Happy Birthday, Daddy!

P1000924

My Dad and his lovely lady come upstate to celebrate his birthday. We started off with beer and snacks at The Ruck.

P1000930

BBQ wings, with just the right amount of kick. A random afternoon is a great time to hit the Ruck up – it’s pretty empty, and they have free wifi if you need to log on.

For dinner, we went to Taiwan Noodle. My dad loves this place – great home cooking and low, low prices.

P1000934

Wood ear with celery on the right, boiled lettuce with oyster sauce on the right. My Dad loves that boiled lettuce dish. After this one was gone, he got a second plate. Personally, I’m not a fan of the flavor or texture iceberg lettuce gets when it’s boiled. Must be a generational thing.

P1000935

Pig feet appetizer! So tender and gelatinous.

P1000936

Two orders of har gow, because I will always eat the heck out of them, so when there’s more than 2 people, it’s better to get 2 orders when I’m around.

P1000937

Two soups – three mushroom and pork chop noodle soups. Tender, fried pork chop – very ample amount of pork chops in that soup! As always, both broths were quite delicate and flavorful. In this weather, non-greasy soups are key.

P1000938

Some you tiao crullers – fried and crunchy on the outside, chewy breading on the inside. Yum!

P1000939

And a pork belly app to round this meal out. Oh, we also BOYB’ed some beers since they don’t have alcohol on the menu.

P1000940

We were going to head to Crisan for a birthday dessert, but got there just after it closed, so we walked across the street The Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark.

We grabbed both menus, and my dad and his chickie both liked their regular menu, so we’ll probably be back the next time they’re in town.

P1000950

Our server was a beautiful brunette who overheard us talking quietly about Dad’s birthday and surreptitiously brought out his dessert with a candle in it, while thankfully sparing him the birthday song.

P1000951

We all ended up splitting orders of their berry shortbread – crumbly & rich shortbread, lots of berries and whipped cream. Yum.

Pho Yum

P1000705

Pho Yum. It’s okay. Not great, but not bad. I think they’re just a little expensive for what they have. I think what partially bugs me about their pricing structure is that everything starts off at a base price, but if you want to add anything, then you pay per ingredient.

P1000708

$6.50 for summer rolls ($5.50) with shrimp ($1) if you want one filling. These were really good and refreshing. Tuong ngot sauce was refreshing and went well with the shrimp.

P1000710

Albany John and I also got a pho ($6.75) with beef tendon ($1.25). Tendons were somewhat sizeable in that they were not thinly sliced, but on the sparse side. Also, so few condiments! Where is the fun, there? No condiment bar or anything. Not even a selection at or brought to the table. Just a sad squirt of sriracha and some hoisin. Does anyone ever get just a soup with noodles and no… extra stuff? Why not just price them starting at $8.00 with a note that additional ingredients cost more?

A grilled pork sausage banh mi ($5.50 for just the veggies on the banh mi, and who gets just that? All toppings are $1 extra. The pork sausage was naturally cased but kind of dry, and there was too much bread for my tastes. Not french roll either – reminded me of the par-baked bread restaurants get to heat, slice, and serve to guests. Good, but not for banh mi.

Any way, it was fine enough to scratch an itch, but like I said earlier, there’s just something about the pricing structure that bothers me.I’d go back for the summer rolls, but I’d stick to making pho at home instead of eating it here, and hoping I snag a banh mi from one of the Asian markets brought up from NYC for <$5.00.

I’d still give a kidney for a Pho Express! here in Albany. Heck, or even a Pho 32.

White Vinegar & Water Pesticide Remover Soak

P1000829

I tried soaking some cherries & a cucumber in white vinegar and water for 15 minutes to remove pesticides and other gunk on the outside. These were just some fruits I picked up at the grocery store, not local, conventional, or organic by any means. But it was late, and I was hungry for something somewhat healthy.

I’d read online about how the vinegar soak leaves your fruit sparkling clean and without any sort of coatings, and how there would be SO much gunk removed from the fruit your soaking water would be several shades darker…

P1000827

Well, after 15 minutes, I didn’t see much difference. Am I doing something wrong?

Taiwan Noodle

P1000847

My oven and I are not on speaking terms. It is so hot, I’ve been trying to avoid turning it on at all costs. So far I’ve had a good 2+ week stretch of no oven heat.

Being able to run to places like Taiwan Noodle have helped me in this battle against a hot kitchen. Also, har gow also help ease my summer crankiness.

P1000849

Albany John went for spring rolls. They’re fine, perfectly fried, but have never been my thang. Stewed beef chucks, please! Got the appetizer size, and it comes with 4 slices of baby bok choy. Yay, greenery. I wonder if they’ll ever just make a stir-fried or bok choy dish. They don’t have all too many pure-veggie dishes or side dishes available.

P1000846

Also got some preserved/pickled cabbage to help cut the internal heat. And some of their Taiwanese Fried Chicken, new for the summer. Good fry job, like all of their fried things, but kind of bland for me. The green seasonings were pretty tasteless/bland as well. This would probably be good for picky eaters- the equivalent of chicken strips.

Taiwan Noodle also has iced beverages for summer! Bubble teas, basil seed drinks, and I think smoothies…

Matt’s Cape House

P1000907

Met up with the FussMan in Clifton Park for some seafood bites at Matt’s Cape House. It was lunch time, so I got raw clams on the half shell. 7 for $5.95.

P1000906

Daniel B. was a bit skittish about the raw clams. I thought they were fine – briny, fresh. No ill after effects.

P1000905

Also got a breaded clam strip appetizer portion for $4.95. I was happy with the size for five bucks. Imagine your hands cupped and filled, that’s probably how much this was, maybe a little more.

Olde English Patio Opening

P1000916

Last week was the opening party for the Olde English‘s back patio. I somehow managed to be online at the right time to snag one of their eventbrite tickets. Free entry, free drinks (with free glass, even), and grilled long hot dogs & frozen burgers. But the real star was the patio. This wasn’t one of those lame “Hey, our shitty patio is open,” patios, or when “patio dining” means eating on the sidewalk of a busy street.

The folks at The Olde English made good use of the trees here. I remember when this was Nicole’s Bistro, and the back patio was a bit too shaded and overgrown. There were a few tables, but it didn’t go as far back as it currently does.

P1000908

Why hello, sailor! After checking in with Mark to cross my name off of the guest list, this mustachioed chap was at the ready with Newcastle and Strongbow. A Newcastle for me, a Strongbow for Albany John. The cider was a really good choice, what with the heat/humidity and all. But man, I love Newcastle. (Newcastle is pretty much the only beer I can keep at home that Albany John won’t drink. It’s a little too sour/lemony for his tastes)

P1000917

I also love Newcastle’s marketing techniques. Online, they’re pretty irreverent and funny, and it was good to see they kept the same tone with their promotional items as well.

I’d say the only drawback to the patio at the moment were the incredibly loud generators underneath the Clinton St. 787 exit as part of the 787 repairs. But let’s keep our fingers crossed that they finish construction this season so we can really enjoy the patio.

Strip Steaks – an easy way to cook ’em

P1000689

Man, I am really starting to get the hang of cooking strip steaks. Albany John and I felt like celebrating life in general one night, so I swung by Roma for a pair of strip steaks.

P1000675

‘Ello beauties. The butcher asked me if they were thick enough (!) and volunteered to cut off thicker steaks from a fresh whole strip roast. Such great customer service. But no, these were just for the husbear and me, and really, more than we really probably needed. We could have probably split one steak, but they are so freaking good… And I am a bit of a piggy when it comes to delicious meat.

Any way, here’s a simple, easy recipe for how to cook strip steaks:

  P1000676

I crusted the exterior of each steak with kosher salt. And when I say crusted, I mean, CRUSTED. Rub those steaks down with kosher salt. Seriously. These are what they looked like after sitting in the fridge uncovered for a few hours. Absorbed all of the salt, no additional moisture.

P1000684

Pan sear over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side with just a wee pat of butter, then pop in the oven for 4-6 minutes for a rare to medium rare steak.

P1000686

Then comes the long process of letting them rest for a few 15-20 minutes. Such a difficulty.

P1000687

Then dig in! These were in between rare and medium rare. Wider parts a little less cooked, thinner parts a little more cooked.

P1000688

So there we go – give it a whirl! Have date night at home for a fraction of the price, but all of the flavor.

Cake in a Rice Cooker

P1000674

Ugh. It is so hot lately, you guys. I’ve been trying to avoid using my oven while it’s hot out, but my dessert craving was strong one day. So I made a cake in my rice cooker.
I have a very basic rice cooker – this Aroma little red rice cooker that I picked up a few years ago. It has 2 functions. Warm and Cook.

P1000673

Because of these two settings, I had to rig it up a bit and put a little bit of paper to keep it on “cook” to keep it hot enough to cook through the cake. This resulted in a bit of a burned cake bottom, but I sliced it off and left it like that.

I made this with almond meal/flour. Just whip 2-3 egg whites with some sugar until fluffy, add in some flour of your choice, spices, and baking soda. Blop in, and you’re good to go. Basically

I made this cake with almond meal/flour, so it was pretty dense, but stayed very moist. Albany John liked it. I think I only used about 2/3 of a cup of sugar, so it wasn’t too sweet.

Tent Camping at Dippikill

P1000779

Have you ever been tent camping? After cabin camping at Dippikill earlier this year in the winter, Albany John had me thinking that tent camping at Dippikill might just be fun. He reserved  campsites 3 & 4, which are  very close to each other and a great way to camp with a group. Campsites at Dippikill are only $10 per night! We had 2 other lovely couples (and pooches!) camping with us, and it was nice to have one site for the tents, and the other site for cooking and revelry.

The hike in is about 3/4 of a mile, which is pretty do-able since it’s mostly downhill. It’s the hike out that’ll kill ya, though.

P1000768

But first there was ice cream. Because I am bad at camping and so Albany John ice cream-ed me before we went in, kind of like bribing a child. Shitty picture, but this was a “small” ice cream with Reese’s pieces mixed into the soft serve at the Luck E Star in Warrensburg, NY just before we rounded the corner to Dippikill. Not very creamy, but a neat novelty to have candy mixed in the ice cream.

P1000769

We made it in, and boy was I ever a feast for the mosquitoes on the way in. I got at least 15-20 bites along the way. The rainy weather sure harbored a lot of mosquito families. I also discovered I’m fairly allergic to mosquito bites, because shortly after getting to our site and setting up the tent my face turned red and puffy and all of my bite-sites got incredibly red. It was like getting the Asian flush, but sober. YAY! I think it freaked out my friends, but I’d had a similar reaction to a different bug bite when I was younger, so I knew it would go away eventually.and be relatively harmless, but I let them know that I’d be happy to go to the hospital if I puffed up to a point that worried them further.

Thankfully face returned to its normal state of puffiness within 2 hours, just in time for Albany John to return from his second trip to the car for more schtuff. I’ve nicknamed him Albany “Just one more thing” John because he is not a light packer.

P1000776

There wasn’t as much readily available wood for burning at the campsites compared to the cabins, but there were plenty of downed trees, small branches, and pine needles.

P1000784

Albany John added some sort of lighter fluid to the wood.

P1000785

And one of zee other camping buddies properly layered the wood. FIYAH!

P1000808

Albany John and another one of the menfolk found a few split logs and brought them in on one of the canoes. And get this  – the canoes are all just on the lake and available for anyone to use! So fun!

P1000809

Albany John went to Helmbold’s for some hot dogs before we went. You can buy seconds for, like, $2.50/lb, and this 5lb vacuum-sealed baggie of hot dogs was about $12.50.

P1000813

And here, you can see that, yes, they are seconds. Imperfect, but still tasty guys. For some reason that makes me like them even more. Hot dogs of character.

P1000817

Campsite 4 had a grate over the fire ring, which made cooking relatively easy. Albany John and I both thought the others method of campfire cooking was ridiculous. I just opened a can and popped it on top of the grill to heat up, meanwhile Albany John brought a Calphalon pot (with cover!) to heat up one. ONE. can of chili beans. How do you heat up canned goods for camping? Which one of us is more ridiculous to you?

P1000786

We cozied up to the fire and tried in vain to spray ourselves with enough DEET to hide from the mosquitoes. I was fairly unsuccessful at this endeavor, but at least I provided everyone else I was camping with refuge from the mosquitoes.

We left the next morning, and the bugs went after me with a vengeance. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I weren’t so attractive to bugs, but it is really hard to be one with nature when mosquitoes are chomping away at you through pants you’ve sprayed several times with DEET.