Wolff’s Biergarten

I went to Wolff’s Biergarten this weekend to celebrate my birthday. What a great time I had! There’s a nice and diverse crowd and so many of my friends came out to spend time with me!

For your birthday, you give the nice bartenders your ID and a credit card to cover the boot in case your clumsy ass breaks it ($40). You can check this post out on owner Matt Baumgartner’s TU blog about the boots and such. (PS – it’s a cool blog so read it if you haven’t) Thankfully mine did not! And I even managed to drink all of the bier. The beer/bier served is the house (haus?) bier. It was a little lemony/hoppy for me, but it was light tasting which I enjoyed. Albany John had a half liter of Octoberfest, which was surprisingly light even though it was darker colored.

Albany John scootched his man-hand in this picture for size reference.

Here is when I went from “Pshhh, this is going to be so easy,” to “Woah, I am starting to feel kind of full…” Thankfully I had lots of friends there to chat and hang with while I took my sweet time drinking it. In no particular order: Life of My Mouth and her boy, Joe & Norah, CelinaBean(!!), Ellsbells & my sister, bro & sis-in-law & roomie (dude, I have got to come up with a name), artsy-designer pal, and of course Albany John. I can’t express how happy I was to be surrounded with so many wonderful people! Thank you so much for coming out! You guys made me feel like I was sitting at the popular kids’ table at lunch!

My sister and ellsbells showed up together bearing a… GIGANTIC OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE!!! And it was still warm. Who needs cake when you’ve got a big honkin warm cookie?! Needless to say, with so many food fans at the table, this cookie was munched quite quickly!

Ah, what a beerific birthday! Prost!

P.S. – don’t get super excited and forget to eat all day, and then forget to order dinner as well! Not that I did or anything… just so that you don’t … but if you do… uh, WOAH!!

Lindt Pistachio

Today is the day of candy bars! I started off with a ProMax Nutty Butter Crisp bar for breakfast (officially they’re an energy bar, but puh-leaze. Peanut butter goodness!)

I stopped by the Lindt store on this most glorious of glorious day and decided to treat myself to a second bar of candy for lunch. I am not really a fan of real chocolate, but I will flip out over just about anything Lindt. Their white chocolate stuff? Don’t even get me started. But today I was drawn to the pistachio filled milk chocolate bars. There was even a picture of a pistachio in the drawing. How decadently tempting! Let’s open this baby up!

There were 12 pieces of pistachio filled milk chocolate segments in this bar. Yummy. It looked like there would be a good ratio of filling : chocolate (ie, lots of filling). I like the Lindt milk chocolate best out of all chocolates – very creamy, smooth, and an overall great flavor to a non-chocolate fan like myself. Chocoholics: is Lindt passable for you?

I bit into one, and there was a nice taste of pistachio paste. Kind of reminded me of marzipan, but fluffy. (Oh, duh, I just read the label. It says ‘with marzipan filling’. Wow am I observant today!) Sadly, there were no pistachios in what I ate, which is really annoying since it is in the picture (darn you, misleading ads!). Annoying, but not soul crushing or anything. It’s still a damn good candy bar. They are $4.50 at the Lindt in Crossgates Mall, or $2.25 at the Lindt that is closing in Stuyvesant Plaza (everything is 50% off, and pretty picked through!).

Well, this day has started off quite nicely. I am anticipating a weekend of merriment spent with awesome friends (and a smidge of family ;]). I hope your weekend goes smashingly!

Snow Man Ice Cream

Count out your quarters and head on over to Snow Man in Troy, NY for some delicious ice cream! One of the most glorious day ever known is soon here, and this is a nice pre-celebration treat.

For $2.00 even you can get a small serving of ice cream – hard, fro-yo, soft serve. $2.35 for a medium. I forget how much the large is. I usually opt for the small, since Snow Man’s portions are quite generous.

Snow Man is very easy to spot. The sign is stuck to the roof and all vintage looking and cute. However, the lines are what you’ll definitely see first. “Woah, what are all these people doing outside in a crowd in Troy?! OHHHH! ICE CREAM!! YES!” But then again, that’s just how my brain works. Not terribly well, but give it enough time and it might figure out what’s going on.

I like the lines at Snow Man, actually. They go pretty quickly, but give you enough time to read the boards to see what you want to order. A float? Ice cream? Ice cream pie for the whole family? A sundae? Hmm… I noticed a sign that said “White Chocolate Macadamia”. Pshh, game OVER! It turns out it was for the fat-free low-calorie ice cream thing (I think it’s 8 delight… or something like that), which means that I can classify it as ‘healthy’ (Dad, I’m kidding).

For people that are familiar with and enjoy Tasty De-Lite, a low-cal/low-fat ice cream chain in the city, you will love this stuff! I won’t say it tasted like a white chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookie, but it had nice flavors of each, with a bit of that fake sweetness which made me think of the ‘cheesecake’ Tasty De-Lite flavor. You know – it doesn’t really taste like what it says is, but it’s pretty close, and whatever it is, it’s good. Man, I hope I didn’t just turn a bunch of you guys off from trying this stuff. Just trust me, it was good and it was really creamy too. I had a toddler begging bites off of me until that cup was gone.

Albany John is partial to their frozen yogurt flavors like coffee and black raspberry. Their regular ice cream soft serve is also nice and creamy. Really, everything is very good and worth a try.

I like the cup more since it’s a little more portable than the cone (and, well, I’m more than a little messy). Snow Man has a lot with some parking spaces. It can get busy, but most people walk in from around the neighborhood, so you probably won’t have a tough time parking in the lot. Or just park on the street. This ice cream stand in Lansingburgh, NY is in an easily accessible location, and very worth a trip (heck, for the creaminess and choices alone!). They even take Visa and Mastercard!

Oh, look. Early prezzies for one of the most glorious days in all the land from Manhattan Maka. Hello Kitty nesting bento boxes (bottom-ish) and Hello Kitty fork, spoon, and chopstick set in a cute hard plastic container (top-ish)! (they look like crap because I had to cut myself out, and I was so excited that I couldn’t sit still for any pictures. heh heh)

Mustard Glazed Potatoes

I love mustard. I used to not be much of a condiment gal, but boy you should see my fridge doors now! What I haven’t tried is a mustard glaze, and boy have some bloggers been posting tasty looking mustard glazed food.

Steve glazed asparagus that made me drool.

And then I saw braised turnips with mustard sauce from Eat This. O. M. G. They looked absolutely slathered with sauce (win!).

My CSA hasn’t started up yet and I haven’t heard of an estimate for when they expect to start. Because of this, I don’t want to have a lot of veggies on hand in case they call me up and say “VEGGIES OVA HEEEERRREEE”. I am also getting kind of paranoid that there will be absolutely no vegetables, which would be a huge bummer since I was kind of banking on having tons of miscellaneous vegetables to eat since I knew we wouldn’t exactly be flush with cash this summer. But that’s the dice you roll with CSAs, so keep your fingers crossed for me! Actually, one of my friends is going on vacation and letting me pick up her CSA share this week, so I am very eager to try out her share!

I have been eating massive amounts of cabbage and potatoes, though. This is why I like CSAs – because you get a lot of things and essentially have no choice in picking what you get. Left to my own vices I get whatever is cheap so that I can eat a lot of it and not feel badly about spending too much. CSAs are quite the treat.

Ok, right. So I haven’t had a lot of produce at home. Except for my sack o’ potatoes and heads of cabbage. So I made mustard glazed cabbage using the method from Eat This’ braised and glazed turnips

Braised & Glazed Potatoes

1 lb potatoes, cubed
1-2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (I use the garlic press)
1 C chicken jello (aspic)
½ C water
3-4 T mustard from jar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up a pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and garlic, and then add in potatoes and brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add chicken jello, water, and cover. Let cook approx 8 minutes. When potatoes are tender, remove from pan. Keep the juices in the pan.

Add mustard, salt and pepper. Simmer and stir until mixture thickens into a sauce. Pour over potatoes.

You can also use cornstarch and other stocks/broths. I just have lots of chicken jello left over from making XLB, so that’s what I used.

Next time I’m trying out the tin of Coleman’s Mustard I bought. The stuff from the jar wasn’t spicy at all, so the dish could have used more of a mustard-y kick. For the record though – Tasty, tasty recipe.

Xiao Long Bao

Here is my first attempt at making soup dumplings, AKA Xiao Long Bao. They are also known as soupy dumplings, soupy little dumplings, or juicy little dumplings as I found out by reading a Chinese cook book that we have had in our kitchen for years and having something click. XLB right under my nose! And so many translated names it makes your eyes cross!

After having xiao long bao last weekend with my YehYeh, I decided I would give them a try. I have looked into making them for a while now, but finally got motivated to make them. It would be time consuming, but why not?

I hope you all don’t mind another photo essay recipe!

First off – a chicken to make stock with. I was just going to buy stock and add some extra seasonings and gelatin, but Albany John thought that we should pull out all of the stops and make the stock from scratch too. Almost 5 pounds of chicken from the grocery store is above.

Boil 20 C water. Add whole chicken, 1/2 onion, ginger, and bring back up to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook 1 1/2 hours.

Take out the chicken and vegetables and simmer the stock until it reduces by one half. Let it cool off overnight.

I had a little over 9 cups of chicken stock at the end of the day and mixed it with 2 boxes (8 packets) of unflavored gelatin. Immediately after mixing I realized that I just made 9 cups of chicken jello. Oh crap. I should have just made half. Stick in the fridge and let it gelatinize for around 5-6 hours.

Once the gelatin sets, let’s start to flavor our meat. Grate up 1 inch of ginger; mince 3-4 scallions; finely mince 4-5 leaves of napa cabbage, salted for around 30 minutes and drained (salad spinners are great for this). Actually, do the cabbage first, and everything else while it’s salting and draining.

Stick those ingredients in a bowl with your ground pork (I got mine at Roma Meats in Latham, NY) along with 2 T dry vermouth, ½ t MSG, 1 T soy sauce and 4 T water.
I found out that Roma’s pork products are anti-biotic and hormone free. The butcher was very nice and knowledgeable. And the ground pork is normally $4.49/lb, but if you buy 5 pounds or more, it is only $2.99/lb. I went the bulk route, and they even packaged them into 1 pound packages for me. Excellent! The quality was also top notch. No grey color or off smells like it can sometimes be at the Asian Food Market, so I think I’ll get it from Roma next time. In bulk, it’s only 70 cents a pound more, well worth it to me.

Get ta’ mixing! I tend to mush the meat less if I mix by hand. You could be all fancy and use a spoon or spatula.

Final product of mixed meat and seasonings. Chinese meatloaf. Kind of like my basic meaty filling for dumplings, with the addition of water (it helped incorporate things tremendously) and soy sauce (the book called for it).

Get your stock out of the fridge. See? I told you guys I made way too much! That’s a bowl sitting on top of 9 cups of chicken aspic!!

Grab some of the chicken jello out of the bowl and place it on a cutting board.

Chop it up into small cubes. This was approximately 2 C of chicken jello. Kinda pretty though.

Mix the meat in with the gelatin cubes. Cover and let it sit in the fridge while you make your dough. At this point I was feeling a little knackered. This is a 2 day recipe, to be sure.

To make the dough: combine 2.5 C flour with ½ C boiling water. Mix well, then add ¼ C cold water and 1 T fat (I used bacon fat). Knead until it is a nice and glossy dough, then let it sit 20 minutes to rest.
Grab handfuls of the dough and roll them out like a snake. Cut off each piece as you need it and roll it out. Err on the side of making large circles since XLB need lots of pleats. Make the edges thinner if you can.

Place some filling in the center. To pleat, simply start folding some of the top over on itself, kind of like folding a paper fan. I’d get fired from a soup dumpling factory in a jiffy! These might look a little rough, but they held their shape so I was happy! I probably wouldn’t have bothered pleating, except there was something in the back of my mind saying ‘Yeah, but what if the whole recipe hinges on this? That would stink to mess the entire thing up ‘cause you were half-assing on the folding’.

After you’ve made a few dumplings, steam them for 8-10 minutes. I like to use a bamboo steamer lined with napa cabbage leaves. That way you’ve also got an edible liner instead of using parchment paper! Tasty and ecofriendly!

Here’s what they look like out of the steamer. Glossy, fat, and shiny!

As you can see, my first round of soup dumplings were a little too thick-skinned and not soupy enough for me.

Sadly, my second round was too thin, so even though I added more cubes of gelatin all of the precious soup escaped! This clearly is something to be tweaked with. I think I’ll try thicker skins and a few more cubes of gelatin next time.

The skins were not as elastic as the kind I had in NYC but were pretty tender and I didn’t have much of an issue of gumminess/undercooking despite them being so thick.

Can you see a little bit of brothy soup in this picture? It was so hard to get a shot of these soup dumplings since they tasted pretty good and were very hot. You can kind of see the liquid on the bottom and towards the left.
What also helped make them tempting was recreating the black vinegar dipping sauce that accompanied the XLB in the city. It is also very easy – black vinegar, extra special dark soy sauce, and matchstick slices of peeled ginger.

While my first batch wasn’t perfect, they were good enough to merit trying again.


I hope your weekend was lovely! I got to have some salad from the garden (the greens are in the front/right area past the white pickets), and when I went to Riverfest in Troy this weekend I got to see some cool new vendors of crafts and…

I got to see Chris Barron (easy rider too [pdf])of the Spin Doctors promoting his new solo album Pancho and The Kid!! He was great live, and I was much closer to the stage this year than when Spin Doctors played at Tulip Fest. I even got to meet him after his set was over and completely fan girled out on him when buying a CD and getting him to sign it. Suave I am not! But still, he was great to meet in person – just laid back and geninely seemed happy to be there.

And then I came home and made soup dumplings. You know, to be a mega geek.


Albany John made dinner from the leftover odds and ends in our fridge last night. I was quite impressed! What really impressed me was his plating! He got so fancy last night!

Up front is a rice dish he made entirely in the rice cooker (rice, can of tomatoes, some chorizo-style sausage [it’s actually not that bad], red potatoes, and probably more I’m forgetting). I really enjoy dishes made entirely in the rice cooker since I am prone to mix everything up, and when you cook in the rice cooker it mixes everything up and the flavors meld nicely. We added some hot sauce to spice it up a bit.

To the left is a bowl of green beans (that were 77 cents a pound in NYC!!) simply cooked with some garlic cloves and sesame seeds. They were raw sesame seeds and toasted up nicely in the pan with them. The green beans still had lots of crunchiness to them and were very good. I could definitely have eaten 5 or 6 of these bowls! We also got these 2 white plates/bowls from Albany John’s grandmother when she moved into a smaller place. I really like their design and shape – very simple and pretty. (And totally appreciate our awesome Auntie for shipping them to us after spending a week cleaning and prepping the move!)

In the back is a frittata with zucchini. Simple and very good. The eggs were still soft and the zucchini was still slightly firm! How does Albany John do his kitchen chicanery?

Ok, y’all! I went to Roma Importing Company / Roma Prime Meats in Latham, NY yesterday. Look what I found! Real tarama / Carp roe caviar! This 10 oz jar was only $6.75, which I thought was a good price.

They also have a very knowledgeable and friendly butcher who was there when I was who answered all my questions perfectly! Hooray! They also changed up the store so the meat and importing stores are now connected, which I think is awesome and much easier. All of their pork is antibiotic and hormone free. Sweet. More on that later. Let’s open up this jar of tarama and see what it looks like.

This was filled to the brim of salty, slightly smoky tarama. Yummy. It smelled briny and fishy (in a VERY good way) and all of the balls of roe were bright and fresh looking.

Know what I like to do with fish roe? Taramosalata! That delicious greek dip! I didn’t have any bread handy so I just mixed equal parts of cream cheese and sour cream and added a squeeze of lemon to combine.

Next time I will add some cooked potato or bread and see how that works!

Fish Skin Chips

I got a little peckish on the bus ride back up to Albany from NYC this weekend. I’d bought some snacky foods from Fay Da, a Chinese bakery chain with a location next to Penn Station, but I was really eyeing the Fish Skin Chips that were purchased earlier at the Hong Kong Supermarket in Flushing, NY.

While we were checking out, Albany John noticed a box of them on sale for $1.99, and as we were musing about how they might taste, a woman came over and started swooping them up by the armful. Albany John asked her if they were good and she replied “OHHHHHhhhh YEAH! Really good!” in a near guttural this-food-rocks-so-hard-my-voice-changes kind of a way. Now if that’s not a sign to try something out, I don’t know what is!

Can you read the three ways they have recommended eating the fish skin chips? Click to enlarge. Very funny. (As is; mixed in with other foods; as you like them)

Since these were basically the sea-dwelling equivalent of pork rinds, I was pretty eager to try them out! However, I tore a tiny hole into the bag to smell them while on the bus, and then closed it. Whew, was it fishy! I didn’t want to be that person. You know, the one who eats the funky food in closed quarters with air that never fully circulates.

Once we got home, I tore them open. They were very crisp and crackly, and were seasoned with something noticeably spicy! This was good, as it meant I couldn’t wolf the entire bag down. If you enjoy crisp skin when you eat fish, you will likely enjoy these as well.

Here is the front view of the skin. The color is still maintained. The fishy smell dissipated quickly after opening the bag, and the fried fish skins were neither pungent nor briny. The skin wasn’t too oily (for something fried) and was of a fairly light texture. If you have any feline friends in the house I have a feeling they will be all up in your business over these ‘chips’. FWIW, I think it is a nice novelty, but it definitely doesn’t replace freshly cooked crisp fish skin.
P.S. – I have no idea what the brand is, just that the front says “Crisp Fish Skin”… in English

Sushi & Soup Dumplings (and much more)

Like a lot of my trips to the city lately, it started with catching the Mega Bus at the Rensselaer Train Station Surface Parking Lot B. They raised their parking prices to $5 per day from $3 per day, and have fancy new signs to show it.

We got in a little late due to traffic, and immediately headed over to the UES to Manhattan Maka’s apartment. This was also no small feat due to the heavy bags we brought with us. But we finally managed to make our way over and didn’t scare the nice door staff too much with our bedraggled presence.

We waited around and chatted a few hours for Yuka, a nice sushi restaurant near Manhattan Maka’s place to open for business. We were in right after they opened, and OMG – they have an all you can eat deal for $21. I figured I was going to order… well, way more than that, so what a good deal. Albany John and his brother also ordered the same thing, so we had quite a bit of food to eat. Yummy!

My brother-in-law also ordered one of their beers on special for $7.95, Koshihikari Echigo beer, which was brewed from rice. It was very smooth and light – I would definitely order it if I saw it again. There wasn’t a hint of bitterness at all.

The way the AYCE sushi works is that there are a lot small slips of paper at your table. Your whole group doing all-you-can-eat fills one out collectively, writing the amounts they would like next to each box. It is a slightly limited menu of nigiri sushi pieces and rolls, and more intricate rolls can be added for a higher cost. We stuck with the ones already included, and we were very pleased.

The food we ordered came out very quickly. They would send out the orders when things were done, for example, our nigiri came first from Round 1 of ordering. We were also there around 5 pm, so there wasn’t a crowd either.

Round 1 of nigiri sushi consisted of:

(Starting at top left) Tamago, Mackerel (saba), Octopus
Octopus, Tuna, Yellowtail
Surf Clam, Salmon, Salmon Tataki

We were quite blown away with the salmon tataki. Lightly seared, it was amazingly good. All of the nigiri were manageable mouth-sized portions, not overly packed with rice. The fish were all very fresh – much better than I can find up here.

There’s the remaining nigiri sushi from Round 1 along with the rolls we ordered.

Salmon skin roll is on the left, and on the right are hijiki, yellowtail & scallion, spicy tuna, and salmon rolls.

CVS ordered the spicy tuna, but I remember how hot it was the last time – it’s mainly sriracha, and lots of it! The salmon skin was delicious! It was my favorite out of the 5 rolls. Hijiki was a close second, and a new food for me – it was a seaweed roll, and had a nice thick/almost crunchy texture and wasn’t too briny or anything.

Yellowtail and tobiko boats, with eel nigiri below them. Albany John and CVS ordered some hand rolls as well. I think one of them was shiso and mint, or ume and mint…

Final round! More salmon tataki nigiri and salmon on top, and yellowtail, squid, and octopus on the bottom. I think there was actually another plate with tuna tataki and more on it, but I forgot to take the picture!

It is very safe to say that I had 8 + pieces of salmon sushi. It is my favorite, and these were all very tasty. The rice was a little warm sometimes, but I actually enjoyed that as it was seasoned very well.

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality, service, and speed of this restaurant. They already had the gratuity included, and the service was still great. Our waitress even made this cute pouty face when we said we were ready for the bill. There’s a 2-hour time limit, and we were finished in under an hour. We left pleasantly full (look, I’m almost a bottomless pit when it comes to sushi) without feeling like we’d completely gorged ourselves to the point of bursting. It’s pretty obvious that I am going to go back when I next find myself in Manhattan.

After we got home, Chicago Velvet Smoove took a very contagious nap that left both of us asleep for around an hour. Albany John and Manhattan Maka woke us up a little later with espresso and “Come ON. Who falls asleep at 6:30?! Wake up.”

And then there was the whole convention thingy, ok, let’s just gloss over that.
And then on Sunday night we went over to my Yeh-Yeh’s place. My dad was also in town after visiting with my sister (my sister had already gone home by the time I got in), so we all went out to dinner.

We hopped in the car and went to Flushing, NY. We usually park in this one lot, and ALWAYS pass a meat-on-a-stick cart guy. This time we stopped and ordered lamb sticks. My uncle likes this cart, and we asked for them to be spicy. For $1, this is quite a tasty treat. We waited about 5 minutes for our sticks of lamby meat to be done, and I was blown away with how good it was!

There they are, cooking, just waiting to go into my mouth.

They were nice and tiny tender bits of fatty, fatty lamb. And the spicy seasoning was also good. The outside was nicely browned and the insides were a delicious medium-rare pink! I don’t know how this guy does it, but he sure has skeelz. Did I mention how good and fatty these were? Because they were fatty goodness!

We went to Yun Tian Low Seafood Restaurant. My Yeh-Yeh really likes this place. It’s even getting to the point that I’m familiar with the place, which hardly happens since I can be so forgetful!

Since we had just been in a hotel room eating pizza and sandwiches all weekend, I really wanted lighter foods. You all know how heavy and greasy some Chinese dishes can be. My family was super-nice and accommodated me.
Yeh-Yeh loves beef and bitter melon. After trying this dish, I’ll give cooking bitter melon a shot. Maybe. The melon itself had all of the seeds removed and seemed to be stir fried with the beef and fermented black bean sauce. It wasn’t insanely bitter, nor did the bitterness linger. Imagine something like a bell pepper in texture, only with a bitter punch. Combined with beef, this is a nice dish.

Shrimp and black bean sauce. If you see “black bean sauce” on a menu, it is going to be the fermented black bean sauce kind. I really like black bean sauce since it is fermented it as a nice pungency that adds meatiness to dishes. Chinese Marmite, maybe? If you haven’t tried this before, try it in a restaurant first. A little goes a long way, and when I first tried to make black bean sauce dishes at home I put in too much, so it can be off putting for others.
This dish was very nice – lightly cooked veggies and plump, juicy shrimp served on a sizzling platter.

Albany John wanted to try the sautéed duck with mushrooms. These were reconstituted dry Japanese mushrooms (no further detail given). I liked their meatiness a lot. It wasn’t too overpowering. If they were shiitakes, Albany John thinks they were soaked for a very long time since they were so tender. I’m not sure if you can see any duck underneath all of the mushrooms, but it was also very tender! The skin didn’t slip off of the meat, nor was it overly fatty.

And some nice baby bok choy with garlic! They went very light on the oil in this dish, and I really appreciated it. They were lightly boiled/blanched and that was about it. The stalks were lightly cooked and crunchy, while the greens were wilted and tender. I’m pretty sure I ate half of this plate by myself!

Crappy picture, but we also got ½ of a roasted chicken. Always so good – the chicken was fresh. The meat was all very tender and juicy, while the skin was impossibly crisp. Very little (if any) visible fat. I always love how juicy and soft these roasted chickens are.

My dad dropped us off and left for the night, and Yeh-Yeh, my uncle, Albany John and I stayed up all night eating fresh lychees and drinking beer. That was probably one of my favorite points of my trip – just hanging out, talking. We stayed up until close to midnight – what a social butterfly my grandfather is, no?
He also broke out a small glass of Chinese ‘wine’ and woah… that stuff was potent but also insanely smooth. We all sipped at it, but man! I couldn’t drink a glass of that any time soon, and I am a lady who likes to imbibe. These fresh lychees were also right up my alley – fresh fruit, yes please!

The next morning we headed back out to Flushing to eat soup dumplings for yum cha / dim sum. We got there a little early, so we grabbed some coffee at a one of the many bakeries in town. Everyone got coffee except for me – I saw a special they had – Honey Grass Jelly drink and I had to try it. This was very filling – I only managed about half of it over the course of the morning. It was also very well worth the $3.50 price tag (most basic drinks are around $1).
It was almost like watered down honey – the honey flavor was so very present. The grass jelly didn’t have much flavor, just texture. They said the drink was supposed to be good for your immune system, so bonus, I had something good for me and tasty.

We also snacked before a meal with har gow and spare ribs in black bean sauce. They were both a dollar. $1 !!! The black bean ribs also had taro in there, which were SO yummy. Obviously, both dishes were very good. The har gow noodles were sticky and wanted to stay in the paper box sometimes. We managed to get them, wink wink. They were also filled to the brim with shrimp. Score!

We sat around until 11 and then walked back over to… Joe’s Shanghai!

I had never been, but my uncle absolutely raved about the crab dumplings.

We started off with bowls of pork and pickled cabbage soup. I really liked the broth, but wasn’t too crazy for the noodles. They were thick and a little too bland for my liking. For some reason it reminded me of chicken noodle soup noodles. However, I was still in “Gimme Veggies” mode and loved the pickled cabbage. I also really enjoyed the shredded ginger. Normally I find it too harsh, but maybe these were slightly boiled, as I found them to be great complements to the soup.

These bowls? INSANELY HUGE. I’m talking, I left the room, came back and saw these and went “We ordered FOUR of these?”
It was like a volley ball filled with soup.

Here is an action shot of Albany John picking up a soup dumpling and putting it into his soupspoon.

Here are some of the soup dumplings! We got 2 orders of crab soup dumplings. They were orange-yellow inside, and had a nice sweet crab flavor to them. I was trying to figure out what the color was from when my uncle said it was from the yellow stuff in the crab (is that the roe?). AH ha! It certainly added a nice creaminess to the dumplings.

The soup dumplings also come with a small saucer of vinegar, soy sauce, and shredded ginger. This sauce was tart and flavorful, but I also feel like it was almost a bit buttery. There is also shredded ginger on the side to eat with the soup dumplings. They also complement the richness very well.
We also got fried meat dumplings (akin to gyoza, except they’re mostly just meat). The saucer in the background is filled with a sweeter sauce for this dumpling. I love my sauces, so I was quite in heaven at having all of these different dipping sauces at my disposal!

I ate a good amount of soup dumplings, but I barely dented my soup. Here you can see Albany John tucking into a meat dumpling, along with his finished bowl of soup in the background, and my nearly-full bowl of soup in the foreground. When he looked over he teased “What, did they bring you a new bowl of soup when I wasn’t looking?”

Maybe I’ll show you all some of the goodies I got at the supermarket in Flushing as well. They are wonderful! Right now I’ve got to go find a Father’s Day card.

Trip to NJ

What a long and tiring weekend.

Alrighty, so we were off to a geeky convention in NJ. Albany John and Manhattan Maka had gone to the same convention a year prior, so we were hoping it would be as fun as it was for them. Long story short, they both said last year was better. But we had crab chips. Yummy. (If you see these, BUY THEM)

Personally, I was just happy to have what we considered a decent amount of drinks (doesn’t that make anything just a wee bit more bearable?). Albany John and I lugged down beer and liquors since they were cheaper up here than in NYC. Can you say heavy luggage? But the fun part is making your luggage lighter for the return trip over the course of several days.
OH GAWSH. There was not enough… Let’s just say that we four are quite the champs when it comes to drinking. Or, that I am very poor in planning these things out. Shhhh. Oh, and the tub + ice? The hotel room itself was very nice and all, but there was no mini fridge or microwave in it. We asked for them ahead of time. I don’t travel a lot, but even our crappy motel-like Days Inn in Tampa, FL had a mini fridge (with a free cockroach, even) and microwave.

We brought some snacks, but also figured there would be something nearby where we could get other food. There wasn’t. The hotel was already pretty pissed at having their entire hotel overrun with geeks, and when we walked in to see about grabbing a quick bite at the restaurant in the hotel we got some less than stellar and vague responses that translated to ‘I really don’t want to serve you’. Oooookie dokie then. And they were dead. WTF, crappy attitudes? So we crossed the street to go to another hotel and got great service at a cheap little sports bar type place.

Albany John and Chicago Velvet Smoove got the buffet going on (just a table or two with some chafing dishes, etc), while Manhattan Maka and I got some sandwiches.

My Turkey Club was massive. Holy crap! Normally I don’t go for sandwiches with bacon or mayo on them, but I had them hold off on the mayo and I found this sandwich to be quite pleasant. Slices of turkey, some tomato, lettuce, swiss cheese, and uber-crunchy nuggets of bacon. I ate the fries and about a quarter of the sandwich, and we ate the rest of it later that night.

The next day we decided we’d just order a bunch of pizza so we would always have food in the room.

We got:

Broccoli Bites – really good. Cheesy and they had fresh broccoli in them. Nice firm crust too. And they didn’t get soggy. Mustard = yum!

Garlic bread with cheese – totally unnecessary, but good in the fakey kind of way, you know?
Half buffalo chicken and half barbeque chicken pizza. The bbq was better than the buffalo. But still, quite tasty pizzas.

Chicken marsala pizza – yes, we picked some of the pies with lots of crazy toppings! I’m usually a plain pizza gal, but these were fun! This puppy had GRAVY instead of sauce. WTF!!! Now that was crazy. It looks a hot mess, but they all went together, furthering my theory that gravy should be liberally slathered on everything.

And one gigantic plain pizza. We ordered one pie too many! Ah, we are losing our appetites in our old age. But there was always something to eat in the room, and you know what? The pizzas were actually good! Not great, but definitely edible.

We even got to dress up a bit, and here is my handsome husband, Albany John, all decked out with suspenders. Playing Killer Bunnies. Killer Bunnies rocked my weekend.

Traveling back to Manhattan took a looooong time, but once we finally got in, Manhattan Maka directed me to H-Mart in Koreatown where I picked up MORE CRAB CHIPS! These things are like crack and I cannot find them anywhere up here. These were the spicy variety. They weren’t really spicy, I would just say more flavorful.

Lookie, see how mini and cute they are?! The bottom two are missing their left arms, but the top one is a whole crab chip.
Ok my sugar lumpkins, this was the food-boring part of my trip. Next up is the before and after dining, which was MUCH MORE AWESOME. Hint: Sushi and Soup Dumplings.