Price Chopper Market Bistro

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I was invited to check out Price Chopper’s newest endeavor – the Market Bistro in the Latham Price Chopper. It’s been close to a decade since I’ve set foot into a Price Chopper, but I suppose a combination of age, time, and curiosity got the best of me, so I went.

So the Market Bistro is interesting. Fast casual dining/take out in a grocery store, kind of like a mall food court, but with somewhat better food and a centralized check out, so you can grab food from a few different kiosks and pay in one central location.

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The checkout register is located in the center of the Market Bistro underneath this tree sculpture, which I found to be rather aesthetically appealing.

Right, so here are some quick thoughts and impressions from the stalls we sampled. Other awesome local bloggers have posted their own opinions, check it out to make your own:

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This was from the Giving-Chiptole-and-Moe’s-a-Run-For-Their-Money stall. Buffalo chicken quesadilla. On the oily/greasy side for me, and the chicken flavor was pretty mild. I’ll probably stick with Chipotle for my tex-mex needs.

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Chicken stall has smoked meats and fried chicken. We didn’t try any of the fried chicken, but we did try some smoked meat.

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Ribs and brisket. Brisket is smoked ~12 hours, ribs smoked ~3-4 hours. Good amount of smoke on it. They said they brought in Tennessee hickory for a more authentic smoked flavor. Brisket was fine. The rib was pretty damn good, I’ve gotta give them that. Flavorful rub, good texture, nice penetration of smoke.

A full rack of ribs will set you back $18.99, so a little less than you’d pay in a restaurant, and I can’t really think of any place in Latham where you can walk in and out with a hot rack of ribs within 5 minutes. So that is pretty cool. It would be even better if this was with locally raised meat, but I realize that would likely not be logistically possible.

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Burgers & dogs. Burgers are cooked to 165 F. The Golubs were very proud of their buns, and it’s pretty awesome to see the head of a corporation beaming while talking about a product. They were proud of engineering a bun that they felt enhanced the flavor of the burgers they were serving. I tried some of the buns, and my first thought was “I wonder what kind of dough conditioners they use?”. It was very pleasantly soft, and had a bit of a Wonder-Bread aftertaste. Not really my jam, but I assume this is fairly popular with kids.

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Fish Fry counter, which they designed to evoke that “seaside” feeling. Pick your seaside – Jersey Shore, Cape Cod, Maine. Beachy seafood was the vibe they were going for.

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We tried their lobster roll, which uses the claws and tail of 2-1lb hard shell lobsters. They plan on using hard shell lobsers when they have them in store, but otherwise bringing the parts in. These are very generously sized. This is half of a sample sized roll. The mayo was on the (blessedly) light side, and overall I found this to be pretty enjoyable.

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The sushi stall is an independent operator in the Market Bistro, meaning it is not run or by Price Chopper employees and the fish is all brought in by the operating company. You can skip this stall, and I kind of wish Price Chopper had because it seems like it brings down their Market Bistro brand. But we are American consumers and evidently we demand sushi in all grocery stores.

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It’s not that it’s especially bad, but it’s also not especially good. It’s generic supermarket sushi with overly vinegared, chilled rice and bland fish. The flavor really paled in comparison to Price Chopper’s lobster roll.

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Then it was back to the cheese counter! Hello cheese. Tasty stuff. There’s also a beer counter. All of the staff we encountered really seemed to be enjoying their jobs.

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Fresh pasta available by the pound. This is an especially neat concept. I wouldn’t mind giving this a whirl in the future.

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Ben & Bill’s is now also in Latham. I know many folks who really like this deli, and many of the other attendees were also excited at this counter.

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Sandwiches.

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Pizza counter. They have their usual Price Chopper hot pizza, but also have a thinner NY-style crust.

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These were a lighter alternative to the original Price Chopper pies. Very crackery-thin crust.

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We finished off at Scoops & Smiles, the ice cream shop.

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Hot Fudge Sundaes and the “World’s Best” Strawberry milkshake, which uses fresh strawberries.

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As we left, I couldn’t help but grab another snap of the tree sculpture at the center of the bistro. There is something fairly calming about it, lending to a relaxed feeling. It felt both cozy and open at the same time. Despite the large space and seating it wasn’t cacophonous or hectic. They definitely managed to design this to feel relaxing and welcoming, which is a pretty impressive engineering feat given all of the metal materials in the area.

“Magnificent” was a word that was used a lot on the tour, and that is what Price Chopper is striving to have their customers thinking when they leave the Market Bistro. Props for aiming high, guys. They said they welcomed customer feedback and one of the things they felt that distinguished the Market Bistro was their dedicated detail to small aspects of production, like cold plates for salads (kept chilled), and finely shredded lettuce they shredded in-store because they thought the textural difference made a better product.

I haven’t been a Chopper Shopper for almost a decade now, but this tour may have just turned me back in to one. The Latham store will be a “trial” store where they test out new ideas before implementing them (or not) in other Price Chopper stores. I wasn’t able to check out the rest of the store before I had to leave, but I will likely return for a bit of local grocery store tourism.

Pesto Quiche Tart

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Gluten, who eats it, right? While I don’t have a gluten issue, a bunch of my friends seem to have some sort of gluten sensitivity. I’ve personally been eating less gluteny things just because my body hasn’t been craving it, so when it was time to bring something to a Shabbat potluck (or Shabbatluck as I’ve dubbed it), I was scratching my head trying to come up with something gluten free and Kosher. Kosher is kind of difficult for me personally because I have to stop and think about what I’m combining in a dish (like, meat + dairy is a no-no, and pork is out of the question). But toss in gluten-free and Sherlock Jane is on the case! So I figured I’d take a page from the Paleo/Primal cookbook and use sweet potatoes as the crust. I kind of hate labeling foods as paleo, but it’s an easy tag to generally figure out something is crap-free in terms of ingredients. So this is paleoish. or Paleish.

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Start with a tart pan and a shredded sweet potato mixed with some eggs and whatever other seasonings you want to toss in there. I bought this Fox Run 10″ tart pan off of Amazon. It’s a pretty crappy tart pan – doesn’t conduct heat very well for baking, so make sure you’ve got a pizza stone underneath it for true tarts to have even levels of heat through the center. For stuff like this it doesn’t really matter, though. We’re not making anything temperamental here

Any way, press your shredded sweet potato into the pan and bake it at 350F until it looks like this:

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Something like 15-25 minutes, depending on your oven and the amount of sweet potato shreds you’ve got going on. I went pretty sparse, and that became evident when they dried out while cooking (which is good, we want to remove some of that moisture to make a crust. But whatever, because only a psycho flips over their quiche to inspect the crust during a pot luck.

Any way, get out your eggs and milk (or cream), whisk them together, then shred some cheese (see, this is where Albany Jane checks out from Paleo-ville) and pour all of that over the crust. If it looks low in the pan, mix up a little more. Then blop some pesto on top. I had some pesto in the freezer from the summer. Man, it was nice to get a little blast of summer in the pan.

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Cook it at 350F until it sets in the center, somewhere in the 35-45 minute range. If you’re worried about leakage, flip over a baking sheet to catch any drips.

This was a potluck HIT! I was happily surprised. Usually the healthier/gluten-free/paleo dishes at a potluck get picked over, but I heard people asking for slices of this at dinner, so it was neat to see the “healthyish” dish have to get cut into smaller slices not because people wanted to be polite and try it, but because everyone really wanted a bite and liked it.

I’m not such an egg-as-a-main/quiche person myself, so I’d like to play around with this sweet potato crust concept with other savory “pie” type dishes, and sweet dishes.

518 Coffee Collective – Coffee Tasting

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The Capital Region Coffee Collective had a brew method exploration at the end of January at the Learning Center of the Healthy Living Market. It was a great event in a great space, and was a fun, educational way to see (and more importantly, taste) a few different brewing methods and find what your preferences were in a cup.

I forget the coffee we tried, but it was a freshly roasted blend from Gimmie Coffee.
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The first method was a simple pour-over with a filter. This is how I’ve enjoyed my Blue Bottle coffees, and I figured this would be my favorite for the day, but I was surprised that it was not! It was good, but wow, let me tell you, the differences between brewing methods were very noticeable.

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The second demonstration was the Chemex. This was one of my favorite ways of brewing. It cut a lot of the acidity and was a really smooth, rounded cup of coffee. Being able to try the Chemex method immediately after the pour-over method was great, as I was able to see how much smoother the Chemex was compared to the pour-over (which ordinarily I’d think was just dandy)
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French press was next. This was a bolder cup of coffee in terms of flavor and acidity.

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The Aeropress was next.
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The aeropress is probably the easiest coffee making method of the bunch, and is best for single serve cups of coffee.

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PUSH the water through the coffee. I thought this lent a lot of acidity and bitterness to the coffee, which I didn’t care for. Other people really liked it, so it was a fantastic learning experience to be able to have different opinions on brewing methods and open up dialog with other attendees about what you liked or didn’t like and why.
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The Moka Pot. I think of this as the espresso coffee maker because a few friends use these to make, well, espresso. Also a pretty easy and compact brewing system to use.

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The Syphon. This was the most impressive looking brewing method, for sure. It’s a 2-stage coffee brewing system. you put the water in the bottom pot, and the coffee + filter in the top pot (which also has a glass tube that leads into the glass pot below. Once it comes to a boil, the water is siphoned into the top pot to brew, then goes back into the lower pot when done.
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Wow. That was really awesome to watch. And it also made a great cup of coffee for me. Tied with the Chemex due to its rounded flavors and low acidity/bitterness.
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Now here is the only down side – my two favorite methods of brewing were also the two largest and most difficult to clean if I want them at home. Chemex = big glass vase that the cat will probably declare a mortal enemy and try to break, takes up a lot of space and will need to be stored somewhere to protect it from the cat and my own clumsiness. Syphon = TWO pots to clean, and that pot with the siphon tube will need to be cleaned almost immediately after brewing; plus protective storage from Rambo cat and clumsy oaf owner. I’ve decided to order these out when I see them, like at Tierra coffee roasters (they have Chemex for $4 a pot).

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P1030858Thanks to the 518 Coffee Collective for putting together this educational public event! It was truly fantastic to be able to compare different brew methods side-by-side. I’d likely never really be able to tell the differences (or seek them out) otherwise. It was energizing to be in a room full of passionate people sharing their craft.

Win Dinner For Two at Creo

Creo wants to help make your Valentine’s Day that much sweeter and is giving away dinner for two! All you have to do is comment below and the winner will be picked tomorrow night (aww).

From Creo:

-Executive Chef David Gibson will create a 3-Course Tasting Menu for 2 people, customized to the winner’s personal tastes

-Bottle of Wine Included (if over 21 years of age with valid ID)

-Reservations Required
-Must be redeemed within 30 days of announcement of winner

To be eligible, please use a valid email address in comments (only used to notify winner and make reservation arrangements).

Chinese New Year in Flushing 2014

 

 

Last weekend I drove down to Flushing to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family. It was our first year celebrating without Yeh-Yeh, our family’s patriarch. That didn’t really hit me until shortly before my drive down, but for me simply having these traditions with family keeps us together and that is what is important.

The drive down was a breeze (when I drive to Flushing from Albany I go: 90E > Taconic > 84E > 684S > 678SHutchinson River Pkwy> Whitestone Bridge. It’s about 15 minutes more than taking 87S down, but it saves on the tolls up until the Whitestone Bridge ($7.50) and breaks up the drive into smaller chunks so I don’t get bored. It also probably seems more complicated to hop off of the Taconic onto 84E, but it’s a much smoother drive with better drivers than taking the Taconic down all the way (you avoid where the road narrows, and all of the crappy drivers on it).
I got in shortly after 5, and figured I’d have to drive a while for parking, but found free street parking within 30 minutes! Woo hoo! I didn’t have to move the entire time I was there. I don’t know about you, but when I head down to NYC, I like to park and just leave my car until I’m ready to head back home.

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For dinner we went to Jin Cheng Restaurant, which I protested because last year we had a pretty craptacular experience at the kid’s table, and I thought we went there more for its close proximity to Yeh-Yeh’s condo than the quality of the food. I’ve since discovered they are better at lunch, or when they’re not busy, so they’re not a total lost cause, but I had prepped myself for a less-than-awesome Chinese New Year dinner because Chinese New Year Weekend in Flushing = every Chinese Restaurant is gonna be mobbed.

I was pleasantly surprised with how GOOD dinner was. Maybe it’s because we were a smaller group and not two big tables. (Maybe Yeh-Yeh was in the kitchen yelling at the chefs for me 😉 ) It was my dad, his best gal, my uncle, Albany John, and me.

We started off with Beef and gai lan. Great wok hei on the beef, and super tender.
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Honey-walnut-mayo prawns with broccoli on the left. Plump and fat shrimp, no complaints there. Fresh crispy skin chicken at the top, and the same beef on the right (after initial decimation)

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Lobster Cantonese-style with ginger and scallions. We got two big lobsters. So perfectly cooked. I would say this is one of my favorite ways to eat lobster. This way, or just steamed.
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Whole steamed flounder. Mmm. It looks big, but it’s easy to eat a lot of. So light and good.

Albany John and I went for a little walk after dinner to digest. Naturally we wound up at Tous Les Jours, a French-Asian bakery.

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Like most Asian bakeries, there’s a bunch of goodies laid out for you to pick yourself, plus refrigerated things behind the counter.

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I wanted to keep walking, so we had a late-night (for Flushing, i.e. 9 PM) picnic on a bench near the police station (I know romance).

I usually love the stuff Tous Les Jours makes, but man this was mixed bag. The vanilla milkshake was really unpleasant – lots of large chunks of ice, and cheap vanilla ice cream. Bleh. And $4.50 to boot.
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Here was the statue we noshed at, right in between the hubbub of traffic.
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Macarons: skip. Red velvet on the left and Oreo on the right. Red velvet had no notable red velvet flavor, and used a pasty vanilla buttercream as the filling. The black “Oreo” macaron also bore no flavor of its namesake, and was equally pasty. Disappointing. I should have avoided from the start because while these were not cracked, they had some cracked macarons on display, and if they took pride in their macarons, the cracked ones would never be up for sale.
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Albany John got a cream cheese pastry. These are epically delicious in an it’s-so-bad-for-you kind of way. I’m pretty sure I could hear one of his arteries start to clog. They don’t skimp on the cream cheese.

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I had a backup pastry which was tasty – a soft and fluffy bun filled with sweet potato filling and covered in almond flour/meal. Yum. Stick with the baked goods you can pick yourself and you’ll be good.
The next day we kicked off the day eating (of course).

Joe’s Shanghai to start for breakfast. We got there right when they opened at 11 AM and had no wait.

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Bready, soft scallion pancakes.
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Big steamer full of 8 Pork & Crab Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). If you go to Joe’s Shanghai, you absolutely must get xiao long bao. The tongs are kind of unnecessary, and the teeth on them can pierce the skin of the dumpling, and there goes all of your soupy goodness. Their skins were good (but Ala Shanghai’s are thinner!), but the broth is where these dumplings shine. Each soup dumpling contains a glorious broth. Each dumpling is a treat, and if I think just a bit, I can relive those flavors for just a moment. The broth is thick and rich, with hearty flavors from both the pork and crab, but neither standing out over the other and instead combining to make this magical soup that you can’t get enough of.
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Shanghai style rice cakes, with some veggies and meat. Nice softness and wok hei.

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Two big bowls of soup. I think their soups are a bit on the bland side, at least after eating the xiao long bao. Beef chuck on the left, pork and veggies on the right. Noodles are okay, but they need a little salt or something. I think the soups at Taiwan Noodle are better though (deeper broth flavors and better noodles).

Then Albany John and my uncle split off to do their own thing, and Dad and his gal and I were off to have more adventures. I was SUPER excited because I was planning on going to Sunrise Kitchen & Hardware Supplies (4205 Main St, Flushing, NY). This place is awesome for all of your Asian kitchen gadget needs.

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Sadly for me, they took the week off for Chinese New Year. No cheap and awesome kitchen supplies. Next time. Sigh.
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Saw some lions on the street.
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Went to Rose House for an English-style tea break. Overall, I’d say it’s a nice place if you want to get away from the loudness and crowds in a pretty atmosphere and comfy seats, but that’s about it. All of the teas seemed to taste the same, and they were on the expensive side – $9.00+ per small pot.

Service was weird. A server initially told us there was a 2 hr sitting limit because it was the weekend (which was fine and totally reasonable), but then after being there for a total of 40 minutes the same server took away our tea warmers and started checking the pots. There were no crowds waiting for a table, either.

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Their butter cookies were decent, and despite finding a hair in the rose hips jam after I spooned some on a cookie it was freaking DELICIOUS.

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I broke off to explore on my own and found Pho Hoang on Kissena Blvd.

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There are tables, but order here at the counter for to-go orders. It also shares space with a Chinese butcher further near the front of the store. It’s not the cleanest looking space, but $4.00 for a banh mi was calling my name.
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Hello gorgeous. A nice baguette tucked into a parchment sleeve.

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SO GOOD! Look at that bread. It’s deliciously perfect little baguettes with a crisp exterior that gives way to a soft, squishy interior. Great for banh mi and stuffing with julienned veggies, pate, meat, and cliantro. Yum, yum, yum.
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$4.00 for all of this, versus $6.50 (to start) for a small banh mi at Pho Yum in Albany that doesn’t even use the right bread.

I wound up going to a friend’s that night.

The next morning we went to Jade Restaurant for dim sum with one of my aunts and some cousins.

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More lions!

The wait wasn’t too bad, but my aunt saw a friend of hers who was a manager, and we got whisked off to a side room that I’ve never seen before (that was opened up to handle the Chinese New Year crowds). That was awesome – less loudness and craziness, all of the carted dim sum goodies.
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Food, food everywhere. So good.

We hung out for a bit, but soon it was time to hit the road.

But not before hitting up Pho Hoang one last time since Albany John was back.
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And there was a DRAGON group that came in!
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I got a regular banh mi ($4.00) & a duck banh mi ($6.00).
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They withstood the drive up pretty well – the bread stayed crisp and the interiors didn’t get soggy.
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Duck on the left, regular banh mi on the right.

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We both thought the regular/standard banh mi was better than the duck banh mi. Better flavor overall. The duck was good, but man, the veggies and meat are just SO good!

Chocolate Chili Creme Brulee

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Valentine’s is coming up, and I’ve got just the thing to make to spice up your night!

No, seriously – it’ll add some heat (and really, in this chilly weather, let’s add heat where we can).

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Start off with some dried chili peppers and seeds, a nub of cinnamon and 6 oz of cream in a pot on the stove. Heat it on low, covered, until you see some bubbles start on the side. If you want to really infuse the cream with some pepper flavor, keep your heat on low and let it take a while to bubble slightly, like 20 minutes. At this point, you can take it off the heat entirely and let it infuse longer, or continue on to the next step:

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Add the chocolate! Add about 2 oz dark chocolate to the hot cream mixture and stir until it looks like REALLY bangin’ hot chocolate. You could just have really awesome hot chocolate at this point.

Or you could take three egg yolks, beat them with a tablespoon or two of sugar (depending on your sweetness preference), and then slowly add the chili chocolate cream to the eggs (temper, temper, temper) and bam!  You’re done. I strained my cream mixture to get the chili seeds out.

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Unbaked cremes in oven-safe containers sitting in a water bath. Pop them in an oven for about 25 minutes at 300F (285F if you’ve got a convection oven). The tops will firm up, though the creme will still have a bit of a wiggle if you shake the pan.

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All set! A slight skin on the top, but wiggly creme underneath.

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Sprinkle with some sugar on top.

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And then blast it with a blowtorch. I have a mini torch for bruleeing.

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You can eat this now while it’s warm, or refrigerate for later. I liked the heat with the cream.

Albany John thought it tasted like those cinnamon hearts you get on Valentine’s Day. And when I said “Aww, really?” in a bummed out tone he quickly added “I really LIKE those cinnamon hearts, though. This is like a really good version of it.” haha. He has a higher heat tolerance than I do, so I thought these had a nice chili kick to the creamy chocolate.

 

Quick Recipe Recap:

6 oz cream
Chili peppers (including flakes)
Cinnamon stick
2 oz chocolate
1-2T sugar
3 egg yolks

Cream + chili peppers + cinnamon stick in a pot over low heat until bubbles form around the side (lid on).
Add chocolate and mix until blended with heat on.

Take off heat

In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together (you don’t want it foamy, just beat it for a minute or two until combined).

Add a bit of the hot cream to the egg mixture in intervals to temper the eggs, otherwise the eggs will cook if you add the hot cream all at once.

Fill two small bowls with this delicious mixture.

Put the bowls in a water bath, bake 300F until the tops have set but the creme still wobbles a bit (~20 minutes, depending on the size of your bowls).

Sprinkle sugar on top, torch, enjoy!

Chinese New Year at Ala Shanghai

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Chinese New Year 2014, The Year of the Horse, has been one festive year so far! I began celebrations with friends at Ala Shanghai. After seeing their specials for Chinese New Year, I couldn’t wait to get in!
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Xiao long bao (soup dumplings) were a must to start with. And these were perfect!
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The skins were so thin you could see through them!! See how it bulges a bit on the left? It’s because the skin is so thin! So much soupy goodness. Yum, yum, yum.

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Wine soaked cold duck appetizer.
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Scallion pancakes, always a treat.
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Wontons in a spicy peanut sauce. Good balance on the peanut/sweet/spicy.
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And now for the mains! Double Happiness special entree ($19.88) in the front – salt and pepper fish fillets and squid. LOVED this! The salt and pepper coating was perfect – crispy (not fluffy or beer-batter-y) and not the least bit greasy or oily.

Pork with fava beans in the back. Yum, yum, yum. Big fat fava beans with tender slices of pork.
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Squid and fish heaven!
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Hands down my favorite dish of the night was the Golden Duo ($23.88), which was soft shell crab & whole shrimp coated in a salted preserved egg batter and fried. Ala Shanghai has a soft shell crab-only version of dish on their normal menu, so thankfully this goodness is available year-round.

If you’ve never had an egg-yolk coated dish, you must try it. It’s so rich, salty, and good! The egg yolks are preserved in salt, then mashed up to be part of a batter coating. It adds a whole new dimension of flavor to a dish.
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Also had to add some veggies to the meal. Yum. Chinese broccoli is my favorite – nice and crunchy stalks and tender greens.
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Rice cake with pork and capsella as our starchy/rice/noodle dish (always gotta have one at a big meal). What’s not to love about chewy rice cakes?
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Crispy beef coated in a sweet-ish sauce. The beef still stays crispy! I thought I ordered this spicy, but it came out plain/non-spicy. Good, but I think I like the kick of heat to even out the sweetness.
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And (free) dessert because of Chinese New Year! What a pretty plate of fruit. Great way to end the meal.

There were 6 of us, and we wound up at about $20 per person before tip for all that food. There’s still time to grab a few friends together and try some awesome specials to ring in the Year of the Horse. Gung hey fat choy!