Freeee Chipotle

Or rather, BOGO--buy one, get one.  Get a friend and head over to Stuyvesant Plaza, Friendship Heights, or many other blocks in the US and use your deal.

Like something on Facebook, watch a short video (or let it run in the background while you do other work--but it features BFlay and he's so cute), and then print.

(If you haven't seen this on Facebook already, then...)

<3 You're welks.

Chipotle is one of our favorite go-to cheap, quick, satisfying meals.  Love me a burrito bowl.

[P.S. I wasn't made for quick writing.  I had to update this like 12 times because of typos.  Eep.]


Cafe Madison

We found a delicious and inexpensive brunch that we now crave all the time.  Let me be clear that by "found" I mean everyone else who has lived here for the past 40 years (according to the bartender) already knew--we read a lot of advice telling us to go there, and today we finally did.  And by "finally" I mean it took us 2 months.  I'm too hard on us.


Anyway, we've been to a few diners, so there's no shortage of breakfast.  Our Sunday Times in tow, we headed to Cafe Madison post-spin class but pre-Williamstown adventure.  It was pretty packed; I spotted two seats at the bar, asked if we could eat there (sort of knowing the answer), and nabbed 'em.  A girl had just come outside to the doorway to tell her boyfriend that the wait was a half hour, that doubt in her voice about whether he'd want to wait.  Girl, whatcha waitin' for?  We LOVE to eat at the bar.  No wait (or short wait), it's just the two of us, and did I mention not having to wait???  Y'all know I love this tactic.  There wasn't quite enough room to spread out with the paper while we waited for our food (which actually took a while--longer than for the people next to us who arrived later and ordered shortly after us), but we huddled over the crossword puzzle together and made some moderate progress.

 [Strawberry Basil Mimosa?  Can you say T?!?!]

The breakfast specials looked great, but I went for the two + two--two eggs and two pancakes, a variety of choices.  I had apple walnut.  Y'all know I'm not huge on pancakes (usually).  If anything, after a long run I want something eggy + something bready, usually French toast.   But these pancakes were thick and fluffy, and you could taste the buttermilk.  My over easy eggs were a little less done than usual, but not in a bad way.  In all, it was so much food and I could not believe it was only $6.  I felt like a thief.  And I don't want extra toast and potatoes to come with my food--this was more than enough!  I couldn't even finish the last few bites of pancake.  Again, very unlike me, but I was stuffed.

J had the corned beef hash (obviously, one of us had to have it).  I had a few bites and what I noticed was that the hash itself was well done on the edges--it had a crisp.  YUM.  Just the way I like it.  J had a bunch of options for bread, all made in house.  He got cinnamon swirl, and it was so thick and delicious it almost tasted like French toast. It made other toasts feel embarrassed.

After this visit I was crushing on Cafe Madison.  I had visions of going almost every weekend with the same situation repeating itself, delicious and easy.

This past weekend did not play out the same way, so I'm updating this post to share with you.  J joked that Cafe Madison is great....if you have nothing else to do all day.  I joked that I could have finished the socks I just started knitting on size 1.5 needles while we waited.  [Haha knitting joke haha.]  At least five people sitting at the bar hung out there for 20-30 minutes waiting for a table before deciding they'd eat there.  They totally have the right to sit there without eating.  I was just dreaming of our first visit, and wished I could sit at the bar and order food instead of watching them sitting and not ordering food. 

Let me be clear: I'm ok with a wait when I know it's happening.   Remaining at a crowded restaurant is consent to wait patiently with a smile.  But the 15 minutes our hostess told us turned into 40, no space opened at the bar, and after we sat down we ordered within 2 minutes--no need to think.  Our food took another thirty minutes to arrive.  Pancakes, hash, toast, eggs.  And this isn't a place where you get a roll or a muffin.  We were late to pick up a friend at the airport, but beyond that, we were starving.  Starvation and lateness guilt meant we scarfed down our food in about 6 minutes, not exactly savoring.  We paid the bill while cleaning our plates and rushed out.  It's not that I believed the hostess that it would be 15 minutes, it's that I was hopeful that even if the wait was an hour we'd be sitting at the bar in less than 10 minutes. 

Our food was delicious, and for the quality it is dirt cheap.  J's pancakes were well-done the second time, and I liked them better with some crisp.  The cinnamon toast is really a cinnamon bun pretending it's toast, aka awesome.  Service is friendly and coffee is quickly refilled.  I just think that if there's a wait--any at all--and you are really hungry or have somewhere to be in less than two hours, then you need to sit at the bar within 10 minutes or go somewhere else.  Otherwise you will have what I call Delicious Yet Least Relaxing Brunch Ever. DYLRBE.  Which you may notice, starts with DY aka die aka I thought I was going to die because I was so freakin hungry.

P.S. Brunch is 7:30am til 3pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 

Cafe Madison
1108 Madison Ave
Albany, NY

Cafe Madison on Urbanspoon


Hey Good Lookin' Whatcha Got Cookin?

Lots of good recipes happening lately, and I'm bookmarking some, trying others immediately,

Last week we enjoyed this Italian wedding soup interpretation by CSK with one of our best friends, Trader Joe's Israeli couscous. We made it the night she posted it, thanks to a vague idea of what we'd do with the two-pack totaling nearly 5 lbs of ground turkey from Sam's.  We used 1/4 of it for this soup.  Leftovers have made lunch quite enjoyable.

Later this week I'd like to make Cara's gingery edamame/eggplant stew and serve it over couscous or bulgur wheat.  Not sure if I'll double or triple the ginger yet...you know how I do.  I also want to make this flourless peanut butter cup cake--it's basically Reese's peanut butter cups, my favorite candy, turned into a cake.  Yep.  It's definitely dinner party material, because I can't be trusted alone with that thing and cold milk in my house.  Unforch one of my few friends upstate is allergic to nuts, cutting down on the people besides me who could enjoy this treat.  H/T Inkpad for sharing.  I'm waiting to hear from LB, who made Nikki's Bourbon Chocolate Pound Cake.  What in the what! [Update: LB said the cake was good, but she's not the hugest cake fan to begin with.  I am with her on that.  Our friends suggested topping it with ice cream or layering it into a trifle.  I said freeze it so it's chewy and fudgy.  MMMM.]

Sunday night we made several items a la Giada after flipping through one of my cookbooks: tomato soup (with a dollop of plain greek yogurt); roasted citrus-herb chicken (cooked like her game hens, of which there was only 1 at Hannaford--not so convenient for taking apart, anyway, but so cute); and these sugar cookie squares with red fruit preserve (raz and strawberry blend) and drizzled chocolate.  The last ones are really for work tomorrow, happy Valentine's Day everyone!  Whether it's actually cooking from a recipe or just assembling with instructions, I really like Giada.  I feel like we have the same values.  For example, we love olive oil, citrus juice, citrus zest (!!!!), fresh herbs, cannellini beans, and babies.  Her daughter is adorbz.

Crispy No Knead, obv.  It was 1/3 whole wheat because that's what we had left, and I actually finished the flour with it.  I had zero flour for about 3 days before I replenished with 3 bags.  This was the longest the dough ever fermented in the fridge, and I think it tasted even better for it. It was still fresh and spongy the next day, no toasting or zapping required.  BTW this time I wasn't too lazy to fill that gravy boat with reduced pan juices.

Chicken/herb/citrus filled craisins...mmm.


Postcard from Chicago

I hope you are having an excellent Valentine's Day.  If you're like me, you are at work. Nice!  High five.

Anyway, off to the Windy City.  You know why it's so windy, right?  Because when best friends get together, they basically do nothing but constantly gab.  Gab while putting together furniture, gab waiting in line at a trendy torta spot, and gab while run/walking along Lake Michigan on a balmy winter's day (around 33 degrees).

After Home Depot, a snack, and a waddle, we enjoyed brunch at home.  Made up squash hash topped with over easy eggs. T chopped all the veggies ahead of time, so this was quick, packed with nutrients, and obviously delicious.  Pita bites, hummus, and sheep's milk feta on the side.  Wait--you don't buy sheep's milk feta in a two-pack from Costco?   Oh.  T doesn't understand you, then.

I was so looking forward to XOCO for dinner--it's the casual Rick Bayless sandwich shop next to Frontera and Topolobampo

I would love to try XOCO for breakfast.  Keep in mind that it's closed Sunday and Monday - that would be disappointing to find out at the door.  :(

Ever since I had goat at Komi I've been dying to have it again.  It's such a tender, delicious meat (when cooked well).  The goat barbacoa sandwich was the special torta for Saturday--a mild tomatillo salsa, avocado, onion, and cilantro rounded this sucker out.  The bread's texture is awesome--it's crispy and chewy the way toasted bread should be, and everything about this sandwich makes you think about how you want to eat it every single day.  Dang.  So satisfying, so comforting, just so everything.

This sandwich--the ahogada (pork carnitas, pickled onions, spicy tomato broth, etc) is the first thing T ordered at XOCO, and the second time she naturally decided to have something different.  Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, she had major ordering regrets once she realized Choice 2 wasn't as awesome as Choice 1.  On her 3rd visit she went back to the favorite, and even got to taste my torta.  The tomato broth here was way too spicy for me, I was on fiya.

Just so you know the drill, you wait on line to order, and you can get a beer or something while you wait.  Even if you get to the front of the line, you can only order if you have a table number.  We got to the front of the line before being given a table number, so we just sort of waited.  A few minutes later we got a number, ordered, then were led to our table by one of the runner/hosts.  

Dessert rounds out a meal.  Also, sandwiches are on the smaller side and we didn't have any accompaniments.  T had the churros on a previous visit, and while there was nothing wrong with them, they didn't send her senses flying.  We opted for this ginger lime tres leches cake, and it was fantastic.  The cake itself was cool, sweet, and wet, and the topping was marshmallow (!!) and some candied lime.  T wishes she had a bag of that candied lime; she is so predictable.

XOCO on Urbanspoon

Cocktail time--hello, we are ladies on the go.  We headed over to Sable Bar & Kitchen for drinks after torta heaven.  The huge drink list had something for everyone, and the lounge environment was comfy.  They had tall bar tables and a long bar with stools, but also big, high-backed leather chairs.  This would be a great spot to grab apps and drinks with a friend.  It reminded me of our late dinner of appetizers in Pittsburgh

Sable Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Breakfast the next morning found us at The Bagel.  T had heard from a coworker that they had great bagels, and she goes there all the time, etc etc.  Now, this coworker is likely not from the east coast.  I don't want to be a northeast liberal elitist snobaholic in your business, but T and I are Jersey Jews, and if anyone knows a bagel, it's us.  I'll show you a bagel.  Exhibit A: I present the cinnamon raisin bagel from Wonder Bagels in Jersey City, NJ.

I know.  Try to get a hold of yourself.

So The Bagel turns out not to be a bagelry at all.  And that's ok, it just wasn't what we were expecting.  It also wasn't the tastiest place ever.  I probably should have Yelped or something, but I didn't.

The bagel chips were sort of a redeeming factor; the baked goods just weren't very fresh.

I got whitefish salad; it would have been better if I didn't find a handful of little bones in it.  Choking hazard says what??

T's Greek omelet was kind of sad, too.  I know it's not really time for tomatoes, but these put the worst ones to shame.  Omelets are tough sometimes, especially if you are a really good cook (like T), because if it's not good you are just thinking "I could have made something much better at home."  Bummer.

Also, the service was odd.  People kept coming by and filling our water and T's iced tea to the point where it overflowed, which was messy.  But when we needed more napkins to clean that up, no one could be flagged down or found.  I can't stand when you take one sip of water and someone refills it, it means people are allllways at the table.  Stressful.  But The Bagel will survive; there were lots of families and regular-looking people around. 

The Bagel on Urbanspoon

So you all know how I feel about Top Chef.  I'm a fan.  I loved Stephanie Izard as a contestant, and I was super happy when she won.  I follow her on Twitter.  I knew that booking my Southwest flight to cChicago would be shortly followed by booking a rez over at Girl and the Goat.

I love the goat image that's all over the place.  Cute and delicious at the same time.  Real napkins were a nice touch. 

T and I like almost all the same foods, so we picked 4 "small plates" to share.  The dishes weren't all that small, and 4 was perfect for us.  We didn't have room (or time) for dessert on this particular late afternoon.

We started with the shaved squash and kohlrabi salad with fennel, almonds, and ginger dressing. Crunchy, flavorful, and cold, this could decorate our plates any night of the week.  Have I mentioned that we love ginger?

We had a list of daily specials, including breads.  This was super toasty crusty bread invaded by peanuts with a miso butter and a lemony dip (sort of).  It was the bomb.  Get a bread for sure.

Below is the sunchoke soup with olives and red grapefruit.  I'm not as olive-friendly as T, but the different flavors and textures here were delicious.  Salty? Check.  Sweet? Check.  Creamy?  Check yet again.  Also you can add this to the long list of Things T and I Would Share That J Wouldn't Touch With a Ten Foot Pole.

Lamb sausage stuffed calamari with sweetbread crisps (those little guys on the bottom right).  The calamari here is a casing for really flavorful, well-seasoned (but not salty) lamb meat, and there's a currant situation that sweetly contrasts.

Everything so far was so good.  But lastly came this goat masala pizza with farm fresh cheeses and the house yogurt.  (We made sure to ask whether goat meant goat like bleat bleat or like goat cheese--it meant bleat bleat.)  It was so good.  I could eat this "pizza" on a regular basis.  Somehow we stopped ourselves from eating the last few pieces.  I had a plane to catch, and I knew I'd be uncomfortably full if we went on.  Also, I knew this meal was so good that T would enjoy eating leftovers for breakfast (and she did). 

I imagine The Goat would be a great place to grab a few plates to share and some beers after work.  I know I'd go back soon if I could, but maybe you Chicago people can go in my place.

Girl & the Goat on Urbanspoon

I think J and I will go back to Chicago this summer to enjoy what the area has to offer in the nice weather and visit our dear T.  By then she'll be well-versed in brunch options, late night drinks, and everything else going on, but we'll still explore and try new things because that's what friends are for.


Debbie's Kitchen

We needed a quick but cute lunch when my outlaws were recently in town.  We needed to sit down, eat a quick, reasonably priced sandwich, and then head out to the New York State Museum.  (It's free.  It's freezing.  There's a carousel.  Why not?)  We considered Scratch Bakery Cafe, but it was a little too small for this time around.  A few doors down is Debbie's Kitchen.

[How do you like those icicles?]

Little did I know at the time that Debbie actually sold her Kitchen in 2010, and now it's Tom's kitchen, really.  

Whoever's kitchen it is, it's a nice one. You can get half a sandwich with a small soup as a combo (you know how I love combos, or really, the opportunity to eat more than one dish). 

We had tasty sweet potato coconut something soup, the roasted red pepper soup, and a lentil vegetable, too.  We were all souped up, you could say.

I almost followed FIL with a Thanksgiving-ish turkey/cranberry sandwich, but then I picked turkey, garlic mayo, tomato, spinach, and dill Havarti.  On PUMPERNICKEL.  No one EVER has pumpernickel!!! I was so happy that I took a bite before taking a picture.

J had corned beef, pastrami, Swiss, and slaw (his third Reubenesque sandwich of the week, and I'm not talking ladies with curves), and MIL had the tuna salad with apples, nuts, and cheddar.  She was very pleased by the texture and flavors, and it led to a discussion about how the heck the people on Chopped (not to mention Iron Chef, Top Chef, and just chefs generally all over the place) know what acid to add or spices to mix in order to get that wow factor.

We'll definitely be back to Debbie's kitchen for a yummy, fresh, quick lunch.  And next time we'll get one of the delicious looking treats from the display. 

Debbie's Kitchen
456 Madison Avenue
Albany, NY

 Debbie's Kitchen on Urbanspoon


El Rancho - Saugerties, NY

The trip to NJ to DC leaves much to be desired as far as scenery, speed (aka sloooow thanks to traffic), and food.  Yes, the new Delaware House is pretty snazzy (it looks like an airport terminal), but I wouldn't call it a destination.  On the other hand, going from NJ to upstate NY leaves lots of options if we can't make it all the way home.  North Jersey?  Hudson? Rhinebeck?  Poughkeepsie? 

J hates making decisions about restaurants on the spot.  After lots of prodding, we narrowed down our wishlist.  Pretty fast, Asian or Mexican.  We'd overloaded on Italian and pizza generally lately, and plain old American pub fare seemed too boring. Yelping + Googling led me to positive reviews for El Rancho in Saugerties.  It's not in the "town center" (if there is indeed a town center), but was conveniently right off the highway.

Wed is Marg Night, clearly.   Dang was it dark outside. 

J had the Dos Chimichangas--one chicken, one beef.  Shreddy and delish.

I had steak fajitas.  I felt like I wanted something sizzling.  It was freezing outside, and I'd eaten vegetarian for two days in a row.  I needed some iron, stat.  Notice it looks a little shiny--it could have used a little toweling off, it was a bit oily for my liking.  Overall it was quite tasty, though.

The salsa was very fresh-tasting and zesty.  Service was friendly, but a little slow.  My only other complaint about El Rancho is that no one bothered to de-ice the parking lot.  At all.  It was basically a skating rink.  Step carefully, folks.

El Rancho*
2904 Route 32
Saugerties, NY

Apparently eating at El Rancho was good luck for the J-E-T-S JETS, because soon after we got in the car post-meal, we heard on the radio that they were nearly finished beating the Patriots.  Well done, New [Jersey] York.

El Rancho on Urbanspoon



Before we even moved I started subscribing to some area blogs, including Albany Eats! (exclamation point not added as emphasis. It's original.)  When she said that she (and guests) went to Kinnaree, the new Thai/Korean/Japanese/Fusion/Whatever place on Lark Street and had savory hot noodley warmth, I wanted it too.

We were out pre-celebrating J of J&J's swearing in at the NY bar.  Ohhh memories of swearings in past, how you haunt me.  But anyway:

Veggie dumpling potsticker friends, aka gyoza.

Bowl of curry liquid with a wee bit of chicken, too.  If it was spicy, poor J with his icky cold couldn't tell.  We were hoping it was zap/clear him back to life.

My J had chicken with udon noodles.  Very tasty.  I might get it in the future.  

I took Albany Jane's suggestion with the rad nah with tofu.  I ate "Buddhist's Delight" every Thursday for nearly a year in NJ at Tung Hsing House, so I'm not stranger to bean curd, I mean, erm, tofu.   It was delicious.  I hate to say it, but I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing.

Overall, I'm really not sure whether the portions weren't that large or we were just starving, because we all pretty much cleared our plates (besides some curry liquid on J.Esq's part). Service was prompt and friendly, food was tasty, the prices are reasonable: in a nutshell, we'll definitely go back to Kinnaree.

193 Lark Street
Albany, NY


Everyone is Blogging Brownies

And since it's a snow day for many, I wanted to share all these links with you lest you decide to get into the brownie baking mood today. 

Not sure what the deal is, but everyone is blogging brownies the past week or two.  It's like that time that a bunch of bloggers did shakshuka in a short span of time, except most people actually know what brownies are. The Internet is a funny place.

Black and white brownies from Cuisine Queen

Squeaky clean fudge brownies from Cara's Cravings (GF, sugar-free, vegan).

Browned butter brownies on Doughmesstic

Red velvet cheesecake brownies from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

Brownie giveaway from Beantown Baker

Fudgy Brownies from Nikki

THE baked brownie from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

Go.  Bake.  Eat.  Share.