Chocolate Chili Creme Brulee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sprinkle with some sugar on top.

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

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

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

 

Quick Recipe Recap:

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

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

Take off heat

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

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

Fill two small bowls with this delicious mixture.

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

Sprinkle sugar on top, torch, enjoy!

Canele

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When I put my mind to something, I feel like I can do almost anything. Maybe it’s the power of positivity, maybe it’s foolish stubbornness. But canele, among other things, have been on my mind lately. I was going to make them, and damnit. There was no other option. Canneles FTW.

I used this recipe from the Kitchn. I’m happy with it. Overall, I could have let them bake a little longer, but they were rich custardy cakes all the same. The Kitchn’s recipe made enough to fill two of these medium-sized cannele molds molds.

P1020686The first step was to use the food processor to combine the butter, flour, sugar, salt and egg yolks until it looked like this. I had to use 5 egg yolks instead of the 4 in their recipe, but my yolks are only large and not extra-large.

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Milk and vanilla bean heating to 183F. This candy thermometer was crap and read much lower than it actually was. The instant-read thermometer was much more accurate.

Once the milk and vanilla bean are hot, scrape as much of the vanilla bean seeds out (the bean will soften while heating in the milk), then put the milk+vanilla seed mixture into the food processor with the egg yolk batter and process for a little until it’s a liquid batter.

Then that sits in the fridge for 24-48 hours.

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And then it’s time to bake them! I tried doing a traditional coating of beeswax & butter, but I think I’m going to skip it next time. It was a pain to work with, killed my pastry brush, and I didn’t notice all that much of an addition in flavor to merit adding it again in the future.

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These molds are so little, but they bake for 45+ minutes. You’d think they’d dry out or burn, but not really. These look kind of dark, but they didn’t actually brown that much.

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See? Not very much browning on the edges. But, I was surprised at how well the silicone mold crisped the exterior. The night I made them, they had a crunchy exterior before giving way to the custard-y interior. The next day, they were still pretty darned tasty, but no more crispy exterior.

I borrowed the mold from Mssr. Barre, hoping more for the shape than the crust, but was impressed at how crisp the fresh canneles were a few hours out of the oven. Seb’s feedback was that they weren’t as burnished as proper cannele should be, but were a 9/10, with room for improvement as mini cakes.

P1020714Bon Nuit!

Did I ever show you my meal from dinner at The Epicurean with Daniel B. and Celinabean? Well, here it is. Squid to start, plus some pate that came with Daniel B’s set meal ($20 for three courses, how can you pass that up?).

I passed on the set menu because I saw tartare ($19), and I had to have it. You know the tartare is good when I *need* it when it’s winter time. Fries were a little soggy, but really, I don’t need to be eating gobs of fries with my raw beef and raw egg yolk, so…

I love how beefy and flavorful the tartare is – it says ground beef on the menu, but I’m pretty sure it’s minced and cubed. Otherwise it’s a very rough grind. Don’t think it’s supermarket quality ground beef you’re ordering – waaaay better.

I stole some of Daniel B’s dessert. Which you can imagine he loved. Some kind of apple oatmeal with ice cream. I’d pass on it next time – the oats were still pretty raw. Skip sweet desserts at The Epicurean and get some cheeses with wine paired by Sandy. He makes the best cheese and wine pairings!

Oh, service note – if you’re going, make sure you ask for Beau. I loved him! He was super personable and a great server overall. The next time I go I’m making sure I get him for my waiter.

Epicurean’s Wine Tasting dinner – Bordeaux’s Left Bank

CelinaBean and I met up a few weeks ago for a wine pairing/tasting dinner at The Epicurean. Celina was looking for a girl’s night out, and loves Sandy’s wine pairings. I heard “Epicurean” and I was in. Check out their events page for similar upcoming events.

The wines we tasted were from Bordeaux’s left bank. Reservations are required, and the tasting cost $35 per person. There are two communal tables with about 10-12 seats each, and Sandy stands in between them talking about each wine. If you are a group of more than two people, you might want to get there a little bit early so you don’t get split into two tables.

I’m not much of a red wine fan, and Bordeaux’s I’ve tried in the past have usually been pretty high in tannins, so I went in expecting to not really LOOOOVEEE the wines I tried, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the new wines I tried.

The first course was a trio of pates. Liver on the left, rabbit on the bottom, and seafood on the right, and some zippy arugula in the center. A server who dropped them off took a guess at the pates, but was way off – he told us that at least one of them was vegetarian, hehe. Sandy clarified that for Celina and me, though. Sandy is definitely a part of The Epicurean experience for me – he is so warm and welcoming!

I ate about half of the pates. I wished I could have brought some for Albany John, he would have loved them!

The pork liver pate was, well, pork liver-y (some iron, you know).
The rabbit pate was delicately flavored. I really enjoyed this and can’t wait to have it again.

The wine we had was a Chateau Larose Trintaudon – Haut Medoc 2005. This was nice, and had been opened for about 10 minutes before it was poured. The meals pacing wasn’t rushed, so there was time for the wines to open up in our glasses and develop throughout the appetizer course. This may have been my favorite wine of the night – it was light, not too much of a tannin note.
Round two started off with a Chateau Malmaison Moulis – Baronne de Rothschild Medoc 2006. Bold, bold, BOLD wine. This was a very big wine. Like… wow. There was a whole lot of fruit flavor going on with some crazy bitterness, and I’ve since lost my note sheet so unfortunately that’s the extent of my description.
The main dish was coq au vin – so tender, with a nice crispy piece of bacon on the side. Mmm. I loved the rosemary polenta cake on the right, too. Nice aromatic flavor, and very tender polenta. I just love how well portioned out their main dishes are – plenty to eat, but not too much.
Wine number three was Chevalier de Rauzan-Gassies – Margaux 2005. I think I heard that this was the most expensive of the wines. I thought it was a fairly enjoyable wine on its own. But the real surprise was still to come with the cheese course.

The Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese was a nice funky blue cheese. Tasty on its own, but when you took a sip of the wine and cheese together…

All was right with the world.
Celina and I tasted this combo at about the same time and just… looked at each other. You know, with those faces, that say… “Oh, oh. This. This is good.”
The tannins in the wine and the tanginess of the blue cheese completely washed each other out and all that you could taste was this delightfully sweet creaminess. Man oh man, Sandy has an amazing talent for pairing wines.

Wine math is delicious stuff. It’s like when two negatives equal a positive. Two strong flavors = delicate deliciousness. I could have eaten an entire wheel of cheese with a bottle of this wine. So good.
They’ve also got a nice selection of cheeses in their display.

This was a nice night out to meet new friends and try out new flavors and combinations. I’m so excited to enjoy a wine and cheese combo this much!

The Epicurean

Date night with the mister to The Epicurean (579 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham, NY) one evening in May. Evidently we still had a free bottle of wine left over from the purchasing system when they were in Troy (Buy, like, $100-150 or more and you get a free bottle of wine with purchase of 2 entrees on your next dinner), but it was set to expire by the end of May at the new location. Cool, that’ll get me in the door. Besides, we’ve been meaning to go back, but there are so many places to try, it’s hard to decide!

We walked into a pretty slow restaurant, and waited a few minutes for someone to seat us. It was a little confusing. No hostess that I could see anywhere near the podium, and the waiters were in different outfits. At first I thought our server may have been a busser, just because he was dressed a lot less formally than the other waiter (black polo and slacks versus a long-sleeved white dress shirt).

Bottle of Altos Malbec (normally $24). We were planning on getting some red meat, so I ventured out of my usual predilictions for sweet and white and went with a low-tannin red. Tasty stuff, but man it packed a whollop at 14%! I would have chosen something a little lower on the ABV scale if I’d have known, haha.

Still, tasty stuff. Would have probably been better to split with a few other friends. They took a few minutes to look us up for the free bottle of wine. Our server tossed a scrap of paper on to our table with a pen and was like “Write your name?”. Albany John wrote his name down for the server to find the card on file, or something like that. That was a little… less than formal than I prefer at The Epicurean. And it wasn’t that busy or anything. I could see if it were busy, but… yeah, there were like two other tables in there.

Epicurean, maybe tell your servers if they need someone to write something down for them, they should be like “Would you please write ______ down for me so I can find ____?” I wish some of Sandy’s natural hosting capabilities and formality were passed on to the servers. The servers always seem a little more casual than I’d like.

We got the charcuterie plate ($12) to start. Chicken pate (I think – it was in firm loaf form), and “two kinds of salami”. One wee tiny cornichon. Some salad greens and beet shavings. And some crunchy bread.

I really liked the chicken pate. Smooth, chickeny. I was expecting it to taste super-meaty and livery, but it was pretty light and good for the weather. Really good on the bread with some of the lightly dressed greens. Refreshing!

The circular salami was a little funkier than I prefer. Albany John thought it was kind of like a mortadella.

I liked the other salami, but it was kinda generic. Just reminded me of salami you could get just about anywhere.

It was down to us and one table after apps. Man, I felt so badly for the kitchen. The only thing worse than a kitchen over max-capacity is an absolutely DEAD restaurant.

I like what they’ve done with the space, decor-wise. My camera took a yellower picture than it is, but lots of warm sunset tones, and comfy chairs. Wasn’t so crazy about the jazz piped through the sound system, but is restaurant music ever good?

Albany John actually propsed to me when this space was Vin Santo, so the space holds a good bit of sentimental mushiness for me in the depths of my cold, cold heart. We were super excited when basically the first restaurant we ate out at as a married couple moved into the space. And this night we were seated at basically the same table we got engaged at. Awww.

Alright, enough with the mushiness, on to the important stuff – the food! I got Escalope de Veau Forestiere ($27). Veal cutlet with zucchini-mint gratin & fingerling potatoes. Slathered in delicious sauce. I think this was a shoulder cutlet, or some other kind of working part of the veal (do veal even work?), because it was a little tougher than I’d have imagined. When I think veal, I think “super tender”. Overall, I think it was a tad pricey (maybe $23-25 would be a better range), but man, all of the flavors go so well together.

Probably also doesn’t help that I wish they had their veau oscar on the menu. Man, that was so tender and delicious! It’s the veal dish I dream about.

Albany John ordered first, so he beat me to ordering the beef tartare, set at an affordable $18. There is a LOT of meat here. They use ground beef, not minced/chopped beef, so I was a little worried by how the texture would come out, but it was a nice, coarse grind and very well chilled.

It was absolutely filled with minced raw onion and lots of whole capers. It tasted fairly light. We found the egg yolk to be fairly unnecessary. The flavors were so good! I really want to order this again. So good. Did I mention it was good?

I know the fries look a little oily, but they were actually good – really well cooked.

The Epicurean’s dishes are all about the little touches. This sauce? All butter. And as always, their dishes needed absolutely no extra seasoning. I also like that their dishes are a manageable size. No take out containers needed.
The mushrooms on my veal weren’t just sliced white button, but a mix of oyster as well. And those fingerling potatoes, yum. So tender, and perfect for sopping up sauce. I’m deffo going to put some mint in with my zucchini this summer, too. Great combo.

At the same time, this iteration of the Epicurean is so much more different than the little gourmet space on Route 7. It felt like a secret there – all cozy, and only with a few servers. The high ceilings here make it seem less intimate, despite the warm decor. The weekend dinners felt more like you were dining in a speakeasy.

The prices here are a little bit higher than before, and the servers a little less polished. They’re nice, don’t get me wrong, but when you get used to Sandy fawning over every little thing, or coming to shmooze at your table during dinner, or bringing a dish out with a little of his Epicurean-style oomph, it’s a difference. It’s like when you were a kid in elementary school, and when you cut yourself, your parents would usually give you a hug or whatever and then when you go to the nurse she’s like “I can get you a wet nap and a band aid or you can go back to class”.

The dishes, decor, and prices point more towards formality, that’s all. The service would be fine if they did a more casual bistro feeling and changed the menu a bit. (But please bring back my veau oscar. And maybe some of that tapenade, too.)


Oh, it’s also moquito season because I got bit SEVEN times while over the course of our meal while dining inside. Ugh, so itchy now! I’m such a mosquito magnet.

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.

Raspberry Macarons, Ginger-Lime Buttercream

Before I got sick, I made macarons. Raspberry flavored shells, and a Ginger-Lime buttercream. The buttercream was an excellent idea by Elizabeth. All together, it tastes kind of tutti-frutti, in a good way.

The shells were the same easy, basic macaron recipe I always use. 90g/ 3 egg whites, + 50 g of granulated sugar whipped together, with 200 g powdered sugar + 110 G almond flour.

I tossed in 4 drops of raspberry flavoring oil with that, and plopped them on some parchment paper, let dry for about an hour, and cooked for a few minutes on low heat. Y’know, like 350 or something. Once the feet start popping up, you’re good.

And we’re good! I made some regular sized macarons, but many more miniature macarons. The mini-er ones didn’t flatten out/loose their plopped shapes as much as the big ones did. Oh well. They all tasted the same.

I like how this came out. The nice stark color contrasts and everything. Makes me want to get a tattoo or something. Ginger-lime buttercream in a squeezy tube. (that was easy to make too. the buttercream, not the squeezy tube) Butter + powdered sugar + lime juice + lime zest + grated/microplaned ginger. Yum.


And my favorite part of macaron-making, noshing on all of the rejectarons with cracks in them. With gobs of buttercream, of course.

Salted Caramel Macarons

Happy Bastille Day, Frenchies! In true American fashion, I would like to present you something you are familiar with, only much poorer in quality. Macarons a l’Humidité

Still, they weren’t that hard to make. I don’t understand why I was so daunted by the thought of macarons initially. They were so easy.

They’re like the prissy girl at school that everyone things is a goody-goody, but it turns out that she’s actually really relaxed and easy to hang out with. She can’t help how she looks, or where she came from.
They seemed so… fussy. Egg whites. At room temp. And whipping. Oh gawsh, the whipping. I’d never had much luck with whipping egg whites. But you know what? Despite the macaron’s temperamental reputation, she’s actually a peach to get along with.

So I got a little fancy with this latest batch of macarons. I decided to give them a little salted caramel filling, and toss in some coconut powder in the shells. Why not? LIVE A LITTLE.

First I made the salted caramel. Because it needed to cool off, and I know I’d have a hard time resisting liquid hot caramel if I made it later on.

Just a cup of sugar, 6 T butter, generous pinch of kosher salt, and 200 g cream. Super duper easy. Melt sugar. Add butter. Take off heat, stir in cream like crazy. Splattering will happen, so use a deep pot.

Allo Macaron blobs. Here’s the recipe I used to make the coconut macarons. The coconut powder was similar in texture to powdered sugar, and contained a little sugar as well. I think it could have used more. It was a very subtle flavor.

Coconut Shell Macarons

3 egg whites + 50g granulated sugar
110 g almonds + 150 g powdered sugar + 50 g coconut powder

Microwave egg whites 10 seconds. Let sit at room temp for 2+ hours, then microwave an additional 10-15 seconds (nothing to cook the egg, just to evaporate moisture. If it cooks they’re done and you’ll have to start over again.

Grind the almonds, powdered sugar, and coconut powder in a blender until almonds are finely ground. Set aside on a plate or bowl.

Whip egg whites into stiff peaks, adding granulated sugar along the way.

Toss in your dry stuff and fold/stir 50 times. Put into a bag and pipe onto parchment covered sheets.

Bake 300 F for 10 minutes, turning halfway. I recommend baking on the rack further away from your heat source.

Yay, macaron feeties in humidity! And not even one burnt one! Haha! But some did crack. Stupid humidity and water in the air.

I had them sitting right next to the AC in my bedroom (the coldest AC in the house) for an hour or two to chill out, and it paid off. Phew!

Then it was time to break out the salted caramel sauce that was sitting in the fridge. Mmmm.

I had several spoonfuls of this stuff. It’s way too easy to eat. WAY. TOO. EASY.

And then assembly, which is better left for a cooler day. It got a little melty because it was so hot and humid. The salted caramel started melting quickly. These were ugly, messy macarons, but still quite good. Slick and his girl came over and wolfed some down.

The coconut flavor was quite subtle, so next time I’ll add way more powder and let ya know how it goes.

And I learned some things. Like, you really shouldn’t make macarons during a heat wave with 65%+ humidity. I did. It’s not a killer, at least if you’ve got the AC blasting, but just not ideal. But the shells could have poofed more, and they stuck a bit to the parchment paper despite not being overcooked. A bit of water underneath the parchment paper helped loosen them (it only takes a few seconds).

Macarons

Oh, I get it now. The whole macaron craze, I mean.

Macarons are just excuses to eat gobs of filling encased in a shell. It’s a super-gooey and fatty cookie. Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?

Nic & E made macarons, and they said they didn’t do many of the suggested things for making macarons. They were still wildly successful. I took inspiration from them and decided to make macarons in one day.

Here was my recipe for the Macaron Batter/Dough:

3 egg whites + 50 g granulated sugar

200 g powdered sugar +110 g almonds

You know the drill by now: let the eggs age at room temp a while, then whip them until they’re stiff and foamy, slowly adding the granulated sugar. Then make a fine powder with almonds and powdered sugar.

Okay, so I am too impulsive to let egg white sit out for 24-48 hours for the sole purpose of making macarons. I saw something online about microwaving the egg whites for 10 seconds to remove excess moisture, and guess what? IT FREAKING WORKS.

I microwaved the egg whites for 10 seconds initially after separating them from the yolks and putting them in a container. Then I let it sit out for an hour or so in my living room (with the fan on) while I putzed around. I microwaved it for 10 more seconds later. My microwave isn’t very strong, and there was no noticeable difference in the eggs.

Oh, and the recipes I was going off of called for 90 g of egg whites, but my 3 eggs yielded 98 g. No adverse reactions here.

My hoarding powers came in handy and I had some slivered almonds in the freezer. I asked Albany John for help in blending them with his food processor. He loves that appliance. It blended most of them, but after sifting it into the egg mixture, there were some bits that had to go back and get blended a little more (too large and chunky). I added a little more powdered sugar to help it blend cohesively, and it worked just fine.

I left these to sit in our windy living room to dry out for a little under an hour. Midway through Family Guy Albany John goes “Um, aren’t you going to bake these?”

They really firmed up! They had a hard, dry shell I could poke and not get a sticky finger from.

I had my oven preheating at 300 F. I had 2 levels. One closer to the bottom, and one closer to the top. I placed two on the top rack and one on the bottom rack.

The bottom rack was too hot. These burned and generally turned into rejectarons after 5 minutes of baking. The burned parts in the background stuck aggressively to the parchment paper, but the ones in the foreground easily came off.

It seems like burning messes with the sugar in these delicate little cookies. Overbake and they’ll stick. Cook them just right and they’ll slide right off. The overbaking worked out just fine though. The crappy burnt parts stuck, leaving ugly but tasty shells.

The top racks baked up as picture-perfect as I could have hoped. Dude, they even poofed up to have the poofy bottom part (the “feet”, ew. I’m calling them poofy bottoms).

My track record with meringues is terrible – I have failed at pretty much every other instance of whipped egg baking. I suck at even making macaroons in all of their coconutty goodness, so I pretty much figured I was screwed in the finicky macaron baking. But hey, I guess as long as you don’t hope for much, you’re good! It probably also helps that I had no real motivation to do them other than ‘because’. I’m sure I would have had a burnt, soggy pile of rejectarons if I was making these for friends.


TA DA! Nous avons macarons! I decided to jazz up the filling with black sesame powder. Other than that it’s a basic buttercream frosting recipe, with the addition of black sesame powder. Powdered sugar, butter, black sesame powder, milk. Fin.

I made way too much icing, so the rejectarons also got filled. NO MACARON, HOWEVER CRAPPY, WILL GO TO WASTE. SO HELP ME. The rejectarons were probably my favorite, because their cracked and gappy bottoms meant MORE ICING.

The ideal macarons could only handle a little blop of icing. But some of these guys could take upwards of a tablespoon.

Also, were macarons created as vessels for delicious fillings? Because I really didn’t taste much of the shell. The rejectaron above is overbaked and not very good looking. But guess what?


When you fill it up with an insane amount of frosting, it doesn’t matter. Like, at all.

Je Ne Sais Quoi… D’Amour – The Epicurean at Latham Farms

Albany John and I absolutely love the Epicurean. When we heard they were moving to Latham Farms in the old Vin Santo space we eagerly awaited their opening.


Tonight was opening night.

The husbear signed up for their email list and received notification that they’d be opening today, with a number to make reservations. He had his weeks confused and thought that this weekend was memorial day weekend. We’re going out of town memorial day weekend, and he decided not to tell me about the email so I wouldn’t get bummed out about the opening occurring while we were away.

It was a crazy week here, and we just figured it out last night. I read the new Epicurean Bistro menu and couldn’t wait to try it out. I figured we could show up early, and hopefully score a seat without reservations. Maybe a bar seat, or something like that.


We may have been the 2nd people in, and luckily there was no problem with seating! Hooray!

We opted for a seat in the bar area near the window. The light in the late afternoon/early evening was lovely. The Epicurean has made some changes to the interior of Vin Santo, but they’ve worked well with the existing decor. I think the tables might be the same. Minor changes, just enough to make it their own and simple. Little Epicurean-style touches here and there that said “Yes, this is the Epicurean,”.

Our waitress Darleen, who was coming back to restaurant serving from banquet serving, was absolutely lovely, in spite of any lingering opening night jitters that may have been. She helped create a wonderful experience, and I will be requesting her the next time I dine at The Epicurean. There’s something to be said for the innate, charismatic optimism of opening night – the air inside felt electric and sparkling with energy.

We’ve never ordered a bottle of wine before. Usually a glass or two, or some cocktails; but a bottle of wine opening night at The Epicurean’s new locale, after a week worthy of something just a little bit more… it seemed fitting.

Here we have the 2005 Eifel-Pfeiffer Riesling ($26). It was crisp and sweet, much like a ripe apple. Albany John, who isn’t much of a sweet wine guy, liked it quite much. Meanwhile I danced in my chair after the first sip. If you like sweet Rieslings, you’ll love this.

We initially thought we’d go in for some wine and appetizers to try some things out and lounge around a bit. However, after pouring over the menu, I soon realized that was not an option. Sometimes you have to go with the flow, and when the flow says “What does it taste like? Oh, order it!”, you listen.

Here is my Pissaladiere Traditionelle, featuring caramelized onions, anchovies, tomatoes, and kalamata olives ($12). I’ve been reading about pissaladiere lately, and was beyond delighted to find it. To draw a comparison, it’s kind of like a French pizza. Kind of.

It tasted delightful. Now, I am a woman who likes pungent, heavy, salty dishes. While this pissaladiere was ripe with anchovies and olives, all of the flavors melded together to complement each other. No one flavor overpowered the other.

The crust. Oh, the crust. I am in love. I will shout it from the mountains, “I LOVE PISSALADIERE!”. It was thinner than any other I’ve tasted, crisp, and yet still maintained a doughy chew without becoming cracker-y.

I am not one for soggy Neapolitan pizzas like Bacchus makes. No, I am staunchly in the ranks of French pissaladiere. Perfectly cooked throughout, and no sight of sogginess.

This would be a great appetizer to share with a group of people. Or one appetizer if you have very large eyes with a stomach to match.

Albany John ordered the Calamar a la Provençal ($8). Sauteed calamari with tomatoes, garlic, onion, lemon, parsley, and herbs in a white wine reduction.


Who needs fried calamari when you have this? It was a wonderful starter to whet one’s appetite. The lemon came through as a delicate end note, with sweet garlic, tomato, and onion as the primary flavors. Tender, soft, calamari with just the right amount of tooth to them. Some bread to sop up the delicious liquids at the end would have been nice addition. I sopped up some of the broth with my pissaladiere crust.

The Onglet a l’Echalotte ($22) quieted all of my demands for red meat I’d been having throughout the week. It was perfectly seared on the outside and came out wonderfully rare. The texture of the very rare center was akin to sashimi. Light, and almost melting.


I’d been eyeing the steak tartare, but was skeptical of the meat being ground. I was hoping for a chopped beef. It was more of a texture thing to me. Maybe next time I will try the tartare.

The beef was very beefy. I’ll have to ask where they source their meat. It was so full of flavor – I loved it. I normally don’t order been in a restaurant, but The Epicurean is no ordinary restaurant. The Epicurean’s foods are so well flavored, you won’t find yourself looking for salt or pepper. I am a salt fiend, but I never once thought to add anything else.

The Onglet also came with frites. They were well fried – not oily/greasy, very soft and full of potato flavor in the center. They came skin-on, and the skin parts maintained a crispness, but otherwise they were soft fries. I would prefer them to be crispy, but then again, they were delightful as-is. They came sprinkled with what I think was flaked sea salt.

The shallot wine sauce came in a little shot glass in the center. It might not look like much, but it was more than enough. Rich and full of flavor, I found it almost unnecessary given the flavor of the beef.

One of their specials of the day was a salmon dish featuring olives, capers, and cavatappi pasta. Albany John heard “Salmon” and “Capers” and he knew he had to order it. We hadn’t been expecting a pasta dish. We thought the pasta would be on the side, or it would be a piece of salmon over the pasta. However, once Albany John dug in, he found many more square pieces of perfectly cooked salmon throughout the pasta. It ended up being quite a generous serving of pasta, gently covered in a rich sauce.

Now, the salmon. Oh, the salmon. They maintained their shape well, and were cooked just enough to remain tender and soft while being fully cooked. The pasta was not al dente, but just a hair softer, which went well with the texture of the salmon.

And the price of this dish? $15. FIFTEEN DOLLARS. Opening night, and one of their specials was cheaper than all of their entrees (which are very affordably priced). We hadn’t asked and were very pleasantly surprised when we received our bill.

The total for our bill was $83 pre-tax, $89 after tax. It was a wonderful meal. The service was professional yet relaxed and convivial. The food was beyond reproach. These are some of the reasons I love the Epicurean: Meals that are created with passion, served with care.

I feel like a valued guest whenever I am at the Epicurean. Everyone is happy, it’s a good time. You need to visit The Epicurean in Latham Farms. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t.

The Epicurean is located in Latham Farms, Latham, NY. They will serve dinner through June 1st, when they will begin lunch service. Brunch service will begin some time after that. Call 518-786-8272 to check hours of operation and to make a reservation.