Happy Halloween And Diwali!

Happy Halloween!

Today I am following an Almost Foodies Indian Potluck with a Diwali potluck!

And better still – when I got some last minute groceries at the ‘ford last night, my total came to $6.66. I kid you not!

I’ve been so excited about my Indian/Diwali parties that I completely forgot tonight was Halloween! One of my favorite holidays!

So, let’s dish! What are you up to? What are you going to be?

I went to the DMV last night to change my name to Mrs. Doctor The Monarch. Oops, wait, I mean Mrs. Albany John.
I forgot they take your license with you! So right now I am probably not going to do terribly much since I bet most venues valuing their liquor licenses will not let someone in with a Xerox of their old ID and their new paper copy dressed up in a Barbarella costume.

Here’s a Halloween confession of years past:
I was Sacajawea (the Indian Princess) for about 3 or 4 years in Elementary School because my mother made my siblings and me costumes to be … The Three Little Indians. And since she put so much effort into the one costume, she made it big so that I could wear mine until I grew out of it. Three years in Elementary school is a long-ass time for a kid to wear the same costume.

Oh, okay. I’ll give you another one, but you’ve got to give me at least one cool story now:
Bobbing for apples is one of the quintessential Halloween activities, right? Well, Sacajawea also wasn’t allowed to do that because Poppa was all “Oh, girl, NO” about germ contamination. He was also strongly against those neon-colored ‘juices’ in the little plastic barrels with foil tops, and in the wax candies too. I’m not sure if you know this, but as a kid, neon anything is auto-crack.

Miss Albany Diner

Albany John and I were At The Warehouse one weekend, getting our fix for our Bees on Earth honey addiction, when we realized we were kind of hungry.

We drove right by Miss Albany Diner and figured we should check it out since we’d never been in.

Guess what? They have wifi!

We also had a big honkin’ steak at home waiting for us, so we ordered lightly. We also had about $14 on us, so we couldn’t order that much food either.

I got the one egg deal, which came with homefries and toast. I ordered mine poached. It was quite tasty, but the homefries were a little ‘meh’. They were soggy despite having some browning on some of the edges and bland. Not awful, but not something I’d order on its own either. But I’m a piggy, so some how they all got polished off. I think this cost $3.50.

Albany John got a coffee and crumpets. If the crumpets weren’t freshly made, then I want to know where they get them from. They were soft, squishy (much more so than the ones in the grocery store) and had a nice crunch on the top and bottom. And they were slathered in butter, which is really my favorite way to eat anything.

The total was around $7.25, and not bad for a morning snackie-breakfast.

Oh, and it’s street parking only. You could blink and miss Miss Albany Diner, but it’s worth a visit for the place itself. It’s an ooooold school diner (think bullet sized) with most of the original features still intact.

Polenta


After our honeymoon to Boston (more specifically after those amazing polenta sticks at The Savant project) I had polenta on the brain.

Albany John told me to look in The Microwave Gourmet, a book on cooking in the microwave, by Barbara Kafka.

Listen to Ms. Kafka. She really knows her shiz.

At first I was all “Ew, no. Microwaves kill just about anything.”

But Albany John had made some really good chicken paprikash, plus various other dishes from that book with a high success rate, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. If it sucked, well, it was just cornmeal, so what did I really have to lose?

Not a darned thing as it turned out!

I made the soft polenta recipe. It has the texture of porridge, or perhaps a bit thinner. Not only is this dish extremely frugal, but it is also insanely quick and easy to whip up as a side dish, main dish, or very filling snack.

What I love about the microwave is that there is no need to be perfectly exact with your ingredients or time. If you add a little too much water, just cook it a little longer in the microwave. If you cook it a little too long, it’s just a bit thicker.

I’ve also found that you really don’t need THAT much butter. I put in just enough to keep it all together. Something like half a teaspoon in the 1-2 person serving size. It is so creamy and unctuous; you will be in heaven.

Here’s the recipe for a gigantic amount:

4 C water
¾ C yellow or white cornmeal
2 t kosher salt
3 T butter
1/8 t pepper
¼ c softened cheese, or more butter

Combine water, cornmeal and salt in 2-quart dish. Cook uncovered at 100% for 6 minutes. Stir well, cover loosely with paper towel, and cook 6 minutes more. (if using a small oven cook 9 min for both)

Remove from oven. Stir in butter, pepper, cheese, let stand 3 minutes. Serve hot

For 1 or 2 (what I use):Quarter all ingredients (use 3 T cornmeal). Cook for 1 minute 30 seconds, cover and cook an additional 30 seconds.

Vanquished!

I have finally eaten all of the leftover chicken that I forgot to put out for my wedding earlier this month.

Phew. I am one full blogger.

The last bag of chicken skewers was eaten with kimchi.

I think I am officially a kimchi addict now. I went to Kim’s on Central Ave and bought their 2 lb container last week, and I’ve eaten all of it. In exactly one week. Oh baby, yeah. But it’s $4.99, and $11.99 for the big whole head of kimchi. I absolutely abhor the kimchi from the Asian Food Market on Colvin(pleh pleh), but this… oh baby, is pickled, spicy heaven.

Now for another question:

Who’s got a good kimchi recipe? I absolutely love the briney tingle of the anchovies and dried shrimp in Kim’s kimchi, but if you’ve got another good recipe, do let me know.

What’s that? You want another picture of the kimchi? Oh, I do indulge you, but ok, here:

EMPAC


All Over Albany posted some robotic goings on over at EMPAC over the weekend.
Albany John and I headed over since it seemed rather cool. It turned out it was also during Alumni weekend, so there was much hustling and bustling going on.
I’d been up at the wee hours of the morning, so by 1, I was in need of caffeination. I spotted someone behind a bar area with what looked like a coffee machine of some kind and headed over. Must. Caffeine. Drink. Soooooon.
Once there were only two people ahead, I figured I’d get my fix soon enough. The station I was at served only cappucinos, lattes and espressos, and it seemed like no one knew what any of them were, so they’d ask (no biggie, I’m all for asking), then they’d stand there and mull it over for what felt like an eternity. And then when their order was up (very quickly, yay barista!) they’d order another drink for a friend. >_<
Turns out it was all going on for free, which explained the semi-long line. My caffeine deprived brain slowly put that together as people were just walking off with their drinks, while thinking “Need in mouth now. Now!” I know, I am kind of a grumpykins when I’m running low on energy.

Albany John wandered off while I was waiting for my drink and saw a buffet set up. Kudos on the free snacks and beverages, RPI! Recession my big booty 😉


Tada:
Gamelan Galak Tika & Ensemble Robot

Very sweet show, I have to say. I absolutely loved their costumes.

The Epicurean

Long and probably boring story short: we’ve had restaurant.com gift certificates for years, and finally wound up checking out one of the restaurants.

Now, I am in love, and I want for no other restaurant.

One Friday night, Albany John and I went to dinner at The Epicurean. The Epicurean is located on the very outskirts of Troy, NY, way up north. But it is still Troy. It’s kind of like going to Grafton Park, but closer on Route 7.

Ok, so now that we’ve got geography out of the way – You’ll see a little strip mall on your left, and nestled inside is The Epicurean. It’s normally opened for breakfast/lunch items, and is only open for dinner by reservation on Friday and Saturday nights, from 5:30 pm, with the last seating at 9 pm.

I originally made our reservations for 7:30 pm the week of, and after a series of follies (to put it nicely) I had to push it later to 8 pm. The day of. 1.5 hours before we were scheduled to be there. But it was no problem, and we arrived just before 8 pm.When I first called for reservations, I asked if they were still participating in restaurant.com gift certificates, and was answered with a convivial “Why, yes, of course.” No huffiness (you know some places give you the stink eye if you use coupons). After looking at their menu online, I was going to reserve a spot anyway, but this was so nice to hear.

The Epicurean had three long wood tables that they were seating guests at. We were seated at a table with another group of 5 or so guests. We weren’t elbow to elbow – there was an empty seat next to both Albany John and me, giving us our own private little end of one table. It didn’t feel like we were a part of their group, nor were they a part of ours, but I enjoyed the coziness.
The entire feel of the place just oozed ‘bistro’. Low, warm lights, nice background music, rustic decor. It was also cool to be in some place that is normally a breakfast/lunch stop, with goods for sale on the walls. I imagined for a moment that I was in a food speakeasy.

The service was impeccable. A man and woman team who truly cared about hospitality served us.
When we were first seated, I didn’t have any silverware. I figured I would eventually get them when I ordered (no food in front of me at that point), and shortly after filling our water glasses, the man apologized profusely for forgetting to set my seat.

We perused the menus. We oohed and ahhed. The wine list was also great – small, with wine available by the bottle for what I thought were affordable prices. Were it not just the two of us, we would have gotten a bottle. I ended up ordering a Lindemann’s Framboise Lambic, which is one of my favorite drinks.

It cost $7.50 for a 12-ounce bottle, which I found to be incredibly fair.

We received a trio of amuse bouches – in the tall container, a fresh cream with chickpeas and pesto; a delicious tapenade, and a bit of bread with cucumber and onion. The tapenade was the best I’ve ever eaten – the olive oil light and floral, and the occasional punch of fresh garlic.

We also got bread with butter that was the “Chef’s Secret”. It was refilled when finished, too! Albany John is thinking anchovy paste is involved somewhere along the recipe.


Albany John ordered Frog Legs for his appetizer. He loved them. I have to say, they kind of squicked me out for a hot second, but they do taste quite nice. Albany John likened frog legs to having a cross between chicken and fish flavor.

I ordered the escargots with garlic butter. I’ve never had them before and was drawn into trying them. They were very nice, but not something I’m sure I would order again. The preparation was excellent; I think escargots may just not be my thing.


In addition to their wonderfully crafted menu, The Epicurean had two fish specials. Albany John ordered one of them – a salt encrusted whole trout with capers and lemon sauce. He heard ‘capers’ and he was sold. That man loves him some capers.
It was excellent – cooked to perfection, and loaded with capers. The roasted tomatoes melted in your mouth. I’ve never had any better.



I ordered the Veau Oscar, a veal dish with a creamy sauce and shredded crab with asparagus on the side. The veal was breaded in cutlet form, and melted in my mouth. The two cutlets of veal were seasoned perfectly. The two delicious cutlets were laid atop some wild rice. The crab was a perfect accompaniment to the dish – it was so perfectly moist and tasted of the sea.

I never reached for the salt or pepper. I’ve never had dishes so incredibly well prepared, needing no further seasoning. I cannot fully expound on the perfection of these plates.
I even finished all of my food. Normally I eat half of the food, and then bring the leftovers home. The veau oscar was so outstanding I could not stop myself from eating bite after bite until it was all gone.

The veal cost $24. We were expecting the trout special to be higher since it was a special, but it only cost $22! The escargots were $7, and the generous plate of frog legs was $8. Our final bill was $73, $48 after the restaurant.com $25 off coupon.

As far as I am concerned, The Epicurean is my new go-to restaurant. We were made to feel like welcomed guests. The meals were even delivered from one side and taken from another. The staff made us feel incredibly comfortable and timed everything perfectly. We were not the only ones receiving this impeccable service – everyone else in the restaurant was treated remarkably as well.
Their menu is also perfect – adventurous plates for those seeking new thrills, and other dishes for those seeking familiarity. I can see myself being able to bring any of my family members and friends to The Epicurean with no problem whatsoever.
I absolutely cannot wait until my next meal at The Epicurean. (Don’t worry; I’m already planning it!)

Bomber’s

We went over to Bomber’s for our friend’s birthday.

I saw “Pumpkin Pie Martini” on the new specials board. Oh, baby. It was good. It was $9, but it’s well worth it. Mmmm. Pumpkin Pie drink.

If you try to make these at home, trust me, don’t cheap out and get ‘Hot Damn’. Pleh.

I was fairly famished by the time we got there, so I ordered some tequila wings. The birthday girl got her margarita and some kind of vegetarian/vegan fries, too. The drink came out, we cheered happy birthday, and then our food came out shortly afterwards.

We waited a few minutes for our waitress since we didn’t have any silverware, napkins or anything. We saw her and tried flagging her down. After a few more minutes, we got her attention and said “canwepleasehavesomenapkins?” and she rushed off, saying something about being short a hostess. The rushing would have been nice, except the birthday girl also needed some silverware, and some other people needed drinks… we waited some more and figured napkins were on their way, and after five more minutes, our waitress dropped them off, and seemingly hightailed it away while we tried to ask for something else. Someone else at the table ended up getting a fork for the birthday gal from the bar.

I tucked into the wings a little after asking for the napkins. The first one ok, but not very hot. The rest were doused with hot sauce and cold with rubbery skin. Ew. Not at all as good (hell, I’d say magical) as the tequila wings normally are. We tried to return them, but could NOT get our waitress’ attention at all. Every time we’d try to flag her down we’d fail. She came over maybe 3-4 times in the half hour we were there, but never to check on us or how our food was. Once she did come over, she’d listen to one or two people and then rush off, ignoring the rest of the table. At $7.99 for a dozen wings, having them come out cold and being virtually unable to return them/reheat them was just bad. At least the waitress wasn’t rude, she seemed really flustered by being busy (the place wasn’t really packed either – there were a few empty tables), but it would have been better for our group if we’d just sat at a table and ordered everything from the bar. The bartenders were wonderful.

Albany John and I had to leave midway through the festivities. If you go and it seems super busy, opt for drinks at the bar and order food downstairs after a drink or two. The waitresses have at least lost the “Bomber’s attitude” that used to be so prevalent. Besides, they have pumpkin pie drinks.

Gohyang Korean Restaurant

Albany John stopped off in between our Albany –> Boston trips to see his parents in Western Mass. This is another pic for my San Antonio buddy, but I don’t think he reads this blog – any way, here’s some leaf peeping goodness up top.

Leaf peeping aside, there’s one place in Hadley, MA that has a restaurant that I love. Gohyang Korean Restaurant (111 Russell St, Hadley, MA 01035).

We came in later in the afternoon (and just missed their tempting lunch specials! Darn it!) with big appetites. I will starve myself to pig out at Gohyang.
We got the seafood pancake. Haemul Pajeon – I think this was around $8/9, but well worth it. This would have been much easier to split between four people than just Albany John and myself, but somehow we soldiered on and managed to eat it all.

They also brought out little bowl/plates to eat with. Mine had something… in it. It looked like just a spec of something, and the waitress/woman who is always there and may be an owner was so super cute and blew lightly in it. Normally I’d freak out and ask for another plate, but she was just so, so, so cute about it. That and I saw her washing her hands fanatically before, and oh, if you’re cute about something I just can’t freak out about anything.

The haemul pajeon reminded me of chinese scallion pancakes. It was basically the same dough, with scallions and seafood bits in it (very tiny and easy to eat!) cooked to a crisp in a pan. It was a little doughier/softer in the insides than chinese pancakes, but only marginally. Every piece had some seafood in it, and there was also a side of dipping sauce (soy, rice wine vinegar, pinch of sesame oil).

For my main course I ordered the nakiji bokkeum, a dish of stir-fried baby octopus and veggies. It came out sizzling furiously on this platter.

I had to wait a few minutes for my dish to stop sizzling, which was hard since my impulse control is very poor.

Albany John ordered a cauldron of firey pain. Hee hee, kidding – it’s actually kimchi jigae, which is a kimchi stew with porky bits and tofu in it as well. He actually at a majority of it. I tried a bit, and I thought the flavoring was wonderful – a spicy, porky broth, lots of kimchi, bite sized plops of soft tofu (they absorbed flavor wonderfully) and teensy crumbles of ground pork.


While my baby octopi sizzled, I ate some of the banchan spread that came along with the meal. The banchan is what partially dictates what I order (it looks like maybe only some of the meals come with it? But I’ve been before with people who didn’t order banchan, and they were fine with everyone gobbling them up). After it stopped sizzling, I thought it was OK, a bit too chewy and maybe a bit heavy on the fish sauce. I’d try something else next time, but I hardly ever get octopus, so it was a worthy choice. But heck, the banchan are so good, anything that comes with banchan is well worth ordering.

On the far left are shredded daikon and carrots, the dipping sauce for the pancake. On top on the right (l-r) are pickled soya beans, pickled daikon (maaaaybe. or just cabbage). The bottom right has lightly pickled cucumbers, potatoes in magical brown stuff, and kimchi.

Gohyang’s banchan always rocks me. The kimchi drove me to buy a large jar of the stuff at Kim’s in Albany, and I’ve gone through over a pound of it in under a week. Everything tastes just amazing and has such a good firey kick to it. We especially loved the potatoes, though. Does anyone know what they are called? We mentioned to one person refilling how everything was great, and we really loved the potatoes, and she brought out extra potatoes upon refilling the banchan. Yay! Potatoey happiness!

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a jar of kimchi still in my fridge that I need to scarf.