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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Return to Ward's Bridge with Friends

My theory about life is that our journeys are a series of circles; we repeat patterns and relationships until we either learn a lesson and can move on or we are ready to begin the next circle.  I have found myself connecting with people, sometimes several times, before allowing a casual acquaintance time and space to grow into a friendship.  Plants need sun, good soil, water and food to grow.  People, well, they can be a thousand times more complex if allowed, but really, the water and food part are a great start.  Strangers who meet at a party are likely to mingle over food and drink, a bit of forced socializing, but the opportunity is available.  

Sharing a meal or a casual coffee with someone is a fundamental way to begin and probably why so many decide on the ritual for dating.  It can be great for a casual job interview or business meeting and yes, adult double dates.  Just because either the women or men or 2 couples decide to be great friends, it doesn't always automatically translate into the other half of the duo also falling madly in love.  Best to test the waters together over dinner.

A friend and I had been having a few meals together and decided we'd try going out as couples.  The place? The Ward's Bridge Inn in Montgomery was an agreed destination and the ironic aspect was we gave the couple a gift certificate to the restaurant for their recent shared birthday celebration, otherwise known as the Party of the Year 2013.  Part of the circle perhaps?

The Mr. and I arrived first and were seated in the atrium dining room.

The golden glow of sunset filled the space and while I considered it beautiful from my angle, it was a jarring glare into the eyes of diners facing the wrong side of the room.  

Real flowers on the table, soaking in the last rays of the day.  Maybe spring really has come to New York after all!

We were promised the light would soon change, but if we couldn't stand it could change tables.  We agreed to wait it out and look over the menu.

Our beautiful server had the most amazing eyelashes.  Who notices such details?  I do.  And I sometimes feel the need to comment on it as well.  Yes, we had a few minute discussion about whether they are real or fake and why people may assume they are artificial.  My social pendulum swings from wanting to be left alone like a hermit to talking with strangers about almost any random topic, but enough about me.

 Filters, Instagram and Facebook.  I take a quick photo of the drinks the Mr. and I ordered.  A pear martini and his go to Corona.  Yum and cheers to Friday!

Our dates arrive and we even align in seating with women on one side and men on the other.  Both duos order steamed clams as an appetizer.  

Some clams have fallen out of the shell and so we pick through and discard the empties, dip bread into the luscious broth and exchange stories. Words volleying across the table with everyone having a turn at speaking or smiling and nodding.

Salad.  A choice between garden or Caesar.  I always hope for salad to be included with a dinner entree.  Many remain surprised when I order mine without dressing.  This has nothing to do with calorie counting as I simply prefer to actually taste the ingredients of my salad.  To compromise, I accept our server's offer of a lemon wedge so I may squeeze the fresh and acidic juice on as food lubricant.  Everything is crisp and fresh.  For a moment I worry I will be too full for my meal after the clams and salad.  The moment passes as we continue sharing stories and a secret or two (ok, no real secrets were shared, lesser known tales may be more accurate, but it added some flair to the piece - don't you think?).

Guess what the Mr. ordered for dinner?

Chicken Marsala.  

Shrimp and Lobster Risotto for me.

The lobster serving size was generous though mostly claw meat, the shrimp and corn were sweet and tender and the broth was nicely flavored.  Was the rice a bit too al dente or was that my own preference? The flavor of the dish was wonderful.

The specials included a leg of lamb dinner which both parties in the other couple ordered.  They remarked on the tenderness of the meat and perfect texture of the potatoes.  

"Would anyone care for any coffee or dessert?"

It may be a pain in the neck to cart around the large serving platter of desserts, but yes, the marketing technique works quite well.  One couple will share the warmed caramel apple pie served with ice cream and the other asks for the pecan pie also served a la mode.

The Mr. tells an involved story with details and though I've not only heard it a number of times, I was around to experience the tale first hand.  The difference tonight is he has the chance to share it again with fresh ears and so I sit back and enjoy my dessert.  We were the apple pie couple and I especially loved the ice cream with flecks of vanilla bean.

Feeling full and a bit sleepy, I suggest it is time to call it a night.  No sense dropping hints or being coy.  A fabulous evening meal was shared by 4 individuals and I will remember it leaving me feeling Fed Well.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wildfire Grill in Montgomery, NY during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Spring 2014

Every year I make sure I participate in Hudson Valley Restaurant Week and this spring is no exception.  I narrowed Sunday lunch choices down to either Torches on the Hudson River in Newburgh or Wildfire Grill in Montgomery and put it up for a vote on Facebook.  Off to Wildfire...

Though the sun was bright and the sky brilliantly blue; the air screamed, "It is still winter and don't you forget it."

I loved the corks in the window of the dining room that was being used for a private surprise 60th birthday party.

We are seated in one of the high tables by the windows and by the time we left, the only seats available were at the bar.   

The decor may be described as eclectic.  A few seemingly African inspired statuettes, wine bottles and pewtery stars with multi-colored jewels and lights.  We are presented with both regular and Restaurant Week menus.  After I ask about the Bacon Bourbon Swizzle written on the blackboard behind the bar I am given a cocktail book.

Presenting, the Bacon Bourbon Swizzle - complete with local Tuthilltown Basement Bitters.  It was absolutely perfect and I watched the bartender as she squeezed fresh orange juice into the glass.  I have to say, that put it over the top for me.

To start, a smooth and creamy Lobster Bisque accompanied by a basket of warm and sliced baguette with a wedge of butter.

Lunch is served.  A short rib sandwich with horseradish and onions on a Ciabatta roll.  The crispy fries are dusted with salt, fresh and hot.

A chicken wrap also accompanied by the fabulous fries.

Who ordered what?  Can you guess?  Yes, the Mr. had the chicken, of course.  I stole a forkful just to taste.It was well seasoned, yet could have had a bit more dressing.

A short list of errands to follow lunch and so I ask for my chocolate torte be packed to go.  Off to buy a frame for a photo of a newt I took last year in the garden, and the week's groceries.  

With one meal barely behind us, I am planning our Sunday dinner with our man-cubs and our older son's girlfriend and we end the night watching Disney's, "Jungle Book." What could be better?  A Sunday of being Fed Well.

Wildfire Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Happy and a Meal at the Lobster Pier - Chester, NY

It's been an exciting few weeks.  I've changed my part-time job from one as a freelance writer at a weekly local newspaper to that of Assistant Editor at a local quarterly magazine and am going through some personal adjustments.  The new focus is solely positive events in the community and after I recently suggested the owner/editor create a video based on Pharrell Williams' song, "Happy," he not only embraced the idea, but produced a version that brought tears to my eyes the first 50 times I watched it.  Here's the video:

My first winning contribution at the magazine was a Mother's Day contest and the suggestion for Happy was my follow up.  Hope the well never runs dry and more fabulous ideas are coming!

On a Friday afternoon, a local television news crew arranged an interview with the owner/editor and for me, the best part was being mentioned as the person behind the idea.  Though the quote didn't make the broadcast, it was enough that I heard it in person and I have faith that my contributions will be duly noted rather than hi-jacked.  Plenty of reasons to celebrate.

Our family decided an evening meal at The Lobster Pier in Chester would offer the perfect menu for the first meatless Friday during Lent (though we are hardly religious people, we do observe traditional customs and rituals when we remember) and fit geographically with errands our sons had to on their to-do lists after dinner.  The Lobster Pier also has 2 stations of salad bar featuring standard fare as well as mussels, slices of seasoned and chilled corn on the cob, crab salad, peel your own shrimp and seafood salad.  

Christmas lights as decor.  Well, it is something I never really understood and though it may be called out as dated, it seems to work here with the overall decor.  I can see a reality restaurant show coming in and tearing everything out to start fresh, but this is not solely about interior decorating.

We were very well taken care of; our server was an experienced professional who kept a close eye on us without hovering, our plates were cleared promptly after we visited the salad bar, our drinks were replenished or we were offered refills and I have received less attention at far more expensive restaurants.

Main Courses:

Twin 5 ounce lobster tails. Yes, please.  The meat was sweet and succulent and I chose linguine with garlic butter sauce as a side.

Chicken and shrimp Francese for our older son.  The portion was generous and devoured.  Yellow rice was the selected side and his only complaint was, "too much sauce."  

Tilapia for his girlfriend which was also accompanied by pasta in garlic and butter.  

One of the evening's specials was the "New England Shore Dinner" and it was ordered by both the Mr. and our younger son.  They both left their boiled potato on the plate and I think my younger son may have had a tad too much fun playing with the lobster by holding it upright and saying, "I am not a crook," but we were entertained.

Once the table was cleared, we were shown our dessert options:

Two orders of the chocolate covered strawberries were placed in a take out container and I was quite surprised at the variety of options we were shown.  Fruit, pie, cake and pastry, oh my.

Was it the best meal we ever had? No. 

Is every day the best of your life? No.  

But, we were together, Happy, and Fed Well.

Lobster Pier on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Frank's for Lunch

Saturday.  A day for errands and yes, the dreaded shopping.  We've needed nightstands since, well, since I decided I do want nightstands in spite of their potential for being clutter catchers.  It is more important now that I have a bedside lamp so I can read if I want to and don't forget being able to be in bed without the threat of the boogy man grabbing me from under the bed before I turn out the light.

We went to 5 furniture stores including one that had an unfinished section, one that was going out of business and one that had a high-energy, won't take no for an answer, polite yet pushy salesperson who stalked us as we walked around the sales floor.  I was so turned off, I probably wouldn't have bought anything just because of her over the top approach.

I begin to melt down and feel like anyone of the characters in the Snickers commercials, because I am not me when I'm hungry (and when forced to shop) so we go into nearby Frank's in Middletown, NY.

I ask about the available soups and am happy to hear a short list rather than 1 or 2 choices.  I decide on garlic knots to go with my soup and the Mr. orders a Sicilian style slice.

Garlic Knots

Dough and sauce.  What could be better?  These are dripping with butter and covered in garlic.  The thing I didn't realize after 30 years together?  The Mr. does not eat garlic knots.  Hmmmm.  I also don't think I've ordered them when it was just the two of us- though they disappeared if I ordered them when our sons were younger.

The Mr. is content with his slice.  I've never cared for this version of pizza.  It reminds me of elementary school and the cafeteria...not that some of my memories aren't fond, but really, I just prefer classic, thin crust, Neopolitan pizza with an occasional Margherita pizza.

The soup was packed with pasta and beans and small chunks of tomatoes.  For those who love Parmesan cheese, this is the soup for you.  I have a narrow band of tolerance for the stinky cheese, but I do enjoy the soup.

We talk of our next plans of attack for the day and never end up with nightstands.  I did however, buy a fabulous desk.

A weekend of "doing what other people do" by shopping and stopping for lunch was nice, but this weekend we are back to running around in different directions and plan on meeting up later.  Either way, we are Fed Well and enjoy the change of pace.  Stop in Frank's for casual food, a clean restaurant, quick and friendly service.

Frank's Pizza & Restaurant on Urbanspoon