Asian Supermarket Hot Bar #2

Here’s what I got for a recent lunch when I was feeling especially hungry. The 3 selection lunch combo + white rice for $4.75. The selection was particularly good this day. I got salt and pepper shrimp, fried whole fish, and mixed veggies (no bell pepper in my portion! woo hoo!).

Everything was really good and I was tempted to get another fish dish, but was also craving some simply cooked and fresh veggies. I found out I really like lotus root (the half circle things with holes in them) – really crunchy, kind of like a mild carrot. Kind of. And the bean curd sheets were also pleasant. They sopped up a lot of sauce/flavor.

The whole fish was a delight. Crisply fried and it tasted like a buttery white fish (more from the frying than the actual fish, I am thinking) I’m not sure if it was beheaded, but the only leftovers I had were the spine and tail. Heh heh. I was really hungry that day. It also had crispy bits of garlic. Yummy.

Salt and Pepper shrimp were delicious as ever. I might prefer the head over the tails, even. They just had a more pungent flavor (in a good way).

Since I was feeling especially hungry, I also got a steamed pork bun. I kind of balked at the price ($0.90), but once I got it I knew why they charged so much. It was huge! Like a softball, huge. It was kept in a steamer/warmer tray as well, and was very fresh. The pork was okay, I’m not sure if I’d get it again, though. A little too sweet/saucy for me.

Just to show you, this thing was really big. The diameter was bigger than my finger! I like these meals at the Asian Supermarket’s hot bar for simple, authentic/comforting Chinese food. They really make you feel good if you’re sick, missing family, or just want a good little meal without having to buy each meal separately.
After tax, this was a little over $6.

Schenectady Farmers Market & Rose Garden, Ale House in Troy

Why hallo! My sistah from Orange County, NY was up to see me this weekend, and on Sunday we took a trip up to see the Schenectady Farmers Market and the rose garden in Central Park. Here I am standing by the “Don’t bring your pets to the market sign”. As we were leaving a woman with a blonde dog walked in right past the sign.

Like my outfit? It’s all almost entirely from Ellsbells. Gotta love it when peeps bring over clothes they don’t want any more. And as a bonus now I don’t have to shop for new jeans!

We walked around a bit, and I was really parched, so I caved in and bought a $2 pink lemonade from Red Barn (I think that was their name). It was ok – I was really thirsty, and the decoration made it more worth the $2.

They had some live music that played a variety of songs. I liked the Schenectady market since their info booth also had something where you could use your debit card or EBT card and get tokens, so you didn’t have to scurry around trying to find an ATM.
The turnout of vendors was okay, they said usually there were more but the weather wasn’t good, so vendor turn out is lower on those days. I found it to be on par with the Troy Farmers market in terms of vendors present on this overcast day, and prices. I was really looking enviously at the peaches and nectarines, but they were $5 a container (quart?) and a bit too expensive for me.

Next my Sista and I were off to find the Rose Garden. One of the women at the farmers market actually worked there, so she gave us directions. Very helpful. It doesn’t look that big from the outside, but there are a lot of varieties to see inside.

Here’s my Sistah at the little waterfall/pool. Lots of bumblebees here, and the only spot in the garden sans roses.

Here’s a pink rose. Some of the roses had names, others were unlabeled. Sistah made her own names up for the ones without signs. All were hilarious, and only some were mildly inappropriate. That’s how we roll.

Here I am climbing some stairs/jagged rocks. There were stairs near the end of the rose garden that were in various stages of decay. Pretty cool to me. We left after hanging out there for 30-60 minutes since I couldn’t find any space in the lots and I was illegally parked on the side road behind other cars that couldn’t find space.

We had originally planned on going to Red Robin for lunch. The one down by her shut down, and I actually enjoy Red Robin’s burgers and hadn’t been there in over a year or so. So we figured what the hey, do a girl’s lunch there.

Except after the rose garden we weren’t particularly motivated to go to a chain and were feeling something random. Random. We need randomness. We crave, live, thrive off of it. We were also craving some brews, and let’s face it – Red Robin was way too cheery for us at the moment, too.
Sista left it up to me, and I decided to head over to the Ale House in Troy, NY. It’s right on River St/Route 4 and next to a fire department and McBain Electric (McBAAAAIIINNN!!! sorry, inside joke[hint= The Simpsons]). I’ve heard rave reviews from everyone who’s been, so we stopped in. It was very full in the bar on a Sunday afternoon. Sports were on TV and the bar area was packed. There’s a seated area in the back, which is where we meandered and the bartender/guy doing seemingly everything Front of House told us to sit where ever we wanted. It was pretty casual. Our bartender server was wearing sweats, which I really enjoyed. I thought it fit perfectly with this past Sunday.
I also noticed their beers on tap and got the Old Speckled Hen you see above. Sistah got a Guiness. Both were $5.

Neither of us was particularly hungry, so we split all the food you will see. A large order of some of the best fries I’ve ever eaten. $3. They were perfectly crisp on the outside, and insanely tender and fluffy on the outside. While our food was cooking you could smell the oil in the air (and maybe in the wood. This place ain’t shiny and new, it’s got character, damnit). I figured we’d get some greasey fries cooked in old oil, but was surprised at how light and tasty these were. Definitely get yourself some fries.
Large sweet potato fries were $5, and I think I will have to try them next. This portion wasn’t a bucket o’fries, but a good amount for $3.

Here’s everything we got – fries, cup of turkey gravy (homemade, $0.69, too!), 10 wings.

Holy cow, that turkey gravy was amazing. They say that it is made there, and I can’t believe it’s under $1 for the amount we got. I even saw turkey bits in it. They were great for dipping fries in. And wings. Yes, wings.

The wings! $5.99 for 10 crisp and crackly on the outside wings with tender, moist meat underneath. The Ale House really does have some excellent wings. The texture was great. I am not a fan of soggy skin on my wings and these were some of the best I’ve ever eaten. We ordered them medium and these were spicier than a lot of extra-hot wings I’ve had in the area. Very nice surprise.

They came with celery, carrots (and plenty of them), and a little blue cheese. Sista prefers ranch, so I got all the blue. Yum. It helped take the edge off of the heat a bit. There was also habenero hot sauce on our table. Sista and I couldn’t finish all the wings (wussy, I know), so we brought the remaining three home for Slick and Albany John. They both LOVED them. I also tossed some habenero sauce on the side and now we need to go back to the Ale House.
The Ale House is cash only and is also open for lunch (I think that’s a new thing). For 2 beers, 10 wings, a large order of fries and a side of turkey gravy we spent $19.86 (19 and change, you get the idea) before tip. Our bartender/server guy was surprisingly quick for all of the customers he had. A nice, casual atmosphere when we went (so it would probably be great for people with hangovers to head to), but I wonder what it’s like at night?

Mashed Plantains

I tried my hands at mashed plantains last week. I made them vegetarian since Ellsbells came over, but I am thinking they might be better made with animal broth. These soak up a LOT of liquid.

Browned 5 green plantains over low heat in a pan with enough olive oil to keep them from sticking. I let them cook a good 20 minutes until they were soft. I think they could cook longer, though.

Milk, cream, salt, adobo! Add those on top and start mashing. I added more milk and cream periodically when it looked dry. Ellsbells and I mashed for a while. Like, 5-10 minutes. And even then, I think they could have mashed more, as it was still quite lumpy.

I ate my mashed plantains with some of the bread I made, leftover coleslaw, and topped it wth a runny egg.

Ellsbells and Albany John got theirs with pierogies.

Overall, I would cook these plantains more, maybe even boiling them until tender since they were very starchy and dry and would need lots of liquid. Still creamy and tasty, but I think they could be better.

White Bread

It’s been a wet and rainy couple of days. I hope you all are staying warm and dry!

I like baking warm, comforting food when it’s chilly out. These loaves of white bread hit the spot. One has a rolled layer of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar in it. I used the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for basic white bread. Forgot to reduce the recipe in half, and so ended up with two loaves.

Sushi Tei

“I got sushi for lunch today!”

“That’s awesome! What did you get?”

“A lot”

“Um, how much is a lot?”

“Like, ummmm…. twentythreedollars worth a lot…”

“Oh God.”

That’s basically the conversation I had throughout the day after ordering sushi and joyously telling my friends I talked to about it.

Sushi Tei is my favorite in the area for affordable sushi with consistently good quality. I have to admit, I haven’t bought sushi in a while around here, so I haven’t tried any of the new places that have popped up recently.

I ordered some nigiri sushi ($2.25 each) and the three roll lunch special for $11.50. The three rolls I ordered are pictured above. From left to right they are: Spicy Tuna, Salmon Avocado, Eel Avocado.

I’m not normally a spicy tuna roll fan, but the one at Sushi Tei is great! The heat is balanced well with the tuna, rice and tobiko, and there is plenty of tuna in the roll as well.
Salmon Avocado is one of my favorite combinations. The rich fatty taste of salmon combined with the rich fatty taste of avocado = flavor win! The eel and avocado is also a creamy delight. Yummy!

The rolls are always well rolled at Sushi Tei and I was impressed by how full of fish these were. They sure didn’t skimp on the filling!

For my nigiri sushi I ordered 2 each of tobiko/flying fish roe (in the sushi boats), tako/octopus, and sake/salmon.

The flying fish roe nigiri were very good. I like how they eggs pop in my mouth. They didn’t have a ton of flavor, but it was more a textural thing for me.

The octopus was okay. Pleasantly chewy, but also a bit bland. I think it could have used more salt or something when cooking. Soy sauce helped, but I think more salt while cooking would have been better.

The salmon nigiri were generously portioned and pretty fresh. I think they could have been a bit fresher and firmer, but on the whole they were good and not the least bit fishy or anything bad like that.
I think the thing is that you’re never really going to have fresh, never-frozen sushi in Albany. We’re too far and everything is delivered frozen anyway.

The eel + avocado roll were large sized maki and came four to the order. The salmon avocado were cut into six pieces and the spicy tuna was cut into eight smaller pieces. I’m pretty sure they were about the same roll size, just cut the easiest way to eat them.

I ended up eating a good portion of what I ordered (I do have this tendency to over order sushi…), but I did bring my leftover rolls home. Albany John loved them all, especially the eel. It’s one of his favorites (and easy to make at home!). Ellsbells also broke vegetariansim for a bit when she opened my fridge and saw the sushi. She liked them too. I made Benny try a spicy tuna piece since he’s never had sushi and he liked it too, although he said it wasn’t spicy (damnit, it’s spicy to me though!).

I really enjoy Sushi Tei – it has a very nice atmosphere and the service is always excellent and polite. For me, it’s a place for reliably good sushi and an affordable price. Since sushi isn’t something I buy as often as I used to I’m not too keen on trying other places because I know I’ll always have a solidly satisfying meal at Sushi Tei.

I also highly recommend their lunch bentos – $6 for a tempura box!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

White chocolate macadamia nut cookies are possibly my favorite kind of cookie.

They are chewy, crunchy, nutty and white chocolate-y. What’s not to love? I only say “possibly” because there could be something out there that might knock it off its pedestal.

Drop cookies are amongst my favorite kind of cookies to make and eat – they’re quick to whip up, and you can’t really over-mix them.
Size them however you want, and they end up wonderfully chewy and moist if you bake ‘em right (hint = bake them so they’re still raw in the centers, the ambient heat leftover in the cookies will bake them all of the way through so you’ll have moist, delicious cookies. If you make too much to eat at once, they’re easy to mold into cookies and freeze until later (mm, fresh cookies later, with no dishes!)

I felt rather indulgent (or like a label-whore) since I used King Arthur Flour, Domino sugar, and Godiva white chocolate chips.

I made these on the smaller side (or in all likelihood, the recommended serving size) since the ingredients were a bit precious and I wanted to share them. I like a lot of white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts in my cookies.

I just followed the recipe on the back of the Godiva chip bag. This made a humongous bowl full of dough. And now I have a freezer baggie full of raw cookie dough to nibble on raw or bake cookies when I want. Yay. Surprisingly, this large amount of cookies is pretty easy for me to work my way through.

How I Spent My Lark Fest

I started Lark Fest off with a beef shawarma wrap from Aashiana. $5.99, and all of their meat is halal! It was super tasty, so much so that Albany John and Slick ate about ¾ of it. Next time I’m getting two.

The meat was moist and well spiced. There was a lot of beef too, which I really enjoyed. Everything was covered in a yogurt sauce that blended everything together and wrapped in nan. Besides the meat there was lettuce, tomato, and bell peppers. I picked the bell peppers out and Albany John and I fed piping hot bits of bell peppers to Ellsbells after she exclaimed “I’ll eat them!” as I was throwing them out.

I was sad that I couldn’t do the buffet, since the new buffet set up looks gorgeous! Saleem did a bang up job on making it!

Aashiana was definitely a tasty way to start my Lark Festing.

Margarita, Ellsbells and I then wandered around Lark Street while Slick and Albany John stayed near the Washington Ave stage.

I ended up wanting more food, and ran into some friends along the way down who had lots of tasty looking food. My artsy designer friend had a plate from Wolff’s and he let me have a bite. That settled it for me – time to run to the ATM and get some cash monies!

As we were coming back from the bank, Ellsbells, Margarita and I caught what looked like the end of a Puerto Rican celebration! We took a picture for Benny, who was walking over and periodically calling Margarita to find out where we were. Oddly enough, he found Albany John and Slick and we all met up we us girls finally meandered over.

I also got a slice from Soho for $2. It was definitely festival pizza. The sauce and cheese were like normal, but the slices were smaller and the crust was puffier and they didn’t reheat the slice (I went in the store). Not as good as they usually are, but it sated my hunger on the cheap.

And then there was le Moby. That end of the street was pretty jam packed with people. It was hard to work into the crowd, and even harder to try and walk around it. Yowza! But Moby and his group played very well, and I highly enjoyed it. I just kept trying to stay away from the sewer that smelled not-so-fresh. I’d completely forgotten about Matt & Kim playing on the Madison Ave stage, but I doubt I would have been able to walk over there – there were just so many people on Lark Street this Saturday!

I’m glad the weather was good. The chillier years don’t have as good of a crowd turnout, and while it might have been crammed full of people, I’ll totally take that over rain and streets that are too empty.

Oh man, I just realized Margarita and I forgot to get matching henna tattoos!

LarkFest = Awesome

I’ll tell you more later, but Lark Fest this year was so much fun! I completely forgot to go see Matt & Kim, but I enjoyed Moby’s set. The crowd was semi-rowdy at the end of the day (at least over by Moby), but the Townsend Park Stage hosted by the B3nson Collective was a supremely good time. I could be biased since I ran into a bunch of friends over in that area, though.

Here’s a shot of Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned ending their set. Ellsbells and I ran over to catch it, and then ran into Sandor!

Pasta Marinara & Garlic Knots

“Did you make everything from scratch for dinner the other night?” asked Albany John

“No. I just made the pasta from scratch. And the marinara. And the garlic knots. Oh, so yeah, I guess I did make everything from scratch…” I replied.

So I made some pasta for Albany John, Slick, and myself and also made marinara sauce to go with it. We had one big can left, and I felt it was a good time to use it. I tried not to make too much pasta, so I scaled my recipe down to:

1 C flour ($0.32)
Dash salt
1 whole egg ($0.07)
Small glug olive oil
Dash water

Kneaded it well, adding flour if too wet or water if a hair too dry.

I’ve also calculated (as you can see) how much it cost to make. Maybe add in another 10 – 15 cents for the olive oil, but I really didn’t use a lot. Pasta for three people was 54 cents. A one-pound box of Hannaford’s line of pasta costs 87 cents, for a savings of 33 cents. This is probably splitting hairs if you’re someone in a hurry, but if you don’t mind waiting, then it’s pretty awesome to see that it’s cheaper to make pasta at home than it is to buy it from a store. I didn’t weight the final ball of dough, though, so maybe per pound it is more expensive.

I used the awesome pasta roller Papa Amherst loaned me to roll the dough out to level seven (the thinnest!) with minimal tearing of the dough. It was still harder doing it solo, but oh well, right? Instead of making fat fettuccini noodles, I made little angel hair noodles. These went through really easily – I was expecting a struggle.
While I was doing other things in the kitchen, I let the plops of angel hair pasta sit on a cookie sheet in my fridge. See – it’s a lot of pasta from just one cup of flour and an egg.

What else was I doing? Making awesome garlic knots! Seriously, these are the best garlic knots ever and they are now solidly in my repertoire. Slick had never had them before, and he really liked them.

They were so awesome that I ate about half of them (I made a double batch) and later had a crazy case of Toofulltummitis and Garlicpootia. (Again, Albany John, sorry about that late-night Garlicpootia… my bad. I’m still gonna eat a crazy amount of garlic knots, but still… my bad, dude)

The pasta cooked up very quickly – maybe 2 minutes, max. I overloaded the pan I cooked it in though, so some pasta clumped together into gummy balls (tee hee, gummy balls). If I hadn’t been using my big pasta pot for making marinara, it would have come out perfectly. Overall though, not too much loss and some nice and tender pasta! I was more concerned with trying not to overcook it since fresh pasta cooks so darned quickly.

I’d also made a quickie marinara sauce before anything else. It’s basically like a vegan version of Bolognese sauce or a ragu. When I say quickie, I mean I only let it simmer for about an hour instead of 2-3 hours.

For the sauce I just diced up an whole yellow onion (it was a big guy, over 1 lb) and sautéed it in some olive oil and a smidge of salt for about 10 minutes. Then I added in about half a bulb of minced garlic (around 10 cloves) and let that sautee for a few minutes until fragrant and added crushed tomatoes and dried herbs.

I added another big scoop of sauce over this pasta after I’d mixed the sauce in (and that fakey processed cheese in a jar I love so much). Yummy. I can see why Italians also call this “gravy”. It was thick and chunky with tomatoey goodness, and it did remind me of a hearty gravy. This is definitely a meal you can feed to vegans and carnivores alike.
Slick is a carnivore (and a really vocal one at that “Do we have any meat?” “Man, I looooove meat.” “I love meat so much, I can really eat a lot of it”, etc.), but this was one meal he didn’t ask for meat. Our budget doesn’t really allow room for meat every day, so it’s nice to find a dish where the addition or absence of meat goes unnoticed and the dish as a whole is really enjoyed.
Personally, I am liking the marinara sauce just because it’s a little lighter (hey, it’s not winter just yet!) than ragu or Bolognese, so I really taste the tomatoes in the sauce being enhanced by the herbs and veggies. Sometimes you want a dish that is both light and heavy at the same time, no?