San Diego


After Albany John and I went to San Francisco , I cut off to San Diego for a little solo trip while he came back for some previous commitments. I like that we can take separate vacations from each other and aren’t joined at the hip all of the time. My camera also ate it while I was in SF, so all of my pictures from here on out are on my phone. So, not great, but they’re something.

Any way, shortly after I got off the commuter plane to SD, I met up with Albany John’s Uncle and his new fam for dinner. (Side note: we kind of forgot that they lived in San Diego (because we are evidently really bad relatives) until after we made plans, so only I met up with them and they really missed him. yeah. really bad relatives). But they are really good and nice relatives, and my new auntie took us all out for dinner at a place in Old Town that makes fresh tortillas. 


See? Ladies making tortillas. 


Queso fundido app. 


Tortillas were okay, but kind of meh and heavy. 


I got some pork, beans, and guac. Hearty stuff, lol. It was great to spend time with more family. Maybe this is weird of me, I don’t know, but I like being around people when I’m bad at expressing my feelings. Yeh-Yeh was not doing well at this point, and I’m not one to say it to family I haven’t seen in a while. I just don’t want to be “that guy” being mopey or having people think I’m trying to get attention because of my sick grandpa. Or just making things awkward with sad subjects. Besides, he wouldn’t want a big deal about that any way. But when times are tough it’s nice just to be around people you like, you know? Reconnecting/connecting and all. I spent several hours with them at their house, too. They have an orange and lemon tree right in their backyard! They smelled so good!


Left to wander San Diego on my own (I was staying downtown), I ended up making foods I can’t get here in Albany a priority. Hello, Pho Express! My gosh, this place was awesome and I’d give a kidney for something like it in Albany. This was a small pho Tai, which is supposed to be rare beef. It was piping hot and basically cooked all the way through by the time I got it, but oh my gosh, still so freaking good. It was $6.25 and came with the side of Thai basil, lime, jalapenos, and bean sprouts that I tossed in the soup. There’s a condiment bar on each table, too. Great flavorful broth alone. And the noodles were vermicelli & flat rice noodles. Cool texture. 

I got the shrimp rolls, too. They were the shrimp pounded with a bit of sugar and then grilled. 


I think regular shrimp might have been better than this, but just marginally. Can I please have fresh rice rolls like this? So refreshing. The peanut dipping sauce on the side was also the bomb. I was so full after eating all of this. Because no way was I leaving any of it behind. Although to be honest, it would have been enough to split with another person. So much!


This new donut bar just opened.


Vanilla bean glazed twist doughnut. Eh, just okay. On par with Bella Napoli in Troy. 



All of that pho = afternoon walkies. Cool effect to walk on a sidewalk between water.



Walked down to North Embarcadero park. 


Sadly I did not get to try any of my delicious neighbors.


Looking at South Embarcadero.


Walking into the tourist section. There were a lot of chain restaurants here. Old Spaghetti Factory, Chili’s. They all had hosts outside kind of hawking for people to come in. Interesting. 


And then I walked to a Grocery Outlet. Oh man do I love grocery store tourism. Forget a magnet, I wanna see what’s on your shelves. 


BOXED WINE FOR $5.99. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I cannot even fathom these prices. And they had Unjunked candy bars for $3 for 12. I may have bought a box. And ate a lot of them.


After a good afternoon & evening of walkies, I wound up by J. Wok for some Asian tapas fusion. 


I got a few small plates: Shrimp with lemongrass salad, papaya salad, and kalbi. Dinner was like, $13 with tax! I thought I would want to eat more, but these were good portions of food and I left feeling quite sated. 

The shrimp w/lemongrass salad had a hearty dose of sprouts and a light hand on the dressing. Papaya salad = refreshing and YUM! Galbi – how can you not like galbi, especially when it’s got a bit of char on it. 


I walked on down to Crunch Time because I heard they make their own ice cream.


Peanut butter ice cream with some caramel sauce. Caramel sauce was pre-made and too saccharine. Albany John’s caramel is way better. The ice cream was okay but melted really quickly (it wasn’t really hot) and I think we have better homemade ice cream in the Cap Region. This was also crazy expensive. Like, over $5 for a small ice cream. 


The next day I woke up ready for more walking. I never did make it out of downtown, but there’s so much to do and see down there. Like the Chinese benevolence center, which was mainly a bunch of grandparents playing mah jong. 


It was right next to the cultural museum that I peeked into, but then kept on walking. Maybe next time. It was pretty small. 


More walkies into the south Embarcadero! I liked these things. Reminded me of the moving art sculpture at RPI. 


IMG_20130403_131950 IMG_20130403_133057 IMG_20130403_133102


The south embarcadero featured more homeless people and a fishing pier. No homeless folks ever hassled me in all of my walking, though.



I liked this! How cute!


This is the bridge for crossing the main road to the South Embarcadero. 


And the view of the city. The other side is the more industrial port.


I walked a little more to Rolando’s Taco Shop.



Shrimp burrito & a fish taco! The fish taco was piled high with cabbage. I really liked the fish taco! It was only $1.50



The burrito was like $7.50 and CHOCK FULL OF SHRIMP. And cheese. And it worked. I ate half of it easily, but the 2nd half I wound up picking the shrimp out and eating the burrito skin. So good, but SO. MUCH. FOOD. My stomach just cannot.




My uncle & auntie wanted to hang more, so we drove around to the beach. Nice beach. Next time I will bring swim wear. Or find a beach where I don’t have to worry about forgetting a suit, lol. 



Dinner time was, you guessed it, more walking to Gaijin Noodle. Is it weird that I was all about these Asian fusion restaurants in San Diego? We just don’t have anything like it up in Albany, so I kind of wanted to get my fill of any and everything I can’t get normally. 


The bartender greeted me as soon as I walked in and invited me to sit at the bar so he could keep me company. Aw, sweet gesture even though I’m very comfortable by myself.
I ordered one of their shaved ice cocktails ($9), which was cherry syrup, chocolate pocky, and a side shot of sake to pour over. They put the cone in a cup with a wee spoon, so it makes for hands free drinking/consuming. I am super uncoordinated, so I wound up pouring about half of the sake on the counter. Whoops. Still tasty, though. It helped offset my meal, which wound up being EVERYTHING SPICY on them small dish menu. Even better, the bartender comped my drink at the end for whatever reason (I would hope my general awesomeness, but probably the pity comp for a single lady dining alone)

Yellowtail poke with purple potato cups on the bottom (with spicy togarashi dashed across!), a freebie salad on the left, and blistered shisito peppers sprinkles with more togarashi on the left. Oh man, I am all about shisito peppers now. They pack a punch, but nothing I can’t handle. Really enjoyable heat. 


Fire chicken wings. Slathered in a spicy sauce with peanuts, the skin was cooked non-crispy style, so it was okay, but I think it would have put them on another level if they crisped the skin just a bit.


I walked back to Pho Express for lunch on my last day. Papaya salad with shrimp. Oh man, I fell in love with papaya salad while I was in San Diego. I tried recreating it at home with absolutely no success. But this. Oh, this was great.


Crunchy green papaya in a tangy-tart sauce (it didn’t reek of fish sauce), and a whole bunch of crunchy crushed peanuts and sliced shrimp. How can anyone not love this? One of my favorite things about San Diego was that I got to eat seafood every day I was there. Albany Jane, depleting the oceans one bite at a time.


I grabbed a banh mi for a snack at the airport. It was like $4. Very reasonably priced. About 1.5 Albany Jane hands long. 


The bread was so great! Crispy on the outside & pillowy-soft on the inside. Beat the pants off of any $5 foot-long or any other airport snack option. 

IMG_20130404_132846Chock full of pickled carrots + daikon, cilantro, cucumber, porky pate, and a schmear of inoffensive mayo. 

Oh San Diego. I can’t wait to go back to you. With Albany John the next time. You weren’t as friendly as San Francisco, but holy cow were you full of so many tasty and dirt cheap eats. 


Mississippi – Part 1

When in Rome… or Mississippi. Right?

I just got back from visiting Bro, my sis-in-law Margarita, and Baby Toddler boy.

After we got off of our flight (early, even. Whoop whoop, Southwest!) we stopped by a Sonic for a fast food fix. Crispy Chicken sammich for me, and some “Chicago” dogs for Albany John.

For dinner we went to Tequila’s, a Mexican restaurant on Old Canton Road. They said they like to come here for dinner. My brother got the camarones al mango con coco. Wow, these were sugar bombs – deep fried and battered shrimp sauced with a way-sweet mango sauce and topped with coconut. Side of rice and veggies. Reminded me of sweet-n-sour Chinese food more than Mexican.

You get free salsa and chips – the salsa is awesome. Freshly made, and full of fresh cilantro, onions, and tomatoes.

Albany John got Arrachera Los Altos – grilled flank steak with tortilla cups of refried beans, rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, and some grilled cactus leaves. Not bad for $13, but it came out more well done than medium-rare. There was a small pink strip somewhere in there at one point. It was still pretty tender (I’m guessing a bunch of meat tenderizer), so he didn’t send it back. But dudes, well done with a strip of medium is a little off from medium rare.

Drinks were two-for-one. Albany John ordered one and was surprised when our waitress brought over two and shrugged and said it was buy one get one. Okie dokie. They were really weak, so no biggie.

I got shrimp tacos. Their menu had a picture of shrimp that… did not look deep fried. Each taco contained a fried batter blog made of two shrimp. It was not bad, but again, reminded me more of takeout Chinese food than Mexican food. The pickled onions and refried beans were tasty, though.

And then the next day Albany John went for a walk and came back with CRAWFISH! A whole bag o’ mud bugs for us for only $7!! They were spicy, salty, and oh man, I ate them until my lips swelled.
And then Albany John and my Bro cheffed up some tasty steak, chimichuri sauce, and stir fried veggies for dinner. Nom!
Oh, and magic potatoes, too. Mmm. Hasselbeck-style!

End of the first few days. Up next: New Orleans! Nola!

Viva San Antonio!

Howdy y’all! I went for a quick trip to Texas recently to catch up with some friends. Bought a ticket for the mister, and told him to pack his shorts!

My buddy V picked us up at the airport and took us straight to Pico de Gallo for dinner. Sensory overload! Mariachis, and glitter, and lights everywhere!
Broken chips and salsa to start.
I made the mistake of getting a jumbo margarita. Y’know how some things are bigger in Texas? Well, the drinks are a LOT stronger too! I made my way through (maybe) half of this throughout dinner before throwing in the towel.
App for the table. Beef and onions with cheese. Tortillas on the side.
Chicken mole enchiladas. A little too sweet for me. Refried beans were nice, though. V and I ordered the same thing, and the dishes came out looking a little differently. I think they made one, then forgot about the second one and made it on the fly.
Albany John ordered some kind of a goat dish. Just tasted like pork to me. I think this was a stewed goat spine of some sort?
Then we made our way to the Flying Saucer for drinks. Waitresses in cute plaid skirts, and an impressive selection of beers to choose from.
They also had some nice spacing – some areas were more intimate, others brighter and chatty.
Hello Kitty enjoyed her beers – a raspberry lambic and golden wheat mixture. Nom!
Breakfast the next morning was chorizo and eggs! So good!
Then you put it in your mouth. Then we were off to try and find the one person I was really hoping to see:
SGM Pryor, one of my biggest mentors growing up. He passed away before I left Texas, and I got it in my head that I had to see him again before I left. V and I eventually found his plot, and shared a few moments with him.

I’ve never been happier to be in a graveyard before. SGM Pryor was a great man.

And then I was off to meet some other friends from high school at El Maracube. I’d been there once or twice when I was growing up, and was psyched to go back. Their chips were awesome – super thin, crisp, and fresh.

Albany John got a stuffed zucchini dish. Not bad.
I got shrimp enchiladas! SO GOOD! Lunch prices on a Saturday, yes please. I don’t think any of our dishes broke $7 or $8. We sat around catching up for a few hours, totally unrushed by staff. Actually, I think it was partially because once they drop the bill, you have to pay at a register up front, which I didn’t realize, lol.

Caught up on who’s doing what. Life, gossip, you know.
Snacks after!
Then V was ALL ABOUT taking us to the CIA bakery downtown.
How cute!
They had these knitted pieces around pipes. Very cute.
Well hello. I love you. I want to move back to San Antonio. Be still my heart.
So many breads! At great prices, too! Ooohhh, NY inflation.
Desserts! An entire case of them! We grabbed some snacks and sat down.
You can even peep in the kitchens.
Our model-esque desserts. Chocolate mousse bombe (gluten-free), banana white chocolate tart, and a chili pumpkin panna cotta.
The white chocolate banana tart was my favorite. Super rich and fatty. The banana factor was actually very minimal. Mostly white chocolate and tons of flaky, crisp pastry.

V and I digging in!
They had this cute pan-delier outside.
Hipster brew!
Anyone know what these things are? Red on the inside, with green stuff on the outside. Cute.
Then we walked around the new leg of the San Antonio Riverwalk. This is new to me – they hadn’t expanded when I left!
This was really nice – peaceful, quiet. Not the hot hubbub of tourism like the main part of the Riverwalk downtown.
Herons, even!
And art! ART!
V was really insistent that we go to Mi Tierra Cafe for dinner. He said it was even better than Pico de Gallo.
We grabbed a buzzer (the place was PACKED), and waited outside.
Busy bar, but the inside was great. So many murals, and rich colors on the walls. One room even looked like it was permanently Christmas.
Grabbed a canteloupe agua fresca. Something like $5 for this huuuuge cup. Soon enough, we were called in.
We went for some Texas beers. Which I forget what they were now, because I’m awesome like that. I went with a smaller baby-sized beer.
Tortilla soup! Nice broth. I could have had a larger bowl.
I got the appetizer platter for my meal. So much food to try! I ate about half of it, so full!
Albany John got pork ribs.
Hello Kitty was quite pleased with Mi Tierra and wants to go back again. Then we went downtown even more to meet up with one of my girlfriends (from lunch earlier at El Maracumbe) for the diwali festivities downtown.
Diwali party people!

Ended up going over to her place and hanging out for a few hours just talking and stuff. Awesome time – I love it when things like that happen. So unexpected, and so great!
The next day we went to the Oriental Sunken Gardens. It’s free, and so, so, so pretty! I never even knew it was nearby when I lived here. I’d have gone here all of the time.
We also went for a walk around the area. It looks like they feed stray cats/build them homes. And this area used to be an exit ramp for a highway. Albany John’s snapping some aerial photos here while V chills out.
Then we went to SAMA – the San Antonio Museum of Art. Ever in need of food, we stopped off at Cafe Des Artistes for some sustenance.
V was talking up the coffee. He said it was so good it didn’t need anything in it. He was right! It was tasty black!
This is a great spot to grab some light fare along the Riverwalk.
V got a quiche and salad.
Albany John got gorgonzola and beet soup (very cheesy!).
And I got a grapefruit tart. SO. Freaking. GOOD. Buttery and rich. Win!

That night we decided that we should a)knock it off with the Tex-Mex, and b)try some BBQ. I put my foot down on having Bill Miller’s BBQ. It’s just so-so chain BBQ and nothing outstanding. Enter Rudy’s. We went to the original location WAAAAY north of San Antonio. It’s worth the drive, though.
Such a good sign. This is the best ‘que I’ve had in San Antonio.
We ordered about $45 of meat and sides. The smoked turkey was AMAZING. If I lived down there, I’d order my thanksgiving turkey from Rudy’s.
We also got brisket, chopped (a mix of chopped beef, pork, and chicken), 2 sausage links, and a TON of sides:
Witness, the yellow-hued sides.The creamed corn was actually really good. Potato salad was so-so, and the cole slaw had a good crunch and freshness to it.
V got me a Lone Star beer to try and wash down the remaining food. The peach cobbler was quite tasty! Fresh peaches!
In the end, we finished it all save for this wee bit o’sausage. I mourned our inability to fit an extra 2″ of sausage in our bellies. Next time we will. Next time we will also try the ribs.

Showed Albany John a HEB (grocery store chain). They had so many kinds of wine in their grocery store!
My beloved box o’ wine was under $9!!!!!! Are you freaking kidding me?!
And then I saw the Krispy Kreme sign was lit and hot, so I squealed at V to pull the F over.
Donut win!
The next morning we barely made our flight, so I grabbed a McBiscuit for breakfast when we got to our connecting airport. Love these little shameful breakfasts. I wasn’t even hungover, but man, they hit the spot.

Pot Belly sandwiches for lunch.
I got a chicken salad for the plane. It was okay. Some kind of greenery, you know?
Albany John got this phyllo dough pocket with ham and cheese. Tasty and greasy. And then we were back in New York. Le sigh.

Texas, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but boy howdy do I miss ya.

Dining Out for Life @ New World

Yesterday I joined the AOA Crew at Ric Orlando’s New World Bistro Bar to support Dining Out for Life. Basically, 25% of the bill went to the AIDS Council of NENY. Sweet, eating out and helping out. I’ve been meaning to go here for ages, and Albany John wants to bring his brother (a big fan of the show Chopped, and the same show Ric won) here to try some of their inventive dishes.

We got the beef tongue and octopus toastada ($10) to share as an app. Get it. Ohhh, get it! So beefy and good. Albany John describes beef tongue when it’s cooked this well as akin to a really hearty beef stew. Ric – can I call you Ric? I’m gonna call you Ric. Any way, Ric, this dish really showcased your skills.
There was a good amount of beef tongue, and little minced bits of octopus throughout. It added some umami goodness, so if you’re squicky about seafood/octopus, this might be a good dish for you to try. Personally, I would be fine if this dish were just a hunk of cow tongue and an arm of uncut octopus (so good were the flavors), but bet that might put some people off.

Our waiter also mentioned this was one of his favorite dishes here, if not his favorite dish entirely. He was so freaking right. If you guys haven’t gotten the hint, try this. SO good.

Albany John’s a beer guy, so we got a flight of beers to sample. I just donated blood that day, so I figured I’d take it somewhat easy on the booze since one of the Red Cross guys told me if I went out for cocktails I’d be “One cheap date,”. I’m a cheap date to being with, and while I was partially interested in testing out just how little liquor I’d need in me to catch a buzz, it seemed like it had the potential to go from funny to “We need an IV and some fluids” pretty quickly.

Right, so. We went with the flight of beer samples ($5.25). From left to right:
Brooklyn, New World Bistro Bar Double IPA made by Chatham Brewery, Ommegang Rare Vos, and Victory Stout.
Albany John thought this was a great value, and a fun way to compare some solid brews. He loves his Rare Vos, so that was the winner for him here, but the others were still fairly enjoyable.
We’re not big IPA people, but it was cool to try their house beer. It turns out they want to get it labeled for them since it’s made for them, but they have to go through federal licensing of some sort in order to get it, so for now they just call it their house beer. I thought it tasted a lot like the Rare Vos (which made Albany John gasp and be all like “What?! NO! They are not at all alike!”) since it was on the bitter/floral spectrum. Whatevs. But I really liked that Victory stout. Really smooth, yet thin – easy to drink in warmer weather. Not dense and heavy like other stouts that drink like a meal. Plus lots of sweet caramel notes. More please.

Then on to entrees! Albany John got the Portuguese Tavern Style Pork and Clams ($24 for full portion), which seemed to be popular with our end of the table. What a full portion it was! It came in an impressively sized bowl and had a lot of clammy and porky goodness within. Albany John LOVED this dish. So good. I thought the fingerling fries were fried carrot rounds, heh. Kinda sweet.

Not spicy, either, although they dropped a bottle of Sriracha. Albany John thought about Napalming The Jungle, but it was so good that he didn’t need any other seasonings.

Mid convo with the rest of our table, a bus boy ninja came by and took his dish. He still had some food left, and he was all… “Um. What? What just happened and where did my dish go?”. We saw the bus boy and as we were going to be like “Dude! Hey! Can we get that back, please and thanks?” We saw him bussing the rest of the table and plop another dish on top of it. Ew. How do we know that wasn’t dirty? It’s a plate at the end of dinner. It’s probably dirty. When you’re bussing things, you don’t pile other peoples dishes on top of other people’s unfinished food. Well, you also should check with people when taking their food. Ironically, the bus boy asked me if I was done with my plate when it was basically just crumbs left.

Okay, so seems like not the best moment at our first time dining in this restaurant, right? Ric, you have some awesome staff, because our waiter was very attentive and handled things well. We found him and explained about the over eager bus boy. He said that he was wrapping it up, but after expressing some concern that we saw the busboy putting other people’s dishes on it, he had them remake what was taken. Perfect response. We weren’t looking for a remake on the entire meal, but we also didn’t want to eat food that may have had dirty dishes on it either.

The remake! A few clams and some pork. Very well handled, NWBB. Service that will certainly guarantee my return and recommendation of your restaurant.

I’ve been dying to try their burger ($13). I love burgers. I think a good burger needs very little accoutrements, so I just ordered mine rare. Happy beef. Burger. Yay! I got the veggie of the day, some fairly well prepared summer squash. I could have done with a few more bits, but I’ve been on a real veggie kick this year, so maybe it’s just me.

Sadly, the burger was the low note of the meal. The bun was pretty heavy (tasted like a potato roll) and over-buttered/oiled. Greasy. Can you see the crack on the northern part of the burger? There was also a crack on the other side of the burger too. What’s up with that?

It was cooked rare in the center, but progressively more toward the edges, some parts being well done. Maybe I should start ordering burgers black and blue.

This wasn’t a terrible burger. It just wasn’t a $13 burger. My first impression after taking a bite was “Bready. All I taste is bread.” The bun was somehow overwhelming.

I’m not too sure if the beef was even seasoned. It didn’t have much flavor. I’m used to happier beef having this deep, rich, wonderful beefy flavor. This was pretty light – I had to really does it up with salt to bring out some beefiness. The texture wasn’t my favorite either – a bit too small/fine of a grind, which made the more cooked edges of the burger taste kind of grainy/mealy. It was a fairly dry burger, but that greasy bun was distracting.

I found out the best way to eat it was to take a bite, but only eat the top bun (less greasy) and salt heavily. Fine, but I wouldn’t order it again. Next time I’ll get another tonge and octo tostada, or have a few other apps. Mmm.

Dessert was a shot of Nutella mousse ($4). It’s in their dessert tapas section. Pretty good stuff. Nice way to end the meal. Creamy but not heavy. Kind of on the small side for $4, but still quite enjoyable.

One of my seat mates had a less-than-stellar lemon curd shot. The flavor was great, but it had this freaky grainy texture. I really couldn’t figure out what it was. It was more chalky, so it wasn’t like it was unincorporated sugar. Really odd. This person mentioned that perhaps attention to detail was a little off at this meal. Perhaps.

Overall though, great time dining out, an excellent service experience, and I look forward to returning and trying more of the menu.

Cosimo’s, 5 Burros, and Maple Bacon Ice Cream

This weekend my future sister in law Maka had her bridal shower. Very cool thing to be a part of. Her family is fairly large and went all out in throwing her a party at Cosimo’s in Poughkeepsie (120 Delafield St, right off of the highway). Mama Amherst and I were there reping the groom’s side! Girly weekend! One of my girlfriends used to work at a location further down state, and I’d never managed to try it, so I was excited to give it a whirl. Salad. Little heavy on the dressing for me, but lots of flavor. It was some kind of a prosecco vinaigrette. Tasty.

Got a margherita pizza. Nice thin crust and chewy edges with cornmeal on the bottom. It was a large “personal” pizza. I ate about half of it and took the leftovers with me. Tomatoes were nice and bright. I’d get it again.

Dessert! They brought in a cake for the bride, and the menu came with tiramisu. Good tiramisu. Lots of kahlua flavor, hee hee.

And then we packed my car with all of the gifts Maka received. I wish I’d taken a shot of the car. It was so packed! We drove from Poughkeepsie to Queens. She never would have made it on the train with all of that stuff.

See? I told you. It was a LOT of stuff! haha. Thank goodness for granny carts. We made it within three trips.

Then we met up with some of my bro-in-law CVS’s friends who were VIPs at 5 Burros (7205 Austin St, Forest Hills, NY). I’d been there once before for drinks and it was jam packed. It was pretty much impossible to get a table for more than two people during prime time hours (like, the only time I’m ever there to visit)… unless you knew someone.

We still had to wait about an hour (brr!), but man. I don’t even wanna know how long we’d wait if we didn’t know someone.

We crammed into a table in the back and got a pitcher of strawberry margaritas. Frozen. Yum! I only wanted half a drink because I’ve got this stupid head cold that won’t go away, but they were way too generous and gave me a full glass. They give you a little toy in the drinks. I got a goldfish, he he.

I got tacos al pastor ($14). Three tacos stuffed with deliciously moist pork meat and some minced red onion and cilantro. So freaking good.

At first, I was kinda like “Eehh, $14 for three tacos?” But the tacos were so good and so generously portioned, AND it came with a side of rice, beans, some mild salsa, guacamole and sour cream. I quickly changed my tune. Everything was flavorful enough for me to taste something, even with the nagging head cold. I even liked the rice! It was like fried rice, but Mexican. And really good. Sadly, I could barely make a dent in the sour cream and guac because of the cold (texture weirded me out).

Albany John was hanging with his folks in Amherst, and I missed his dish nibbling. I don’t think I’m used to eating an entire meal on my own when I go out to eat! I had a whole taco left. It seems kind of wussy (who can’t eat three tacos?), but they were so big! If Albany John were there, he could have helped me out.

Oh, and Maka gave me some goldenseal, and that stuff really helps drain your sinuses! I could actually breathe through my nose that night!

The next day I went to Flushing to meet up with my Dad, Uncle, and Yeh-Yeh.

I checked out a Chinese Medicine doctor guy before we went to breakfast just because this stupid cold won’t go away and nothing is working, and it’s one of those colds where if I go to a Dr. Dr. they’re just like “Yeah, you’re sick, drink some Gatorade, there’s nothing we can do.” I figured why not? Worst case scenario I spend some money on some herbs that won’t hurt me any way, and best case scenario is that I get a homeopathic cure that’s been used by people for thousands of years.

So they said we should get breakfast because of blood sugar levels or whatever, so we went to Jade Asian Restaurant for yum cha. Got some har cheung (shrimp rice rolls). Oh man, those were good. Really silky and tender noodles. They must make them there.

Joong. Maka and CVS joined me, and they really liked this dish.

Steamed chicken and rice. I wasn’t really hungry because of the cold. I just don’t get as much motivation to eat when I’m sick because I can’t really taste anything and my throat hurts, so what’s the point? But I guess that’s what family is for, because Yeh-Yeh and my dad were piling food on my plate and encouraging me to eat. That was really sweet of them. You’ll never go hungry in a Chinese family.

Steamed spare ribs, tripe, and shrimp dumplings.

Chow fun to end the meal. Again, really silky noodles. I want to get more fun dishes here. And by fun I mean rice noodle, although eating good food is fun too. Hee hee.

Oh, so this is the place I went to see the Chinese herbalist. Shing Fat Trading, Inc., located on the corner of Prince and 39th Street. Who’da thought, right? They’d readied my herbal “prescriptions” for the next couple of weeks and gave me some quickie accupuncture. I’ll do another post on this in a few days with some more detail.

The short of it, though, is that I did start feeling a little bit better. Still sick, but just not as sick. But at that point who really knows if it’s the work or just the psychosomatic effects? I mean, either way, whatever works to get rid of this cold. Seriously. Cold. Go away.

Then it was time to head to Amherst to pick up Albany John. I cut through Connecticut on I-95 to I-91. It wasn’t much longer than my normal route home. It usually takes me about 4 hours to get home from Queens with the routes I take, and this only added, like, an extra hour (maybe) of total travel time. Plus I always like trying a new way home. Keeps the drive more interesting. Unless there’s traffic on the way to the Whitestone Bridge. It took me about half an hour to go like, two miles. Ugh. C’mon. Let’s speed it up! But slow goings on a Sunday around the city isn’t exactly surprising.

Funny thing is, after this E-ZPass sign was another sign saying “No Picture or Video”. Hmm. Okay.

It was still a little slow once I got on I-95, but not as bumper-to-bumper.

Once we got into CT it was a lot faster. Yay! Although CT drivers: WTF. Can no one maintain their speed on the highway? I know some of you have cruise control.

Blessedly, I made it to Amherst and was greeted with happy faces. And Maple Bacon Ice cream. Albany John picked up the weirdest sounding flavor from Maple Valley Ice Cream.

Can I just say how much I love MA dairy? They nail dairy products. I love getting ice cream in MA. It’s always so ridiculously rich and awesome.

Ingredient list. Cream, milk, cane sugar, maple syrup, bacon, vanilla extract, and some unnamed natural stabilizers. I like the local lables. Too cute.

I still couldn’t taste very much, but the texture was great. Creamy with bits of bacon in it. I’d get it again. It really wasn’t all that odd.

And then I got FLAN ON A COOKIE!!! Papa Amherst made them. SO DELICIOUS! And then I made Albany John drive back so I could nap in the car. Good man.

Enchiladas Verdes

I’m totally digging this gardening thing. Although I learned that I’m not as big of a fan of tomatillos as my garden made. I still have some in my fridge! And they’re not rotten. At least I think so…

Any way, I had some salsa verde kicking around from the summer. I thinned it out with a little chicken broth and rolled up some chicken in flour tortillas and slapped that sauce on it.

Albany John poached the chicken before shredding it. Wow – poached chicken cooks so quickly. And then we had broth for soup!

He also made some chicken cracklins.

Rolled and slathered. I popped some tin foil over the top of the container and baked them for about 20-30 minutes.

They sure swelled up during cooking time!

Mmm, soft, tender enchiladas. A good way to use up those tomatillos. Although next year I might opt to grow something else. The tomatillos really took over my garden.

El Mariachi II on Hamilton

I conned the mister into taking me out for dinner this weekend, and we wound up walking the streets of Albany until we wandered into El Mariachi on Hamilton Street. Albany John’s been telling me for years about how much better the Hamilton Street location is than the Washington Ave location for years, and I finally got to check it out.

I wasn’t very impressed with the Washington Ave location when we went. I don’t really remember why, but it just didn’t do it for me. But this location was a little cozier. More intimate. It reminded me of NYC dining in terms of seating – all of the tables were really close to ours. One of our table neighbors was pretty jovial and started talking with us. I was afraid of hitting her in the face with my purse when I first took a seat, though. Snug.

Service was good – not too much or too little, and on the friendly side of efficient. It was really nice for a date night, where Albany John and I wanted to focus on the food and each other.

My only eep moment was the molding next to our table. It was dirty and not exactly what I wanted to look at while I was eating dinner. It was kind of hard to ignore because it was pretty much at eye level. But hey, I figured my base boards aren’t that clean at home, so I had a pomegranate margarita ($8.50) that helped take my mind off of it.

The free salsa and chips that they served when we were first sat were really good. Fresh chips, and the salsa had a lot of flavor and a bit of kick. Fresh cilantro, even. The salsa was even refilled later in the meal. Nice touch, and unexpected.

We started with the mussles in garlic tapas ($8.50 or $8.95). The quantity served were quite satisfactory for the price, and all were briny and delicious. I found myself eating well over half of these before I knew it. The bread was also lightly toasted and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy inside. Perfect for sopping up the garlic broth, which had a spicy kick and was lightly thickened (I want to say with cornstarch).

I forget the names in Spanish for our other dishes, too. My bad. Plantains wrapped in flour tortillas and covered in mole sauce. At first, I thought this tasted dessert-ish, but then it finished with a spicy kick. Neat, and not cloyingly sweet. Still, an interesting combo of sweet and savory for me.

There were two of these, and they were both quite large. And absolutely slathered in mole sauce and raw sesame seeds.

Gorditas Poblanos (I think)! With some spicy chorizo that was packed with cumin. $6.95 (or maybe $5.95?), and totally worthwhile.

These two corn patties (like really thick tortillas with an edge to them to keep the meaty goodness atop) topped with chorizo were tasty and flavorful. I like the lettuce bits on the side. Adds a little crunch and relief to the spiciness, although the one wee tomato circle was pretty funny. Was it just decoration? Why just one?

My eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I also got the beef soup. It was the one with mint leaves or yerba buena in it. (This was somewhere in the $5 neighborhood)
This wasn’t bad, but it was probably a dud for us compared to the other items. I couldn’t taste any mint leaves, though. The meat was tender and there were plenty of veggies, but it just tasted like beef stew with chiles in it. And while I like the fact that there was an assortment of fresh veggies, and not just your standard Birdseye frozen, mushy vegetables, they all could have used a little more cooking time. The yellow squash was downright crunchy, and they were in large half-moon pieces.
I liked going the appetizer/tapas route for dinner. In the end, we still wound up taking home some leftovers. It’s a nice restaurant for tex-mex and Mexican food items in Albany. I’d say pricing is typical of New York in general for Mexican restaurants, in that it’s maybe a little higher than you’d expect, but nothing outrageous. Portions are on the larger side, and there’s some spiciness to all of their dishes that I tried (which isn’t always the case in a lot of south of the border type restaurants in the area).
On the whole, I’d say El Mariachi II is on my radar for when I’m craving some Tex-Mex or foods that remind me of Texas, and is one of the better/best restaurants of its kind in Albany, NY.

Cholula Hot Sauces

For someone who doesn’t have much of a heat tolerance, I have a surprising amount of spicy condiments in my fridge. Some get used quicker than others, but I love the searing kick of something hot and spicy. When I was offered the chance to try out four of Cholula‘s hot sauces, I jumped at it.

I pretty much said “OH HECK YES!! I LOOOOVE CHOLULA!” and then ran to Albany John to be like “Oh my gosh! I’m getting free Cholula to try!! They make flavors we’ve never had before!” and “I swear to God, if you open that package before I do and try them, I. Will. Cut. You.” So great is my love of Cholula.

I’ve had the original a bunch of times to know that it’s good stuff. It straddles the border between spicy and painful, adding flavor and heat to whatever you slather it on. The original is good stuff, and a nice combination of piquin and arbol chiles that add a warm heat to dishes. I’ve also gotta say it is wildly easy to eat in large batches. I’ve seen them at Hannaford for about $2.89 per bottle. Not bad, but the way I can go through it, yikes, that could add up quickly.

I’ve never seen the chili garlic Cholula hot sauce, and holy moly, if you love the original, get the chili garlic! I love it! Sadly it is unavailable at Hananford, so I’ll see if I can’t order it online. Just the right amount of garlic flavor. I think I like it better than the original.

If the original and chili garlic Cholulas are the warm flavors, I’d classify the chipole and chili lime Cholulas as the cooler/tarter flavors. They had more of a vinegar note than the originals. The chipotle was good, but oh man, it had nothing on that chili garlic. Hannaford also sells the Chipotle Cholula, which might be better than the Tabasco Chipotle. I will have to try them both to compare, since Tabasco Chipotle has been one of my fave hot sauces for the past few years now.

The chili lime had tons of lime flavor. I thought it would be more of a back note. Out of all of them, this was probably my least favorite, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Albany John loved it, and we’ve pretty much found out that we have opposing heat preferences. I tend to like the heat that is slower to build up and lingers, while he loves the quick and punchy hot sauces. Lemme put it this way, if you like Sriracha, you’ll like the chipotle and chili lime Cholula hot sauces.

I sampled the Cholula hot sauces with some homemade fish tacos, but dudes, Cholula goes well on just about everything. They’re great with eggs, with meat, beans… I haven’t really found a savory dish I don’t like it with.

Don’t let the restaurants Cholula advertises as being at fool you (I’m looking at you, IHOP and TGI Friday’s), they’re the real deal when it comes to flavor and balance.

I hope you will love them too, and then you can hang out with me and we can eat foods slathered in Cholula, but you should probably BYOB of Cholula, because if you use the last of my Cholula I. Will. Cut. You.

Bros Tacos

It was Alumni Weekend for the mister. This meant a lot of hanging in the student ghetto in Albany with his fraternity, and eventually getting hungry. One of his brothers lived in California for a few years, and we figured a trip to Bros Tacos (319 Ontario St, Albany, NY) was right up his alley.

We talked the place up, since it was “new” for alumni, and whenever we’re in the area Albany John and I like to stop by.

We ordered. It was empty, but it still took a while for our food to come out. So that problem’s still there at Bros.

Albany John got a chicken torta. Chicken was fine, but the bun was, for lack of a better word, terrible. All dense and uniformly soft, and tasted kind of stale/old. A sad excuse for a torta bun. I mean, they couldn’t have toasted it up a little bit to get some crunch? Or grilled the outside?

He also got a vegetarian tamale. The masa for it was great – nice corn flavor, moist, and not too dense, but the vegetables looked like they came out of a mixed bag of frozen veggies. Cubed carrots, corn, and peas. Lame. I wouldn’t advertise that as a special. I mean, that’s it? It looks like something hastily put together with some random leftovers. It also came out lukewarm. I guess they couldn’t bother heating it up enough, either. That made it doubly disappointing. We ended up tossing about half of it.

I got a shrimp burrito with sour cream chipotle sauce. I’ve had it before, and it’s a pretty good combo. I like that they cook the outside of the burrito, too. Adds some nice crunchiness to it.

Unfortunately, the burrito innards were also lukewarm. The shrimp was cooked well, but was pretty sparse. But my main complaint is that this burrito is JUST rice, beans, shrimp, and chipotle sour cream. That’s it. I mean, it’s basically a carburrito. And I thought Bombers was heavy on the rice. But man, Bros takes the cake.

I love carbs, but the shrimp gets lost in the burrito with all that rice and beans. Plus, it looks impressively sized, but when it’s mostly rice and beans? Major let down. I would have thought there’d be something else in there.

Albany John’s friend got a pork tamale. He ate it, so I guess it was better than the veggie tamale. He also got a taco plate, which is two tacos, plus rice and beans. I probably should have just ordered some tacos, because these looked the best out of everything else we ordered.

They didn’t even have hot sauce out. When Albany John asked for some, they gave him some of their spicier salsa, but said they didn’t have hot sauce… weird, right? Tacos, but no hot sauce? Heck, they have hot sauce at all of the fish fry places around here.
Overall, I wouldn’t say our experience was terrible, but just meh. It was definitely a let-down from times past, and I wish we hadn’t hyped it up to our friend from Cali. It almost seems like it’s basically geared toward students, in that it seemed so much different since we last went. I really hope we just went at an off time, where they were like “Oh, whatever, it’s not busy so who gives a crap” because I would be seriously bummed to hear it’s like this all of the time.

Stuyvesant Plaza Chipotle Opening

Chipotle opens Tuesday, August 31st (tomorrow) in Stuyvesant Plaza (1475 Western Ave, Albany, NY). Hours of operation will be from 11 am – 10 pm daily, and their phone number is 518-459-1025

Chipotle will also be accepting SUNY Albany’s Podium Account cards. If I were a SUNY student, I think I know where I’d be spending all of my podium money.

As Steve mentioned, they will not be doing a free burrito day giveaway open to the public to mark the opening due to the crowds experienced at previous openings. Albany John and I were able to stop by as guests of Chipotle during their preview today. It is only open to those with previous physical invites (generally given to their neighboring businesses). Or lucky local bloggers.

Albany John got their beef tacos with hot sauce on them. So good. I wouldn’t suggest tacos to some office workers nearby (dudes, how many offices are near Stuyvesant Plaza? Looks like quite a bunch). It could be a messy situation. Get a burrito. Neat, and all wrapped in that yummy soft shell.

We also got chips. I got a side of guac, and he got a side of corn salsa. According to the calorie counts (on every menu), each baggie of chips is enough for two people (570 calories total). I don’t care. These chips were a little on the salty side, but the lime flavoring on them is so addictive, with or without guacamole. The guac was cream, fresh, vibrantly green, and had some nice sized chunks of avocado mixed in.

I got a burrito with half beef AND half chicken. Mild salsa, sour cream, and guac. When I got the guacamole, the person behind the line informed me that it would normally be an extra $1.85, except today everything was free. I thought that was a good way to inform the public. Nice, polite, and sure to avoid confusion in the future.

I also got a soda. Normally I don’t order sodas in fast food spots, but hey, it was free! And guess what? They had COKE FREAKING ZERO ON TAP! Woah, nice surprise. I am pretty indifferent to most carbonated drinks, but my achilles heel of soda is Coke Zero.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you how great my burrito tasted. Okay, I will – creamy goodness!

Beef and Pork burritos, bowls, and tacos cost $6.50 each. Chicken and vegetarian (black beans and guac) ones are $6.10. And don’t forget that they’ll also make you anything you ask them to with ingredients they have on hand. I’m pretty uncreative in that field, but I’m sure you could come up with some neat combos (have you?).

The set up of the store is pretty neat – there are low metal-topped counters lining the front windows with cushioned stools to sit at. There are other tables and chairs, but I thought this was the coolest seating. In comparison to the Clifton Park and Latham Chipotle stores, the Stuyvesant Plaza Chipotle is a smaller store with has less seating.

I think tomorrow I’ll stop by and see how they are doing on opening day. And I’ll probably buy a burrito bowl, since I usually only get burritos. But it will be hard to veer off of the burrito path. They’re so good.