Category Archives: Grocery List

Grocery List: November 9, 2014


Whether or not I write a full-on review of last night’s dinner at Laci’s Tapas Bar (I’ve written about it in the past), it’s worth noting that restaurant’s importance within the dining fabric of Syracuse.

The vast majority of restaurants fail, regardless of how good the food is. A restaurant built into a Victorian home in a gentrifying city neighborhood seems like a dicey venture. Yet, there is Laci’s, packed to the gills on a Saturday night in November.

The phrase “labor of love” seems trite, but I’m not sure what else one would use to describe Laci’s. We went with some friends that had never been before, and found ourselves discussing the importance of a restaurant like Laci’s while waiting for dessert. Each serving hits its mark, but is distinctly different from the other delivery to the table. Very little of the flavors are repeated from dish to dish. Things you wouldn’t expect to like envelope you when you try them. You push yourself to try them, and then find yourself wanting another order. For instance, The Wife ate bacon-wrapped jalepeños last night. Jalepeños. Most days, I can’t get her to eat anything hotter than cayenne pepper, but there she was chowing down. The kitchen is first-rate and that should be noted.

But, it’s not just the back of house that carries a restaurant. Everyone there has a personality. Jordan, our waiter, spent the evening joking with us, and periodically one of the owners (Laura, the La of Laci’s) stopped by to give us a hard time. And, as is so difficult to find in restaurants, there is a very apparent symbiosis between the front and back of house.

As we drove away, The Wife said to me, “We spent $100 on dinner tonight, but I don’t mind that. I feel like I got something for my money. We can’t do that all of the time, but I felt okay signing the slip because, I don’t care if I spent $20 or $60 or $100, I want to feel like I got what I paid for.”

It has me thinking about what is important in our communities as far as food goes. I think the local food thinkers and writers (myself included) talk about about the importance of using local ingredients and supporting local agriculture, but maybe we need to look at things from a more macro level. What is important to Syracuse and Central New York’s food palate? Who are the people shaping that palate? Why is what they are doing important? I would argue that Laura Serway and Cindy Seymour have done more in these areas since Laci’s opened its doors — as entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and community leaders — than some have in their lifetime.

I think it goes beyond a list of what foods or places make Syracuse a good food town, and making people feel good about living and eating here. It’s about the Syracuse’s food legacy and future, and those that hold the key to what’s next.

That is the discussion that we should focus on in this community. People, not actions, dictate the future of any subject or area. Let’s draw the spotlights their way so we can better understand our community, its needs and those that are fulfilling them.


Grocery List: November 2, 2014

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My lead-lined stomach has always served me well. It has seen me through 37 years of too much garlic, too much olive oil,  way too much vinegar, far too many meals at McDonalds, and that time when I went to the Indian restaurant and said to the waiter, “I’ve never had Indian food before, so what would you recommend?”

I’ve had stomach viruses in the past, but they have generally manifested themselves as…how can I explain this…as sitting stomach viruses.

Friday night brought on  something new. I noticed that while handing out candy on Friday night for Halloween that I could not get warm. What I thought were fever chills were proven wrong after the thermometer said 98.3 degrees. At this point, I’ll could eliminate from the possible illness list was Ebola.

At 7:30 p.m., The Kid and The Wife were home and I turned off the lights (Side Note: It was an awful night. Our neighborhood is usually a six bagger, or I need six bags of candy to get through the night. This year, I had three unopened bags left plus a bunch of loose M&Ms.), covered myself in a blanket and fell asleep on the couch.

Now, conventional wisdom says that if you get the urge to vomit, that you should. Release the poison, right? I spent the better part of Friday night into Saturday morning fighting this urge. All the telltale signs were there. Salivating. Your throat expand. The feeling that everything you have consumed for the past 15 years was now collected in your esophagus ready to be reintroduced to the world through the same orifice that it entered. Depending on how you look at it, I bravely or stupidly fought it off. The resulting loss of Saturday, where I spent the day huddled in a blanket and consuming only Pepto-Bismol and Cheerios (though not necessarily at the same time), was more than a little annoying.

It’s Sunday and I feel human, though strong food smells are still throwing me off. The samples station at Trader Joe’s was doing “Szechuan Beef and…” I don’t know what. I saw the those three words on the chalkboard and immediately went the other way.

Grocery List: October 25, 2014


Mr. DeLong. I blame him.

For the past week or so, I’ve been fiddling with WordPress code in an attempt to set up a new website. Some of the stuff is over my head. I cannot figure out how to set up the cute little tiles on the page that would direct one to a featured article or recipe. It’s in the template and it’s one of the reason I elected to use this particular theme. But, two journalism degrees later, I find myself staring at the 13-inch screen on my MacBook Pro with no idea what to do.

It’s Mr. DeLong’s fault.

You see, my guidance counselor was the one that said, “If you want to be a sportswriter, go to a good journalism school.” Never once did it cross his mind to say, “Listen dumbass, newspapers are dying. In 15 years, you won’t even be a subscriber. Start paying attention in class and do something useful like computer programming or software designer.”

So, instead, I’m writing my weekly grocery list post and thinking about how to deal with these stupid sliders on the page of the Al Dente 2.0.

Seriously, who encourages someone to “follow their dream” and do what interests them?

Thanks Mr. DeLong. Thanks a lot. The least you could do is figure out my website issues.

Grocery List: October 19, 2014


“You’re aging right before my eyes.”

The Wife and I watched a lot of television before The Kid came along. We were series regulars to about a half-dozen shows. After The Wife gave birth, the regularity with which we watch television was shattered. That’s okay because, well, I don’t feel too bad about it. I couldn’t really declare a loyalty to a television show, since our viewing patterns were messed up.

A couple of years ago, we got into Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown, and it became appointment television for us. The storytelling is as good as it gets, while the cinematography is amazing. And, on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself wanting to hop on a plane to eat exactly what Bourdain ate. Aside from that, Tosh.0 and Key & Peele have become the only shows that we watch regularly.

I noticed a disturbing trend this fall. The Wife and I watching a lot more PBS, and for the children’s programming. The Wife, a history teacher with a particular interest in immigrant history, likes Henry Louis Gates’ show Finding Your Roots. The desert of decent television on Mondays has led us to an old standby: Antiques Roadshow. I’ve found myself DVR’ing Nova and Frontline more. I usually end up watching Newshour 3 to 4 times a week. As I write this on Saturday night, The Wife tells me that I’m aging right before her eyes. Why? A 1978 edition of The Lawrence Welk Show“Salute To Our Senior Citizens” — is on our 50-inch Panasonic plasma television.

I’m beginning to get worried. I’ve always had a bit the curmudgeonly old man in me, yelling at kids on my damn lawn. But, I’m concerned that I’ve slipped into my middle-aged years a little quickly.

My exact age never really bothered me. My 30th birthday was pretty anticlimactic; I thought 35 was worse, because I had moved into a new demographic grouping (from 25-34 to 35-44). The idea of getting older doesn’t really appeal to me too greatly. For a long time, I was the youngest person in my office. Now I’m somewhere in the middle to high range on the chart.

On Friday night, The Wife and I went to Lewis Black’s show at The OnCenter. We were expecting a 30 to 50 year old crowd, but it was more of a 60+ set. We found ourselves one of the youngest in the crowd by a couple of decades. It was strange.

So, maybe I have nothing to worry about. Maybe I am still young.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, one of Lawrence Welk’s singers is doing “Among My Souvenirs.”

Grocery List: October 12, 2014

The Kid and The Wife at Critz Farms in Fall 2013. We'll withhold their names to protect their identity.
The Kid and The Wife at Critz Farms in Fall 2013. We’ll withhold their names to protect their identity.

It’s tough to construct a grocery list when you haven’t determined what you are having for dinner this week. I woke up at 8, went out to procure coffee, returned, played Bingo with The Kid, got some stuff rolling for dinner, changed and now I’m writing. For once, I’m actually holding everyone else up, as we are due to depart anytime now for Critz Farms in Cazenovia with a stop over at a nearby gas station.

We try to get out to Caz and Critz once each fall for their festival weekends. They have a massive play area for children, plus the promise of apples, cider and pumpkins for The Kid. The connected Harvest Moon Cidery is also a nice  diversion for my liver. For $20 bucks or so, you get access to just about everything, including a hard cider tasting. The pass you buy on your first visit gets you in for the rest of the season. If we weren’t 45 minutes away, it would be a tremendous value, simply because we would make 3 or 4 trips. Instead, it’s a reasonably-priced way to spend a Sunday at a great local business.

And did I mention the hard cider?


Grocery List: October 5, 2014


Earlier this year, the St. Bonaventure University men’s swimming and diving team had an apparel sale as a fundraiser. I picked up a couple of items, including a brown Under Armour t-shirt. Now, I didn’t swim at SBU, but I worked with the team as an intern in the athletic department’s communications office. It was a great experience and I have remained loosely connected to the team and coach since graduating.

Fast forward to last weekend. I was wearing my St. Bonaventure shirt while grocery shopping when I heard a woman say, “See. He went to St. Bonaventure.” I looked over a woman with her two kids. I smiled, as I always do, and ask my standard question: “What year did you graduate?” She made me answer first (1999) before she divulged that she walked across the stage in 1994. We came up with about 3 or 4 names of mutual friends. She was also a journalism major and had worked at The Bona Venture, the campus newspaper. We talked about our jobs and our maintained connections to the people we met there, all the while her kids stood by bored to tears. It was as if they had heard this all before.

It’s because they had. I’m not sure of any other linkage where total strangers stop one another in the middle of the Wegmans’ dairy section and trade details of one another’s life without any reservation. She told me that she got a job freelancing for a newspaper because she mentioned that she went to SBU. The editor stopped the phone interview and hired her without further question. He, too, was a graduate.

As we parted company and walked away, it occurred to me that we didn’t even exchange names. We knew about each other’s kids, where we lived on campus, who each other’s friends were, why we hadn’t been back to Olean in so long…but we never found out the other person’s name.

Is this unique to the insane cultlike alumni base of SBU or do Niagara grads stop one another to talk? When two LeMoyne graduates see one another weather t-shirts, do they start asking each other questions? I’m sincerely doubting it.

Today I’m heading out in a black long-sleeved t-shirt. It’s too cold to wear short sleeves. Makes me think I should have grabbed one of those during the fundraiser.

Meatless Monday: Lemon Pasta with Kale and Goat Cheese

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Around here at Al Dente HQ, kale usually comes in the traditional curly form. It’s the most widely-found variety of the veggie at farmer’s markets and grocery stores, and usually the cheapest and easiest to work with. I’ve seen the red variety at the market before, but never ventured in that direction.

This week, I picked up a bag of Tuscan kale, known also as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale. From One Green Planet:

Lacinato Kale (also known as Dinosaur) is a kale variety that features dark blue-green leaves with a slightly wrinkled and firm texture. The hearty leaves of Dino Kale are tall and narrow and retains its firm texture even after it has been cooked. It has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than the curly kind with its flavor described as deep and earthy, but not so bitter with an almost nutty sweetness.

Continue reading Meatless Monday: Lemon Pasta with Kale and Goat Cheese

Grocery List: September 28, 2014

2014-09-27 at 10-40-40NOTE: I am in Ithaca today for the first of two Walk To End Alzheimer’s events this week. We’ll close the books on the shores of Cayuga Lake around 2:30 p.m., take care of some data on Monday and Tuesday and flip into full-speed ahead mode for our largest event, the Walk in Syracuse. We’re expecting about 1,500 people then. There’s still a chance to contribute to The Chain Challenge if you haven’t done so already.

I work for a charity that focuses on the brain, and the disease that kill off its cells with aging. Yet, I’ve been focused squarely these days on why our brain does something else; why it allows us to make mistakes.

By all estimates, I’m good at what I do. More than merely serviceable, but not perfect. I make a typo here and there, and I’ve been known to recall jobs from the printer because me, my boss and my boss’ boss missed an error on a print job. Like I said, not perfect.

When I was working in college athletics, I found myself in a particular rut that I could not escape. Basically, everything I touched at work turned to manure. I would put more pressure on myself to be perfect and find that the mistakes would come fast and furious. Finally, a co-worker sat me down and explained the secret:

“You’re not a doctor. You’re not a paramedic. You’re not a firefighter. No one is going to live or die because of what you do.”

It’s not that I shouldn’t take what I do seriously, but that I ought to keep things in perspective. It helped; it’s been a good reminder over the years. It’s like a reset button. Have you noticed that you just don’t make one mistake, that they snowball and eventually swallow you? Eh, maybe it’s just me.

I’ve thought about why I make mistakes. I’m an obsessive writer but a terrible self-editor. I don’t like wasting words or sentences. I like my writing to follow a particular rhythm or cadence. Sometimes I focus so much on what I think I’m writing or want to write, that I often times miss what I actually write. And, when I go back to reread it, it looks fine. Apparently, this is called typoglycemia. For instance:

I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg: the phaonmneel pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rseearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Scuh a cdonition is arpppoiatrely cllaed typoglycemia.

So, that’s one explanation.

A team of researchers from Princeton looked at mistakes and came up with the theory that mistakes are caused by bad information going into our brains, rather than the brain itself making an error. So, if you are provided bad information to begin with, your brain is not what makes the mistake.

I can accept this as a partial explanation. If I write something based on wrong information given to me by someone else, then what caused that mistake? Bad information given to them? Good information that became bad information like the telephone game? Or is it because the information originated with someone that is wholly incompetent?

Joseph Hallinan’s 2009 book, Why We Make Mistakes, blames our brain and its shortcomings, particularly in terms of context. He looks closely at the cell phones and driving, pointing out that the brain cannot handle multiple processes at once. Our brains are faulty and we don’t do ourselves any favors by adding distractions (cell phones) when we need to concentrate (on the road).

So, why do we make mistakes? I have no idea. I’m sure there are three or four of them above that I haven’t noticed, even though I’ve read through this piece twice before pressing the SCHEDULE button. But, we are human. We make mistakes. And, no one is perfect.

The dilemma is this. If our brain is truly getting bad information from other sources, how do we program our brain to listen to accurate sources of information and shut out the bad information? And, if what do we do when the bad sources of information are part of the resources that you are given to work with?

I’m still working on all of this. In the meantime, here’s a grocery list.