Tour De Disco Fries

P1030886

Daniel B. was in town for 24-ish hours from NJ and couldn’t help but arrange a mini tour of Disco Fries (fries, cheese, gravy). Chopsticks Optional also joined us! I was surprised by how many places use a cheesey sauce with their disco fries, and found out I am more partial to places that use just shredded cheese.

Our first stop was Junior’s, which I tend to find pretty “meh” and these fries lived up to that reputation. They started off looking pretty decent, if a bit sparse on the gravy (which was fine, because it tasted like jarred Heinz gravy).

P1030888
But closer inspection revealed cheese sauce underneath. Felt kind of like a cheeze dupe. Hey, here’s shredded cheese. Just kidding! Here’s some sour-tangy cheeze sauce. This was my least fave.

P1030889

Bomber’s was our 2nd visit, and my 2nd favorite.
P1030891

Hill Street Cafe had two gravy options – beef and turkey. So we obviously chose both. Holy neon cheeze, batman! This was the beef, which I thought tasted pretty made-from-powder-y.
P1030892

Turkey gravy fries were more of my preference. The fry job was really awesome on these fries, and they were the only location on the tour to use steak fries. But they stayed crispy the whole time! The gravy and cheeze also blended into its own thing. Kind of interesting. While these disco fries weren’t my favorite, the fry job is going to pull me back to try more stuff at Hill Street.
P1030894
The Ruck! These were my favorite, but I pretty much love everything at The Ruck. The fries got majorly soggy, but the gravy was the best of the bunch (it tasted like real gravy instead of instant gravy), and the pepper jack cheese was also a really awesome touch.

P1030896 P1030897

I did find the one thing at the Ruck I really, really don’t like, and it’s their Bloody Mary ($6). They took my twiticism (criticism via twitter) well and let me know it was from BP Brewing mix. Here’s why I didn’t like it: I asked the bartender for a Bloody Mary with extra horseradish and there was no visible horseradish in my drink. It was spicy, but the notes were a peppery heat and not the awesome nasal heat that horseradish brings. I’m surprised by this service blip from The Ruck – I expect better from them. This not the norm for service at the Ruck, which is why it stood out for me. Not for a bartender to hear “extra horseradish” and translate it to “spicy”. The BP Brewing Bloody Mary mix also has a strong celery flavor, which I really hate. So if you like celery and pepper, then this is the bloody mary for you, but for me it was pretty much full of all of the flavors I don’t like. I could only manage a few sips of this before throwing in the towel.

However, BBQ hot wings made everything better. Crispy skin, and that BBQ hot sauce is awesome. What? We had people there who had never been to the Ruck and tried their wings. And I have poor impulse control. Also, more people means I can order wings and they can help me eat it. Also The Ruck.
P1030900

The final stop on the tour was O’Toole’s, which has a Sunday special of 1/2 off all appetizers (which disco fries don’t fall under). These seemed to be covered in nacho cheese sauce, and a sparse amount of bay leaf & thyme flavored turkey gravy.

A Friendly Soup Competition

P1030732

Some of my zany friends decided to have a friendly little soup competition. It wound up being 7 people! I decided to judge, because it means I could eat all of the soups. 🙂 It was a good competition to judge.

P1030718

The first soup was a Thai-style curry coconut soup with squid, shrimp, mushrooms, and some caramelized onions, served with a cocktail on the side. Not a bad way to start of the competition, and the curry heat was tempered well with the coconut milk.

P1030719

A corn-centric soup with homemade creamed corn and roasted corn/peppers. The corn bits I got erred more on the burnt side and not roasted, and the oil was a little heavy for me from this soup.

P1030721

This was Albany John’s rustic soup – french lentils, onions, cabbage, garlic, and a slice of bacon. Not my fave soup because of the cabbage, but the other judges liked it.

P1030722

Italian Divorce Soup. Loved the name – so cute! Veggies, hand crushed tomato sauce, sausage, chickpeas, ditalini. Mmm, what’s not to love? This was such a great winter soup.

P1030727

The “prettiest presentation” soup!

P1030728

I now require all soups to be served to me in cocktail glasses. This was a slow cooker stewy soup with squash (butternut in this case, but any hard squash can be used), turkey, chickpeas, and an awesomely bright parsley sauce on top. This wound up winning.

P1030729

A vegetarian soup – apples, asparagus, and squash. This was a pretty rockin’ veggie and sweet soup.

P1030731

This was a potato garlic soup that came in a very close 2nd place. Oh man, was this an awesome soup. Roasted garlic (a LOT), a browned roux base, potatoes, and lots of cheese. So rich and a great winter soup.

2014 Restaurant Dining Wishlist

P1020859

Happy New Year!

This year I hope to accomplish a lot. Food-wise, there are a few restaurants that I really want to make the effort to try, as I know I tend to stick to old favorites.

In Schenectady, NY:
Tara Kitchen
More Perreca’s

In Latham, NY:Philly Bar & Grill

In Saratoga Springs, NY:
Comfort Kitchen (I went for their media event, but haven’t made it back up)

Au Pied Du Cochon, Montreal, QC  – I have been trying to eat at APDC for years now, and I always managed to go up when they were closed. But this might be my year. Maybe. June might be a good time to check them out. Possibly with a small group of friends, because I want to try most of that menu.
There are a bunch of other restaurants on this list, but these are my top picks to try out the next time I go out.

I predict 2014 will also be a big year of Latham dining, trying out the various joints in my new hamlet.

Do you have any restaurants or dishes you want to try this year? What are they?

Tour de Gelato

P1000306

The Tour de Gelato. I survived. Daniel B. tried to kill us all, one scoop at a time. It started off bright and early at Crisan at 10:30 AM. I know.

P1000308

I was glad Albany John left me solo that weekend, because he would have immediately demanded I get a purse exactly like StanfordSteph’s.

P1000309

Crisan had a dozen flavors stocked and ready for the hot weekend. The Profussor tried to corral us into making our own category of flavor, so being the great friend that I am, I labeled mine “whatever the hell I feel like”, which wound up being Mango/Tropical Fruit. You were encouraged to get 2 scoops/flavors at each place.

P1000311

Crisan’s yogurt-based mango lassi gelato on top. So tart and mango-y. Loved it. Not too sweet at all. I’ve also been on a crazy yogurt kick for the past few months, so pretty much anything with yogurt in it wins for me.

The scoop on the bottom was Honey Pear, which was a unique flavor that many other Tour eaters were curious to try. I quite enjoyed it and thought it would go well with other desserts (cookies or pie). The honey and pear flavors were subtle, which I appreciated.

Cost: $2 per scoop, $4 total

P1000315

Stop #2 was Eugenio’s in Saratoga Springs. We managed to find parking pretty easily on a sunny day in Saratoga.

P1000316

Plenty of flavors here to choose from.

P1000318

Mango on the bottom, salted caramel on the top for me. The salted caramel was on the unpleasant side. Initially it was fine, but there was a weird almost play-doh like aftertaste.

Mango was okay, but both of these reminded me more of ice cream than gelato. Still, fairly serviceable stuff.

This was a small, and was $4.99, or 10% off for Yelpers who checked in.

P1000319 - Copy

The Profussor went with strawberry, and was greeted with this neon-pink number.

P1000329

Stop #3 was Villa Italia in Schenectady (man, this was so much driving!).

P1000340

I think Villa Italia had the prettiest display. Piled high, and so clean and pretty!

P1000333

No mango here, but I went with pineapple & coconut (so, basically gelato pina colada!). Holy moly, the pineapple was really good. I’m usually not a fan of fruity ice cream/gelato, but these weren’t too creamy – lots of fresh fruit flavor shone through.

Cost: $3.29 for a small

P1000341

Civitello’s was stop #4 and a bit of a clunker.

P1000345

By the time we arrived, the bakery section looked like it had done well earlier in the day (not much left in the cases).

P1000349

They had mango and coconut here, and I split this one with a fellow Tour eater. Cost for a small: $3.50. It was very gummy, like a lot of sugar syrup was used. Kind of more like a creamy Italian ice than gelato.

P1000348

Fruits of the forest got a thumbs down by another Tour eater. It was kind of like blue raspberry flavor, and also more like an Italian ice than gelato.

P1000363

Sage Bistro was the final stop.

P1000365

They had a lot to choose from.

P1000366

Mango on the bottom, salted caramel on the top. $4.05 for this small.

The salted caramel was okay, tasted more like regular caramel to me.
Mango was fine, too.

I was surprised to see mango as gelato in so many places. It was a rather refreshing flavor, and made for eating about 2 lbs of gelato disturbingly easy.

Restaurant Promo FAILS

Dear Restaurants,


If you’re gonna do a promo, do it right.

XO,
Albany Jane

Let me elaborate. Some restaurants do promos. Some don’t. Some to promos really well. Others… not so much.

I really dislike crappy restaurant promos. A lot of the restaurant.com coupons are just promos for restaurants. The restaurants usually don’t get any of the money you pay for the coupon. Restaurant.com gets that little sum. And the restaurants eat what they lose in the hopes they’ll gain a new customer (who won’t use restaurant.com coupons for every visit). That’s why you have coupons like La Fiesta‘s for $50 on sale for $25. With the caveat that you have to buy $100 of food. La Fiesta isn’t getting the $25 you’re paying on restaurant.com. So their way of recouping some amount of money is to force you to buy $100 of food in the small print so they’ll at least get $50 in sales. However, from a consumer point of view, you’re paying $25, and then another $50, so you’re basically paying to get 25% off of your total bill.


Personally, I don’t really like how that works. It’s less money for the restaurant overall. If you want a promo, offer a 25% off printable coupon and sent it to Steve. He’s got enough exposure in the region (i.e. FREE ADVERTISING) to get the word out so you’re not paying restaurant.com to lose 50% on a sale that the customer’s only getting 25% off of.

If you’re running a promo, make sure it’s a desirable one. I’m not going to run out to a restaurant that’s offering me a free salad with purchase of two entrees and two appetizers.

I recently got a rather confusing coupon/promo from a local restaurant. It’s a good learning experience for other restaurants.

This promo came with a long-winded letter that was basically a “Happy Birthday, we are sending you something”. It’s a nice gesture, but there were a few things that made it flop:

1) It was sent generically to “customer”. If you’re going to bother to send something out to someone for their birthday and you have their name and address, do a mail merge from Excel to Word to make their name pop up. Customers appreciate these little touches. (If you need help, email me. I’m an excel nerd)

2) Make sure you send it in the right month. If you just send them out randomly, make sure they’re good for an entire year.
I received this coupon in the middle of a month that was not my birthday. The coupon was redeemable only for a person with their birthday in that month, on their birthday, and expired 10 days after I received it. Which basically meant I couldn’t use it. All this does is make me think you randomly picked my name out of a hat and don’t pay very much attention to details like… numbers. Plus, if the birthday was at the beginning of the month, by the time it reached the customer, it was already expired for use.

3) KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! (Sorry, I know you’re not stupid) Customer’s don’t need a longwinded letter wishing them a convoluted “Happy Birthday”. Really. All you have to type is the equivalent of “We LOVE YOU/ YOU ARE AWESOME! Happy Birthday, here’s something on us!”. The more you write, the higher the potential for confusion gets.

4) If you’re going to send a coupon, make it a good one. Especially for customers you see fairly regularly. Or even sporadically, but recognize. It makes them feel valued. A coupon that gives you one free dessert or app with a requirement of three entree purchases isn’t much of an incentive. What it comes off as is: “I would like you to spend a lot of money here in the hopes that a small free thing will make it worth your while,”.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good aim of owning a restaurant. Give the customer some little low-margin items that make them feel valued, at little cost to yourself. But don’t nickel and dime your customers. One of my fave local restaurants will give me a little snackytizer when I sit down. It’s a little gesture that makes me feel welcomed, but not so much that it would make me uncomfortable. It’s like when you go to a bar with popcorn – you think “Ohh, snacky! Now let me get some drinks.”
Wolff’s and Bombers have a great business model: Free drink on your birthday. You’re going to bring friends, and they’re going to spend money on their own food/drinks. And as the birthday person, you’re all like “Wolff’s is AWESOME for giving me a free boot of beer on my birthday!”

Does this make sense?

Look, this is just one customer’s perspective, take it as what you will. I’m sure there are customers that are totally willing to scam anything free. I’m more of a customer that’s like “Hmm, they’re giving me something for free. That’s nice. I like that. They are nice. I want to buy something to support these nice people.” Maybe it’s guilt. I like to think that it’s seeing genuinely positive attitudes of businesses in the area.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

I’ve had this cold that won’t go away for about a month now, so I decided to see a Chinese medicine doctor when I was in Queens this weekend. I was kind of debating putting it up here, but Chinese medicine is pretty much herbs and dried food, so it’s kind of food related. And if nothing else, you get an American experience of going to a Chinese herbalist. Feel free to skip this post if that kind of thing is a little too hippy dippy or boring for you.

I asked my Dad to ask around Flushing, NY for some recommendations for a Chinese medicine doctor. He got some, and as we were walking, he noticed a sign in the window of Shing Fat Trading Inc. that said they had a Chinese medicine doctor on staff. Not the most scientific method ever, but we walked in to give it a see. It’s located at 13357 39th Ave, Flushing, NY 11354 on the corner of Prince St.

Tip #1 for going to see a Chinese herbalist is to bring someone who speaks and reads Chinese. I don’t, so I never would have known.

It’s a very tiny store packed with dried herbs and vegetables, some food, and some tea. It looks pretty much like a trading store. We got there early and spoke with a woman at the counter, who said the doctor was very good, had a lot of clients, and said he was a retired professor (of herbs or Chinese medicine, I’m guessing?) from China. This and all subsequent conversations were in Chinese (I want to say Mandarain, but maybe it was Cantonese. I don’t know. I’m terrible). My Dad translated for me.

I sat down near the doctor/professor’s counter. It’s all visible in the store, not back room or anything. It’s the back right counter. He checked the pulse in both of my wrists, used a stethoscope to listen to my lungs, looked at my eyes and throat, and also checked my blood pressure. Pretty legit. No puffery or anything. He also asked me/my Dad some questions. This is where you really need to have someone who speaks Chinese. The English is really limited there, and the questions are complex. The Dr/Professor asks a lot of pretty in-depth medical questions that I’d normally be a little embarassed to answer in front of my Dad (bodily functions, etc), but I was so miserable that what little shame I had was gone.

Here were some of my symptoms: stuffed/clogged ears with lots of pressure; eye pain, discharge/crusting, and pressure; swollen throat; fever; congestion; head pressure. Basically, a lot of head stuff going on. Not fun.

He listened thoughtfully for a while. This wasn’t a quickie once-over. It didn’t take a super-long time, but I felt like it was more attention and concern given than my usual experience in a typical doctor’s office (and bonus, I didn’t have to change into one of those stupid gowns) where they usually look at these symptoms and go “Yep, you’re sick. Nothing we can do. $200 please.” I’m not discounting MDs, but I just know my body and this is the type of sickness I usually get, so I’ve learned that going to an MD for these symptoms usually does nothing for me other than cost money, and tie up staff over people they can actually cure. I’ve generally been the sickly sort with ear, nose, and throat stuff, so… yeah. Can’t hurt to give it a try!

Any way, after the analysis, they discussed a course of treatment. At first there was talk of 30 days of medicine, but then we realized I’d be back in a little over a week, so we settled on 15 days of medicine and some accupunture.

The cost was $10 for the consultation, $20 for accupunture, and $7 per day for the prescriptions ($105 total for 15 days) for a total of $135. Not exactly cheap, but… cheaper than it would be for me to visit a regular doctor (and omg, prescriptions would be another arm & leg).

I’m pretty sure it was cash only (most places in Chinatowns are cash only). I’ve learned to carry cash on me when I’m visiting my family in Flushing so I can quickly throw down money to cover at least some of my expenses so they don’t generously pay for everything.

I paid up and went to breakfast with family while they prepared my “prescriptions”. We got there a little before 11 am on a Sunday, I think when they just opened up, and the dr/prof mentioned something about blood sugar levels and wanting to do accupunture on me.

Above is a picture of some other prescriptions being made. The woman in the store we initially spoke to is like the pharmacist. The doctor/professor gives her the (long) prescription and she starts weighing and portioning it out on to paper plates (they get reused, so if you have allergy concerns, just FYI).

The accupunture was really quick. And clean. I was kind of iffy about it, because $20 for accupunture is stupid cheap. But all of the needles used were from sterile commercial packages, and the professor/doctor wiped his hands down with alcohol, as well as the areas I was poked, hee hee. He took one needle and poked it in my right hand, kind of near the web between thumb and pointer finger. It was like he lassoed some kind of ligament or tendon or whatever – it didn’t hurt, but there was a bit of a tingle and some movement. That was really quick. Maybe 30 seconds. Then he poked behind an ear with some kind of a lance a couple of times and that was it. Maybe 1 minute tops of accupuncture. He said it should help with eye pressure and drainage (also that I have an eye infection).

An hour or so later, I noticed that my eyes weren’t incredibly painful when I wiped them. Wait, no eye pain at all. Psychosomatic, or real effect? Heck, I didn’t care at that point.

I had to do a LOT of driving that day, and all weekend I hadn’t slept very much. Exertion related to travel is generally a spell for me to relapse into sickness/get way sicker. Always is. I was like “Great, now tomorrow I’m going to feel terrible or worse.” When I got home I made some medicine, and the pressure in my head was a lot better the next day. I thought it was odd it would work so quickly. There are two baggies for my “medicine”. They handily stapled them together, and I have baggies for every day I need to take the medicine. The big baggie is supposed to help my ear, nose, and throat (cold) problems. The smaller baggie is… um… for constipation. Whatever. My herbalist told me to take it. It’s the internet. Maybe you have these same problems if you find this page. At any rate, here is the process for making the medicine: You can use a clay pot. I didn’t really feel the need to, but then Yeh-Yeh insisted I take his, so my Dad packed it up for me. They said it was safe to use on a gas stove, but… I’m not sure if it already had a crack in it or I broke it, because it had a little hairline crack on the bottom when I heated it up. Ugh, so clumsy. I used metallic pots instead.

So here is the inside of the bag. Looks like a bag of yard clippings, I know.

Here is what the bag says. If you can read Chinese feel free to translate it for me, ’cause I have no idea what it says. Any way, we’ll dump it out and see what it looks like out of the bag:

Oh, now it looks like dried mulch, wood chips, and yard clippings. Hee hee. Yeh-Yeh warned me that Chinese herbal medicine would be stinky, and bitter. This didn’t have much smell. Granted, my sense of smell and taste are rather limited with this cold, but Albany John didn’t really notice anything either.

Soak the big bag of herbs with water for 30 minutes before boiling. They said to soak it with 2 pints to 5 cups of water and then have it lightly boil down for 30 minutes to reduce to 1 cup of liquid. I’m not sure if maybe I misunderstood something, but I cannot get it to boil down to 1 cup of liquid from 2 pints in 30 minutes at a low boil. Maybe I should be using 2 cups.

Then boil it for 25 minutes. Toss the small bag in and boil an additional 5 minutes (30 minutes total). No real smell while boiling, either.

I pour it into a bowl with a strainer, in case any large pieces fall out.

Then you’re left with this. Bowl of hot dark brown. It doesn’t exactly scream delicious. And it is pretty potent stuff. It’s got a vicosity somewhere between water and milk. Not quite as thick as milk, but thicker than water. Flavor-wise, it’s bitter, but not unbearably so. It tastes better than liquid cough syrup, but I’m not going to be craving the stuff once the course of treatment is complete. There’s a brightness in it that makes it a little more bearable. Kind of lemony/tart. I try to think of it as tea that’s been steeped for way too long. You know how if you make a cup of tea and then forget about it for an hour and leave the bag in and it tastes super bitter? That’s kind of like what this tastes like (or what I’m making myself say it tastes like to keep drinking it, heh).

It’s not the best stuff in the world, but I’ve been noticing I’m feeling less sick the day after I take it. I’ve been drinking it at night before dinner, so I feel better in the morning when I wake up. I’m still maintaining a skeptical observation, because it could very likely just be psychosomatic wishing. But when you’ve been sick for 4 weeks psychosomatic cures are totally fine with me because I just. want. to. be. not. sick.

I’m also supposed to not eat fried or spicy foods for the next 13 days (remaining days in my treatment). Yeah, we’ll see how well that works. Any way, I congratulate you if you’ve made it this far!

Spinach & Sausage Ravioli

Whenever I hear “Handmade pasta dough” I get these visions of lovingly made noodles, using only the finest ingredients in the dish it makes. I recently made ravioli dough by hand, and used some seriously budget filling ingredients. Turned out pretty tasty. My budget filling ingredients? Canned spinach and a tube of pork “sausage”.

Here are some uncooked shaped ravioli. I tried using the ravioli maker on the pasta roller, but there was a bit of a learning curve to it and it was late and I was hungry, so I made them by hand with bigger blops of filling.

So yeah. It was late. I made the pasta dough. Kneaded it and let it sit, then ran over to Aldi to shop for a few groceries because the pantry was getting a little sparse. Also tossed some cans of tomatoes on top of some onions and garlic and let that simmer for a while.

Wandered around Aldi getting this and that, looking for ravioli filling ingredients. Wanted to do spinach, but they didn’t have any frozen or fresh. So I went with the can. It was $0.55, and was going to be mixed with some other stuff, so why not give it a try? I’d never had canned spinach before, and… it was okay, but I’d still go for frozen in a pinch.
Also picked up some “sausage” in a tube for $0.99 because it was that point in the night where my brain goes completely dead and is like “Yeah. That sounds good. Meat in a tube. That’ll go really well with ravioli.”
I mixed them both with some garlic and ricotta. BTW, Aldi’s got some pretty good ricotta for the price. $1.69 for 15 oz, I think. I like it over other grocery store brands, and way better than Sorrento (too sweet). Polly-O is still my fave of the mass made ricotta, though.

Anywayzzz, it worked out pretty well as a late night, last minute filling. I also lazied out after making a few dozen ravioli and just sliced up the remaining dough into noodles. Man, I’m like an idiot zombie when I get hungry late at night. “Mmm… food sound gooooood. Want foooooOOooood.”

Oh yeah, and I just used regular AP flour for ravioli dough. No semolina required. They were nice and tender. For the Ravioli Dough I did:
2 C AP Flour
dash of salt
3 Eggs, whole
1/8 C olive oil
Water to bind

It’s a really easy dough to make. Combine everything EXCEPT the water. Then if you need a little extra water to hold everything together, toss in a tablespoon or so and knead until it comes together. It’s not a perfect science, but it’s forgiving and then you let it sit there for 30 or so minutes.

Roll ’em out to your desired thickness, and boil away.

Sauce, ravioli, noodles. Works for me! Next time I want to try a bit of ricotta and crab meat for the filling. The sausage was fine, but overall unnecessary. Eh, that’s what I get for being a zombie shopper! Whatever.

I think I’d also like to give mushroom fillings a try, and maybe some cheese-less fillings, too. I can’t really do the sweet-savory thing like squashes like some of my awesome tweeple suggested (a personal flaw that is surely keeping me from enjoying some tasty dishes).

Do you think a zombie would be a vegetarian if they didn’t eat brains but ate pork sausage? Zombetarian?

New Years Resolutions

I’m terrible about making New Year’s resolutions. They’re more of a sure-fire list of stuff for me to ignore or have completely backfire. But this year, I’d like to have a few New Year’s resolution projects. Just for fun. (Oh, and the picture above is Troy’s Atrium. It doesn’t really have anything to do with this post, but I like pictures).

Project 1: Monitor Soda Intake
I don’t drink a lot of soda by conventional standards. It’s usually diet if I do, but I’d suspect it’s far less than the average New Yorker, which this cool map (Made by an RPI student – what up Big Red!) puts at 61-70 gallons per year. I’d estimate my annual soda consumption somewhere around 20 gallons, being generous. This should be fairly easy to monitor, as I can take a mental note of what and how much I’ve consumed.
Project 2: Naturally Raised Pork Belly VS Supermarket Pork Belly
I’d like to give my Siu Yuk recipe a try with some “happier” sourced pork belly and compare flavor. My only reliable sources for pork bellies are Asian grocery stores, and c’mon – like they’re not factory farmed? So I will try to find someone who will sell me uncured pork bellies.

Project 3: Project Canada
Get my passport and head out to somewhere other than Montreal to explore our great Neighbor to the North.

Project 4: Expand Garden
Get a community garden plot and plant mo’ veggies!

Project 5: Indoor Garden
Hang up some flourescents somewhere in my place and try growing things inside. Try extra hard not to kill them. I’d like to try a lemon or orange tree.

Project 6: Picnic
Do some kind of picnic potluck type thing.

What resolutions do you have?

The Great Meat Debate


I’ve been on a bit of a mushroom kick lately. Buttons and portobellos aren’t cutting it, and I’ve been craving some denser, heavier, meatier mushrooms. I’ve been dabbling in dried shiitakes, fresh shiitakes, and oyster mushrooms, but my favorite so far have been King Oyster Mushrooms.

They don’t taste like oysters, but they do have that umami flavor, and the stalks have a kind of calamari-ish chew to them.

Y’see, sometimes I crave meat. Lately it’s been chicken. And most of the time I start to crave meat, it’s later at night. And the only store open is the local supermarket. And all they really sell are factory farmed chickens. But my god are their prices dirt cheap. But in an effort to curb my late night factory-farmed chicken cravings, I’ve been trying to stock up on mushrooms as a “meaty” substitution to avoid buying non-“happy” chicken.

Okay, so you guys know I have some neurotic tendencies. And basically whenever I see chicken in the grocery store, all I can think of is this:

All I can imagine are factorys crammed with chickens yelling at me (I would have drawn more chickens, but one was hard enough). This is a result of reading a bunch of different things about the ills of factory farming, plus whatever other random gossip I’ve heard along the years and misconstrued in my own head. I’m not saying it’s correct or incorrect, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

If I’m feeling like I’m craving beef I see:

Yeah. I’m weird. I know. Oddly enough, I have pretty much gotten rid of craving pork at most supermarkets after reading about Smithfield/Cook’s, and that’s pretty much where all of our pork comes from in Albany supermarkets. Maybe I should imagine stuff like that, only adding in cows and chickens with pigs.

So basically, I have two options.
Option 1: Buy the factory farmed meat from the grocery store. It’s convenient because I can shop there late at night because I am bad at planning ahead. And the meat is pretty freakin’ cheap. But it only tastes okay. And it’s probably lived a life of mostly torture. But it’s there.

Option two involves remembering to buy meat ahead of time from a market or farmer. I feel much less guilty about these meat purchases, since the animals purportedly live better lives. I imagine sunshine and happy animals when I buy this meat. Kind of like this:

A little more expensive, but they taste so much… meatier. Actually, depending on where you buy your “happier” meat from, it can be a lot more expensive. But if you do a little searching, you can find some pretty good options. Unfortunately, I either balk at the prices half of the time, or forget about this option entirely. I tend to do option two in spurts.

If you haven’t been able to tell, meat sourcing gives me all sorts of agita:

I tend to go back and forth with some inner dialogue about the pros and cons of the grocery store meat and the happier meat. I tend to waffle and feel guilty if I buy meat from the grocery store. But all I buy now are chickens, and they’re probably the stupidest animals out of the pigs and cows and chickens, so in some way, I feel like I should feel less bad. Then again I’d probably eat a dolphin if given the chance, and they’re one of the smartest animals on the planet, so I probably shouldn’t go on animal intelligence on this theory… (SEE WHAT I MEAN?! The agita!)

But any way, so yeah, sometimes I buy chicken meat from the grocery store. I try not to, but sometimes I just can’t resist.

And then when I think those thoughts above and put the meat in my cart all I can think of are:

A bunch of angry people yelling at me about how wrong it is and what a jerk I am for buying it. I think they’re a combo of my inner dialogue, my vegan sister, militant vegetarians, and some animal rights people. To be honest, I’m not sure why I keep buying chicken from the supermarket if this is what I put myself through each time, but I think the “I wanna eat it nooowww” part of me wins out every time.


So lately I think that maybe reducing my meat consumption even more might be good, and I don’t need to eat just vegetables. I can eat mushrooms! King Oyster Mushrooms to the rescue!


As far as I know, mushrooms don’t feel pain. And I’m pretty sure they’re cool with growing in close conditions. So I feel no guilt buying mushrooms. And you can eat a ton of mushrooms and not get fat (unless you drench them in butter), which is also a pretty big bonus. And they have that meaty texture. I don’t really count them as a vegetable. To me mushrooms are like vegetarian meat.


So I compromised last night. Or at least I did what felt like a compromise. I reeeallllyyy wanted chicken, so, okay, I bought some. I went through the whole rigamarole above, but in the end, Albany John and I split one breast in a chicken and mushroom stirfry with a crapton of shanghai bok choy. I mean, yeah, the meat wasn’t the super fluffy and wonderful “happy” meat I’d ideally like, but we both split a breast for a meal. I mean, that’s baby steps, right? Lower consumption of chicken because of oyster mushroom slices.

So hopefully I’ll avoid this conundrum in the future, ’cause I thought ahead and bought some meat from a “happier” place. Now I can at least thaw some meat out when the craving hits.
And then I can feel guilty and vaguely uneasy about other things!