, "widow."

To honor the life of her departed husband, a memorial service was organized and held at her niece's home.  I had never attended such an affair and was a bit apprehensive, though these situations are understandably nerve wracking regardless of location and agenda. Dying is only difficult for the living.

We have created such protocols and checklists for the end of a life.  Be sure to tell the family you are sorry for their loss.  Try to share a positive story or memory with the loved ones of the departed when possible. Offer comfort, a shoulder to cry on and time to listen. Perhaps send flowers and/or a sympathy or mass card.

However, we are among a generation that has written its own rules and traditions be damned.  The Baby Boomers will decide how they want to honor the lives of their cherished family and in doing so, anything can happen. This is not bad or a judgment in any way - merely an observation. Just as brides no longer have to wear white, be married in a church or place of worship or even toss a bouquet - survivors are not bound to adhere to society's definition of acknowledging loss or death.

Though the images of the gorgeous repast are decadent, they also symbolize the love a family has for the "grieving spouse."  

The fruit arrangement was thoughtfully sent by a caring person or family for the occasion and the cupcakes were freshly baked.  

Simple fruits, cheeses and nuts were carefully presented on tiered plates.  Finger foods designed to allow mourners not only refreshment, but food has a way of easing people into conversation.  "Don't these cherries look amazing?  How did you know so-and-so?"

Having food in more than one location also allows people to gather into smaller groups that may feel more intimate and comfortable during a difficult time.

Offering small bites also indicates you are welcome and we are thankful you came to support our family.  

When I prepared to leave and said my good-byes, condolences and thank you's, I was given a copy of "Footprints."

One night I dreamed a dream.  I was walking along the beach with my Lord.  Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.  For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.

When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand.  There was only one set of footprints.  I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest time of my life.  This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.

'Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way.  But I'm aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints.  I just don't understand why, when I need You most, You leave me.'

He whispered, 'My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever during your trials and testings.  When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."

My 20-something year old sons find it odd that I have expressed that when I die, I'd rather they not have multiple drawn out days of wakes and a funeral, but rather one combined service encouraging those who have a story to share to speak followed by a communal dinner of sorts reflecting on the good times.  And yes, I would like a particular song to be played and I have mentioned this detail to the Mr. and someday will share it with my sons.  

For now, enjoy each day when possible and every meal that is shared with the people you love.  I know that those are the moments that make me happiest and leave me feeling Fed Well.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Accidental Dinner at Brother's Trattoria in Beacon

A Thursday night before the long weekend for 4th of July and our older son cannot attend the Hudson Valley Renegade game he bought tickets for because he has to work.  We accepted the responsibility of attending the baseball game at Dutchess Stadium.  However, Mother Nature had no intention of stopping the 2 day torrential down pours, flash flooding and thunderstorming just so we could watch the game.  The protocol for cancelling a minor league baseball game seems to include a preliminary delay and so the Mr. searched through his phone for an Italian restaurant in Beacon and we were off.

How modern of us to be able to find a restaurant then program the address in the GPS after reading positive reviews including promises of generous portions and authentic Italian food?  We felt so modern.

Located right on Main Street, Brother's Trattoria was easy to find and we parked right across the street.

We were greeted as soon as we opened the second set of glass doors and seated in the first dining room (though we did not realize others existed until most of the way through our meal).

We are seated by a wall which makes me happy.  What is it about sitting either around the edge of the room or in a booth that makes me happy?  I just don't want a table in the middle. 

The menu.  The image certainly sets a tone and expectation that this will be traditional or old school.  No modern day, inside-out, deconstructed anything and yep, we bet the sauce will be amazing. Every once in awhile I wish I enjoyed a good glass of wine and this restaurant certainly invoked those feelings.  I go with my standard and order a Cosmopolitan for pre-dinner and a glass of water for with food.

We are brought garlic rolls that are dense and while coated in garlic, they are not overpowering.  I am somehow reminded of pretzels by the inner texture.

Our server tells us about the evening specials including appetizers and I get so excited upon hearing some of the options I am tempted to interrupt and say, "That is exactly what I want you don't have to speak another word," but instead I sit patiently and smile.  

We begin with the clams.  It sounds so simple, but really if the broth isn't quite right or the clams are overcooked, the dish is ruined.  We ask for plain bread for dipping and are brought a basket of toasted slices.  Perfect texture for soaking up the delicious liquids.

"This tastes a little bit different," the Mr. said and pointed to the dish.  "Is that rosemary?"

I almost wept with pride.  

"I am married to a foodie," he smiled.  

My eyes twinkled like the young ladies in cartoons when they meet their Prince Charming.  Ah, but you want to read about the food. Fine.

Salad course.  I have seen many disappointed faces when I ask for my salad to be served without dressing. I have recently learned that if I ask for a lemon wedge, the server will smile and nod as if we just exchanged an inner secret and that I am watching my weight. No, really, I just like the taste of the naked vegetables. This time, I use the lemon for a squirt and a drizzle. The Mr. was disappointed that our bread was cleared before the salad was served.  I'm sure if we would have asked she would have brought more, but we know we have a lot of eating ahead of us.

The Mr. is brought 2 plates; one for the large serving of chicken parmesan, coated with sauce just as he likes and the other a side dish of angel hair pasta.  I can almost see his taste buds smile.

My only complaint, if it can even be considered a complaint, is when a restaurant does not toss the pasta in the sauce before plating.  I think it is just my personal preference.  The Mr. was quite happy and yes, the delicate sweetness of the sauce is exactly what we hoped it would be.  

Ah, the joy of ordering and receiving one of the specials and it is exactly what I hoped.  Linguine with spinach, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp in a white wine sauce.  The shrimp are large and tender and the spinach is just wilted without being mush.  I ask for a spoon, "for twirling," I explain and again, our server smiles and says, "of course."  

The other diners range from couples also out for a date night to a table behind us that seems to be 3 generations of males and a table in the middle of teen girls accompanied by 2 sets of parents. Everyone seems happy and the smells of food as it passes is intoxicating.  I peek in one of the other dining rooms when I make a trip to the ladies room and it is also fairly busy.  

By the way, I often think I should share a basic review of ladies' rooms when I am out and this one was clean and had a lovely over-sized sink with painted flowers.  

We were stuffed.  But, I couldn't leave without at least trying a dessert, you know, for the blog.  This delicious pastry cream pie, topped with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and a generous dusting of confectionery sugar was light and not overly sweet.  Yes, it had a fantastic Italian name that I have since forgotten, but it may be referred to as the dream pie in this blog.

The Renegades game was eventually cancelled and the rain continued.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the discovery of Brother's Trattoria.  "We should bring my mom here," the Mr. said and that was an official thumbs up.  The Mr.'s mother is from an area near Lake Como in Italy (yes, where George Clooney has a house) and has particular opinions about gravy.  

We were Fed Well and will be happy to return to Beacon for a fabulous Italian meal.

Brother's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mariner's on the Hudson and Walkway over the Hudson

Take off on a workday for a date! Yes, do it!  Just once.  Make it a sunny day if you can help it with some real "date like" plans.  The Mr. suggested the Walkway Over the Hudson and we couldn't have had more perfect weather.  The picturesque cloud cover and breeze were just enough to keep us from melting in the June sun as we walked from the Highland to Poughkeepsie side then back on the Walkway.

We've yet to master the art of the "selfie" and after a few poorly cropped shots, I am forward enough to ask total strangers to take our picture.  I feel it is the era of capturing as many of our life events as possible and so it is not unusual for strangers to hand over their trusty electronics.  I am sure many have fancier/newer/upgraded devices than we do and I can tell from scrolling through social media that others have certainly mastered the art of the "selfie."  For now, I will keep it old school and ask for help when needed.

Though I don't usually share many of those personal shots here on the blog.  The Mr. is shy.

The shot above is looking out over the Poughkeepsie side.

This one is the Highland side.

Something about being near the water for me.  I love it in all forms, still, salt, running, from brooks or streams to lakes, rivers and oceans.  I feel calmer, relaxed and at ease.  I don't always have to be in it and in fact have been a bit cautious with a bit of anxiety since I was crashed down by a wave in the ocean a few years ago.  I felt like salt water burned my nose for a solid day after my face plant in the sand.

A view of the entrance.  The water, the walkway, the sky...

Plenty of room during the off hours (my new secret for getting a great table) during the vast space between traditional lunch and dinner.  I think it may drive the Mr. a little crazy because he is either starving from breakfast or joking that we are rushing into a senior citizen lifestyle by having dinner at 4.  

The view during lunch from the Highland side looking over the Hudson to Poughkeepsie.  Lovely.

A cocktail menu is starting to become a prerequisite for me.  I NEVER had an alcoholic drink with a meal while raising our sons.  Now that they are 21 and 25 years old, well, if I'm telling the truth - it's been a few years - I feel free to indulge every now and then.

A sunny day, dining al freseco, a Mojito seems in order.  The drink was crisp and refreshing, not overpowering without feeling weak.

Soup in summer? Yes, soup all year long and especially when it is clam chowder!  The broth was flavorful and the bowl had plenty of clams, potatoes and celery.  We shared the serving so we would have room for lunch.

For the Mr., a steak sandwich and fries.  He actually tossed a fry to the ducks! Can you believe it?  My favorite food of all time was flung out into the water for the fowl!?  

"If you must feed them," I said, "how about giving them pieces of your roll and if you don't want your fries, I will be happy to have some."

The seafood salad was my entree.  The shrimp were of medium size and fairly tender.  I should have asked for the dressing on the side since I usually prefer it without any dressing.

The ducks were happy to have a few french fries and bits of bread.

Entertainment? Sure, in addition to the ducks, a loooooong freight train went by and we were mesmerized like children by the cars and length of the train.

What else happened? Well, a woman was having soup and salad on her own just a few tables away from us. I asked our server if she thought I could pay for the woman's dessert without saying anything.  The server advised me she didn't think the woman would order dessert and so I anonymously paid for her soup. My first random act of paying it forward for a stranger.  We were gone long before the woman found out half of her bill was paid and no, it wasn't about whether she seemed in financial need or not.  For me, it was about stepping up and just doing something nice for a stranger.

You know what?  It kind of leaves you feeling Fed Well.

Mariner's On The Hudson on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lunch at Imperial Dynasty

The work week lunch varies from a quick bite at the desk to meeting with a group of friends in a conference room and having either last night's left-overs or the cafeteria special to the indulgent full hour off site.  For the past 6 years or so I have tried a few Chinese restaurants in Suffern and the surrounding area with a preference for 1 in particular so I hesitated to try something new.  One trusted co-worker went to Imperial Dynasty with another friend and came back with the following review, "It was less expensive then the place we usually go, they served crunchy noodles and ice cream was included."  Well, the bar has been raised.

So, one day 4 of us set out to make up our own minds about Imperial Dynasty.  Located in a strip mall, I am surprised by how well decorated it is and yes, they are fresh flowers on the tables.

We are given a laminated lunch special sheet and

a book of regular menu items.

So far, the only problem is the service seems to be fairly slow though the dining room is hardly full.  I am from New York and on my lunch hour.  I like my drinks to arrive quickly, along with the crispy noodles and yes, please do bring a second bowl.  Sound too snappy?

Here is my unique view of the decor:

Although it seemed to take too long, the noodles, soup and drinks all arrive within moments of each other and though the pace is off, maybe we will be able to catch up.  The noodles are very wide and the shape adds to the unique visuals found throughout our dining experience.  No waterfalls or cherry blossoms, no fish or silly statues can be found.

Mid-stream, our server has changed though we still see the young lady that took our order, a young man brings our entrees from the kitchen.  He checks our tea and drink levels, asks if we need anything and seems to be far more attentive and professional than his counterpart.  Like a restaurant super-hero, he has swooped in and saved the day.  If we had waited much longer, we would have been late back to work.

A very traditional, simple and tasty chicken and broccoli.  The veggies are crisp, the sauce is not too thick or gooey, the chicken tender and I am impressed with the size of the serving.  I happily end up taking half home (I have to leave room for the promised ice cream!)

For the vegetarian - she was happy and that's all that matters.

 Chow mein.

Despite a blatant language barrier when ordering, the double shredded pork with cabbage was thoroughly enjoyed by a member of the group.  It has since become her new favorite.

What do 4 women discuss over lunch?  Work, the work place, and weekend plans.  We throw in a few current events and a sprinkle of celebrity gossip just to keep things balanced and a bit of speculation about rumored upcoming layoffs.

Ah, time for dessert!  3 of us had the pistachio and 1 opted for green tea ice cream.  A perfect scoop placed in each modern shaped bowl.


We have decided we will return and try to overlook whatever the hiccup was during the initial slow service.  We are happy to expand our restaurant choices by one and leave feeling content and Fed Well.

Imperial Garden Chinese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Brian's Backyard BBQ - Middletown, NY

Friday night, date night for the Mr. and me.  Location - his choice, but he's not sure where he wants to go.  

"What do you feel like having," I ask.

"Some place with ribs."

I am not a ribs or wings kind-of-gal.  I'm not sure if it's that it is simply so messy, so much work for so little food or what the problem is, but I prefer to use fork and knife unless it is a hamburger and french fries (plus tearing the meat off the bone with my teeth just can't be made to look dainty or delicate).  BUT, I can work with his request for ribs.

"What about Brian's Backyard BBQ," I suggest and we look up the online menu.  I am happy with the idea of a margarita and know everything else will work out.

Off we go.  

Any place that serves barbecue or smoked foods and orders of meat on the bone is likely to be on the casual side and Brian's is no exception.  We are given paper menus that are meant to be taken home so we can keep the advertising information.  I took one home to share with our grown sons, but really, they didn't need it either since they could look at the online menu (just like you can by clicking here).

The dining room is not very busy, but it is early on a Friday night and they are expecting a live performance at 9 p.m.  We are typically early birds, dining between 6 - 7 p.m. since we are at our jobs by 7 a.m.  Moving on to that margarita...

Have I ever mentioned that in addition to carbs, I am addicted to salt?  Oh how I love salt.  I sometimes joke I could have a block mounted in the house for snacking.  I love to see the margarita's glass rim heavily coated.

"Let's split an appetizer," I suggest and of course the Mr. leaves the decision up to me.  He knows after 27 years of marriage plus another 4 together of dating, that I know what he does and doesn't like to eat or at least what he is and is not willing to try.

Most folks like fried foods and really, the cooking method can make almost anything taste great so I order the oysters with a remoulade dipping sauce.  They were sizzling hot and just needed a pinch more salt (surprised?)

The pace suits us just fine.  We like to have a little bit of time to talk and digest before moving on to the main course and at the same time, we don't want to feel forgotten.

For me, well, I may have given a clue earlier, but I had the hamburger and fries.  I still dream about the perfectly cooked potatoes that had a balanced crispy exterior and fluffy white interior.  The fried onions were grown locally in Pine Island and the burger was prepared medium-well as requested.

Now, you may remember how this all started...the Mr. said he wanted ribs.  The funny thing is, he ordered brisket.  Not at all the same.  Even funnier, I knew that was what he really wanted. Remember, 27 years of marriage.  Two people get to know each other eventually.  At least it wasn't chicken.  I also could have predicted those baked beans as a side choice - the macaroni and cheese, well, it was on the list of possibilities.  I tried the pasta and the beef and yes, the brisket was a winner.  Delicate in texture, it broke apart easily and the best part for me what that the first taste was not pure smoke.  I prefer the smoke to be the second or even third flavor I am aware of rather than having it assault my taste buds.  On the other end of the spectrum, the macaroni and cheese, while traditional was somehow not very exciting.

Casual, comfortable and relaxed.  Probably the 3 best words to describe Brian's.

We've certainly grown, culinarily speaking, since we were teenagers and Friday nights were a guarantee that pizza would somehow be on the menu.  As young parents, Friday nights probably also meant pizza with our little family.  When we took back date nights, we started heading out for the trendy restaurants and now, it's back to comfort and whatever mood strikes.  We are enjoying our journey together and are Fed Well.

Brian's Backyard BBQ & Blues on Urbanspoon