Bombay Grill

Albany John came home after I did and said “Damnit, I was hoping you’d still be wearing clothes!”

He wanted to try one of the newer Indian restaurants in the area, and I’d just hopped in the shower.

After I got out of the shower, he showed me a menu for Bombay Grill in Latham, NY – and woah, they have a lot of coupons on the back of their flyer. Like 10% off all take out orders. W00t.

We put our orders in: Chicken Korma ($10.95) for me (because I am a spice-wuss), plus cheese nan ($2.95). Albany John got the appetizer sampler ($5.95) and the chicken tandoori mix ($13.95). We also got a free biryani because we’d ordered over $25. And then we got 10% off. Suh-weet.

Bombay Grill is in Latham where that sushi place used to be. It’s directly across from Firestone and Bella Napoli. It’s also right next to the Smoker’s Paradise and Night Moves. Don’t tell me that’s not enough description!

Once we got home, we opened up the food and tore in.

My Chicken Korma was very well spiced and the gravy part was a lot thicker and less greasy than many of the other Indian restaurants around here. It also came with multi-colored rice, which was also really good. A few bites in… and a lot of spice kicked in. SPICY KORMA!! AHHHH!

Don’t bother ordering the cheese nan. It was hard and tough in the center, almost like stale pita bread, and very hard to bite off. The outside was a too doughy, tough, and chewy. It was very… difficult to eat the nan. There was also greenery involved, which initially made me think I’d gotten the wrong nan. The cheese was there; I just couldn’t really taste it. I think one reason is that they used some really crappy flour. One thing I could really taste was FLOUR. Ugh, not very pleasant at all – overly chewy, floury nan.

The appetizer sampler contained a potato patty (maybe like an Indian lakte?), a samosa, 4 pakoras, one tamarind sauce and one neon-green sauce.
The potato patty was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The samosa – very good, but I think it could have used more curry. The pakoras were spiced like crazy!

The tandoori chicken sampler/mix was really disappointing. The menu listed a half chicken as $7.95 and a whole chicken as $12.95, so we figured for $13.95 we’d probably get a half tandoori chicken, plus the extra stuff. We got one small tandoori chicken thigh, 2 kebabs, and 3 chicken breast strip-things that were shaped like letter Vs.
The chicken breast strip-things (very accurate, I know) were spicy like crazy! They were tasty, but, holy crap, spicy. The kebabs – were also really spiced and hot. I couldn’t really taste much beyond heat in those things. The tandoori thigh – all the spice from the breast things rubbed off on it, so it really killed the tandoori flavor, for me at least.
There was also a ‘salad’ included in the tandoori chicken mix. I don’t understand why restaurants tout ‘salad’ as a feature to your item if it’s just a few slivers of iceberg lettuce, an onion, and maybe a slice of red cabbage. It was included in the same package as the chicken, so it was mostly soggy when we got home (hey, perils of take-out, I know). But at the same time, it looked more decorative than like an actual salad. Restaurants – please stop including a ‘salad’ if it’s not much more than iceberg lettuce. It’s not an incentive to me to buy the meal, and it just looks like a garnish with a misnomer.

The biryani was good, though. And huuuge. Also, spicy. It came with a side of raita, which I didn’t try because Albany John is going to eat the rest of the biryani for lunch today.

Overall… I wasn’t pleased enough to return. I thought the tandoori mix was overpriced for what you got. I mean, would it have killed them to toss in a drumstick or an extra thigh? Everything was spicy. Like, crazy hot spicy for me. But Albany John just insists that this further proves my spice-wussyness. I did enjoy the first few bites, as the flavors are very well balanced. Until the heat comes, and I’m chugging down all the liquids around me. I was planning on everything being moderately spicy, but not my korma. I figured cream sauce != spicy. You will probably enjoy it, instead of wussing out like me.The nan also killed it. I need good nan.

Location: 571 Watervliet-Shaker Rd, Latham NY

Bountiful Bread

I was around Stuyvesant Plaza the other day and decided I wanted a sandwich.I was in uber-indecisive mode and putzed over a menu for a few minutes until I noticed the magic word: Brie. Creamy, buttery Brie.
So I ordered the Smoked Turkey sandwich ($6.45) and got it grilled (or pressed, or cooked, or panini-fied, whatever the kids are calling it these days).
The smoked turkey sandwich comes with smoked turkey, brie, apple slices and honey mustard. To go, thank you!

I like Bountiful Bread. They’ve got some tasty breads (like ciabatta!), passable pastries, and their lunch items aren’t that bad, but priced for Stuyvesant Plaza. They also call out your individual name when your order is ready, not the item itself.

Word of warning though, watch out for harried customers. I wasn’t pay attention when I heard a name called, so I went up after a minute or two to see if it was my sandwich sitting on the counter. There weren’t that many orders asked for to go, so I saw a to-go container and peeked at it, turned the corner on it a bit, and wasn’t sure it was mine, so I looked for the person who made it to ask what name they had just called. She was, of course, in the back for a second.

Then I heard:
“EXCUSE ME! Is YOUR name GRUMPINA*?!??!” said a woman running up
“Nooo… Oh, I’m sorry – ” I started explaining/apologizing
“Well OK THEN. Then that is not YOUR sandwich, now is IT?” she said as she stomped off
*fake name, duh.

Sometimes I really don’t like going to Stuyvesant Plaza and this is why.

What I don’t get is if Grumpina was in such a rush for her sandwich, why she let the darned thing sit there for a good minute or two before clamoring to its rescue. Or, you know, why you need to yell. In public. It’s not like ran up, ripped open the container and started pawing through the sandwich with garbage fingers. (Besides which, Bountiful Bread peeps are so nice, they’d make you a new one.)

The sandwich was ok. It was toasted, but I don’t think they put any oil on the bread, which made it light. I liked that. All the other grilled sandwiches around Albany tend to go heavy on the oil. The downside, though, was that it was really dry, and kind of hard to eat.
I didn’t notice any honey mustard, but the green apple slices were very tart. I picked a couple off, but overall, the whole combination worked very well. And I normally don’t like fruit + meat. It was easy to eat the entire sandwich, too. If you’re extra hungry, I recommend something else to supplement it.On the whole, I think a lot of the eateries in Stuyvesant Plaza are priced a dollar or two too high for what you get. Bountiful Bread is a sandwich shop on par with Panera. I feel like my sandwich was ok for the price, but many of their sandwiches (and especially salads) are not worth the price they are asking. However, you can offset this a bit by showing your AAA card. I always forget to, but it gets you 10% off your purchase.

Pig Pit BBQ

The Pig Pit is a barbeque and tex-mex joint on Ontario St in Cohoes. (the website goes to their catering page, not the pig pit, but it’s close. Ish…) If you’re visiting friends in Lansingburgh, its pink sign is certain to tempt you to come in. But you’ll tell yourself that you’ve got to meet your friends, so maybe you’ll try it on your way back. Or make better plans for next time to come earlier and eat there. And then you’ll put it off for months and months, passing it every poorly planned time you visit your friends until you can take it no longer, because you really needs you some ‘que.

Once you order, you’ll wait around some cute stools and hanging lights until it’s ready. The Pig Pit isn’t really a sit down type restaurant. It seems more like the place some local kids can hang out and grab a bite to eat, but it does mainly take out. That said, you could eat there, you’d just all be on stools.

I ordered the brisket platter ($12.95) and Albany John ordered the pulled pork sandwich ($5.95).

The brisket came with two sides, so I ordered corn fritters and sweet potato fries. The corn fritters were amazing – crunchy and crisp on the outside without being greasy, and moist on the inside. The sweet potato fries were also grease-less, but were very bland. They also came with a side of Mrs. Butterworth’s, which I couldn’t quite wrap my head around.
When I first looked at the brisket I didn’t see any pink. None. I was skeptical and kind of disappointed because it looked like it was overcooked. I took a bite, and… woah, this was not the usual brisket I had in San Antonio, nor quite like anything else I’d ever eaten. The meat was in slivers and really resembled beefy bacon. The taste initially reminded me of beef jerky, only good (I can’t stomach beef jerky). It was smoky, peppery, and smoky. The smoke really came through. It was a bit drier than I am used to, which I think is due to the thin slices. It was enjoyable though, maybe I’ll see if they can leave the meat in hunks next time.

Albany John’s pulled pork sandwich was in a sub bun and was… gigantic. Now, my food looked to be darn-near a pound, but his… omg, his looked like it was two pounds of pulled pork. The sandwiches at the Pig Pit can also be prepared a few ways for FREE. One of them was with coleslaw, but they forgot to put it on Albany John’s Sandwich. This pork, though… it was so tender, but not the least bit mushy nor dry. The sauce wasn’t drippy and clung to the meat. The sauce and meat had a moist three-way with my taste buds.
The only complaint I had with this is that you will need a larger man to initially break into the sandwich. Logistically, I looked at it and couldn’t figure out how I would avoid slathering my hands, arms, and clothing with pork. My fingers, while not that tiny, would have had a hard time wrapping themselves around this massive sandwich. Really, this is the only thing I can think to nit-pick about. The sandwich is awesome.

Albany John and I have decided that the next time we go to the Pig Pit (because now we must) we will have to split a sandwich and maybe get a side of corn fritters, because those will be more than enough for two people, possibly three if you add a salad or something to your meals.

Biscuits – the fluffy and delicious kind, plus dinner

For a baking enthusiast, I have had a pretty bad track record with biscuits. They seem simple enough, and lord knows I love a fatty carbohydrate.

Biscuits usually don’t like me. Sometimes they’d turn out ok, but a little flat. Other times, they were closer to hardtack. Pleh, pleh, not good at all.

Albany John’s dad makes some killer biscuits. There was also a kid I dated in high school – his dad also made amazing biscuits. I have never been able to get near these biscuits, and I have to admit – my biscuits usually came out of a can, popped, and then put in the oven. Even then, the bottoms always burned and sent an acrid smell through the house.

So you’d think I’d have given up by now.

Nope, biscuits are still attempted. Albany John prompted the most recent attempt, with a simple ‘Hey, I’d like some biscuits when I get back,’ as he walked out the door.

It was a simple enough request, and he’d said it so casually. I had to give it another shot, so I googled around and found a blog: Small Time Cooks with awesome pictures.

I stuck some butter in the freezer and read over the recipe.

Wait, hold up. Butter? In the freezer?
Yep, butter in the freezer. Cooks Illustrated gave it as a tip a while back for making fluffy biscuits. It’s easy to shred in your grater. Ok, that sounds weird too, but trust me. The shredding thing keeps your butter colder, and keeps them tiny – so you don’t have to work the dough as much and don’t release as much gluten. I used to have to mix the crap out of my dough, but this really works well and helps with the flaky layers.

I halved the recipe, put the barely assembled mix on the counter and folded it a few times until it all stuck together. Then I took my Slyboro Farms (empty) wine bottle and rolled out the dough to get it thin. I’ve been meaning to buy a new rolling pin, but in a pinch, there’s usually something cylindrical in the kitchen. This also probably tells you I haven’t been baking bread all that often either!

I crossed my fingers and stuck the biscuits in the oven. In my excitement (and poor reading comp skeelz) I didn’t melt butter to put on top of them. But I don’t think it matters – they came out $13 minutes later perfectly browned and puffed up.

LAYERS!!! Layers of flaky biscuits and I made them! Hahahahahah!

Albany John had just walked in the door when I popped a piece in his mouth. OMG, yes, he loved it.

But it didn’t end there. Oh, no, that’s where normal people would stop.

We cooked up some trout in a pan. I really like my fish prepared minimally, which often annoys Albany John. He keeps trying to convince me lemon pepper would be good on fish. We just stuck a pan on high heat, added a touch of olive oil and put the fillet in skin side down until the sides on the thicker part started to become more solid and less opaque. Once the fish sides turn opaque, flip it and it is almost done.

Albany John made an awesome spinach salad. I think he used fresh spinach, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, raw turnip and mustard with some kind of olive oil-vinegar dressing.

And then…

I put goat cheese and honey on the biscuits. I’m pretty sure I had about 6 of them they were so good.

Parties, tonsa food and Ali Baba

I know I eat a lot, but this weekend was filled to the gills with food. And people!

Friday night was an anti-valentines day party, devoted to finishing off leftover Smirnoff variety packs and eating red velvet cake. Fun, fun, fun! I also met someone who reads this blog! Yaaaayy! That really made my night.

Saturday Albany John threw a party to break in the arcade he Frankenstein-ed / rehabbed. We were truly surprised with the amount of people that came over – it was so nice and we really appreciated it! Normally I have awful luck and no one comes over if I try to have any sort of gathering.
White russians and margaritas were had by all. Plus tater tots. I was trying to think of something ‘good’ to serve, when Albany John goes “Tater tots. No one says no to tater tots”. Genius idea, because those hot tots were grabbed moments as they came out of the oven. We also had some chips and salsa, but for the most part, we were really low key.

Time was spent trekking to At The Warehouse, which I think is trying to be similar to the Troy Farmers Market, only in Albany. It was really nice – I had a delightful cup of tea, and Albany John shook my purse down for honey money for Center Square honey. The honey was amazing. At The Warehouse reminds me of a Middle Ages village, with many small artisians in one area.

I picked up my sister and we shopped at the Co-Op, then headed over to Ali Baba in Troy, NY and picked up some doners/wraps.
I got a beef wrap and she got a veggie wrap. We’ve heard mix reviews, but I was really jonesing for some Mediterranean grub. We’d stopped off at Sabah market in Albany, but the owners were gone and only one friend was running the grocery section of the store.

Ali Baba is on 15th street in Troy, just a few blocks from RPI.

The wraps were $6.45, and the guy who charged me just said $21 (I also got an extra for Albany John), which is about 20 or so cents rounded up, including tax. Ok, then. This was probably because I was in Super Space Cadet mode. When he first said the price for all three, I thought he said $12, so I asked him again. Then he said another thing I couldn’t hear, and by the time I asked him a 3rd time it was $20somthing, so I handed him a $20 and he looked at me funny until I gave him more money.

Ali Baba looks pretty cozy inside, and the oven seems to draw your eyes to it. It’s not overly fanciful, but has a few decorative tiles surrounding it. The oven is open, and we got to watch fresh lavash being put in the oven and puffing up into basketball-sized puffs before they were pulled out.

The beef was shaved off of a spit, and soon we had our wraps. The wraps had black and white sesame seeds on the outside, and the toasty flavors of the little seeds were a nice little addition to my beef wrap.

The beef wrap was full of beef, onion and yogurt sauce with a few sprinkles of greenery. I’m not quite sure what greenery, but I think it may have been parsley. I really enjoyed the chewy texture, which reminded me of Hawaa’s wrapper, only a bit thinner and much fresher tasting. The beef flavor was nice, and the onions were wonderfully plentiful. If you are not a fan of raw onions, I might hesitate ordering this dish, because there were a LOT of raw onion slivers in it.

I had some bites of my sister’s veggie wrap, too, because I am a glutton. I could taste mushroom, red pepper, tomato and… I’m not sure what else. It was much more colorful than my wrap though, and a lot wetter/juicier. There was a bright orange-red sauce, I’m guessing from the tomatoes, in addition to the yogurt sauce. Really enjoyable, but I wasn’t a fan of the red pepper. I’d probably see if they could make this without red pepper.

Their website is also really hard to find. I have awful seach engine skeelz, which don’t make finding it any easier.
I might try them again. Another wrap will be awesome. But prices for some of their other dishes… I don’t know. The pricing seems a bit off the walls, and some of the dishes seem pretty pricey. An eggplant kebab dinner is $15, while a lamb chop dinner is also $15. The pizzas are also $18. I can’t image them selling that many to RPI-ers, as there are so many (or used to be) cheap-o (and pretty good) pizza places in the immediate area.
Has anyone else tried Ali Baba?

Another thing to add – my sister and I were going to go to the Vegan Cafe on Madison as a last resort. She was a touch worried that Ali Baba would be one of those places that cooks the veggies on the same pan/area as the meat, and she didn’t want any cross-contamination. The veggies seemed very not-meaty or greasy.

Miso Soup

Don’t let me in a kitchen when I’m trying out a recipe and my head is in the clouds. Just don’t. I usually forget an ingredient entirely, or don’t put enough of something in.

I was watching some of Ming Tsai’s episodes on TV a while back and we got inspired to make miso soup. Then again, Ming Tsai is quickly replacing the ardent love I have for Alton Brown. Everything the man makes looks absolutely delicious, and he’s just a wee bit hokey on his show, which I think comes off very well from a TV perspective.

So, right. Miso soup. Miso has always seemed so odd to me, mainly because it seems way too easy to screw up and use the wrong amount of it. But after making miso glazed eggplant for Chinese New Year off the top of my head (don’t ask me how that one didn’t get screwed up), I figured it was worth a try.

I used the recipe from Ming Tsai, which is basic and after looking at it, miso soup looks really easy and frugal to make. All you really need is ginger, bonito flakes, kombu (dried seaweed), miso, tofu and water. And maybe some scallions of you like them.

I bought kombu at the Asian Food Market. It’s right next to the sushi nori, but there are only 2 packages. Neither said ‘kombu’ in English, but the textures looked right to me. They were, and they were pretty dirty. I rinsed a sheet under water, because wiping was not getting all of the dirt off.

The kombu and ginger were placed in water, and I was happily pleased with step 1: The dashi broth.

On Ming’s TV show, he suggested using a small strainer or sifter to put your miso in, and then put that in the water. It takes out all the impurities in the miso, like any chunky bits. It really worked!

And the tofu was really easy – simply cube and toss in, no need to drain. I prefer silken, and used the soft kind. I think that was too soft, though as it started to break up a little. I’ll try firm silken next, and drain it a little, as I thought the tofu tasted just a wee bit chalky.

I gave Albany John a bowl of soup, and he liked it. We both agreed, though, that it was just lacking an umami flavor. Something was missing. I put in a drop of soy sauce, and that helped a lot. I backtracked in my mind and realized…

Holy crap, I forgot the bonito flakes.

I stocked up on miso and I’ll be trying it out more often now. Hopefully with the bonito flakes. Maybe I’ll make another batch this week and post a picture.

I S2 Yew!

I like the love aspect of Valentines Day. I’m fairly sure I handed out those boxed Valentines Day cards from the grocery store for well over a decade. I am still tempted to do so now, only I don’t really interact with enough people to go through half a box on Valentines Day. I feel giving someone a belated Valentines card if I see them a week or two later might make me look just a touch… not all there.
But, I enjoy the idea of spreading love and acceptance to your peeps on Valentines Day, if not year round.

That said, I’m not really into Valentines Day as a holiday.

I’m not bitter after years of receiving nothing and resigning myself to become shrewish about Valentines Day. I just don’t get the amount of pressure put on people. It’s like shouting, “HAVE FUN! ARE YOU HAVING FUN???? HAVE FUN!!! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO ENJOY THIS!” You know? Just a bit too much emphasis on one day to be all lovey-dovey for me, thank you. Then again, I’ve always been one to buckle under pressure, so if you’re an adrenaline addict, this might be one of your moments. This was evidenced when I was in 4th grade and put a small thing of chocolates on the desk of the boy I was crushing on. When everyone else in class asked my why I did it, I sweated profusely out of every pore and managed to squeak out “Because… I just thought that he would like them.” Shakespeare, I am not.

Also, I don’t really like chocolate. With nearly all present-gifts at Valentines Day being a box of cocoa-funfections, I usually am not eager to get anything on Valentines Day.

When I was in high school I got a box of frou-frou chocolates for Valentines Day. I wasn’t that into them and tried to pawn them off on a chocoholic girlfriend who was drooling just looking at the box. She denied them after a brief internal struggle, looking at me like I was offering a baby snatcher my first-born. I’m fairly certain I ate them a few months later, mainly because if I am hungry and it’s there, I will probably eat it.

One of my favorite memories is when Albany John and I first met and we felt like we needed to do ‘something’ on Valentines Day. We sat around playing chess and drinking Brotherhood May wine and declared it to be Valentine-y enough. I also thought I bought him an insanely glitter-coated card.

Are there any Valentine traditions you do, or know of someone who does?

This year Albany John has suggested getting a lobster. I think we all know what I’m going to choose.

I think I love Big Y

Big Y is a supermarket chain in Massachusetts. I’ve always thought they had some decently fresh foods, and non-crappy breads.

Albany John dragged me out to Mass MoCA‘s free admission day on Saturday. Mass MoCA is a museum in North Adams, Mass.
I thought they had some okay exhibits, but on the whole, it was not my cup of tea. Except for the free ice cream samples, though. I can always get down with that. And the Indian dancers. They were also cool.

We stopped off at Big Y before we went home because I am a supermarket whore. Wild Oats is also nice, but rather pricey.
We meandered around their cheese section for a bit, and then walked past a few aisles near the seafood section.

O.M.G! Lobster roll for $2.99!!!!

It was on a crappy potato hot dog bun, but there was minimal mayo and the lobster tasted fresh and sweet. There were plenty of meaty chunks, too.

My sister – the hilarity

Looks like I am ringing in Chinese New Year with my sister this year. I got a hilarious voice mail from her (because I seem to be incapable of answering my phone before it goes to voice mail lately). It might not seem that funny, but read it with dripping sarcasm and it might be funnier:

Heeey, it’s me. By now you should know who me is, so I shouldn’t have to
tell you.So yes, it’s me. Me calling you… I thought maaaybe if you weren’t
doing anything, we should get together for Chinese New Year, cause, you know… we’re Asian and all. And I figure I should spend it with another Asian. And
you’re the closest I’ve got… so yea…

Family. You gotta love them, right? It’s all good, cause I do the same thing to her.

New Year’s Eve!

My family life is a bit topsy-turvy. When we were little, we’d go down to New York City to celebrate with the rest of our Chinese relatives. When my parents divorced, Chinese New Year wasn’t as big of a holiday and sometimes we didn’t really do anything except say ‘Gung Hay Fat Choy’ to each other. Now that we’re/I’m back in contact with our father (you know how divorces can be – kids sometimes stupidly think they have to side with one parent or another, myself included), I’ve tried to make an effort to celebrate Chinese New Year. It really helps me feel all family-centric after many years of distance.
Ok, so now you know a bit of my family history. Now, my family doesn’t really have any special food traditions. The one traditional thing is lucky money. All the younger unmarried people and kids get red envelopes with lucky money in them. Everyone does it. It’s like exchanging presents at Christmas, only you can’t make your own (not legally, at least). I’m pretty sure you could get shot for giving someone’s kid monopoly money. So this year I am going to attempt making some traditional food items, like longevity noodles.

It’s Chinese New Year’s Eve, and tonight I will be a busy little beaver.
I’ve scrounged up some groceries already from the Hong Kong Supermarket on Central Ave (waaaay up there on Central Ave past Colonie Center).
Their vegetables looked much fresher than the other Asian markets around here, so I picked up Japanese eggplant, many leafy greens, bean sprouts, wonton skins, eel, and fresh noodles. The noodles were so cheap – 89 cents!
I didn’t find everything I wanted, so I am going to stop off at the Asian Food Market later today or tomorrow. Today was a bit busy, but I’m expecting tomorrow to be near insane with people trying to get the freshest ingredients possible. I also consider the Asian Food Market to be the most reliable Asian food source around here.

I’ve already done a bit of celebrating with family when Albany John and I went to NYC to visit Wifey. It didn’t feel like enough family time, though. I really wish I’d been able to spend more than the span of a dinner with them, as I hadn’t seen them in about half a year. I was planning on doing something simple here at home, like steaming a whole fish and making some dim sum-style dumplings.
I found out from my father that my sister wants to do something for the lunar new year. He, of course, can’t come up any time soon because he lives and works several hours away. Ah, logistics. Anyway, he asked if I’d do something with her – which I’ll jump at the chance for. I lurve my sister. Hopefully I will hear from her and we can set something up. I think it would be a ton of fun if we could do some cooking together.

My sister’s also recently become vegetarian. This means no more oyster sauce, so we will have to be a bit creative in our seasonings. Albany John and I eat foods that would qualify as vegetarian pretty often, but in some of my favorite Chinese dishes, it’s a bit hard to cut out meats. No oyster sauce, and certainly no pork tossed in here and there. Chinese dishes that seem vegetarian can often have bits of ground pork in them, or use a meat-based broth in them. Ma Po Dofu is an example.
I think we will have vegetable steamed dumplings, lots of blanched/steamed/wilted greens, longevity noodles, and maybe a chicken if it turns out my sister is off the vegetarian wagon.