Whiskey Dinner at City Beer Hall

CBH 001 amuse popcorn

“Hey m’dear, any interest in going to a whiskey tasting dinner tomorrow night at City Beer Hall  (in collaboration with The Speakeasy)?”

There’s something to be said for good friends who bring you food when you’re sick, generally check in on you while conquering the world, and take you as their date to a whiskey dinner. Deanna Fox is one of those friends and then some. *swoons at succinct offer of one of my favorite brown liquors*

City Beer Hall’s chef Dimitrios Menagias and Robert Mack, the man behind the Speakeasy’s cocktail program, teamed up to pair food with drink from Brown Forman (an American owned spirit and wine business). It was a good night.

We had a popcorn amuse atop a truffled mousse with mushrooms. Paired with the fun amuse drink below whose name I’ve forgotten because this happened a week ago and I have the memory of a fly.

CBH 001 Drink
CBH Course 1 Drink Indian Candy Corn cocktailCBH Course 1 Drink Woodford White Corn Bourbon

Course 1: Indian Candy Corn cocktail (left) featuring Woodford White Corn Bourbon (neat, on the right).
The bourbon itself had a strong caramel scent, and was a real kicky type bourbon. The cocktail was equally punchy.

CBH Course 1 Winter Salad

Course 1: Winter Salad. Grilled prawn, carrots, starfruit, napa cabbage, persimmon nuoc chom. A few kernels of freeze dried corn on the right that paired very well with the meal and bourbon. This made me realize how underutilized napa cabbage is in its raw, salad-y form. A great winter salad with bright notes from the persimmon nuoc chom.

CBH Course 2 Charcuterie

Course 2: Charcuterie. My notes on this dish are covered in hearts. Duck pastrami, foie gras mousse, venison, sweet corn mostarda, pickled green tomatoes. I was talking with some folks recently who said they just didn’t “get” foie gras, and I had to reconsider our friendship for a moment. It’s fat, rich, and delicious. What’s not to like? Duck pastrami was deliciously smoky, aand was great paired with the pickled green tomatoes. The sweet corn mostarta also contained some toasted corn.

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I just couldn’t help but take  bunch of pictures of this plate. There was so much to love!

CBH Course 2 Drink Lion's Tail

Course 2: Lion’s Tail with Old Forester 1870 (which I forgot to take a picture of, and the cocktail picture isn’t much better. sigh). I LOVED the Lion’s tail it was tart and smoky with clove flavors. More hearts drawn around this cocktail. The Old Forester 1870 is the founding brand. 90 proof, spicy, and burns just a tad when sipped neat.

CBH Course 3 Intermezzo

Course 3: Intermezzo, with a cocktail reprieve. Pomelo sorbetto, aperol, candied pomelo peel. Dimitrios knocked this out of the park. The skill alone in candying the pomelo peel deserves respect. They were so thin, and so perfectly candied. Covered in sugar, and not too dry or too chewy. One of our table mates wasn’t familiar with pomelo, and remarked that it tasted “kind of like weed smells”, which is actually kind of accurate with its dank tartness and pungent citrus oils. It’s great to see this citrus featured front and center, especially as a plate cleanser.

CBH Course 4 Manhattan

Course 4: Manhattan with Old Forester 1897, where I have clearly crossed over from sober to jovial as I’ve forgotten to take another shot of the bourbon in its neat form. This may have been my favorite to drink neat or with a few drops of water in it, despite my forgetfulness. It had a tart nasal note, a bit milder than the white corn bourbon in the first course, with what I can only describe as having  great spicy afterburn. Definitely something to warm you up on cold winter night. The Manhattan was also expertly executed, using charred bitters and rhubarb vermouth. And that cherry. Or as my notes read “Oh my god, that brandied cherry”. It’s juicy and delicious and I love saving it to chew with the last few sips of the drink at the end. I think I could just load that Manhattan up with those brandied cherries and be a happy woman.

CBH Course 4 Wild Boar

Course 4: Wild Boar. Smoked corn relish, spaetzle, baby kale, red pepper oil. The corn was smoked over apple wood, the spaetzle was made with parsnip and mustard seed which added a lightly sweet and vegetal note to the spaetzle. All of this worked wonderfully with the boar, and sipping the Manhattan along with this dish made me feel like a very lucky woman to be eating such a fine dish, and to have a friend who’d invite me along to even try this.

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I had to use every ounce of willpower to resist picking up the bone and sucking every bit of delicious cartilage and tendon off of the bone.

CBH course 5 Jack Daniels Howard St. Scaffa

Course 5: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Barrel Proof (left); Howard St. Scaffa (right). Wow, barrel proof. 130.8% alcohol. Holy caramel smell, with a subtle note of cinnamon. “Drinkable fire” someone noted at our table. Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was playing in my head drinking this, in very enjoyable way. The Howard St. Scaffa featured a mellow cointreau noir and one drop of Angry God ghost pepper bitters. A definite way to turn up the heat.

CBH course 5 Stuffed Figs

Course 5: Stuffed Figs. Harbison, pecan, Shiva’s wrath bitters, dark chocolate. Harbison cheese stuffed into a Greek dried fig which was reconstituted in cointreau noir. The pecans were toasted and tossed in Shiva’s wrath bitters. This was a delightful way to end the dinner on a high note. The Harbison was creamy (a triple cream to be exact) with grassy, funky, rich notes that worked well to counter the heat of the drinks and complement the sweetness of the fig.

Way to end dinner on a high note. Mic drop Dimitrios and Robert.

Pints for Paws at The Ruck

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Consider the recent Pints for Paws yet another reason to love the Ruck. One Saturday afternoon the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society set up a table in the alley behind the ruck, the Ruck set up two kegs of delicious beer for $4 a pint. Laguintas IPA & Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale (both 6%+ beers).

Donate to the shelter and/or buy some of the shelter stuff for sale. Pet lots of well-behaved dogs. Count me in.

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The staff were in and out of the crowd both gathering old cups/plates and petting pooches along the way.

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Dogs of all shapes and sizes were present, eager to sniff all of the smells.

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Probably the smallest, adorable little mop of a dog.

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To a dog that wouldn’t need much to dress as a cow for halloween (seriously, that was one big, shy dog).

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There were treats out for the dogs, so that probably helped with the friendly nature. “Does that person have a treat? Do you? Treat??”. Albany John joked that since our cat is a rescue, we should have brought her to Pints for Paws, too.

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

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

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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.

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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.

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Pig feet appetizer! So tender and gelatinous.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Olde English Patio Opening

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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.

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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)

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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.

Randalled Festina Peche

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I saw that The Ruck was randalling Dogfish Head Festina Peche through red raspberries, blueberries, white peaches. Three cheers for social media! I promptly squealed and informed Albany John that we were going to The Ruck. No protests from him, he loves that bar.

The Festina Peche initially wasn’t pouring right, and the bartender could only get 3/4 of a glass out. As you can tell, it was good, because by the time we got a 2nd beer, Albany John and I had downed about half of it. It was pretty refreshing, with lots of white peach notes, and the berries adding more sweetness to it.

It was sticky and humid in The Ruck, so I asked the bartender for another light somewhat fruity refreshing beer, and got this ginger/grapefruit beer. Definitely refreshing, and Albany John loved the assertive gingery flavor. It reminded me more of a gingery spritzer than a syrupy beer. Good for summer.

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Albany John noticed sweet potato tots on their menu, so we got an order ($6). It came with raspberry melba sauce, which was jammy and went well with the tots. Good fry job – didn’t taste too heavy or anything.

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Got another Festina Peche randalled through fruit and it poured all the way this time. Guess what – only $5! Five bucks! How crazy-good is that pricing for good tasting beer? This is why I love the Ruck.

The Confectionery

DSCF5283 The Charles F. Lucas Confectionery is one of my favorite new additions to downtown Troy. I’ve been there a few times already. Go for a platter of their charcuterie. The 3 choices for $12 worked well as a hearty snack for Albany John and me. You can choose between cheeses and charcuteries, but we went with a meaty trio.
Hot smoked duck breast on the upper left corner, boar pate in the center, and duck salami on the right. The boar really hit a high note with my taste buds: can’t wait to order it again. Good texture to the salami, too. I’d probably skip the smoked duck breast in the future. It was fine, but since I’ve started smoking my own meats at home I make things way smokier than other places tend to.

The kalamata olive tapenade is next on my hit list.

DSCF5281The bread was nice – from Placid Baker. This is such a cute date night place, and even when it’s busy they are so nice about seating you and trying to find you a place to stay.

I love the idea of wine from a tap. I got a glass of red, which was drinkable and tasty enough, but didn’t really make me want to order the same one again. Maybe I will try a white next time.

Service was great – our waitress kept refilling water frequently, was pleasant, and knew when to come over just enough.

DSCF5256Here’s a picture from another (more casual) time when we grabbed a table to stand at. I really like that they don’t push you to drink at the Confectionery. Albany John and I were getting over colds when we went here and went for hot beverages instead of wine. No pouting from our waitress or anything.

Oh my gosh, the lattes ($4). So good. So nutty and sweet. No sugar needed, although they have a variety of caloric and non-caloric sweeteners available. The herbal teas are $3, and pretty generous as well. A pot is a bit larger than a mug. The African Nectar soothed my sore throat.

Desserts are from Sweet Sue’s just down the road on River Street. I like the truffles and the macaroons (only $1.50!), but the whoopie pie is a bit dry/crumbly and the filling is a chocolate buttercream. I think your best bet is for anything that generally stays moist and doesn’t risk drying out. I’ve had some of Sue’s other baked cake-goods and they’re normally really moist. But cakes can dry out after a few hours, and if you’re here, it’s generally later at night past when a bakery would be open.

Anyway, the truffles are snacking orbs for $1 each. I liked the white chocolate and lavender. And for real, the macaroon was coconutty and light without being too chewy or as dense as a paperweight.

Now where do I buy chalkboard plates? Those things are adorable!

 

 

Druthers

What do you do when you’re in Saratoga Springs, NY for a late-ish dinner after the opening of Badger’s Hookah Bar just a few blocks away? You hope Danika at Garnish Marketing says “I’m going to go to Druthers for a drink in a little bit. You in?” Yes. Yes yes yessity yes.

Albany John had a blast taking pics of the Druthers table at the Saratoga Wine, Food, and Fall Ferrari Festival this past September. They were happy, fun, and lively – great energy, and I meant to head around to Druthers to try their fare in-store.

A chill in the air made Albany John crave Chili Con Carne ($8), which lists habanero among its beefy ingredients, but isn’t anything overpowering, or even all that hot. Albany John was a big fan of this chili – very little fat/grease on top, and lots of deep, beefy flavor.

He also got a pint of Fist of Karma Brown Ale ($6), which he thought to be miles above Newcastle (which is one of my favorite beers lately). I dunno. I still prefer Newcastle. This was a bit hoppier & tarter.

Pasta fagioli ($6) for another friend. Vegan, even.

A rare Given My Druthers Burger ($12) for me. Cute Druthers brand on the bread bun.  I got greens on the side (you could also get fries), which were pretty heavily dressed. I’d ask for them naked next time.

Happiness is a bloody rare burger. This was pretty hefty, yet unsurprisingly I managed to finish it all. I didn’t really taste the pickled green onion or pickled shallot that the menu lists, but the chuck, short rib, and smoked pork belly. I’m glad I’ve found restaurant in the area that makes a rare burger rare and not medium-rare or medium.

Danika & her Mr. got the flight of beers on tap, which was $14 for 7 4-oz flights. The waitress was a peach & wrote out all of the beers on tap, too.

Steadfast Beer Night at The Ruck

Local company Steadfast Beer is going to have a gluten-free night at The Ruck on Friday, May 11th. 


They’re working on having gf wing burgers & some other food. I am really interested to see how The Ruck will eliminate cross-contamination. I hope they get a tap line going, that would be awesome! (they’re working on it, so far bottles are def going to be there). 

Wine & Cheese Dinner with the Cheese Traveler

The Cheese Traveler hosted a wine & cheese pairing at the First Universalist Church in Albany using fairly local wines and cheeses. $25 per person for five wines and cheeses, and the folks were so nice! Unsurprisingly, I arrived (un)fashionably late and didn’t pay until after the event was over, but it’s normally done where you walk in and pay upon arrival.

Here are The Cheese Traveler & The Profussor waxing poetic over wine and fromages. The day/night this was happening I was waffling about attending when a local social media guru & Daniel B. encouraged me to attend. Thank goodness for good friends. This was a great night and I’m glad I made it!
Here’s Daniel B. Cutting off the nose of the cheese. All of the rinds were edible. My memory is terrible, and I’m at least a week behind on posting this, so I don’t really remember any of the cheeses I tasted, other than the last goat cheese blue which was really salty and tasty, and a soft cheese for the first cheese that I really liked. And all of the rinds were edible. Maybe Daniel B. or some other kind samaritan will chip in in the comments.
Lights out! Sexy cheese time!
I cut mangled the last cheese. It was soft and super salty. One of the parishioners of the church made these awesome candied pecans. Oh, so good. Sweet and crunchy, so good with the salty, tangy cheese.
And then we went to Hollywood for buffalo wings. Service was awesome. I’ve always felt like Hollywood was my ideal bar, especially now that they serve food. $4 cape codders and $2.50 PBRs don’t hurt, either.
Crispy fried chicken wings! And tasty blue cheese (really thick & light on the mayo). These were great chicken wings. Meaty, crispy, not too greasy, and plenty of kick to the wings. Can’t wait to go back and order these again.

New Orleans – Night

Our trip to New Orleans began with fast food take out. Look, I know. But waffle fries. C’mon!
Grilled chicken & waffle fries! Nom. New Orleans is only 3.5-4 hours from Jackson, MS. Not bad for an overnight trip. It’s like going to NYC from Albany, only with a slightly more debaucherous air.
I met up with my Brother-In-Law (in-law?), my sis-in-law Maka’s brother. He lives in New Orleans and picked us up from our hotel in the French Quarter to grab dinner at the High Hat, a fairly new restaurant. One of the benefits of tourism is having people drive you to awesome places.
The high hat had a retro feel inside – lots of wood.
Dinner menu was short and sweet, with a few specials on the menu board. The most expensive thing tops out at $14, so you won’t break the bank here.
Specialty cocktail of the night – Albany John got one. Good stuff. I stole a sip. I can’t remember what it was. My bad!
I got the two cat fish dinner. $13.50 for two whole catfish. So good! And a TON of food for one person, but somehow I managed, hehe. Coleslaw as a side, and greens as another side. Greens were nice – zippy collards.

Albany John got an oyster po’boy with okra and tomatoes as his side. Man loves him some okra. I still think it’s pretty slimy stuff, but he really enjoyed this preparation. I really enjoyed the fried oysters. Mmm.

Afterward, my awesome bro-in-law^2 gave us a tour of the area at night – local colleges, and all that good stuff. It was interesting to see how some blocks would start off looking all fancy-dancy, but have a middle section that was run down.

After that, it was time for SECOND DINNER! Bwa ha! We waited in line at Felix’s for some oysters for a short spell.

Bro & Margarita got a Jester – some kind of specialty frozen drink. There were billboards on the drive in touting it as the strongest drink in New Orleans. I stole a sip – reminded me of alcoholic Ecto-Cooler Hi-C.


I was intrigued by these nearly open air bars. You can walk around New Orleans with alcoholic drinks. It’s kind of like Albany on a parade day, but with less rioting.

Albany John held our place in line, and it had scootched up for us to get a neat view of an empty grenade cup.

Oyster shucking!
Menu!
Once we were seated, we ordered quickly – Albany John and Margarita weren’t feeling savory, so they split a brick of bread pudding. Don’t put this on your bucket list. Interestingly spongy.
Bro & I were ALL ABOUT the oysters. We got a dozen char broiled. Holy moly! Order these, they’re awesome! $16 for a dozen deliciously briny oysters slathered in butter with some Romano or Parmesan tossed on top.

If you’re in New Orleans – get these, get these, GET THESE. The oysters themselves were lightly cooked, and oh man. So good. Charred and reminiscent of grilled beef – very meaty and savory things, these. Even Margarita liked them, and she doesn’t really care for oysters.


And a dozen raw! Their horseradish is on the table, and it’s got quite an addictive kick. So fresh, and not as pungent as oysters north of the Mason-Dixon line. Southern oysters grow quickly because of the warm waters, but don’t develop as much flavor. If you’re not a fan of Oysters in NY because of their pungency, give these a try. Same great texture, and a lighter flavor profile.

These all had bits of shell in it, though. Mildly annoying, but easy enough to spit out. No issues with shells in the char broiled variety.

It’s drinkin’ time! Felix’s is located right in the French Quarter, so there’s nightlife all over. These cherry bomb shots were $1. Good lord, I think they were made with a combination of tequila, everclear, and rubbing alcohol. Po-tent! Phew!
Here’s a place called the Rat’s Hole. So, story time:
In high school, my boyfriend’s parents liked going to New Orleans. They’d tell me about this place called the Rat’s Hole that was a fun little shop with Rat-themed shirts and souvenirs. They’d stop by when they visited for souvenirs. This is they story they told me.

Yes, they sold some shirts, but they also sold a whole lot of adult beads, and cheap ass drinks. It was neat to see it IRL-sies, and then be like, WAIT A MINUTE. They were out partying!

As it turns out, New Orleans is kind of a mecca for partiers and drinkers of all ages. We were probably on the younger side of the age spectrum, with a majority of people out and about in their late thirties through mid fifties.

Here’s a picture I snagged of their rat-related drink cups.

This was Miss Allison or Alice… something like that. She was directing traffic outside of two gay bars. And actually doing quite a good job of making sure traffic wasn’t completely impeded by pedestrians, and vice-versa.

We stopped in one of the bars for some people watching from the balconies – good spot to people watch from above.
Then We stopped in for a drink at the Tropical Isle.
Grenades! Albany John got a skinny grenade. Blech. Really artifical tasting. These came with ice or without. Wow, without is one potent drink I’d imagine. I went with ice.
I liked this old signage. Very cute. And hey, you can just barely make out our four shadows. We ended up hanging out/dancing in a clubby little bar called Voo Doo something or other. It was on Bourbon Street, but many of these clubs/bars are pretty darned similar – you can walk in with drinks, buy cheap ones there ($3 shots! Although Bro managed to find a beer for $6.50), and just dance around to whatever they have playing. There are… I wanna call ’em “hosts” in these clubs. Basically just a guy on stage that sings along into a mic occasionally with whatever song is playing, and act as host/DJ to keep the crowds interested and lively. The songs are on loop after a while.

I liked this smaller bar over a larger one we went to. At the larger bar the crowd was a little rowdier – one guy walked up and knocked Albany John’s drink all over me for no reason on his way out. Thanks, buddy. This smaller one had a little more character and a whole lot of people watching crammed in. Having one or 17 drinks too many is definitely nothing out of the ordinary in New Orleans.


It was quite a fun night out. We had to leave the day of the first parade, so we missed what I’m guessing would be some really wild nightlife, but still – great time overall. I’m not a big club/nightlife kind of gal on most occasions, but in general, the people were all generally happy dispositions. Your hotel might cost you an arm and a leg in the French Quarter, but you’ll break even on the cheapo nighlife and noshes.