2011, The Year Of...

 Corning Preserve, March 2011

My friend Jenna asked me "So what was this the year of?"  Unsurprisingly, I couldn't think of one particular thing to define the year.

But 2011 was big for us.  It was our first full year as residents of the Capital Region, far from the big city that we called home for the start of our adult life, as well as its many amenities.  The second half of the year also made it the year of The House, The Dog, and The Second Car--none of which would have been possible for us without that first part, the move.  And, of course, the marathon invaded all other thoughts from April to November, and my body (in new ways) from August to Central Park.

In travel, it was a year of new North American cities.  Portland, Oregon.  Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri.  Montreal, Quebec.  Hudson (which we've come to know better and love). We hadn't even been to Saratoga Springs before (I'm discounting a meeting where I only saw the inside of a conference room). 

For tea, J seeped most of the year with Prince of Wales (like 2010) and I had Honey Vanilla ChamomileBrunch almost always means corned beef hash for one of us, and quick lunch or cheap early dinner often meant Andy's & Sons subs.  In 2011, having company meant having brunch, dinner, or apps and drinks at New World Bistro Bar. But in our own kitchen, it was the year of grilled pizza, grated ginger, crispy no-knead bread, and the slow cooker.

In fresh and local, it was most definitely the year of the cherry.  When we talk about picking cherries back in July, our eyes light up, our faces flush, and we ooze with joy.  J had never even tasted a cherry before this past summer, and there we were, plucking them from trees on a clear sunny day and eating several pounds entirely too quickly.   

I'm not sure what 2012 will bring.  We have a list of new (to us) restaurants to try, so we can start there.  More new places to check out, including Toronto, Nashville, and--fingers-crossed--some cities across the Atlantic.  And maybe we'll get our act together and decorate our house.

If you're curious (I was), the last post of 2010 was The Roundup of Roundups.  In 2009 it was Chanukah at Equinox.  In 2008 I was buried in finals, and in 2007 I was giddy over Rasika, upscale modern Indian cuisine that is entertaining and delicious.

A very happy new year to you and yours.


How You Got Here, in 2011

I write this blog completely for fun.  When it's not fun (or life takes over), I stop posting.  Every time I think I might never post again, I experience the need to overshare (where better than the internet?) about a certain recipe or meal or restaurant.

I'm not a huge stats-watcher, but the best part of visiting Google Analytics once every three or four months is that it will show me, among other things, the search terms people used to arrive at search results, and from those search results, pick a link to this blog.  And there are some gems.  

This year, three out of the top five search terms that lead people to this blog are Harry Potter-related. Thank you to EmM for that guest post on the Wizarding World.  People continue to search for the Best Burger In Virginia.  C'mon, you know where it is.  And people are still wondering (with no answer from me) whether injera is kosher for Passover.

My usual Google strategy is pretty standard.  Type in words related to what I'm looking for, often in no particular order (for example, "car harness labrador" or "kristen stewart bella wedding dress").  It's pretty cute how people type complete questions into search engines.*  Such as:
how many calories are in a teaism soba noodle bento box

is injera kosher for passover (and variations)

ray's hellburger, metro accessible?: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Courthouse (walk downhill) or Rosslyn (walk uphill), and it's not far from either.  Don't be a wimp.

where is hogwarts (and variations)

how to spend a good time with my boyfriend in dc (that's for another blog, ma' friend)
where can i buy sheepsmilk in chicago

who is ray of rays the steaks: Um, Michael Landrum?

why round challah at rosh hashanah: Symbolizes the year, which is cyclical and whole, starting anew at Rosh Hashanah

what bus takes you to comet ping pong: There's a site for that.

Search terms I can't explain include anything to do with Snooki and Brielle (I had breakfast in Brielle, but I wasn't giving out directions to Snooki's beach house, and furthermore, why do you want those!) and anything written in Russian (at least, I think it's Russian).

Thanks to Urbanspoon, All Over Albany, and Google for being my top three referring sites.

I'm looking forward to seeing you, however you got here, in 2012. 

*Extra adorable to the people who include the question mark.  



We have some fabulous newlyweds in our life, including F and M.  Getting together with them often poses a difficult question--to go out, or to stay in?  See, while F, J, and I can certainly make a meal, M is a superb cook.  He's fearless when it comes to complicated flavors and time-consuming methods, and he is incredibly optimistic.

But with Thanksgiving weekend upon us, I suggested that we all needed a night out without shopping or clean-up.  F said we had several options in the area, but her original thought was closed for the holiday weekend.  I'm not sorry at all that we ended up at Acacia.

Butternut squash quesadillas with mushrooms, cheddar, and white truffle aioli- not greasy at all, crunchy on the outside but not brittle, a little fluffy underneath that crust.

Fresh mozzarella, and on the long sides is a caramelized onion chutney that F and I were a little obsessed with.  I'll take a bowl of chutney on the side, thanks?

Goat cheese and duck meatballs.  F said that she could just get a few more of these and that could be a delicious meal.

Delicious red snapper with sweet potato and sage croquette/fritter.  The spinach was the low point on my plate.  It didn't really taste like anything, and I don't get why it was there.

Blackened mahi, sprouts, and Dijon chived mashed potatoes.  This dish was really good, adn I liked that it was completely different from mine. I hate when fish dish 1 and fish dish 2 taste exactly the same.

 Steeeeeeeeeeak.  Matt was manly with this choice, and I don't remember tasting it.  I gather it was quite good.

The star of the meal, in my opinion.  J's 24-hour braised Colorado lamb shank. Serve with risotto and--NOTHING ELSE MATTERS, let's be honest, this lamb was off the hook.  It reminded me of the goat shoulder at Komi.  Not only was it delicious, but it looked badass.  Very Flintstones.  It's the texture of meat that I love, when you can fork it apart because it's so tender.  Sawing a cut of meat into gray/brown squares will never make my To Do or Best Of list.  If you go, make sure someone gets the lamb.  Thanks.

Also, we were in BYO territory.  And we brought it, wine-wise, with two delicious bottles that we easily finished.  The Yelp on Acacia is interesting. Overpriced?  For the quality of our meal, I say no.  "And they don't even serve wine?"  To that I say, you are a fool.  Bring your own and avoid a glass marked up to a price of 2/3 that bottle.  "There was a loud business party there."  That's timing, Bub.

8 Thumbs Up from our table of 4. Our service was great (a chiller/ice bucket for our wine, even though it was red, because hey some people might want that and be embarrassed to ask?), the breadbasket was super yummy, the ambiance was delightful (quiet but not silent, dim lighting but not pitch black), all around love.

Acacia Restaurant
2637 Main Street
Lawrenceville, NJ

Acacia on Urbanspoon


2nd Avenue Deli

My posts may be infrequent here, but that's because I'm obsessed with my dog.  Moving on...

Once, I ran the marathon.  And apparently I lost a ton of salt over that nearly four and a half hours, because afterward the thought of going to the 2nd Avenue Deli (located conveniently near Seester's apartment) made me freak out with excitement.  The only things on my mind were PASTRAMI and MATZAH BALL SOUP.  (In my mind they were definitely in all caps.)  And when we got there that quickly changed to pickles pickles pickles pickles.

Awww, classic Hebrew-style font. 

This soup was delicious.  Little square noodles!  The matzah ball's density was just right - no softballs in this biz.

Knish.  Pronounced cuh-nish, for the uninitiated.  It was a pretty decent knish, its size and outer crust were the bomb.  I've been really over potatoes lately, so I wouldn't go out of the way to order it.

And delicious pastrami.  It was everything I wanted and more.  They had a meal option of half a sandwich and bowl of matzah ball soup for around $15 (remember, it's New York City and it's kosher).  But I thought I got a good deal.  Not only were the soup and sandwich delicious, the portion on this "half" sandwich was extremely generous.  

We ended our meal with some weird but delicious chocolate soda in small glasses.  I loved it.  What was it?  I'm not sure.  But I loved it.  

I'll definitely back to the Deli.  It's delicious, it's reasonable (thanks to good portions), and it's convenient to my dear Seester.  And you just can't get good deli everywhere.

1442 1st Avenue (also 162 E. 33rd)



While I was away we went to Graffiato.  We arrived ready to eat some Italian-inspired cuisine with a fresh batch of reviews from K.  I wasn't the biggest fan of Mike I in Top Chef DC, but I always had a soft spot for Zaytinya, particularly for a group brunch.

I wanted to order pretty much everything, and because some plates are probably small, you probably could if you brought a few more people.

Look how cute these bandit vegetables are!  They're painted on the wall at the top of the stairs.

Let's kick it off with Saged & Confused.   Handmade vodka, cucumber juice, sage, and lime.  Cukes are my jam!

Chestnut agnolotti with butternut squash and browned butter.  These little suckers can slide right down your throat without a thought, but you should take it slowly and savor it.

Cauliflower with pecorino and mint, flatbread with pepperoni sauce.  Not easy to share such a small dish of delicious cauliflower among 4 people.

Striped bass with potato...good but not great.

The star!  The best in taste and the best in value. The Countryman pizza with black truffle, fontina cheese, and a soft egg.  The yolky truffleness was ridiiiiiculous.  Crust was crispy and chewy at the same time, as a good crust must be.  I could have eaten the whole thing, but that would have been unsportsmanlike!

Talk about comfort food...this pumpkin risotto with smoked provolone (topped with toasty pepitas) was definitely good, but couldn't top the pizza.  An egg on my food will almost always win.

So go to Graffiato, get a bunch of pizzas, maybe some vegetables as sides (but prepare for the dishes to be quite tiny).  We saved some calories and dollar bills by enjoying tea and Red Velvet cupcakes at home a while later.  

707 6th Street NW
Metro: Red Line to Gallery Place/Chinatown

Graffiato on Urbanspoon


While I Was Away...

We had a great time in DC.  I saw more than 20 different friends, including 3 relatives.  We ate lunches, dinners (out and homemade), snacks, drank coffee, and even went for a walk

Here is Tiki Barber and my hand, in a picture that I've definitely taken about 4 years ago, watch on wrist and all.But this time he has a little gray under his chin.

Back to Pete's but this time in Clarendon.  Edge of the Woods was a little different - instead of the big eggplant slices seen below back at Ten-Frien, there were smaller slivers.  I prefer the larger slices because you feel like it's more eggplant, less fried batter.  Take note!  Below is an old EOTW photo.  It doesn't look like "pizza with fried whatever on top," it looks like eggplant.

Next, Palena.  They've changed with the expansion.  The fry plate is no longer; now there's a "fritto misto" that has fried lots of things (including things I don't want, like shrimp and cauliflower).  I wish it was still basically dauphine potato, french fries, and fried lemons were the bomb.  The roasted chicken is still a delight, but the first time I had it was the best time ever.  The server said they'd just give us a plate of fried lemons, which they did, and that was nice.  Only $3. 

Hey, who is reaching for that lemon!

At Bistro Bis I enjoyed French onion soup and mustard seed crusted bacon fat salmon with lentils.  Because it's healthy to order the fish, you know.  This was my favorite weekday meal at a restaurant.

Friday night potluck with the ladies included butternut squash vegetarian chili, lots of cheese, and CCs' rendition of the red wine chocolate cake (spoiler alert: it's delicious. More toward brownie than cake, which is why I requested it).

Saturday morning I had a kale and goat cheese frittatta made by my Sisterfriend (not to be confused with my Seester or Sister), with a side of mini apple cider doughnuts from the Fenton Street Market.

This is Ella, my first and eldest dog niece.  She's the sweetest puppy.

SF also made delicious pumpkin waffles, but I didn't know how yummy they were until Sunday morning.

Saturday afternoon J and I shared some post-Fotoweek steak banh mi from ShopHouse.  The steak was really good, the slaw was a little spicy, and man is that a lot of bread.  If you're very hungry, this one is a good choice.  I'm not obsessed though.  Then I had a decadent concrete from Shake Shack with vanilla custard, peanut butter, marshmallow, chocolate, caramel, and pure joy.

Next we visited the new MLK Memorial - I really enjoyed it, particularly the awesome (great and literally large) quotes on the low surrounding walls.  There was a big crowd, which was really heartwarming and inspiring.  Thanks for finally shaking up all the crusty old white guy memorials.

Dinner gets a separate post of its own - Graffiato!  I had a terrific time and a delicious meal.

Sunday I had that pumpkin waffle (and a half?) that we talked about earlier, then we headed out to wine country.  In Baltimore County.  Both Boordy and DeJon are in just north of the city of Baltimore, and we stopped by both.  Boordy was CRAZY hopping, and the tasting was pretty informal.  We didn't learn much about the wines, but they were mostly ok.  My favorite was the Shiraz, followed by the Petit Cabernet.  DeJon is fairly new, and the wines were better.  The owner (Jon, not to be confused with Denise) poured us each one, chatted a little about his former life as a software company owner (the winery = "retirement"), but it was just us and one large group of rowdy, drunk 50 somethings, so we tasted and ran.  It was just cool enough where you didn't really want to just sit and play Bananagrams.

That night we had a gathering of 13 people we love--some were experienced in the task at hand, while others were novices.  Some asked for direction, instructions, and were timid.  It does seem like everyone enjoyed themselves, though.

Ethiopic!  One or two too many platters, but no one complained.  We could have all been full with less, and our wallets slightly fuller.

We still love DC.  We want to try all the new restaurants that we (still) read about on local blogs.  We marvel that certain corners and blocks have completely changed in one year.  We're interested in the new monuments and updated exhibits at the galleries.  But mostly, we love our friends and family that make the District home.  And that's why we'll be back.



Seester and I recently visited the newly-opened Murray Hill location of Terroir, the "Elitist Wine Bar For Everyone."  It was delightful, despite the Murray-Hill-esque group of girls literally screaming and yelling, which was audible despite the restaurant's attempts to drown it out with super loud music.  It's OK, we just screamed at each other.

Our food was delicious, but our server may have been the best part--he was friendly, knowledgeable, easy on the eyes, and helped us choose our small plates for a delightful dinner.  Plus, he joined us in shooting glares at the loud girls and looking forward to their departure.

It was VERY dark in there.  As you can tell from these super dark pictures that I attempted to brighten.

Crispy duck confit salad with frisee, gorgonzola, shallots. 

 This was called "sage leaves with lamb sausage," but it should have been called crunchy-edged herby/crusty delicious lambyness. 

Eggplant, pepper, basil, mozzarella panini.  This bread was as good as it looks. There was a duck prosciutto sandwich (and I do have a soft spot for alternatives like that, ahem, lambcetta), but we wanted to incorporate some vegetables in our meal.  With so many other plates we wanted to get, we'll just have to go back. No big deal!

Mmm squash frittata.  Can you say brunch?!!  Egg happiness at dinner works just as well.

Sees and I had a great time at Terroir, but the decibels were a little out of control and it was dark as night.  Every dish we had was tasty and exceeded our expectations.  Our server had his act together and recommended a delightful Finger Lakes Riesling for Sees and a Brooklyn Brewery offering I hadn't had before. 

Their employment information is funny. Hehe.

439 3rd Avenue (btwn 30 & 31st)

This time last year: Restaurant Eve
2009: Postcard from Denver
2008: Catching Up
2007: Super Pollo


Cooperstown: Fly Creek and Ommegang

A while ago, Seester and I ran the Boilermaker.  Yes, I've already booked our hotel for next year. The people of Utica are amazing, and you can read about that on running blogs.

Now, a member of my husband's family does not complete their first visit to Albany without a day trip to Cooperstown, and Utica is near enough that we combined these situations.

Our first stop was Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard.  Other potential names include Snack Shack and Place Of Many Dips.  We walked around and saw some chickens and ducks outside, and eventually we had some ice cream and cider.  Mostly, we walked around the market and indulged in free samples.

Cheese.  Lots of cheese.


Jams, spreads, dips, mustards.  And look a those pretzel sticks, ready to be dipped.

Apple fritter, chip mint ice cream, cider slushie, regular cider, and general happiness all around.

Next it was back to Ommegang.  Yes, we'd been before, and we liked what we drank.  Yes, we can drink it at home, buy it at local stores and bars, but we could not resist a visit with Sees.  This time, with snacks.

Delicious fries frites.  Oh my goodness.  Crispy, well-seasoned, clearly fresh-cut. There are 8 choices for sauces, and you pick two.  I remember the chipotle aoili as being our favorite. 

Crepes!  Duck confit was off the hook and tomato/basil was tasty but paling in comparison.  Can anything compare to the duck confit?  I didn't think so.

Ommegang has beautiful grounds, outdoor tasting options in the fair weather, and very tasty beers.  Beers so tasty, the only way they could be tastier is if they were embodied in an ice cream.  Wait for it...

And here is perfection.  PERFECTION.  Granted, I'm somewhat easily impressed.  Three Philosophers ice cream.

This time last year: CSA Weeks 5 & 6
2009: Fojol Brothers
2007: Restaurant 3


New Oreos: A Review

I delayed on this because it was so disappointing I didn't really want to talk about it.

When J found out there was going to be such a thing called "Triple Double Oreos" he jumped at the opportunity to try them ASAP.  He filled out an online request form for media (because, you know, he's such a regular contributor to the blog) and maybe 10 minutes later we had a FedEx with the aforementioned cookies.

We took them home to NJ for a taste test.  We were immediately disappointed.

Were these cookies gross? No.  But the fact is that they weren't what we were expecting.

The name Triple Double made it seem like they were made of Double Stuffed Oreos. So a triple-decker Double Stuffed is what we expected.  If you're having trouble with triple decker being only two instances of filling and three wafers, you are not alone--we were arguing over whether that is double decker or triple decker, and we can't really come to a conclusion.  A Google image search results in the three pieces of bread but two sets of fillings variation, and that's what we've got here.

But again, that filling?  Not double-stuffed.  Decidedly single-stuffed regular old Oreo filling.  Which to J means it's too dry--too much cookie, not enough icing.

Was anyone else under the impression that these would be double-stuffed?  I'm surprised I haven't read about misrepresentation or anything on the Wall Street Journal.  This is a pressing social issue.



Blogging is frequently interrupted by work travel, Jewish holidays, and other timesuckers (which, while often pleasant, are indeed taking up time).  Now we have a new reason to stay off the computer. 

Looking forward to sharing some good meals with you coming up: tacos in Hudson and New Paltz, dinner at a 1-week-old restaurant in Murray Hill, and a delightful evening at the Capital City Gastropub.  Also, I'll be back in DC for work, and you know I'll be revisiting some of my favorite places as well as some new


All Good Bakers

I love following local personalities on Twitter.  I scoped out the ALB Twitter scene before moving here and started following the appropriate blogs.  It didn't take long to start hearing (and keep hearing, repeatedly) about All Good Bakers.   The idea of a Community Supported Bakery sounded awesome to me (like the Whisked pie share?).  I started following them on Twitter and even "Liked" them on Facebook, even though I'm generally opposed to Liking anything on Facebook.  [Sidenote, I won't Like your blog on Facebook because I follow it on Google Reader and maybe follow you on Twitter, and I don't need to be told about your new post for a third time in a new way.  Really, I like you, and I like your blog, but two places is enough right now for me to express that xoxo.]

And they were always commenting about the delicious lunches and brunches that were available!  And talking about how they got some awesome cheese and Farmer Jon (our new neighbor is his farm stand) dropped off these awesome looking veggies.  And we'd get a cool peace sign of whoever was in the van, which seemed to drive down our street a lot.  Sooo we obviously had to go by.

J and I brought visitor B, a newbie to the Capital Region (but resident of our nation's capital), on a recent Friday afternoon.  That scored us 10% off on the yum to come.

 B and I both had the grilled cheese of the day. Black pepper goat cheese with garlic pepper IPA jam.

 J had the tempeh veggie burger and a similar fresh crunchy side salad.  He's Mr. Veggie Burger since he had one in the Columbia River Gorge that was truly delicious and unique.  He liked the consistency of this guy.  None of us got the crispy flatbread pizza, maybe because we've been making some flatzas at home :)

I appreciate mugs that depict a sweater putting its arm around another sweater.

We got a loaf to go--I think peasant sourdough--and it was so good for so long.  It didn't last that long, but even a few days later it was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  So delicious, and bringing much joy to our household.

AGB says they are "baking with ethics," and they shop with them too.  They get some produce from Farmer Jon, who has sold us some of the sweetest corn we've had all summer from his farm stand, as well as the best white peaches.  +1 for Farmer Jon.

All Good Bakers
160 A. Quail Street (it's the first floor, you'll see it)
Albany, NY