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Monday, September 30, 2013

Buon Compleanno to the Mr. at Bella Luna in Washingtonville

Choosing a place for dinner, especially for a special occasion, can be a daunting task.  Here are the two criteria I had to meet:

1.  Someplace we have never been before and
2.  Italian

Well, you may think the playing field is wide open, but we have tried MANY area Italian restaurants since that is the Mr.'s favorite. I also know his definition of Italian can be a bit restrictive. He prefers an old school or traditional style, no modern recreations and though he would be okay in a pizza place, I wanted something a bit more.

I have been holding on to a gift certificate to Bella Luna for quite some time and decided it was time. Sort of like holding on to the good dishes for just the right occasion. Silly. Just enjoy.

I called to make a reservation because I have learned it can be hard enough to get a table any where on a Friday or Saturday night, but with a party of 5, the chances are even slimmer.  I also asked if wearing jeans would be acceptable and the hostess hesitated before replying, "well, nice jeans."  I passed the word on to my older son and we had a bit of conversation about what the definition of "nice" is and for me, it wasn't so much about the jeans but the shirt.  The nicer the shirt, the dressier the jeans become, true?

I digress.  Off to Bella Luna..

We are greeted and brought to our table quite quickly.  A bread basket appears and our drink orders are placed. The lighting designed for atmosphere does not yield the prettiest pictures and I never use flash so I apologize for quality.

I love a cocktail menu and decide on a Raspberry Wisp which is lemon vodka, Chambord, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup.  Flavors I already know I love.

A brief discussion, well, me offering a few ideas, ensued and I ordered two appetizers for the table.  Classic mozzarella sticks (for the kid in all of us)

and the cold antipasto platter

The mozzarella sticks were what you would imagine, it was the sauce we loved.  The Mr. said confidently, "I knew it.  I just knew the sauce would be good here."  

The antipasto platter was similar to what I prepare at home with thinly sliced prosciutto, marinated mushrooms (the Mr.'s favorite), mozzarella, red peppers and provolone.  Ah, yum.

Salads for a few of us:

Word of caution:  entrees were offered with a CHOICE of salad or pasta.  This may work out wonderfully for some, but not always.  The Mr.'s classic dish (as well as our older son's girlfriend) would be a crime or perhaps ridiculous without pasta, but he was not offered a salad.  See what you think....

Main courses:

The Chicken Marsala (not ordered by the Mr. but by our younger son)

Stuffed Shells (no salad)

Seafood Alla Carmela (per the menu listing) shrimp and clams over penne in a pink sauce

Menu name and description:
Chicken alla Jaclyn:  breaded chicken topped with fresh tomato, roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella in a light pesto sauce

And last, but not least, the Mr.'s spaghetti and meatballs.  No salad?  He LOVED the flavor and amount of sauce.  Happy man!

Able to do a bit of people watching, I saw men in jeans with printed advertising on their t-shirts being seated in the dining room and loved watching men greet each other with a hearty hug and a smooch while their wives smile and nod their heads at each other.  Fun.

I asked around the table if everyone would return since to me that is the sign of happy diners and a good restaurant.  All in favor, aye.  We enjoyed celebrating the start of the Mr's. final year in his forties.  We skip dessert and hold off on the singing until the following night when we are joined by his mother.  I place the candles in a home made apple pie and we finish a weekend of happy birthday wishes by being Fed Well. Happy Birthday Mr.

Bella Luna Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Gold Fox - Gardiner, NY

Sometimes we schedule going out to dinner around special occasions or to simply try a new place.  This time, I simply won a bet.  The Mr. and I made a bet and if he won, I would have to do the dinner dishes for 4 days (typically, I cook, he does dishes) and if I won, we would go out to dinner.  I had recently read about restaurants in Gardiner and remembered passing The Gold Fox  a number of times but never actually stopped and tried it.  Strange how a plan comes together.  I won the bet and off we drove to Gardiner with our younger son.

We parked in the ample parking lot but this arrangement then has guests entering the bar area.  I walked in first during an exciting moment in a football game and was almost tackled.  Alright, slight embellishment for the sake of climactic reading, but truly the bar patron felt bad and I was a little disoriented about how to enter the dining area.

Once seated and given menus we placed our drink orders.  The Mr. asked for a Corona and I had a standard Cosmopolitan while our younger son had iced tea.  The beverages arrived and the beer had not been opened.  When we pointed this out to our server, she brought it back to the bar to remove the cap then placed it back on the table.  It was a light version and no lime.  Not a deal breaker and if the Mr. is not going to mention it, I don't say anything.

Before we order, I ask our young server what most people order and she seems confused for a second.  I rephrase, "What is the most popular thing on the menu?"  "Well, people really like our pizzas.  We make great pizzas.  Or if you want a wrap, our Mediterranean Wrap is really popular."  I smile and thank her.  In addition to our meals, we order an appetizer and the meal begins.

The Mr. has a salad.  Pretty standard.  We are aware something is going on between the two waitresses. Ours has been taking care of us, yet another woman also stops and checks on us.  Is our server new?  Not trustworthy?  

The dining room is broken into sections.  The one we are seated in just had a large party leave, a family of four and their is a couple fairly close to us.  I can hear people in the far dining room as well. It is about 7:30 on a Saturday night.

We soon overhear a conversation between the servers.  It seems the younger one stayed past her shift to help out because it got busy.  Now, having this information we feel responsible in some way even though we know it is not our fault.

Our steamed pork dumplings arrive and I am happy to see, smell and taste these first bites of food.  

They are delicious and though I would probably normally leave the salad on the plate, I find myself finishing it once I check with the family that they have no interest in the dressed lettuce.  Yum.

Time for the main courses.  The Mr. asked for his Chicken Marsala to be served with a side of spaghetti with sauce and that is exactly what he received.  His only complaint was the amount of sauce - he prefers a generous ladle on top of coated pasta.

For our younger son, a crispy chicken Caesar salad is his go to and exactly what he went with at the Gold Fox.

I am not a huge fan of wraps and was not going to order pizza, but since the vibe I received from our server seemed to lean toward more casual pub grub as crowd favorites, I went with a classic burger topped with a fried egg, fries and slaw. Perfect. The fries were crisp without feeling greasy, the egg was soft and runny and I was feeling happily Fed Well.

The conversation was slow to start for the three of us as we do not spend enough time alone together. However, when our younger son found his topic (the Mr.'s 1967 Camaro and the condition of its current paint job) well, then the two of them were on a roll.  I nodded and interjected at times, enjoying my burger minus the bun, dipping fries into yolk and just being in the moment.   

Just before the check came, my younger son asked, "Why did we come here?"  I didn't know if that was a bad sign, but I answered truthfully, "I'd been past here a million times and never ate here. I thought we could try it."  I think he may have thought since I picked it as a destination it was going to be a 5 star dining experience rather than a casual place.  The total bill was quite inexpensive.

The Mr. asked the server, "Did you stay just because of us?"  She smiled and admitted, "Yes."  Well, what would you have done?  We added a few extra dollars to her tip.  

The meal, as always was about more than the food.  It was about creating time together for talking, connecting, feeling Fed Well and just being a family.  Plus, after all, I won a bet and who doesn't love that?  

Gold Fox on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 16, 2013

Scenes from the Pine Bush Farmers Market 2013

The 2013 Market opened and I sincerely thought I would visit, take some photos and create a blog. Never happened. The season will end in a month or so and I am still going to the Pine Bush Farmers Market with cash, a cloth shopping bag and the camera from my phone.  I wondered what I would tell you about the market... well, instead, this blog entry will simply be photos. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

I never took pictures of the people - the entertainers, the vendors, the crafters or the farmers. You'll have to go and meet them for yourself. Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. just behind the Cultural Center on Main Street in the municipal parking lot. See you there!

Baked Goods





Tomatoes - no one can argue I put them in the wrong category.

Some examples of how I put it together at home:

The above platter had help from Winterton Farms for a few veggies and Heaven on Earth Natural Foods in Pine Bush for the Hummus.

The Pine Bush Farmers Market will surely have something for every appetite and craving. Is it the freshness of the food, the flavors, the atmosphere or satisfaction at a higher level that leaves me feeling Fed Well after my visits?  I'm not sure, but I know I have to return each week.