Northeast Dumpling House

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Want fresh handmade dumplings? Northeast Dumpling House is your bet for freshly made squidgy dumplings. I think they still have some kinks to work out, but overall they’re a nice new addition to the Chinese food scene in Albany. Here are my experiences on two recent visits:

First visit:

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Woodear and cucumber on the left (aka cucumber & black fungus $5.99) and boiled dumplings on the right.

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I went with about 6 other people on this first trip – you want to bring a large group when you go to Northeast Dumpling House because there are 15 dumplings to each order. It’s kind of a crazy-large amount and it’s kind of weird that there isn’t a smaller amount available. Boiled dumplings are $7.99-8.99 and fried are $8.99-$9.99 per order. There’s beef, pork, and lamb options, and they are all pretty solid. I think my favorite so far are the pork and chive boiled dumplings.

 

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We got an order of the spiced potato and special pancakes on Jeff’s recommendation from All Over Albany’s Eat This article. They didn’t ask us how we wanted the potatoes done (hot or cold) and they came out hot. Eh, they were okay, but they tasted pretty bland to me, even with the occasional pepper slice in there to jazz things up.

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BAOS. BAOS. Get the baos when you go here. We got several orders (2 per order, $2.99) of beef baos and lamb baos. These buns were nice and squidgy (squidgy is very good when it comes to baos and dumplings), tender, fluffy soft baos, and there was a bit of juice inside each bao. They also weren’t stingy with the meat inside! I hate it when you get a big bao, and you’re all like “YEAH, bao!” and then it winds up being 90% bun with a dollop of meat inside.

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You also really, REALLY want to get the Spicy Sauce & Squid ($6.99). Most of their side dish items are cold, and this is no exception. Hot pepper slices, chili oil, chili flakes, and perfectly cooked squid.

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The fried beef dumplings were some of my favorite fried dumplings. I think the meat in the dumplings is a little smooth for my liking, but this is just my personal preference. I generally prefer coarse grinds of meat.

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2nd Visit:

Daniel B. came up for a weekend away from New Jersey and had Northeast Dumpling House on his list. Albany John, Jon in Albany, Chef Brian Bowden and his gal, and another pair of friends joined us on a Saturday night for a festival of eating.

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Daniel wanted to try the spicy potato & special pancake. I passed since it wasn’t my jam the first time around. The pancakes are cool, but I’m just not down with the potato.

We also got to try the pork & pickled veggie soup. That was really rockin’ soup, and I’m willing to bet the noodles are hand made since they’re making the dumplings to order. They were tender, but still had that delicate chew fresh noodles get. The broth was also solidly porky and balanced, although a jab of sriracha didn’t hurt.


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Cucumber & dried tofu ($5.99). This was sheet bean curd, and I think this should be easy to recreate at home. Basically just tofu sheet, cucumber, carrots, chili flakes, and a dash of chili oil and vinegar. Pretty refreshing to me, but meh to others.

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The beef omasum ($6.99) was another awesome dish from their cold side dishes menu. The tripe was very well prepared  with just enough heat to make it interesting (I wouldn’t really call it spicy. Yes, there was a little heat occasionally, but nothing that had me reaching for the tea). The texture was both tender and chewy, if that makes any sense. Sometimes tripe can be chewy almost to the point of being like chewing gum, but this was not like that. This had something more of a tendon amount of chew to it.

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The fry job on the dumplings was pretty heavy this time, lots of slick oil on the plates. We pretty much ordered one of each dumpling this time.

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More spicy squid!

Another new thing we tried was the shrimp and egg boiled dumpling, which I enjoyed. The egg was pretty muted, it was more like a shrimp and veggie dumpling.

NE Dumps (my nickname for them) is still in the “new” phase. Both times I went in they were pretty dead. Which is kind of crazy for a weekend.

Here’s some areas for improvement:
Customer service – both times we had to flag down the waiter to order, then to get the checks. Tea refill on the first visit was inattentive on the first visit, and nonexistent on the 2nd visit, even though I did the “move the lid” trick to signal that we were empty. This slowness in service is also mind boggling to me, because Chinese service is usually quick, quick, quick. The dishes came out quickly once we ordered, this seems to just be a FOH issue. I’m guessing they are new to owning a restaurant and still learning the ropes as service was a little better on the 2nd visit.

Some specials listed only in Chinese. I am a “bad Chinese” and can’t read most characters, so like many of their other non-Chinese customers, I have no idea what the specials are on the board.
Consistency. The fried dumplings on the first visit were much less greasy than on the 2nd visit. The baos on the 2nd visit weren’t quite as tender as the first visit, and there was no soupy goodness inside.

Dumpling orders in quantities of 15. Orders of 8-10 would be easier for smaller groups of people to try more variety. The “Bull Paddywack” aka beef tendon is already crossed off the menu.

Cool Stuff they have going on :
BYOB

No huge rush, which is different from the “turn-n-burn” style most other Chinese restaurants have, so you’ll be fine to linger at the moment.

Some really delicious dishes on the “Side Dishes” menu that aren’t on any other menu in the Captial Region. I’ve never been much of a tripe fan, but NE Dump’s take on tripe (omasum) will bring me back here to try it out.

Cheap. If you go with a group, you can order most of the menu and still walk out for under $20 per person with tip.

Hand made to order dumplings!

Tour De Disco Fries

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Daniel B. was in town for 24-ish hours from NJ and couldn’t help but arrange a mini tour of Disco Fries (fries, cheese, gravy). Chopsticks Optional also joined us! I was surprised by how many places use a cheesey sauce with their disco fries, and found out I am more partial to places that use just shredded cheese.

Our first stop was Junior’s, which I tend to find pretty “meh” and these fries lived up to that reputation. They started off looking pretty decent, if a bit sparse on the gravy (which was fine, because it tasted like jarred Heinz gravy).

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But closer inspection revealed cheese sauce underneath. Felt kind of like a cheeze dupe. Hey, here’s shredded cheese. Just kidding! Here’s some sour-tangy cheeze sauce. This was my least fave.

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Bomber’s was our 2nd visit, and my 2nd favorite.
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Hill Street Cafe had two gravy options – beef and turkey. So we obviously chose both. Holy neon cheeze, batman! This was the beef, which I thought tasted pretty made-from-powder-y.
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Turkey gravy fries were more of my preference. The fry job was really awesome on these fries, and they were the only location on the tour to use steak fries. But they stayed crispy the whole time! The gravy and cheeze also blended into its own thing. Kind of interesting. While these disco fries weren’t my favorite, the fry job is going to pull me back to try more stuff at Hill Street.
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The Ruck! These were my favorite, but I pretty much love everything at The Ruck. The fries got majorly soggy, but the gravy was the best of the bunch (it tasted like real gravy instead of instant gravy), and the pepper jack cheese was also a really awesome touch.

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I did find the one thing at the Ruck I really, really don’t like, and it’s their Bloody Mary ($6). They took my twiticism (criticism via twitter) well and let me know it was from BP Brewing mix. Here’s why I didn’t like it: I asked the bartender for a Bloody Mary with extra horseradish and there was no visible horseradish in my drink. It was spicy, but the notes were a peppery heat and not the awesome nasal heat that horseradish brings. I’m surprised by this service blip from The Ruck – I expect better from them. This not the norm for service at the Ruck, which is why it stood out for me. Not for a bartender to hear “extra horseradish” and translate it to “spicy”. The BP Brewing Bloody Mary mix also has a strong celery flavor, which I really hate. So if you like celery and pepper, then this is the bloody mary for you, but for me it was pretty much full of all of the flavors I don’t like. I could only manage a few sips of this before throwing in the towel.

However, BBQ hot wings made everything better. Crispy skin, and that BBQ hot sauce is awesome. What? We had people there who had never been to the Ruck and tried their wings. And I have poor impulse control. Also, more people means I can order wings and they can help me eat it. Also The Ruck.
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The final stop on the tour was O’Toole’s, which has a Sunday special of 1/2 off all appetizers (which disco fries don’t fall under). These seemed to be covered in nacho cheese sauce, and a sparse amount of bay leaf & thyme flavored turkey gravy.

A Friendly Soup Competition

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Some of my zany friends decided to have a friendly little soup competition. It wound up being 7 people! I decided to judge, because it means I could eat all of the soups. 🙂 It was a good competition to judge.

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The first soup was a Thai-style curry coconut soup with squid, shrimp, mushrooms, and some caramelized onions, served with a cocktail on the side. Not a bad way to start of the competition, and the curry heat was tempered well with the coconut milk.

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A corn-centric soup with homemade creamed corn and roasted corn/peppers. The corn bits I got erred more on the burnt side and not roasted, and the oil was a little heavy for me from this soup.

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This was Albany John’s rustic soup – french lentils, onions, cabbage, garlic, and a slice of bacon. Not my fave soup because of the cabbage, but the other judges liked it.

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Italian Divorce Soup. Loved the name – so cute! Veggies, hand crushed tomato sauce, sausage, chickpeas, ditalini. Mmm, what’s not to love? This was such a great winter soup.

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The “prettiest presentation” soup!

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I now require all soups to be served to me in cocktail glasses. This was a slow cooker stewy soup with squash (butternut in this case, but any hard squash can be used), turkey, chickpeas, and an awesomely bright parsley sauce on top. This wound up winning.

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A vegetarian soup – apples, asparagus, and squash. This was a pretty rockin’ veggie and sweet soup.

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This was a potato garlic soup that came in a very close 2nd place. Oh man, was this an awesome soup. Roasted garlic (a LOT), a browned roux base, potatoes, and lots of cheese. So rich and a great winter soup.

French Bread – Peter Reinhart

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I was craving some crusty French baguettes. This winter has really re-awakened my love of bread lately. I saw Jude’s take on Peter Reinhart’s French bread recipe and thought I’d give it a whirl. I didn’t wind up with as many airy holes, but the flavor was quite pleasant.

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Here’s the pre-ferment dough the morning after a nice and chilly night in the fridge. Jude says this dough is good for up to 3 days in the fridge. I would like to experiment more with it at 24-48 hours of cold fermenting, instead of the 8-10 I gave it.

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I keep my house at “brisk” temperatures, so it took about 2 hours for it to shake off the chilliness of the fridge.

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Then it was time to make the final dough. Same amounts as the night before. Water, bread flour, salt, yeast.

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And then cut up the pre-ferment dough to use!

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Mix it all up and knead until it becomes a smooth ball. Hm, on second glance, this doesn’t look so smooth. Story of my life.

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After another two or so hours the dough doubled in bulk, and I divided the dough into three equal parts, which is what that handy dandy digital scale in the background is for. I actually was very successful in having equally weighted doughs.

P1030684The shaping. The shaping! These doughs rest seam-side UP before baking.

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I don’t have a cloth to use as a couche, so I used parchment paper for the rise.

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I stuffed tea towels to the sides of the doughs to help give them a proper baguette shape. These rested for a little over an hour, while the oven was heated to 500F.

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The transfer process was a bit delicate – as you can see, my doughs didn’t end up uniformly sized. Oh well, I’ve never been so great at presentation. These went on the back of cookie sheets.

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Slice gashes in the dough to help when it expands in the oven.

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Three baguettes! The top baguette was my favorite in terms of looks. Flavor-wise, they all tasted the same, so no correlation with shape and flavor in this instance. I had my oven set to convection, which evenly cooks everything, but there is a water bath also involved to help steam and brown the exterior of the baguettes. The one on top was put on the bottom shelf initially, while the bottom two were put on the top shelf. I’m impressed to see such variance between these two different levels in my oven! So the next time, I will make sure to put all of my loaves on the rack 2nd from the bottom, just above the bain marie.

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So crackly, and the gashes filled out nicely.

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Less expansion in the gashes that were initially placed on the upper shelf.

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My crumb was a bit tighter than I’d have liked. I used Gold Medal brand bread flour. I’m curious to see how King Arthur flour would fare?

Granola

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Granola is one of those foods that is SO incredibly good, that I can’t keep it in the house, otherwise I’d eat it all the time. And in gigantic amounts. So when I was recovering from the stomach bug after Christmas, I was happy to see that my father-in-law Papa Amherst and brought some of his very own granola. Gosh darn, that man makes some damn good granola. Sweetened wee oat flakes, dried fruits diced up into wee bits, nuts, sesame seeds, and toasty soy beans.

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I couldn’t eat very much, but needed calories. This was the perfect solution. I really like granola, so I wanted to eat it, and it didn’t upset my stomach.

Happy New Year, 2014

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I know it’s almost the end of January, but how was your new year?  Mine was spent up in a cabin at Dippikill, the campground SUNY owns up in Warrensburg, NY. Since NYE was on a weekday, we got the White Pine cabin at a steal – $270 for a night! We split it so it came out to something like $20 per person, which is a cheap way to spend New Year’s eve with all of the friends you like.

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But first, there was dim sum at Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro before we left with Amanda M. and her guy, plus another friend. We feasted well, and ended up getting out of HK Bakery for $12 per person with tip included!

Turnip cakes on the left, stuffed tofu-skin on the right.

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Veggie & shrimp-filled rice flour dumplings, I think that’s ribs on the right.

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Har Gow. These were massive. Not as good as Ala Shanghai or Taiwan Noodle, but freshly made. The skins were a bit thick and gummy.

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Endless plates of cheung fan with shrimp and duck, and steamed pork buns on the right. Such a good way to kick off a relaxing day. I am SO, so, so happy to have a place in the area that makes their own cheung fan! So quivery, tender, and good.

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Then it was time to hop on the road! White Pine is able to handle 25 people. What I didn’t realize about this cabin is that there is lodging attached for staff in the back. But they didn’t seem to mind our noise. This is also one of the few cabins with parking right on site. No hiking in!

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It was cold when we got in. We never got it to sauna-level like we did with the last cabins, despite loading the fire up with logs.

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I made some crostini – focaccia (made with this recipe by Julia Zeigler-Haynes on Vice) was awesome, then I topped it with some ricotta and sauteed gai lan (in place of broccoli raab). Gai lan is a bit lighter and not so bitter when cooked, and it shows in this application. Eh, okay, but broccoli raab would have been better.

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And lots of cookies, because who doesn’t like cookies. Cacao nib eggnoggy sables in front, green tea sables and coconut-lime cookies in the back.

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Fire. Lots.

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Pulled pork in banana leaves with pickled onions. So good!

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I foisted cooking a duck off on one of the guys, and yum!

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Just ducky.

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We hung by the fire most of the night, drinking and playing a few board games. I haven’t been drinking much lately, so two shots took their toll on me. Man, late 20s = even less of a tolerance than ever.

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Champers at midnight.

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Cheers!

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And then Twister until the wee hours of the morning. I’m sure you can guess which one of these three I am, hee hee.

How To Roast Rack Of Lamb

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I saw a rack of lamb for about $10 at one of my local grocery stores. Fresh/never frozen, grass fed, antibiotic-free lamb from New Zealand. Sure, I’ll give it a whirl. I did a pretty decent job. If you get a thermometer, it makes it easy to make. I just set the thermometer at 140F and let it sit 15 minutes to rest after it reached that temperature. 140F renders a medium lamb.

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I seared the outsides of the rack of lamb in a pan on the stove, then slathered it with some dill mustard. To be honest, I preferred the lamb flavor without the powerful kick of mustard.

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I roasted this at about 400F for much longer than I thought I would have to. About 30 minutes.

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But whatevs, this gal made some pretty decent rack of lamb!

Christmas 2013

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Merry Christmas! I feel like I’m finally recovering from the holidays and getting back into the swing of things. Albany John and I decorated the house with the few lights we had and my trusty pinky purple mini Christmas tree. I put the cat in a Christmas sweater. My belated cat Lex used to wear it, but The Bean seems to enjoy it as well. Christmas and holidays in general have a way of bringing up memories.

This Christmas I thought about my life, and how people come (and go). People currently in my life, people who used to be in my life. Ways to try and keep people in my life, ways to better communicate with the people in my life.
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We went sparse with the lights because just before Christmas we had the window to the right replaced (post to follow on the company I used to replace the window, etc., but I want to give the window time to wear for a few months before posting a conclusive experience) so we didn’t put up too many decorations this year. (Well, that’s the excuse for this year)

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She enjoys a nice little dress-up. Merry Christmas everyone.

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For Christmas, Albany John and I got to host Xmas eve dinner. Daniel B. gave us this turkey from his freezer before he left for NJ, and Xmas seemed like an appropriate time to break it out.

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Herby butter stuffed everywhere underneath the skin. I was fighting off a cold at the time and feeling pretty icky, so Albany John did the majority of the food handling to keep everyone else healthy.

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Guess what lasts forever? Apples. These are apples from my tree. Still good from the fridge. We tossed some of these small guys in the cavity of the turkey to add some more flavor.

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I was super paranoid about making a mess in the oven, so I bought those Reynolds oven bags. This bird was close to 20 lbs, and didn’t leave much room in the bag. The convection oven cooked it evenly, really digging that setting. There was still some mess on the walls of the oven and the oven floor, but Albany John was sweet to me and cleaned it up even though I made the mess.

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Albany John made pumpkin pie, too! Yummy!

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Pumpkin pie and whipped cream – what could be better?

Oh yes, so for dinner my mom came over and Albany John’s folks came from Amherst. And since we have a house with multiple bedrooms, they stayed over! Hooray! And they brought…

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Miss Lulu! She was so excited to have a present of her own on Christmas morning.

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Sadly, I did not share as much enthusiasm as my random cold ick morphed into stomach bug megatron 5000 and had me within 5 feet of a bathroom at all times. I even napped. Stomach bugs are the worst. I can take sore throats, earaches, headaches, and fevers, but nausea and dizziness put me completely out of what. I even napped. I was out of kaput for a few days. Rough stuff.

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Our cousin in DC sent us some goodies from the DC area. So many nice treats from family and friends. I felt kind of blah humbuggy about gifts this year. I just really wanted to see people. Presents I kind of fell flat on buying.

2014 Restaurant Dining Wishlist

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Happy New Year!

This year I hope to accomplish a lot. Food-wise, there are a few restaurants that I really want to make the effort to try, as I know I tend to stick to old favorites.

In Schenectady, NY:
Tara Kitchen
More Perreca’s

In Latham, NY:Philly Bar & Grill

In Saratoga Springs, NY:
Comfort Kitchen (I went for their media event, but haven’t made it back up)

Au Pied Du Cochon, Montreal, QC  – I have been trying to eat at APDC for years now, and I always managed to go up when they were closed. But this might be my year. Maybe. June might be a good time to check them out. Possibly with a small group of friends, because I want to try most of that menu.
There are a bunch of other restaurants on this list, but these are my top picks to try out the next time I go out.

I predict 2014 will also be a big year of Latham dining, trying out the various joints in my new hamlet.

Do you have any restaurants or dishes you want to try this year? What are they?