The Greens Restaurant – Copake

2014-11-21 21.20.06

The Greens, at the Copake Country Club, is one of our favorite restaurants in Columbia County. This is by no means “country club food”, but a serious restaurant with a serious chef using the best local ingredients, much of it organic. The atmosphere is sophisticated rustic, with beautiful views over the golf course to Copake Lake and the mountains beyond. A central glass-fronted fireplace provides warmth and a nice focal point to the room. Service here is polished and attentive.

2014-11-21 20.12.56

We began our dinner last night with a special of French onion soup for Stanley and the shrimp and scallion tempura with Asian slaw and a soy reduction for me. The soup was as good as the best bistro would make it, while my tempura was an outstanding example, with 2 massive shrimp and 2 large scallions lightly battered and fried perfectly. For mains, he had the pork chop in a fig and port wine sauce, with mashed potatoes, red cabbage and brussels sprouts, while I had the roasted organic chicken with cumin and chili, served with chorizo, roasted peppers and spinach (and normally black beans, but I substituted coconut jasmine rice).  It was a huge portion of chicken, well-spiced and with a crisp skin. We chose a bottle of Malbec from the reasonable wine list. They also have a very good selection of beers on draught.

They have good desserts here, but we just didn’t have enough room.

Lunch is also very nice here, with simpler dishes but the same high-quality preparation and ingredients.

Spain vacation – Part 7 – Madrid

11/16

Today we got up early to catch our 9:10 train from Granada to Madrid.  Our friend Cathy had lamented how Granada has such poor train connections and has yet to be connected with the AVE high-speed system.  From Granada to Antequera we proceeded at a respectable rate on the single-track line, having to stop from time to time to let trains pass in the other direction.  It is a mountainous route with many curves and scenery to match.  At Antequera, we changed engines and, even more remarkably, the train changed track gauges.  We passed through a shed which allowed the width of the axles to shrink from Iberian gauge to standard international gauge.  This allowed us to use the AVE tracks through Cordoba, greatly speeding things up.

We arrived at Atocha Station at 1:35 as scheduled, then caught a taxi to the hotel we had reserved through Booking.com, the Vita Ingles. Imagine our shock when we arrived there to find it shuttered, with a sign indicating that it was closed and showing a phone number for another hotel, which turned out to be a couple of miles away!  Of course I had never gotten any notice from Booking.com about this. Luckily I had my Michelin guide, and found the Hotel Plaza Mayor which seemed reasonable. We got another taxi and arrived there to find they did have rooms available, and paid 77 euros, which is not bad, but a lot more than the 48 euros for the Vita Ingles. Once we got settled in the hotel, though, I checked Tripadvisor and found that the Plaza Mayor has rooms for 50 to 55 euros through either Booking.com or Expedia. I will have to see the manager tomorrow morning to find out if I can get the discount (Update: The manager basically said “tough shit” BUT when I got home I called Booking.com, and told them what had happened. They had not been notified of the closing of the Vita Ingles either, but were very apologetic and offered me 50 euros as compensation for the inconvenience and extra expense. Now that is great customer service!).

Off to lunch. We picked La Camarilla as it is listed in Michelin and is near the hotel. Since it was Sunday afternoon, the place was packed with local families, babies, and baby strollers.  We had our first taste of Morcilla (black pudding) along with mini hamburgers (served with real ketchup!) and while the food was good, it was not on the level of the other tapas bars we have been trying. After lunch we walked around the center, finding our way up to the Monasterio las Descaleas Reales, across from where we stayed when we were last in Madrid, and then through the Puerta del Sol, taking in the flattering view of the equestrian monument, and then back to the hotel.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Mercado San Miguel

Mercado San Miguel

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

For our last dinner in Spain, we chose Cornucopia, which was recommended by a fellow Chowhound poster, as one of the very few restaurants of any note that are open on Sunday night.

madrid6

madrid4

madrid5

It turned out to be excellent, with interesting flavors, and it is important to note that by making the reservation through Tripadvisor, we got a 30% discount on the food.  They also offer set menus with a number of choices, also at a substantial discount, but not every dish is included in those. We were able to choose from the full a la carte, and with the discount the price worked out to be about the same as the fixed price menu. We both started with the prawns, then had the beef and pork hamburger and the filet of beef with foie gras, followed by a banana panna cotta. The total with a bottle of wine was only 72 euros.  This has to be one of the best deals in Madrid, and though we chose it because of the limited choices for Sunday night, I would go there any day of the week.

This ends our vacation in Spain.  Tomorrow morning it’s off to the airport and back home.  We’ve had a wonderful time.

Spain vacation – Part 6 – Granada

11/14

We awoke to a steady rain in Benalmadena, so we did not rush to depart, and lingered with Cathy over a breakfast of toast and coffee.  We arrived in Granada after a rainy drive from Benalmadena.  Our first thought had been to go directly to the hotel, drop our bags, and then find the train station to return the car. Our meanderings, however, led almost directly to the train station, so the plans were changed and we dropped the car and took a taxi to the hotel, letting the taxi driver find our way.  A much better plan.  We checked into the Hotel Plaza Nueva, and went across the street for a tapas lunch standing at the bar at Los Diamantes, which is known for seafood, mostly fried. With each round of wine we were given a free tapa, first shrimp and then mushrooms.  We also ordered 2 half-raciones, razor clams and chicken nuggets.  It’s good food, the place is very crowded, and service is fast.  I would not choose it for dinner, but for lunch it works out nicely.

Hotel website: http://www.hotel-plazanueva.com/

Los Diamantes website: http://www.barlosdiamantes.com/

granada1

We then took a walk along the river and up the steep hills of the Albaicin, the old Arab quarter, to take in the view of the Alhambra from the mirador of San Nicolas and to scout out a possible restaurant for tomorrow evening.  There is a bus that covers the same territory, and unless you are in training for Olympic mountain climbing, I would suggest the bus.  Gravity took us back down to the Plaza Nueva, where we took a break at the hotel before another stroll to check out some other dining options.

granada2

granada4

View of the Alhambra from Albaicin

Dinner was at Damasqueros, on the street of the same name, and not to be confused with the bar of the same name at the other end of the street. The food here was a modern take on traditional dishes, and only a tasting menu is served, for 39 euros.The dishes are too intricate to describe, but ingredients included anchovies, chicken, cod, pork cheeks, and a clafouti-like dessert with quince, vanilla ice cream, and quince cream. With a bottle of a red from the Granada region, the bill was just over 100 euros. We enjoyed it very much.  The rain had returned for our stroll back to the hotel, but it did not intimidate the late revelers who crowded under awnings and doorways.

Website: http://damasqueros.com/

granada5

11/15

Saturday began with a trip to the Alhambra. We had already been there in 2010, but unwisely had not invested in the audio guide, and suffered for it, as there are no signs with explanations anywhere. This time we used the audio guides to get a better understanding of the history and use of what we were seeing. It was a beautiful, sunny, cool day, which made it an even greater pleasure to walk about, and the gardens were still full of color.  It was, however, a Saturday, which drew out the local crowds on top of the usual obnoxious foreign tourists, all posing for animal crackers and taking “selfies”.

granada6granada7granada8granada9granada11

View of Albaicin from the Alhambra

View of Albaicin from the Alhambra

After a brief stop at the hotel, we found our way to La Criolla Gatrobar for a tapas lunch.  This was another highly recommended venue on Tripadvisor, and it was both superb and dirt cheap.  We ordered a bottle of Rey Sagal 2011, a local red, for 15 euros. With that we received 6 tapas, served in 3 double portions. First was a house-made ravioli, second a fried fish with aioli and sauteed cabbage, and last a perfect paella. We could have stopped with that but wanted to try a couple more items, so we ordered a half racion of seared tuna, and then a tiramisu for dessert. The total bill was 28,50 euros.

granada12

After lunch, we strolled around the area and then over to the cathedral, which we did not go into as we had done that four years ago and did not feel a necessity to repeat.

granada13

We continued exploring the pedestrian area around the cathedral and the various plazas, which were filled with locals and tourists, and made a quick detour through the mercado, which was starting to close up, but was still teeming with families and lots of little children. Then it was back to the hotel to relax before dinner.

For dinner, we decided on Puerta del Carmen, another Tripadvisor favorite which also happened to be just a couple of blocks from the hotel.

granada14

The restaurant was busy and lively, with a charming atmosphere,  the food, though fairly traditional, was delicious, and the menu quite varied.  We had burrata with sardines and tomato salsa, grilled octopus, baby lamb chops and presa Iberica, all prepared with skill and care. For dessert we had a “special cake” that I can only describe as a Spanish version of Martha Washington cake.  With a bottle of Fontenei tinto 2010 and water, the total was 113 euros.

Website:  http://www.puertadelcarmenrestaurante.com/

Spain vacation – Part 5 – Malaga/Benalmadena

11/13

Leaving Cadiz this morning, we drove to Benalmadena Costa, a 2 1/2 hour trip, where we visited our good friend Cathy, in her beautiful home on a hillside overlooking the sea, a short distance down the coast from Malaga, The trip down was along a road that eventually ran along the coast to Tarifa, and we were enveloped in fog which made the massive windmills in the huge wind farms look like something from a fantasy film.  We passed Gibraltar, which seemed less awesome when glimpsed from the perspective of the commercial strip malls of Algeciras.  Benalmadena occupies a small enclave of tastefulness in a sea of over-developed awfulness, and the view of the Mediterranean from Cathy’s house never fails to inspire. After we settled in, we took a ride into Malaga, and visited the cathedral before lunch.

malaga3malaga2 malaga1

After the cathedral, we looked for the tapas bar we had been to when we were in Malaga in 2010, which was then called La Moraga, and which had subsequently been Manzanilla, which Cathy thought it still was. As it turned out it had changed again and was now KGB.  It looked interesting though, so we gave it a try, and it turned out to be excellent. We had langoustine tempura with salad, a tripe stew Thai style, and another stew with artichokes, egg, and foie gras, Flamenquins, and a hamburger with gorgonzola. With a bottle of a local red, the total was 53 euros.

We then toured the Picasso museum, and strolled along the port, which has been spiffed up with new buildings, restaurants and bars.

Back in Benalmadena Costa, we relaxed for a while at Cathy’s, then the three of us headed into Benalmadena Pueblo (village), which is very charming, with whitewashed buildings and lots of greenery. malaga4 malaga5

We had dinner at Sollo, a favorite of Cathy’s, which serves only a tasting menu, consisting of countless courses, all based on sturgeon and all incredibly imaginative and delightful.  The chef, Diego Gallegos, is well-grounded and knows how to find his way in the often tumultuous world of the restaurant business.  Make a note of his name.

Website: http://www.sollo.es/menu-temporada/matanza/

malaga6

The food was very innovative, delicious, and plentiful. We had a nice bottle of red from the Malaga region, and the total was 185 euros, unbelievable for food of this quality.  Back to Cathy’s, a few glasses of sherry, and bedtime. Tomorrow, Granada.

Spain vacation – Part 4 – Cadiz and Jerez

11/11

This morning we got an early start for the 5 hour trip from Salamanca to Cadiz, which went rather quickly despite some rain along the way.  The scenery in the Extremadura was quite pretty, very green with lots of mountains, but then we were traveling along the far western edge of Extremadura.  After successfully navigating us into the old city of Cadiz, I found myself facing a one-way street and tried to turn around to try another approach.  I quickly found the local constabulary in hot pursuit, evidently because I had inadvertently made an illegal left turn.  With Michelin in hand, I explained to the officer that I was trying to find our hotel.  To my relief, he graciously undertook to lead us to the hotel with a police escort.  Unfortunately, they left us in a pedestrian zone and there was no place to stop and unload our luggage. I finally found a place to pull over and walked a few blocks to the hotel, where I found out the parking I had reserved was just around the corner, and we had actually passed it but were unaware that it was the hotel’s parking as it was not marked as such. So after a roundabout drive through many one-way streets, we finally parked and walked to the hotel, Las Cortes de Cadiz. This is a very gracious place where the rooms have names rather than numbers.  This comes with a price, as it is by far the most expensive hotel we are staying in on this trip, at 70 euros a day.  Cadiz is expensive (the parking is 20 euros a day!).

Website: http://www.hotellascortes.com/en/

Calle San Francisco with hotel Las Cortes de Cadiz on left

Calle San Francisco with hotel Las Cortes de Cadiz on left

We settled in to our room and, after changing clothes for the warmer weather, we set out to have lunch at Balandro, a lively and popular restaurant and tapas bar facing the sea, which was highly recommended on Tripadvisor.  We opted to have  tapas at the large horseshoe bar, and had tripe stew with cumin and chickpeas, fried anchovies with fried piquillo peppers, fried mixed seafood with the same peppers, and braised pork cheeks with gnocchi in a delicious sauce.  With bread and a bottle of Rosado wine from the region, this great meal came to less than 40 euros.

Website: http://www.restaurantebalandro.com/index2.asp

After lunch, we did our usual stroll around the town, exploring the plazas, historic district and cathedral.

cadiz6cadiz2cadiz1cadiz3cadiz4cadiz5

The Cathedral of Cadiz was started in the 1760s to replace an older one, which remains.  Unfortunately, Cadiz’s fortunes went into decline with the loss of the Spanish overseas possessions in the Americas and the unpleasantness of the Napoleonic wars.  Trafalgar is just to the south.  It was finished in the late 19th Century and lacks the lavish ornamentation encountered in so many Spanish cathedrals from earlier eras.  It is also currently hung with netting to catch the disintegrating stone and plaster work from its vaults.  The shallow dome in the crypt, pictured above, has a wonderful echo effect on one’s footsteps.  There were many small plazas with gardens and palm trees, and the city workers were already busy hanging the Christmas decorations along the main shopping streets. We priced the sherry in the local supermarket in anticipation of our trip to Jerez tomorrow.

Dinner was at El Faro, a long-established traditional restaurant. Unfortunately, it was not the best example of its type.  None of the food was bad, but nothing was exciting either. The seafood soup was excellent, but the albondigas of seafood were not albondigas (meatballs) but actually croquetas, potato with a hint of seafood in it. The very good sauce with tiny clams redeemed it somewhat, but it was not what I was expecting.  The presa Iberica was good but a bit overcooked, as was the duck breast. A pavlova with berries was a decent dessert. Bread was the typical Spanish kind, i.e. awful.  The better places we have dined at had good artisanal breads. We had a good bottle of a local wine that was a blend of many grapes and was quite good, for under 20 euros. With water the bill came to just under 100 euros, not bad for the price but I really would not recommend this place.

Website: http://www.elfarodecadiz.com/

11/12

Off to Jerez de la Frontera for a tour of the Lustau winery, with a sherry tasting.

We had some time before the winery tour, so paid a visit to the cathedral.

Jerez Cathedral interior

Jerez Cathedral interior

We are big fans of sherry, so this was fascinating for us, and Lustau is one of the top producers.  The tour was very thorough and interesting, with a wonderful guide explaining how each type of sherry is made. We then tasted six sherries, several Finos, an Amontillado, a cream and two Pedro Ximenes, and also a Moscatel.  We bought two bottles of Pedro Ximenes at a great discount.

jerez2jerez4jerez5

Website: http://www.lustau.es/en/

After the winery, we headed to lunch at Reinodeleon, a gastronomic tapas bar and restaurant.  We had some wonderful tapas, which included a potato salad with thin sliced octopus, millefeuille of foie gras with Pedro Ximenes gelee and 2 fruit sauces, bruschetta with chicken, cheese, bacon and barbeque sauce, and oxtail stew in a pastry shell. We drank a local wine, Roble 2011, a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot. It was excellent and cost less than 10 euros. A superb lunch for 40 euros including coffee.

jerez6

Website: http://reinodeleongastrobar.com/

Before heading back to Cadiz, we strolled around some more and toured the Church of San Miguel.

jerez8jerez9jerez10jerez7

Back in Cadiz, we had dinner at Sopranis, which is highly recommended by both Michelin and Tripadvisor.  It did not disappoint.  The food was superb and a tremendous bargain. We each had two appetizers, crab ravioli wrapped in lettuce, in a soy-based broth, duck ravioli, raw langoustines, and an egg with mushrooms and black truffles.  Main courses were pigeon and beef tenderloin. For dessert we shared a cheesecake.  With water and a bottle of a local red, the bill was 100 euros. A great dinner and a great bargain.

Spain vacation – Part 3 – Salamanca

11/10

This morning we left Santiago and drove four hours to Salamanca.  Easily finding our hotel on a splendid plaza in the center of town, with a parking garage just across the street, we settled into our room on the top floor with a panoramic view of the city.

view from hotel condal

View from Hotel Condal

View from Hotel Condal at night

View from Hotel Condal at night

After that, we set off in search of tapas, first trying for Factory Gourmet, which I had read about on Tripadvisor, but unfortunately it was closed on Mondays.  Luckily, Michelin lists Tapas 2.0 as an excellent place for modern and traditional tapas, and it was just around the corner from Factory Gourmet.  We had 5 tapas, all delicious, particularly the pork “sashimi”, lightly seared pork with a soy-based sauce, and tempura of langoustines and asparagus. For dessert we had “cheesecake” with strawberries, which was not your usual cheesecake, but a liquid cheese over a bed of cake crumbs, topped with chopped strawberries.  Very good.  With a bottle of Ribeiro del Duero, this substantial meal came to 40 euros.

After lunch, we toured the town, including the Plaza Mayor, the Cathedrals (old and new, one adjoining the other) and the university.  Salamanca is a very handsome town with well-dressed stone buildings featuring distinctive wrought ironwork railings.  The university “es las muchas antigua d’Espana” but insures a youthful presence.  The wind began to pick up and it grew colder as we strolled, and a misty rain urged us back to the hotel.

The "new" cathedral

The “new” cathedral

New cathedral – High Altar

Old cathedral - Interior

Old cathedral – High Altar

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

salamanca1

Dinner was at El Alquimista, a modern restaurant a few blocks from the hotel, recommended in both Michelin and Tripadvisor.  This turned out to be spectacular.  The amuse-bouche of cauliflower creme was good but needed a kick, being a bit bland, but it was all uphill from there.  Tripe stew with chorizo and ham, seared tuna with pesto, beef filet with a press of potatoes, and roast suckling lamb with potato gnocchi, a deconstructed apple tart, and coffee mousse with rum and chocolate crumble were all stunning. The total came to 78 euros including water and a nice 15 euro bottle of 2009 Bierzo from Pitaccum.

Spain vacation – Part 2- Santiago de Compostela

11/8

santiago3

A rare sunny day in a wet town.

santiago1

Shrine of Saint James the Great

Shrine of Saint James the Great

After a 3 hour drive through heavy rain and some misty mountain scenery, we arrived in Santiago de Compostela, the famous pilgrimage city in Galicia.  We found the Hotel Avenida easily, and managed to get a parking space on the street that is free until Monday morning.  A local parking attendant came to our aid in deciphering the parking ticket machine.  Professing to speak only “un poco inglese,” he then proceeded to explain everything with a very clear and striking British accent, attributable to the British language instructors at the local university.  Our room is large and plainly decorated in traditional style with tall French windows opening onto a tiny balcony overlooking the busy street, but absolutely soundproof. The location is perfect, just at the edge of the old town.  The first thing we did was to visit the cathedral, which is having some restoration done on the front towers which were covered by scaffolding, but whose interiors are in great shape.  We visited the shrine of St. James with its silver casket and marveled at the massive thurible (censer) hanging in the Crossing. Then we walked a short distance away from the tourist center to the tapas bar Casa Marcelo.  This used to be a Michelin-starred restaurant, but I’m assuming the economy made it more advantageous to convert it to a tapas bar (didn’t confirm the reason). The food, a combination of Spanish and Japanese, was delicious.  We had croquetas of mozzarella and bacalao, spicy tuna tartare over rice, carnitas, and veal shu mai.  For dessert we had a berry mixture with clotted cream. With a bottle of Ribeira Sacra, the bill came to 61 euros, higher than most tapas bars, but the food was superior and we were quite satisfied.  After lunch we strolled about the old town in intermittent showers.

Dinner was at Acio, a lovely place on the ring road not far from the Cathedral, but out of the tourist zone, and appears to be frequented by locals. The menu is more interesting than the typical traditional ones.  The amuse-bouche of mushroom creme was heavenly.  Then we started with Galician beef tartare, prepared tableside, and squid with cabbage and sweetbreads and a squid ink sauce.  These were just astounding, but the piece de resistance was the grouse. This is something one rarely sees on menus anywhere, and the chef knows how to do it perfectly.  It was suitably gamey and served with an intense sauce, and with roasted chestnuts, chestnut puree and quince.  For dessert we had the specialty, pumpkin souffle topped with vanilla ice cream. A wonderful, intense Ribeira del Duero 2012 was the perfect accompaniment.  The blll for all this?  113 euros. Also, I should mention that the service was exceptional.  A wonderful and memorable experience.

Website: http://www.acio.es/

acio

11/9

This morning we visited the Pilgrims’ Museum, then took advantage of a spell of sunshine by strolling around the old town and through the Alameda, a beautiful lush park with grand views across the city.  Then back to the hotel so I could continue this post.

For lunch we tried Caney, a tapas bar that is one of the few places open on Sunday.  It looked promising as it was recommended in Michelin and Tripadvisor, but alas it was totally forgettable.

After lunch we headed to the Monasterio de San Martin Pinario. Below are some photos.

Monasterio de San Martin Pinero

Monasterio de San Martin Pinario

santiago4santiago5

The church is open to the public (2.5  euros per person), but the adjoining seminary is not accessible.  Although the architecture is more rustic than the Cathedral at Burgos, the altarpieces and decorative work are strictly over-the-top Spanish Catholic baroque, with all the prizes from the Cracker Jack box thrown in, and gilded to boot.

Dinner tonight was at Dos Reis in the Parador.  While not exceptional, the food was very good, and the setting in this historic building is very nice.  We had Jamon Iberico with pan con tomate, octopus pressed and sliced very thin, served with a fish pate and herring caviar, hake in green sauce with small clams, and turbot with asparagus and tomato. The fish dishes were perfectly cooked, i.e. not overcooked. For dessert we shared the Saint James cake (almond cake) that comes with a glass of sweet wine.  With a bottle of 2011 Ribeira del Duero and water, the bill was 135 euros, pretty good for this caliber of restaurant.

santiago7

 

Website: http://www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-santiago-de-compostela/gastronomy

Tomorrow we are off to Salamanca.