Phoenicians Restaurant

Where do bloggers go when they’re near Wolf Road but looking for some place local? I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to hear that Albany John and I were hanging with Daniel B. one night. We got peckish, and I looked at Daniel and asked “So, where are we going for dinner?” When you have a fussy friend, it takes a lot of decision making out of the equation.

We went to Phoenicians – we’d never been and had heard some tasty things. Short story – it was okay, but I’m not sure I’d go back for dinner.

When we were seated, they had this non-alcoholic beer in a few different flavors on the menu – raspberry, apple… I asked our waitress about it, and she said she had no idea what it was. She showed me a display bottle, but it would have been nice to know things like what the beer tasted like, or if it was popular… Not just “Well, you can’t buy it at the grocery store,”
We left the ordering up to Daniel B. We got a bunch of plates to share. These are the tiniest dolmas I’ve ever had. At over $1 each, I was surprised by how tiny and exploded they were. They were about the size of a knuckle. I’ve never seen dolma so tiny before!

They were warm and quite lemony. There was a white sauce with them, but the lemon flavor overpowered it for me.
Daniel B said the baba ghanouj came highly recommended to him by a friend. It was okay – pleasantly smooth, smoky, and creamy; but the pita they served us was stale. The price tag was a little high for the portion, too – $7.99 for an app plate’s worth.
The spicy potatoes were a surprise. The menu listed them as potatoes with garlic, coriander, and lemon juice. What came out were some excellently fried squares doused in Frank’s red hot sauce. The fry job was commendable, but dude – what’s up with that description vs reality? This seemed more like diner food than a Phoenician side dish.

Wraps! With some pretty decent rice on the side. Falafel wrap is on the left, Kafta is on the right. They were kind of skinny.
Again, falafel left, kafta right. The falafel didn’t have much taste. I was kind of like “Hey guys, what did we order for the one that wasn’t meat? I didn’t taste much of anything besides the veggies.”


The kafta was savory, and the better of the two. The pita wraps were, like our earlier pita, stale. Pita delivery in this area isn’t a daily thing, but I wish there was a way to have non-stale pita bread when it’s not a delivery day.

The service was okay throughout the meal – a bit unpolished and kind of awkward. When our server was clearing our plates at the end, she started bussing up bits of rice with her finger tips. That kind of thing can wait for after a table leaves, and is easier to do with a rag/sponge than it is with your fingers.

I’d prefer to go to Beiruit in Troy for similar fare with better service (friendlier, knowledgeable), lower prices, and better food (flavor & portions). The three of us ended up leaving a bit peckish and underwhelmed.

Garden Bistro 24

I was finally able to check out Garden Bistro 24, one of the more recent additions to the Albany dining scene. It’s in a stripmall on Central Ave in Colonie. Or, as Albany John knows it – in that plaza with the video game resale company.

We met up with Daniel B. for a nice night out.

I actually showed up a touch early (shock, I know), and we sat at the bar and had a cocktail. Lemon drop type thing. Tasty, and wow, what a kick! Only minor gripe was that tax was not included in the price. It was something like $9-10. It’s Albany – this is a bistro. We can drop it down a few bucks if tax isn’t included.


Other than that, tasty drink I’d order it again.

A very well stocked bar. I doubt they even have a well. One or two large flat-screen TVs, but they’re not blasting. Garden Bistro has some minimal decor. Lots of tan and earth tones in the decor. Tables on one side, bar slightly to the rear.

The bartender was nice, and the bar area quiet. We decided to have dinner there. Seemed like a little more space than a table, too. Bottle of wine. Albany John and I left wine selection to the Profussor, who narrowed a few reds down he thought I wouldn’t hate. Good call on this bottle, and the bartender even gave us a few pours to try to help us decide. I thought this was nice though – low tannins, fruity, juicy (and under $30! woo!). See? I can use my wine buzz words!

We split the soup special. Eggplant and…. it’s been a few days so I forget what else. But it was tasty stuff. I think it was about $6 for a fairly large bowl.

The boys both ordered flat iron steaks (~$14) which came with a decorative amount of greenery (salad) and a big ole pile of frites. Plus some herbed butter on top. They both ordered medium rare.

I went for the mussles special – with champagne sauce ($16.50). Each mussle was plump and perfectly cooked. Not one bad mussle in the whole lot, and they didn’t become overcooked while sitting there. So tasty!
Plus a gigantic cone of frites with ketchup and a sweet mustard sauce to dip in. The mustard sauce was quite tasty. The fries bested me by a long shot, though. Haha! But they were perfectly crisp on the outside, light, and not too greasy. I usually don’t like smaller shoestrings because they tend to be way too crunchy throughout, or oily; but these were crispy on the outside, light, and airy on the inside. Well done.

Daniel B.’s steak came out closer to medium rare. Albany John’s was more like a medium. Kind of annoying to have two steaks ordered exactly the same and have them come out at different temps. Still a tasty steak, but a minor disappointment because when he was ordered he mentioned that he usually orders rare because he wants medium rare, and was told that they cook their steaks on the rarer side and should order medium rare.

I guess we’ll stick with ordering “rare” in the hopes of medium rare.

I definitely look forward to returning to Garden Bistro 24. The service was casual and friendly, the meal paced leisurely, and overall a nice night out. Cozy, almost. I’d put Garden Bistro as an affordable night out and a good place for a date night. Affordable prices, but you still get a bit of an upscale vibe and nice atmosphere. It’s also low-key enough that it’s relaxing.

Shining Rainbow Restaurant

On Sunday we had to return CVS and Manhattan Maka to their bus to go back to NYC. Boo hoo.

However, Manhattan Maka was all about getting some dim sum. Why she’d opt for dim sum here over NYC is anyone’s guess, but hey, I’m always down for it! I decided to try Shining Rainbow. It’s kind of the new guy in town, and I haven’t heard anything bad about it yet.

Ellsbells came with us since she hadn’t seen them all weekend. Evidently I am quickly becoming deaf to hearing my phone ring.


Their lighting is so dramatic, no? We were the only ones in the place when we walked in, and were seated at a large table in the back with a lazy susan and served 2 pots of tea. The staff were listening to some fun sounding game show, and we asked if they could switch off the football on our TV and put that one on. The cable box only ran it to one TV tho, and they offered to move us. But c’mon. Lazy susan. And y’know… I’m lazy.


And then they turned the TV off. Hope we didn’t make them want to, since we said we were find just listening to it even if we couldn’t see it. *shrugs* Oh well, we still had each other to talk to.


We ordered a lot of food. Like, a LOT. We didn’t get a couple dishes and they didn’t show up on the bill, so either they were out and didn’t tell us, or the waiter decided “Hey, these people ordered WAY too much food” either way, it was a good thing. We were close to bursting when we left. As is customary when eating dim sum.

First up came a double order of lotus balls. $2.95 per order. These are bready dough plops that are filled with lotus paste, covered in sesame seeds, and deep fried. They cut them in half for us at the table. They were piping hot, and deliciously sweet and nutty.


Turnip cakes ($2.95) on the left and seafood roll($2.95) on the right. The turnip cakes seemed to be deep fried. I’m used to seeing them pan fried, but I really enjoyed this way. The exterior was perfectly crisp. I can never get enough crunch on the outside of turnip cakes. And the inside was the moist, firm goo as usual. I’m probably not selling it, but this is a tasty and savory snack. Dried shrimp and some kind of preserved meat (lop cheong, bacon, etc) diced up inside, too.

The seafood roll was very oily on the outside. The batter was like a beer batter – crunchy outside, slightly soft and poofy underneath. It was filled with a lot of seafood bits – a mish mash. But surprisingly, they weren’t overcooked. They were in some creamy (I wanna say mayo) sauce, which I wasn’t a fan of. Overall, this was just too rich for me, but it was enjoyable.


Roast pork buns. $2.95. They’re pork buns. I didn’t eat any, but they look good.


HAR GOW! $2.95. You bet your pants I ate some of these. These are probably the best har cheung in the Albany area. The rice wrapper was soft, smooth, and bordering on gelatinous in texture (which might sound gross, but trust me, it’s a totally good thing). The shrimp inside were pleasantly white-peppery, moist, and perfectly cooked. We ordered two of these, and rightly so.


King pork bun. $2.00. CVS ate this, and I’m not sure if anyone else did. He said there was a LOT of filling in it, and was very savory in comparison to the steamed pork buns, which were sweeter. It was really big. King Pork indeed!


I also figured we should order a veggie dish since we’d be eating so much rich food. Ellsbells took the helm in ordering baby bok choy with mushrooms. The mushrooms were reconsituted shiitakes. I liked them, and am not a big fan of shiitakes that have been reconsituted. Everyone else raved about their deep flavor and meaty texture.
I absolutely loved the bok choy – perfectly cooked. They still retained a lot of firmness without being crunchy. I love it when they are cooked this way – just enough to take the rawness out of them and enhance them. This dish was $8.95.


MOAR FOODS.

In the front are veggie dumplings – I think they were Even Vegetable Dumplings ($2.95) on the menu. They came 4 to an order. The skins looked good.

Behind them to the left are stuffed eggplant, which cost $2.95. Japanese eggplant stuffed with shrimp mixture and fried, then slathered in sauce. I think the eggplant was a little undercooked and had a hint of bitterness, but it was much less greasy than it normally is as a result. The shrimp filling was great though, and kept me eating it.


King pork shui mai came four to an order for $2.95. These were very large and meaty. Perfectly steamed. I became overwhelmed with the meaty flavor and couldn’t even finish one! haha, I passed it off to Albany John to polish off.


I forget what these ones are, but they were also vegetarian. They came 3 to an order, and were also $2.95. I didn’t try any of the vegetarian dishes. Boy, I was an eating wuss! But I was really full when we left.
Spareribs with blackbean sauce. $2.95. Yum, these were great! They had a nice and spicy kick and weren’t too greasy. A lot of times this dish is very heavy from the black bean sauce, but these were very light. I enjoyed the spiciness in the dish as well – this dish isn’t typically spicy. A very nice change in flavor. I think we ordered two of these, too.

After tax, the bill came to $59 and change. So $60 for 5 people pre-tax. Not too shabby, and boy were we ever stuffed!
I’m glad I checked this place out. I probably would have taken forever to do so if JoJo hadn’t raved about it at the cookie swap last month. I’m glad she talked it up, because I really enjoyed myself! Since the har kow were so good, I think I’ll even try their har cheung (shrimp rice roll) next time! No one up here can make them – so far they’ve all sucked, and HARD.
I’d liken Shining Rainbow to CCK, plus sushi/Japanese food.
Service was okay. Not offensive, fairly friendly, and only slightly pushy with trying to give us forks in addition to the chopsticks already at the table. They kept pushing the sushi. It seemed good, but we were there for dim sum. I’m not sure if I could mix sushi AND dim sum at one meal. It just seems so… different! Dim sum is dim sum! And Sushi is sushi!
Shining Rainbow is located at 209 Central Ave, Albany, NY 12206. T 518-396-3881. Their menu says 10% off pick up! They also do the $5 or so lunch specials during the work week, like most of the other Chinese/Japanese places here do. They take credit cards.

La Mia Pizza, White Castle, & Back to New East Cuisine Manor

We finally managed to de-roof ourselves from Manhattan Maka’s place and were walking over to Central Park.

The one time I was in Central Park before I was more “generic girlfriend” since Albany John was meeting up with college buddies and their women folk. He had fun and played some games with them, and all of their girlfriends basically ignored me and gossiped about people they knew while I watched the guys play sports. There was also a 6-foot subway sandwich from Subway, which really had me nonplussed since it was slathered with mayo and had been sitting out in the sun all day and everyone had eaten all of the chips. Plus you guys know how I feel about chain restaurant food when in NYC (ie, pointless ‘cause there are so many tastier [and usually cheaper] options).

Right, so any way. We were in Central Park! It was bustling with people, with the sun just beginning to set. I really enjoyed just meandering about enjoying the place and blending into the crowd. We saw the Castle, where they were having an impromptu photo shoot. We saw a turtle or a frog or something like that in the water from the top of the castle. I found an adorable staircase that led to a highway. I also saw three guys getting citations for having open containers in public. How New York is THAT?!

Once the sun started setting in earnest, we headed to La Mia for pizza (1448 1st Ave, NY, NY 10075). Manhattan Maka had been telling me for quite some time about how this pizza shop close to her house makes some great slices, so I was excited.Albany John, Benny, Slick, and I were all still pretty full from eating dim sum earlier in the day, and we all ended up just getting slices.

I got a plain cheese slice. Chicago Velvet Smoove got a buffalo chicken and a margherita slice. Albany John got a spinach and mushroom slice, Manhattan Maka got a chicken and broccoli slice, and Slick and Benny got pepperoni and sausage slices. Not pictured was a beef patty Maka also got. The total was somewhere around $27 for all of it, and CVS was a sweetheart and treated us. That was such a nice surprise!


I liked my cheese slice well enough. The edges of the slice were just crisp enough, and I do enjoy a good thin crust pizza. I thought the slice itself could have been warmer, as it was just above room-temp, so it could have re-heated in their oven a little longer. The sauce-cheese ratio was nice though. Slightly sweet sauce, and a slightly salty, melty mozzarella made for a nice pair.

I’d also picked up a green tea cake when we were in Flushing to bring over. It was $3 for a small green tea swiss roll cake. I couldn’t resist it when I saw it in the cooler – I just love green tea.


I sliced it up into 6 slices for us all to share, and we ate it while drinking some beers and playing video games! The green tea flavor was subtle, but added a little something different to the normal vanilla swiss roll flavor. The cake itself was nice and moist, and the cream filling was just enough to complement the cake – not too much, and not too little (although, the ‘too little’ is what bothers me more).
After chilling with Manhattan Maka and CVS, we all boarded the subway and headed back to Woodside with one thing on our minds.

Mother fucking WHITE CASTLE! Yes, you heard that right! The closest White Castle is located here in Queens (I think it’s either Bayside or Sunnyside Queens), mere blocks away from my family’s place. We got off of the subway and ordered two crave cases. Yes, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.


We grabbed some beers from the grocery store near Wendy’s and were on our way back to eat as many as we could. Slick and I had a competition going, each of us believing we could eat more than the other. Benny and Albany John didn’t eat all that many of these miniature burgers of goodness. Slick ended up eating 9 burgers and I ended up with 8. Damnit! And I was sure I could have eaten at least 10. Oh well. Next time maybe I won’t be so incredibly full from all the food I ate during the day, hee hee.

I bought the case of cheeseburgers and 3 large onion rings, which worked out to about $35. Benny bought the case of burgers and 3 large onion rings, and that was about $30. Not terribly cheap in retrospect, but for the love of all that is good, we all had been jonesing for White Castle for a WHILE. (That said, I think it’s much cheaper to just buy the frozen White Castle burgers in the store and microwave them up)

We ended up lugging home two briefcases of White Castle hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I love how the crave case boxes look like briefcases. Benny and Slick looked like little professionals when they were walking in the dark. Although personally I would love it if professionals walked around with suitcases of White Castle.

After gorging ourselves on White Castle, we pretty much passed out. We were all a bit tired from all of the walking and driving. I swear I had a White Castle hangover the next day. Man, those little burgers and cheeseburgers pack quite the punch. And gas. Lots of pooty gas.


The next day we woke up and headed back to Flushing for yumcha/ dim sum part two! We went to the same restaurant (New East Cuisine Manor (3702 Main St, Flushing, NY 11354) ), but this time it was only around 10 am, so were there early. We saw a lot more ladies with carts pushing around dim sum goodies, and they tasted much fresher, too.
Here you can see steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce on the left and right, peppered pork on top, and scallopy dumplings on the bottom. I hadn’t tried the yellow dumplings before and really enjoyed these – nice and lightly briney, and texturally they were filled with moist and chewy little nibblins of seafood and pork… I realize that might not make sense, but trust me it does.

I think they used to be called Gala Manor? Or else they got some kind of a deal on these cups and plates…


Then we added some meatballs to the mix. I didn’t try these (since I was trying to not walk out completely stuffed), but Slick’s eyes opened wide and a big smile crossed his face when he ate one of these.

Fresh rice noodle rolls! One contained seasoned ground pork, and the other contained char siu. I wasn’t a big fan of the seasoned ground pork filling. It was OK, but there are better fillings. Texturally, the ground meat was just a little too loose and mushy.


The char siu cheung was a surprisingly delicious treat! I really recommend getting one if you see it. The char sui was cut into small, thin slices and went really well with the thick and soft rice noodles, and sweet sauce they pour on top. I would definitely get these again.

Crispy egg rolls. These were nice and meaty on the inside, and ephemerally crisp, crunchy and grease-less on the outside. At first my Uncle was like “Hey, do you guys want spring rolls? You don’t really, do you?” and seemed like he was just asking to be polite since Albany John and I usually don’t get them. But then after a second or two he was like “Yeah, I guess we’ll get some”. I’m glad we did, just because it’s nice to get something you don’t normally order and be surprised with how good it tastes. These are nothing like cheap Chinese take-out egg rolls or spring rolls.

More eggplant and shrimp. Albany John and I seem to be the only ones in my family that really freak out over this tasty shrimp stuffed eggplant dish, but man we love it. How could you not love creamy Japanese eggplant filled and fried with shrimp? And the skin – yummy, it holds everything together.

More tasty shrimp filled har gow. Clear slightly chewy cover, shrimpy goodness inside. What’s not to love?

Then one of the ladies brought a big steamer of soup dumplings by! Benny and Slick had never tried them, so I was flipping out that they really needed to try this dish. And I really love pork soup dumplings, too. Yeh Yeh and my Uncle obliged me and we got them for the table. There was just enough for everyone. The dough was a little thick at the top. The soup inside was deliciously porky, and the meat nice and tender.

Har cheung! I was getting so full, but then these babies made their way out! I had a couple of rolls, but I couldn’t think of finishing off the entire thing. Way too full.


Albany John really wanted you all to see how translucent these noodles were. I thought they were a little on the thick side, but still highly enjoyable since they were so fresh. Here is the underside view of the har cheung. And also Slick’s arm.


And then since I made joong that my sister brought down for them, they wanted me to try some joong in a restaurant. We all were incredibly full, but we’d considered ourselves lucky that we’d convinced Yeh Yeh not to order any supplemental dishes (we all basically were shaking our heads going “No, no! We are full! We don’t need anything else, but thank you!” with me going “NO! Please, no more!” and waving my hands like crazy).

Massive, much? This thing looked like a mountain on this plate. I took a bite to be polite, but I could only eat half of that. The rest was up to all of the men folk at the table. They managed to polish it off, or most of it. It was cool to see how big these things usually are, though – and all of the cool fillings inside it.

Consequently, you may have noticed hands and other upper body parts in a lot of these pictures. That’s because everyone wants to eat everything at dim sum as quickly as possible. Were I not annoyingly snapping pictures, my hands and chopsticks would be in there as well.
We also went to Happy Buddha across the street to get some vegan food for me to bring back to my sister.
After that, we hopped back to Woodside, then into my car, and I managed to get us back on to the Palisades Parkway.
We stopped at one of the scenic stop areas and snapped pictures on our way out, and then eventually made it back to Albany. There may have been a moderately necessary stop at the Dunkin Donuts in Woodbury Commons for an overpriced, watered down iced coffee.

Chester, Flushing, and Manhattan

Our trip to the City started with a quick stopover Friday night to my best friend/sistah’s place. She was just getting off of work when we finished grabbing some food from the Shoprite in Chester, NY for a quick dinner.

We had hot dogs. The kind with skins on them. Hooray! I ate two, and a bunch of nachos (Albany John also made nachos. Yummy). And a box of Almaden wine. I always like stopping at a grocery store to keep my budget in check. I was able to feed a bunch of people for around $16 (or, $30 if you count the wine). If we’d eaten out, that would have probably been my dinner alone. I love the fact the I can just go over my Sistah’s and use her kitchen as if it were my own.

Before my classy ass opened up the Almaden wine, my sistah had me open a bottle of Kedem Estates Royal Blush she’d been saving for me. And bonus, it’s a NY wine! It tasted more like a mead than a wine – there was no bite at all, and it was incredibly sweet. I really enjoyed it!
Two of her friends from work came over, and it was nice to meet and hang with other people.


Here I am, rummaging through her fridge in the middle of the night.

The next day we woke up early and were out of the door by 9:30 and on our way into NYC! We got into Woodside, Queens by 11 or so and were shortly on our way to Flushing, Queens. My YehYeh recently moved from his place in Woodside to a new place in Flushing, so we stayed in his old place in Woodside. That worked really well since it was more than enough space for four people and the street parking is free. It also probably helps that I just love riding the subway.

Once we arrived in Flushing we got the grand tour of the new place, had a Heineken, and headed out to New East Cuisine Manor (3702 Main St, Flushing, NY 11354) for dim sum. It was close to 1 pm by that time, but Benny and Slick(aka, the Little Guy) had never had dim sum and I really wanted them to try it.

Woah, mama, was an impression ever left on them! Since it was later in the day, there weren’t as many dim sum options, but we still managed to pack in a lot of food. Here we have a scallopy dumpling (the yellow one way in the back), 2 trays of siu mai dumplings (they have the orangey bits on top), a peppery pork on the left (too peppery for me), steamed porky bits with black bean sauce in the front left (has the bits of green pepper on it), and two orders of har gow on the right (the white blobs).

Shrimp stuffed eggplant. Japanese eggplant with a shrimpy stuffing is always good to me. The eggplant were creamy, and the filling had plenty of shrimp bits in it.


Har Cheung!!! Shrimp rice rolls. Just when I think my stomach is about to reach its limit, the har cheung come out and I magically find more space. The noodles were thick but very soft and the shrimp were perfectly cooked. Love that sweet soy sauce, too.


Two orders of a peppery pork belly (behind the two steamed spareribs with black bean sauce). Again, too peppery for me. The pepper flavor was aggressive and pretty much drowned out the flavor and didn’t seem to help cut the fat. Yeh Yeh really liked this, though.

After all of those dim sum dishes we were all pretty full, especially since we had plans to head over to Manhattan to visit Manhattan Maka and Chicago Velvet Smoove (my bro-in-law).
But of course, we weren’t finished eating. Yeh Yeh and my Uncle ordered 2 beef noodle dishes to really be sure we’d had enough to eat (that excellent Chinese food hospitality can be a dangerous thing for ones waistline). One is crispy noodles and the other is chow fun. The chow fun was excellent – tender and smoky noodles, with crisp and refreshing bean sprouts. I was too full to try the crispy noodles. I did steal a veggie though.
By then the boys were all thoroughly stuffed. Albany John and I had told Benny and Slick about how my family will push food on you, and I’m not quite sure they believed us, or at least the degree to which it was. Now they know. It certainly was great to spend the morning and early afternoon with my grandfather and uncle, especially because they both seem so happy to be in Flushing. My Uncle seemed especially proud, and rightly so for all of the work he has done, too.


We waddled our butts over to the 7 train and took the long ride into Manhattan. I fell asleep for a little bit and was groggy by the time we’d gotten to Grand Central and had realized we all needed to get off exactly as the doors closed. Just a minor inconvenience, though. We got off at the next stop and made our connection to the Upper East Side.
We were greeted warmly by Manhattan Maka and CVS when we walked in their door. CVS had made a pitcher of pisco sours, which were a lovely treat. They were tart and just a bit sweet, perfect for four hot and sweaty travelers fresh off the subway. I can definitely see myself spending an afternoon lounging outside and drinking these – they were definitely a drink you sip, savor, and enjoy. Truly a treat.


After also begging off one of Manhattan Maka’s fabulous lattes for my sleepy ass, she took us up to the roof of her building to view Manhattan. Gorgeous views of Manhattan. Maka mentioned which sides were which (ie, “there’s Brooklyn, there’s the Bronx”), but I forgot which those were. Still, I really enjoyed the view and the wind. They even had chairs and lounges up there.

I think they look like they are ready to take on the world!

Quite a nice view on the left as soon as you walk out of the door! It really hits how high up you are.


Slick on the left, and Albany John whipping out his camera on the right. Uh oh, the photographing begins! I’m sure he’ll have some awesome snaps.

Albany John let Benny play with his camera while he lounged in one of the chaises. I got some cool pictures of Albany John framed like this, but they all showed his face.


After roofing ourselves for a bit, we all headed over to Central Park! I’d only been once before and was excited to be there to actually take in the sights. CVS and Manhattan Maka look so cute leading us over there.

Farewell Dinner for Alex & Cati at CCK


Celinabean is all about the awesome. She surreptitiously arranged a going away dinner for Alex and Cati last week. It was nice to do that for them, and also to say good bye in person, as opposed to leaving “NOOOO!!!111!! You guyz, like, totally can’t!! It will be sux0rz without yooo!” in a comment.
But in all seriousness, Alex and Cati are very awesome people to get to meet and it was sad to see them go.
Celina arranged the whole dinner with Chef Peter at CCK (basically, the re-homed Ocean Palace) for a stellar price of $20 per person, ALL INCLUSIVE. We all gathered around the table, scootchy-scootchy like and got cozy (“Hi Celina!” “Hi Steve!” (I was sitting next to both of ’em, not shouting all over the table)).
Guess what the first dish that came out was? That’s right! Peking duck!!!!! I had some reservations about how good this was, but yo – it was freaking good. Crisp skin, moist meat, and not too fatty.

I really liked these pancakes/rolls. Fluffy and light, and the hoisin was also good. The waitress made these pancakes for us, so we didn’t have to. Phew! I’m used to just eating the whole duck – the pancakes were fuuu-uun! (And tastier than I’ve had in NYC)

And then came… SALT AND PEPPER SQUID! Can you guys tell how excited I was to be a part of this farewell dinner planned by Celina? Everyone really loved this – buttery, soft and lightly breaded. These are one of the things I must order when I go.

And blogger love! Celina ordered this one because she knew I’d flip my shit. Consider it completely flipped. The beef and noodles were so smoky. The rice noodles soft, chewy, unctuous all at the same time. Crisp, crunchy bean sprouts, mmmm.
Whole fish. Flounder, I think. It was soft and buttery and oh so tender. I love steamed fish. It is so good.


Stuffed eggplants! This is another must-order on the dim sum list. Soft, japanese eggplants filled with shrimp. Fried. And covered in black bean sauce. This might be the trifecta of perfect ingredients for me.

Baby bok choy and mushrooms. Meaty, but not too meaty mushrooms (I think shiitake) and tender but still crunchy quarters of bok choy.

They called this a dried mustard green dish, but I couldn’t really taste any mustard greens. Maybe they’re really subtle when they’re dried? There was pork belly underneath the brown stuff (I’m guessing the dried mustard greens) and the green stuff is fresh spinach. Also a good dish. I loved the spinach. The belly was so soft, too!

Thousand year old egg and either fungus greens or pea shoot tips. This time the thousand year old eggs were really soft and creamy. Not too bad. The veggie portion was just cooked enough to make it not taste raw, but still maintained a crisp texture. Yum.

I think at this point, Alex’s eyes glazed over and he mentioned something about “No more” when our waitress said more dishes were still coming out.

OH NO YOU DID NOT JUST BRING OUT LOBSTER!! Oh yes they did! It was so perfect – tender and cooked juuuuust enough, it was bursting with briny goodness. And not too salty either. When Albany John makes Cantonese-style lobster at home like this, it always ends up super salty. But this… oh, this just hits the spot.

And then there was fried tofu! Soft, wonderfully textured tofu with fresh peas and … oh, it was so good.

Oranges were brought out after this dish, signaling ‘Fin’ to everyone. Oh, it was a great spread, to be sure.


And then Chef Peter himself came out with a special surprise dessert – sesame balls! Freshly made! It was so incredibly good having them fresh.


I ate two – they were filled with a peanutty paste in the center, too. And goodness, I cannot resist anything with toasty sesame seeds in it.


Eventually we said our good byes. I like the little gathers we local food bloggers have, but it is sad to see one of our own go (but not stop blogging – hint hint :D). Best of luck to Alex and Cati – I can’t wait to see what new and exciting adventures they have in their new digs.

Moussaka

You know what you want to eat when your teef hurt? Nothing crunchy, that’s for damn sure.

And when you’ve got one wisdom tooth that’s decided to resurface that you’ve dismissed previously as ‘not that big a deal’, but has decided that this time, oh no, it is going to be a ‘big deal’; you really don’t want anything remotely crunchy, because it will end up over by that painful toof-nub area.

Aside from doing shots of Anbesol, there’s not a whole lot to eat that won’t cause me excessive pain. And that Anbesol causes a whole other set of problems. Yesterday when I broke down and finally bought some (cause lordy, that pain ain’t goin nowhere any time soon) I was happily swabbing myself with the stuff. And realized after the 3rd or so application that since I was also numbing my lips a little in the process, I may or may not have been drooling from the left side of my mouth since noon. I know, I know. I am effortlessly chic.

Albany John brought me some really good Caribbean food from that new place in Crossgates mall. You know – those oxtails I was supposed to safeguard. Well, they were plenty good and mushy. Thank god peas and rice and oxtails are easy on the toof.

When I got home, I realized that some foods needed to be cooked soon, and by golly, I was going to try moussaka, that tasty Greek eggplant casserole.

After perusing some recipes online and getting thoroughly confused, I figured I’d just whip something up. And Albany John wasn’t home to watch my awful knife skills, so I was free to mess up the kitchen as much as I wanted to.

I settled on French lentils / green lentils because they were the only lentils we had in the house. They normally have a tougher chew to them, kind of a pop, if you will, which meant they would need a longer cooking time to get them anywhere near “soft”. I also didn’t want to use meat, since I wanted to keep this kind of healthy. So the lentils are in place of lamb/beef/meat in moussaka.

I used red skinned potatoes. They were so creamy in the end – I was a bit worried they wouldn’t work, but as long as they are par cooked, it will be fabulous.

I’ve been having some great luck with white/cream sauces lately. I was originally going to omit the béchamel, to keep it diary free, gluten free, and vegan, but no. No no no. The béchamel is necessary. It adds just the right amount of cheesiness and the flavor really ties the dish together. I’ve heard some vegans just place vegan ‘cheese’ over it. If it works, call me, let’s talk.
But oh. Oh oh oh. The unctuousness added by this béchamel. Yum. And I used 1% milk, so really, it’s not all that ‘bad’ for you. I’m not sure how much the egg added, so feel free to omit it.

Holy crap.

I made a ‘healthy’ version of a dish.

Dude. Weird.
Albany Jane’s Moussaka

3-4 small aubergines (eggplants)
4-5 potatoes
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
28 oz can of diced tomatoes
.75 C dry, uncooked green lentils (French lentils)
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
2T Olive Oil
4-5 button mushrooms
.5 t cumin
1 t cinnamon
Parmesan Cheese

Bechamel cream sauce
3 T butter
½ C flour
3.5 C milk
Salt
Pepper
Mustard
1 egg

Slice aubergines into rounds. Salt them and let them sit about 30-50 minutes, pat dry, and roast in oven at 350 degrees until they become soft and mushy. Around 20 minutes.

Cover green lentils with water, bring to a simmer and cook 45-60 minutes, until soft.

Slice potatoes into ¼” slices. Par cook in water about 10-15 minutes

Dice onions and mushrooms, mince garlic.

Put olive oil in pan. Toss in garlic, mushrooms and onions, cook until tender and fragrant.

Add cans of tomatoes, green lentils, cumin and cinnamon.

Cook over medium heat 10-15 minutes. Stir it every so often.

Layer eggplant on a buttered 9×13 dish.

Put down a layer of sauce

Cover with a layer of potatoes

Cover with remaining sauce

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the dish.

Set dish aside, heat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in a pan, pour in flour. This is your roux. Cook it a little over medium heat for a few minutes until it just changes color. Turn off heat.

Heat up 1 c of milk to temper your roux.

Pour in milk, whisk milk and roux vigorously until combined.

Turn heat back on to medium/medium-low.

Add remaining milk, and whisk like the dickens for several minutes.

Add salt, pepper, and mustard. Let cool off for a few minutes, then vigorously whisk in egg (careful not to cook it!).

Pour béchamel over the dish.

Put in oven to cook for… a while. We’re talking at least 80 minutes to 2 hours. Once your top has become browned and skin-like, you’re all done.

I recommend a cookie sheet under the baking pan – this will be full to the brim and apt to bubble over during the cooking process.