Spring Potluck

Hello my amazingly good looking and well-fed readers,

I’m thinking a Spring Potluck of sorts is in order. Somewhere in a park. Or maybe just near a farmers market. Whatevs, it’ll be a good time. If you’re interested drop me an email (albanyjane @ yahoo.com) so I know to keep you in the loop. Or just leave it in the comments if you’re not too worried about spam. I’ll make it easy for you.

If I’ve emailed with you before, I prob still have your email, so I’mma be sending things your way any way (3rd Auntie, I’m lookin at you!).

Albany Jane

Dining Out for Life @ New World

Yesterday I joined the AOA Crew at Ric Orlando’s New World Bistro Bar to support Dining Out for Life. Basically, 25% of the bill went to the AIDS Council of NENY. Sweet, eating out and helping out. I’ve been meaning to go here for ages, and Albany John wants to bring his brother (a big fan of the show Chopped, and the same show Ric won) here to try some of their inventive dishes.

We got the beef tongue and octopus toastada ($10) to share as an app. Get it. Ohhh, get it! So beefy and good. Albany John describes beef tongue when it’s cooked this well as akin to a really hearty beef stew. Ric – can I call you Ric? I’m gonna call you Ric. Any way, Ric, this dish really showcased your skills.
There was a good amount of beef tongue, and little minced bits of octopus throughout. It added some umami goodness, so if you’re squicky about seafood/octopus, this might be a good dish for you to try. Personally, I would be fine if this dish were just a hunk of cow tongue and an arm of uncut octopus (so good were the flavors), but bet that might put some people off.

Our waiter also mentioned this was one of his favorite dishes here, if not his favorite dish entirely. He was so freaking right. If you guys haven’t gotten the hint, try this. SO good.

Albany John’s a beer guy, so we got a flight of beers to sample. I just donated blood that day, so I figured I’d take it somewhat easy on the booze since one of the Red Cross guys told me if I went out for cocktails I’d be “One cheap date,”. I’m a cheap date to being with, and while I was partially interested in testing out just how little liquor I’d need in me to catch a buzz, it seemed like it had the potential to go from funny to “We need an IV and some fluids” pretty quickly.

Right, so. We went with the flight of beer samples ($5.25). From left to right:
Brooklyn, New World Bistro Bar Double IPA made by Chatham Brewery, Ommegang Rare Vos, and Victory Stout.
Albany John thought this was a great value, and a fun way to compare some solid brews. He loves his Rare Vos, so that was the winner for him here, but the others were still fairly enjoyable.
We’re not big IPA people, but it was cool to try their house beer. It turns out they want to get it labeled for them since it’s made for them, but they have to go through federal licensing of some sort in order to get it, so for now they just call it their house beer. I thought it tasted a lot like the Rare Vos (which made Albany John gasp and be all like “What?! NO! They are not at all alike!”) since it was on the bitter/floral spectrum. Whatevs. But I really liked that Victory stout. Really smooth, yet thin – easy to drink in warmer weather. Not dense and heavy like other stouts that drink like a meal. Plus lots of sweet caramel notes. More please.

Then on to entrees! Albany John got the Portuguese Tavern Style Pork and Clams ($24 for full portion), which seemed to be popular with our end of the table. What a full portion it was! It came in an impressively sized bowl and had a lot of clammy and porky goodness within. Albany John LOVED this dish. So good. I thought the fingerling fries were fried carrot rounds, heh. Kinda sweet.

Not spicy, either, although they dropped a bottle of Sriracha. Albany John thought about Napalming The Jungle, but it was so good that he didn’t need any other seasonings.

Mid convo with the rest of our table, a bus boy ninja came by and took his dish. He still had some food left, and he was all… “Um. What? What just happened and where did my dish go?”. We saw the bus boy and as we were going to be like “Dude! Hey! Can we get that back, please and thanks?” We saw him bussing the rest of the table and plop another dish on top of it. Ew. How do we know that wasn’t dirty? It’s a plate at the end of dinner. It’s probably dirty. When you’re bussing things, you don’t pile other peoples dishes on top of other people’s unfinished food. Well, you also should check with people when taking their food. Ironically, the bus boy asked me if I was done with my plate when it was basically just crumbs left.

Okay, so seems like not the best moment at our first time dining in this restaurant, right? Ric, you have some awesome staff, because our waiter was very attentive and handled things well. We found him and explained about the over eager bus boy. He said that he was wrapping it up, but after expressing some concern that we saw the busboy putting other people’s dishes on it, he had them remake what was taken. Perfect response. We weren’t looking for a remake on the entire meal, but we also didn’t want to eat food that may have had dirty dishes on it either.

The remake! A few clams and some pork. Very well handled, NWBB. Service that will certainly guarantee my return and recommendation of your restaurant.

I’ve been dying to try their burger ($13). I love burgers. I think a good burger needs very little accoutrements, so I just ordered mine rare. Happy beef. Burger. Yay! I got the veggie of the day, some fairly well prepared summer squash. I could have done with a few more bits, but I’ve been on a real veggie kick this year, so maybe it’s just me.

Sadly, the burger was the low note of the meal. The bun was pretty heavy (tasted like a potato roll) and over-buttered/oiled. Greasy. Can you see the crack on the northern part of the burger? There was also a crack on the other side of the burger too. What’s up with that?

It was cooked rare in the center, but progressively more toward the edges, some parts being well done. Maybe I should start ordering burgers black and blue.

This wasn’t a terrible burger. It just wasn’t a $13 burger. My first impression after taking a bite was “Bready. All I taste is bread.” The bun was somehow overwhelming.

I’m not too sure if the beef was even seasoned. It didn’t have much flavor. I’m used to happier beef having this deep, rich, wonderful beefy flavor. This was pretty light – I had to really does it up with salt to bring out some beefiness. The texture wasn’t my favorite either – a bit too small/fine of a grind, which made the more cooked edges of the burger taste kind of grainy/mealy. It was a fairly dry burger, but that greasy bun was distracting.

I found out the best way to eat it was to take a bite, but only eat the top bun (less greasy) and salt heavily. Fine, but I wouldn’t order it again. Next time I’ll get another tonge and octo tostada, or have a few other apps. Mmm.

Dessert was a shot of Nutella mousse ($4). It’s in their dessert tapas section. Pretty good stuff. Nice way to end the meal. Creamy but not heavy. Kind of on the small side for $4, but still quite enjoyable.

One of my seat mates had a less-than-stellar lemon curd shot. The flavor was great, but it had this freaky grainy texture. I really couldn’t figure out what it was. It was more chalky, so it wasn’t like it was unincorporated sugar. Really odd. This person mentioned that perhaps attention to detail was a little off at this meal. Perhaps.

Overall though, great time dining out, an excellent service experience, and I look forward to returning and trying more of the menu.

DeFazio’s to end Passover

Met up with Capitol to Capital and the FUSSYlittleFAMILY to celebrate(?)/break the end of Passover with some leavened wheat. DeFazio’s Pizzeria (266 4th St, Troy, NY) for some sweet pizzas and BYOB (in this case, beer).

We started off with a large eggplant & spinach pizza and a small cheese. The eggplant was fried, but airy and not at all greasy. Good amount of cheese, but maybe it was just me, but I thought it could use a touch of salt. Easily remedied with a hearty shaking of cheese, though!

Somehow we ordered another small cheese pizza on their multigrain dough. It’s still in the works, so it’s not officially on the menu yet (and they only had small sizes available the night we were there). We just wanted one plain cheese on multigrain, but this worked out to our benefit since 2 small pies and two large pies (one more comin up) was just enough for 6 adults and two kids.

The regular white crust might be my fave, but the multigrain is a pretty close second. It’s a totally different kind of crust beast than the original. It’s flatter and a bit denser, with bits of nutty grains and such in the crust to add a crunchy little something every now and then.

Albany John loves DeFazio’s whole wheat crust. I’m less of a fan of it since it’s tougher than the standard (pillowy soft and delectable) white crust. But this multigrain could be a good midpoint for us.

Our final pizza de la resistance was a kalamata and hot sausage pie. The Profussor wanted something of a recreation of DeFazio’s pie from the final leg of the Tournament of Pizza we judged last year. Mainly, those briny and delicious kalamatas. Pizza flashbacks in such a good way.

The kalamatas were okay, but not as briny as they were in the TOP pie. Daniel B. mentioned that these looked chopped and not hand pitted and plump like they were on the winning pie. Either way, still pretty good. But I think that TOP pie is going to be my white buffalo pizza for a while.

All of the dough was cooked well. No gumminess/undercooked dough. Although I might become one of those pizza obsessives who specifically asks for some burnished and blackened edges on my subsequent pies.

Good pizza, good people, good times! What more can you ask for?

The Easter of Two Hams, Except One that Wasn’t

Easter is my favorite time of year to feed ham and pork products to the chosen peeps. Two years makes it a trend, right? Or do those years have to be in a row? Any way, years ago I was all “I’mma be adult and have Easter dinner!” which meant buying one of those big ass spiral cut Easter hams (b/c spiral cut = fancy) and then realizing that it was way too big for two people. And the only people free that night were my Jewish friends, so they came over for dinner and I fed them ham.
This year, The Profussor brought his family over to eat some pork products in the middle of Passover. Dude, that is some serious friendship. Or love of ham. Or friendship born of ham-love. Either way. Very stellar.

This year I decided to smoke a ham. That ham above. It was an uncured baby from 8 O’Clock Ranch, and I cured it while I was on vaycay in VA Beach with some of that magical pink curing salt from Jon in Albany.

I rubbed it with some brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, and that was about it. Then hot-smoked it with maple chips for a few hours. Kinda dry, but in that cured meat way. The bone is going to make a pretty sweet pea soup. It was also PINK!

But that roast was only like 2.5 lbs, and it shrunk a lot in the smoker, so then I was all “I don’t have enough food, I need to buy more or I’m a terrible hostess!” and I picked up a ham from Roma Foods. They called it a ham roast, but it was really just pork roast uncured. I wasn’t really sure if it was ham or just pork, but hey, more meat, right?

I probably would have done a little more to it if I’d known it was an uncured “ham” roast from a pig, though. I think I overcooked it a touch. I don’t know. I’m a ham gal, not a roast gal. It’s a miracle I didn’t turn it to leather.

We also had some mashed potatoes, beets, artichokes (got ’em from the co-op – the stems tasted so chemically and awful. totally inedible), and some awesome wine the Profussor brought over. Gewurztraminer, right? Just sweet enough. So yum!

I’ve been really into pavlovas lately. So easy to whip up (har har). Just add a cup or so of sugar to 4-6 egg whites. Plop on parchment paper and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour in a 250 F oven.

You get a crackly exterior, and a soft and squishy interior. Plus the raw whipped egg batter tastes so good while you’re licking the spatula cleaning the bowl.

Brandied pears in an apple cider reduction (toss in a wee sliver of lemon rind, and a few thick slices of ginger) for the adults. Naked slices for the kiddos.

I totally should have made some of these while the FUSSYlittleFAMILY was here, though. Cracklins! The skin didn’t quite crisp up in the oven (more chewy, blah), but pop ’em in a low pan = heaven. Sorry guys, we’ll have to do it again so I don’t forget to make cracklins.

Oh and we also made some half-ass Hello Kitty latkes in a waffle maker.

The family was a blast to have over, and hopefully we can do it again some time soon.

Virginia Beach, VA

Hey hey guys! Albany John and I hopped a Chinatown bus down to Virginia Beach this week. It was pretty awesome – nice weather the whole time we were there.

We went with one of the busses from Allen Street in NYC. It was only $80 round trip for two people! Way cheaper than driving ourselves. Although service is generally something to be desired. It’s usually a toss up between somewhat decent, and incredibly rude and hostile.

We hit up this shop in Manhattan Chinatown before getting on the bus. We so didn’t prepare for a bus ride. But this place was pretty quick about getting us in and out, although we were so bad a time, we ran for the bus and just barely made it! Phew!

Albany John got some dumplings. Tasty, and cheap at $3 per dozen.

I got beef tendon soup with hand cut noodles. Eh, the noodles were kinda thick and gummy. And the soup was pretty bland.

So my big fear was that the bus was gonna crash, or something like that, and mid-nap I wake up to hearing people shouting about smoke and fire. Turns out it was nothing (maybe someone trying to smoke in the bus “toilet”?), but I was sooo jittery after that!

It was pretty rainy, and it took us about 9-10 hours to get there. Ugh. Sooo freaking long! But still safe, so okay.
We got in and checked in, then hit up this place (this is just a daytime pic) called The Boxx. They had the best music going when Albany John and I were walking around.
Cheap drinks, good music, happy people. I would so go back here again. I wish we had a place like this in Albany. There was also this dude kitted out in neon lights. Sweet.

St. Germain in the hotel room = vacation time!

The next day we walked over to Big Sam’s (300 Winston Salem Rd, Virginia Beach, VA). We were in the center of the VA Beach strip, so this was about 1.5 miles south. A nice little jaunt.

It was a Sunday, so we had to wait a little bit. But nothing too shabby.

THEY HAVE SEAFOOD HAPPY HOUR!!! Which meant 1/2 lb of gulf shrimp for Albany John and me. So good. So big. So delicious. Only $5.99 per half lb!

The only “off” thing here was the “butter” it was melted margarine. Ew. Please don’t call that butter. It’s gross and oily. But also unnecessary with shrimp this good.

A Big Sam’s limeade for $5.75 for me, and a $2.99 24-oz can of Modelo for Albany John. That cocktail had a kick to it!

Some more seafood. We got the she crab soup ($5.99) which was like creamy crab soup with lots of crab chunks in it. Not bad, but a little heavy. In the foreground are fried crab balls. Which I couldn’t really eat b/c of the holistic diet and all, but Albany John soldiered through.
I made do with the 1/2 dozen raw oysters and dozen raw clams in the background. *sniffle* I love you seafood happy hour. So. Much.

The crab balls were very crabby – not a lot of filler, and good chunks of crab meat.
I managed about this much of the drink before getting a little too heady and bright red (the Asian alcohol flush). Awesome. Albany John helped me with it.

Then it was time to stroll up and down the beach!

It’s not an Albany John family vacation without mini golf. This was 3-D and blacklight. $7 per person.
I tried to take a picture through the 3-D glasses. It was super cool and nerdy. Kind of a small space, but still – when do you get indoor 3-D blacklight mini golf?

Omg, epic Engrish sign. Susi & Wind? I think it was supposed to be sushi and wings.

There was also this thing called Crushfest going on at Waterman’s. We waited in line to get in (really ineffective bouncer), and yeah. Too many people for me. Man, I don’t even want to know how packed it gets during prime-time season.

(Another shitty day-time pic) Then we went to Abbey Road, possibly the worst dining experience we had in Virginia Beach. We had walked around a lot, and were in zombie mode. Food. Mouth. Whatevs.
Abbey Road is a Beetles-themed faux-English style pub with a huge selection of overpriced beers. There was live music when we sat down. Not that great.

I got a broiled crab cake. It was okay. Not too much filler. Side of broccoli instead of chips because I needed a veggie at that point. They were like mush. Oh well. Only $9.99. But not very filling for some reason.

Albany John got a roast beef sandwich ($8.99), and he asked the waitress for help deciding between this or another sandwich. WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH THE OTHER SANDWICH??? She was ALL about ordering the roast beef.

It was… hilarious in its poor execution. Thick nubbins of curled brown “roast beef”. Arby’s makes a better roast beef sandwich, and I’m not being sarcastic. It was still vaguely edible, and had we not been in zombie mode, or faced with loud not-very-good live music, it was a plate that would have gone back to the kitchen.

But hey, what’s vacation without one bad meal?

We chilled back in the hotel that night. Albany John ran out and got these really tasty pulled pork sandwiches for only $3! They were way better than our earlier dinner at Abbey Road.

The next morning we got Mexican food at a place right across the street from Abbey Road on 22nd Street. Fresh chips (that I couldn’t eat, boo!) with salsa, and very friendly service.

Some kind of a rum runner drink. Under $8.
I got chicken enchiladas with rice and beans. Not too bad, nothing spectacular, but fine overall and I’d get it again I spose.
Albany John’s plate came with some greenery and avocadoery.

Carne asada, I think? It said it was roasted, but I’m pretty sure it was deep fried at the last minute to warm it up because the outside was super-oily. Don’t get me wrong. It was gooood. But pretty sure it was fried at some point.

Then we walked some more, and I decided I needed ice cream. There are a few Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard stands along Atlantic Ave.

$3.75 for some custard. It was pretty creamy, but lacked the egginess of most custards I’ve had.

We beached ourselves for a while, and I got hit with 2 balls and had a kid trip over me 2-3 times in about 10 minutes while I was napping. The sun was great, but I swear I’ve got a magnet in me for sports balls to hit me in the face or chest, or for families to park by with their troop of hyperactive kids.

Then we walked back down Atlantic ave to check out a “park” that was basically a kids park. Yeah, not for us. But we did get a ton more walking in.

Then it seafood happy hour again, and we were right by Sam’s, so….
More shrimp for me!
Walk along Pacific Ave. The southern end has this nice boardwalk over some water.

Then we tried to check out the public transit, and… I have a new respect for the CDTA. The bussing system in VA Beach sucks. Straight up sucks. One bus stopped running at 7 pm, then we had to walk back a mile or two to the right bus stop, which only ran hourly and was incredibly packed and the bus driver kept missing peoples stops because some dude was hitting on her.

During one of our walks to the right bus stop, Albany John goes “If we see a Chick-Fil-A, we are going in for a snack,”, then lo and behold, there was a Chick-Fil-A right around the next corner!
Hoorah, Chick-Fil-A! Albany John got a spicy and a regular. The kid behind the counter asked if we were backpacking across the country. Heh, cute.

Grilled chicken sandwich. Yum! But pretty preservative-ified. It could have been like chicken-ham. So juicy.

And then we saw a Trader Joe’s in the distance.
This one had wine. We picked up some snacks for the bus ride back.

Here’s the VA Beach post of the Chinese bus. We got there way early and checked in. The driver was kind of a dick on this bus at first, but we got in pretty quickly, and the guy didn’t take a break (which is also kind of worrisome re: the whole not crashing thing), but we arrived safe and sound. Also, what’s up with almost all of the Chinese-speaking people getting primo seats up front, hunh? We were the first ones to check in, and somehow got middle/rear bus seats. I gotta learn Chinese.

Oh, there was also a 7-11 about a block and a half away from the bus stop, so I figured I’d give it a walk.

I’m not one of those chicks who’s all “I need a guy/group of people to walk with me at night”, but this area was pretty sketch after 10 pm. Some guy started shouting at me to come over to him in the parking lot of the bus stop (this might have been the same guy who was trying to sell Albany John drugs earlier), and… yeah. It was weird. Also, weirdos in 7-11, and it’s probably not that great of a sign when a manager leaves for the night telling the staff to be safe. After that, there was some guy that jumped in front of me going “Hi! Hi there! Hi! How are you!?!”. I just walked around him and stayed on the sidewalk (well lit area) to the bus place. After that I figured I should probably stay put and not go for any more late night walks in areas I’m not familiar with.

BTW, that Italian sub was pretty freaking good.

Ala Shanghai Lunch with Friends

The Profussor had suggested a lunch date with Leah the Nosher at Ala Shanghai one day this week. I had just started craving Ala’s soups, so my answer was “Oh hell yeah!”. We met up yesterday, and Albany John was even able to join us. We got some freebie snacks for the table while we waited for Leah – Spicy 8 Jewel on the left (mmm, there was even shrimp in the bite I got!!!), and salty-delicious edamame on the right. Yeah, I tried to be good and follow my holistic Dr.’s orders to avoid spicy and fried food, but… so hard at Ala when the food is so good! And it was just a little spoonfull. Moderation, right?

Albany John and Daniel B. ordered some lunch specials, so they got egg drop soup. Nom – so good. Albany John likes how light and refreshing the corn makes the dish.

Appetizers! In the front are two kinds of cold appetizers on one plate ($9 combo) – Salty Duck is on the left, and Wine Chicken is on the right. Salty duck was good (not crazy salty, just enough) and had tender yet firm meat and wasn’t too fatty.

The Wine Chicken? Oh man, so good. Had a lot of flavor and was very tender and moist. It’s a good spring dish – satisfying, but not too heavy. Also, being kind of sick, it was a good sick people food – I could taste it (yay!), but it wasn’t overwhelming; it was a very comforting dish to eat.

In the background is an order of scallion pancake. I followed my herbalist’s orders and resisted their crispy fried goodness. But man, that was hard. I think I should get an automatic cure on being sick for passing these delicious treats up.

HAR GOW, HAR GOW, HAR GOW!!! Hee hee hee. Mmmm, nothing I love better when I’m sick than sticky, soft, and chewy rice noodles. Shrimp is the icing on the cake. Or maybe the noodles are the icing on the shrimp cake. Either way, it’s a ride to delicious town.

Xiao long bao! We ended up ordering more of these after the first round (good call, Leah!). So, so good. I’m so happy to get XLB in Albany.

Here’s one of the FUSSYlittleCHILDREN. She loves ice, and Lanny (the owner) overheard her asking her pops for more ice to chew on and brough over a cup. What excellent and responsive service.

The service at Ala Shanghai is one of the reasons I really enjoy going. They’re very old school professional – if you drop some silverware, they’ll notice it; if you casually say something to someone at your table (like with the ice) and they can do something, they will. They’re also very child-friendly. While this isn’t a major concern of mine, friends with kids always appreciate that kind of thing.

Mmm, entree time! Albany John got … um, I’m blanking on the name, but I think it was something like spicy beef shanks? It was a spicy beef dish on the lunch specials menu. Daniel B. got the mapo tofu (with ground pork).

I valiantly passed on the mapo tofu, but had to try just a little bit of the beef dish. I mean, beef shanks (so good)! I also ganked some of the bok choy, too. Mmm. Nummy veggies. I was very sad I couldn’t eat any more of the dish, because it was so tasty! Leah thought it could be cooked a touch more. I loved it – the heat really built up. And how can you not love the deep beefy flavor of shanks?

This was probably one of the hottest dishes I’ve had at Ala Shanghai (and not just spicy-hot, but flavorful). I will come back when I am not sick and eat more than one bite of this dish. It was very hard not to eat more.

And the grand finale! Seafood soup ($8)! Holy moly, this was a large bowl! Shrimp, scallops, and squid with homemade lo mein noodles and some veggies. So. Good.

And don’t worry – they will split up the bowl so you can share. They’ll even portion it out so you don’t have to mess around with it. I was glad for this, because I didn’t want to get Leah or Daniel B. sick with my germs.

Just what I wanted. I might have trouble tasting things, but hot, light broth was very welcoming. Soft noodles = awesome. And when can you go wrong with seafood?

That’s how I know I’m at least on the mend – when I want seafood. Does anyone else get sick and not want to eat certain things? Textures and flavors get weird for me when my taste is muted. When I’m really sick, I don’t even want to think about seafood (as we know, this is completely unlike a non-sick Albany Jane) or most dairy.

Anyway, part of the reason I was so looking forward to going to Ala for soup was because their soups tend to be on the lighter side. No slick of oil on top. Just light and… you know, like good soup. It’s nice to be able to go to a Chinese restaurant and not have to ask “low oil”. I’ve had to ask my dad to special order dishes in Chinese before to request low oil, just because sometimes it’s so heavy it takes away from the dish. Not the case here – so refreshing. Sick Albany Jane is happy, haha!

Chinese Herbal Medicine

I’ve had this cold that won’t go away for about a month now, so I decided to see a Chinese medicine doctor when I was in Queens this weekend. I was kind of debating putting it up here, but Chinese medicine is pretty much herbs and dried food, so it’s kind of food related. And if nothing else, you get an American experience of going to a Chinese herbalist. Feel free to skip this post if that kind of thing is a little too hippy dippy or boring for you.

I asked my Dad to ask around Flushing, NY for some recommendations for a Chinese medicine doctor. He got some, and as we were walking, he noticed a sign in the window of Shing Fat Trading Inc. that said they had a Chinese medicine doctor on staff. Not the most scientific method ever, but we walked in to give it a see. It’s located at 13357 39th Ave, Flushing, NY 11354 on the corner of Prince St.

Tip #1 for going to see a Chinese herbalist is to bring someone who speaks and reads Chinese. I don’t, so I never would have known.

It’s a very tiny store packed with dried herbs and vegetables, some food, and some tea. It looks pretty much like a trading store. We got there early and spoke with a woman at the counter, who said the doctor was very good, had a lot of clients, and said he was a retired professor (of herbs or Chinese medicine, I’m guessing?) from China. This and all subsequent conversations were in Chinese (I want to say Mandarain, but maybe it was Cantonese. I don’t know. I’m terrible). My Dad translated for me.

I sat down near the doctor/professor’s counter. It’s all visible in the store, not back room or anything. It’s the back right counter. He checked the pulse in both of my wrists, used a stethoscope to listen to my lungs, looked at my eyes and throat, and also checked my blood pressure. Pretty legit. No puffery or anything. He also asked me/my Dad some questions. This is where you really need to have someone who speaks Chinese. The English is really limited there, and the questions are complex. The Dr/Professor asks a lot of pretty in-depth medical questions that I’d normally be a little embarassed to answer in front of my Dad (bodily functions, etc), but I was so miserable that what little shame I had was gone.

Here were some of my symptoms: stuffed/clogged ears with lots of pressure; eye pain, discharge/crusting, and pressure; swollen throat; fever; congestion; head pressure. Basically, a lot of head stuff going on. Not fun.

He listened thoughtfully for a while. This wasn’t a quickie once-over. It didn’t take a super-long time, but I felt like it was more attention and concern given than my usual experience in a typical doctor’s office (and bonus, I didn’t have to change into one of those stupid gowns) where they usually look at these symptoms and go “Yep, you’re sick. Nothing we can do. $200 please.” I’m not discounting MDs, but I just know my body and this is the type of sickness I usually get, so I’ve learned that going to an MD for these symptoms usually does nothing for me other than cost money, and tie up staff over people they can actually cure. I’ve generally been the sickly sort with ear, nose, and throat stuff, so… yeah. Can’t hurt to give it a try!

Any way, after the analysis, they discussed a course of treatment. At first there was talk of 30 days of medicine, but then we realized I’d be back in a little over a week, so we settled on 15 days of medicine and some accupunture.

The cost was $10 for the consultation, $20 for accupunture, and $7 per day for the prescriptions ($105 total for 15 days) for a total of $135. Not exactly cheap, but… cheaper than it would be for me to visit a regular doctor (and omg, prescriptions would be another arm & leg).

I’m pretty sure it was cash only (most places in Chinatowns are cash only). I’ve learned to carry cash on me when I’m visiting my family in Flushing so I can quickly throw down money to cover at least some of my expenses so they don’t generously pay for everything.

I paid up and went to breakfast with family while they prepared my “prescriptions”. We got there a little before 11 am on a Sunday, I think when they just opened up, and the dr/prof mentioned something about blood sugar levels and wanting to do accupunture on me.

Above is a picture of some other prescriptions being made. The woman in the store we initially spoke to is like the pharmacist. The doctor/professor gives her the (long) prescription and she starts weighing and portioning it out on to paper plates (they get reused, so if you have allergy concerns, just FYI).

The accupunture was really quick. And clean. I was kind of iffy about it, because $20 for accupunture is stupid cheap. But all of the needles used were from sterile commercial packages, and the professor/doctor wiped his hands down with alcohol, as well as the areas I was poked, hee hee. He took one needle and poked it in my right hand, kind of near the web between thumb and pointer finger. It was like he lassoed some kind of ligament or tendon or whatever – it didn’t hurt, but there was a bit of a tingle and some movement. That was really quick. Maybe 30 seconds. Then he poked behind an ear with some kind of a lance a couple of times and that was it. Maybe 1 minute tops of accupuncture. He said it should help with eye pressure and drainage (also that I have an eye infection).

An hour or so later, I noticed that my eyes weren’t incredibly painful when I wiped them. Wait, no eye pain at all. Psychosomatic, or real effect? Heck, I didn’t care at that point.

I had to do a LOT of driving that day, and all weekend I hadn’t slept very much. Exertion related to travel is generally a spell for me to relapse into sickness/get way sicker. Always is. I was like “Great, now tomorrow I’m going to feel terrible or worse.” When I got home I made some medicine, and the pressure in my head was a lot better the next day. I thought it was odd it would work so quickly. There are two baggies for my “medicine”. They handily stapled them together, and I have baggies for every day I need to take the medicine. The big baggie is supposed to help my ear, nose, and throat (cold) problems. The smaller baggie is… um… for constipation. Whatever. My herbalist told me to take it. It’s the internet. Maybe you have these same problems if you find this page. At any rate, here is the process for making the medicine: You can use a clay pot. I didn’t really feel the need to, but then Yeh-Yeh insisted I take his, so my Dad packed it up for me. They said it was safe to use on a gas stove, but… I’m not sure if it already had a crack in it or I broke it, because it had a little hairline crack on the bottom when I heated it up. Ugh, so clumsy. I used metallic pots instead.

So here is the inside of the bag. Looks like a bag of yard clippings, I know.

Here is what the bag says. If you can read Chinese feel free to translate it for me, ’cause I have no idea what it says. Any way, we’ll dump it out and see what it looks like out of the bag:

Oh, now it looks like dried mulch, wood chips, and yard clippings. Hee hee. Yeh-Yeh warned me that Chinese herbal medicine would be stinky, and bitter. This didn’t have much smell. Granted, my sense of smell and taste are rather limited with this cold, but Albany John didn’t really notice anything either.

Soak the big bag of herbs with water for 30 minutes before boiling. They said to soak it with 2 pints to 5 cups of water and then have it lightly boil down for 30 minutes to reduce to 1 cup of liquid. I’m not sure if maybe I misunderstood something, but I cannot get it to boil down to 1 cup of liquid from 2 pints in 30 minutes at a low boil. Maybe I should be using 2 cups.

Then boil it for 25 minutes. Toss the small bag in and boil an additional 5 minutes (30 minutes total). No real smell while boiling, either.

I pour it into a bowl with a strainer, in case any large pieces fall out.

Then you’re left with this. Bowl of hot dark brown. It doesn’t exactly scream delicious. And it is pretty potent stuff. It’s got a vicosity somewhere between water and milk. Not quite as thick as milk, but thicker than water. Flavor-wise, it’s bitter, but not unbearably so. It tastes better than liquid cough syrup, but I’m not going to be craving the stuff once the course of treatment is complete. There’s a brightness in it that makes it a little more bearable. Kind of lemony/tart. I try to think of it as tea that’s been steeped for way too long. You know how if you make a cup of tea and then forget about it for an hour and leave the bag in and it tastes super bitter? That’s kind of like what this tastes like (or what I’m making myself say it tastes like to keep drinking it, heh).

It’s not the best stuff in the world, but I’ve been noticing I’m feeling less sick the day after I take it. I’ve been drinking it at night before dinner, so I feel better in the morning when I wake up. I’m still maintaining a skeptical observation, because it could very likely just be psychosomatic wishing. But when you’ve been sick for 4 weeks psychosomatic cures are totally fine with me because I just. want. to. be. not. sick.

I’m also supposed to not eat fried or spicy foods for the next 13 days (remaining days in my treatment). Yeah, we’ll see how well that works. Any way, I congratulate you if you’ve made it this far!

Cosimo’s, 5 Burros, and Maple Bacon Ice Cream

This weekend my future sister in law Maka had her bridal shower. Very cool thing to be a part of. Her family is fairly large and went all out in throwing her a party at Cosimo’s in Poughkeepsie (120 Delafield St, right off of the highway). Mama Amherst and I were there reping the groom’s side! Girly weekend! One of my girlfriends used to work at a location further down state, and I’d never managed to try it, so I was excited to give it a whirl. Salad. Little heavy on the dressing for me, but lots of flavor. It was some kind of a prosecco vinaigrette. Tasty.

Got a margherita pizza. Nice thin crust and chewy edges with cornmeal on the bottom. It was a large “personal” pizza. I ate about half of it and took the leftovers with me. Tomatoes were nice and bright. I’d get it again.

Dessert! They brought in a cake for the bride, and the menu came with tiramisu. Good tiramisu. Lots of kahlua flavor, hee hee.

And then we packed my car with all of the gifts Maka received. I wish I’d taken a shot of the car. It was so packed! We drove from Poughkeepsie to Queens. She never would have made it on the train with all of that stuff.

See? I told you. It was a LOT of stuff! haha. Thank goodness for granny carts. We made it within three trips.

Then we met up with some of my bro-in-law CVS’s friends who were VIPs at 5 Burros (7205 Austin St, Forest Hills, NY). I’d been there once before for drinks and it was jam packed. It was pretty much impossible to get a table for more than two people during prime time hours (like, the only time I’m ever there to visit)… unless you knew someone.

We still had to wait about an hour (brr!), but man. I don’t even wanna know how long we’d wait if we didn’t know someone.

We crammed into a table in the back and got a pitcher of strawberry margaritas. Frozen. Yum! I only wanted half a drink because I’ve got this stupid head cold that won’t go away, but they were way too generous and gave me a full glass. They give you a little toy in the drinks. I got a goldfish, he he.

I got tacos al pastor ($14). Three tacos stuffed with deliciously moist pork meat and some minced red onion and cilantro. So freaking good.

At first, I was kinda like “Eehh, $14 for three tacos?” But the tacos were so good and so generously portioned, AND it came with a side of rice, beans, some mild salsa, guacamole and sour cream. I quickly changed my tune. Everything was flavorful enough for me to taste something, even with the nagging head cold. I even liked the rice! It was like fried rice, but Mexican. And really good. Sadly, I could barely make a dent in the sour cream and guac because of the cold (texture weirded me out).

Albany John was hanging with his folks in Amherst, and I missed his dish nibbling. I don’t think I’m used to eating an entire meal on my own when I go out to eat! I had a whole taco left. It seems kind of wussy (who can’t eat three tacos?), but they were so big! If Albany John were there, he could have helped me out.

Oh, and Maka gave me some goldenseal, and that stuff really helps drain your sinuses! I could actually breathe through my nose that night!

The next day I went to Flushing to meet up with my Dad, Uncle, and Yeh-Yeh.

I checked out a Chinese Medicine doctor guy before we went to breakfast just because this stupid cold won’t go away and nothing is working, and it’s one of those colds where if I go to a Dr. Dr. they’re just like “Yeah, you’re sick, drink some Gatorade, there’s nothing we can do.” I figured why not? Worst case scenario I spend some money on some herbs that won’t hurt me any way, and best case scenario is that I get a homeopathic cure that’s been used by people for thousands of years.

So they said we should get breakfast because of blood sugar levels or whatever, so we went to Jade Asian Restaurant for yum cha. Got some har cheung (shrimp rice rolls). Oh man, those were good. Really silky and tender noodles. They must make them there.

Joong. Maka and CVS joined me, and they really liked this dish.

Steamed chicken and rice. I wasn’t really hungry because of the cold. I just don’t get as much motivation to eat when I’m sick because I can’t really taste anything and my throat hurts, so what’s the point? But I guess that’s what family is for, because Yeh-Yeh and my dad were piling food on my plate and encouraging me to eat. That was really sweet of them. You’ll never go hungry in a Chinese family.

Steamed spare ribs, tripe, and shrimp dumplings.

Chow fun to end the meal. Again, really silky noodles. I want to get more fun dishes here. And by fun I mean rice noodle, although eating good food is fun too. Hee hee.

Oh, so this is the place I went to see the Chinese herbalist. Shing Fat Trading, Inc., located on the corner of Prince and 39th Street. Who’da thought, right? They’d readied my herbal “prescriptions” for the next couple of weeks and gave me some quickie accupuncture. I’ll do another post on this in a few days with some more detail.

The short of it, though, is that I did start feeling a little bit better. Still sick, but just not as sick. But at that point who really knows if it’s the work or just the psychosomatic effects? I mean, either way, whatever works to get rid of this cold. Seriously. Cold. Go away.

Then it was time to head to Amherst to pick up Albany John. I cut through Connecticut on I-95 to I-91. It wasn’t much longer than my normal route home. It usually takes me about 4 hours to get home from Queens with the routes I take, and this only added, like, an extra hour (maybe) of total travel time. Plus I always like trying a new way home. Keeps the drive more interesting. Unless there’s traffic on the way to the Whitestone Bridge. It took me about half an hour to go like, two miles. Ugh. C’mon. Let’s speed it up! But slow goings on a Sunday around the city isn’t exactly surprising.

Funny thing is, after this E-ZPass sign was another sign saying “No Picture or Video”. Hmm. Okay.

It was still a little slow once I got on I-95, but not as bumper-to-bumper.

Once we got into CT it was a lot faster. Yay! Although CT drivers: WTF. Can no one maintain their speed on the highway? I know some of you have cruise control.

Blessedly, I made it to Amherst and was greeted with happy faces. And Maple Bacon Ice cream. Albany John picked up the weirdest sounding flavor from Maple Valley Ice Cream.

Can I just say how much I love MA dairy? They nail dairy products. I love getting ice cream in MA. It’s always so ridiculously rich and awesome.

Ingredient list. Cream, milk, cane sugar, maple syrup, bacon, vanilla extract, and some unnamed natural stabilizers. I like the local lables. Too cute.

I still couldn’t taste very much, but the texture was great. Creamy with bits of bacon in it. I’d get it again. It really wasn’t all that odd.

And then I got FLAN ON A COOKIE!!! Papa Amherst made them. SO DELICIOUS! And then I made Albany John drive back so I could nap in the car. Good man.

All Good Bakers Opening Day

Had to hit up opening day (Friday) of the All Good Bakers storefront (160A Quail Street, Albany, NY) to check out Nick & Britin’s hard work. It’s right next door to Mr. Pio Pio!

I dragged the Profussor and the Fussy Little Children down to peep what was available in the afternoon. We snagged the last baguette ($3) and split it. Albany John remarked that it’s really nice to have a friend that you can split a loaf of bread with.

Also, Albany John was out of town, leaving me to cook bachelorette style. And if I hadn’t had a friend to split the loaf with, I would have totally housed that loaf on my own (absolutely slathered in butter). There is no doubt about it, because I housed that half a loaf of bread as soon as I got home. Nice fermented tang to the dough, and thin/crackly exterior with an awesome crumb in the center. So good I didn’t even have time to snap a picture. Didn’t even need butter (but not like that stopped me)!

While there I got a maple pecan scone ($2.50). SO AWESOME. Crumbly and moist in the center, crisp on the outside. I’ve had a cold so I haven’t been able to taste all that much lately, but the texture was a real delight.

Oh, and btw, they sell croissants on Sundays! I was out of town this weekend, otherwise I so would have been there.