Hungarian Night

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Dining Club meal Round: Hungarian. Albany John had a Hungarian cookbook and made these stuffed zucchinis. They were great.

Quick & Dirty recipe:
Bunch of zucchini – peel and poach so they’re slightly pliable, but still firm. (You can hollow out with a melon baller – way easy)
Stuff with a mixture of ground meat and soaked/par-cooked rice, onions, and spices
Slather with sour cream & lemon & dill mixture.
Bake something like 45 minutes. Maybe less.

Albany John used fresh dill. Overall, the dish was a little more expensive than I thought it would be – something like $15-$20 for the whole tray when all was said and done.

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My friend made a goulash. I made the picture all orange-y. Ezekiel bread toast points to dip/slather/mow.

DSCF5036Another person brought some wines. I really liked this one – Chateau St Jean de la Gineste, 2008. Some rather interesting and complex different flavor notes going on, and a warm, lingering flavors. This was quite a while ago, so that’s the best description I’ve got, but I look forward to imbibing this again.

 

How to Make a Salve @ The Furnace

I’m not normally one for extracurricular education, but The Furnace had one I just couldn’t resist. A DIY workshop on salves. Their next workshop is on elderberries. It’s a series taught by Stacy Pettigrew, of Echo Lake Forest Farm and the fee per class is a sliding scale of $5-25.

They’re on Sundays at The Furnace (84 Grand St, Albany, NY), and a great way to spend the afternoon. Stacy was an engaging teacher, and I know I’m up for taking some more workshops. I’ll put the schedule at the end of this post, so you can too. This post is by no means comprehensive, and likely riddled with inaccuracies, but it IS full of spastic enthusiasm. Go take a class, trust me, you’ll have fun.

Check out all of Stacy’s cool wares. Some tinctures (which can be ingested), and some salves in a box (which are topically applied). Salves don’t go in your mouth. I know this is a food blog, but this is some interesting local stuff, and it’s kind of like cooking. And tinctures are edible!

So making a salve is pretty easy. Way easier than I thought it would be, although I am going to credit that to Stacy’s teaching skills and relaxed manner.
First thing you need is a devoted double boiler.
Well, I take that back. The first thing you need are some dried herbs, packed into a jar with the best kind of vegetable oil you can get. Organic extra virgin olive oil, or something like that. Have those dried herbs ground up as finely as possible, then let them sit in oil for a week or two around 100F and then strain the oil and pop the oil in the double boiler.


Weigh out beeswax. Just a smidge of beeswax. This was just about 1.25 oz for a large mason jar of oil. Smidge. Stacy said it’s better to underestimate your beeswax, since you can always add more to make it firmer, but you can’t take it out. And then you might have a rock hard salve.

Beeswax in the heated, strained oil! Stacy had some oil that had soaked up some arnica goodness. Arnica is good for aches and sore bits. Just don’t put it on cuts. Or eat it. CUZ YOU WILL EXPLODE! Or not. But just don’t do it.

Tins! To put salves in! There are places you can get these from locally, like Burch Bottles in Watervliet.

Stacy also mentioned some places to buy dried herbs from (Pacific Botanicals), or seeds to grow your own(Horizon Herbs). Needless to say, I’m already planning out next year’s garden, and wondering if I can start growing any of them indoors over the winter.


After the beeswax melts into the oil you can test to see how firm it will be by placing a spoonful in the freezer for a few minutes. Once you’re happy with it, you can bottle it up (if you want it firmer, just add more beeswax). It only takes a few more minutes for this to go from liquid to solid.

Tada! Arnica salves!

I can’t wait to try making my own, or even trying to make my own solid perfume with some essential oils, beeswax, and olive oil. But here’s the thing. A pint of oil makes a lot of salves. I think this would be awesome to do for a girl’s night in, or for holiday presents. Or maybe you like to slather a lot of things on yourself.

So you’ve missed the first DIY class, but guess what? You’ve got plenty more to catch! Here’s the lineup:

DIY Herbal Salves, 12/5: Learn about herbs used for salves and their different uses. Class participants will make and take home an arnica salve for aches, pains, and trauma.

The Amazing Elderberry, 12/12: Review different clinical and scientific studies about the effectiveness of this powerful berry in fighting influenza. Class participants will make and take home elderberry syrup.

DIY Tincturing and Percolation, 1/9: How to make alcohol extracts – the math and chemistry demystified. Which herbs work best? Fresh or dry? Ratios and percentages and step-by-step instructions. Plus – DIY tincture press construction and demonstration.

Herbs for Winter, 1/23: Fight colds, flus, coughs, and sore throats.

Medicinal Mushrooms, 2/6: A review of uses, scientific and clinical studies, and preparation of medicinal mushrooms. Examples of locally harvested mushrooms will be available to see and sample.

Workshops led by Stacy Pettigrew.

Stacy Pettigrew earned a Clinical Herbalist certificate from Michael Moore’s Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, and has also studied with 7Song at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine and taken classes at the North American Institute for Medical Herbalism. She is the proprietor of Echo Lake Forest Farms LLC, which offers a wide range of herbal products. Stacy is also the co-author of Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-It-Ourselves Guide and is the Executive Director of the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center

The Secret Cafe

I never win raffles. I’ll toss in a buck or two and hope for the best. Partly because I never really have more than a few dollars in cash on me at any given time, and partly because whenever I’ve entered raffles in the past, there’s always someone else that will end up beating me.
This has been going on since at least the third grade. When I was in Chinese school Danny Liu’s parents would buy armloads of $20 5 foot reams of raffle tickets, and Danny would be left swaddled in raffle tickets. Whenever numbers were called and no winner surfaced in 30 seconds, everyone sighed and sat back, waiting for Danny to check all of the tickets. This kind of slowed things down, but I’ll be damned if the Liu familiy didn’t win just about everything they entered.

But this time, I won a great raffle. It was for dinner! It was from The Furnace Collective. I entered on a First Friday and figured I might win since there weren’t many other people in yet (until one of my buddies up and bought five tickets). But I did win!! This is probably the best raffle I’ve ever one! It translated directly into FOOD! It was only $15 per person any way, but hooray, I won!

So on that auspicious night, I showed up with my Artsy Designer Friend. It was in a random house in Albany that was just freaking gorgeous on the inside and unassuming on the outside.

First up was a generous appetizer plate. Oh, and by the way, most of these pictures are yellowy, but whatever, they are pictures and not too blurry. You get the idea. It’s something to break up the monotony of my words.

I think everything that night was vegan. Artsy Designer Friend is a celiac, so he can’t eat wheat. He popped a mushroom after thinking they were safe, but evidently they used some kind of vegan thing with wheat in it. He is super chill and was like “Well, whatever. I tried some place new and knew it was a risk. I’m gonna enjoy the rest of my meal.” Now there’s a trooper. Oh, and the Furnace folks were super apologetic about the whole thing and couldn’t have been nicer. (But for what it’s worth, those mushrooms were totally worth it)

His super-triple-checked-free-of-gluten mushroom risotto. It was creamy and risotto-y. I took a nibble because it’swhatido. I’m still not a risotto fan, but still, it was nice.

I got beet ravioli! Red, beety skins! Stuffed with a celery/celeraic filling. Glazed with… SOMETHING!

But you know what was the best part? Those veggie sides!! The brussels sprouts were perfectly seared and charred on the cut sides, and still had plenty of crunch throughout.

And those kale greens and white beans? Scrumptious! However they cooked it, it was awesome. Tender soft beans, and lightly cooked kale that didn’t taste too bitterly of kale. Like Kale-Light.

Here’s an innard of a ravioli. Raviolo? White insides, red outsides.

Artsy Designer Friend knew the dessert chef, who whipped him up an off-menu gluten-free dessert. Some apple slices, caramel sauce, whipped cream, and pomegranate seeds. And lotsa cocoa powder. He was really happy.
I couldn’t say no to the pumpkin pie with WHITE CHOCOLATE. It was awesome, and a great way to end the meal.

It was such a great night, free to boot, and then the icing on the free-raffle-winning cake is that someone comes up to me and asks if I know someone. From Washingtonville! It turns out we went to middle school together. How crazy is that?!

Cooks 4 Kids

On Sunday Albany John got ready for his fifth(fifth) year of Cooks for Kids. It benefits Two Together, which hosts a bunch of after-school programs for Albany kiddos.

They’ve had it at various locations over the years, but for the past couple of years it’s been at the New York State Museum’s Terrace Gallery (the upstairs part).

Albany John likes doing something different each year. He decided the day before to make empanadas. So we hauled around town getting ingredients, namely some ground meat from Roma’s in Latham, NY. He was going to make something like Philly sandwiches, but the meat was $8.99 per pound and we’d need at least like 5-6 pounds, so that was out.

I’m glad he made baked empanadas because these were awesome. Light flaky crust (part masa harina & flour), tasty meaty innards.

Here is the lineup of chefs! It felt like there were less chefs here than in years past. (I’m not quite sure this year was as promoted as last year when Chef Purnomo was there from Yono’s).


Guess who was there?! Sean Custer from Capital Q! He was really fun – a really nice guy and easy to talk with. We chatted for a bit, and he seemed to enjoy Albany John’s empanadas. I enjoyed his pickle. The man makes some mean homemade pickles.

Les Golubs. Neil and Jane Golub were the big high poobah sponsors of the event (there was a more official title, but I think you get the gist. And I like “poobah”).

I’m not a big Price Chopper fan (I’ve received generally poor service, so I don’t shop there), but Jane was the most adorable little thing ever. When she first got up there she was asking if everyone could hear/see her because “I look at pictures of events and think ‘Who is that skinny, short lady?’ and realize that it’s me.”
They might just make me a Chopper Shopper once again.

Beaver. A silent dinner guest.


I wanted to weep with happiness when I saw this carafe. Albany John got excited because he thought it was coffee. I got excited because there was another carafe labeled “PORK GRAVY”. I am not kidding you.

Chefs doling out their food. Mister Boiled Beef Man was not there this year!! He has the best beef roast I’ve ever tasted, and tons of gravy. Not to be morbid, but I really hope he’s not dead (he was an old guy) and just couldn’t make it this year, because his beef was always SO FREAKING GOOD.

Notice anyone in the picture above? Maybe a Breslin? (Getting food from the chef on the very right)

Aww, flowers at the table!

Another nice thing they did this year was they kept the opening part short. Let’s face it, people were there for the food.
The handsome culinary team from Four Corners in Delmar, NY. They had some amazing pastries! I showed some restraint by not eating every one of their desserts (even though I really, really wanted to).

They also had some iced teas that were really refreshing, too. I gotta get out to Four Corners and try some more of their stuff.


Check it – fruit covered cheesecake & a banana kind of pastry thing from Four Corners. The cheesecake was great – creamy, not too sweet, and just set enough. I’m picky with cheesecake and I almost went back for seconds here. The banana thing I got because of the massive amount of whipped cream on top (it was real whipped cream, too!).

The carrot cake slice in the back was one someone made and was amazing! Moist, dense but lightly textured with some great cream cheese frosting. Holy moly, it blew me away!

I also got to chat with some local Albany-active people. Political maybe, I’m not really sure. I don’t keep up with politics, and they just assumed I knew who they were or what they were about. I really had no idea, so while they were nice, I really didn’t understand half of what they said because I have no clue what the context was.

Mini Foodies

One of the Almost Foodies gang held a miniature themed gathering at her apartment. How many Almost Foodies can one apartment hold? A lot!

You can see a fruit plate of pineapple, blueberry, raspberry, and, I believe, mango. on tooth picks in the bottom left corner. These were so bright and easy to eat. Hello, delicious fruit!

Cheese covered mini chimis (with habaneros!), so good with a nice kick of heat and salsa on the side. And believe it or not, the habaneros didn’t completely burn up my mouth. I even went back for seconds! And thirds! (What? They were tiny!)

Ellsbells‘ beany dip (loved the cilantro in it – so fresh!); uuummm… I am blanking on the name, but these were tiny sweet balls with sesames on the outside – if you love citrus, you will love these bright, chewy, orangy balls.

Crock pot of mini weenies! How fun were these to eat? Tons!

You can kind of see Renee‘s dessert (shortcakes!!) and mine in the background.



But that’s not all folks! Mini Taco dip filled tortilla chips took front and center of the dining table. And what pretty presentation!
In the background are pizza bagels! Mini pizza bagels. With HOME MADE mini bagels. Holy crap, these were soooo freaking good. Soft and yet still chewy. Dude, I need the recipe.

Calzones, I think! The meatballs stuffed in here were so tender (and there was a meat ball-y sauce to accompany the mini-zones!


Here you can see a better picture of Renee’s awesome miniature scones for strawberry shortcake. Crap. I didn’t snap a picture of the whipped cream or strawberries she made either, but trust me, they were delicious. The scones were so light and fluffy! I stopped counting after scone/shortbread #3.


And here is a nice picture from before the chimis arrived. You can see the sweets Renee and I made in the top/background. I made carrot cake balls covered with white chocolate. They were really tasty, too (I ate, like, 12 of them ‘testing’ before bringing them over).
All of the food was really tasty. Good gravy, I do love these Almost Foodies gathering. One day I should try to host my own, but that would mean cleaning my apartment (which means Albany John would clean the apartment since I suck epically at cleaning).


Guess what else Renee found??

Mini beers! These were so fun to drink, and they were tiny so I didn’t even catch a buzz off of them! I could probably drink 2-3 of these and still maintain sobriety! My Asian-ness means I have a fairly low tolerance to alcohol, and generally I turn pinky-red after a few sips. Hello, Asian Glow.


And what mini series is complete without Baby Guiness?! So yumm! A baby guiness is a 50-50 mix of Irish Cream and Coffee Liqueur (i.e. Bailey’s and Kahlua)

This was so much fun, and the apartment was so fun, too! (The decor was awesome) I love these Almost Foodies meetings – food, friends, fun! What more can you ask for? (Also, the food is always outstanding. OUTSTANDING)

MJ’s Bar


Okay Troy, NY – You’re up. Local gem, comin’ right atcha.

So after I wrote about MJ’s, we haven’t had much of a chance to go back. Mainly for lack of trying, because I am incredibly lazy and most of my foodings happen on the spur of the moment. Albany John wanted to check out their bar, since it looked really cool. It’s got a wine-cellar-y vibe with the restaurant downstairs – stone and wood and such. I don’t know. I’m no decorator (Albany John can totally vouch for that one). But nice scheme overall, ya dig?



We heard some cool peeps talking about MJ’s, and how much they rocked in general, when they mentioned a beer club with a mug and cheap beer.

Oh?

Oh yes. They said for $6, you could get your very own mug at MJ’s, and it was even engraved. ENGRAVED!!! And that refills were redonkulously cheap (I’m paraphrasing here).

OH WE ARE SO IN.

So we went over and checked it out. And guess what?

There was a special going of Smirnoff Source for $2 a bottle. WTF?! That’s freaking awesome. So I was set for the night. Man, those things are good. Of course, I get made fun of to no end for drinking them by my friends who call them ‘baby drinks’, but what can I say? They’re good.


Do you see them? Do you see the wall of mugs??? There are tons of glasses hanging over the bar with numbers on them, and the engravings. $6 is a great deal. Don’t they charge that much per word over at those Silver engraving stores at the mall?


Albany John got a mug fresh outta the fridge, and then… TOOK FOR FREAKIN’ EVER to pick out a number and something to get engraved on it. I think at this point I was all “PICK SOMETHING!!!” because seriously. He was taking for.ev.er.

For the unaware: This is how it works. You go to the bar. Say you want to buy a mug. The nice bartender will give you a book that has numbers in all of the rows. Pick a blank number/row and fill out your name and what you want engraved on it. This might take a while, but they’ll never rush you (yay!), and they’ll mark you as paid. Done. Set. Go.

Domestics are $1.50 and Imports are $2.50 or $2.25, or something close to it. How cheap is that?


And guess what I spotted at the corner of the bar? No, not the wine list. A Magic Bullet!!!!! Ah ha ha ha ha! Awesome!!

I was really impressed with the bar too, it’s huge and well stocked. It had good lighting – light lighting, but not too dark. And the music wasn’t too loud either, so you could actually talk. I can’t stand it when it’s dark and the music is blaring when there are only a handful of people lingering in a bar. OH, OH, OH. I almost forgot to mention this – They have hooks under the bar for purses. At least that’s what I used it for. I’m sure you could use it for a light jacket, or an umbrella or something, but fellow chicas – PURSE HOOKS. So you don’t have to worry about getting your purse wet or hanging it over the chair, or keeping it awkwardly in your lap. They rock.

And another plus – MJ’s has vegan foods. Or at least they are very accomodating. I think there were some pastas, and their french fries and sweet potato fries are cooked in separate oil. So, yea. Just FYI.

The bartender was very nice too – she refilled our drinks when we were low, and even gave me a cup of ice and refilled the ice for my drink. She just had these nice little touches. I wouldn’t have thought of the ice, or a cup for my drink (classy lady right here, boys), but they were thoroughly enjoyable. I really appreciate the little touches. Kudos, MJ’s.

Le Weekend. It Roxored.



Raves of the weekend:


1) Kismet Art Gallery’s showings for Troy Night Out were funky and awesome, as usual, and they had shrimp scampi pesto shrimp – yum! They always have great food. And cheap drinks.


2) The Menands Farmers Market (The Capital District Farmers Market). I saw on Jennifer Gish’s blog that there would be a corn festival. With free corn! So I woke up early and after taking forever and a day to get ready, I headed out and got a free ear of corn. And there were squeeze bottles of butter! It was a great little breakfast.

I think I might like this market more than the Troy Farmers Market. It seemed a little more down to earth, and a lot of really local people were there, like farmers from Colonie and Loudonville. I snagged a cabbage for $2 a head at one table, and a basket of non-pretty yellow squash for $1. The squash was easily 3 pounds, so it was quite a steal. Sure, they weren’t as fresh as their more expensive squashy counterparts, but I’ll eat them this week, so freshness is not an issue for me. I also saw a stand with whoopie pies for $1, so I grabbed Albany John one since I remember he liked them. I thought it was terrific, and I have to go again this Saturday in order to try the Red Velvet whoopie pie. I think they were made by the Amish, or some other group of people who wear straw hats and such. They were really nice, I probably should have talked them up a bit more about their baked goods.


3) Cheap corn at the Troy Farmers Market. I didn’t buy any at the Menands market for some reason since I kept hoping I’d get a better deal than $3 for half a dozen ears of corn. And I did! I found some wildly sweet and buttery tasting corn for $2 for 5. Nice!

4) I found the veggie cart in downtown Albany, and got a yellow watermelon for $3.50! And it’s really tasty.

5) The Pickle Party at CDFI. The Capital District Federation puts on a fruit/food party once a year. I’ve never been to them and looked forward to it – there were people making pickle costumes, pickle dolls, and tons of pickles.

6) I ate the BEST SAUCE EVER. I will further post on this, it was that good. The creator has promised me my own bottle shortly.

7) Although I don’t love beer, I have found that I really enjoy Genesee Cream Ale in a bottle.

8) Waking up and impulsively heading over with a friend to At The Warehouse to look around and buy more wonderful Center Square honey. This is the heroin of honeys. It’s silky smooth, with a wonderfully rounded and sweet flavor. The Autumn honey tastes so incredibly buttery, I go into convulsions if my honey stash is in short supply.

9) Lark Tavern. I was thinking perhaps Bros Tacos, but wasn’t sure if they were open, but then remembered LARK TAVERN. My friend was all in as another Lark Tavern lover. I ordered the burger special. It was basically a reuben burger with Russian dressing, sauerkraut and cheese. And it came out perfectly rare and tasted nice and beefy. At $9.95, it was a good deal for what you got (it also came with fries). It’s now battling for Best Burger in Albany in my ranking system. My friend got fish and shrimp – and woah baby. They were fresh, not frozen – battered in a delicious cornmeal coating. I ate the shrimp tails – yum. Such good food. And they’ve redone the ladies bathroom! Now it’s much less cramped and has steel and mirrors all over. It’s awesome.

10) Corn nuts. Oh my goodness. I love the corn nuts from the bulk section at Hannaford. And since they’re in bulk, I can get a small amount every time I want some. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten these before, but they’re awesome – like the semi-popped kernels of popcorn at the bottom of the bowl.

11) Tomatoes from the garden. They’re finally ripening! They’ve been teasing me, remaining green all season, but a few of our pear tomatoes (yellow. Yum!) have started to ripen, and I found a big fat yellow tomato that was aaaalmost ripe, and it should be ripe tonight and oh my gosh I just realized that we have a ripe avocado, and I need to combine them in my belly tonight.

CDFI Potluck

Ok, so I’m blaming Albany John for the craptacular “spread” we brought to the CDFI potluck this past Friday. He’s usually so good at remembering these things, and told me early in the afternoon about it. So we had no time to make anything. I have some pot stickers I made in the freezer, but they had lap chong in them, and the majority of people who potluck at the CDFI are vegetarian or vegan, so not too many of them would get eaten.

Instead, we brought sangria and buffalo wing flavored pretzel bits. OH THE HUMANITY!!!! If we couldn’t wow them with our cooking skills, we could at least get them drunk enough to think the buffalo wing pretzel bits were awesome. HAHA – FAIL!

But luckily, other people were much more creative and thoughtful than us.


There was a donation by Aashiana – a sliced beef over yellow rice dish with a yogurt sauce. Excellent – I ate way more than my fair share.


The red headed stepchild of the potluck – sangria. You can see the buffalo pretzels trying to hide in shame behind it. Tisk, tisk.


Sweet potato soup – although I didn’t know it was soup and just ladled it over my yellow rice like a gravy. It was so tasty! You can get me to eat anything if you call it gravy.

Sweet potato salad – mmm! I normally don’t like celery at all, but this magical combination of ingredients yielded a very tasty result.

Sprouted lentil salad – it was so light and refreshing for the nice weather we’ve been having.


Key Lime Pie!!! This tasted amazingly fresh and creamy. And it was vegan! A big thanks to a certain local performance artist. I have to get her recipe. Seriously. It was kind of warm, had just the right amount of tartness to it… oh you had to have been there – it was so totally good. I actually flexed some self control and limited myself to one slice. This baby was gone pretty shortly after!

Germania Hall Banquet Haus – Germania Haus



$5 all you can eat breakfast buffet? The last Sunday of every month, you say?

At Germania Haus in Troy, you say?

Albany John and I had been over to Germania Haus once before for our friends’ baby shower. By the way, if you’re ever throwing anyone a baby shower, open bar is the way to go. (godiloveyouguys)

I’ve only been in the bottom part of it, which has a very cozy feel to it. And kind of old, but it looks like the place has been there forever. I also like all of the… stuff on the walls. There’s also another room attached to the bar/bottom area of Germania Haus, and this is the important place – it’s where you get your food.

So Albany John and I actually got up before noon and headed out, because $5 for breakfast is such a steal. When we got there we walked down the stairs (there’s also an electric chair lift thing… I’ve always wanted to ride one of those suckers. They look so cool) and paid up at the guy by the register.
They usually take credit cards for purchases of $15 or more, but not on Sundays. So bring your cash! Heck, I was surprised they even took credit cards. For some reason I always picture community centers as being cash-only operations.

So we snapped up a table, and surveyed our surroundings. There were steam trays of food at the front, and there was soft lighting throughout. I also had a hangover, so this was a huuuuge plus.
I walked up and grabbed a plate and popped the covers off of each tray. They had pancakes, corned beef hash, sausage and ham, scrambled eggs, potato pieces (like square home fries), and some sweets at the end. And toast.

I grabbed a little of everything, but you can skip your carb intake on the pancakes. They were small (aka cute), dry, and they just didn’t taste very pancake-y. The Mrs. Butterworth’s at the end helped, but man, they could take a lot of syrup. (Also, if you are used to ‘real’ maple syrup like Albany John… you’re out of luck. Personally, I love fake syrup)
The sausages were good – they had a skin to them and were of the miniature link variety. The ham looked dry, but smelled really bacon-y.
The scrambled eggs were probably some kind of instant egg thing, but they were super soft. I liked them a lot.
The potatoes – also good.

Since I was hung over, some kind of beverage was necessary. I didn’t see any water, but next to the coffee station (which you don’t pour, someone comes around with them at your table) were small cups of juice. Total score there. They had cranberry, orange and grape. I was in heaven.

So let’s recap: $5, end of the month, all you can eat, drinks included, hang over-friendly lighting.

Ballingers

“We’re going to go out tonight, so dress up when you get home,” said Albany John.

Oooo, where???!” I squealed

Ballingers

“AHHH!!! No way! You’ve actually heard about it too? Did you read that article Steve Barnes wrote in the Times Union??”

Have you heard about Ballingers yet? It’s on Howard Street downtown where Ogden’s used to be. It opened just this past Thursday. The owners bought the entire building and spent a fortune renovating it. One of the bartenders mentioned that the owners(who currently have a similar club in NYC as well) had been waiting for ten years to purchase the perfect spot in Albany. They certainly did it.

I’d never been in the building before, and from their pictures online, I was a bit hesitant since it looked kind of empty. Thankfully everything was rather spacious, if a bit cramped since a lot of the super comfy looking tables are reserved for ‘Big Spenders’ in increments of $50-$200. But really, if you’re a large-ish group you should fit in that category. And when I say comfy, I mean they look like decadently plush sofas. They’re absolutely gorgeous. And comfy. Did I mention comfy? Albany John and I were sitting upstairs at one point and wow – totally worth it.(I think before they had put more of the ‘reserved’ cards out, since later someone was putting them out where we were sitting. Ooops. But no one ever shoo’ed us away and I thought that was nice.)

There were a total of three floors to choose from. The details in each are just amazing. The main floor had the atmosphere of an upscale bar. They had a balance scale for decor, with actual change in each side – SO cute! Upstairs is where there was a DJ spinning. If you check out Ballingers’ website, you’ll see that after 8 a DJ sets up. I was surprised by the music. Kind of a top 40 of pop, but mixed in with some less popular current songs as well.
The upstairs also had a rather kinky looking room with some haphazardly hung harnesses on the wall. To be honest, it didn’t look like there was much rhyme or reason to it, but the rest of the room had a woodsy look to the decor so it worked.
The Cellar is smaller and showcases the exposed brick. They bar is made of granite and there’s a fireplace! It was also much less crowded than the bars on the other floors. It also felt much more relaxed.
There’s also an outdoor patio with its own bar – a Tiki Hut! Oh, I could have died! There’s plenty of sitting room outside, in case you think you don’t have the cash to be a VIP with a table and the bar seats are full.

The drinks were made perfectly and rather affordable too. We had 3-4 drinks total (just for a peek to see how the place looked) and it was about $25-30. I was expecting something more expensive, but Ballingers if you are reading this, please don’t! I really liked going into a swank, posh place and not paying an arm and a leg for drinks. Thank you for not charging NYC drink prices like some of the other bars downtown. *cough cough* Also, the entire staff were wonderful. I really do mean wonderful. From the moment we walked in we were greeted warmly by the door staff, cocktail waitresses, bartenders and all. It was so nice! I can’t tell you what a relief it was to have friendly, genuine people all over the place. I think that these owners really did a bang up job in the staff they hired, and hopefully they will all remain just as nice.

Ballingers also has a delectable looking food menu, which I didn’t get to try this time, but I can’t wait for the next!