The Fountain

The Fountain is on that same strip as Graney’s in New Scotland, in between Albany Med and St. Peter’s. I’d never heard of it before but Albany John met up with a friend there and said I was welcome to join in. Duh! Food time!

It was rainy, and the interior was a little bleak. Basic pub decor with wooden tables all around. And no happy hour specials. Not really a good sign at a little place WITH A BAR. But I ordered some pink lemonade and jalapeno poppers($5.75). I know I overpaid for the poppers, and I don’t even LIKE jalapenos, but I was in the mood for something with that texture. I actually ended up pulling the jalapenos out of the fried shell… yes, I know I should have ordered mozzarella sticks, but for some reason I wanted poppers sans jalapeno. So those weren’t too bad. I know I shouldn’t have ordered it, but ah well.

I’d like to mention now that The Fountain has the best burger I’ve had in Albany to date. Screw red robin. They also come with a mountain of french fries that still taste good the day after. I got a mushroom & cheese burger for $6.75. I’d say don’t bother with the cheese. It’s some american crap, but didn’t make the burger any worse, but it’ll save you 50 cents if you leave it off. They actually cooked it to rare and served it on a poppy seed hard roll. Oh good! After the poppers I could only funnel half of the fries/burger into my gullet and got the rest wrapped up.

Here’s where I’m going to tell you not to bother with eating in at the Fountain, though. We were there and the waitresses (seemed like there were only 3 or 4 total) were a little scattered, but they seemed like they’d been there forever since they knew almost everyone who walked in the door. But they’re slower than molasses if they don’t know you. After the poppers Albany John and I polished off our drinks and it took mid-way through the entrees until someone noticed. Also it took seemingly forever for the entrees to come out, but I wasn’t keeping time so I’ll scratch that to ‘Albany Jane needs to pay better attention’. But seriously, we couldn’t even flag someone down to get some more to drink. Oh, and once I got my bill I noticed sodas/lemonades are $2.25 EACH not including refills. Excuse me? Happy hour at Lark Tavern is $2.50 for all well drinks. I paid damn near five dollars when I could have gotten a double vodka-lemonade for the same price??? And refills from the squirt-gun soda dispenser aren’t free? Sweet Christ, that’s pretty money grubbing to me, considering it’s just pennies for a drink. And if The Fountain is paying more, they’re suckers. Hell, my refill should have been free just for the 15-20 minute wait where no one bothered to come over and I didn’t have anything to drink.

It got busy pretty quickly, which means we were forgotten about pretty quickly. It took over 30 mins for us to get the bill. I WAITED OVER 30 MINUTES FOR MY BILL. Look, I’ve been there where it’s a rush and everyone’s nagging at you for this and that, but sweet christ, keep an eye out for people that want to leave. We were there a total of 1.5 hours, which is entirely too long for jalapeno poppers and a burger. Also, once we did receive our check, I swear to god no one wanted to take it to make change. I looked one server in the eye and started the ‘Hi, uh, could you take … oh’ and she just walked right past. TAKE MY MONEY!!!! I WANT TO LEAVE! We just ended up putting $20s down and not caring about the change, or even trying to talk to management, since it was really just the waitresses and not a food problem. They were all nice enough, just kind of ‘deer in headlights’ the entire time.

Also note, for some reason there’s a 25 cent extra charge on take out, which I will gladly pay to not have to sit around forever and be forgotten about. I’d recommend The Fountain for take out only, especially around dinner time since their staff seems to get frazzled quickly.

Oh, Albany John got a 1/2 rack of ribs ($7.95) which also came with cole slaw and a potato sliced and covered with some kind of porky-gravy. He like it.

And c’mon, a bar without happy hour? And no prices on their drinks for the food part? Oy vey…

Mercato’s

Mercato’s is this Italian place on Delaware Ave in Delmar (right in the beginning). I always thought it was a mexican place because there are tons of bright neon signs and well… there was an ‘O’ at the end. It just SOUNDS mexican, no? But it isn’t it’s an Italian place.

Mercato’s is pretty bare-bones as far as decorating. Nice lighting, half the place is booths, half are tables. The booths aren’t terribly comfortable – all wood and no padding, but they’re not the worst thing ever, either. The first thing that hits you when you walk in is the smell. Mercato’s smells fresh and not at all oily or greasy.

You see, I’m not too keen on Italian food. I used to love it as a teen, but for the past few years I just haven’t been into it. I’m also not a huge fan of cooked tomatoes, more specifically tomato sauces. But I was starving and Albany John said he was taking me out for dinner. I was actually in a pretty adventurous mood, but I suppose when you’re starving and your stomach is about to fold in on itself (or, implode) just about anything sounds good. And that’s how I got my tongue in the door to Mercato’s (it didn’t get stuck or anything, then I wouldn’t have gotten so far).

The smell of fresh… smells was really promising. I even got excited about eating Italian food. Most of the stuff I’ve had in Albany has been entirely too greasy and overly processed. We were seated, but not given menus. When our waitress came by she was a little confused about it and seemed a little annoyed at the other waitress for not having given us menus (I was a little confused about that too). But our waitress was awesome! She always made sure to look me in the eye and actually talked more to me than Albany John. She was also a really pretty lady with curly/wavy dark brown or black hair with a european accent.

We started off with fried mozzarella and got 2 triangles of fried happiness for $4.50. It didn’t taste heavy at all, not even greasy. It was like it was baked mozzarella. Also there was a bowl of tomato sauce to dip it in. I think this must have been the house tomato sauce since it came with everything.
Salads came with the meal. Order your dressing on the side or order olive oil and vinegar since they’re really heavy handed with the dressing. I tried Russian dressing, and now I know that I don’t really like Russian dressing since it tastes too similar to tartar sauce and nothing else. Also it was warm. A salad swimming in warm russian dressing just wasn’t that good. The bread (free bread yay!) was generic italian and tasted dry like it had been out all day (I know, I did go at dinner). I wasn’t that impressed with it. Not at all. But it was good for sopping up tomato sauce.

I ordered eggplant florentine($13), which is eggplant(possibly fried) stuffed with ricotta and spinach. Eggplant? Spinach? Oh, baby yes. All of the flavors came out beautifully and even the seeded area wasn’t bitter. It was also slathered in tomato sauce and had 2 slices of cheese on top. It also came with a side of pasta. I got linguine, which came doused with the tomato sauce. It was a little heavy handed on the tomato sauce for me, but I still really liked it and I’m more than certain that most of the other customers enjoy having all of their plates slathered with tomato sauce. The sauce was really quite good. One thing to note with the eggplant florentine though, is that it takes a while to make. Or at least that’s why I thought we waited around for our entrees to come out.

Albany John got veal scallopine($15.95). Or whatever one has the lemon butter sauce. It also came with artichoke hearts and broccoli. Oh wow, was his good too. The artichoke hearts had me drooling, and I now want to know how to get them to taste like that. I don’t normally like veal either, but I have to say this was delectable beyond belief. Mmm. Tortured baby cow. It was so good. It also came with a side of pasta. He got ziti. It was also slathered with tomato sauce.

I really wanted to try the tiramisu, but I hadn’t even finished half of my eggplant when I had to call it quits. And not just ‘oh, I’m good, I’ll just take the rest home for later’ quits. I mean ‘Oh god, my stomach is pooching out over my pants’ quits. We didn’t get any drinks, but they had a bar and wine, which was $4.95 a glass, for the most part.

We got in around 5:30 on a sunday and it filled up pretty quickly after that. The majority of their patrons seem to be retired Delmar-ians. Albany John and I were the youngest ones there, with the exception of some teens and pre-teens dragged there by their parents or grandparents. They also had pizza, which seemed pretty interesting too.

Miyako & Totem

Miyako is the Japanese place waaaay at the end of Western Ave at the butt end of Albany. It’s right before the Guilderland library.

I met up with a buddy out there for lunch today. I wasn’t too keen on it, but I figured, hey, Albany Jane, you don’t have to get sushi. You could just get something else from the Japanese cuisine. So I got a tempura don ($7.95) which wasn’t really the greatest in the world. Or the area. Not that I ever get them. This might have been my first don. What a let down. (But hey, what firsts aren’t huge let downs in some way, eh?)
For those of you that don’t know what a ‘don’ dish is, it’s a big honking bowl of rice topped with a variety of things. I opted for fried things, but they have pork, beef, etc. It also comes in a huge earthenware bowl. To say I had a lot of rice was an understatement.
There were 2 shrimp in the bowl and they were pretty crisp, but the rest of the veggies were soggy as balls. What gives?! I couldn’t tell if they put a sauce on the veggies that made them so soggy or if they immediately stuck them on top of the rice and the rice, heat and piliing atop one another made them so soggy. Which means there was no sauce and I ate grease. Oohhh. They also ‘decorated’ the tempura don with 2 slices of raw tomato and 2 pieces of a very bitter lettuce, possibly a dried out escarole. After making a face while eating this leafy thing, my friend goes ‘oh… the lettuce might just be for decoration.” Super.

Buuuttt…. You guys know I can’t resist the tasty. I ordered a softshell crab roll ($6.95) mainly because I’ve never seen one priced so cheaply (I know, bad way to go about sushi choices) and also because I figured it would be difficult to screw up. JUST FRY THE SUCKER. Now this food choice definitely kept the crunch factor. But I didn’t really taste any crabbyness. I tasted more along the ‘fried’ flavor which, don’t get me wrong – it’s great, but I wanted to taste that salty crabby flavor, not a crunch and some breading. But it was very nice texturally. I didn’t think their rolls were shaped very well since some came apart, but otherwise, they weren’t awful. I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon/ever again since I wasn’t horribly impressed, but it’s a place to go if you’re kind of in the mood for Japanese, but don’t really care that much about the flavors.

I also recently tried Totem. It’s that newish sushi joint on Lark St, next to Hollywood. I was really impressed. I got 2 rolls($12.42 for both), a salmon roll. I’d say this is how I judge a sushi place. By how good their salmon rolls are. And Totem’s wins in my book! I know, I felt a little sacrilgious to Saso’s, but it was something I just had to admit to myself. I also got a philly roll without the cucumber, so it was basically salmon and cream cheese. Seriously, who puts cucumber in a philly roll? I suppose it could make it taste lighter, but that’s not what I want!!! I want the heavy taste! But anyway it came out perfectly delectable as well. Ohhh so good! Also their rolls come in 8 pieces, not the traditional 6 pieces to a roll. Which made me think that their prices were better when they give you 2 more pieces to a roll than you’d expect. Also, the rolls were brimming with salmon. None of that whole ‘little teensy, eensie dab of fish’ in the roll thing. There was a thin amount of rice. The salmon was ready to burst out of it’s wrappings, but no. It burst in my mouth! And it tasted so good. SOOOO GOOOOD. Also, the staff there were very sweet and I will be coming back. Actually, I think one of them might have been the owner since he was talking about his distributor with me.

They’re open Monday – Thursaday 3p.m – 12 a.m. Friday 3 p.m. until 1 a.m., Saturday 5 p.m. – 1 a.m. , and Sunday 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. This means I can FINALLY get my late night sushi fixes. Oh god. My sushi habit might be making a comeback. (There was a point in time where yours truly was spending over… well… spending way more than any normal person should have)

Via Fresca

So today was a great time to meet new people for lunch at Via Fresca.

It’s right on Western Ave across from the Mobile station. I wouldn’t put much hope in the website. It hasn’t been updated in a while, and it’s just one page that doesn’t say too much. But something’s better than nothing.

There’s parking in the back, and so’s the entrance. You walk up some stairs, and BOW! It hits you – clean, open, bright, airy… But still well stocked. And I mean, this place is freaking CLEAN. As in, I’ve worked in hospitals messier than this deli/market. (let’s not get into the argument about how some places can be dirty, okay?)

Via Fresca is mainly a gourmet market with 4 tables in the back if you want to eat your food their. They had a range of options from eggplant parm to 10 differnt kind of panini and subs. See, this is nice – a little place that doesn’t over extend themselves with a bunch of cheap dishes, but instead focuses on certain things done well.

And oh, were these paninis done well. I knew I was getting a panini as soon as I saw the magic phrase ‘on ciabatta bread’. Oh lord, that’s all I need to hear for a sandwich to be heaven. I got the fresh mozzarella pannini. We also got the prosciutto panini and ham and smoked mozzarella pannini.

And we split ’em. Oh yea! I liked them all. Big surprise. Let’s talk bread. Holy cow. Buttery, crispy, but still soft on the inside. This is like pure heaven in bread form to me. Breaven, if you will. And this isn’t tear your mouth open toasted bread either. It’s light, crisp, and mouth watering.

My mozzarella panini was amazing when piping hot, but it got a little rubbery once it cooled off. I don’t know why, but rubber just isn’t my thang. It also came with some tomatoes, red peppers (which I promptly peeled off) and a tangy balsamic vinagrette. The smoked mozzarella & ham panini was good as well, if a little sweet. I think the smoked mozzarella + the balsamic vinagrette they put on it was a little bit of a sweet overload. But really good if you like sweet ham, since the sweetness did kind of go with the ham. The prosciutto/capicola (whatever pricey italian meat it was) was really thick! Well, I thought it was for the price. And the little nuances of the meat really came out. Subtle seasoning and great flavor. Oh, and did I mention that these sandiches were about $7 each, give or take a few cents each way, and were HUGE. We’re talking foot long (probably longer) rectangle of ciabatta bread long. Like, a loaf of panini for $7.

Oh yea, you can bet my growing pants size I ate my entire panini loaf. Also, I also got a tasty grapefruit Izzy soda. Which isn’t really soda at all – it’s carbonated juice. There were little bits of grapfruit on the bottom. Sediment is tasty. Our lunches came to a nice $29.16 total. And you don’t need to tip. At least we didn’t since it’s kind of like a deli with tables… But sweet – a sampling of food for ten bucks!

I really want to shop there, since their prices were rather fair, not over priced like a lot of other ‘gourmet’ wannabes in the area *cough cough* everywheredowntown *cough cough*. However, I know I won’t be able to shop there without ordering a panini or sub… or something. It all looks amazing.

Moe’s

Moe’s is what Bombers used to/should be.

Ginormous fresh food. Don’t get me wrong, Bombers has food that’s splodge all over the place. But I don’t want a burrito that’ll splodge it’s stuff all over my plate. Moe’s crams it all in there and it doesn’t fall apart. Not even a little. Plus I loves me some carbs (call it the southern gal in me) and I like to taste my burrito skin when I’m chowing down.

When you first walk in the staff shout ‘WELCOME TO MOE’S!’ sometimes heartily, sometimes not so heartily. They’ve got a cafeteria line style service. Start with what you want to order. One guy puts down the beginning, moves it over to the guy who adds some fillings, then to another guy who adds toppings… it’s kind of like how Subway is set up. Only really good an everyone looks clean and not like they were shooting up smack in the back.

I got a burrito at a previous visit, I think I got the ‘Joey Bag of Donuts’ size. Oh, they’ve got some interesting names for their stuff. The Joey consists of lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, beans and rice, and the choice of chicken, steak, ground beef or tofu. I got it with steak in it, and it was really hearty and flavorful. It also came with a side of chips. It’s about $7 after tax. And it held up really well, even after saving the remnants in a fridge for 4+ hours, which is a huge plus, since the slime that usually builds up on the skin is really gross. No one wants to eat a gooey burrito. Unless it’s gooey with cheese. It’s not, but they put plenty of cheese in it.

They’ve also got a salsa bar (free!)! Woah! There are six different types of salsa, many of which are pure heaven. One or two will scortch a tastebud off, however. Stupid Habaneros, and my sensitive tastebuds… ow, ow, ow. I’m not a big salsa fan, but I can’t stop eating one of the salsas that’s thick, chunky and loaded with diced onions. You might not want to try kissing someone after eating a TON of this salsa. Or, put another way, Albany Jane should not order extra onions on everything, eat a gallon of this salsa and then continue to go breathing near living people, especially those like Albany John who aren’t too fond of raw onion breath. Yea, don’t go out eating with me and expecting it to be anything but a huge mess. I spill, I eat onions (not too big a fan of garlic though), I’ll pretty much gorge on anything if you stick it in front of me, and oh, I whine like a spoiled 3 year old when I get really hungry. Dear god, Albany John puts up with a lot.

So, uh, where was I? Oh, Right. Moe’s. Well, I went there for lunch yesterday and ordered… TACO SALAD! Okay, I LOVE taco salad. But it has to be in the edible taco bowl. I know, I’m really healthy too. I got mine with shredded lettuce, black beans, marinated tofu, cheese, onions, and sour cream. What really threw me off is that you get to choose a dressing with taco salad. Wha? When the guy asked me what I wanted, I said ‘uh, just give me the thing in your hand, that creamy thing’. Look, I don’t control what the mouth says. It just says it. And then the brain might pick up on it later. But usually not. And then I go ‘uh, why is everyone laughing and looking at me like that? well, better chuckle along too.’

The dressing – I tried a little bit of it. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never heard of using anything besides sour cream for a ‘dressing’ of sorts on taco salad. I mean with sour cream you can at least think ‘oh, well, I’m getting my dairy nutrients for the day’ but there’s no fooling yourself with a rich and creamy dressing. You just know ‘oh god, I’m eating salad out of a bowl made out of FRIED taco and I’m mixing in dressing as well.’ Not good. I mean, it’s good in that very not-good kind of way. Okay, I’m sure I’ve lost you all by now. I decided not to add it since I thought the whole meal was rich enough with the sour cream. Adding another dairy product to it was just going to overcomplicate things. And taco salad is simple.

The bowl was really airy, but still incredibly greasy. Maybe they should fry it at a higher temp or something. It was hard to break off chunks at first, but after the salad sat in the bowl for a while it was easier. And soggier, duh. I only polished off half of the bowl, but it was good. Especially when you eat your taco salad with salsa from the salsa bar. Oh, and the tofu was really good. I wanted something light-tasting with the ‘salad’ and they really marinated the hell out of it. Marinating = palatable tofu.

Also, barbeque this thursday if you’re interested. If you got down to here, I think I owe you more than grilled corn, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

Red Robin

Okay, I have a confession to make…
As much as I usually detest any and all forms of chain restaurants, I really, really, really like Red Robin. Like, to a sickening amount for the average person.

Why? Well, I have to admit all the steak fries you can eat is an interesting premise (even if I’m not a big fan of steak fries). And the interior is really bright, red, and high-energy (some may call it a little chaotic). I like all the over-sized decorations, and the ‘looks old, but isn’t really’ pictures and paraphenalia tacked on the walls are forgivable. But really, it’s the food. No, no, this isn’t the quality foods I usually crave and love, this is the equivalent of ‘slumming it’, epicurean style.

How slumming it? I’ve spoken of my Mother on here before. She’s got a very ‘American’ palette, meaning she’s really picky. Picky to an insane degree which makes me go ‘Why?! How could you not want to even TRY this?!?! It tastes so amazing!!’ She likes her foods without seasoning, maybe a little salt, but don’t you dare put pepper on it. Her pasta is adorned with butter and her Mac and Cheese is made with Velveeta, none of that out of the box stuff for her. But this is one place we can agree on going out to dinner. What?! I know, I thought the world was coming to an end too.

They do the basics well here. They do the not-so-basics pretty well here. They’ll ID you if you’re under 39 1/2 years old.

Yes, I can’t believe it, and I’m sure many of you will disagree, but Red Robin is the shizz for burgers. The burgers are huge! On my last visit I just opted for a cup of clam chowder and stole bites from Albany John’s huge hunk of meat.

The clam chowder ($2.99/cup) was really thick and had a skin on it. I was hungry, so I just mixed it around though. I wasn’t expecting much, but lord it was creamy. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were uncondensed. It came with 2 dinky pieces of flat bread, which were pretty stale by the 9pm when we went there. Albany John got the swiss cheese and mushroom burger (~$8.99) and my other Asian buddy got… sorry, I kind of forgot what you ordered… I suck. Almost everything except fajitas come with bottomless fries. There’s also an addictive salty seasoning at each table that tastes perfect on those bottomless fries.

The only semi-bummer is that you can only order your burger as ‘pink’ or ‘no pink’, not rare, med, etc. But that’s fine with me, since I know they say they’re gourmet burgers, but aren’t they just pre-made patties? But seriously, these burgers maintain a really nice juiciness and have a good burger to bun ratio. Burger : Bun = Tastiness. It’s true. Just don’t eat all of it or you’ll be waddling out of the place like I usually do. I’d recommend going with another person, ordering 1 burger and 1 appetizer to split for the meal. Seriously, it’s a lot of food. Or you could just bring home leftovers.

Also, they had a really tasty peach cocktail that came in a huge hurricane glass (~$4.99) that was a bit stronger than I thought it was, but not all that strong.

So now you all know my guilty secret. I hope you won’t think less of me. And if you do, it’s okay… More burger for me!

Saratoga Gaming & Raceway’s Pavillion

So I somehow got an invite to go out to Saratoga for a day at the races with someone’s company. How? Oh, last resort and all. And I make great company, especially if there’s food and drinks involved. Especially if there are drinks involved.

All kidding aside, we were seated in the Pavillion and got cool (and by cool, I mean not cool) wrist bands. The Pavillion is a patio/nice tent in the very front of Saratoga’s raceway. It also has an insanely expensive buffet available during normal food hours. How expensive? Oh, $35 on weekdays, and $37 on weekends. However, this included tax and tip.

What would you expect at a $35 buffet? Well, I was expecting something, not much, since this is expensive track Saratoga, but still, some substantial things. But dear god, I wouldn’t have paid more than $7 for this thing. It is SO not worth it! Let’s see, there’s some salad, some fruit salad, 2 types of dressing, a plate of tomatoes and cukes, some wierd looking salad/pate kind of thing, a pasta salad with tuna or chicken in it, sliced deli meats, buns, salmon, overcooked veggies, stuffed chicken, roast beef and assorted desserts. I am SO glad that some company paid for this and not me. Oh lord, what a HUGE waste of money.

The roast beef looked over cooked, bordering on a jerky-look (seriously, the meat was kind of fuzzy, that’s how dry it was). I got some of the salmon, and some pieces I was lucky to get weren’t over cooked, but most were tough and dry as hell. Everything was just on a steam tray… the coleslaw was pretty good though. As were the tomatoes. So I just ate a lot of coleslaw and tomatoes.

Also, flys all over the food is never appetizing. The servers were pretty slow with getting drinks (thanks for the free drinks, btw, company!) and it wasn’t that busy. However, I have no clue how many serves were there. It seemed just like three were left to run the entire place. Still, it’s probably never good to be the drunk guest at a company outing.