Lanie’s Cafe

Potato and Carrots

I went to Lanie’s Cafe recently with my Mother, sister, and Albany John on a Friday night. It was hoppin’ and poppin’!
Lanie’s is located on Albany Shaker Road, near the Times Union building-ish. It’s very popular with the older/boomers crowd in effluent Loudonville and the wait time certainly showed. We were quoted a 45 minute wait time… that turned into a 75 minute wait time. We sipped some cocktails while we waited, but boy, I wish they’d quote a little more accurately, as we were really hungry. We also had some trouble with the pagers – the pager says it should either ring, vibrate, or light up. It did all three of those things, but at different points. We’d go up to the hostess each time, and she’d annoyed-ly state that no, it wasn’t our turn. The third time she explained that the pager was supposed to do all three things. Once it did do all three things, she half-heartedly believed us, but finally sat us. Well, excuse me for your restaurant’s futzy system, okay?

I’d been here with my Mother on a few occasions. She really enjoys the Prime Rib ($20-$25) here and it’s basically the only thing she orders. I’ve had it myself, and I can’t say that I find it to be remotely remarkable. It’s meat alright, but that’s about all I can say. I wouldn’t say it’s outstanding prime rib. It comes with a choice of potatoes, rice, or veggies for sides.

Most of the meals also come with a salad bar. This is really what keeps me coming back to Lanie’s – the salad bar is well maintained by the staff and they have about 16 different items for you salad, and a bunch of dressings. The salad bar also has a bread and cheese section you get to carve for yourself. The bread is great – crusty, chewy and fresh. The cheese is a gigantic block of mild cheddar.

For dinner I opted for Chicken Picatta ($13). This was awful. It was more like a lemon sauce on boneless chicken breast. There was no breading at ALL on the chicken, and about 4 decorative capers that lent no flavor whatsoever to the dish. I really had to choke down part of the meal to make it look like I enjoyed it (you know how complicated it can get when family members take you out to a place they love).

Albany John decided to try the Veal Saltimboca ($16) which tasted like candied veal. Seriously. It tasted like they rolled it around in sugar, then poured a sauce of HFCS all over it. What gives?! Gross, gross, gross.

My sister chose Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo($14) – holy crap! She got more chicken than I did! This was a huge plate o’ food and she really enjoyed it, but had over half of it left over.

They had a bunch of seafood and seafood specials that looked better than the menu says when I saw the servers carrying them to other tables. The service was very friendly, but also forgetful and harried – We’d ask for re-fills and not get them, stuff like that, which is really important when you’re thirsty as all get-out in the middle of your meal. Lanie’s was packed to the gills and just slightly understaffed. I think they could have afforded to hire one more server for more efficient service.

I’m not really impressed with Lanie’s food (I’ll argue though, that I keep ordering the wrong stuff) lately, but it’s simple stuff that the boomers in the area seem to love. It’s a little Italian, a little American and they’ve got a busy decor that works for them to create a cozy and welcoming atmosphere – very familial. I’d go here again with other people and probably branch out to more of their seafood dishes.

Where do you get your sushi grade fish?

The link above goes to the blog of Steve Barnes, editor of the Times Union’s food section.
He recently wrote a piece about serving a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. One of the components of his meal involved salmon sashimi.

You KNOW I would kill for a good source in the area.

Steve gives a bunch of information about fish. He’s tried Cousins, Hannaford, and suggests a locale in Massachussets that I’m totally hitting up the next time I cross the border.

I’d steer clear of Cousins as they just haven’t been that great lately and they have a fishy smell when you walk in. (If you didn’t know, the fishy smell is not a good sign. Fish smells fishy when it gets old. Fresh fish does not smell fishy.)

I’ve tried the fish at Hannaford once for sushi and it just wasn’t up to snuff. It smelled fishy after a little while and just had an ‘off’ flavor. I suppose it’ll do if you’re making a mixed roll, but I wouldn’t suggest eating too much of it at any rate.

I’m kind of sad to learn there isn’t a secret place where I could just purchase a pound of salmon sashimi (then again it’s probably a good thing since that’s all I would spend my money on), but at least I know there really isn’t any place you can get sushi grade fish from.

Saso’s is your best bet as Sushi House has become very unreliable with the quality of their fish. Don’t even bother with Ichiban – I went there recently and their sashimi was cut in these wierd, thick parallelogram shapes and tasted worse than something you could pick up at the grocery store. Seriously, that stuff was rank.

See everyone – what’s the lesson of the day? Just stick with chef Saso and everything will be fine.

Vin Santo Tapas and Wine Bar

So last night Albany John and I went out to Vin Santo Tapas and Wine Bar to celebrate our 3 year anniversary. I didn’t think there would be much action at 7 pm on a Tuesday night, but there was a 30 minute wait! But that was fine. We sat in the front bar area and looked over the wine list. Actually, we had to snag a wine list from the hostess stand since we were a little clueless about everything else. They obviously have a huge amount of wine, but I was a little disappointed to see only a handful of whites and reds for selection among all of their bottles. It’s more than most by-the-glass places, but I was really expecting to be able to try just about any wine on their menu. Also, some of the wines by the glass aren’t offered by the bottle.
I opted for a Proscesso ($6), which is a sparkling white wine. It’s the only proscesso on the menu and is rather tart. Albany John went for a Riesling ($8), which was deliciously sweet. I was hoping for something a little sweeter, but nothing on the menu described how any of the wines tasted. Ordering the wine was actually a bit harder than you might think. We perused the menu, then walked up to the bar where the bartender said she’d be right around to take our drinks. It took a few minutes to come over, and a few more minutes to bring them over. I would have preferred to have ordered at the bar and just paid for our drinks, but then someone came over and showed us to our table.

Once we got to our table this mysterious guy pulled out my chair(!!!) and gave us opened menus! Very nice touches, Vin Santo! Our server was Leilani (and can I say how much I just love that name?) and she was a helpful as she was beautiful – that is to say, very.

Their bread, especially the focaccia is great. They have a red peppercorn dipping oil that was a nice change of pace from the usual unflavored or balsamic oil at every other place.

Here’s the rundown of what we ordered:
Well Fleet Oysters ($2.25 each) – Wow, these were pretty good, but still briny and… yea. If you like briny, these are good.
Gold Band Oysters ($1.50 each) – these were great. They’re very mild and not too briny. However, it did confirm that oysters just ain’t my thang.
Cod Fritters ($5) – There were 2 little fritters on a bed of greens. Albany John really enjoyed these. I thought it was okay, but very good seasonings. It’s a simple kind of dish.
Ahi Sashimi ($7) – Some slices of tuna with a spicy sauce on top. The menu says lemon, but I really didn’t taste any. All I could really taste was the chili oil in the sauce. However, whatever was in this sauce really brought out the great meaty flavors of tuna without showcasing it as another meaty fish.
Deviled Eggs ($4) – The menu says it’s stuffed with salmon tartare, but it was just 3 halfs of deviled eggs. I think these were a little lame, but after asking our Leilani, she asked the chef, who said they mixed in some gravlax/smoked salmon into the egg yolk mixture. Oh. Because I’m pretty sure gravlax isn’t tartare and ‘stuffed’ isn’t ‘incorporated into the yolk mixture’. Albany John said he couldn’t taste anything in it besides egg.
Ropa Vieja ($6) – They had THE most adorable plating for this dish. It was a huge sized plate and bowl, but the well in the bowl was only about a cup or two. This was their pulled pork dish. Very well seasoned, and it had to have been the moistest pulled meat I’ve ever tried.
Bacon Wrapped Scallops ($11) – This was the surprise dish of the night! This was actually from the ‘small plates section’ and not the tapas selections. There were two large diver scallops wrapped in crunchy bacon, with a sweet curry/cinnamon tomato sauce underneath. I think they must have cooked the bacon and scallops separately and put them together last minute for the amount of crunchiness in the bacon. Huge points (if I gave them) for this, though. The scallops were cooked to tender perfection and didn’t taste to high heaven of bacon (Don’t you hate it when they do that?). The sauce was sweet, but complimented the scallops well. There were also some golden raisins in there that did wonders. Order this if you aren’t sure about anything else.

I think Vin Santo is a nice addition to the capital region’s dining repertoire. At the moment it seems like there’s still a little re-vamping with the menu, which is fine by me. I also learned that I’m just not an oyster person. I’ve tried them at buffets before, and I thought they were just awful (well, duh). I tried great fresh oysters at Vin Santo, but I’m just not down with the oysters. If you do like oysters, I think Vin Santo’s pricing is very fair (and the Gold Band ones are a steal!).

We were kind of stuffed from all that food, and just got the bill.

Total for 2 drinks and food was $58.85 with tax. It would have been $40.50 with out drinks.

As we were leaving Vin Santo…

Albany John proposed!
I’m engaged y’all!

Cookies & Cocktails

Just a little FYI to everyone whose email I don’t have :

I’ll be hosting a cookie swap and cocktail party at mi casa on Sunday, December 10th at around 2 pm.
For everyone who’s never had a cookie swap, you just bake a ton of cookies and swap your cookie with the cookies brought by other people. So you have a VARIETY of cookies! (Can you see why I like cookie swaps?)
On my cookie menu are:
Reeses Pieces Cookies
Whipped Shortbread
Jam Thumbprints
Rolo Cookies

You only have to make one kind of cookie. I’m only making 5 kinds because I’m hosting it – See? It’s totally worth it to come to my cookie swap – you get FIVE TIMES the return on your cookie investment!

Also, you don’t have to bring cookies to be let in the door (it’ll help, but it’s not necessary). Just come with a friend or significant other and veg out before the holidays get too crazy.

There will also be punch, tea, beer and a some non-sugar dishes in case you find yourself being drawn into a sugar coma.

Please let me know if you will be attending via email (or leave an email in the comments section) and I will send you the address.

(Disclaimer – Albany Jane is not responsible for any cookie-related diabetic comas)