Salt Pollock & Bacchus in Troy

Ok, so let me get this out of the way. I went to Bacchus, the new wood-fired pizza place in Troy, under Daisy Bakers.

The shrimp, spinach and artichoke dip appetizer – it was delicious. About 4 whole pieces of shrimp were cooked beautifully. This is not the appetizer for the calorie conscious. The bread it’s served with is ok, but best for sopping. It was $7

I got a Clams Casino pizza (8 inches for $9.95). It looked okay, but after about a few minutes it became really soggy, except for the outer crust, which was essentially a cracker. And the cheese kept falling off. And was that liquid pooling on the top? I ate a slice, Albany John ate a slice. I didn’t really taste much clam either. To compare against the great looking pizza on Dish and Dirt – my cheese was all white, with char only on the crust. Imagine Celina Bean’s pizza crust, and all white in the center.

Albany John got the Shrimp Caprarius pasta ($12.95 for dinner). Eh. The sauce on it was so wet and plentiful – like soup. There was a lot of sweet-and-sour in it, and I was not a fan. The shrimp were (again) well cooked, though. The Times Union had it and loved it.

Overall – I’d go back for a drink and an appetizer. Service was efficient, but curt. I would much rather go to DeFazio’s for pizza. Pizza here was disappointing. Big plus for perfectly cooked shrimp. Prices are a little expensive overall.

However, something that was not at all disappointing was this recipe I came up with using salt Pollock (photo above). It is similar to salt cod in that it is a salted and preserved white fish. And delicious.

I soaked it for two days, changing the water a few times. Overall, not too shabby, but I ended up adding more salt (think I soaked it too often).

A lot of the recipes want you to fry the fish into balls, or mix it in with pureed mashed potatoes. These both sound healthy, but I wanted something borderline healthy and veggie-tastic.

Here is the recipe for an easy, healthy salt Pollock recipe:
½ lb salt Pollock, soaked
1 can of Great Northern beans (really, any beans you want)
3-4 cups of spinach
½ onion, sliced
½-3/4 cup of water

I cooked the onion in the pan, then added the beans and spinach until they warmed up a bit. Add the water and Pollock. Let cook about 10-15 minutes covered, until Pollock flakes.


Scallion Pancakes and Gyoza

The messiness present in the background of the pictures in the last post has motivated me to post what I had for dinner before. I mean, I could magically learn Photoshop too, but that’s just not happening. As it is, I can barely take one of those Myspace-style self-portraits without almost injuring myself.

I got into quite the cooking bout a few nights ago. Know why? I had scallion pancakes on my mind. And the pictures and recipe on Kitchen Unplugged were just the ticket to a successful pancake.

I first had scallion pancakes at some Chinese buffet in Southern Kentucky. Weird, I know. The staff brought them out as something I just “had” to try. And it was pretty good! But you hardly see them on menus anywhere. You can find them from street vendors if you’re in a Chinatown.

First off, scallion pancakes resemble pancakes in two ways: 1) they contain flour and 2) they are generally round. That’s about it. It’s similar more to fried nan in its texture and taste than an actual pancake.

Kitchen Unplugged’s recipe yielded a moist dough that was really fluffy when cooked and fried up nicely in a pan of peanut oil. It looks like an intimidating recipe, but it’s really not:
1) Prep
2) Roll out a piece of dough into a circle
3) Brush with oil, sprinkle salt and scallions
4) Roll up
5) Roll that roll onto itself like a cinnamon bun
6) Squish
7) Fry

Make sure your water is really, really hot. I put a mug of water in the microwave for 2-3 minutes and pour it in once it is steaming. The dough should be very hot to the touch and you’ll need to use a spoon to mix it until it cools down a bit.

I’d also recommend adding a ton more scallions that you originally though. Once your first flat piece of dough looks covered in scallion bits, add some more before rolling it up. The cooking makes them taste a bit subtler, and I ended up eating them with extra raw scallion on the side (which is also really good).

I fried mine in a skillet over high heat using peanut oil. They are also pretty foolproof. Once one side is brown and crusty, you can flip it. There’s no undercooking involved, which is what usually happens when I try to fry things. And no one ever goes for seconds when I fry my pork gyozas.

And hey, speaking of dumplings – I also made chicken, pork and chive dumplings!

I like the thicker dumpling skin, and I actually pan-fried these gyoza to get a crispy bottom. I need to work on that aspect, because I always add a bit too much water, and then the crispy bits are all soggy. And yes, my meal had about 700 grams of fat in it. Pan-fried was the theme of the night. Next time I will just boil/steam them as usual. Taste wise; I should have added a lot more chives. I couldn’t taste any chives in it. I also did about 1/3 ground pork meat to 2/3 ground chicken breast. The dumplings were okay, but a bit too much chicken. They needed more fat to have a moister texture.

Snapple Antioxidant Water

I received some free samples in the mail from Snapple. They didn’t pay me or anything, but I love trying new shizz and yapping to you all about it. Plus, dude, I used to ROCK Snapple’s Strawberry Kiwi back in the day.

I got a package of 4 Snapple Antioxidant Waters with Agave Melon, Strawberry Acai, Dragonfruit, and Raspberry Acerola. Bright coloring, lots of bubble wrap. I was going to try one, but… holy shit. I looked at the label and there were over 100 calories per bottle. And that would be interfering with the calories from my nightly margaritas.

I came home the next day, and Albany John goes “Hey, those waters weren’t bad,”. Christ. I have got to get a fridge with a padlock on it or something. That boy will drink any and every liquid that isn’t hidden from him or has a Mr. Yuck sticker slapped on it. I started to hide juice in the bathroom closet, but he found them.

Thankfully, he only snagged one, and it was the Agave Melon. There were a few sips left, even! It was ok, kind of cucumber-melony. Nothing really ‘big’ flavor-wise.

So during dinner, I grabbed the other ones. That’s why there’s 90million things going on in the background. You can see the Dragonfruit on top, and the Strawberry Acai on the bottom. I should really learn how to crop pictures or something.

So yea. We started out with the Strawberry Acai. Hmm. What came to mind? First off – almost no flavor. Ew. Gross. It tasted like the watered down version of the original, put in a soapy glass. For something over 100 calories per bottle, it better taste good.

Dragonfruit. Basically the same. Hmmm. At this point, I really wish Propel had sent me some flavored samples. Or Dasani. Their flavored waters are delicious and calorie free in comparison to these ‘waters’.

The last one we tried was the Raspberry Acerola. It also had a weak flavor, but there was more of a fruity flavor in it. The raspberry was more powerful, and there was a tangy, vitamin C-like flavor that shook things up a bit.

I love free samples, don’t get me wrong. Especially when there’s no contingent “Hey, give us a good review” or anything like that. Because I couldn’t have done it with these. There was no really ‘good’ flavor, the flavors present tasted watered down and artifical, and where were all those calories coming from?

Also, check out the bottom of this blogger’s thoughts on Snapple Antioxidant Waters.

Western Massachusetts!

Aright, ya’ll. So this weekend Albany John and I went for a day trip to Eastworks in Easthampton, MA. I heartily enjoy day trips. Eastworks has converted lofts/offices (some people live there, some just work) on the top floors and a marketplace on the first floor. It’s pretty sweet. Some of the shops are rather like boutiques, but other stores make this place seem like its own little village.

Like this grocery store. Blue Moon Grocery. It’s hippie dippie, it’s got health food, bulk bins, a deli – it’s pretty sweet. And they weren’t at Whole Foods prices either – really managable.

A friend and I did a wine tasting with some Chilean wines. The whites were Sauvignon Blanc and the red was a Merlot. The white on the left was younger, and the white in the center was more aged. I liked the younger one more. The merlot – jezus. I am not a red wine person, I think. This one tasted like a dirty old tire straight off the bat. Plew!

Oh, did I mention they also had a lot of wines to buy as well. My girlfriend was really excited and kept forgetting she was in Mass, where one can obtain wine in grocery stores.

See? Not all that tiny.

Afterwards we headed off to Northampton, MA for some eats. Sorry Easthampton, you ain’t got nothin’ on the eateries in Noho. We settled on Taipei and Tokyo (18 Main St, Northampton, MA 01060 413-582-1888) for Japanese and Chinese.

Albany John ordered some meal that had veggies, scallops, shrimp and other things I can’t remember. Our other friends ordered vegetarian chicken and an avocado roll.

Being the glutton that I am, I can’t resist ordering more than everyone else at the table. I had a Salmon and Avocado roll, a shiso and mint roll with pickled plum sauce, and a soft shell crab roll. Total for all 3 rolls of mine was $12 – what?! Talk about a steal. In Albany you know that soft shell crab roll would have been at least $8-9.

They were all really good. I was excited to try the shiso and mint roll (and at $3, like I was going to pass on it!) The pieces in the center, however, were really, um, pungent? There was a bit too much pickled plum sauce on it, and I really didn’t like the sweet and sour flavor in huge levels.

Trader Joe’s

A few weeks back we went to one of my favorite grocery stores – Trader Joe’s. The nearest one to Albany is in Hadley, MA (375 Russell St, Hadley, MA 01035). Whenever we’re in Hippy, wait, no, Happy Valley (I kept mishearing this from local residents and calling it Hippy Valley for years. Turns out it’s Happy Valley. But there are a lot of hippies, so it’s not that much of a stretch) we head over to Trader Joe’s.

One of my favorite foods is their Unburied Treasure, which you can just barely make out in the upper left corner. It’s the half eaten bag. It’s their knockoff brand of Pirate Booty, and so, so good. It’s also $1.84 for a gigantic bag.

I recently noticed they had some cool pasta shapes, so I picked up some orzo and another one (they look like little rings) for $0.89. Cheap! The last orzo I bought was half of that size for twice the price. I overheard someone on the phone saying “Dude, yea, so I… oh, wait, man. What? Dude, no, the prices for pasta have gone up. A lot.” Maybe it’s different markets, but $0.89 per pound of pasta is good to me! We got a lot more pasta than here. He he he.

I also wavered around the nuts section. I’m sure that’s somehow inappropriate. It was worth it, though – I got a pound of macadamia nuts for $6.29! They’re pretty good, especially when they’re closer to $13 a pound in the supermarkets in Albany, NY. Oh, Trader Joe’s it has been ages since I’ve snacked on macadamia nuts.

In the bottom right corner you’ll see a sauce jar with korma sauce in it. Yes, korma! I really like Trader Joe’s bottled Indian sauces. They taste very fresh, better than some of the box mixes. They’re also great for a simple meal – Albany John recently pureed some cooked spinach in korma sauce (I’m sure he doctored it up in other ways too) and we had a great puree to munch on.

Mozzarella balls! These were $5.60 (or close enough to it) for a big container of mozzarella balls in Italian seasoned olive oil. They taste so buttery and fresh. No rubbery bite to any of these. Sometimes we add the extra olive oil to our pasta. Or drink it. It’s also good for dipping bread.

Dolmas! $2.49 for a glass jar of dolmas! They have a nice lemon-tinged olive oil, plus a decorative lemon slice on the bottom. A little goes a long way. They’re heavy, to be sure, but incredibly addictive.

Vegetarian (and possibly vegan) riblets! Ahhh! They are so good. I love these riblets. Nice bbq flavor, a texture I love more than might be healthy. Oh, I love these suckers. The downside is that they’re quite expensive, even for Trader Joe’s. It’s $2.99 for 2 riblets. Break these out for company. Or don’t.

Frozen chicken boobs! These were $5.99 (I think) for 2.5 pounds of boneless, skinless, frozen chicken breasts with rib meat attached. I thought it was worthwhile. We’ve gotten them before, and they’re good in a pinch to thaw and have a quick dinner.

I completely forgot to picture my beloved brie, which I think was one of the big winners in the Trader Joe’s awesome prices war. They were selling Belletoile brie for $6.99 per pound. Everybody drool. Yes, per pound! It’s $12 per pound here, even at the Co-Op. It took me so much willpower not to buy a pound of it. And even more willpower not to eat the entire wedge in one sitting. I’m not sure if their Belletoile is fresher than any other place, as I really liked the rind on it. Normally I hate the rind, it’s too tangy and pungent. This had a bit of a kick and tang to it, but it went well with the cheese and bread and other pairings.

So that wraps up Trader Joe’s. I like to stock up on non-perishable items like pasta, or their canned/jarred goods when I’m in the area. The prices and quality are great! Also note, this one does not sell alcohol, so no two buck chuck.

They’ve also got a ton more stuff. You probably shouldn’t haul out there just for a visit to Trader Joe’s, but if you’re visiting some of the local colleges or something – don’t miss it. You’ll at least get some great snacks for the ride home. Yum.

Lark Street Restaurant Week

Don’t forget that this week is Lark Street Restaurant Week. The Lark Street Business Improvement District has the menus of participating restaurants on their website.

We tried to check them out the other night, but it was really late, so we just went to Little Anthony’s on Madison. One of their deals says “Any two Subs” for $10. Maybe the BID f’ed up the print or something, but we were going to order the two vegan cheese steaks. We were gruffly told that NO, the vegan ones aren’t on the 2 for $10 special. We split one, because I really wanted to try the vegan riblets in them (I love vegan/vegetarian riblets). They are good. The guy ended up being really sweet and nice at the end when we left – I’m guessing he didn’t own the place and has probably had to say “No, I don’t know, but we’re not doing it” about a million times. It’s just that the vegan subs only cost a little more than the regular subs (say, $0.50) so it’s kind of puzzling why there is no disclaimer on the Lark Street BID’s website/restaurant list. Still – try the vegan riblets. They are so good.

I really want to check out Elda’s – their $10 entrees sound like a steal! And that lobster crepe is also calling to me. Yum. And then there are the desserts with coffee and liqueur for $10.
It makes me want to order a lot of courses. Ok, it makes me want to order about 2-3 entrees, plus an appetizer, and even maybe try a dessert (I hear their desserts are goooood).
Who’s with me? Friday night? Elda’s?

BFS and Big Mamou

I’ve gotten food from BFS in the past. I’ve never been terribly impressed with the food. It tastes okay, but never anything amazing.

Upon navigating their website, I found a coupon for buy one, get one entrees for lunch or dinner – Max value of $6 at lunch and $10 at dinner. I wish they wouldn’t call them buy one get one coupons. It’s more; buy two get X dollars off, because dinner entrees are around $18 per plate. But hey, it’s something, so if you were planning on checking it out, why not print out a coupon?

Albany John and I were in the area at lunch earlier this week and he really wanted to try it out. Their website is right – when you walk in the two side dining areas are really gorgeous. There is a very homey, cozy air when you walk into BFS. Heck, it’s easy to miss from the road because it doesn’t look much different from the houses in the area.

We putzed around looking for menus. One was sticky and dirty, so I put it down and looked at the menu board (wow, I am very unobservant – I didn’t notice it at first). On first glance, I thought their prices were a little out of whack. Sandwiches are around $7, wraps $8.49. But then I thought of my beloved Via Fresca, and heck, their paninis can get near $9. Plus, it is 2008, not 1994.

Albany John asked what the BFS express sandwich was. They have a deal where you get a salad or soup and half sandwich for $8.50. The chef was not yet in, so the chef/cook/chick behind the counter didn’t know. She said she’d make whatever half sandwich he wanted from the menu board. Yay! He got the bluefish sandwich and salad.

I settled on a gyro wrap. I haven’t had a good gyro in so long. The sandwich/wrap said it came with a side salad of the chef’s choosing. I like A Taste Of Greece’s, but sometimes their gyros are a little skimpy on the fillings.

Ok. So. Yea. Gyros!

We waited for about 10-15 minutes, and I’m not sure I saw the chick behind the counter change her gloves. So I sat near the front cause you guys know I’m a germaphobe and I’m convinced everything will kill me. She seemed really stressed out and was kind of… huffy? I don’t know, but she was taking a lot of deep breaths.

So we notice our sandwiches are up and go over. My gyro looks gigantic and delicious. Albany John asked about his side salad. The chick behind the counter seemed a little overworked, but got the salad for him. I asked if the sandwich came with a side salad, mainly because the listing above the counter didn’t mention it, but it was in the menu, so… yea. Clarification was needed for my much confused head. She took a deep breath and then sighed while getting some macaroni shell salad out.

I have no clue what was going on in that restaurant, but it was a little freaky/funny. There were only 2 other people in the restaurant when we walked in. The chick behind the counter seemed really overwhelmed. They weren’t ‘Seriously, I hate you for asking me to make that’ sighs, but more ‘OMG. OVERLOAD’ sighs. At least that’s what I call them, since I can do them a lot myself. Everyone in general seemed really out of it and/or stressed. Maybe it’s because the chef wasn’t yet in?
Salad, salad, salad – so pretty!
So yea. We got our food and left. Since it’s been so nice out, we settled up on a park bench to enjoy the sunlight and walk around a bit.

Gyro – omg, great. It’s huge, the yogurt sauce is amazing. $8.50 is worth it. The meat is wonderfully seasoned. The entire thing is, really. There’s a lot of nutmeg and other warm spices that will happily dance all the way down your tongue to your belly.
The pasta salad – eh, tasted like plastic with mayo on it. I passed.

Evidently there was some kind of miscommunication, because although Albany John said BFS Express got a full sandwich, not half, in addition to his side salad.

Score, you’d think. Full sandwich. Normally, yea. But this was uncooked/cold in the center and it was supposed to be a hot sandwich. It seems like they cooked it part way ahead of time to re-heat/cook through when someone wants it. Great way to do food ahead of time – when it’s cooked all the way through. It looked really tasty, though.
Albany John went later to return the sandwich since he’d be out all day and didn’t want a half-cooked fish sandwich stinking up his car. He just split half of my giant gyro.
The chef/owner was there when he went and super nice: gave him a refund and gave him a new sandwich. He explained that sometimes it happens when the oven’s not hot enough… either way – I think it was very nice of him to take an extra step in apologizing and then offering a new sandwich. We need more customer service like that in the area.

I am so going to go back for another gyro in the area. First of all, the gyro was great. But what really motivates me is supporting someone who cares about their food and business.

Over the weekend Albany John and I visited his parents in Western Massachussets. His mom wanted to try out the Big Mamou‘s newest location in Williamsburg, MA. We had all been to the Springfield location before and loved it. Some great food, BOYB (bring your own beer/booze), and charmingly slow service that took his dad back to living in the Caribbean.

I was excited to go back – the food was SO good. This new location is a lot hipper and brighter than the Springfield, MA location. It looks like they’re going for a completely different, artsy, NoLa vibe here. It was ok, but I kind of wanted a barebones restaurant that I remembered.

Anywho, not all change is bad change. The service was excellent and quick! Albany John’s dad could not wrap his head around it and was complimenting our waitress left and right on her speed.
Dad: “Oh my god! Already? This is great!”
Later: “Holy cow, I was not expecting these out already – have you BEEN to the Springfield location?”
…Et cetera for the rest of dinner.

Albany John and his dad split an order of the Jerk Thunder Thighs. For about $7, I was expecting a pretty generous platter of thighs. This was a nice presentation, but for $7 and about 1 thigh of meat… I don’t know. The strips of thigh meat were tender and insanely pleasantly spiced. Albany John and his dad looked at me like I was crazy when I started gulping water. I can’t help it! Sadly, I am still a spice wuss.

For dinner, I got the Sausage-n-Chicken Ya Ya. Ya Ya! Say it with me – Ya Ya Ya Ya Ya Ya! It was so fun sounding, I had to get it. It’s an andouille sausage wrapped in a chicken breast.
I liked it, but I didn’t really taste the chicken – the sausage was over powering in comparison, but the sausage casing did have great snap. Albany John’s dad thought it tasted like a kielbasa.

Albany John ordered the chicken etoufee, which came with fried crawfish on top. It was okay, but they didn’t list on the menu that it also came with green bell peppers in it.

So Albany John’s dad swapped with him (because he is awesome), and Albany John got his dad’s meal, which was a red snapper fillet in béchamel/remoulade sauce (I can’t remember which one. It was probably the remoulade, though). Holy, holy, holy, cheese wiz. This was the best plate of seafood I have ever eaten anywhere, ever. No joke – the snapper was perfectly cooked and moist. The remoulade had a wonderful white wine bite to it. I normally don’t like wine in sauces/soups because they can add acidity I don’t like to stand out over everything else, but this went so well. There were also some crawfish in there. God, it was an orgy of seafood, cream and butter.

Albany John’s mom got the blackened catfish. Yum, yum, yum. Very peppery.
One thing we all really loved were those little squares of cornbread on our plates. They were soft and airy, almost crumbly like a cake. The cornbread was just sweet enough – it was perfect.

Oh yea, and then we went to Trader Joe’s in Hadley, MA. I love that store. They have so many great products. I will have to post on what I bought there.

Bomber’s Burrito Bar

I started my day off with a bagel. Sesame seeds, toasted, with butter. I went to Uncommon Grounds on Western Ave. It’s in the same plaza as Boston Chicken/Market. It was a cheap-o $1.45 + tax for this bagel. It was ok. I should have asked them to toast it twice.
Uncommon Grounds is pretty sweet, and I always forget it’s there. The bagels are quite nice too. Not too fluffy and hard to bite into, and soft with a good chew. This one was a bit too flat, though. The chick behind the counter had obviously pulled an all nighter and was yawning like crazy and squishing her hands on top of my bagel as she sliced it and then when she folded it. Imagine someone doing CPR on your bagel. But still, the insides weren’t completely smushed into an unrecognizable bunch – that’s how good the bagels are at Uncommon Grounds.

I got a little too excited over my bagel, though. I haven’t had one in over a month, mainly out of forgetfulness. In my euphoria, I dropped over half of my bagel. NOOOOOO!

Later on that night, I went out to Bomber’s Burrito Bar for karaoke. I am not a karaoke person, so I must have been posessed by some singing devils. Or maybe it was the siren song of margaritas, and the promise of spring in the air.

I went upstairs to the bar part of Bombers, because that’s where all the stuff is. The downstairs is just take out, or people eating basic tacos or burritos.

The margaritas are $5 per glass on Wednesday nights at Bomber’s. And they pour a pretty mean drink. I started out with a margarita on the rocks. They come in awesome Bell Jars – lots of margarita for me! If you order them regular/neat/no ice they come in the regular margarita glasses. I am too clumsy for those, so I opt for anything in the bell jar.

The purple drink is a prickly pear margarita, frozen too. It was a great suggestion by our server, Carly (at least that was the name on the receipt).

Now, I have to say… that was the best service I have ever had in Bombers. I know, I know. I was really surprised. I was ready for surly service with crazy amounts of attitude on the side, with a few snide and catty comments thrown in just for fun. But no, not this night. Carly was the best server I’ve ever seen or had at Bombers. Possibly in all of Albany, even. She was incredibly professional and has basically made me want to go back to Bombers again and again, and to get her again and again as well. She’d come up and let us know if something was slow/backed up in the kitchen, just great over all. Wednesday night’s experience made me think of Bomber’s as the fun, quirky place it used to be and seemingly has returned to.

Mini taco – $4.99 for about a dozen of them with salsa, sour cream and guacamole on the side. They were pretty tasty. I’d order them again.
Tequila overload! Since I couldn’t get enough of the stuff, I ordered tequila chicken wings! $7.99 for a dozen of them. They came with a bleu cheese dipping sauce that had some chipotle or something going on in it. Pretty good, but unnecessary because these wings were delicious! They were moist, a bit sticky, had garlic bits clinging on them, and best of all – they had a wonderful tequila flavor that went great with the wings. I highly recommend trying these.

Celina Bean’s Excellent Pesto Tasting

Celina Bean did a wonderful thing last week – she organized a pesto tasting at the Wine Bar on Lark! With a buncha the local food bloggers! I felt like Cinderella getting asked to the ball, but thankfully I kept my shoes on.
We sat upstairs next to the kitchen at the communal table. Pretty cozy, and there was great lighting when we first got there. Lighting for pictures, that is.

As you all can see, I plopped myself near the bread. Ciabatta bread. My first love.
It was really cool to see so many other people with cameras. Kevin Everleth, the owner and chef was also so sweet and charismatic! He really put off a friendly, caring vibe, like we were a bunch of people over at his house for dinner.

Celina bought pestos you could purchase at stores around here – no homemade pesto allowed!
You can read the official results on her blog – very awesome. Alex and Cati tallied the votes (you know, so now we can’t accuse Celina Bean of improper vote counting).

The winner was Buddhapesto, with Via Fresca’s pesto coming in second. I flipped their rankings, but they were both really good. I was surprised, mainly because I haven’t been a fan of Budapesto. I think it was the near-$8 price tag on it. Eeesh. Via Fresca’s was a steal at $4.50.
My thoughts, plus food spillage. Tilt head to the left.

The general consensus is that if you can make your own pesto – do it! I would probably buy these were I not with Albany John because he can grow basil like weeds. I have the Black Thumb of Death when it comes to gardening.

With a bunch of food minded individuals in the room, did you think we wouldn’t order food?

All Over Albany was awesome and bought wine for everyone. Go click on them!

Celina Bean got a goat cheese and yellow tomato salad. She was kind enough to share. I had one of the fried goat cheese rounds. So Good!

Yum, yum, yum. Fried rounds of goat cheese. This could be dangerous.

I saw seafood on the menu and ordered the clams ($12). They were spicy with a tomato broth and chorizo. They were cooked perfectly – not a rubbery one in the bowl. I used nearly a loaf of Ciabatta sopping up the scrumptious broth.

Afterwards everyone ordered dessert, except me. But Celina Bean gave me a taste of her crème brulee, which was really creamy. It was like an eggy whipped cream. I also got a bite of All Over Albany’s dark chocolate pie/tart. Woah, choco-city. If you’re into desserts, get these. I don’t know why, but I just don’t get dessert when I go out to eat. If you’re feeling a bit naughty I’d recommend going there after work (ahem, state employees!), unbuttoning that top button and relaxing out front when the weather is nice, and ordering this creme brulee.

Seriously, I had such a blast. I would love to do another blind taste testing on something, anything again.

MJ’s on the Avenue

Went to MJ’s on the Avenue a week or so ago. It’s a new-ish place our friends really recommended in Lansingburgh. It looked moderately fancy every time we’d drive by to see them, so I kind of figured it was out of my price range. Once you look on the website, you’ll see it’s really affordable. Some entrees, but for the most part, it’s basic food consisting of burgers, sandwiches, salads, appetizers… you get the idea.
The décor is gorgeous. And we were seated in the front left part of the upstairs. Their upstairs is sectioned off into a few private-ish areas with 4-5 tables in each area. We were next to a fireplace! With a real fire! With real wood! Not one of those fake gas-lit fires, or even worse – the fires with air blowing up fabric flames. I love fireplaces. We were the only ones in there the entire time we had dinner, too. It was really nice to have a small cozy area to ourselves – very nice touch, MJ’s!

Albany John ordered a dinner that came with bread and butter and soup or salad. The bread was ok. No rustic chewy bread, but it was ok. The oil was really buttery and liquid. I’m not sure if it was olive oil or something else, but I really liked it.

Albany John ordered the clam chowder as a soup. It wasn’t that great. It didn’t taste fresh – kind of like it was sitting in the soup tureen for a while, or from a can. Run of the mill, if you will. If it was from a home recipe… maybe they should change the recipe. Again, he/we still ate it, but it’s not something I’d order again. I’d go for a salad. Salads can also not be great, but at least you’re eating something kind of healthy.
Albany John ordered the prime rib. They have it on special Thursday-Sunday. It was $17.99 for 15 ounces, but just looking at it – come on, that baby looks at LEAST 20 ounces. He ordered his medium rare, and it actually came out medium rare throughout, not crispy and well on the outside with the inner 2 inches being medium rare. It was quite tender, but I thought it could have tasted beefier. But, note again – the brand! Awesome.He also got a stuffed/twice baked potato and really liked it. The green beans looked overcooked if they didn’t come out of a can.

I was oddly not ravenous, but I really wanted fries for some reason. So I opted for the cheeseburger with bleu cheese (get the real crumbles, not the dressing. Who gets dressing on a burger?). I also ordered it rare. It came out medium rare, which is how I usually want it cooked, and almost every place overcooks it when you order it rare. A lot of places cook it to medium even when I say rare. BEFF’s and O’Brien’s at the Garden Grill are the only two places in the area that actually cook it to order, as far as I can tell.
First thing – fries were perfect. Crunchy outside but mushy inside and some paprika-y seasoning, too. There was an assload of them, and I ate just about all of them.The burger was pretty good, but I was expecting a hand-made hamburger, not a pre-formed patty. Maybe they pre-formed it before, I am not sure. It was OK, but I think hand-formed burgers taste better. This one, eh, not an insanely meaty flavor, but it is passable. The pickle was really good, though. Eat the pickle. Or save it for me!
I’m sure you’ve also noticed the branding. That is an adorable thing! More places should do it, but then there would probably be more branding-related accidents (can you not see something like that happening downtown when someone gets drunk and fighty? BAM! I’mma brandchu! Ok, maybe not, but I can dream. DREAM!)
So MJ’s is not too shabby. I think some of the foods are bland and so-so (like the soup, green beans and bread) because of the area. It’s not they taste bad, they are just kind of mushy and there and easy to eat. There are a lot of retirees in Lansingburgh, so I think that is a market MJ’s is trying to get. Their prices are very affordable for people to go out to a few times a week.
Because it’s so hidden and the prices are fair, it is worth checking out. Serving sizes are quite large. Also, the environment is really nice and moderately upscale for pub and simple foods. If I were a retiree in Lansingburgh, NY I would go to MJ’s a lot. As I am not yet a retiree, I will suggest this place more often to my North Troy based amigos. There’s a really neat wine cellar sort of downstairs with a bar I want to check out next. Plus, branding! Haha!
Oh, and as an aside:

Hey, so guess who hasn’t been out of the house in, oh, a month?

Yea, it was me.

Troy Night Out was in Revolution Hall this month. I liked Daisy Baker’s better. The drink prices were outta sight! Then again, there’s really no motive to have drink specials on an event night with a lot of the crowd being under 21.

So Albany Jane got some tequila and pre-gamed it up with some awesome People from the CDFI and the Ironweed Collective. Not shots. Oh, gods no, are you crazy??

But, you see… when you decide Arbor Mist is a good mixer because you ran out of cranberry juice… let me tell you, you will be regretting it in the morning. That is, if you get up in the morning. Especially if you were very nicely invited by a certain very nice person to a certain Almost Foodies brunch that you really wanted to go to. And you actually HAD peach Andre (hey, cause I’m classy like that) to bring over there. Srsly. WAY to be social, Albany Jane.
I think it was because I was actually dancing at this party. The last one I just kind of bobbed my head and sat on a couch, but the beats couldn’t hold me back! You should check it out. Just don’t make promises for the next day like certain other irresponsible bloggers (coughmecough)