Bob’s

Do you know about Bob’s? If you don’t, now you do. Bob’s is located at 929 19th Street, Watervliet, NY (AKA, Route 2 in Watervliet). Bob’s is awesome. Why? Because not only is it open 24/7, 365, but they serve awesome food on the cheap, and they accept credit cards. Say whut? Yeah, I thought so.

Their menu is purely delicious diner food. I’ve been a few times and… LURVE. Lurve, I say. LURVE! Nommy hash browns, decently cooked eggs, and crispy hash.

My girlfriend and I decided that we needed a gut busting & greasy breakfast one weekend morn/afternoon. I think I got the Hash Hound for $8.95, and she got the Lumberjack for $7.95. The lumberjack (background) comes with pancakes or french toast, choice of meat, toast, three eggs, and hash browns. Epic meal, and one she couldn’t finish. SHEESH, GIRLIE!

The Hash Hound comes with a ton of hash, toast, hashbrowns, three eggs, and pancakes or french toast. Their pancakes are SO FLUFFY!!! SO FLUFFY AND GOOD!


Albany John was the dainty one and only ordered a short stack (something like $2-3 for three pancakes). He was sad that they only had the fakelsyrup, but instead slathered his ‘cakes with jam. I didn’t think they needed much aside from butter.

Coffee’s like $1.50 for a bottomless cup. If they’re busy, sometimes it’s hard to flag the waitresses down for a refill. Decent cup o’ diner Joe, though.

The hash had a good amount of crispness to it, but usually it has more when I get it. You could probably split this dish with someone and supplement it with a side or two. It’s a lot of food for a special plate.

Go to BOB’S! It is such good diner food!

Veev Acai drink sampling at Ruby Tuesday

Somehow Daniel B. and I were invited to try VeeV acai vodka through a promotional company. At Ruby Tuesday. I was kind of like “Eh, really? Ruby Tuesday?” But Daniel was all in for it, so I was super rude and didn’t mention I was going to be there and just glommed on with him for the tasting. So I guess Ruby Tuesday is featuring some cocktails with VeeV acai liquor in it. I’m all for trying new things.

Their cocktails run from about $5-7. Not too bad, considering that many of them are hand made and muddled at the bar. My last impression of the ‘Tues was of a crappy burger joint. This current impression was more like a nicer Red Robin.

But any way, what did we drink? Well, Daniel is much better with details and names and such. Although I think our fun bartender was Heidi.

But we had (Clockwise from top):

Skinny Pink Acai Lemonade ($5) – eh, okay. Pretty boring in terms of flavor, and the diet lemonade has a bit of a fakey aftertaste and syrupy/cloying texture. But, it’s under 150 calories. So you can drink on the low-cal.

Acai Mojito – FAVORITE of the night. This is actually a drink that might bring me back in to a Ruby Tuesday. When I was drinking it I was like “Woah. This is good. Wait. And I’m drinking this in a Ruby Tuesday? What?” I believe it usually goes for $6, which is a really fair price for all the muddling work that goes into it, plus the spearmint. Daniel B and I were there on one incredibly sweltering night, and this was the perfect drink for such summer temperatures. The Profussor also found this to be his standout drink, and we were both surprised we actually agreed on something.

Superfruit Cooler – (VeeV Acai Spirit, Absolut Berri Acai Vodka, Elderflower Liqueur, fresh cucmber, organic agave nectar) this was my second favorite, and if it weren’t so hot, probably would have been my first favorite. The St Germain (elderflower liqueur) made it a bit on the sweeter side. Although after thinking for a moment, it kind of resembled a watermelon jolly rancher. Good stuff though, although it wouldn’t hurt to cut this with some club soda and extra lime in a taller glass.

Watermelon Martini – (VeeV, Grey Goose, fresh watermelon, cranberry juice, watermelon concentrate) $7. Freshly muddled, it was pretty refreshing, although would have been even more so with some fresh lime in it. Not bad, and I kind of want some of the watermelon concentrate for my own bar (sugar, watermelon, a few preservatives, yum).

Overall, I thought VeeV was fine as a new flavored liquor, much like pomegranate was a few years ago. It was a fairly mild and innocuously flavored spirit, and had more of a bitter/bland/sweet profile that worked best with tart/sour flavors.

Bootlegger’s

In case you didn’t know, there have been some fairly recent resto changes in downtown Troy. The place that used to be… the place that some of the guys from Badass Burrito owned is now Broadway Brew. And the place that used to be the Golden Fox is now Bootlegger’s. Albany John and I were in Troy late-ish one evening, and you know what? The pickings for something other than pizza are kinda slim. So we hit up Bootlegger’s for some food.

And I had a Powers whiskey and club soda to start. This was a small. $9. Eh… Not so crazy about that price, but it’s basically like a small double anywhere else. It’s cheaper than Jameson (retail), but way less bite in terms of flavor. One of Albany John’s friends introduced me to it, and… yum. Glad to see it available in a bar, even if it’s a bit on the pricier side.

If you can’t tell, Bootlegger’s also has free popcorms. Mmmm! Tastiness!

Albany John got some kind of turkey sandwich with sweet potato fries. It was okay, nothing to write home about, but they do tout that the turkey is roasted in-house.

I got an anemic looking crock of French onion soup. It was okay, but I like my cheese with a little more char to it. The broth tasted canned/boxed. Eh. S’okay. Not great.

Okay, so it was typical bar food. Not awful, but I’m probably not gonna be like “OH! We should SO go to Bootlegger’s for dinner.” Although I’m sure if I’m drunk and hungry I’ll be all over some fried bar food. It’s good for drunk food.

However, the service is quite nice. I wasn’t wowed by the food on this one visit, but loved the service. I’ve been back for some drinks and darts a few times and it has been good. Bootlegger’s is definitely a bar and not a bar+food place for me. One of the bartenders (I want to say Pierre) has consistently impressed me with his professionalism and niceness. It’s never been too crazy when I’ve gone, and always a fairly relaxed crowd.


Marmora Cafe

Went to Marmora Cafe in Troy (203 River St, Troy, NY) when Albany John’s cousin came to visit. They have a couple of websites up… not sure which one is official. But all in all, they’re Egyptian-influenced Mediterranean cuisine.

We split some stuffed grape leaves (meat, pls! But they have vegetarian grape leaves available) – good stuff. It came with a yogurty dip and a peeled tangerine. Around $6.

Albany John went light on the lunch and got a cheese dip app thing… I kind of forget the name, but it was feta cheese mixed with other stuff, and strawberries on the side. Came topped with a few pine nuts.

I wasn’t crazy about it since there were red bell peppers in the mix. There were so few ingredients in the dish, I’d have thought they’d include this in there. But bell peppers seem to be the hidden veggie that is never listed in many Cap Region menus.

Cuz got the falafel platter (something like $11-13?). Their falafel were interesting… smaller than I’m used to getting around here, and rolled in sesame seeds before frying. They were okay, but not my fave in the area. Still, can’t beat the presentation. This dish came with teeny scoops of other dips, too.

Presentation is really nice here, though.

I got a beef wrap. No lamb, *sadface*. The beef was fine, but it was wrapped in a spinach wrap that was gummy. Not my favorite. I’d rather it be wrapped in pita. Not some green gummy wrap.
Came with some veggie fries and a peeled mandarin/tangerine.

I think the prices are a tad on the higher side (maybe just a dollar or two more than I’d ideally like to pay) given the portion sizes, but the presentation is pretty nice. There’s also a bit of extra thought given to the touches – like the peeled tangerines.


Service was very friendly, but a bit spacey – I think it was the owner? It took a while to get the bill, even though we were the only ones there. You definitely won’t be rushed here.

Albany John thinks the name might be why they always seem like they’re on the slow side instead of busy with customers. He thinks it’s kind of hard to pronounce. I don’t don’t really see much competition when Beirut (right down the street) serves many of the same dishes that are a little bigger portion-wise and have more flavor.
I think they should play up more of their Egyptian side and have more Moroccan and Egyptian dishes, instead of competing in an already busy(ish…) field. Either that, or have some different menu items.

Char Siu Pork Belly

What do you do when you have an extra 3+ lbs of pork belly laying around? You make char siu! Fatty, delicious char siu. Here’s one 2-3″ wide hunk o’ pork belly goodness.

I used my old Chinese Snacks cookbook for a simple recipe. All of the recipes I’ve found there have been what I’d imagine someone in my family to make, if anyone in my family cooked with any amount of regularity. (Heck, I only really even like cooking when it’s as “projects”. Ask me to cook a random dinner and I’ll just pick up the phone and order pizza).

Here’s all the ingredients you need for a

Char Siu Marinade

1T Soy Sauce
2T Hoisin Sauce
2T Sugar
1/2t Salt
1T Rice Wine Vinegar (I don’t like the taste, so I use dry vermouth)

Stupid easy, right? I was kind of like “Oh, but I want to add more stuff. And MSG.” But I resisted, since these recipes from this book are pretty fool proof, and delicious in their simplicity.

Okay, so you’ve got all of your marinating ingredients.

HALLO PORK BELLAH!

Blop all of your ingredients in a large bowl. I know, not very photogenic.

Whisk it all together.

Chop yo’ po’k!
Line the three little pork bellies up in your bowl of marinade. I carefully weighed out the belly chunks after slicing, before baking and after marinating, and finally after being cooked, but… now I can’t find them. If I find my numbers I promise I will nerd out for you HARDCORE! YOU CAN’T STOP ME!

MIX IT UP. Eeeeww, raw pork fingers! (Now is a great time to freak someone out and chase them around the house)

The book called for me to bake it at 500F for 20 minutes. I was kind of skeptical about that, so I only baked one as directed. That blackened parts of the outside. And…

It didn’t cook it all the way through. This was actually a nice medium-rare, but it was kind of closer to raw in the center. BTW, this was Kurobuta pork belly I procured from Adventures in Food in Menands, NY. More than fine to eat med-rare.

See? A little undercooked on the right hand slices. But pretty colors.
Here’s the other two pork bellies I didn’t cook up. I let them marinate in the fridge overnight because I was lazy. It didn’t hurt them any. Actually, I think a bit of the cover popped off at one point, so it was a little dried out, but not super dry. Just think, a bit of water-weight evaporated, and not dessicated.

Wary of the 500F baking method, I just let them go low and slow on 350 F for about an hour and a half. Or maybe more. Or less. I don’t know. About that long.

Let them drain a bit. When husbear shouts “Oooh, this looks like Meat Candy!” respond “Don’t you eat that yet!!!”

Meat candy in our house is also known as Siu Yuk (too lazy to create a backlink to it, but just google AlbanyEats! and Siu Yuk and you’ll find it), and that shit gets eaten in the blink of a fucking eye. So good.

Oh, we just pan fried the rarer slices of pork belly and had them as little lettuce cup dealies:
MMMMMMM!

Next task, make some of my own steamed baos. Who wants some?


Restaurant Promo FAILS

Dear Restaurants,


If you’re gonna do a promo, do it right.

XO,
Albany Jane

Let me elaborate. Some restaurants do promos. Some don’t. Some to promos really well. Others… not so much.

I really dislike crappy restaurant promos. A lot of the restaurant.com coupons are just promos for restaurants. The restaurants usually don’t get any of the money you pay for the coupon. Restaurant.com gets that little sum. And the restaurants eat what they lose in the hopes they’ll gain a new customer (who won’t use restaurant.com coupons for every visit). That’s why you have coupons like La Fiesta‘s for $50 on sale for $25. With the caveat that you have to buy $100 of food. La Fiesta isn’t getting the $25 you’re paying on restaurant.com. So their way of recouping some amount of money is to force you to buy $100 of food in the small print so they’ll at least get $50 in sales. However, from a consumer point of view, you’re paying $25, and then another $50, so you’re basically paying to get 25% off of your total bill.


Personally, I don’t really like how that works. It’s less money for the restaurant overall. If you want a promo, offer a 25% off printable coupon and sent it to Steve. He’s got enough exposure in the region (i.e. FREE ADVERTISING) to get the word out so you’re not paying restaurant.com to lose 50% on a sale that the customer’s only getting 25% off of.

If you’re running a promo, make sure it’s a desirable one. I’m not going to run out to a restaurant that’s offering me a free salad with purchase of two entrees and two appetizers.

I recently got a rather confusing coupon/promo from a local restaurant. It’s a good learning experience for other restaurants.

This promo came with a long-winded letter that was basically a “Happy Birthday, we are sending you something”. It’s a nice gesture, but there were a few things that made it flop:

1) It was sent generically to “customer”. If you’re going to bother to send something out to someone for their birthday and you have their name and address, do a mail merge from Excel to Word to make their name pop up. Customers appreciate these little touches. (If you need help, email me. I’m an excel nerd)

2) Make sure you send it in the right month. If you just send them out randomly, make sure they’re good for an entire year.
I received this coupon in the middle of a month that was not my birthday. The coupon was redeemable only for a person with their birthday in that month, on their birthday, and expired 10 days after I received it. Which basically meant I couldn’t use it. All this does is make me think you randomly picked my name out of a hat and don’t pay very much attention to details like… numbers. Plus, if the birthday was at the beginning of the month, by the time it reached the customer, it was already expired for use.

3) KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! (Sorry, I know you’re not stupid) Customer’s don’t need a longwinded letter wishing them a convoluted “Happy Birthday”. Really. All you have to type is the equivalent of “We LOVE YOU/ YOU ARE AWESOME! Happy Birthday, here’s something on us!”. The more you write, the higher the potential for confusion gets.

4) If you’re going to send a coupon, make it a good one. Especially for customers you see fairly regularly. Or even sporadically, but recognize. It makes them feel valued. A coupon that gives you one free dessert or app with a requirement of three entree purchases isn’t much of an incentive. What it comes off as is: “I would like you to spend a lot of money here in the hopes that a small free thing will make it worth your while,”.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good aim of owning a restaurant. Give the customer some little low-margin items that make them feel valued, at little cost to yourself. But don’t nickel and dime your customers. One of my fave local restaurants will give me a little snackytizer when I sit down. It’s a little gesture that makes me feel welcomed, but not so much that it would make me uncomfortable. It’s like when you go to a bar with popcorn – you think “Ohh, snacky! Now let me get some drinks.”
Wolff’s and Bombers have a great business model: Free drink on your birthday. You’re going to bring friends, and they’re going to spend money on their own food/drinks. And as the birthday person, you’re all like “Wolff’s is AWESOME for giving me a free boot of beer on my birthday!”

Does this make sense?

Look, this is just one customer’s perspective, take it as what you will. I’m sure there are customers that are totally willing to scam anything free. I’m more of a customer that’s like “Hmm, they’re giving me something for free. That’s nice. I like that. They are nice. I want to buy something to support these nice people.” Maybe it’s guilt. I like to think that it’s seeing genuinely positive attitudes of businesses in the area.

4th of July at City Beer Hall

Artsy Designer Friend, Albany John, and I went to City Beer Hall (that’s the link to their facebook. Website)to kick off our 4th of July festivities. I was excited to try this new incarnation of the beautiful space formerly known as Ballinger’s (and Ogdens prior to that) after reading about it on Steve’s Table Hopping blog.

So Albany John knows one of the owners from around Albany. Once I read his name on TableHopping, I was so psyched to check this out, because he threw some great house parties and is just a perfect fit the the nightlife industry.

They’ve redone some things and taken out a lot of the furniture, but kept the interior the same. There are some beers on tap and a full bar. Albany John and I went on a scouting mission a few days before 4th of July and it was fun, so after chatting with the owner he knows (just a “hey, good luck, glad to see you’re doing this” kind of thing, not “omgdudez we are so besties kinda way), Albany John and I were sold on coming for 4th of July’s festivities.

I grabbed a Unibroue beer – $8 for a pint. Albany John told me he was surprised since it’s a pretty high alcohol beer. I was surprised it had some clove notes, but still remained refreshing. We walked there so I was incredibly disheveled (I am a blogger, not a professional exerciser!) and sweaty and in need of something cold and thirst-quenching.

Note the little ticket to your left. That’s your stub for FREE PIZZA! (Gluten-free people, you’re going to have a bit of a tough time finding food here to eat, at least for the time being. But you can drink up a storm) Don’t lose that stub.

I was glad to see they kept some of the furniture from the Ballinger’s days. This big couch was on the way out to the patio and really huge!


Awesome business idea – have coolers of water already put out for your crowds. You can peep my lovely husbear demoing how to have at it. I think this is a nice gesture on hot days. Also, how cool is the chalk writing on the brick?

I swear the writing popped more on camera than it did in real life. But still – nice way to put up some limited specials. There was food for sale. A plate of 4 options for $10, and oysters. Truffled mac & cheese!

But first, there was a pizza coupon to redeem. Meet the happiest guy ever. Seriously. Hand in your ticket for pizza, he will make you some. He is so upbeat. Actually, everyone there is really friendly and helpful. I was kind of surprised. Like, everyone here actually likes their jobs, takes their roles seriously, and wants to be here? In Albany, home of blah attitudes? A nice change of pace. Plus, the kitchen is as clean as a whistle.

When I was behind the counter the chef let me huff the truffle-y bread crumbs. Or maybe it was cheese. It’s been a couple days and all I remember is the heady aroma of truffles. He said they had real truffle bits in it, not fakey oil! Smelled good.

PIZZAH! It’s a crackery thin crust of pizza and good stuff. Personal-sized. Tostino’s can go suck it in comparison. It’s better than some of the pizzas I’ve had judging the Tournament of Pizza for All Over Albany. Actually, is that scary how a bar that gives pizzas away is better than some places that sell it?

After pizza was consumed, I had my eyes (and stomach) locked on the blue point oysters. $2 each. And plenty of accoutrements. Found out later that the chef made the cocktail sauce himself and was pretty proud of it. It would have been easy to pop open a jar, so kudos for an eye on the details there.

These were a special, and not normally on the menu.

I blopped WAY too much horseradish sauce on my three oysters. Albany John had the two cocktial sauceified and horseradished oysters on the bottom.

CRAZY HOT NOSE CLEARING HORSERADISH! Tasty pain. Also, these might have been some of the freshest oysters I’ve ever had. So fresh, clean, briny, and… I wanna eat an bushel of them myself. Found out later they’d just come in the night before from Boston.

Then it was time for pizza round two. Inside.

And then Albany John went to “stretch his legs” which was a nice surprise of three oysters for me. YAAAYYY!!! Happy, happy, fresh raw oyster presents!


Can’t wait to go back, it’s definitely shaping up to be one of my new favorite spots.

Also, they have free parking. And a mechanical bull. Also free.

How to Get Laid (by pasta)

*Turns on sexy and cheesy music*

Well hello. What brings you here today?

If you’ve got a hot date and you’re looking to score, may I suggest… Whole wheat pasta with porcini ricotta filling, slathered in a brown butter brandy sauce. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but… thatswhatyourehopingshesgonnasay.

Let’s cut right to third base:

Whole Wheat Pasta Dough
1 C semolina flour
2/3 C whole wheat flour
1/3 C AP flour
Some salt
2 T toasted wheat germ
1/4 C water
1 T water
2 Eggs

Mix all the dry stuff, then toss the liquids in the center. Knead until smooth, then let it sit for about half an hour to let the gluten develop.

Ricotta Mix
1 lb ricotta cheese
2 T powdered porcini mushrooms (like, 4-5 whole pieces put in a spice grinder)
onion & garlic powders
salt
Romano cheese

Make into ravioli. Either use a machine with a setting like I did above (I preferred the chewiness of a level 5 dough over the thinner level 6 dough, which was a little more tender). Boil, then make a brown butter sauce (butter, just lightly browned, some herbs, and when it’s all done, a touch of brandy – STEP THE F BACK, it will light on fire for a few seconds, and thankfully I was more than 2 steps away, ’cause I was ready to grab the baking soda and douse the fire out.)


The homerun’s up to you, tiger. I hear a bottle of Boone’s farm or Riunite really helps.

Seasonal Dinner at Ala Shanghai

What captures a season more than a meal specially prepared for a group of friends? Ala Shanghai is wonderful about preparing specialty menus for a group, and was kind enough to prepare a seasonal dinner for Daniel B., Stanford Steph, Mr. Sunshine, Jess Tanner, Cap 2 Cap & her guy, plus Albany John and me.
App plate with aster salad, wine chicken, smoked fish, and Shanghai-style jelly fish.

The fish was sweet and preserved-y. Not much smoky flavor, but nice texture.
I’ve had the aster salad & wine chicken before – nice and refreshing for the Spring/Summer cusp.

Shanghai-style jelly fish is my new fave summer dish. It’s still got a lot of crunchiness/firmness to it. Flavored lightly, but oh man. Way better than Cantonese style jelly fish (which is more like a noodle-y chewy texture). I want Shanghai jellyfish ALL SUMMER LONG. So good.

Xiao Long Baos for the table, natch. So juicy and porky! Perfect. I know they’re not a dinner dish, but oh man. How can you not order them when they’re an option??

West Lake Beef Soup! The top is covered in a sprinkling of cilantro.

It was more than enough soup for 8 people. Heck, at least 12 people.

This was a great soup for the season. Warm, but very lightly flavored. The cilantro offered some brightness and lightness. A little bit of egg whites and velveted beef. Not a heavy soup at all.
Luffa with shrimp. YUM! I’ve never had luffa. So good. It’s also called the sponge veggie. I’ve read it on Serious Eats but had yet to try it since it’s hard to find up here sometimes, and the season is fairly narrow.

Lanny, the owner of Ala, was telling us that September is the late cutoff for luffa before it gets bitter and unpleasant tasting. August is your last best bet to try this dish at Ala before it goes off of the menu.

It’s like a really light flavor of zucchini/squash and a softer texture.
Chicken with white snow fungus. If you’ve had black wood ear/fungus this is the polar opposite. I was excited to try it since I’ve only had the black versions (heavier flavor) and had only ever seen the white/clear version of it in dessert recipes.

Again, a nice and refreshing dish. Light flavors, great textures.

Tong Bo Pork Belly. This looks laquered, no? The skin is cooked into unctuousness and it’s all quivery and pillowy soft. It comes with some baby bok choy on the sides, but make no mistake – this is no light dish. It’s heavy with layers of fat, and has a sweeter flavor profile. This is a dish that will stick to your ribs.

Sea bass with pine nuts. So lovely and diced! It had a bit of a sweet-salty glaze on it. A bit hit with our table mates. I nabbed a crispy fried fin piece. Yum!

Hello deliciousness and good company!

The softshell crabs with egg yolk were my FAVORITE dish of the night. I think I ate half of the plate by myself (sorry guys…). I mean, you have to eat them soon ’cause fried food only has a finite lifespan. SO GOOD!

Salty, crispy… the egg yolk added a nice rich savory note to the dish. And c’mon. SOFTSHELL CRABS! So perfect.
I forget the name of this dish, but it’s one I’m somewhat familiar with. I’m used to calling it bird’s nest noodles ’cause the noodles are all crispy and the topping is put on top.

Dessert was chrysanthemum jelly with lychees! 😀 YAY, lychees!
A really light and refreshing end to dinner. I think this menu showcased Ala Shanghai’s ability to create a well-balanced dinner menu. There weren’t a bunch of heavy dishes, and the lighter dishes they have really are lighter and have very little oil on them. I think this ability to let subtle flavors shine is one of their strongpoints, and one of the reasons Ala is one of my favorite restaurants in the area.

I’m not one to really care about how much fat is in a dish. But there are some dishes that I think are hurt by a heavy hand of oil. A lot of Hong Kong style and Cantonese style Chinese dishes use more oil than I’d like in their veggie dishes. Sure, sometimes it makes them taste rich and buttery, but other times it’s too heavy and you just want pure veggie flavor (or just something light and refreshing). I love that all of the dishes I’ve had at Ala Shanghai that sound light actually come out light and not covered in oil.

Oh, and best of all – dinner was $20 per person, TAX AND TIP INCLUDED! How crazy-cheap is that?! Best of all, if you want a similar menu, you can give them a call or email and you can set up a seasonal dinner of your own. I wish I had more time on my hands to do this every week.

Some of us went out for ice cream after, too 😀 Cotton Candy topping for the win!