Ala Shanghai dim sum

The lovely social media Queen Danika and I took our guys out to Ala Shanghai for dim sum. Chinese brunch, ya know?

An order of drunken chicken on the left, and mock duck on the right. Man, I was definitely digging the mock duck. I’ve got to get that one again. Thin tofu sheets around… deliciousness.

 You know you go to a restaurant a lot when you start fondly calling the owner Uncle Lanny & a waiter pops over with some cold jelly fish (one of my fave cold apps on their menu) and says it’s “From Uncle”. Aww.

This is why I love going to Ala Shanghai. It makes me feel like I’m with my family, even though I don’t get to see my Chinese family as much as I want to. And I get pretty much the same service that my YehYeh does at his regular spots. (A few small dishes for free are pretty much par for the course at Chinese restaurants if you’re a regular, like tea or peanuts.)

 And then we ordered MOAR. Two rounds of Xiao Long Bao, some turnip cakes…

And some pork with tofu & capsella soup. So good, even in the summer. Light, but still porky. 

Under $10 per person, including tip! Gotta love dim sum.

Ramona’s Cafe

 If you’ve ever been on Lark Street, you’ve seen Ramona’s Cafe. Delicate cursive signage, and welcoming vibes to all who pass by. I’ve managed to miss their hours of operation over the years, until quite recently, when my friend and I popped in. Ramona’s is a mainstay for him, not only because Ramona herself is so warm and inviting, but also because she is aware of his celiac allergy.

It’s a small space, a bunch of tables squeezed in, and a whole lotta hippie decor. Tapestries, lava lamps, and such.

I went for a small buffalo chicken salad (something like $6-7), which was chock full of chicken breast. Not a bad snacky-lunch. I liked it, not very spicy, though.

Ramona’s niece was working the tables that day, she is a little firecracker! She saw I didn’t eat my bell peppers, and promptly grabbed a fistful of them, shoved ’em in her mouth, and said “I LOVE bell peppers!” 

I like her. 

Key Lime Cocktail @ Hooters

Key lime pie cocktail from Hooters on Wolf Road. Something around $6, and SO tasty! I now need to figure out how to make it ,myself. Refreshing, and didn’t pack too much of a boozy kick. 

Service was okay – our waitress was a bit less welcoming once she learned the group I was with just wanted a few drinks, I guess she was hoping for a larger bill. The place was dead, so I don’t really get it. 

The guys were happy with their beers. Their larges are LARGE, hehe.

BREAKING NEWS: Fresh Har Gow in Albany!

 Taiwan Noodle has brought in a chef from Manhattan to make har gow & siu mai on site! Daniel B., Sandor, a few other friends and I met up for some dim sum snacks yesterday, and I was beyond excited when they told us about this new change in their menu.

 Crystal dumpling skins on the har gow. These rice-wrapper shrimp dumplings were excellent – soft & tender skin, and large chunks of shrimp inside. They are just as good as the har gow I’ve had in NYC & Flushing.

 These are unlike any other har gow in the area, which are all just reaheated from frozen dim sum trays. Those har gow scratch an itch, but the har gow at Taiwan Noodle define what har gow should look & taste like. 

 I don’t usually get excited about siu mai, but the texture on these were lovely – plenty of shrimp & pork chunks, and the wonton wrapper on the outside wasn’t overcooked. The freshness really comes through in the flavor and texture.

 And, naturally we had more food – sliced pig ear on the right, spicy pork stomach on the right, and some quick pickled cabbage in the back.

The pig ear was great – it’s mostly texture, and the texture is similar to beef tendon. Think chewy and somewhat crunchy.

The spicy pork stomach was indeed spicy, but well flavored, and not at all funky. Sandor & Albany John took quite a liking to this dish.

 Pork chops for the FUSSYlittleKIDDO. Pan fried, a bit greasy. Home cooking at its best. At least two big pork chops – very generous.

 Scallion pancakes were also voted a delicious success by young miss fussy. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. 

 Veggie dumplings – cabbage & pepper notes front notes. Fresh dumpling skins with a nice chew to them.

 Pig feet – so much delicious texture! The other ladies at the table also agreed these were delicious.

 Spring rolls in the background. I think they were mainly veggie. The broth on the right is  a small soup that comes with some of the plated dishes. It had some seafood and maybe tofu sheet? I’ve never had soup like that before – quite light & delicate.

 Spicy meat noodles. The broth above goes with it, you slurp a mouthful of soup when you eat some noodles. I swear, this bowl doubled in size since the last time we were here. I don’t remember it being so big! For only $4.95!

 Sandor & Albany John model the latest in noodle-based deliciousness. The spicy meat noodles now mixed, and pork soup with house-made salted veggie. 

The spicy meat noodles were spicier than the last time we were here. The last time Albany John had them he needed to add extra heat to it. This time he was sweating sans extra spice additives. Mmm. And so flavorful, too.

Spicy chicken wings are also a new addition. We got a plate of these with white rice. I didn’t try it, but they everyone who had it said they were great. Next time. Oh, and Daniel B. took one wing before I snapped this, so just imagine one more piece of chicken.

Our check (before tip) for 8 people came to $70.40. What a steal! One of these 8 was a young kid though, so you might spend just a wee bit more if you go with a similarly sized group. 

Now go get some legit har gow, and don’t forget to take me with you!


“How did you like amaranth? I did not know that is what it was called.” said my Dad. 

Amaranth is the green & red leaf in the picture above. I still have no idea what it’s called in Chinese, but I do know that it’s a tasty green veggie. If you like spinach but are getting a bit sick of it, I totally recommend trying amaranth greens. They’re $2.29/lb at the Asian Food Market on Central Ave in Albany, so a big baggie will only run you about $5, and it stays fresh for over a week. The stems are a bit tougher than spinach, so a quick stirfry or boil/blanch will do them well. I personally find that spinach can go from raw to mushy & overcooked quite quickly. Amaranth has more texture, so it will still cook the leafy green part nicely without cooking the entire leaf into mush.

That said, they’re also just fine & dandy mixed in with some of the other green tastiness you see above (scallions, thai basil, & limes) for pho mixins if you don’t mind a little extra chew. 

Amaranth is a touch sweeter than spinach, and when cooked can give off a bit of a pink hue/liquid (a cute veggie? whoda thunk?). I like to cook it quickly in a pan, like a quick stirfry/sautee. I don’t like to use soy sauce with it so that the sweet vegetal flavor comes through & isn’t overwhelmed by salt (and I love salt). Normally I’ll just melt a bit of oil in a pan, toss the greens in, and either salt it and add a bit of water and cover, or add a bit of chicken broth & cover. Just a few minutes, no longer than 5 for sure. Then you get simple tasty greens. 

Grilling Season Has Begun

 Grilling season has begun. I’ve put Albany John to work a few nights and nice days grilling me some chicken and other delights. FACT: Anything kissed by charcoal and smoke is a delight.

 This is what awaits you after slathering with some special BBQ sauce from a friend’s relative and covering for a while. So good. 

 Grilled boule? Go for it.

 Bananas with BBQ sauce???!!! Grilled and freaking AWESOME. 

 My favorite little doggie got a few nibbles of chicken. Don’t worry – we only let her eat the meat, no bones! 

 Then stop off at Mac’s in Watervliet. 

For their coconut ice cream. So good. So coconutty. Nom. Bring cash – they don’t take cards.

Happy weekend, I hope you find yourself near some coals in short order.

Olde English

Olde English is a nice & relaxing spot for some afternoon food & drinks. I went on Mothers Day, and they were a little off of their game after having sold out of a bunch of food & beers the night before, but still a nice & leisurely afternoon. 

 One of the best things about the Olde English is that you can bring your furry friends and sit outside. 

Our food took a while to come out, and I think my “black & blue” steak was the first thing out, then got to sit under a heat lamp while the rest of the food cooked until it was grey and well-done. Although this color of grey in a steak is what my mom & I call “Nana’s version of rare”. So I suppose it is an English preparation of rare. I usually figure anything I order rare will come out medium-rare to medium, but grey all the way through – yowza.

They were good about recooking a new steak, though. 

 The fish & chips are definitely the way to go. Solid fry job, flaky fish.

 Chicken tikka masala – they were out of rice, so they put the chicken in a bowl and served a side of pita bread. 

 Once everyone was mostly done with their food, I got my steak. Yay, super rare this time! I’m not sure if this was supposed to come with some kind of side sauce? But it was a pretty solid bar steak. If you have time, give it a shot, but if you just want a solid dish, def go for the fried fish.

I like having a place you can just hang around during a sunday afternoon with a few drinks, and your furry friends. I also can’t wait to try the Birthday Teacup, hehe.

Tour de Ice Cream

 The FUSSYlittleBLOG saw fit to arrange a Tour de Hard Serve Ice Cream just about two weeks ago. Man, has it already been two weeks? I was looking forward to trying some oreo hard serve as my flavor du jour, but naturally Daniel B. couldn’t make it easy and in an unsurprisingly fussy twist, he contacted each of our stops to find the common flavors and limited our selection to only those available at all stops. So long oreo ice cream for me. Normally I’d appreciate the shortened selection, but man, I had my stomach set on 5 scoops of oreo.

Instead, I went with coffee, which proved to be an unpopular flavor compared to butter pecan, but more popular than maple walnut (which had no takers). I went with a kiddie sized cup at all of the locations.  I was interested to see who would do the “typical” coffee flavor, which isn’t normally very coffee flavored, but rather more of a buttery-sugar kind of flavor with just the slightest nod toward coffee. Delicious, definitely, but not what is traditionally associated with coffee.

The first and nothern-most stop was The Farmer’s Daughers’ Drive-In in Saratoga Springs, NY.

 I even made it early, with about 10 minutes to spare. That is insanely early for me, haha!

 Coffee numero uno! A nice portion – probably about half a cup, which is what a portion of ice cream normally is. I liked the bitter aftertaste that lingered with this ice cream – very much like real coffee. It was a bit airy & had a few ice crystals in it, but the folks running the stand were quite nice.

 The Ice Cream Man was just down the road. For real – like, not even 5 minutes away.

 They have a ton of flavors. Peach sorbet sounds pretty good to me!

 The kiddie portion seemed larger here than at Farmer’s Daughters’. A bit richer/less air, but no bitter coffee notes. 

 Their outdoor seating area was quite nice – lots of wooden benches in some woods.

 Third stop was The Snowman in Troy. The 30 minute drive was a nice break to ramp up the ole’ appetite again.

 The portions grow the further south we go. This is only a bit smaller than Snowman’s small, and about $0.50 less, at $1.75. I still couldn’t finish it, but ah well.

 This was probably the most traditional not-really-coffee-flavored-coffee ice cream on our whole trip. Quite buttery, creamy, and lots of brown sugar notes, but very light on the coffee flavor itself.

The Snowman has their ordering system down – the whole group was able to order quite quickly.

 Next up – Mac’s Drive-In in Watervliet. They are probably my favorite looking stand. So cute – love those bright red and white stripes. 

 Holy crap, servings like this are why kids today are so fat. This was the largest portion by far, and was easily 3/4 of a cup of ice cream if not a cup. Dude. That is too much ice cream for a little kid. Parents, share a kiddie size if you bring your wee ones here.

Flavor wise, on the light side. A little more flavorful than Snowman’s, and still on the traditional more-buttery-than-coffee-y flavor of coffee ice cream. I had to toss this after about 1/3 of it; it was so much ice cream, and even then that was after picking at it for a while. (BTW, Mac’s makes a BANGIN’ coconut ice cream – try that!)

 The final stop on the tour was Moxie’s. They have a very limited season, so the time to go is nigh. 

 Their portions are better – one scoop is really one scoop. Also, the priciest among the tour. 

Flavor-wise, this was the weakest of the stops. The coffee flavor was more in the background, and tasted more like vanilla with some coffee mixed in. I’ve yet to give Moxie’s vanilla ice cream a try, and maybe that’s more up my alley since I haven’t really had an ice cream from them that’s made me really want to go back. They’re enjoyable, sure, but the flavors don’t really sing to me, and instead seem buried behind cream flavor.

Quite an enjoyable late morning through early afternoon! I’d say to go with your favorite flavor at each of these stops, because measuring by one flavor alone may not be the best way to go it. Coffee may not be the strong-flavor for each of these ice cream stops. The oreo at Snowman is definitely better than its coffee. And their coffee oreo is even better than both.

At any rate, let this tour serve nothing more than a reminder to go forth & consume some ice cream while we have the chance!