Food Happenings Around Town

 [It looks like it's warm enough to eat lunch outside, but really it wasn't.  Yet.  Bonus: the top of the river defrosted.]

GOOD MORNING EVERYONE!  Take a sip of iced coffee and say hello to Monday morning.  Whew....we're rolling into busy season, and I don't just mean for work.  We've got travels, challenges, epic journeys, and food events coming. 

Here's what's on my local events calendar for the next month-ish--I can't make them all, but you should try.*

4/2: Glens Falls Brewfest
4/3: Jewish Food Festival. See also, FLB, HVGS, TU**
4/9: Tour de Soft Serve
4/30-5/1: Tap NY Craft Beer & Fine Food Festival 
5/7: Tulip Festival (OK, you can't eat them, but hopefully it'll be warm and toasty for tulips + brunch).

What else should be on the calendar?  Whatcha got?  Also, Montreal is quickly approaching--any last minute tips?

*No one gave me anything (free tickets, hugs, ice cream cones, dollar billz) to mention these events.  One person did ask me nicely, though.
**I was told there would be challah.  Hence the bold and asterisk.



Brrrrrrrrunch!  Yay!  We recently had a shmancy brunch at Creo and it was divine.  What makes Creo shmancy in my opinion is its cool copper-y tables, open kitchen, modern decor, large space, careful service/plating (including cleaning shmears off of the outside of the plate), aaaand the fact that we didn't wait in a crowded vestibule for 40 minutes.  In fact, we made a reservation on this new-fangled city slicker contraption called OpenTable

Look at the size of that coffee cup. And that cute little mini muffin - there were 3 in a basket that was meant to hold 10.  I appreciate free food, regardless of its presentation.

I faced the pretty open kitchen and the hottt pizza oven while J faced the rest of the cavernous restaurant.

Look at that monster.  It's freshly cut roast beef (think more like sliced prime rib than the deli stuff), tomatoes, over easy eggs, crispy prosciutto, and Swiss.  It's insane.  That bread is toasted ciabatta, by the by.  It's innocuous name is "egg sandwich," but really it is so much more.  It may be one of the most ridonculous brunch item I've ever enjoyed, along with the likes of the ropa bennie at New World or the brisket hash in Austin.  But, it's a close call, and NWBB is way closer to our digs.  Walking distance in a town where walking is practically verboten. 

Another angle, half eaten.  Seriously, with the sauce and the egg yolk making friends with the crispy bread...

J had a slice of charred bread with his duck confit hash and poached eggs.  His hash a little more shine than Ii'd like, and I wasn't really getting much duck.  There was a vaguely Asian flavor to it that I enjoyed in my few bites, but it seemed too potato-y to me.  I'm such a hater these days (of potatoes). J agreed that I had clearly won in the Battle of the Order, even though his sounded superb on paper. 

We'll be back to Creo.  Even if it's for drinks and apps--the bar is nice, and it's away from the main dining room (which probably makes weekday dinners less noisy).   I'd also like the breakfast pizza or the bananas Foster pancakes--the latter would be ideal for after a nice run.  Delmar Dash perhaps?  Or maybe we'll go somewhere closer to the neighborhood. 

Creo Restaurant
1475 Western Avenue (Stuyvesant Plaza)
Albany, NY

Creo on Urbanspoon


Is It Strange To Finish A 4-Ounce Jar Of Yeast In 2 Months?

First:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY LOVELY MOM (who does not read this blog)!!!!!!! 

So one of my loose definitely-not-a-resolution 2011 goals is to try at least one new recipe every week.  If I do 2 on one week, it does indeed count toward the next.  Just FYI.

This week was the beef tagine with butternut squash from 1/11 Cooking Light.  Mine was a bit too liquidy, so maybe next time I'd drain the tomatoes a little bit or use less broth.  It's still tasty though, and I'm looking forward to enjoying it for lunch this week.  For those wondering (as I was), tagine is a Moroccan dish and a dish.  As in, a meal named after the pot it's typically cooked in.  Last week I made up a black bean/red pepper soup with Israeli couscous that made us super happy. I'm looking forward to some Greek chicken burgers and stuffed cabbage (Jewish St. Patty's day?) in the next few weeks.

Ah yes, the title of this post.  Well, you all know I've been out of control with the crispy no-knead bread.  I recently went so far as to make J's lunch rolls out of the dough.  And every couple months I feel the need to knead with some homemade challah.  But my latest teaspoons doled out of the stuff went into Eat, Run, Read's overnight cinnamon rolls (adapted from Alton Brown).  Mollie makes a lot of cakes, and although I'm not really againstcakes, they aren't my favorite and also lack the practicality I crave.  I prefer cookies and muffins that can be made in small batches or large, and that don't lose their appeal once half of them are eaten--aka I can arrange them on a plate with some fruit and say yes, I did just make these for you guys! I totally didn't take them out of my freezer, where they have been for several weeks!  So the individual nature of the cinn rolls, the use of yeast, and my recent indulgence at MAD made these a no-brainer.

I had no time (ahem, patience) for the 30 minutes in the cold oven with the boiling water part.  Spin class-->outlet shopping and just a quick hour and a half in between to shower and eat.  I let the rolls sit out for an hour on the counter then stuck them in the cold oven before programming it to 350.  I put a small loaf pan with water underneath to provide some steam, and figured they could rise a little more while the oven warmed up.  About 38 minutes later I took them out, let them cool, and then smear/drizzled the frosting.  Eventually I stuck three in the freezer to surprise us at a later date.  Damn are these things good.  We used pecans in the filling.  I talked about adding small chopped apple and J asked me (in a very serious tone) why I always want to put fruit in everything.  Um, because it's delicious.

And although they don't involve yeast, you should make some hammies for Purim sometime soon.  It's this weekend.  Remember my tips that resulted from last year's trial and error, and you'll be golden.  Also, consider adding some grated fresh ginger to your dough.  Because like fruit, I think ginger makes everything better.

[Eat the messed up ones ASAP to spare yourself the embarrassment should any guests see them.]


Wherein I Round Up St. Patty's Recipes For You

When I read things like "Where to get Irish soda bread?" in newspapers and blogs, I can't help but think: MAKE IT YOURSELF.  After all, I've seen many recipes popping up in my Google Reader over the past week or two, as well as dozens in the past.  These are the ones I'm sharing with you; not the results from Googling "Irish soda bread recipe," although that would work too.  Try one or two, and you'll not only have the freshest loaf possible, but a pleasant smelling home to boot.

American Style Irish Soda Bread from Sweet Pea's Kitchen.

Cast Iron ISB from Endless Simmer.  Also, for dessert, Irish Brownie Bombs from Endless Simmer.

A feast from corned beef to cabbage to ISB from I Flip For Food.

ISB scones from Smitten Kitchen.

Guiness cupcakes from Modern Domestic.

Whole wheat brown soda bread from Kalyn's Kitchen.

Chocolate chip ISB from Inkpad Chocolate.


Pearl Street Diner


Pearl Street Diner, or PSD, is my favorite greasy spoon lunch place near the office.  There's really not much competition in the area--Greenhouse is a Chop't-type place with hard, cold seats and fake cubed turkey; Franklin's Tower is ok, but the menu is small, it's sometimes freezing in there, and I've never *loved* my order; Victory Cafe is good, but lunch will set you BACK!  [Obviously because I want the gigantic salad with a protein on it, $14.  The specials are good and more reasonable.]  Granted, I have some more exploration to do.  Particularly when it's above freezing, maybe sunny, and I can cross streets at intersections without hurdling over a pile of snow or more recently, an enormous slushy puddle.

So PSD it is.  Close, cheap, and usually pretty tasty.  For about $7 I can get a decent portion of chicken souvlaki in a pita with a Greek salad.  One out of four times the salad might be over-oily, but the service is friendly, it's a lot of food for a little price, and we've never waited long for a table.  Sub souvlaki for gyro and there are my orders.


The chicken salad club is double-decker and enormous.

Visitor S had chili and fries when he came with us to PSD.

Now, the name Diner is a misnomer.  It's not open 24-hours.  It does not serve breakfast all day.  If it did, I'd be there more often.  But it's inexpensive, the service is friendly, the wait is short (if it exists), the portions are great, and thus it has my weekday loyalty so far.

Pearl Street Diner (does not really have a web site...)
40 N. Pearl Street
Albany, NY


Miss Albany Diner

This little diner is TFC.  The food is good, the service is friendly, and there are interesting things on the walls.

Exhibit A:

Downstaters/DCers, please take the above as a lesson in NY geography.  I live nowhere near Buffalo.  It's 5 hours away according to this very official signage.  Hawaii seems too close...

And the food.  So here at the MAD they toast your cinnamon bun.  Even though I usually wouldn't order one of these delectable definitely-not-breakfast (DESSERT) items, I was intrigued by the toasting.

Let's get close.

That's the stuff.  This is basically criminal.  For real. I'm pretty sure slathering it with butter will get you LWOP.  A little crunch goes a long way, particular because it's caused by a crispy bread outer layer AND the crackling of the thin, sugary film. 

Corned beef hash, over easy eggs.  Classic us.  Delicious.

Cool huevos with chutney, some mint and mango.  I liked it more than J did, so we ended up switching about halfway.  His plate was definitely cooler.

I need to remember to ask for my toast dry.  I really don't need the butter--the rest of my choices do enough damage, and I prefer jam or preserves to butter anyway.  SO FORGETFUL.

PS, this joint closes at like 2:15pm or some crazy time like that.  You can get there for late breakfast, but not J&A-style 4pm winter weekend breakfast...we lazy.

Here's to continuing our tour of the Capital Region's best diner breakfasts.  Happy Monday everyone!

Miss Albany Diner
893 Broadway
Albany, NY 12207 

Miss Albany Diner on Urbanspoon


Spring On My Mind

Fun fact via B--Tuesday was the first day of meteorological spring.  We're 4 days in and boy is it heating up in Albany.  Just kidding, it's really not.  But maybe that explains why I've got spring fever.

Maybe it's because of the other season...tax season.  The one where I spend Saturdays with everyone but J, and when his evening companion of a cup of tea is joined by a laptop and a buzzing phone.  It's got me daydreaming about our post-April 15 plans, which include some spring/summer trips that require your advice.

First up is a quick Montreal weekend with my sister.  J went there in HS, but unfortunately his travel notes and memories do not include a faboosh brunch locale.   

Next is St. Louis/Kansas City.  We'll be checking out some beisbol, some cousin, and hopefully some barbecue.  What are your suggestions?  Favorite place to eat, sites to see?  We're up for almost anything, and we've done some minimal research so far.  It'll be supplemented with some travel books from the library at some point, but we're not there yet.   

Then we're off to Portland, OR.  We'll be visiting our cousins with a brand new lil' bebeh, and definitely doing some hiking.  I see at least one visit to the Waffle Window in our future, and maybe a couple to Pine State Biscuits.  I saw a lot of Portland spots on the James Beard semifinalist list.  What should we be eating in Portland? If we head to Seattle for a day or two, what's not to miss there?  (I know Olga from Mango & Tomato has some Seattle info, I should dig into the archives!)

Bonus if you can recommend eats in Puerto Rico for my friend who is spending 6 weeks (!) there for work.  Thanks to Stacey and Olga for their tips so far.  

Thanks in advance for your advice.  It's always appreciated.  I'll be sure to consult Eater, Chowhound, 36 Hours/NYTimes, etc, but I like to know what you think. 


Ala Shanghai

Sometimes when a restaurant has great reviews, everyone blogs it, etc etc, I get overpumped.  My expectations are entirely too high, even unreasonably high.  But two recent visits to Ala Shanghai were really informative.  I can--and will--bring most of my visitors here.  Maybe not on their first visit, but eventually.  According to T, Ala Shanghai has American-friendly Chinese dishes that taste better than they do most other places, but also some authentic traditional foods.

Even though I had my real camera at our second outing, I spared our guests my invasiveness.  Also, we were really hungry.  Enjoy my iPhone pics below.

Cold sesame noodles--for some reason I was feeling noodley, which is way more J-like than me-like.  He happily agreed to ordering this app.

We also got the soup dumplings.  I wish that Ala Shanghai made soup dumplings with chicken and also a veggie version for my pork-averse and vegetarian friends.  I'd never eaten soup dumplings before (gasp!) and there's something really awesome about biting into a delicious dumpling and having yummy hot soup come out.  We aren't that good at the keep-it-on-the-spoon-and-take-a-bite method (please see Joe Shanghai's web site for instructions and a cartoon), so we put the whole dumpling in our mouths and then sort of bite carefully.  A quick bite will cause hot soup to shoot into your throat, which can cause choking and discomfort.

I don't even dip them in anything.  I could eat an order of these as my entree.  [Or two.]

The Peking duck at Ala is a lovely production.  Instead of dinky flat pancakes you get these pillowy steamed pockets of joy.  As is common, the duck is sliced before us, but here the sandwich is also assembled with sauce and crunchy veggies.

On our first visit we got soup dumplings, sesame noodles, Peking duck, and sesame beef for two people.  We didn't touch the beef, and ended up enjoying it for lunch or dinner the next day. 

The second time we brought two friends and got the dumplings, Singapore rice noodles, Peking duck, baby bok choy with mushrooms, and sesame chicken.  Everything was delicious, we ate it all, and the bill worked out to about $15 per person including tax and tip.  In-cray-ab-lay.

Ala Shanghai is also good for a bit of a larger group--they have some bigger round tables for a group of 6-8, and the taste, price, and free tea will please crowds of all ages.

Ala Shanghai
468 Troy Schenectady Road
Latham, NY
They take reservations! 518-783-8188

Ala Shanghai on Urbanspoon