Mr. and Mrs. Valentine

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day – and I don’t know why, but I love celebrating holidays. Even the ones that people say are fake or too commercialized; what is so wrong about sharing love and appreciating who we having in our lives? Especially after hearing about the tragedy in Florida – take a moment to appreciate who you have.

I started the day early with an at home yoga session [as part of my 30 day yoga journey].  I even treated myself to a new yoga mat this week as a form of some self love. I read a quote on social media that has been resonating with me,  “you can’t fill from an empty cup”. Take care of yourself, put on your own oxygen mask first.

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After yoga I put in a donut order via the Dunkin Donuts app. They were actually running a special on Valentine’s Day for bonus points if you ordered a dozen donuts. I’m not sure if all locations are as efficient, but the one closest to my house was impressive. I walked in, grabbed the waiting box of donuts, and walked out.  They even apologized that one of the donuts I had requested wasn’t available – so they threw in two donuts of their choice to replace it.

Look at all those happy hearts and sprinkles.  How can you be upset when you start your work day with a heart shaped donut?

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They aren’t healthy, they aren’t home made, they aren’t gourmet. But they’re happy and fun and sometimes you have to eat the heart shaped donuts with pink frosting because its Valentine’s Day.

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Then came the main event. Dinner.

This was our first Valentine’s Day as husband and wife. I wanted to make a big deal about it. I set the table, used candles from our wedding ceremony and glasses from my Grandparents.

The night before I picked up filet mignon, cocktail shrimp, asparagus, and potatoes from the Fresh Market. Everything was an expensive splurge and it made me feel even happier that we’re in a situation where we can afford to indulge ourselves.

Mister wore a tie, I wore heels. We sipped wine, exchanged presents. It was exactly what we wanted it to be.

The meat was under cooked after our first attempt, but we figured it out together after some combined online searches. It was so incredibly tender and definitely worth the splurge.

I had even planned for a dessert of cheesecake and strawberries, but after everything we snuggled up on the couch with wine and a box of chocolates.

Here’s to Valentine’s Day. To love. To newlyweds, to families, to laughter, to happily ever after. Eat your donuts, share a meal, take some time. And always fill your own up first.

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Birthday Dinner, Bears Steakhouse

  
This glorious platter of chateaubriand was just one of the courses we were served Saturday evening at Bears Steakhouse in Duanesburg, NY. 

After hearing and reading a ton of great things about this place, I thought it would be a great way to splurge and celebrate Mister’s birthday. Reservations are a must, and a little tricky. 

I called about two weeks prior and, as mentioned in some reviews, either the mother or son will answer with a simple “hello.”  With no indication that you are in fact calling a restaurant, it can feel a bit like a speakeasy, or a trick. 

With my reservation I placed an order for the chateaubriand for two, and was asked to call back the Wednesday prior to confirm. After all this buildup, we were definitely looking forward to this culinary adventure. 

Despite what some reviewers have said, the place is incredibly easy to find if coming from Albany. It isn’t hidden, and there is a large sign. Located near major roads it was a quicker drive than we anticipated.  

 
It is in fact a home, and feels very much like one once you walk in.  

 
With seating for about 50 or so diners, the place was full and noisy; but in a warm and friendly way. 

We were served by the very friendly son of the mother and son duo, while Ma brought us the occasional drink or side. All of the servers seemed to run like a well oiled machine, delivering constants drinks and an endless stream of food. 

We started with very full glasses of Chardonnay and a basket of warm rolls (accompanied by packets of Cabot butter). There are no menus, instead the options are verbally listed off one course at a time once you’ve finished the prior course. 

For appetizers, Mister had their infamous shrimp cocktail.  

 This seemed to be the crowd favorite, and we both loved the strong dose of horseradish in the cocktail sauce. 

  I had these perfectly sour-spicy peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone, with roasted red peppers and pickled garlic. Neither were knock your socks off inventive, but they were good in a way that you could feel the tradition, family, and nostalgia invested in this place. 
We had the choice of salad or Ma’s Italian chicken vegetable soup up next, and we both went with the soup. 

  
It was really good. The glistening drops of fat decorating the broth stood as testament to the home made nature of the soup, and there was such an intense flavor that it could be stood alone without any meat or veggies. But there was pelt you of shredded chicken, greens, corn, and carrots. In all honesty, we could’ve stopped here. But then came the main course.  

 Served as a hefty platter of sliced tenderloin, carrots, and two baked potatoes we were hesitant to dive in. Almost full from the two previous courses, we each sipped a little more wine and took a few deep breaths. 

  Cooked perfectly and fork tender, this was the definition of something being like butter. It was if cutting was wholly unnecessary; the meat melted with each bite. It wasn’t until after our first slice that I had a hankering for some horseradish to balance out the buttery unctuous meat. 

We hardly made a dent in the gorgeous display, and it was graciously packed up (with the requested horseradish). 

Since it was Mister’s birthday celebration, we had to further indulge in some dessert.  

 
The coconut cream pie was the icing on this cake. The flaky crust, the pile of whipped cream; it felt like you were leaving Grandmas house after a holiday meal. We were stuffed and laden with leftovers. 

Pro tip: The next morning for breakfast I toasted some bread, slathered it with mayo and horseradish, topped with thinly sliced beef. I could eat that every morning forever. Easily. 

No Snow Day

This weekend while downstate was getting walloped with snow, I had quietly escaped to Albany on Friday night.  I know I didn’t miss the shoveling, or the antsy trapped feeling, but I did feel jealous of cozy snowed in nights that I seem to have completely missed out on this winter thus far.

Mister and I made the most of our No-Snow Days by taking the dogs to the Capitol Hills Golf Course on Saturday. For anyone that lives in the Albany area, this is an amazing place to walk (its kept really clear even when it snows).

This is a great way to get in some exercise, while the dogs run and play with other dogs passing through.  Needless to say, they are always exhausted by the time we get home.  This time, the cold combined with the long walk meant out two bulldog ladies were tuckered out well into Sunday night.

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I texted Mister on Friday to insist he keep me accountable on my eating; I tend to treat weekends like a free for all in terms of treats and snacks.  This basically undoes all the great meal planning, calorie counting, and workouts I log during the week. With our trip to Puerto Rico in a few weeks, and a bikini in my not so distant future, I can’t keep inhaling cheesecake at this rate!

So we loaded up on salads, with only the occasional popcorn, fruit, or veggies for snacks.Where007.JPGSaturday night, we did treat ourselves to a strip steak dinner (courtesy of a sale at the Fresh Market), with roasted asparagus and a twice baked potato for Mister.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to limit my meat consumption, but felt comfortable with making this my weekend indulgence (instead of a parade of chocolate). For dessert, Mister had requested the do-it-yourself fruit filled sponge cakes from the Fresh Market, so I obliged.

I sliced some strawberries and let them soak in a balsamic, sugar, pepper mixture for about 45 minutes.  Then they were placed atop the little cake, topped with whipped cream, more berries, and a tiny bit of powdered sugar.

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Yum.  I promise I ate egg whites and veggies for just about every other meal. Balance baby.

 

New Years 2014

New Years is a time of resolutions, reflection, maybe regrets. Instead of looking too hard at the past year, or swearing to some strict resolutions, this year I wanted to just appreciate the moment. That very moment when it’s midnight, delirious from trying to stay up; for that one second anything is possible.

The entire year of missed opportunities, failures, accidents, burnt dinners, forgotten workouts; all gone in a second. That one very moment where it’s just happiness and champagne, that’s why New Year’s Eve is special. That’s what I wanted to celebrate.

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While our dinner at home was a celebration, the afternoon felt heavy while I mourned the ending of a phase in my life. This new year brings a new job, and I can’t believe my work family from the ship can’t come with me. It hasn’t quite settled in yet. My Monday lunch crew, the volunteers, interns, ladders, portholes. They will always exist as my Albany family, and I already look forward to visits as much as any holiday.

Mister sweetly brought me flowers towards the end of my last day, sitting with me for my last coffee. Reminding me of all the reasons we have a great year coming.

To close out 2014 we had a perfect dinner. It was on point, including new recipes and standby flavors.

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Steaks from Cardonas.

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My first attempt at from scratch scalloped potatoes.

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Brussel sprouts with balsamic and pancetta.

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Mushroom-Beef gravy.

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We even managed to have everything ready for the plate at the same time. A year or so ago, that wouldn’t have happened. Who knows what I might pull off next year.