The Greek House

Albany John was raving about The Greek House (27 3rd Street, Troy, NY) to me, and took me out for dinner. He’s in Troy quite a bit for lunch and has enjoyed a few lunches at The Greek house.
Inside is cute – clean, blue colors and some pylons.

A sort-of-open kitchen. Food comes out on the counter from the kitchen. The guys working the line wear gloves, and they seemed pretty about cleanliness on the whole.

Started out with a taramosalata appetizer. I love that fish egg dip! The pita bread was oiled up and grilled/toasted a bit. Think fluffier pita bread vs. 2-layer pita bread.

Beet salad! I was excited to try this, since they said it was marinated beets. It tasted like sliced beets out of a can with some olive oil and salt/pepper. Ho-hum. Not very exciting, and if they weren’t out of a can I’d be very surprised. I was hoping for some fresh beets that had been roasted & marinated.

I got an avgolemeno soup. It was a big bowl, but could use a little reworking. Tasted a little too semi-homemade for me, and more like it had been reheated in a microwave and not fresh out of a pot. Broth tasted like it was from a box/can, orzo tasted gummy and overcooked (like it was good when it was fresh, but had been microwaved). I don’t like my own leftovers, and I’m not a super huge fan of getting served (and charged) food that tastes like leftovers at a restaurant.

Albany John got a pork souvlaki. The meat was really tough. I normally love food that is described with the words “gristle” and “chew”, but whatever cut this was needed to be sliced/chopped up more, because it was really difficult to eat. It was either Eat-a-HUGE-piece or try-to-gnaw-off-a-piece style of eating. The pita also could have been greased/oiled up a little less.

Okay, so this might seem silly, but I thought their ice cubes were really cute. Like little Pac Man ghosts.

Service was beyond friendly. While my meal wasn’t that great, I’ll give them a few weeks/months to work the kinks out and try again, just because their service was so nice and I want to see them succeed. At one point, I was telling our waitress (who I think was also an owner) that she could take her time with us, and not to worry about the little things or hurrying things up. Her response was “Well, no, no. Because you should have good service, and I want you to have a great meal, and I really want you to enjoy your time here.”

Makin’ Dolmas

This past weekend when the husbear and I were in Amherst, MA, Mama Amherst was clearing out her plants. She has such a lovely green thumb. Their backyard is so filled with greenery, flowers, veggies, and herbs.

Unfortunately, a pesky invasive plant decided to work its way toward all of her vegetation. Grape vines! She cut some down and offered to see if I could do anything with them. She said she used to dry them into wreaths. I am not terribly crafty, but the first thing I thought of was dolmas. Dolmades. Stuffed grape leaves. Delicious Greek yum yums. WHATEVER. They are delicious.

I mean really, when they look as lush as these grape leaves do, how could I not? I’ve only ever had tangy, tart dolmas that were mainly rice. Why not try making them myself?

The sizes of the leaves varied. Some were larger than others. I grouped them into a few sizes, rolled them up into bundles and boiled for a few minutes until they turned dark green. I should have boiled them a little longer as the leaves remained tough after cooking. Next time I will try 5-10 minutes.
Meat dolmas! I found Peter Minakis’ dolmadakia recipe on his blog Kalofagas – Greek Food & Beyond. It was a great resource for dolma making. The internet is still a little sparse on dolma recipes.

For the Dolma Filling, I used:
~1 lb ground meat (beef chuck)
1/2 C white rice
1/2 diced onion
1/2 diced zucchini (eh, why not?)
chopped dill and mint (I had some growing in the windowsill)
Salt & Pepper

Lightly sautee the onion and zucchini with dill and mint. Let cool, and mix all ingredients together. There’s your filling. Easy, right?

Then you just lay a leaf out and fill/roll it like a burrito. Easy peasy! Wow, I thought these would be hard to make, but I was wrong. I’ll be making many more of them. All I could think was “Wow, these are so much easier to make than dumplings!”

The 11″ x 13″ tray above was completely filled with meaty dolmas. I had a little extra left, so I put them in another pan.

But then the pan was still pretty empty, and I still had grape leaves, so I mixed up some vegetarian filling (IE, same thing as above, just leave out the meat) and filled the rest of the tray with them. I covered the rice-only dolmas with lemons so I’d be able to know which ones to eat last were not filled with meat. Plus I figured it’d give them a little more flavor.

I covered both meat and rice-only dolmas with some chicken broth (or close enough to it) and covered the dishes with tin foil. They sat in a 350 F degree oven for about an hour before it was eatin’ time.

I also saw a lemon sauce recipe and man, it is good! Give that stuff a try. It was so good. Eggs, some of the cooking broth, salt, and lemon juice. Simple and delicious, it was foamy and creamy at the same time.

Like I said, next time I’ll boil the leaves for longer – they were still rather thick and tough. I had trouble biting mine apart, and it was like biting through wet paper. Only with grape leaf flavor.

Albany John didn’t have this issue. That is because he was eating them whole. He loved them. I loved the meaty goodness in these dolmas as well. They were mostly meat that was enhanced with rice and other fillings. Oh man, there’s no way I can go back to vegetarian or light-meat fillings now. So much more flavor! And dunked/slathered/covered in the lemon sauce? Crazy good, especially for something that tastes like it has a paper wrapper. If I cooked ’em right they’d be outta this world.

St Basil’s Greek Festival

I finally got around to checking out St Basil’s Greek Festival this year! It’s a small Greek Orthodox church in Lansingburgh (909 River St, Troy, NY 12180), and boy was it ever packed with people!

I liked the dancing – they had a tent set up outside with dancers, and some hot and cold food stations.

This guy caught my eye. Hello roasting lambykin! We didn’t get any though. They also had an indoor section that had other meals and pastries for sale. I really wanted to try some, but they were a little on the expensive side for me. Honey pastries are never really cheap. It was $2 for a small triangle of baklava, and $2.50 for this pastry cream phyllo thing that also looked really good, but was about the size of a mini hot dog.

And then Albany John made puppy eyes and said he really wanted a chicken souvlaki, so I got him one. I swear, one of these years I’m going to grow an immunity to puppy eyes.

This was $7. The souvalki was okay, but the ratio of meat to bread was off. Soft, fluffy pita, yes, but too much of it. There was a thin line of skewered, grilled chicken, tatziki sauce, tomatoes, and onions. It was too much pita (and I love my carbs). Everything else just got overwhelmed by it. If there was more meat, I think it would have been evened out.

I guess that’s festival prices? I don’t know – I don’t think the foods were outrageously priced, but just a little higher than I’d have hoped for since it was held by a church.

The admission was also free, so it was a nice opportunity to see a glimpse of Greek life. Some folks jumped in with the dancers and tossed out some singles. Make it rain – Greek Style!