74 State/Marché

Recently, J.Esq (of J&J) graced us with his presence, and his lovely parental units let me and my J join them for a celebratory lunch.

Can we start with the bad and end up happy with the good?

1.  Where the heck did I eat?  MarchéBistro/Bar?  Is one the upstairs and one the downstairs?  Why do both menus say Marché?  What kind of a name is Bistro/Bar?  Why is the name of your hotel the address?  It's almost as confusing at Capitol to Capital/iEatDC.

2. Why is the service so slow even when there aren't so many people there?  It took 45 minutes to order and get our lunch food, and that was sad for the one of us that had to leave early for a work call.

3.  Do you really mean to tell me that restaurants near Empire State Plaza don't know when 800+ people are going out to lunch with their families after the swearing in ceremony? 

4. We got a coupon for staying at the hotel that we were told over the phone we could use for our lunch reservation (made at the same time as the room), but it was really for dinner only, and we didn't receive the promised coupon until we asked for it several hours before check-out and at the lunch where we weren't supposed to be able to use it (more on this under GOOD).

Moving on to the things I liked about eating lunch upstairs at 74 State.  I loved that for lunch you can "pick 2" for $10, like you're at Panera or something (but much tastier selections in my opinion...sorry lovers of Panera [LS!!!]).  Half a sandwich/soup/salad, any combo of those.  This method is totally up my alley because I can have more than one thing without being a piglet.

I had half of a chicken sandwich with mozzarella, prosciutto, and arugula and the Market salad with pickled beets and pecans.  I'd do it again, quickly.  This meal costs less than a salad with chicken at Victory Cafe, but the feel of the place is more upscale, if that's what you're looking for.  Also, Victory's salads are enormous, but that's a different story.

J.Esq's salmon on salad was good, but the salmon was overcooked.  He had specified medium rare, but it was definitely cooked through and beyond.  The grapefruit in his salad was exciting.

The parental units had salads and the soup du jour, a vegetarian mushroom soup that was less vegetable-laden than we expected.  So many veggies were listed in the description, but the cup was mostly broth.  And the bleu cheese was extremely funky--I didn't want to taste it just from the look of it; unfortunately getting new dressing took so long that the naked salad was mostly eaten by the time we received it. 

Desserts were fun--we had a chocolate torte thing that was just okay, but the cheesecake situation you see up there was a good time.  Cinnamon quince, pumpkin, berry, chocolate mint.  It was fun to have a variety to taste.

In the end, we explained to someone who looked authoritative about how we were convinced over the phone to book a hotel reservation at 74 State along with the lunch reservation (originally the parents planned on staying elsewhere), and we'd get a coupon for lunch, etc, and he let us use the coupon anyway.  But we embarrassed the guys at the table who wanted to leave it all alone.  I'm with J.Esq's mom here, though--if you're promised something, and it's used as a selling device, you should get it.  That's good customer service.  Our server was super nice and seemed puzzled by the influx of people at 2pm.

So some good, some missteps, but overall a pretty reasonably-priced, tasty lunch at 74 State.

74 State Street (obviously)
Albany, NY

Marche on Urbanspoon



So you may have noticed that we moved.  And yet my name and URL stayed the same, while the headline and logo have been updated.  So although the blog is officially now titled Capitol to Capital, that was too long of a Twitter name, and in any case, it was taken.  Also taken: Cap2Cap, C2C, etc.  So I did like my pal hawaii2DCdee and chose DC2ALB.  We'll see how that goes.  FYI, ALB is an international airport.  Fancy.

I think Capitol to Capital is a cute way to say that we moved from The Capital (with The Capitol) to another capital--a much smaller capital, a place that's less international, has fewer restaurants (but a chockload more mountains), but a capital nonetheless.

So if you use Twitter on the web, please remember my new name and tweet at me there!  I know it's #ff so many not the best day to switch it, but you have to nab a name when you can on the Twitters.

Let me know what you think of the new Twitter handle!  Sorry in advance for any confusion.  We'll keep eating, so I hope you'll keep reading.  The URL is staying the same (at least for now).


Jersey Shore, Not The Snooki Kind

Let's escape the negative degrees here and jump over to summer.  Jersey shore, waves crashing, sun beating down on your reddish, freckled shoulders...

Now that I've got your attention, can we discuss those signs, above?  Over 200 Omelettes is definitely something I can support!

I have a lot of love to give.  Obviously to my mom, husband, siblings original & in-law...but also to the Jersey diner, and the egg products that inhabit them.  Poach 'em, scramble 'em, whatever.  Just bring them my way with another cup of coffee k thanks.

Check out the corned beef omelet I got from Breakfast at Mariner's Cove in Brielle, NJ:

And LC got a big veggie egg white shenanigans.  There were so many omelets to choose from, what could a girl do?  We had a lovely time at this joint, and despite crowds, we weren't rushed at all.

Mariner's Cove Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Jersey shore staple part II: pizza.  We heard from reputable sources that Pete & Elda's has some of the best pies in NJ.  We had to check it out. 

First of all, we waited a while for a seat.  It had been a long day--I drove straight from DC to Brielle for superomelette up top, then hung at the beach all day reading The Help.  Eventually we were seated.  Our pies took fooooorever, but eventually we got them--mushroom/broccoli, sausage, and pepperoni. 

These pies were tasty, but very different from NY style.  The crust wasn't thick and chewy--it was thin and crispy, almost like a cracker.  Look--it doesn't really have an end crust, or as my mom calls it, "the bones."  But it was piping hot, super fresh, and much needed on a breezy summer evening.

Pete & Elda's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Summer, are you here yet?


That One Time I Cooked

I'm kidding.  We cook all the time, but quickly.  Simply.  This was simple too, but it was a lot more food than we normally make.  We had guests, so we had to step up the volume.  When we go, we go big.

Scenes from dinner, aka between prep and serve when I remembered to take pictures, with links to recipes included:

Whole chicken in the slow cooker.  So easy.  Fell of the bone.  I put leftover juices in a gravy boat, but in another life I'd have reduced it to a thicker sauce.  Doesn't he look funny all naked in the crock pot?!  It was hard to get the skin off completely, so it looks like he's wearing socks.

Roasted eggplants that I decimated for a spread made with lemon juice, garlic, and za'atar.

Crusty no-knead on the table, along with salad, the eggplant dip, and Barbera wine from Barboursville.

We also had roasted Brussels sprouts with turkey bacon and Israeli couscous with herbs and parm.

Grandma's cookies: chocolate chip mandel bread and sour cream twists.  I made the last of the twists today and cooked them longer, until more golden.  Either way they are just as I remembered, except they aren't coming to me in a tin while I'm at sleepaway camp this time around.

  and one more

They are made with a very buttery pastry dough--zero sugar on the outside, but rolled in vanilla sugar before baking.  The recipe was recently rediscovered--I hadn't made it since college--and maybe it'll end up on The Shiksa soon, if I get my mom's permission. 

There you have it.  Dinner at my house on a Saturday night, brought to you by Google searching "whole chicken crock pot," my Google Reader, and my Grandma Renee.


Baba Louie's - Hudson, NY

Now for us Hudson isn't as much a weekend escape as an afternoon/evening escape, but I'll tag it that way nonetheless.  Our NYC/Jersey friends will appreciate the clarity.

J and I had no idea how much time to budget for Hudson.  Is it like Middleburg--adorable, but one little street until nothin'?  Or more like FrederickHampden?  The answer is basically none of the above.

First, head over the Rip Van Winkle bridge.  Cue the adorable toll plaza.

Although everything is along the main drag, that main drag is long.  We arrived at 3:45 hoping to fill the space before an appropriate dinner time, and we only made it down one side of the street.  Granted, things started to close at 5-6 and when the sun was completely down it got cold, so we were happy to retire for dinner at 6.  There's lots of browsing to do---galleries, antique shops, furniture, books, crafts and jewelry, some clothing (including amazing toasty/fashionable brown boots in my size on sale for $130 that I didn't try on in an unlikely display of self-restraint).  Fear not, though, because I got two great necklaces.  While some of the shops had items great to look at but impossible (for me) to buy ($800 vase anyone? $7000 chair?), there were a few with reasonable pieces that I could see us buying, particularly if we were outfitting a home.

We've heard a bit of buzz around some Hudson restaurants, including Swoon Kitchenbar, DA/BA, and more.  Swoon was closed for renovations, DA/BA was feeling too fancy and pricy for our tastes on that particular day, and we needed some cozy comfort food.

A chatty gallery owner suggested Baba Louie's, his local favorite.  Thin crust pizza with anything and everything on it, straight from the brick oven, and HUGE salads, he promised. 

The salads come in unmentioned, so "regular," and "family size."  The regular could easily be for 2-4 people; we finished ours together, but had 3 small slices of the large pizza leftover as a result.  We had toasted pepitas on our salad.  YAY.

The pizza was great.  All the options sounded delicious, but we opted for spinach, figs, prosciutto. The sweetness of the figs played well with the rest of the ingredients, and you could tell by the taste that the spinach was fresh.

Mmmm lentil soup.  That's what you need on a flippin' freezing night.

Leftovers for lunch.

They have a spelt crust available for my less wheat-tolerant friends, and plenty of vegan options.

Baba Louie's
517 Warren Street
Hudson, NY
(Also locations in Barrington and Pittsfield, MA)

Baba Louie's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Dear Ke$ha,

Thanks for having a song where you spell DINOSAUR.  I always want to write dinasaur or dinasour.  And when I get confused, I think of your song, and spell it out for myself.

I was going to get a brisket sandwich.  At $7.50, it seemed like an affordable, reasonably sized lunch that wouldn't put me in a food coma.  But that all went downhill when a coworker pointed out the Nuevo Sampler--some chicken, some ribs, and some brisket.  My inclination toward small plates is not about only eating a little, it's about eating a little of everything.  So sampler it was.  Pardon my cell phone picture.  It was somewhat clandestine; my former coworkers knew I was insane and food-obsessed, but I'm still laying on the downlow here.

If you're having déjà vu, yes, I did have a big plate of barbecued meat barely a year ago at the Salt Lick in Austin, Texas. 

To me, the brisket wasn't amazing.  It wasn't super flavorful, and even though our food came out quickly and it was the first bite I tried, it wasn't piping hot.  The mac & cheese didn't rock my world, it seems like a waste of calories (not that you're counting, you look wondaful).  The carrot/raisin salad (why did I pick that?  Choices overload) was nice, it had a bite to it (ginger maybe), in a good way.  I'd heard mixed reviews on the chicken; when presented with real meat, chicken can seem meh.  This chicken was definitely not meh.  It was delicious.  Super tender, hot, crispy skin.  If I were with family instead of coworkers I would have been licking the bones clean. The ribs were also delicious.

You should be relieved--you don't even need to come to the Capital Region to enjoy this feast. There are three other locations--from east to west you've got Harlem, Syracuse, and Rochester.  Syracuse is the original, but I have it on good authority from a frequent 'Cuse visitor that it's going downhill.  In her words, "they designed the Troy Dinosaur to try to make it look older and run down, but the one in Syracuse is actually old and run down."

I can see myself going back with J for laid back beers, chicken, and ribs.  And btw, this place gets jammed, but a couple of people can totally snag a place in the bar area.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
377 River St
Troy, NY

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon


Delmar Farmers* Market

* for some discourse on Farmers v. Farmers', click here.  I should probably update my tag, but I'm not sure how that will work.

Our first day at the Delmar Farmers Market was the very. last. day. of the Delmar Farmers Market.  After finding it (no easy task) at the back of the middle school, we discovered there wasn't much left on December 18th, even in the morning.  Despite a web site prompting me to bring my own cup for coffee or cider, there was no cider to be found!  There were, however, two bakery vendors with cinnamon buns.  We got a big bun from All Good Bakers because I'd heard a lot about their community supported bakery and the buns in particular.  We warmed it up for 30 seconds before enjoying it.  It's vegan, and that probably accounts for the subtle dry sponge hint that sets in when the buns cooled off, but we didn't complain.  I'll try some of their non-vegan treats soon.

Farmers markets make me feel guilty, especially the ones that aren't crazy busy.  I want to buy something from everyone, even if I don't need/want it, and I feel bad when I don't! Everyone's giving me the eye!  Anyone else feel that way?

We're looking forward to the return of this market on June 5, 2011. 

Delmar Farmers Market
332 Kenwood Ave
Delmar, NY


New World Bistro Bar

WWJD in Albany without NWBB?  Cry, for sure.

Yes yes, the chef is Ric Orlando, who recently won Chopped and came back for Chopped Champions.  And he's got another restaurant in Saugerties, an hour or so south and much closer to some people who love us.  We visited NWBB twice in the past few weeks, both times to favorable results.  Forgive the iPhone in the first visit and low light combined with impatience in the second.

I appreciate the humor.  It really is cold outside.

The Ropa Bennie: Cuban pot roast (a New World dinner entree, btw), topped with poached eggs and guava hollandaise.  This was divine.  The only error was by me--I failed to fork my second half until the egg had pretty much set.  I was so busy savoring the first half.  The meat was tender and flavorful, but not saucy.  It's apparently roasted overnight, said the waiter to me as my eyes rolled into the back of my head with satisfaction.  The hollandaise was only somewhat sweet, a beautiful contrast with the meat.  The potatoes that came on the side were totally unnecessary--you get a TON of food, and I'm not even the biggest potato fan anyway.  Waste of belly space.

Dishes like this make me reiterate to people: BRUNCH!  It is a great way to get a taste of what a place is like at dinner time, but for less, and with the rest of the day ahead of you.  Ropa Bennie: $12.  Ropa Vieja (dinner, with a different set up of course): $21.  We will go for dinner eventually, and I think I'll try the jerk chicken or the Latino steak frites.  Mmm.

THREE eggs on J's corned beef hash.  Not two.  Now that's value.  The hash was very good--you could see pieces of corned beef, not just flecks in between potato.  The whole brunch was fabulous, right down to the service. 

We returned on Christmas with my parents for some later night beer and appetizers.  Let's face it, the only thing to do this weekend was eat and watch movies, so a proper dinner seemed unnecessary, especially at 9pm.

I'll hit the low point first.  I've always said that at a truly great restaurant every dish will be flawless.  Maybe not flawless, but at least yummy.  It might not be my personal favorite, but it should be yummy to someone.  The vegetarian tapas platter is decidedly not flawless.  Or yummy.  It's extremely and utterly meh.  Don't get it.  Now I want to move on before I get depressed, because besides this dish, everything we've eaten there has been above and beyond.

A skinny crispy flatbread (New World Pie) was an easy crowdpleaser--who doesn't like sauce, mozzarella, basil, and romano on crispy bread?  But the winner, the ultimate, was the mussels and frites.  Now, we've never seen this before--the frites are IN with the mussels, not separate.  They are kind of floating around in there.  As my mother would (and did) say, these mussels were out of this world.  Everything about the sauce (garlic/butter/white wine/crack cocaine?) made me want to dive in.  Our obliging server took heed of this desire and gave us each a roll with which to sop up the ridiculosity that is the crack-laden broth.  (You know I'm exaggerating, right?  They don't actually put drugs in their food.)

PS I'm starting a new tag for Gluten Free (GF) to signify that the menu has labeled gluten free options or a separate GF menu. 

P.P.S. The first thing I did after leaving brunch at New World was text and email friends in DC to let them know the following: "I FOUND GOOD BRUNCH!! EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE."  In all caps, just like your mom would write it.

New World Bistro Bar
300 Delaware Avenue
Albany, NY

New World Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon


Crispy No Knead Bread, You Are Our Weakness

Go into the kitchen.  Slice a piece of the homemade bread you recently (last week?) defrosted, and pop it into the microwave for 20 seconds.  If it's morning, swipe a little butter across and shake some cinnamon/sugar mixture, which you happen to keep in an empty spice/herb shaker that is labeled "Oregano."  If it's evening, drizzle olive oil and pinch some salt.  Neither routes are really necessary; the bread is delicious on its own.  But it certainly feels indulgent, which we like.  You deserve it.

I'm not a baker, or even a cook.  My college roommate had a phase where she went through the Bread Bible, and while I enjoyed the outcomes (especially a fluffy buttermilk loaf), I never assisted.  But if you've been around for at least a few months, you know I love challah.  I helped bake 30-50 lbs of the stuff with a great group of gals for about 4 years, every Thursday.  It's an admittedly less social activity on my own with a mere 2.5 lbs, but it still brings me great joy.  Pumpkin challah, round challah, whatevs. 

I follow Evan Halperin's blog The Carnivore and the Vegetarian (and here on Twitter), and you should too.  Many of his recipes (wherever they may have originated) find their way into my Tags section on Google Reader---crockpot, pasta, meat, dinner, and of course bread.*  <----that is the recipe!

The first time I followed his instructions exactly, which yielded tasty results that I shared with J, Mom & Dad, and a coworker who had a birthday.  [Happy birthday!  Here's a small loaf of bread. Is that weird?]  Results are below:

Not quite as golden as Evan's.  I was happy for the first real test of my oven, though.

This time, I used half whole wheat flour and half white flour.  First I mixed the ingredients together with the paddle attachment (rather than dough hook) of my KitchenAid, only for a minute or so.

I covered it with plastic and let it rise for maybe more than 2 hours--I went to the gym, who can keep track?

When we got home I put it in the fridge, and the next evening, I took it out:

I now took it OUT of the fridge and shaped it into loaves, letting it sit an hour.  Pre-heat the oven.

After an hour I cut some notches and put those babies in the oven.

And, voila.

Requisite coaster shot.

I sawed off an edge, tasted, and can now confirm that the whole wheat is also delicious.  I baked it for about 29 minutes.  I find that bread freezes well, and when you defrost and give a slice a quick zap or toast, it's (nearly) good as new.  The moral of the story is: make Evan's bread.  Eat it.  Repeat.

*Alternative names for this post include "Semi-Organizing A Small Part Of Your Life Through Google Reader Tags."  This could be a whole subculture of posts.  I know who my most frequently tagged blogger is, but you don't...yet.