Whether it’s simple dinner for a few friends or a big bash for a crowd, taking the party outside takes entertaining to a whole new level.
Easy Outdoor Entertaining
Quick tips for an effortless get-together
If you’re planning an outdoor get-together, don’t spend all your time in the kitchen. These quick and easy tips will help you spend more time with guests and ensure your gathering is an effortless success.
Preparation is key. Prepare any appetizers you’re serving the night before and keep in the fridge. This will allow you to focus on any last minute arrangements on the day of your party.
Think outside the box. If you’re worried that you may not have enough serving dishes for your get-together, look for cups and glasses that may double as a dip bowl or unique container for fruits or vegetables.
Embrace the idea of “family style” dining. Serve appetizers on large platters or set a buffet where everyone can serve themselves. This way, guests can take what they want and eat at their own pace.
Make sure you have music. Loading up your iPod with fun songs, both new and old, will provide a fun atmosphere for your guests.
Candles are always a quick and easy way to add ambiance and class to any space. Keep several on hand to grab when the sun goes down, but the party is still going strong.
Serve a delicious iced coffee cocktail. These cool drinks provide guests with a sweet treat that no one will be able to resist. Plus, they’re so easy to make you’ll have plenty of time to tend to all of your other host duties. Just double brew your coffee in the morning and stick in the fridge until you’re ready to mix and serve.
Try these easy, indulgent recipes below to host a party all of your friends will be talking about.
Visit www.Facebook.com/Baileys for more recipes, and videos of top baristas and bartenders from around the country making delicious iced coffee cocktails.
— Family Features
Baileys Original Iced Coffee
Makes 1 serving
3.5 ounces Baileys Original Irish Cream
7 ounces iced coffee
Pour ingredients over ice in a tall glass.
The Simple One
Makes 1 serving
1 ounce Baileys Original Irish Cream
3/4 ounce cognac-based orange liqueur
3 ounces iced coffee
Pour ingredients over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
Makes 1 serving
3/4 ounce Baileys Original Irish Cream
1 3/4 ounces iced coffee
1 1/8 ounces rum
1/16 ounce cinnamon syrup
Pinch of freshly ground cinnamon
Add Irish Cream, rum, cinnamon syrup and iced coffee to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously with ice, strain into a Delmonico or other glass of your choice, and garnish with freshly ground cinnamon.
Makes 16 servings
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Peel and mash avocados in a medium serving bowl. Stir in onion, garlic, tomato, lime juice, salt and pepper. Chill for half an hour to blend flavors.
Makes 1 serving
1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
1 cup whipped cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Layer ingredients in a parfait glass.
Tips for making the best iced coffee cocktail
The type of roast used to make your iced coffee is more important than you may think. Using a medium roasted coffee bean will produce the best flavor for your iced coffee cocktail. The result is a blend that offers balance, sweetness and a mild acidity.
Another easy way to ensure your iced coffee never gets watered down is to freeze coffee ahead of time in an ice cube tray. Use these instead of ice to ensure your iced coffee cocktail is perfection.
The Fresh Market
By Vikki Moran
Walking into the much-anticipated Fresh Market on opening day last month was like experiencing sensory overload – in a good way. Everything is bright and fragrant, drawing you right in.
The store, located at the corner of Rt. 9 and 155 in Latham at the site of the old Blockbuster Video store is a breath of “fresh” air to the food scene in the Capital Region. While we have been well served for many years by both Price Chopper and Hannaford, the philosophy of offering the best quality perishables and distinctive foods is a terrific addition.
While traveling through the early morning reception, I kept my ear on what people’s reaction was to the beautifully-appointed store and it was unanimously positive. One very excited woman stated that she no longer has to travel to Berkshire County for “this type of quality produce and meat.”
Brian Wittman, vice president of the Northern Zone, explained that based on how this store performs, the family-owned, privately-held company would consider opening additional stores in the area. Currently, they plan on opening 12-14 stores next year throughout the country.
They chose the Latham location after quite a bit of research. “We saw an opportunity here. There were no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, who are generally our closest style competitors,”
All the employees that I spoke with mentioned that store openings are great and bring out many people, but it is the hard work after the hoopla that will make a great store. They expressed the need and commitment to be “very good and very consistent from this point forward.”
I saw in the eyes of the newly-created staff, as well as those who are here temporarily to get the store off to a great start, that this is what their intention is as well!
The Fresh Market has more than 90 stores located in 19 states. The first store opened in 1982 by owners Ray and Beverly Berry. The Fresh Market was founded with one simple goal in mind: to bring friends, family and neighbors high-quality perishable products in a warm and friendly atmosphere with a high level of customer service.
A Finger Lakes gem for food and wine lovers
By Danielle Pitanello
A visit to the Finger Lakes region is an annual trip for many who appreciate and enjoy New York State wines. This year I suggest that you head to Ontario County for not only wine, but glorious foods and fun!
Ontario County has been called Lake Country because it is home to both Geneva and Canandaigua lakes. My husband and I stayed at the Acorn Inn located in Bristol Valley, in Canandaigua. The 1795 Inn is beautifully furnished, with no expense spared on antiques. After the long, yet wonderful days of exploration, returning to the Inn for a glass of wine and a dip in the garden hot tub was just what we needed and appreciated. Waking up to a creative and delicious breakfast of mixed fruit, French toast, eggs, bacon and homemade hashbrowns breakfast is certainly designed to set you off for a day of wine tasting.
On day one, we decided to hit the shops in downtown Canandaigua. This thriving Main Street has many stores offering items unique to the region. One of my favorites was a lovely olive oil shop named F. Oliver’s. Not only are there many flavored vinegars and olive oils to choose from, you can grab a bottle of locally-made, delicious Butternut Squash Oil by Stony Brook. Don’t leave here without doing a tasting of the vinegars and oils; you will be blown away with the combinations that you would never have imagined go together. My new favorite salad is dressed with blood orange olive oil and dark chocolate balsamic vinegar.
You will enjoy the lake vistas as you drive along the high road AND the low road (you will understand what I mean by that when you drive the area). If you feel the need to stretch, you can rent a bike at the shoreline and take a wonderful trek along the magnificently clean lake before heading back downtown for lunch. Simply Crepes offers more variety of crepes than can be imagined. I recommend sharing one as an entre and sharing another as dessert.
The Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion Canandaiqua is a must-see. Strolling around the lush gardens and landscape is like a visit to another world. The gardens were created by Mary Clark Thompson approximately 100 years ago. As an avid connoisseur of horticulture, she separated the gardens by international flavor, but all include thousands of perennials and annuals. Sitting stately in the middle of the property is a Queen Anne style mansion, where tours are given throughout the day. Make certain while exploring the magnificent home that you stop at every available window to grab a view of the vistas. At the time of our visit, restoration efforts were in full swing, but we didn’t feel we missed anything.
One of the most fascinating places we visited was the Wine and Culinary Center. This “hands-on” culinary center was designed to serve as a cross between the agricultural, culinary and wine worlds that all thrive in the Ontario County communities. It is truly indicative of what can be achieved when the business world, the non-profit world and higher education join forces. The center is located at the north end of Canandaigua and can be a convenient trip from anywhere as it sits 15 minutes from the NYS thruway.
Inside the facility you will find a fabulous wine tasting room where you can learn about and taste NYS wines. You will also find the wine staff remarkably well-versed. I would recommend stopping here before heading out to the wine trail. It will help you decide which wineries suit your taste.
There is a state-of-the-art kitchen that holds classes for individuals, couples and groups. Visit their website www.nycc.com to learn more about classes and how to reserve. We took part in a saut class with Chef Eric K. Smith. It was very enjoyable and quite humbling to realize how much you can still learn! I would not be a bit surprised to see Chef Eric on the Food Channel one day…he is that good.
When you are planning your visit, make a reservation for a truly lovely dining experience at the Taste of New York Lounge. The LeCesse New York Garden provides some of the vegetables and fruits used in the dinners and lunches that are served at the lounge, as well as the Southern Wine & Spirits Dining Room. The garden is a visiting point for the property showing off the many fruit trees, plants, flowers and grapes from NY State.
On a food and wine trip throughout the county, you will find many outstanding restaurants boasting great pride in the local fare. My trip included a dinner at the Brown Hound Bistro on Route 64 in the lovely Bristol Springs Mountain area. This is a funky, comfortable restaurant that boasts local everything -from wine to the ingredients in all dishes. Upon request, owner Trish will happily give you a list of the local purveyors of her food.
It would be difficult to hit and see all the wineries on a two-day trip, but I wanted to see The Imagine Moor Winery, where the labels and titles of the wines are throwback to the “love generation”. Do not be fooled by the names, however, this is seriously good wine with a real zeal for art. The building that houses the tasting room, as well as the deck, have breathtaking
views of the arbors and mountains, making it an out-of-the-ordinary wine tasting visit.
Another winery that boasts some very good wines and a very charismatic owner is the Arbor Hill Grapery. The country store is a collision of all that is produced in this region. At every stop, I could tell you what to bring home, but I respect your right to choose for yourself. I can’t resist, however, telling you about their fabulous Arbor Hill Burgundy Garlic Peppercorn dressing. Your salads will thank me.
No trip to this region can be anywhere near complete without a taste of grape pie. I know, we here in the Capital Region do not make or eat much grape pie, but if you have grown up in Rochester or have family there, you will know the local passion for this Thanksgiving staple.
I had a real thrill in meeting and tasting the most famous grape pie and maker from the region – Monica Schenk, owner and baker at Monica’s Pies in neighboring Naples. She is a gracious and generous lady that truly seems humbled by all the fuss. She has been featured in ads for Pfaltzgraff Pie plates and on the Food Network. Monica works in a large kitchen on her property with her mother and aunt (both in their nineties), as well as a small staff. Together, they create the most fantastic grape pies all year along, as well as 24 other pie varieties. She is also developing quite a reputation for Chicken Pot Pies! Stories were told to me about the roadside stand where skiers from a neighboring mountain line up on their way home to grab a pot pie to throw in the oven when they get home. This skier-pie relationship is topped off by an honor paying system: take the pie and drop in the money. No fuss, no pretention, just real good pie by made by Monica and enjoyed by her honest and appreciative neighbors.
Enjoy the recipe for Monica’s Grape Pie courtesy of this lovely woman. She wants us to experience the joy of baking and eating the grape pies that our neighbors to the west have known for generations.
The fall season is an excellent time to head to the Finger Lakes. Drive through the gorgeous scenery that could be a Mediterranean movie set and go with an empty stomach and an empty trunk.
Five ways to eat well without breaking the bank
By Christina DeMers
While it’s true that tough economic times usually have people running to the nearest fast-food joint for a meal, it doesn’t have to be that way. It turns out that there are a variety of fantastic deals out there just waiting to be discovered. Below is your own personal Dining Survival Guide featuring restaurants that offer menu items for under $20. This is, of course, just a short list of a few of my personal favorites. There are many more cheap eats out there waiting for you to discover them.
So, put down that greasy hamburger or that meatball sub and read on to learn how you can get a great meal at a great price right in your own neighborhood.
Best falafel in town? These succulent, moist and authentically-spiced chickpea patties are waiting for you at Mamoun’s in Albany. Visit this little gem of an eatery on lower Washington Avenue for a delicious and authentic Middle Eastern meal. Not only is the food amazing, but the setting is pure charm with its hammered tin ceiling, exposed brick walls and ornate coffee bar. You may not be aware of Mamoun’s authentic deliciousness, but critics have praised it many times, it’s your turn to find out why.
For a great meal at a great price, order the grape leaves to start ($4.25) and the falafel sandwich platter ($6.95) which comes with homemade hummus and pita chips, and you’ll still have money left over to buy yourself a piece of baklava! Two can even eat for under $20 by sharing an appetizer, like the hummus or baba ghanouj and ordering an eggplant, chicken or lamb kabob pita sandwich.
Mamoun’s is located at 206 Washinton Avenue near the corner of Lark Street in Albany. Open Monday-Friday 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-10pm. Weekends noon-10pm. For more information call 434.3901 or visit: www.mideasterndining.com/index.html.
2. Bros Tacos
Experience authentic Mexican food at a reasonable price on Ontario Street in Albany. Bros Tacos, a tiny little taco joint just big enough for a counter and a few small tables, boasts using the freshest ingredients from local farms and produce companies, and cheeses which are pure dairy with no processed or oil substitutes. They also make their handmade tortillas daily and feature a variety of freshly made, imaginative salsas like the sweet and tangy pineapple salsa or the very hot, but addictive, habernero papaya salsa.
My favorite? The grilled fish tacos served with pico de gallo, salsa roja & Bros Tacos crema for $3. Throw in an order of chips and salsa for an extra $1.75 or the popular grilled corn on the cob with lime, cotjia cheese, and chili powder for $2.75 and you have yourself an amazing south of the border feast at a bargain price.
Tacos start at a mere $2.75 for two, or get a taco platter with rice and beans starting at $6.25. Not in the mood for tacos? You can also get a variety of burritos, quesadillas, tamales or tostadas, all at $6.75 or less.
Bros Tacos is located at 319 Ontario Street in Albany. Open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-11pm and Sunday 1pm-8pm. Closed Mondays. For more information call 395.1096 or visit: www.brostacosblog.com.
In the mood for sushi? I always am, and I’m always guaranteed top quality sushi at a great price at Okinawa in Wynantskill. At lunch time I tend to order the sushi combo special. For $7.95 I get two sushi rolls of my choice – Spicy Tuna and a Smoked Salmon with Avocado – are my go-to choices, along with a garden salad and a bowl of miso or wonton soup. The combo deal will run you a little more at dinner time, about $11.95.
You’ll also find a variety of tempura and teriyaki dishes, starting at $9.95 with soup, salad and rice. But if you’re looking for something remarkable and more unusual, consider the pepper tuna salad for $8.95. It is peppery, but if you like it hot you’ll enjoy this light dish of raw tuna sliced over a shredded cabbage. The quality is unmistakable, as raw fish that isn’t top quality is hard to disguise with no sauces or gravies for it to hide beneath.
And here’s a tip for cocktail lovers: because Okinawa has no bartender, and apparently no real mixology experience, they tend to compensate with added alcohol. Talk about getting a bang for your buck! Try the lip-smacking (and butt-kicking) MaiTai for $6.75, just don’t try to drive too soon afterwards.
While the service is always friendly and accommodating, don’t expect to get in and out in a hurry; urgency is not part of the culture here. However, the food is consistently good and the atmosphere is relaxing and conducive to enjoying a good meal.
Okinawa is located in a small plaza off Route 66 in Wynantskill at 61 Main Avenue. Open Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-10:30pm and Sunday noon-1opm. For more information call 283.7716 or visit: www.okinawa518.com.
Affordable and exotic? Hit the jackpot with a visit to one of Sukothai’s two locations in downtown Albany. The Central Avenue location is newer and bigger, but for the charm and intimacy that I have come to associate with Sukothai, head for the quaint Lark Street location.
For rock bottom prices starting at $6.95, get yourself any number of wonderfully sweet and spicy curries, including yellow, red, green, pineapple, pumpkin, Masman or Panang all served with jasmine or brown rice and your choice of chicken, beef, pork, shrimp or tofu. I’ve sampled just about all of them, and they are all amazing, at this price or not.
Also available are a number of appetizers, all at $4.95-$6.95 and large enough to share with two or three people. My recommendation? Begin your meal with the crispy on the outside, tender on the inside Veggie Samosas. These little pockets of flaky fried goodness are stuffed with potato, onion, black pepper, yellow curry powder and served with a spicy sauce for dipping. Then move onto the green curry with shrimp for dinner. This variety includes bell pepper, green beans, carrots, zucchini, basil and coconut milk. Not only is the price right, but the portions are generous. I dare you to finish the whole thing.
The Central Ave location is open Monday-Friday 11:30am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday oon-10pm. For more information call 433.7203.
The Lark Street location is open Monday-Wednesday 11:30am-9:30pm, Thursday-Friday 11:30am-10pm, and Saturday & Sunday noon-10pm. For more information call 463.0223. For more information about either location visit: www.sukhothaialbany.com.
5. Off Shore Pier
Fresh fish fry, broiled trout, steamed crab legs, clam rolls? No, you’re not at the beach, you’re at the Off Shore Pier, a no frills restaurant and fish market located on the corner of Route 4 & Third Ave Ext. in East Greenbush.
Since 1979, this small, unassuming little establishment has managed to stay afloat amidst an explosion of shopping plazas and big box stores. Why? Probably because for a song you can get some of the freshest fish around at a very reasonable price, all year long.
To start your meal off, the standard menu offers Manhattan and New England clam chowder ($2.95 for a cup) as well as clams or oysters on the half shell ($4.25 for six).
When you’re ready for dinner, the selection is much more extensive. Try the traditional fish fry featuring fresh Haddock (at $6.75 you can’t go wrong) or a shrimp or scallop dinner at $9.95. You can even get swordfish or Alaskan king crab legs if you want to spend a little more. All dinners come with choice of fries and either cole slaw, macaroni salad, potato salad or cottage cheese (but why bother trying to be healthy at this point?). Fry choices include regular, curly fries or “shore fries’, which are basically home fries without the onion.
Most seafood items can be fried or broiled. I usually order the broiled trout or tilapia with curly fries and cole slaw. It’s more food than I can eat in a sitting, a true cheap eats champion.
Now, don’t expect fancy here. You order your meal at a window, and it’s served on a plastic plate with plastic utensils. But, if you’re all about fresh seafood, this place shouldn’t be missed. Find out for yourself why this place has survived for 30 years. But be sure to bring cash, they don’t accept credit cards.
Off Shore Pier is located at 637 3rd Avenue Extension in East Greenbush. Open Monday-Saturday 11:30am-7:30pm (open until 8:30pm on Friday). Closed on Sunday. For more information call 283.9880 or visit: www.offshorepier.com.
Christina DeMers is an online marketing manager, food blogger and amateur cook who lives in East Greenbush, but eats just about anywhere.