Dream Puff Macarons

When I saw that Dream Puff Marshmallows was going to have pumpkin macarons at the Troy Farmers Market, my head nearly exploded. “You can do that flavor combo with a macaron? I must have it”

I managed to get to the market at the crack of noon (hey, we’re not all morning people) and snagged the prettiest one for a mere $2.

Holy moly, this was amazing. Thee shell perfectly crisp & sans color on the exterior. Full of pumpkin flavor from the pumpkin ganache filling, and sprinkled with powdered pumpkin. So good. It’s a great way to welcome fall.


I went to Bacchus (32 2nd St, Troy, NY 12180) with my sib-in-laws last Friday night for dinner. It’d been a while since I’d been, and I remember my initial impression wasn’t the greatest. I am very happy I returned (their restaurant week menu was a pretty big pull), because we had a great time. We ordered the shrimp & artichoke appetizer. This was something like $6, and well worth it. Fresh wood-fired bread, and a big bowl of deliciousness.

My brother-in-law went with a pizza with jalapenos, chicken, & onions. He really liked it, and even said it was pretty spicy.

My sis-in-law Maka went with a design-your-own pasta with tri-color spirals & some red pepper cream sauce.

Albany John and I both got their restaurant week menu, which was $10 for a margherita pizza & a glass of wine or beer. I went with a glass of Malbec, Albany John got a glass of beer. They’ve got a nice selection of beers on tap – something close to a dozen, and all priced fairly, mostly in the $5-7 range. This Neapolitan-style pizza was awesome! A thin, flavorful crust with bubbles & char. No sogginess. I’ll definitely be back for more pizza and drinks in the future.

Bacchus strikes me as a nice place to catch up with friends or take a date. It’s a basement restaurant, so it’s got a cozy vibe with the exposed brick walls and low lighting.

Saratoga Wine, Food, & Fall Ferrari Festival 2012

I went to the Saratoga Wine, Food, and Fall Ferrari Festival at the beginning of September. This was my third year covering it, and it featured the addition of the Cast Iron Chef challenge between Chef Jaime Ortiz of Mazzone Hospitality and Patrick Longton of the Wishing Well (you might remember the Wishing Well from their Dark Dinner). The two chefs put on a fierce competition, and the entertaining emceeing skills of Suvir Saran also kept the crowd engaged (he was delightfully snarky with judge Steve Barnes). In the end, Chef Longton won.

The secret ingredients were peanut flour & bitter melon. The chefs tended to have a dish around one of the ingredients, not both. The lighting inside the Hall of Spring wasn’t really conducive to photos, so you’ll have to take my word on it. As a side note, the cooking set ups for the chefs were really sweet. I now am planning my dream kitchen and plan on shopping at Adirondack Appliance for all of their neat kitchen gizmos and some cranked up gas stoves.

Immediately following the Cast Iron Chef, it was time to head out to the Grand Tasting! The Grand Tasting is my favorite part of the Saratoga Wine, Food & Fall Ferrari Festival. Yes, there are tons of wines, but there are also so many different foods to try! If you’re thinking of going to one thing during this Festival, the Grand Tasting is where it’s at.

Caputo flours were featured at one booth cranking out wood fired pizzas.

And now I need to get my own wood fired pizza rig, plus some 00 flour. So good. Best pizza of the Grand Tasting. Perfectly airy crust.

Ahi tuna tacos – Albany John loved this from a photo standpoint, but flavor-wise the flour tacos were too thick for the tuna.

Chicken pate. Mmm, nice and pate-y.

Mama Mia’s Pizza and Cafe was one of the friendliest tables at the festival, and that’s tough because everyone at all of the tables are generally in good moods. They were filling cannoli to order and pulling their own mozzarella.

What a nice pull! The cannoli shells were delightfully crispy and flavorful. Thin, but not thin enough to shatter, and the cheese filling was sweet without being sickly. I need to get up there to try their goods in store.

The Steak and Wine Pairing seminar sponsored by Angus Beef featured a few different styles of beef prepared by chefs from Mazzone Hospitality. Unfortunately none of the beef rested between when it was cooked and when it was sliced, and many were cooked past medium, so a lot of what was served was a bit on the dry side. The folks serving the wine also had no idea what cuts paired with what wines, and had no suggestions for where to start. It was more just like “Here are three different kinds of steak and four red wines to drink in a tent” than a pairing.

The golden Buddhas from the Chocolate Gecko were so pretty! Their table had some chocolates and toffees out. Yum.

The Gideon Putnam had a great spread as well. They usually have an impressive spread, and this year was no difference. Niman Ranch pork belly with an apple cider foam. So fatty (but balanced) and good!

St Germain’s table featured an addictive fruit punch. I just love that elderberry flavored liqueur.

I love that roasting beef was just as much a decoration as it was a dish.

Maple Whiskey. Yes!

Rounded out the day with some samples from the Hudson Whiskey folks before heading over to the wine tasting with Kevin Zraly.

Now, the wine tasting with Kevin Zraly is where things get interesting. First of all, I learned about covering your wine glass and swirling for a few seconds to release more of the scents. That was really cool, and really effective for drawing out some of the more subtle notes of a wine. A few glasses into the tasting is when the storm really hits and people start heading to their cars from the Grand Tasting. Kevin takes the lead and tells everyone to be calm, because we have more wine to drink. Wind starts flying everywhere, and while we’re under a tent, we can all still feel the elements. He gets us through the tasting, and then we hang out in a sort of limbo with the few vendors and attendees who hadn’t left during the storm. It was like the pre-after-party.

AGB Semifreddo

Step 1: Go to All Good Bakers.

Step 2: Order semifreddo ($4).
Step 3: Inhale & enjoy. This was my first taste of semifreddo and I really liked it. It had a chewier texture than ice cream, and a lower melting point. The chewiness was really fun – almost like a very soft taffy. This flavor was salted caramel. Daniel B. thought it was a bit too sweet, but I thought it was just right, although it was more of a caramel flavor than salted caramel.

Homebrew Attempt #1

I can’t tell if I like these photos this big. Lemme know your thoughts…
I ordered a groupon for Midwest Supplies. It was something like $50 for their Starter Kit, plus a choice of beer to brew. Albany John chose an Irish Red. It comes with a bunch of stuff for easy home brewing. You can see the different hops, cheescloth, molasses, grains, yeast, and priming sugar above.

And here is some of the other stuff in one of the brewing buckets. Caps, some hosing, and a few bottle brushes. Also a temperature sticker (which I didn’t use) and a hydrometer.

Handy Dandy capper.But we don’t need that just yet.

The brewing kit makes it fairly easy to figure out how to brew. They also have a PDF of their directions in case you lose things easily or get the sheet they include wet. Not that I did that. Any way, the first step is to put your crushed grains in the cheesecloth bag & steep them at about 150-155 for 10-30 minutes. I did 30 minutes because the sheet told me that the longer it steeped the better. Okie dokie.

I got tired of holding a thermometer in the water in short order, so I rigged this old wire hanger so the thermometer hung into the water without touching the bottom.

Once that’s done, take the grains out and the water off of the heat. It looks like tea. Then toss in the included molasses. Stir until it dissolves.

Once that dissolves, toss in the Cascade bitter hops. They are pellet hops. This starts the long part of the brewing process.

Once this starts to boil, let it go for 60 minutes, then toss in the Fuggle hops for the last 2 minutes. I used a really big pot, so I didn’t have to worry about any boil overs. I kept walking away from the pot and ignoring it for minutes at a time. This will probably bite me in the ass the next go-round, but my kitchen escaped unscathed this first time.

After the hops are added, Midwest urges you to cool down the brew as quickly as possible. The total water needs to add up to 5 gallons, so they suggest using a whole bunch of fancy tools that I didn’t have… or using ice as part of the water you add to get the entire brew up to 5 gallons. I went with the ice method, and also had a fan going in the kitchen pointed near the hot brew.

Once things had cooled down, I added it to my sanitized brewing bucket and tossed in the yeast.

Once that’s done, pop the airlock on and then mooch off of some friends for the use of their sweet, cool basement (which hovers aroun 65-70F) and peace out for 2 weeks. I liked that the kit said I could use the hydrometer, but that letting it go for 2 weeks would pretty much be fine. Sure enough it was. I plan on nerding out on future brews, but wanted to take a low-key approach this first time so I wouldn’t get pissed if I screwed it up.

After 2 weeks, continue to mooch off of friends by using their dishwasher to sanitize your beer bottles (bonus points if you have friends that will sanitize them for you while you drive over).

Then bottle!

The next round of homebrewing will showcase the finished product. 2 weeks.

Wine + Food and Fall Ferrari Fest 2012

The Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival is this weekend. I’ll be covering it for the third year in a row and am looking forward yet another delicious weekend in Saratoga.

The entire weekend’s schedule is available here. I’ll pretty much be living at SPAC all day Saturday live tweeting just about everything that goes in my mouth. Hope to see you there!

If there is one event I suggest you go to, it’s the Grand Tasting from 1-5 pm. You get 4 hours filled with food and beverage tastings, and you can go to as many booths as you like and get as many samples as you like. The restaurants bring their A game and put a lot of care into the preparation. The wineries will let you do flight tastings of their wines for comparison and are usually quite eager to tell you more about their products (and not just in a “we’re great, so buy a bottle!” kind of way).

If you’re lucky, one of your friends will DD for you, or you’ll get a cab back home/to your hotel.

NYS Fair


I went to the NYS Fair out in Syracuse this past weekend. It was a bit of a drive from Albany, but well worth a day trip out. The NYS Fair was nice enough to provide me with some tickets to check it out, but there is so much to do and see it is well worth the $10 per day to enter.







A booth on New York state apples. Yay!



Go NYS Farms!


There was a section about New York State farms and supporting agriculture in NYS. While my family has had most of their farms in New Jersey, we are still proud farming stock and I quite enjoyed this exhibit of NY endorsing smaller-scale farms.

Then I lost Albany John and wandered around the winning flowers. Here are some of my favorites:



They were all just sitting on tables and I was surprised that no one had mucked with them.



The Cornell Cooperative Extension had a display on hops grown in the New York, and even had a bunch of different kinds of hops you could smell. Nice!




Different kinds of grains grown in NY State, corn, and some different kinds of cow chow.

Then I found some cute table top setups:



Albany John had found the HP Hood potato bar booth, where you could snag a potato and fixin’s for $1. Not bad! I had packed a few sandwiches to eat throughout the day, so pretty much every shot Albany John took of me was of me eating sandwiches.




Wine slushies were a big hit on this hot & sunny day.




I can’t resist a good anthropomorphic pig touting its own deliciousness.







Can’t beat $2 PBRs on draft, pretty much all over the fair. Ahh, refreshing.

We spent a bunch of time walking around checking out the sites – so much great people watching!



Albany John found a very willing model to pose for him. Seriously, this peacock was all about preening and making faces for the camera.



I need a tye dye chicken. All of the animals on display were in very good condition – none of them seemed stressed out and they largely ignored the crowds. I feel like there was a very high level of  concern regarding the animal welfare at the NYS Fair.



Many of the animals were also available for sale.




This bunny is doing the roast duck. Because his legs look like a hanging roast duck. It’s so cute when animals stick their legs out!



There was a guy doing metal work, too – so neat! Although the fumes in the building were a bit overwhelming.




Reppin’ a little bit of Albany with a cutter sled from the 1800s. Go Albany!

The NYS fair had a bunch of free exhibits, too! One of my favorites was the petting zoo. It cost money to feed the animals, but going in and seeing them was completely free. I loved it! I bought a bunch of food to feed the animals and insisted Albany John take at least 80billion photos of me with each animal. Again, these animals all had a lot of space and generally seemed in a good disposition. I really liked how well-cared for the animals were at this fair.
I look forward to the NYS Fair next year – Syracuse is a good location for it. There was plenty of parking (they shuttle you from the lot to the grounds, which is very quick and close), virtually no traffic, and so much space on the fairgrounds to walk around and take in the sights.

The Ripe Tomato


Seb and I went food-venturing to Malta for lunch at The Ripe Tomato.








Haddock Amandine for me. Kind of small for an $11.95 lunch portion, but fair. I should probably just not order seafood at lunch because my stomach is bottomless for seafood. They have a bunch of Italian-American dishes on the menu that I’d also like to try.

The spinach was cooked/wilted just the right amount, and I really enjoyed the amaretto sauce on the fish. Normally I’m not a fan of sweet sauces, but this had a nice balance to it that went well with the haddock. Mashed potatoes were mashed potato-y and fine, but not something I’d have to have in the future.


S got one of the specials. I think this was Haddock schnitzel? I snagged a bite, and it was pretty tasty, too.

I guess we are both fishy individuals.


We decided to split a slice of carrot cake for dessert. For science. Pretty tasty cake – moist cake and tart cream cheese frosting. I would have been fine with a bit more icing, but really, I’d also have been fine with an obscene amount of icing. Is there ever such a thing as too much cream cheese icing? Bonus points for the freshly whipped cream on the side.