Junior’s

I miss the Lark Tavern.

Cheap drinks, stellar bar food, and service was always quick and friendly no matter how crowded it was. Once you’ve got Your Place it’s hard to find another one. I know Tess & crew have moved downtown to Pearl Street, but it’s such a different location, and still not quite the Lark Tavern I knew and loved.

Met up with my college pal and his fiance. We figured we’d do drinks, but also some food. Somewhere in Albany. Not Pearl Street. Not Mahar’s. Not in a wine mood, or a beer mood. Cheap would be nice, too. That’s a pretty difficult list to fulfill, as it would turn out. We wound up at Junior’s (1094 Madison Ave, Albany, NY 12208). Same strip as Mahar’s.

Drinks came out in tall glasses or cocktail glasses. $7 for call, $6 for well drinks. Not too shabby, but I would have preferred a smaller drink (bravely, I soldiered on with my bigger drink, though).

Service was great – our waitress was really friendly and nice. More like someone taking care of guests in her home than a waitress at a bar/restaurant in Albany.

I flipped my shit when I saw ‘waffle fries’ on the menu. I got the House Burger ($9.99) which had pickles, onions, swiss, bacon, mushrooms… a bunch of stuff on it that I can’t really remember now, but it was pretty decent and crazy and subbed the waffle fries for the regular fries.

Albany John got a cuban sandwich, I think? $7.99 or $8.99 for a gigantic loaf of a sandwich. Fine, but nothing mindblowing. Pulled pork, some pickles, maybe some bacon. The regular fries were good, too. Crunchy.

Most of the food, from appetizers to entrees, ranges from $8-12. It’s kind of like “Why bother with mozzarella sticks for $7, when a sandwich costs about as much?”


Close up of my house burger. 8 oz (half pound) of ground beef for $10 isn’t too bad. But they only cook them medium-rare. No rare. My burger came out a hodgepodge of doneness, though. Medium well in the center, with patches of rare and medium rare on the edges. I have no idea how they pulled that one off. I was at the very least pleased that it wasn’t a patty. It was actual ground beef and not some pre-formed frozen patty. Decent grind on it, but it sure needed some salt, even with cubed up bits of bacon on there. It was fine, but nothing to pull me back.


Once we got the bill, I was kind of like “Hunh. Oh, well, I guess we did spend that much.” Not like it was crazy-expensive or anything, but just that it was a little more than it was worth, to me at least.

So here’s my deal with Junior’s. It’s not bad. Not great. Somewhere in the middle. It was a good place for four folks to go out and grab some food and drinks and catch up. The food and drinks were fine. It served our needs. I liked the service, but overall I think I need a place that’s more than just “fine”, you know? Like, nothing on Junior’s, but I bet they could change a few things up and be really good. Right now, it’s just a place that I automatically go “Eh, it’s okay. Yeah, sure, I guess.” when one of my friends suggests it because his 21 year old girlfriend likes the cocktails they make there.

Thanksgiving #2

Albany John and I hosted Thanksgiving on Thursday this year. Much more low key than the 18 or so people we had last year. My mom, sister, Sistah, one of Albany John’s fraternity brothers, and one of my mom’s friends.

And just like that, an old dresser becomes a table, and the nook above it becomes a great place for library books and a box wine. The flowers in the vase were the last of the year from my garden. Some stragglers giving me something to be thankful for. A few canterbury bells, and some gai lan that had gone to seed.

Albany John was busy with all of his food preparation that day. I tried to make a few raw dishes for my sister, who’d said she’d eat some cooked stuff, but she’s got a nack for changing her mind and I wanted to make her some stuff to eat, so I became the raw food chef de cuisine.

Speaking of that garden, I pulled the last of the carrots out of the ground, too. Seemed fitting enough for Thanksgiving. I peeled and boiled them, though. Made them just a touch sweeter and just soft enough to lose their crunchiness. My sister ended up eating some veganly cooked veggies, carrots included.

Albany John made this rub for the turkey that was outta this world good. Garlic, last of the parsely from the garden, magic… I don’t know. Something like that. It was a perfectly sized bird for our gang. A 12 lb Murray’s Turkey cooked up in a few hours. Although next time I think Albany John will use the temperature probe you can leave in the turkey next year.

He and Sistah picked at the turkey and probably had a meal of their own before anything was set down.

I made… this… stuff for my sister. It was not terrible, but… um… I don’t know how you could pass up a turkey for this. Or even roasted butternut squash.

So I rented a bunch of books on raw food from the library to try and make my sister something really, really good. Most of the recipes are fairly flexible, so I just soaked some almonds and purred them with some dehydrated sweet potato chips, raw black sesame seeds, some carrot, some basil, onion… it was a real mish-mash of nuts, seeds, and while certainly edible, it wasn’t something that I’d ever have a desire to eat again. My sister really seemed to like it, though.

I’ll at least give it props for its flexibility. It doubled as a tabbouli-textured dip when wrung out, and became dehydrated patties, too.


I was all “Bye, raw food! Have a good Thanksgiving!” when I popped these babies out of the oven. Buns made with butter and milk. And slathered with butter on top. Some folks have an achilles heel, I’ve got a gluten heel.

And another raw food staple, zucchini noodles with raw “cheeze”. The raw cheeze was easy enough to make. Soaked cashews with some salt and a clove of garlic. Meh, it was okay for an every day meal, but I wish I could have made something more substantially impressive.

More food laid out! Raw side of the table on the right – spinach salad with some sprouts Albany John made, and then deliciously roasted turkey, sausage stuffing, roasted butternut squash, and mashed potatoes.

But the best part of dinner was the TEAPOT OF GRAVY. We couldn’t find a gravyboat (assuming we even have one), but Sistah and Albany John came up with this dynamite idea of using a small teapot to serve gravy out of. NEW FAMILY TRADITION, RIGHT HERE!


I must be getting old – I could only manage one plate. But I had to make room for the stuffing, so I scarfed the salad down quickly.

We had some pie, and then my mom made Sistah one of her measured drinks, which are basically flammable. In addition to bringing over some kick-ass mashed potatoes, my mom also brought about three bottles of wine, and a… cube of vodka for the festivities. Thus making it the year my mom tried to kill Sistah with a drink that separated after 20 minutes. I’m guessing she was also trying to kill the rest of us, but hey, now we’ve got a bunch of wine left, which is never really that much of a problem.
Sistah made this really good apple pie that tasted like there was caramel, but there was none in it. I don’t know. Magic, I’m guessing. I loved that she did dessert, though – totally let me off the hook for that one!

And then there was chocolate-banana sugar-free chia pudding soaked in pecan milk. Not baaaad, per se, but… y’know. Would have been awesome with a caramel drizzle and sugar. My sister seemed pretty psyched, so I’ll have to hear how it went over. This is something I’ll play with and eat. Likely so it’s neither raw or vegan, but still, good.

So how was your Thanksgiving, guys? I’m most thankful for the fact that my sister and I didn’t come to words and start throwing food at each other over our respective fooding habits.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m going to look like this tomorrow. True story, I can unhinge my jaw if I need to ingest a lot of food (I can’t, but how awesome would that be?). Except only I’ll be dressed like a ninja because when you host holidays you can make the rest of your family dress up in costume.

I hope you all are as bloated and full as I am, needing the rest of the week to recover on the couch, much like a beached whale.

Most of all, I’m thankful for you guys, and the turkey I’m going to eat (I wound up getting a Murray’s bird).

This is Me. Giving Thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, boys and girls. While I sadly no longer live within walking distance to Tess Collins and don’t feel like playing the taxi lottery tonight, there are a bunch of things I am thankful for:

  • Not having any life-threatening food allergies
  • Some fairly eccentric and equally rad family members
  • So many new restaurants in the area that I have trouble checking them all out
  • That I was able to visit Bro, Margarita, and Baby Dubs this year on an airplane before all of this groping and scanning nonsense went in place (Although the highlight of that trip was making Albany John a Chick-Fil-A convert)
  • Free stuff (especially the food kind)
  • Glitter-coated flats
  • Chicken wings at Ale House, Bombers, and The Ruck
  • That awesome Hello Kitty sleeve I got tattooed on in October (gotcha, Dad!)
  • Random trips to NYC (especially the taco truck in Woodside)
  • Pinnacle whipped cream vodka (damn you, Phairhead! That stuff is like crack!)
  • Cookies!
  • Farmers
  • Waffle fries
  • Episodes of No Reservations on Netflix
  • Themed Thanksgivings
  • All Over Albany
  • Smoked meats
  • Lightly cooked veggies

Mini Wing Tour

Sometimes Four Loko does crazy things to a person. Other times it just leaves you with a craving for wings. After sampling some of the worst finest caffeinated malt beverages on the market with some of the AOA crew, The Profussor saw fit to head over to Bombers Burrito Bar to try some of their wings. He’d never been, and omfgbomberswingsdroooool.

I suggested going with the tequila wings, since they’re like crack. They came out in short order with plenty of crispy skin. Have they changed the sauce, or just started giving more of it? There was a bunch of tequila-y, garlicky, oily sauce on the bottom, which Daniel B. seemed to relish. He’d resauce a wing with just about every bite.

That crispy skin man, gets me every time.

And continuing our deisres to harden our arteries before the year is up, we went to Wing Night at The Ruck in Troy, NY the very next night. $0.40 wings. $4.00 per an order of 10. Glorious. Glorious.

I got the BBQ (left), and Daniel B. got an order of hot wings (right). Good lord, his mouth must be made partially out of asbestos, because he polished them off with no problem. Albany John and I can’t even make it through an order of these.

The ordering system at The Ruck can be described as confusing to those who’ve never been. You order at the food counter, and sometimes they take your name to call out. This time they didn’t so when I’d periodically hover and hope that our order was up, I just had to keep bugging the line cook. There was a bit of confusion when I mentioned “BBQ and hot” which got confused with BBQ Hot (which I am kind of scared of, but I bet it’s delicious, so maybe next time) so our order sat out for a few minutes before either of us realized that they were my order.

They were still crispy, but not as hot as they’d normally be and I could only polish off about a half-dozen before calling it quits.

Overall, I’m glad that the illustrious Daniel B. was able to try two of my favorite places for wings with me. So tasty! Clearly the next stop on our Troy leg of the mini wing tour should have been the Ale House, but we’ll have to leave that for the next time.

Pizza Central

The re-opening of Pizza Central (1123 Central Ave, Colonie, NY) had signs up touting their new ownership and $1 slices through the end of November.

See? Any slice, $1. This prompted a frenzied call to my fooding partner in crime, Daniel B., which went something like this: “Dan! Dollar pizza slices! DOLLAR PIZZA SLICES!! EAT! WE! PPPIIIZZZZAAAHHH!!!”

He kindly obliged my half-coherent call and we met up for pizza. Pizza Central is REALLY busy for lunch with these $1 slice deals, and they have all of, like, five parking spots. But all of the slices are ONE DOLLAR! You can wait it out or park nearby and walk from a side street.

All of the pizzas on display are available. I think the bigger one above may have been $1.50.

The one on the left had me really intrigued. It’s probably hard to see, but it was a good amount of cheese and cheese charring and crust bubbles. It was chicken bacon ranch, which is something I’d normally never consider, but when slices are $1 each, it’s easy to say “Ah, the hell with it,”.


I also got a tomato broccoli slice (y’know, to be healthy, haha). Man, these were GOOD! The crusts were airy and moist on the interior, and crackery crisp on the exterior. The underneath part of the crust was beautifully thin and equally crisp. I’m not sure how a whole pie would fare, since part of the allure of these slices was how crispy they got when reheated in the oven.

Oh, and that chicken bacon ranch? Most of the ranch flavor cooked off, so it just tasted like chicken and bacon pizza on really good crust.

Some of the crusts were shaped or made differently though. The crust on the plain was different from my crazily flavored slices.

There are still a few days left where you can enjoy some solid slices for $1. If you’ve got the time, give it a go. There are some counters and stools and one booth to sit at, but you probably want to do the take-out thing.

Pizza Central is pretty close to the Hong Kong Bakery in the Asian Supermarket on Central Ave, so we popped over there so I could make good on a promise to the Fussy Little Baby. Red bean bun. The kiddo loves beans, and I figured she seriously needed to try one of these Asian bad boys. Bean + sweet. How could she not like it?

We scored big time and found some red bean buns still warm sitting on the counter! A $0.90 victory if there ever was one. I also got a dan tat for the big kid (me). They’re good ’cause they’re fresh dan tats, but they are no match for the ones from fresh ones from the city. This dan tat has a uniformly crumbly pie/cookie-like consistency. The eggy flavor is great, though. But it’s no double-dough flaky crust that I really love. Which is probably a good thing. Otherwise I’d be eating these non-stop.

I think she likes it.

Amherstgiving

Guess who’s got two thumbs and likes turkey? THIS GAL!

Albany John and I headed over to Amherst this weekend to do early Thanksgiving with his side of the family. Which meant about three uninterrupted days of bliss and delicious food.

Manhattan Maka, CVS, Albany John and I ventured into town to get pizza from Antonio’s (31 N Pleasant St, Amherst, MA), where the boys had been getting pizza from since they were kids. Their strong suit is doing whatever it is you tell them to… When Albany John called in his order, he was on the phone for longer than I’ve ever seen because they kept asking him to specify stuff. And I think all of their topping pizzas come with two toppings? We ordered a BBQ chicken pizza and they kept asking for another topping and further specifications. And thankfully Mama Amherst chimed in with “extra cheese!” ’cause what can go wrong with extra cheese?

Hah, Albany John – that means you really are a New Yorker ’cause you’re used to saying “I want XYZ pizza” and that is the end of the conversation. They make you XYZ pizza.

It was definitely not a New York style pie. And there could have been a lot more BBQ sauce and more time to cook and crisp up the crust. But overall, it was not that bad. It was pizza, and cheap, too! Only about $15 for a pie with two toppings and a generous amount of chicken.

The next morning we went to Atkins Farms (1150 West Street, Amherst, MA), where you can eat cupcakes with puppy and kitten faces on them, or weird gooby alien face cupcakes.

Fresh seafood counter.

And FREE ICE CREAM!! One of the ice creameries was giving away gigantic ‘samples’ of ice cream cones. I got pumpkin, and Albany John got… something else. I think egg nog. They also had apple pie and vanilla. The pumpkin was awesome.

We went for a walk on one of Amherst’s many trails and pathways, so this ice cream was a totally necessary energy boost.

We came back home and Manhattan Maka and I put together an appetizer plate. I picked up some olives, tarmasalata, and sopressata from Roma’s in Latham before heading out. And smoked mozzarella from the co-op. Yummy.

And it begins. Turkey carving!

Albany John and I may or may not have run around the house taking nibbles of things cooling off. Stuffing, I’MMA EAT YOU! This stuffing was so good. Some nuts, tasty bread, sausage. I’d never really eaten stuffing before meeting these Amherstians, and now I can’t keep away from it.

Camera-ninja peeping skills still leave a bit to be desired. But check out those buns and asparagusssesss!
Dinner table’s set! And everything came out at the same time! Woo woo! There was a really tasty Menage a Trois red wine – really fruity and good.

Man, we must all be getting old – we could only manage one plate of food. But it was so tasty and good. This is a pre-gravy-slathering shot, but just imagine this covered in the best-tasting brown sauce ever, and you get the picture.

Mashed potatoes, crisply roasted brussels sprouts, perfectly moist turkey, lightly roasted asparagus, and insanely good stuffing. And rolls. And all kinds of cranberry sauce and relish. An Amherst Thanksgiving is the best kind of Thanksgiving (especially when it comes early).

Dessert! Ginger ice cream from Flayvors (evidently they have enough butterfat content to make Haagen Das blush, but that’s all they’ll say), lemon pie, and apple pie! My stomach opened up enough to have room for all of the above.
The next morning Albany John made a sandwich of epic proportions. It was really tasty, too.

We slowly made our way out and made our first stop at Maple Farm Foods (10 South Maple Street, Hadley, MA). It’s expanded from a mostly European grocery store to include a little bit of everything. But still a heavy Euro influence. Like this refrigerated wall of cured meats. Albany John loves the pate (the blur is his hand holding one and talking excitedly) and picked up two of them.

I love how many Mass native produce items they sell in many of the stores in the area, Maple Farm included. They had carrots for $0.99/2 lb bags! I had to pick some up.
There’s a deli section, and there were golumpki’s bigger than both of Albany John’s fists! They were like mini nerf-footballs. Gigantic golumpkis!

We made Trader Joe’s our final stop before heading out, which was something of a mistake. Sunday before Thanksgiving is NOT the time to go there. It was a mob scene, albeit a polite New England mob scene. The lines were back through the aisles, and the aisles were really hard to move through, especially when people with carts would just leave them in the middle or side of places.

I picked up a wedge of my beloved Belletoile brie and some tempeh bricks and was like “I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!”. I managed to get in a shorter line… with one of the slowest people ever behind the register. Despite the fact that the entire store was packed with people, half of which wanted to check out, this cashier was leisurely checking everyone out. Keying in two items when it would have been faster to just scan them both, seemingly oblivious to the crowd around her. Most of the folks in my line didn’t have that much, which offered the false glimmer of hope that we would be out quickly, but the people in the line next to us that had cartful after cartful of items were out the door quicker than we were. About 10 painful minutes of three people with small hand carts of food later, and we were out.

The drive home was fairly uneventful, except for the fact that my car is starting to get old and lose the awesome control it used to have (just a little extra play in the wheel every now and again, nothing serious). Albany John and I kept drooling over the stuffing Papa Amherst made, so he requested I make some bread for our own Thanksgiving so he could try to replicate it.

I made a soft loaf of white and whole wheat, and had a bit of dough left to make rolls from. Also made some egg noodles with tomatoes and onions and couldn’t help but cut off a hunk of brie to eat with the roll. Good way to end the night.

CSN Stores Winner


You guys are some awesome readers! I initially put up a teaser post saying that I’d received a gift certificate worth $75 at any of CSN’s stores (they sell random stuff ranging from technology to kitchenware, to bar tables and stools). My true intentions were to get a bunch of comments on that post (the CSN posts tend to be pretty popular here on Albany Eats! for some reason) and give the certificate away to a commenter. I perhaps didn’t come off that well, but I promise my intentions were good.

I wanted it to be like when my Mom and her boyfriend were like “Yeah, we’re moving to Texas, and you’re not going back to see your friend in New York this Christmas. Or ever again!” They later surprised us kids with a trip to New York during Christmas, but let’s just say that there was a lot of sobbing in the interim between us kids. God, why did I do that original post? Okay guys, I promise I’m never going to do something like that again. YOU CAN ALWAYS COME TO NEW YORK FOR CHRISTMAS!

Oh, where was I? Right, sorry, there is an actual giveaway here. I promise. So I added all of the commenters who had contact info and put their names in a bowl above. Shook it around, and picked a winner…


Congrats Sue Rock! Although truth be told, I really selfishly wanted to give it away to CuteEllaisBold cause the girl is just so damned cute. Or -S to see what he would do with it (I’mma go with buy camera equipment). No offense, Sue Rock. I’m sure you are super cool and I will check out your blog now – thanks for leaving a comment!

Well, I am currently in Western Mass having early Thanksgiving with my in-laws (who loaned me the cute candy dish you see holding the sticky notes with names on them (I am SO legit)). We had an awesome dinner last night, but it’s 9:45 am and that turkey carcass isn’t going to pick itself.

Kisses, and sorry for the trauma! If it helps, I think you are really pretty. And funny. And smart. Also, would you like some cookies? I also have pictures of cute cats if that will help.

CSN Stores – Product Review

I’m going to be a greedy blogger. I hope you don’t mind. CSN Stores sells a bunch of different items, like bar tables and stools, but I still harbor a fodness for their cookware. They have offered me some gift certificates or products to give away to you, my incredibly good looking readers, in the past.

But this time, well, I am feeling just a wee bit ton greedy. This time I will be keeping the $75 gift certificate and using it myself. I really do enjoy my give aways, but here is where you come in: Wanna suggest something I need to try? I already have a surprising amount of kitchen stuff, but there is always the urge for more. Or maybe silverware or new plates. I have no idea. This is where you guys come in.

Swai

Oh, what’s a single girl to do? Normally I tend to subsist on a less-than-healthy diet of refined carbohydrates, butter, and salt. I found myself cooking dinner for one one night, and picked up a Swai fillet from Hannaford for $1.65. What a steal, at $4.99/lb. I had been pining over the basa at The Original Two Cousins in Latham, but didn’t feel like going that way past the Latham circle. Turns out, Swai is pretty damn close to Basa, and is also a fairly sustainable fish.

Also got some green stuff in there. Halved brussels sprouts. This turned out to be a lot of brussels sprouts, but I don’t think eating too many veggies is that bad. Just put a pan on medium with some oil or butter and sear them until they’re blackened and crispy.

Pinky-white fresh fillet of Swai. Hello, baby! I could have easily eaten two of these fillets. But one was sufficent enough to quell my seafood hunger. Swai is a fairly meaty white fish. None of this delicate and fluffy tilapia or whiting business.

Rubbed the fillet with some paprika, salt, tarragon, and maybe just a touch of garlic or onion powder. Seared a bit, and then tossed in a bit of white wine and kalamata olives after flipping the fillet. Maybe a weird combination, but the final product was tasty to me. Although I suspect Albany John’s kitchen chicanery would have produced tastier results.

Yeah, that was a lot of brussels sprouts. They were so tasty. And man, that Swai’s got me wrapped around its little fishy fingers. It keeps a nice flavor of the sea while also cooking up moist. Maybe next time I’ll get two fillets.

Total cost estimate was about $3. Maybe a little less. Not too shabby for a seafood-based meal.

If this was too healthy for you, you could always add more butter to your seafood, or follow dinner with a fine Boone’s Farm beverage of your choice.